On the Border

Tim Marshall explores four frontier communities in this podcast series by the BBC. Some sit on hard borders, others soft; all face challenges. What do Maastricht, Kinshasa, Niagara and Orestiada tell us about managing difference and global relations today?

In this great series featured by The Compass, Marshall, author of the best-selling ‘Prisoners of Geography’, delves into the stories of Maastricht, Narva, Niagara Falls and Kinshasa and Brazzaville.

In the first episode, Tim Marshall profiles Maastricht, the city where 30 years ago the European Union was born. Have these economic measures dented relations between the communities that sit on one of Europe’s linguistic and cultural fault lines?

In the second episode, Tim Marshall considers Niagara Falls, the busiest crossing point on the world’s longest border. The fortunes of the two cities either side of the famous Falls have varied over the years as the advantages of being one side of the line, or the other, have played out. Today it is the Canadian side in ascendance but as Tim finds out, the border continues to shape the communities in different ways as it becomes a less informal, so-called ‘friendly’ border and a more of sophisticated digital one.

In the third episode, Tim Marshall delves into the strange story of Kinshasa and Brazzaville, the only capitals straddling a border. Their peoples share a common culture but were split by empires and now kept apart by a river border which has no bridge.

In the last episode, Tim Marshall talks about Narva where the EU, Europe and Nato meet the Russian Federation. It’s a city in Estonia where 95% of the population are ethnically Russian. Identity crises are nothing new in Narva which has found itself on the edge of empires, kingdoms and duchies during its long history. Today residents cannot trace family here back further than the second Word War. That is when Stalin deported the locals and replaced them with Russians. Somehow however the collective memory in Narva, a border town forever on someone else’s periphery, has re-asserted itself among the city’s population. As a place founded on trading they remain open to everyone but look to themselves.