The village of Doluš is an abandoned Kupa riverside hamlet in Gorski Kotar, Croatia. Administratively the area belongs to Brod Moravice district.
|DEMOGRAPHICS – population of Doluš from 1857 to 2011|
The history of Gorski Kotar region offers many interesting stories, and one of them is about the prisoners who worked in the early 19th century in the village of Doluš, participating the unsuccessful river channel construction project. The ship channel was supposed to make passage for small merchant ships which would connect the town of Karlovac and Brod na Kupi. This unsuccessful attempt costed about half a million Austro-Hungarian forints, which was a really big amount of money at this time. The remains of the ancient stone barrier and excavated channel are still clearly visible in the river next to the village of Doluš. This reminders today, could be regarded as a kind of historical monument.
At this time, Austro-Hungarian queen Maria Theresa supported an popular idea about connecting European cities by major rivers and river channels. Her intentions were accepted in Croatia, mostly thanks to the Zagreb’s bishop Maximilian Vrhovac who was in 1794 one of the initiators of the Royal Hungarian privileged canals and shipping Association. The aim of the Association was to build navigable waterways to facilitate trade and traffic in the Croatian hinterland and Hungary, as well as linking continental regions with main Adriatic ports. In 1801 the Association has built the Tisa – Danube channel. Encouraged by this success, the Association started to realize construction of the Kupa waterway from Sisak and Karlovac to Brod na Kupi, where the ship’s burden would be transferred by road to the ports of Rijeka and Bakar. Work on the upper course of the Kupa river started in 1801, near the village of Doluš. In that particular area there is one natural waterfall which could not be overcome by boats. A few meters wide channel constructed between the coast and the artificial island would enable ships to bypass the falls. The idea was that downstream traffic could be managed without any difficulty through the channel, and the upstream traffic would be towed up by people, horses or oxen. The artificial island was actually a 3 meters high carved stone wall, built 100 meters along the channel and the tow path. The interesting fact about this project is that workers were the prisoners from Bačka region. It’s not known exactly who they were neither why they were punished, but it is certain that the Habsburg monarchy regimen has sent them to prison. It is possible that they were criminals or petty thieves, also there is a possibility that prisoners were young men who refused to serve in the army and fight against Napoleon. It is assumed that there were several hundred of prisoner-workers, who lived in a large settlement built halfway between the villages of Doluš and Planica. A place where the building was located still bears local name “Reštanti”, what in the vernacular speech means “prisoners”. In those 1801 and 1802 year, workers have lived and worked in extremely difficult conditions, so once even Bishop Vrhovac had intervened. How hard was the life and work of those people proves the fact that near their settlement, there was a cemetery for those who died of exhaustion and disease. Escape was impossible for them, not only because of the guards, but also because their dwellings were located opposite the Kupa river, and surrounded by dense forests and high mountains. Even local peasants had to work on the Kupa channel project, as they were obligated to give to the authorities thirty days of free work in a year.
But in 1082 it was realized that the Doluš channel task was too expensive and too complex. Works have progressed very slowly. An additional problem was that the number of locations required extremely technically demanding and expensive underwater mining operations. So Bishop Vrhovac has sent a well-known road builder, Vice Marshal Filip Vukasović to a village of Doluš to assess the situation. Vukasović had studied field in detail. When he returned to Zagreb, he informed Vrhovac that the whole idea is unrealistic, not only because of the rough terrain and the inability to work underwater blasting, but also because a large part of the Kupa river walley had not been planned to build roads that would be used for towing ships. Vrhovac then suspended the works and according to the Vukasović’s advice, he turned to construction of the road from Karlovac to Rijeka. This was in fact, the beggining of Louisiana road construction, which started in 1803. (Data source: Novi list – august, 2007. )