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Flag of Odesa
Coat of arms of Odesa

Odesa[1] (Ukrainian: Одеcа, [ɔˈdɛsɑ]; also known as Odessa, Russian: Одесса) is a city in southwestern Ukraine on the Black Sea shore. It is the administrative center of the province of Odesa Oblast. It is a major port on the Black Sea. The mayor of Odesa is Hennadiy Trukhanov. In 2004, about 1,012,500 people lived in Odesa.

Overview[change | change source]

Odesa is a warm water port. However, it is thought to be of small military value. Since Turkey controls the Dardanelles and Bosphorus, NATO can control ships moving between Odesa and the Mediterranean Sea.

Ports[change | change source]

The city has two important ports: Odesa itself and Pivdennyi Seaport , which used to be called Yuzhne. In December 2021, Pivdennyi port handled 5.77 million tons of cargo.[2] Another important port, Chornomorsk, is in the same oblast, to the south-west of Odesa. . Railways and pipelines come to these ports. Pipelines connect Odesa's oil and chemical factories to Russia's and the EU's.

Odesa Сircuit Court building and Church of the monastery of St. Panteleimon (church consecrated in 1895; used as a planetarium in 1961–1991).

Odesa is the fifth-largest city in Ukraine. It is important in the country's trading. In the 19th century, it was the fourth city of Imperial Russia. It was just smaller than Moscow and St. Petersburg, and Warsaw.[3] Its old buildings appear to be more Mediterranean than Russian. They were made like French and Italian buildings.

History[change | change source]

The 142-metre-long Potemkin (originally Richelieu) Stairs. These stairs were constructed between 1834 and 1841. Sergei Eisenstein made them famous in his movie Battleship Potemkin.

Before the 20th century[change | change source]

A very old Greek colony named Olbia (Greek: Ολβία, glorious) perhaps was where the city is now. Many monuments link this place to 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. The Crimean Tatars traded there in the 14th century. At the time of the RussianTurkish wars, the lands were captured by Russia. That was at the end of the 18th century.[4]

From 1819 to 1858, Odesa was a free port. During the Soviet times, 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 Odesa trade sea port was made a free port and free economic zone for 25 years.

15th century[change | change source]

In the 15th century AD, nomadic tribes of the Nogays, under the government of the Khanate of Crimea, lived there. During the reign of Khan Haci I Giray, he was in danger from the Golden Horde and the Ottoman Turks. To get help, the khan gave Odesa to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. The place now called Odesa was then named Khadjibey. It was part of the Dykra region. Few people lived in that region. They were part of the Turkic tribes. The land was mostly empty steppes.

The Ottoman Empire controlled Khadjibey after 1529. The nearby region Khadjibey was named Yedisan. In the middle of the 18th century, the Ottomans rebuilt a fortress at Khadjibey. It was named Eni Dunia.

At the time of the war between Russia and Turkey (1787–1792), on 25 September 1789, Ivan Gudovich led a group of Russian soldiers to Khadjibey. They took Khadjibey and Yeni Dünya for the Russian Empire. A Spaniard in the Russian army named Major General José de Ribas led one group of soldiers. Russians named him Osip Mikhailovich Deribas. The main street in Odesa today is named Deribasovskaya Street after him. Turkey let Russia keep the city in the Treaty of Jassy in 1792. Russians made it a part of a place they named Novorossiya.

Origins of the name[change | change source]

In 1794, the Russian government decided to build a naval fortress on the ruins of Khadjibey city. In 1795 its new name was first written in government letters. The reasons for the new name are lost, but people had theories.

Catherine II[change | change source]

According to one of the stories, when someone said Odessos should be the name for the new Russian port, Catherine II said that all names in the South of the Empire were already 'masculine,' and she did not want another one. So, she decided to change it to more 'feminine' Odessa. This story may be false. There were at least two cities (Eupatoria and Theodosia) with names that sound 'feminine' for a Russian; also, Catherine II did not speak Russian when she was a child, and lastly, all cities are feminine in Greek (and in Latin).

French[change | change source]

Another story is that the name 'Odesa' is from word-play in French. French was then the language spoken at the Russian court. 'Plenty of water' is assez d'eau in French. If one says this backwards, it sounds like the Greek colony's name. Word-play about water makes sense. Odesa is next to a very big body of water but has a little fresh water. Anyhow, there is still a link with the name of the old Greek colony. So there may be some truth in the things people said long ago.

