Black Earth

Jens Mühling / translated by Eugene H. Hayworth

‘A sprightly and informative read, of a journey through a part of the world that Mühling obviously loves. He has a sharp eye and a warm heart.’
Anna Reid, author of Borderland

‘Jens Mühling is a delightful travel companion but Black Earth is much more than a travel book. In his encounters with a diverse cast of Ukrainians Mühling elicits stories about the past and present of their country which are moving, disturbing, funny, captivating – or all at once. The result is a rich polyphonic of Ukraine. Black Earth is essential reading on the county that is now on everyone’s mind.’
Thomas de Waal, author of The Caucuses


‘Will someone pay for the spilled blood?’ No. Nobody.’ So wrote Mikhail Bulgakov in Kiev during the turmoil of the Russian Civil War.

Since then the borders of Ukraine have shifted constantly and its people have suffered numerous foreign interventions. The Ukrainian state we know today has existed only since 1991 and what went before remains contested and controversial, both among its people and its neighbours.

In simple and vivid prose, Jens Mühling narrates his encounters with nationalists and old communists, Crimean Tatars and Cossacks, smugglers, archeologists, and soldiers all of whose views on nationhood and the past could hardly be more different. Black Earth connects all these stories to provide an unconventional and unfiltered view of Ukraine – a country at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and at the centre of the world’s attention.

JENS MÜHLING was the editor of a German newspaper in Moscow for two years, and worked for the Berlin daily newspaper Der Tagesspiegel since 2005. His books include A Journey into Russia (2014), which was shortlisted for the Stanford Dolman prize for travel writing, and Troubled Water: A Journey Around the Black Sea (2021).

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