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The Black Sea - between Europe and Asia

The Black Sea is situated at the intersection of South East Europe, Western Asia and Southern Russia. It is with almost 420 000 square kilometers, slightly larger than Germany and almost an inland sea. With the Mediterranean it is connected through the Turkish straits Bosporus and Dardanelles.


As recently as 17,000 years ago was the black sea, a freshwater lake. When, towards the end of the last ice age about 11,000 years ago increased the water level in the Mediterranean, some of the water flowed through the Boporus in much deeper lake from. The result was the black sea. Sometimes, a combination hand between this spectacular event and made mentioned in the Bible flood. Despite this influx of salt water, the Black Sea has a low salt content, 12 to 16 grams per liter (compared with 36-39 grams per liter in the Mediterranean). The reason is, inter alia, that several large rivers flow into the Black Sea.

This results in a very special Ecological sytem and a particular vulnerability: The Black Sea is highly polluted, by the effluents of industrial cities that lie along the rivers and the important waterway because of its geographical position. What does this mean?

The Black Sea is one way in the oil come from Russia and the Caucasus to the Mediterranean and from there into the Atlantic.

On the map it is clear that the tanker must thus pass through the Bosphorus, since 1936 an international strait, and lies on both banks of the Turkish city of Istanbul. For several years, the Bosporus is overloaded. In 2004, he went through 53 000 ships, including 10,000 tanker - an average of 130 vessels per day. Therefore, Turkey took the measures to restrict the traffic. Are nowadays the passage of supertankers of more than 150,000 tons, is prohibited.

The Black Sea is also an important energy transit corridor, and therefore of strategic importance. This way, it has significance since ancient times. The Greeks called it Pontos Euxenos, the hospitable sea. They established several colonies on its banks to control the grain trade and to secure the supply of Athens. Subsequently ruled the Roman Empire and the Byzantine Empire over the Black Sea. Byzantium ruled almost 1000 years, the southern and the eastern shore.

That changed in 1453 with the capture of Constantinople by the Turks. From 18 Century began, Russia for the black sea to care. Both Peter the Great and Catherine the Great tried the Russian navy access to the warmer waters to give the South.


At the end of the 18th century Russia led two wars against the Ottoman Empire and took control of the north shore of the Black Sea. They established the military port of Sebastopol and the commercial port of Odessa.

However, the UK prevented Russia in Crimean War of 1853 - 1856 from conquering the Turkish Straits. In the nearly 50 years of the Cold War, the Black Sea belonged then to the front line between the two power blocs. The USSR and its satellite states, Romania and Bulgaria were directly opposed to Turkey, a NATO member.

What is the situation today? After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 changed the territorial conditions. Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia became independent. Other states such as Romania and Bulgaria, who had just heard fall of the Soviet sphere of influence occurred in 2004 when NATO and the EU in 2007.

The U.S. is trying to push back Russian influence in the region.First, they supported the 1997 establishment of the security alliance of the GUAM countries Georgia, Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Moldova. They also contributed to the foundations of revolutions in Georgia in 2003 and 2004 in Ukraine. Were also allows the U.S. to use military facilities in Bulgaria and Romania. This was done as part of a military re-orientation, with which the United States moved closer to the Caucasus and the Middle East.

However, the European Union for the region is beginning to interest them, since Romania and Bulgaria joined the EU in January 2007. The countries bordering the Black Sea are affected by the so-called European Neighbourhood Policy. The Black Sea is becoming the third Sea, for which the EU is especially interested. The European Union is more and more responsible for a region in which the stability is threatened at several points. In Brussels, believes the U.S. is not alone should play the role of a protector. Because ultimately lead new tensions with Russia, which feels itself exposed again to a containment policy. We see and adjust the position of Russia.

First, it had to the Black Sea fleet, which is located in the port of Sebastopol at anchor to share with Ukraine. After difficult negotiations, agreed to the government in Kiev to lease the naval base in 2017 to Russia. The rent amounts to € 100 million a year, and Ukraine will not renew the lease. Russia would also stay there after 2017, even if it should cost more. And the Crimea, which is indeed on Ukraine, whose population but is two-thirds of Russians, is still disputed between the two countries.


Since August 2008 the broken Georgia-Russia war, the regional constellation has changed again. For Moscow, now supports the open independence of Georgian provinces South Ossetia and Abchazia.

The small Abchazia has several benefits for Russia. It is just a few miles from the city of Sochi away, to take place in the 2014 Olympic Winter Games. And on the abchazian coast Russia could create a new naval base, in case the Russian Black Sea Fleet should have to leave Sevastopol.