Black Sea, Cold War: An Environmental Approach to Eurasian Geopolitics

01.02.2024 | 15:00 – 17:00 CET

Lecture by Taylor Zajicek (Columbia University, Harriman Institute)

In cooperation with LMU Munich (Chair for Russian/Asian Studies)

Language: English

Venue: online via Zoom =>

This talk will trace the Black Sea’s rise and fall as a global catastrophe. From the mid-1980s, regional and international observers concluded that the sea was not only dirty—it was dying. Moreover, they warned, the Black Sea’s fate foretold a planetary crisis of marine pollution and biodiversity loss. The Black Sea’s newfound notoriety broke with two traditions. First, for much of its human history, the region was an Other, not a harbinger. Second, by the mid-2000s, the worst predictions about the sea’s death largely faded. What happened? How to explain these shifts—culturally, scientifically, and ecologically? This talk will argue that catastrophic thinking about the Black Sea was the product of three events, or “accidents” in the 1980s: the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, an invasion by nonnative comb jellies, and communism’s collapse. The first two shined a spotlight on the Black Sea’s long-running ecological troubles. The third—the Cold War’s end—made international environmental cooperation seem both possible and fashionable. Yet from the mid-2000s, Kremlin revanchism disrupted this regionalist optimism and with it, the Black Sea ecosystem’s utility as a mobilizing cause. In this way, the talk will consider the relationships among geopolitics, ecology, and science, while introducing the presenters’ larger book project: an environmental history of the Black Sea region, from 1930 to today.

Cite this blog post
Natalia Arzamastseva (2024, January 15). Black Sea, Cold War: An Environmental Approach to Eurasian Geopolitics. MWS Georgia Branch Office. Retrieved May 25, 2024, from

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