1. Human geography-history

Tulcea, known during antiquity as Aegyssus, is a fluvial harbour surrounded by hills and located at the northern part of Dobrudja, near the Danube’s delta. In 1419 it came under Ottoman control, along with the rest of Dobrudja. It was a small fishing, administrative (seat of a müdürlük) and merchant centre, especially important as an intermediate station for the transportation of grain from the Danube Principalities of Moldova and Wallachia towards the Ottoman capital. Tulcea was destroyed many times during the wars between Russia and the Ottoman Empire in the 18th and 19th century. However, after the treaty of Adrianople (2nd September 1829) the city was rebuilt in a new position and enjoyed a great financial development in the next decades mainly due to the increase of the grain exports towards Constantinople (Istanbul) but also western Europe, a development which was experienced also by other harbours in Wallachia and Dobrudja.1

After the Crimean War (1853-1856) and the signing of the Paris treaty, the city, but also the whole Dobrudja in general, received special attention by the Ottoman authorities for strategic reasons. Furthermore the European Commission of Danube, which was founded in 1856, established the seat of the River Police at Tulcea.2

The economic development led also to the increase of population, mainly thanks to migration, from 6,000 inhabitants in 1842 to 22,000 in 1863 and 39,000 in 1875.3 Tulcea’s population was of mixed origin: Muslims (Turks and Tatars), Rumanians, Russians and mainly Bulgarians, as also (albeit in smaller numbers) Greeks, Jews, Armenians and Germans.4

The absence of systematic censuses renders difficult to ascertain the number of Greeks, but also of any other ethnic group, whereas often contradicting data is given for the same period. Thus in 1863 approximately 1,500 Greeks are mentioned, whereas in 1862, according to the Greek vice-consul, they reached the number of 3,000 to 4,000 people.5 The first official census of 1879 showed that the Greeks were no more than 324 people, i.e. 1.8% of Tulcea’s population, although one year later the Greek vice-consul estimated Greeks to be 2,200 in a total of 21,119 inhabitants.6 It is however certain that the ethnically dominant group –demographically, as well as socially- was the Bulgarian one.7

After the annexation of Dobrudja by Romania, which was established by the Berlin treaty, the city continued being an important administrative centre (the capital of a prefecture), but never experienced the economic development of other cities of the region and demographically remained stagnant. It is characteristic that in 1899 it barely had 18,834 inhabitants (616 Greek citizens).8

2. Economy

Tuclea’s economy was developed from the fourth decade of the 19th century onwards, on the one hand thanks to the development of the export trade and on the other hand thanks to the foundation, at the beginning of the 1840’s, of ship repair factories, which exploited the rich forests of the region. Greek merchants from Kefalonia (Cephallonia) and Ithaca dominated trade.9

The works, however, undertaken by the European Committee of Danube at Sulina, which also led to the rapid development of this harbour too, combined with the absence of a rich hinterland, led the economy of Tulcea into stagnation. At the end of the 19th century the city was “in perfect merchant mortification”, to use the expression of the Greek journalist of Romania Dionysios Metaxas-Laskaratos, since trade had decreased and seafaring ships now headed for other harbours (Constanţa, Sulina).10 From the once numerous Greek merchant houses only the house of Lykiardopoulos family remained prosperous.11

After all also the city’s industry was trivial, since it was limited to only three units in 1900, from which only one was actually modernized, whereas neither the secondary industrial sector was developed in Tulcea during the mid-war years.12

3. Society and institutions

3.1. The Greek community

Since a church already existed from 1848, where the language of cult was strictly Greek, there might have also existed an “ephorate” or “epitropi” (committee) which would form the nucleus of the Greek community. However, it appears that the Greek community was founded much later, around 1870, when “the Greeks living and sojourning there” were gathered “into one”, the creation of this community forming part of the Greek-Bulgarian conflict. The foundation of the community was an effort to resist to the very successful propaganda of the city’s Bulgarian community, which had in the same year organized an educational “ephorate” which also took care of the function of the Bulgarian church, whereas from 1860 onwards it did no longer recognize the patriarchal metropolitan of Drystra.

The compilation of the community’s regulation took two more years, since it was voted on 12th March 1872 and it appears to have been the answer of the Greeks of Tulcea to the foundation of the Bulgarian exarchate by the Porte and of the establishment of an exarchate bishop at the city.

