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Black Sea

By Neal Ascherson

Published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York, 1995, 306 pages, softcover.

The Germans from Russia Heritage Collection is pleased to provide this outstanding book, Black Sea by Neal Ascherson.


Synopsis of book

Ascherson examines different aspects of the Black Sea region: "its peoples, its archaeology, its history, its ecology. The account follows an explorer's path north and east around the Black Sea coast, and, chronologically, from the seventh century B.C. to the last decade of the twentieth century." (New Republic) Bibliography. Index.

From the Publisher This strikingly original book is about place and history - about the
universe of the Black Sea, from Jason and the Golden Fleece to the fall of Communism and the new world disorder. As Neal Ascherson shows in a colorful, learned, and surprising chronicle, the Black Sea has been a decisive "personality" in the history of Europe and Asia; his exploration of the myths and realities surrounding it reveals why it is still so alluring - and important - today.

Book reviews

From Nader Mousavizadeh - The New Republic

A travel book that never stoops to the banal or quotidian, a skeptical work of history that marvels at history's ironies, {this} is one of the most original works on the tangled skein of identity and nationality to have emerged from the recent ruins of nationalism's holy wars. Ascherson's subject is the Black Sea in all its reflections. . . . It is by no means an exhaustive history of that vast and complex region, nor does it purport to be. Quietly, unambitiously, Ascherson tells a set of Black Sea stories, which together form a unique narrative of 'the interplay of circumstances,' of the hybrids of culture and ethnicity, of the irrepressible links between ages and peoples.

From Library Journal

The Black Sea has been the stage of human history since the times of the Bible. Owing to communism's domination in modern times, little about the area has been known to Western readers for decades. Ascherson (The Polish August, Viking, 1982) opens up that world once again, and it is an exciting one. The body of water itself is the destination of five major European and Asian rivers, including the Danube; it is kidney-shaped, 630 miles wide, and 330 miles long; the Crimean Peninsula projects from the north. Various cultures have lent it a wide array of history, politics, religion, language, and tradition. Black Sea is not a travel guide but an entertaining, informative book about the area and its people. The work has an excellent chronology, bibliography, and index but lacks crucial maps. For general and informed readers.-Melinda Stivers Leach, Precision Editorial Svcs., Wondervu, Col.

From Stephen Brook - New Statesman & Society

Ascherson has travelled exhaustively, read deeply, pondered hard. As a consequence Black Sea is stimulating and eye-opening. But the book requires a bit of a struggle. Shorn of narrative structure, it reads like a series of parentheses and excursions. A brief opening look at the sea's threatened ecology is only resumed in the final chapter, while the rest remains shorebound. A trip to Odessa leads, for example, into a long digression about Adam Mickiewicz and other Polish exiles in the city. All this is interesting enough, but essentially tangential. The past is exalted at the expense of the present. The book comes to life most readily when we meet obsessive Cossacks, dwindling Lazi, the ministers of the new but impoverished Abkhazi state, and the Russian and Ukrainian archaeologists and oceanographers struggling to continue their researches after their budgets and salaries evaporated overnight.


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