Pious Foundations (Vakifs) in Ottoman Dobruca

By Catalina Hunt
Submitted to Session P4777 (Waqf and Administration in the Ottoman Balkans, 2017 Annual Meeting
13th-18th Centuries;
This paper examines Ottoman imperial pious foundations (vakifs) established in northern Dobruca, a region located at the Ottoman Empire’s northern frontier in Europe, currently part of Romania. By looking at vakifs founded in the cities of Babadag/Babadag, Isakçi/Isaccea, and Sünne/Sulina during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, I argue that these institutions played important roles in providing social, educational, and cultural services to the Muslim community as much as they did in serving the region, and by extension the empire, economically. The vakif of Babadag, for instance, included a school (medrese) that helped educate the region’s Muslim elites up to the Romanian annexation of Dobruca in 1878. The vakif of Isakçi, one of the richest institutions of its kind in the area, supplied the Ottoman army with animals and agricultural goods. Finally, the vakif of Sünne, founded by Chief Harem Eunuch Haci Besir Aga (term 1717-46), funded the building of a lighthouse which served to guide navigation at the mouth of the Danube River. Many other pious foundations established in the region soon after its incorporation into the empire at the end of the fifteenth century played an important role in maintaining a strong Ottoman presence at the northern frontiers of the Ottoman Empire in Europe. At the same time, these foundations gave the region’s population access to vital Ottoman institutions such as mosques, schools, libraries, and hospitals and infrastructure such as roads and bridges.