In these efforts the role of the Greek consul was vital, as it is indicated by the regulation of the community, which determined that the commissioners were subjects to the jurisdiction of the Greek sub-consulate. Of course the president of the community was the metropolitan of Drystra, as happened in other Greek-Orthodox communities which were located at the seat of a metropolitan. It is worth mentioning here that the relationships between the community and the consul with the patriarchal metropolitan Dionysios were tensed, since he was accused of avarice and inactivity towards the Bulgarians.13

Approximately one year after the conquest of Dobrudja by the Russian troops, in 1879, the diocese of Drystra was abolished and the Greek church came under the total control of the Greek community of Tulcea. It is worth mentioning that shortly after, in 1882 and 1883, the local authorities (Prefecture Court, Municipality of Tulcea) recognized the Greek community, which was however recognized by the Romanian state only with the protocol attached to the Greek-Romanian trade contact of 19th December 1900.14

On 12th December 1920 the general assembly of the members of the Greek community of Tulcea decided the compilation a new regulation by the commission which was elected in the same day. However, it is uncertain whether the seven-member constituent committee ever compiled this new regulation.15

3.2. Religion

In 1830 the Greeks of Tulcea built along with the Romanians a small wooden church dedicated to St Nicholas. In 1848 they decided to build a larger church, dedicated to the Annunciation, an development probably related to the transfer of the seat of the Diocese of Drystra from Silistra to Tulcea. In the same year they received a firman that allowed the construction of the church, which was finished in 1854.16

In Tulcea, apart from the Russian, Bulgarian and Rumanian churches, there was also a Jewish synagogue, a Catholic church and a mosque.17

4. Education, associations and printing houses

Elementary Greek schools were organized in Tulcea already from the middle of the 19th century, but their level was not high. Efforts were made for their improvement after the foundation of the Greek Educational Brotherhood in 1874, which undertook the foundation of a school for boys, a school for girls and a secondary education school. The brotherhood had the support of the prestigious Greek Philological Association of Constantinople, which also supported it during its conflict with the metropolitan of Drystra, although the former was also the Brotherhood’s president.18 After the annexation of Dobrudja by Romania the school for boys and the school for girls, under the control of the community, continued their function albeit with gaps due either to occasional pressures of the Romanian state or (more often) to the financial poverty of the community. During the mid-war period they had already closed.19

In parallel to the Greek schools, the schools of the other communities operated too. Already from 1859 a network of Bulgarian schools was organized in the city, which took care for the education of the boys and the girls as well, whereas there was also a Bulgarian secondary education school. Some Muslim schools were also founded, but of elementary grade. Furthermore, at the beginning of the 20th century a Russian, a Jewish and a Muslim school operated, whereas the Bulgarian ones had closed after pressures from the government.20 The level of teaching in the few Romanian schools was low, but increased greatly after 1878 when gymnasiums were also founded.

Tulcea could not be characterized as a printing centre, since the number of printing houses and newspapers published in the city was small. Especially considering Greek books their presence was meagre, since only two Greek editions have been documented.21

1. See Κουρελάρου, Β., Οι Εκκλησίες των Ελληνικών Κοινοτήτων της Ρουμανίας τον ΙΘαιώνα (Athens 2006), pp. 26-27, and Baumann, V.H., Prezenț a elenilor la Tulcea (Bucureşti 2005), pp. 11-22. For the terms of the treaty of Adrianople see Jelavich, B., Russia and the Formation of the Romanian National State, 1821-1878 (Cambridge 1984), pp. 29-31, generally for the development of the trade relations of the Principalities with western Europe see Cernovodeanu, P., Relaț iile comerciale româno-engleze în contextual politicii orientale a Marii Britanii 1803-1878 (Cluj-Napoca 1986), pp. 51-132.

2. On the Commission see Stanciu, Ş., România şi Comisia Europeană a Dunării. Diplomaț ie, suveranitate, cooperaț ie internaț ională (Galaț 2002).

3. Baumann, V.H., Prezenț a elenilor la Tulcea (Bucureşti 2005), pp. 22, 28-29, and Ιστορικό Αρχείο Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών, file. 78/1, 1875, Vice-consul of Tulcea I. Sigaropoulos, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no. 286, 2nd October 1875.

4. See Rădulescu, A. – Bitoleanu, I., Istoria Dobrogei (Constanţa 1998), pp. 276-309.

5. Baumann, V.H., Prezenț a elenilor la Tulcea (Bucureşti 2005), p. 29. See also Ιστορικό Αρχείο Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών, file. 36/25, 1862, Vice-consul of Tulcea G.A. Langadas, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no. 232, 21st June 1862. Here we ought to mention that few years earlier, in 1866, the Greek Vice-consul I.A. Pileidis estimated that the Greeks were 2,000, of which 1,500 were subjects of the sultan, cf. also Ιστορικό Αρχείο Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών, file. 78/1, 1865, Vice-consul of Tulcea I.A. Pileidis, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no. 291, 23rd August 1866.

6. Baumann, V.H., Prezenț a elenilor la Tulcea (Bucureşti 2005), p. 29, and Ιστορικό Αρχείο Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών, file. 58/3, 1881, Vice-consul of Tulcea M. Nikolaou, to the embassy of Bucharest, 2nd/14th January 1881.

