In: Jahrbuch für Historische Kommunismusforschung 2012. Berlin: Aufbau Verlag, pp. 113-128.
The failed building of a waterway between the Danube and the Black Sea by thousands of forced laborers in the early years of the Romanian communist regime (1949–1955), known as the ‘channel of the dead’, is generally regarded as the ultimate example of the irrationality and repressiveness of this regime. Neither the horrendous human cost nor the fact that the task fell to a statement by Stalin, nor the hubris and the technical impracticability of the project, however, should obscure the utopian dimension. On the one hand, this major project was realized under Ceausescu; while, on the other hand, the communist utopia of the radical redesign of man and his environment was replaced by a technical modernization and a conservative national ideal.