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Romania's Danube Black Sea Canal.

Romania's Danube Black Sea Canal.

Photographer: Evgeniy Maloletka/Bloomberg

The Canal of Death Is Now an Economic Gateway for Eastern Europe

Romania and Bulgaria are becoming agricultural heavyweights again, 30 years after the end of communism.

The canal from the Danube River to the port of Constanta is notorious in Romanian history. Thousands of political prisoners died to start it and a brutal dictator bankrupted the country while finishing it.

Today, the 64-kilometer (40-mile) channel through rich farmland to the Black Sea is a gateway to world markets. Thirty years after the end of communism, it’s helped turn one of the European Union’s poorest members into its biggest exporter of wheat alongside France. The symbol of oppression and totalitarian vanity is now an example of the transformation of a country that endured some of the harshest conditions during the Cold War.