Jens Mühling was born in Siegen in 1976, worked for two years for the Moskauer Deutsche Zeitung, and has been a staff reporter at the Berliner Tagesspiegel since 2005. His reports and essays on eastern Europe have received numerous awards, while his first book My Russian Adventure (2012) was nominated for Britain’s Dolman Best Travel Book Award.
THE HEAVY SEA: A JOURNEY AROUND THE BLACK SEA
One sea, two continents, six countries – and a thousand stories
Six countries border the Black Sea. The Turks call it Karadeniz. It is Marea Neagrä for the Romanians, Shavi Sghwa for the Georgians, in Bulgarian Cherno More , Chornoje Morje in Russian and Chorne More in Ukrainian. If you include 'Abkhazia', a breakaway province of Georgia, it is six-and-a-half countries. Seven with Moldova, that once had a coastline before the nation moved inland. Seven-and-a-half if you count Transnistria, a breakaway province of Moldova. Seven-and-a-half if Crimea belongs to Russia, seven and-a-half if it belongs to Ukraine, but eight if you would rather Crimea were independent. Eight-and-a-half if you count the ancient Greek ruins.
The Heavy Sea portrays the Black Sea as a living space. Written in the form of travel reportage that takes the reader in a circle around the Eurasian inland waters, the book simultaneously hooks into history, addresses conflicts among the neighbouring countries, examines the environmental and economic situation of the waters and brings together sagas, legends and literary approaches. A leitmotif is the handling of borders; the geographical border between Europe and Asia runs right across the sea. Orthodox Russians, Ukrainians, Georgians and Bulgarians meet Muslim Turks and Crimean Tatars, Romanian Catholics, Jewish Karaimans and Russian Old Believers in the Black Sea region. Economic interests connect and separate the Black Sea countries, political differences, different views of history and divergent visions of the future shape their view of the waters on whose shores they meet.
From close-up and in relevant, poetic, humorous terms Jens Mühling tells us forcefully of the sea straddling the dividing lines of Europe, of its inhabitants, its past and its future. In so doing, he vividly reminds us that all borders, ultimately, are fluid.