1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Braila

BRAILA (in Rumanian Braĭla, formerly Ibraila), the capital of the department of Braila, Rumania; situated amid flat and dreary country on the left bank of the river Danube, about 100 m. from its mouth at Sulina. Pop. (1900) 58,392, including 10,811 Jews. Southward, the Danube encircles a vast fen, tenanted only by waterfowl and herds of half-wild swine, while the plain which extends to the north-east and east only grows fertile at some distance inland. Braila itself is plainly built on a bank rising about 50 ft. above sea-level; but partly on a narrow strip of ground which separates this bank from the water’s edge. Along the crest of the bank a public park is laid out, commanding a view of the desolate Dobrudja hills, across the river.

On the landward side, Braila has the shape of a crescent, the curve of its outer streets following the line of the old fortifications, dismantled in 1829. Few houses, among the older quarters, exceed two storeys in height, but the main streets are paved, and there is a regular supply of filtered water. A wide avenue, the Strada Bulivardului, divides the town proper from the suburbs. The principal church, among many, is the cathedral of St Michael, a large, ungainly building of grey sandstone. Electric tramways intersect the town, and are continued for 3 m. to Lacul Sărat (Salt Lake), where there are mineral springs and mud-baths, owned by the state. The waters, which contain over 45% of salt, iodine and sulphur, are among the strongest of their kind in Europe; and are of high repute, being annually visited by more than a thousand patients. Braila is the seat of a chamber of commerce. It is the chief port of entry for Walachia, and the headquarters of the grain trade; for, besides its advantageous position on the river, it is connected with the central Walachian railways by a line to Buzeu, and with the Russian and Moldavian systems by a line to Galatz. Quays, where ships drawing 15 ft. of water can discharge, line the river front; and there are large docks, grain elevators and warehouses, besides paper mills, roperies, and soap and candle works. Over 20 steamers, maintained by the state, ply between Braila and Rotterdam. Among the vessels of all nations, the British are first in numbers and tonnage, the Greek second. Grain and timber form the chief articles of export; textiles, machinery, iron goods and coal being most largely imported.

Many events connected with the history of Walachia took place in the neighbourhood of Braila. In 1475 Stephen the Great, having dethroned the voivode Radu, burned the town. In 1573 another Moldavian prince took the city by storm, and massacred the Turkish garrison. In 1659 it was again burned by the Walachian prince Mircea, and for the time the Turks were expelled, but afterwards returned. In the latter part of the 18th century Braila was several times captured by the Russians, and in 1770 it was burned. By the peace of Bucharest (1812) the Turks retained the right of garrisoning Braila. In 1828 it was gallantly defended by Soliman Pasha, who, after holding out from the middle of May until the end of June, was allowed to march out with the honours of war. At the peace of Adrianople (1829) the place was definitely assigned to Walachia; but before giving it up, the grand-duke Michael of Russia razed the citadel, and in this ruinous condition it was handed over to the Walachians. Braila was the spot chosen by the Russian general Gorchakov for crossing the Danube with his division in 1854. On the banks of the Danube, a little above the city, are some remains of the piles of a bridge said by a very doubtful tradition to have been built by Darius (c. 500 B.C.).