Compass - On The Black Sea, The [world Service]

Episodes

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01The Voyage Begins20170719

Tim Whewell journeys around the Black Sea - a region of great strategic importance..

Tim Whewell sets out from Istanbul, the great port that holds the keys to the Black Sea, sailing north through the Bosphorus straits towards Ukraine. Every sort of ship passes through the crowded Bosphorus, but these days one stands out - the Russian warships of the historic Black Sea Fleet bound for Syria. The Black Sea is and always has been of strategic importance; the Crimean war played out here in the 19th century and a generation ago this was the watery frontier between the Soviet bloc and Europe. We understand this changing geography through the port of Odessa, once home to the largest shipping fleet in the world and still a distinctive city in love with the sea.
Producer: Monica Whitlock

A voyage across a mysterious sea where empires have clashed for centuries and tensions are rising again. By ferry, rowing-boat, horse-drawn wagon, the BBC World Service travels over, around, and under the Black Sea, to discover its ancient and modern secrets. As Russia and Nato build up their naval power in the region, presenter Tim Whewell meets the Istanbul ship-spotter who helped alert the world to the scale of the Kremlin’s military involvement in Syria. Tim embarks on his journey over the sea to Odessa in Ukraine. It is a city in love with the sea. But its character is beginning to change.

Producer: Monica Whitlock

(Photo: Istanbul panorama Credit: Tony Jolliffe/BBC

02On The Black Sea: Diving Deep20170726

The Black Sea is an archaeologist’s dream but an ecologist’s nightmare.

The unique properties of the Black Sea make it an archaeologist’s dream but an ecologist’s nightmare. Most of its water is almost devoid of life, so medieval shipwrecks are perfectly preserved. But wildlife is under threat. On his journey across the sea, presenter Tim Whewell dives under the waves to explore its layers of history – and layers of life and death. He joins marine archaeologists investigating the secrets of a prehistoric settlement and meets the biologists counting dolphins. They say growing political tensions are blocking vital conservation efforts.

Producer Monica Whitlock

Photo: The stern of an Ottoman shipwreck discovered under water Credit: Black Sea Maritime Archaeology Project (MAP)

03Black Sea Truckers20170802

are tough. They transport everything from biscuits to fridges to pigs.

Black Sea truckers are a tough bunch. Driving thousands of miles through Europe, the Caucasus and eastwards to China, they transport everything from biscuits to fridges to pigs. Tim Whewell joins them on board the huge Black Sea ferry that connects these places, sailing from Odessa to Batumi in Georgia.

The truckers are mainly from the former Soviet Union, many have known each other for years, and once all belonged to one country. The truckers are endlessly inventive as they navigate the fraught geopolitics that shape their lives. The war in Syria, the annexation of Crimea, European visa rules, are just some of the obstacles they overcome. As the they relax for the thousand-kilometre crossing, they make merry, and tell stories of the road.

Truckers set off by ferry from Istanbul to Odessa. Credit: Monica Whitlock

Black Sea truckers are tough. They transport everything from biscuits to fridges to pigs.

Black Sea truckers are a tough bunch. Driving thousands of miles through Europe, the Caucasus and eastwards to China, they transport everything from biscuits to fridges to pigs. Tim Whewell joins them on board the huge Black Sea ferry that connects these places, sailing from Odessa to Batumi in Georgia.

The truckers are mainly from the former Soviet Union, many have known each other for years, and once all belonged to one country. The truckers are endlessly inventive as they navigate the fraught geopolitics that shape their lives. The war in Syria, the annexation of Crimea, European visa rules, are just some of the obstacles they overcome. As the they relax for the thousand-kilometre crossing, they make merry, and tell stories of the road.

Producer: Monica Whitlock

Truckers set off by ferry from Istanbul to Odessa. Credit: Monica Whitlock

04On The Black Sea: A Land Forgotten20170809

What is life like in Abkhazia, an independent state that is not recognised elsewhere?

What is life like in a ghost state, which has the trappings of independence but is unrecognised by most of the world? That is the position of remote Abkhazia, on the far north-east shore of the Black Sea. Presenter Tim Whewell reaches the Abkhaz border by horse-drawn waggon, the only available transport. Abkhazia is determined to preserve its independence and ancient culture, including a pagan religion based around animal sacrifices. But the price of statehood is deep isolation. Episode four of a five podcast series.

Producer: Monica Whitlock

(Photo: Abkhaz veterans of the World War 2 Credit: Monica Whitlock)

Ghost states like Abkhazia have the trappings of independence, but are unrecognised by most of the world. On the far north-east shore of the Black Sea, the region is determined to preserve its independence and ancient culture, including a pagan religion based around animal sacrifices, but the price of statehood is deep isolation. Presenter Tim Whewell discovers what life is like in Abkhazia. He begins his journey at the Abkhaz border and continues by horse-drawn wagon - the only available transport.

Produced by Monica Whitlock. This is the fourth part of five.

(Photo: Abkhaz veterans of the World War II, Credit: Monica Whitlock)

05On The Black Sea - Sailors Of Sevastopol20170816

The Crimean coast, where Russia meets Turkey, is a region of great strategic importance

The Crimean coast, where Russia meets Turkey, is a region of great strategic importance. It has such an allure that Russia risked the world’s censure by seizing it from Ukraine. Home of the Black Sea fleet; seaway to the Middle East and spiritual heart of Russian orthodox Christianity, the Black Sea is a defining part of Russian identity now and through history. But what have been the costs of gaining this valuable prize? Join Tim Whewell in the port of Sevastopol in the final episode of On the Black Sea.

Produced by Monica Whitlock

The Crimean coast is so important that Russia seized it from Ukraine. But what have been the costs of gaining this valuable prize? The final leg of our five-episode journey across and around the Black Sea takes us to the port of Sevastopol.

And we also reveal details about the next mini-series from The Compass.

Producer Monica Whitlock.

Photo: The embankment of Sevastopol, Crimea, Ukraine Credit: Getty Images