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Neal Ascherson, a British writer, journalist, and Poland specialist, has performed an admirable task-and done it well-reminding us of the Black Sea's centrality in the destiny of ancient Greeks, Scythians, Sarmatians, Goths, Khazars, Tatars, Slavs, Turks, and a host of other peoples who swept across the Pontic Steppe. In a work that combines travel writing, journalism, scholarly discourse, intellectual probing, and personal pilgrimage, Ascherson evokes places and peoples, discusses contemporary issues and problems, investigates history, culture, and archaeology, and explores the intrinsically difficult matter of sorting out national identities in multi-ethnic societies. Above all, this richly textured work illumines the Black Sea not simply as a place but as a distinct pattern of synergistic relationships among various ethnic, linguistic, and religious groups, a melange that "could not have been the same in any other place, and this is why Black Sea history is first of all the history of the Black Sea"


Originally published in the Modern Greek Studies Yearbook 12/13 (1996/1997): 601-08

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