Director of Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum in Bucharest
Ethnological research of Dobruja represented an important objective for the experts at the Village Museum starting from the 1950-1960s. Dobruja proved to be one of the most fascinating regions due to the history of the places and peoples, to the always changing poetry of the landscape, which offers a different color palette according to the hour of the day, through to the very magical contact with the most ancient of Romanian territories, Macin and the Danube Delta. Dobruja is the region with the strangest colors; a mix of civilizations uniquely synthesized, where European and Western features are conjugated with Balkan and Eastern ones. Dobruja is a place where religions meet without generating conflicts, where the mosque can naturally co-habit with the Christian church (Orthodox, Catholic, Old and New Protestantism) in the same village and under the protection of the same unique God with various names, who is portrayed or not in symbolic images, but is ubiquitous. Dobruja is a special place, which from the very beginning seems to have been seeded with good understanding among people, reconciling the differences and creating an example of cohabitation worthy of being followed. A place which was often crucified by history, which was forgotten by its lords who abandoned it to human or natural events, as still happens in our days, when Dobruja is left to dry in the Sun and indifference. A place which is still one of the finest on earth, a place of the Delta, of the Sea, of the vast surfaces bathed by the Sun, but also of the incredible linden tree forests, and of autumn fruitful vineyards, and of stunning colors. A place fostering the need to meditate, a space where Christianity is 2000 years old and is celebrated not only in the Cocos, Saon, Celic Monasteries, but also in the shrine of the first Christian martyrs – Zotic, Attal, Kamasie and Filip – whose bodies were the foundation of the Niculitel Church. Based on these realities and supported by scientific interest, the group of researchers from the Village Museum was preoccupied with the representation of Dobruja in the open-air exhibition. The study of the traditional habitat from Dobruja, stressing its two components, the dwelling and the house, began in 1941 with the villages from nearby the Razelm Lake and from the Danube Delta. The research highlighted the way in which man, in his survival adventure, converted the frail into resistance and durability. The first results of the field investigation imposed objectives deriving from the actual situation of the terrain. Thus the field research revealed the necessity to protect and save some extinct buildings, such as windmills, and buildings which are typical for the old Romanian villages, and also for some minorities, such as the Lipovans. Throughout the research, the approach of the settlement and of the architecture was not performed under the form of an inventory of facts, but as an anthropological analysis in which the human factor occupied an important position. Therefore, representative architecture and monuments displaying popular techniques were chosen during several phases: a household belonging to Lipovan fishermen from the border of the Golovita Lake and a fishery, both from the Jurilovca village, three wind mills, from the Sarichioi, Valea Nucarilor, Enisala villages and a household from Ostrov, an old village located on the Danube bank. Through their presence, these vernacular monuments underline the Dobrujan cultural pattern, whose decoding implies the analysis of the relations between the Romanian native "Dicieni" and other populations which settled there in time, coming from more or less remote territories. The selection and preservation of representative monuments for Dobruja, with an existence which started sometime between the year 1877, when in Dobruja appeared what we may call "the traditional pattern" both in settlement foundation and in vernacular architecture, and the first decades of the 20th century, does not end here. In more recent years, research has been conducted with the aim of representing a Turkish-Tatar household. In Dobruja, vernacular architecture is organically integrated within the physical environment, with coherent shapes defined by dynamism and novelty, visibly bearing the ethnical (archetypal) mark of the group which created them. One of the demographical and ethnical facts of Dobruja, from the very beginning of Ottoman sovereignty, is the diverse population, which is characteristic of the transition and border areas of the great empires and also of the area where trade is a common occupation, in ports connecting the region to far European countries or to the rich and refined East, interested in the luxury Western merchandise. This mosaic – especially present in border Danube and maritime areas – is counterbalanced by the villages from the inner Dobruja, where the population must have been quite scarce and mostly Romanian until the arrival of the Turks. As it is already known, this population was driven by the Ottomans towards the Danube Valley, where it founded exclusively Romanian settlements, which were attested throughout the entire Turkish occupation in the writings of foreign travelers, starting with Evliya Çelebi. In order to maintain authority in this area, the Ottoman Empire started a powerful and long colonization process of the Muslim population (Tatars and Anatolian Turks). The documentation also attests to a systematic colonization of the Bulgarians in Dobruja