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Socio-economic Features of the Black Sea Region

Before introducing the case studies, we offer some brief insights into the Black Sea region’s sociocultural background which will help the reader to understand life in the region. During the Cold War, this region was strategically important for Turkey and its allies in their fight against the Soviet Union, historically the heart of the socialist world; indeed, it might be suggested that the region was a buffer zone between the capitalist and socialist worlds. There was, however, a tendency among the locals towards socialism rather than liberalism, although the country’s national policies do not necessarily align with protecting local cultures and appreciating the importance of human labour. This is reflected by the fact that the local population have often aired their grievances towards the country’s liberal policies, even organising various social movements to protect the region’s natural environment and traditional culture.

In the last five decades, the region has been famous for its tobacco and tea plantations, most of which were owned by the state, which also owned factories for the processing of these natural resources, in a time before liberal policies were accepted in the country. Consequently, many locals were employed in the state’s cigarettes and tea factories. However, in the early 1980s, government policy shifted towards importing these goods from both developed countries and those offering cheap products. Soon after, the local economy was further weakened by the government’s decision to sell local production facilities to entrepreneurs by means of privatisation, which became a dominant policy in the country in the mid-1980s.

The most significant outcomes of this policy were job losses and the concurrent diminishment of locals’ ability to manage the local economy. At the end of this period, many young people were leaving towns in the region in order to seek better job opportunities and a brighter future elsewhere. More positively, locals retained their tendency towards protecting local business and assets, implying that they had a tendency to organise on the basis of local community, which shows an inclination towards protest culture that is somewhat shaped by past sociopolitical processes.

As a result of these cultural factors and economic reliance on the environment, social issues in the region included low rates of employment and immigration-related pressures. In this sense, tourism was an alternative means to revitalising this historically agriculture-based economy, which had hitherto been insufficient in meeting the expectations and needs of a society suffering from deprivation. However, tourism investment in the region in the early 1990s was significantly lower than that of the southern part of the country. It was not until the early 2010s and the coming to power of a new conservative government that the region saw major development in tourism-oriented sectors. The subsequent government committed itself to reducing disparities between regions that are in need of incentives to set up alternative ventures. Tourism has been one of the industries that have helped to establish alternative sectors and businesses in this region, which is particularly blighted by high unemployment rates and adverse migration issues (Yuceol 2011).

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