The new city quickly became a major success. Its early growth owed much to the work of the Duc de Richelieu, who was the city's governor between 1803 and 1814. He fled the French Revolution and served in Catherine's army against the Turks. He is credited with designing the city and organising its amenities and infrastructure. He is also considered to be one of the founding fathers of the city 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.

Free port[change | change source]

In 1819 the city was made a free port, a status it retained until 1859. It became home to an extremely diverse population of Ukrainians, Russians, Jews, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, Armenians, Italians, Frenchmen, Germans and traders representing many other European nationalities (hence numerous 'ethnic' names on the city's map, e.g., Frantsuszkiy (French) and Italianskiy (Italian) Boulevards, Grecheskaya (Greek), Evreyskaya (Jewish), Arnautskaya (Albanian) Streets). Its cosmopolitan nature was written about by the great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who lived in internal exile in Odesa between 1823 and 1824. In his letters he wrote that Odesa was a city where "you can smell Europe. French is spoken and there are European papers and magazines to read".

Odesa's growth was interrupted by the Crimean War of 1853–1856, during which it was bombarded by British and French naval forces. It soon recovered and the growth in trade made Odesa Russia's largest grain-exporting port. In 1866 the city was linked by rail with Kyiv and Kharkiv as well as Iaşi, Romania.

Richelieu Street and the Opera Theatre in the 1890s.

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

First half of the 20th century[change | change source]

In 1905 Odesa was the place 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, was about the uprising and included a scene where hundreds of Odesan citizens were killed 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 Odesa to see the site of the "slaughter". The steps continue to be a tourist attraction. The film was made at Odesa's Cinema Factory, one of the oldest cinema studios in the former Soviet Union.

Following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 during World War I, Odesa was occupied by several groups, including the Ukrainian Tsentral'na Rada, the French Army, the Red Army and the White Army. Finally, in 1920, the Red Army took control of Odesa and united it with the Ukrainian SSR, which later became part of the USSR.

The people of Odesa suffered from a great famine that occurred in 1921–1922 as a result of the war. Romanian and German forces from 1941 to 1944 occupied the city during World War II, causing severe damage and many casualties.

Under the Axis occupation, approximately 60,000 Odesans (mostly Jews) were either massacred or deported. Many parts of Odesa 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.

Second half of the 20th century[change | change source]

Pushkinskaya Street.

During the 1960s and 1970s, the city grew tremendously. Between the 1970s and 1990s, most of Odesa's surviving Jews emigrated to Israel, the United States and other Western countries. Many of Odesa's middle and upper classes moved to Moscow and Leningrad.The city grew even more with new rural migrants elsewhere from Ukraine. Industrial professionals were invited from Russia as well as other Soviet republics.

Despite being part of the Ukraine Socialist Republic, the city preserved and somewhat reinforced its unique cosmopolitan mix of Russian/Ukrainian/Mediterranean culture. It also preserved its predominantly Russian speaking environment, with a uniquely accented dialect of Russian being spoken in the city. The city's Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, Armenian, Moldovan, Azeri and Jewish communities, have all contributed to the different aspects of Odesa.

Odesa tram.

In 1991, after the collapse of Soviet Union, the city became part of newly independent Ukraine. In 2020, Odesa had about 1.1 million people.[5] The city's industries include shipbuilding, oil refining, chemicals, metalworking and food processing. It 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 Odesa consists of trams[6] (streetcars), trolleybuses, buses; and marshrutkas.

Geography and features[change | change source]

Odesa (Google Map) is above the hills overlooking a small harbor. It is approximately 31 km (19 mi.) north of the estuary of the Dniester river and some 443 km (275 mi) south of the Ukrainian capital Kyiv. The city has a continental climate (Dfa in the Köppen climate classification) with average temperatures in January of -2 °C (29 °F), and July of 22 °C (73 °F). It averages only 350 mm (14 in) rain annually.

Most people speak Russian, with Ukrainian being less common despite of it 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 and Turks among others.

Culture[change | change source]

Odesa Public Library (now Archaeological Museum), like so many other landmarks in the city, was designed in Neoclassical style.

Odesa is a popular tourist destination. It has many resorts in and around the city. The Tolstoy, Vorontsov, and Potocki families owned palaces in Odesa. They are still open for visits from the public.

Notable people[change | change source]

Arts and literature[change | change source]

The writer Isaac Babel was born in the city. It 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.