7. For the ecclesiastical and educational activity of the Bulgarian community see Ischirkoff, A., Les Bulgares en Dobroudja. Aperçu historique et ethnographique (Berne 1919), pp. 65-70, whereas for demographic data see mainly Romansky, S., Le caractère ethnique de la Dobroudja (Sofia 1917), pp. 171-175.

8. Colescu, L., Recensământul general al Populaț iunei României. Rezulatate definitive (Bucureşti 1905), p. 89. The number of ethnic Greeks was greater, since many of the Greeks who were Ottoman subjects had received the Romanian citizenship after the annexation of the city by Romania.

9. Mateescu, T., “Construcții navale la Tulcea înainte de 1877”, Peuce 9 (1984), pp. 395‑400, and Cernovodeanu, P., “L΄ activité des maisons de commerce et des négociants ioniennes du Bas-Danube durant l΄ intervalle 1829-1853”, in Actes du II-e Colloque International d’Histoire I (Athens 1985), pp. 102-103.

10. Μεταξάς-Λασκαράτος, Δ., Ελληνικαί παροικίαι Ρωσσίας και Ρωμουνίας (Brăila 1900), p. 122. Similar views were expressed by Georgios Paraskevopoulos: “Do not demand great things from Tulcea, a city unpleasing, mortified in trade. I have been told of previous, happy years, vivacious in population and merchant activity. Today, however, only the closed shops and the warehouses remain”. Παρασκευόπουλος, Γ., Η Μεγάλη Ελλάς (Athens 1898), p. 133.

11. Μεταξάς-Λασκαράτος, Δ., Ελληνικαί παροικίαι Ρωσσίας και Ρωμουνίας (Brăila 1900), p. 122. For the Lykiardopoulos family see Baumann, V.H., Prezenț a elenilor la Tulcea (Bucureşti 2005), pp. 35-39, as well as Candea, I., The Greek Community of Brăila (Romania) from Ancient Times to the 19th Century (Brăila 2004), pp. 181-189.

12. Ancheta Industrială din 1901-1902, Industria Mare (Bucureşti 1902), p. 55, and Rădulescu, A. – Bitoleanu, I., Istoria Dobrogei (Constanţa 1998), pp. 409-410.

13. Analytically in Κοντογεώργης, Δ., «Σύσταση και οργάνωση ελληνικών κοινοτήτων στη Ρουμανία. Η περίπτωση του Τζιούρτζιου και της Τούλτσεας (β’ μισό 19ου αιώνα)», Μνήμων (2006-2007), pp. 209-239.

14. Streit, G., Mémoire sur la question des Communautés Helléniques en Roumanie (Athènes 1905), pp. 8, 27.

15. Ιστορικό Αρχείο Εθνικής Τραπέζης Ελλάδος, Α1/Σ40/Υ27/file 99: Greek Community of Tulcea, Rumania-D: Records of the General Assembly of the members of the Community 12/12/920 and letter of the National Bank of Greece to the community of Tulcea, of the 27th September 1922.

16. See Κουρελάρου, Β., Οι Εκκλησίες των Ελληνικών Κοινοτήτων της Ρουμανίας τον ΙΘ’ αιώνα (Athens 2006), p. 27. For the architecture, sculpture and painting of the church see Κουρελάρου, Β., Οι Εκκλησίες των Ελληνικών Κοινοτήτων της Ρουμανίας τον ΙΘ’ αιώνα (Athens 2006), pp. 29-35. See also Mateescu, T., “Les Diocèses orthodoxes de la Dobroudja sous la domination ottomane”, Balkan Studies 13 (1972), pp. 288-289. It should be noted here that the older church of St Nicholas remained under the control of the Romanians of Tulcea.

17. Ιστορικό Αρχείο Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών, file. 58/3, 1881, Vice-consul of Tulcea M. Nikolaou, to the Embassy of Bucharest, 2nd/14th January 1881. See also Rădulescu, A. – Bitoleanu, I., Istoria Dobrogei (Constanţa 1998), pp. 299-300, 303.

18. Ιστορικό Αρχείο Υπουργείου Εξωτερικών, file. 77/2, 1874, Director of the Vice-consulate of Greece in Tulcea Th.D. Ginis, to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, no. 130, 6th April 1874.

19. Râşcanu, G., Istoricul invăț ământului particular în România din timpurile cele mai vechi până în zilele noastre (Bucureşti 1906), pp. 237-238.

20. Râşcanu, G., Istoricul invăț ământului particular în România din timpurile cele mai vechi până în zilele noastre (Bucureşti 1906), pp. 237-238.

21. Generally on the printing houses of Tulcea see Zamfir, C.D. – Georgescu, O., Presa dobrogeană. Bibliografie comentată şi adnotată (1879-1980) (Constanț a 1985), passim. For the presence of the Greek book see Πολέμη, Π., Ελληνική Βιβλιογραφία 1864-1900, εισαγωγή, συντομογραφίες, ευρετήρια (Athens 2006), p. 26.