The Black Sea - mysterious, menacing and mythical - is at the heart of centuries of warfare, turmoil and historical drama. A mixture of totalitarian regimes and young democracies, a melting pot of ethnic minorities, the Black Sea region is a point of convergence for three very different civilisations: European, Asian and Middle Eastern. Its waters, shores and littoral territories underwent massive transformations as all the surrounding countries tried to tame it, to reshape it, to claim it and to extract its resources. This Iron Curtain no longer runs through central Europe. It has moved eastwards, with the Black Sea region becoming a new Cold War front. Russia's takeover of Crimea in 2014 and the Russian-backed separatist insurrection in east Ukraine have caught Western foreign policy off-guard and broken apart a geopolitical consensus that seemed unassailable. In reaction to this instability, countries in central and Eastern Europe - from the Baltics to Turkey - are now experiencing unprecedented levels of military activity. In May 2016, NATO opened a new missile defence facility in Romania aimed at protecting Europe from ballistic missiles. Russia responded indignantly to heightened military presence in its former sphere of influence. "We have slid back to a new Cold War" declared Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.
Regardless of nationality and social class, generations of people living in countries around the Black Sea have worked hard all year in order to spend their languid summers in the resorts and on the beaches lining their shores. A seaside holiday are an annual trophy for tens of millions of people who descend on the coast. Holiday makers find love, freedom and relaxation and cement lifelong memories.
Petrut Calinescu was born on the Romanian seaside and has had a lifelong fascination with the Black Sea and its power over the people living around its shores. Since 2010 he has been documenting the Sea throughout countries and territories bordering it: Romania, Bulgaria, Turkey, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno Karabakh, Georgia, Abkhazia, Russia, Moldova and Transnistria. Signs of older or more recent conflicts are visible all around the shores: from World War II seafront bunkers which have been turned into bars in Romania to beaches shelled in the 1990s in Sukhumi, Abkhazia, now a popular summer destination for Russians. As conflicted as human nature, the Black Sea landscape is a strange mixture of beauty, leisure and traces of conflict.