Entertainment[change | change source]

The most popular Russian show-business people from Odesa are Yakov Smirnoff (comedian), Mikhail Zhvanetsky (legendary humorist writer, who began his career as port engineer) and Roman Kartsev (comedian). Their success in 1970s contributed to Odesa's status of a "capital of Soviet humour". Later several humour festivals were established in the city, including the celebration of April Fools' Day.

Tourism[change | change source]

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 Odesa, 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 Odesa.

Economy[change | change source]

The economy of Odesa is based on its port and its close distance to nearby ice-free ports in the mouths of the Dnieper, the Southern Bug, the Dniester and the Danube rivers. During the Soviet period, it was the USSR's largest trading port. Since Ukraine's independence, Odesa remains the busiest international port in the country. Odesa is also a home to almost 5% of all IT companies registered in Ukraine.[7] It helps the city to thrive and attract talented software programmers from other cities of Ukraine and abroad.[8]

Twin towns and sister cities[change | change source]

References[change | change source]

  1. "Resolution no. 55 of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, January 27, 2010". zakon2.rada.gov.ua (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 2017-04-15.
  2. Pryma, Andrew (2022-01-12). "The seaport of Pivdennyi has set a record of cargo turnover". UBN. Retrieved 2023-12-19.
  3. Herlihy, Patricia (1977). "The Ethnic Composition of the City of Odessa in the Nineteenth Century": 53. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  4. "History of Odessa". Odessa Online. Archived from the original on November 6, 2019. Retrieved May 1, 2006.
  5. "Population of Cities in Ukraine (2020)". worldpopulationreview.com. Retrieved 2020-08-11.
  6. "Odessa Tram Themes". Retrieved 2006-05-02.
  7. "Пішли на прорив: український ІТ-ринок зростає швидше за світовий". Mind.ua (in Ukrainian). Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  8. "Обзор IT-рынка труда: Одесса". ДОУ (in Russian). Retrieved 2020-03-11.
  9. "Sister Cities". Baltimore Convention & Tourism Board. Archived from the original on 11 October 2011. Retrieved 19 October 2011.
  10. "Oraşe înfrăţite (Twin cities of Minsk) [via WaybackMachine.com]" (in Romanian). Primăria Municipiului Chişinău. Archived from the original on 3 September 2012. Retrieved 21 July 2013.
  11. "Twin City activities". Haifa Municipality. Archived from the original on 21 June 2008. Retrieved 2 November 2008.
  12. "Sister Cities of Istanbul". Archived from the original on 17 January 2010. Retrieved 2 November 2008.
  13. Erdem, Selim Efe (3 November 2003). "İstanbul'a 49 kardeş" (in Turkish). Radikal. Retrieved 2 November 2008. 49 sister cities in 2003
  14. Mazumdar, Jaideep (17 November 2013). "A tale of two cities: Will Kolkata learn from her sister?". Times of India. New Delhi. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
  15. "Liverpool City Council: twinning". Archived from the original on 6 July 2010. Retrieved 2 November 2008.
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  17. "Marseille Official Website – Twin Cities" (in French). 2008 Ville de Marseille. Archived from the original on 5 May 2008. Retrieved 26 November 2008.
  18. "Ystävyyskaupungit (Twin Cities)". Oulun kaupunki (City of Oulu) (in Finnish). Archived from the original on 10 July 2017. Retrieved 27 July 2013.
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  20. "Gradovi prijatelji Splita" [Split Twin Towns]. Grad Split [Split Official City Website] (in Croatian). Archived from the original on 24 March 2012. Retrieved 19 December 2013.
  21. "Ciudades Hermanadas con València" [Valencia Twin/Sister Cities]. Ajuntament de València [City of Valencia] (in Spanish). Archived from the original on 29 October 2012. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
  22. "Vancouver Twinning Relationships" (PDF). City of Vancouver. Retrieved 18 July 2009.
  23. "Yerevan – Twin Towns & Sister Cities". Yerevan Municipality Official Website. 2005–2013 www.yerevan.am. Retrieved 4 November 2013.
  24. ԵՐԵՎԱՆԻ ՔԱՂԱՔԱՊԵՏԱՐԱՆՊԱՇՏՈՆԱԿԱՆ ԿԱՅՔ [Yerevan expanding its international relations] (in Armenian). Archived from the original on 12 May 2013. Retrieved 5 August 2013.
  25. "Official Yokohama City Tourism Website: Sister Cities". Yokohama Convention & Visitors Bureau. Archived from the original on 27 August 2009. Retrieved 11 November 2008.