From the speech of Professor Dan Grigorescu, Scientific Director of the IASLCC, given at the public meeting on “Romania and the Convergences of the Future”, organized by the Romanian Strategic Development Association in Constanța between January 26th and 27th.
“The Dobrogea – Witness to the Millennial Civilizations of the Levant project is a project for hearts and minds”
It is a project for “minds”, because the Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization, only just recently established, must identify a particular problematic within a defined region of Romania where strategic capitalization on the cultural and historical past of the Levant may find a useful application in the perspective of creating a brighter future. And, without a doubt, Dobrogea is the region of Romania in which the history of the past 5000 years, from the Neolithic through the Hellenistic, Roman, Roman-Byzantine, Byzantine and Mediaeval periods, is best represented through tangible testimony. Signs of the Levantine past are also present in the history and culture of the various ethnicities that have historically and continue to cohabitate Dobrogea. Moreover, the geography and natural composition of the region, with its signs of aridity and its specific landscape, more worn-down than that of other regions, brings it closer to the broad geographic view of the area of the historical Levant at large.
Yet it is also a project that captures “hearts”; for, whosoever has traversed Dobrogea, not in passing but in thorough research of its specificities, shall always bear echoes of the dust and tumbleweeds growing atop ancient citadels in their mind’s eye; they will long for the hum of the sea, and miss the spectacular Danubian landscapes. I, myself, am nostalgic for Dobrogea, after spending four summers in a row there, many years ago, researching its rock formations and fossil record and updating its geological maps. It is for these rational and sentimental considerations, that we have launched the Dobrogea – Witness to the Millennial Civilizations of the Levant project several months ago.
The project’s specificity – and, we hope, societal and economic utility – stems from the holistic approach it takes by combining natural research with insight into local cultural values. In turn, local ethnicities shall be studied both through the lens of their culture, history and individual traditions, but also by looking at the effects of a form of communal conviviality – which has for centuries remained the status quo in Dobrogea – that does not generate inter-ethnic tensions and conflict. Besides its important theoretical purpose of highlighting nature’s cultural valences, the project’s integrating approach to both nature and culture has the practical aim of bringing forward sustainable development initiatives in regions containing important natural heritage and cultural heritage sites. The effective demonstration of this statement comes in the form of the Geopark model, launched by UNESCO 30 years ago and currently implemented across almost 200 distinct regions across the world, which have achieved the status of UNESCO Global Geopark.
The project shall continue throughout this upcoming year, with a broader thematic compass by which, implicitly, the part dedicated to Dobrogean nature which already enjoys the interest of a number of notable specialists shall be supplemented by archaeological, historical, ethnological and ethnographical research on the part of scholars who have already expressed their willingness to take part in this project.