The Black Sea

Petrut Calinescu

The Black Sea. Ongoing.

The Black Sea – mysterious, menacing and mythical – is at the heart of centuries of warfare, turmoil and historical drama. It is enshrined in mythology in the story of Jason and the Argonauts and their search for the Golden Fleece, it merges into Judeo-Christian tradition with Noah’s Ark. Armenia, the first nation to adopt Christianity, once extended all the way to its eastern shore. The Khazars, a Turkic people whose empire covered large swaths of land along the northern and eastern shores of the sea, converted to Judaism in the early 9th century but went into terminal decline thereafter. Greek trading posts soon grew into small cities and important markets where Greek traders bought agricultural produce in exchange for oil, wine and other Greek luxury products.

Though rattled by wave after wave of invasions and movements of people from the East, the northern coast of the black sea remained an important trading zone throughout antiquity. Sustained expansion by the burgeoning Russian empire brought much of the northern shores of the sea under Russian control during Katherine the Great’s reign and saw the foundation of great cities such as Odessa near the mouth of the Dniester River and Rostov on the Don.

To circumnavigate the Black Sea is to explore the multitude of cultures and landscapes around it. Bounded by Bulgaria, Turkey, Georgia, Ukraine, Russia and a multitude of autonomous republics, the region abutting the Black Sea is both forward-looking and traditional, established and in flux, static yet evolving.

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