before the 18th century, which took place in parallel to the troubled social and political life of the Balkans: the Russo-Turkish Wars. Another element of ethnicity which adds to the diverse picture of the Dobrujan population before the year 1877 were the Germans (the Swabians), who colonized Northern Dobrujan settlements. The German population migrated to Dobruja from Bessarabia, where it was initially colonized under the rule of Tsar Alexander I (1813-1814). Their colonization chronologically covers the time interval between 1840 and 1891. The Slavic ethnic groups also settled in Dobruja: the Lipovans (Old Russians or Great Russians), called Stariverts, who arrived in the Danube Delta in the mid 17th century from Moscow and the neighboring guberniyas, driven by religious persecution, and the Ukrainians, who arrived starting with the 17th century from Galicia, Podolia and Pokutia. The diverse cultural information, brought by the various groups which settled in Dobruja over a period of time and from a variety of motives – economic, political, religious, obviously influenced the house building activity and the habitat organization. From this point of view, Dobrujan architecture – which is thought to be traditional – segregates itself, both in terms of form and expression, from the "open space" architecture of the other plains areas of the country, where clay is used as a building material, or from the architecture of the Delta. The planimetric, volumetric solution and, sometimes the decoration of the facades are fundamental elements, which define the architectural pattern characteristic throughout the entire country. The ethnical solution represents the differentiating element, which is brought to life especially by the arrangement and use of the dwellings, by the preference for various construction materials, and by the proportion of the rooms and open spaces as we may observe in the Jurilovca and Ostrov households. The permanent link between the archetypal patterns and those which are the result of cultural influences emanating from areas different from Romanian ones, as well as of some Neoclassical, Baroque or Romantic influences, coming from urban culture, which are surprisingly mixed in the Dobrujan village, is typical for the architectural horizon of the region, which we can define as traditional. The criteria observed while selecting monuments for the museum were the following:· the planimetry conjugated with the data regarding the elevation and the aesthetic aspect of the façade;· the type of buildings, especially those thought to function as patterns within a typological series and which were reproduced in a significant number of copies;· the age of the monument, which in Dobruja cannot exceed 100 years;· the ethnic specificity, in case it is obvious;· the materials and construction techniques, the elements contributing to the determination of the age of the monument. The household from Jurilovca, Tulcea county, portrays the specificity of the Lipovan population settled in the Danube Delta. The village is located on the shore of the Golovita-Razelm Lake. The household consists of the house built in 1898 and the outbuildings placed perpendicularly on it, in a right angle. The plan of the house includes: the guest room, an entrance which facilitates access into the house, a living room, another entry which facilitates access from outside the house and the kitchen. The facade incorporates a low porch with wooden pillars. The outbuildings, which are located under the same roof as the house include: a basement, a shed, a stable, and a fish-smoking house. The double-sloped roof is covered with reed treaded down in "Germanic style". The main attraction of the house is the woodwork: doors painted in polychromatic flowers, window shutters, friezes and fretted frontons, blue fascia boards attached to the eaves. The presence of beautifully painted icons in one corner of the room represents a clue of the Lipovans' religious lifestyle, while the internal organization system indicates a different aesthetic horizon. In order to complete the household and closely related to fishing, the main occupation of the Lipovans, a fishery was brought from the shore of the Golovita-Razelm Lake to the shore of the Herastrau Lake. It is built of planks, and has a double-layer roof and reed cover. Inside it, it has a large number of tools, meant for fishing various fish species. Windmills are attested in Dobruja as far back as 1585. They were also sporadically spread in Moldavia or in other areas where the wind blew the entire year. Typologically speaking, the windmills brought to the Village Museum are Western. The Sarichioi, Tulcea windmill, from the first half of the 20th century, is located on a low stone foundation, on which the ground beams were placed, and the middle contains the central axis. The skeleton of the construction is made of oak beams. The mechanism of the mill is made of seven wings which spin around the axis, of a serrated wheel and of stones. The entire construction can rotate with the help of a lever in order to be oriented towards the wind. The Enisala, Tulcea windmill was built in the first half of the 20th century. It is a small family mill with four wings, a single pair of stones and a skeleton covered in reed. The Valea Nucarilor, Tulcea windmill originates in the second half of the 19th century and is placed on a stone support in the shape of a truncated cone. Its mechanism is similar to that of the others.
by Paula Popoiu
Director of Dimitrie Gusti National Village Museum in Bucharest