Skip to main content
Shopping cart: items Cart

Distributed for Haus Publishing

Troubled Water

A Journey Around the Black Sea

Translated by Simon Pare

Distributed for Haus Publishing

Troubled Water

A Journey Around the Black Sea

Translated by Simon Pare
A history of the countries bordering the Black Sea told through the stories of the people who live there.

Fringing the Black Sea is a diverse array of countries, some centuries old and others emerging only after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Jens Mühling travels through this region, telling the stories of people he meets along the way in order to paint a picture of the mix of cultures found here and to understand the present against a history stretching back to the arrival of Ancient Greek settlers and beyond.

A fluent Russian speaker with a knack for gaining the trust of those he meets, Mühling brings together a cast of characters as diverse as the stories he hears, all of whom are willing to tell him their complex, contradictory, and often fantastical tales full of grief and legend. He meets descendants of the so-called Pontic Greeks, whom Stalin deported to Central Asia and who have now returned; Circassians who fled to Syria a century ago and whose great-great-grandchildren have returned to Abkhazia; and members of ethnic minorities like the Georgian Mingrelians or Bulgarian Muslims, expelled to Turkey in the summer of 1989. Mühling captures the region’s uneasy alliance of tradition and modernity and the diverse humanity of those who live there.

320 pages | 1 map | 5.25 x 8.5

Armchair Traveller

Travel and Tourism: Travel Writing and Guides

Haus Publishing image

View all books from Haus Publishing


“It is impossible not to admire the way Mühling skims effortlessly around what must be one of the most fractious coastal circumferences in the world, dipping onshore at key locations to tease out its most telling stories. He has a happy knack of bumping into characters who help unpick the layers of Black Sea history, undertaking (on the reader’s behalf) prodigious drinking sessions in the company of Circassians and Cossacks, Pontic Greeks, Armenians and Abkhazis. The net result is a 360-degree picture assembled from a jigsaw puzzle of humanity.”

Andrew Eames, author of Blue River, Black Sea

“From Ovid to small-town oligarchs, from the Scythians to modern-day cigarette smugglers, Troubled Waters takes the reader on a fascinating journey along the patchworked coasts of the Black Sea, a tour de force through geography and ethnography, culture and conflict, charting a course strewn with intriguing points of connection where the traveller-author meets the people who live on these history-laden shores. With learnedness and wry humour, Mühling explores the harbours and coves of this famed, yet obscure body of water, masterfully rendering the vibrant colours and proportions of an ocean of epic events and of small, yet tall tales.”

Erika Fatland, author of The Border: A Journey Around Russia

“In this brilliant and humane journey, Mühling explores the nations, societies and  minorities jostling passionately around the Black Sea. He enters into the turbulent lives of those he meets, and there is an unforgettable anecdote—sometimes tragic and horrifying, sometimes merry and touching, on almost every page.”

Neal Ascherson, author of Black Sea

Table of Contents

The Flood 1

Russia 21
Chornoye more / ??¨???? ????
The beginnings of a bridge • Hotel Fortuna •
Pasha the Turk • Greek wine • Horseless Cossacks •
A Black Sea lexicon, entry no. 1: Rapana venosa •
A Caucasian without a moustache

Georgia 77
Shavi zghva / ???? ????
The thieves of Poti • A Black Sea lexicon, entry no. 2:
Engraulis encrasilocus • Swimming trees

Abkhazia 101
Amshyn Eikwa / ????? ?????
A long story • The monkeys of Sukhum •
The return of the Circassians

Turkey 129
Firtina the falcon • An icon falls from the sky •
The love story of Gabi and Yusuf • Amazon island •
Atatu¨rk’s eyes • In the wake of the Argo •
A Black Sea lexicon, entry no. 3: Bosporus

Bulgaria 177
Cherno more / ????? ????
The renamed • Frogmen • The Sozopol vampire •
A Black Sea lexicon, entry no. 4: Hydrogen sulphide

Romania 205
Marea Neagra?
The wrong horse • Ovid’s last metamorphosis •
The Black Danube

Ukraine 233
Chorne more / ?o??? ????
The spring at Kyrnychky • A coincidence in Odessa •
Antelopes on the steppe • A Black Sea lexicon,
entry no. 5: Mnemiopsis leidyi

Crimea 263
Qara deñiz
Tracks in the snow • Today we, tomorrow you •
The love story of Alla and Vladimir • The end of a bridge

The Ark 291

Acknowledgements 301

Bibliography 303

Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press