Straddling Europe and Asia, the Black Sea links north to south and east to west. It has undergone countless political transformations over time. Some say the region is now coming into its own - but it remains a contested and politically complex neighbourhood that is home to deep national fault lines.

This reflects the changing dynamics of the Black Sea countries and the complex realities of their politics and conflicts, economies and societies. Geography, foreign interest in the region and the area's relationship with the rest of the world are key to explaining its ongoing resurgence. Oil, gas, transport and trade routes are all crucial in explaining its increasing relevance.

Russia and the former Soviet states are still undergoing a transition towards democracy after seven decades of communism. A paradoxical coexistence between the former Soviet-Union socialism and fervent liberalism has taken root in the region and persists to this day. The younger generation carefully purges memories of Soviet times, but the older inhabitants cling on to ideas of security delivered through communism.

Yet beyond an identity built on strategic positioning or the value of trade routes, daily life for the people of this region carries on.

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