Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sevastopol on the Black Sea

I have traveled outside the United States just enough to have little or no excuse for ignorance of world geography and history.  My first ride on the Paris Metro from Gare de L’Est or perhaps Gare du Nord en route to Left Bank destinations Boulevard St. Michel, Saint-Germain des-pres, or Jardin du Luxembourg, the Metro station with the un-Francophonic name of Sebastopol caught my attention.  In those days, “the library” was still where I went to look up information in the World Book Encyclopedia and the World Atlas.  No Wikipedia.  No Mapquest. No Map Crow to tell you the distance between Sevastopol and Sochi (which few Americans ever heard of before the recent Winter Olympics from Russia) is 315 miles via the Black Sea or its northern coast.

The Russian Black Sea Fleet makes its home in Sevastopol, the strategic port of Crimea, sometimes considered the Ukraine, sometimes not.  Russian Prince Grigory Potemkin built not a village but a naval fortress at the harbor for Czarina Catherine the Great and named it Sevastopol in 1784, half a decade before George Washington became President of the United States, four decades before James Monroe’s State of the Union address articulated to Congress the doctrine that interference by European states in the Americas would be considered hostile acts against the United States.  According to the Putin Doctrine of 2014, NATO, the EU, and the U.S. are not welcome on the northern shores of the Black Sea.

The Black Sea, about 168,500 square miles, connects to the Mediterranean via the Aegean Sea through the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Dardanelles.  Sometimes. Water flows in and out of the Black Sea from both directions.  Levels can reach lows that interrupt navigation all the way to the Mediterranean and turn the Black Sea into a lake, albeit twice the size of The Great Lakes of North America, Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario, which cover an area of 94,250 square miles along the U.S./Canada border, and the Atlantic Ocean can almost always be reached through the St. Lawrence Seaway

Back in the U.S.S.R. days, Nikita Krushchev, well-known champion of democracy, liberty, and self-determination, transferred the Crimea to the Ukraine in 1954.

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