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General review Odesa

    City Review

    Odesa (Odessa), Ukraine
    Odesa (Odessa), Ukraine

    Odesa / Odessa is a city in southwestern Ukraine. It is is situated on terraced hills overlooking a small harbor, approximately 31 km (19 mi.) north of the estuary of the Dniester river and some 443 km (275 mi) south of the Ukrainian capital Kiev.

    Odesa / Odessa is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast (province) and a major port on the Black Sea. The current estimated population is around 1,012,500 (as of 2004).

    The city has a mild and dry climate with average temperatures in January of -2 °C (29 °F), and July of 22 °C (73 °F).

    The primary language spoken is Russian, with Ukrainian being less common despite its being an official language in Ukraine. The city is a mix of many nationalities and ethnic groups, including Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Greeks, Moldovans, Bulgarians, Armenians, Georgians, Turks, and Vietnamese, among others.

    Odesa was officially founded in 1794 by order of empress Ekaterina II as a Russian naval fortress on the ruins of Khadjibey and was renamed Odesa by January 1795 (when its new name was first mentioned in official correspondence).

    A little bit of the history

    Odesa (Odessa) Duma (City Hall), Ukraine
    Odesa (Odessa) Duma (City Hall), Ukraine

    Odessa is the fifth-largest city in Ukraine and its most important trading city. In the 19th century it was the fourth city of Imperial Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg, and Warsaw. Its historical architecture has a flavor more Mediterranean than Russian, having been heavily influenced by French and Italian styles. (you can read more about this monument on our "Odessa Monuments Page")

    Odessa's early growth owed much to the work of the Duc de Richelieu, who served as the city's governor between 1803–1814. Having fled the French Revolution, he had served in Catherine's army against the Turks.

    He is credited with designing the city and organising its amenities and infrastructure, and is considered one of the founding fathers of Odessa, together with another Frenchman, Count Alexandre Langeron, who succeeded him in office. Richelieu is commemorated by a bronze statue, unveiled in 1828 to a design by Ivan Martos.

    Odesa Coat of Arms
    Odesa Coat of Arms

    An ancient Greek colony had once occupied the site of the city. Numerous monuments of antiquity confirm links between this territory and the Eastern Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages these lands were a part of the Kievan Rus, Galich and Volyn Principality, the Golden Horde, the Great Lithuanian Principality, the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire. Crimean Tatars traded there in the 14th century. In the course of Russian–Turkish wars these lands were captured by Russia at the end of the 18th century.

    From 1819–1858 Odessa was a free port (porto franco). It became home to an extremely diverse population of Russians, Ukrainians, Jews, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Armenians, Italians, Frenchmen, Germans and traders representing many other European nationalities. Its cosmopolitan nature was documented by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who lived in internal exile in Odessa between 1823–1824.

    Odessa Sea Port
    Odessa Sea Port

    During the Soviet period it was the most important port of trade in the U.S.S.R. and a Soviet naval base. On January 1, 2000 the Quarantine Pier of Odessa trade sea port was declared a free port and free economic zone for a term of 25 years.

    The city of Odessa hosts two important ports: Odessa itself and Yuzhny (also an internationally important oil terminal), situated in the city's suburbs. Another important port, Illichivs'k (or Ilyichyovsk), is located in the same oblast, to the south-west of Odessa. Together they represent a major transportation junction integrated with railways.

    The city became the home of a large Jewish community during the 19th century, and by 1897 Jews were estimated to comprise some 37% of the population. They were, however, repeatedly subjected to severe persecution. Pogroms were carried out in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881, and 1905. Many Odessan Jews fled abroad, particularly to Palestine after 1882, and the city became an important base of support for Zionism.

    The 142-metre-long Potemkin Stairs (constructed 1837–1841), made famous by Sergei Eisenstein in his movie Battleship Potemkin (1925)
    The 142-metre-long Potemkin Stairs (constructed 1837–1841), made famous by Sergei Eisenstein in his movie Battleship Potemkin (1925)

    In 1905 Odessa was the site of a workers' uprising supported by the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin (also see Battleship Potemkin uprising) and Lenin's Iskra. Sergei Eisenstein's famous motion picture The Battleship Potemkin commemorated the uprising and included a scene where hundreds of Odessan citizens were murdered on the great stone staircase (now popularly known as the "Potemkin Steps"), in one of the most famous scenes in motion picture history. At the top of the steps, which lead down to the port, stands a statue of Richelieu. The actual massacre took place in streets nearby, not on the steps themselves, but the movie caused many to visit Odessa to see the site of the "slaughter". The "Odessa Steps" continue to be a tourist attraction in Odessa. The film was made at Odessa's Cinema Factory, one of the oldest cinema studios in the former Soviet Union.

    During World War II Odessa was occupied by Romanian and German forces from 1941–1944. The city suffered severe damage and many casualties. Under the Axis occupation, approximately 60,000 Odessans (mostly Jews) were either massacred or deported. Many parts of Odessa were damaged during its fall and later recapture in April 1944, when the city was finally liberated by the Soviet Army. It was one of the first four Soviet cities to be awarded the title of "Hero City" in 1945.

    Odessa fountain in Gorsad (City Garden)
    Odessa fountain in Gorsad (City Garden)

    During the 1960s and 1970s the city grew tremendously. Despite being part of the Ukraine Socialist Republic, the city preserved and somewhat reinforced its unique cosmopolitan mix of Russian/Ukrainian/Mediterranean culture and a predominantly Russophone environment with a uniquely accented dialect of Russian spoken in the city. The city's Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, Armenian, Moldovan, Azeri and Jewish communities have influenced different aspects of Odessa. The city has always possessed a spirit of freedom and ironic humour, probably by virtue of its location and its willingness to accept and tolerate people of many different backgrounds.

    In 1991, after the collapse of Communism, the city became part of newly independent Ukraine. Today Odessa is a city of around 1.1 million people. The city's industries include shipbuilding, oil refining, chemicals, metalworking and food processing. Odessa is also a Ukrainian naval base and home to a fishing fleet. It is also known for its huge outdoor market, the Seventh-Kilometer Market. The transportation network of Odessa consists of trams (streetcars), trolleybuses, buses; and marshrutkas.

    Tourist Destination

    Derybasovs'ka Street, Odessa, Ukraine
    Derybasovs'ka Street, Odessa, Ukraine

    Odessa is a popular tourist destination, with many therapeutic resorts in and around the city. The Filatov Institute of Eye Diseases & Tissue Therapy is one of the leading institutes for eye care. The Tolstoy, Vorontsov, and Potocki families owned palaces in Odessa, which can still be visited. The writer Isaac Babel was born in the city, which has also produced several famous musicians, including the violinists Nathan Milstein, Mischa Elman and David Oistrakh, and the pianists Benno Moiseiwitsch, Sviatoslav Richter and Emil Gilels. The chess player Efim Geller was born in the city. (All listed, except for Richter, are representatives of the city's Jewish community.)

    Popular show-business people, like comedians, humorist writers' success in 1970s contributed to Odessa's established status of a "capital of Soviet humour". Later several humour festivals were established in the city, including the celebration of the April Fool's Day.

    Most of the city's 19th century houses were built of limestone mined nearby. Abandoned mines were later used and broadened by local smugglers. This created a complicated labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath Odessa, known as "catacombs". They are a now a great attraction for extreme tourists. Such tours, however, are not officially sanctioned and are dangerous because the layout of the catacombs has not been fully mapped and the tunnels themselves are unsafe. These tunnels are a primary reason why subway was never built in Odessa.

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