The area from the Balkans to the Caucasus is often seen as a zone of timeless conflict, a frontier region at the meeting place of mutually antagonistic civilizations. But in this pathbreaking work, Charles King investigates the myriad of connections that have made the Black Sea more of a bridge than a boundary, linking religious communities, linguistic groups, empires, and later, nations and states.
For some parts of the world, the idea of waterways as defining elements in human history is uncontroversial. Mention the Mediterranean or the South Pacific, and images of mutual influence come to mind. Those images come less readily for the Black Sea--a region that has experienced ethnic conflict, economic collapse, and interstate rivalries over the last two decades. But in the recent past, the idea of the Black Sea as a distinct unit was self-evident. From its formation some seven or eight millennia ago to the political revolutions and environmental crisis of the late twentieth century, the sea has been a zone of interaction - sometimes cordial, sometimes conflictual--among the peoples and states around its shores.
To the ancient Greeks, the sea lay literally at the edge of the known world. In time, the growth of Greek trading colonies linked all the coasts into a web of economic relationships. In the Middle Ages, the sea was tied to the great commercial cities of Venice and Genoa. Later, the Ottomans used the region's resources to build their own empire. In the late eighteenth century, the sea was opened to foreign commerce, and the seacoasts were part of a genuinely global system of trade. After the collapse of the Russian and Ottoman empires, the coastline was carved up among a number of newly formed nation-states, with each asserting a right to a piece of the coast and a section of the coastal waters.
Today, efforts to resurrect the idea of the Black Sea as a unified region are once again on the international agenda. Based on extensive research in multiple languages, this book is an indispensable guide to the history, cultures, and politics of this fascinating sea and its future at the heart of Europe and Eurasia.
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Oxford University Press, Incorporated
September 21, 2005
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