Liuba Derluguian, Georgi Derluguian
The Other Mediterranean
Since the Neolithic agriculturalist revolution, the shores of the Black Sea have been continuously inhabited by linguistically and culturally diverse peoples. In some places ethno-historical continuities are truly staggering, as in the inaccessible valleys of the Caucasus, sheltered from invasions, where natives can make credible—as well as totally incredible—claims that their lineages reach back into the early Bronze Age. The adjacent steppes, on the other hand, have always been exposed to the waves of nomadic tribes coming from Central Asia. These areas are perhaps even more remarkable for the structural continuity of material life despite their changing peoples and fleeting configurations of power. The millennia-old patterns of trade between the Black Sea and the eastern Mediterranean which had been firmly established by the sixth century bc, if not earlier, underwent cycles of expansion and contraction, yet endured largely unchanged well into the nineteenth century. On the northern shores of the Black Sea we find the succession of archaeological ‘cultures’—that is, peoples whose names we will never learn (they might even include the apparently not-so-legendary Amazons)—and the less chronologically remote and therefore somewhat better-known Mæotians, Scythians, Sarmatians, Khazars, Cumans and Tatars. Even before the arrival of Russians from the north in the eighteenth century—who were themselves prompted by the expanding capitalist world economy in the West—these nomadic or semi-nomadic ‘natives’ of the Eurasian landmass were regularly confronted by sea-borne traders and occasional conquerors emerging on the other end of what was essentially a commodity chain—Ionian Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Genoese, Ottoman Turks.
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