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Odessa Information

The City of Odessa is often referred to as "The Pearl of the Black Sea".

Preobrazhenskaya Cathedral Odessa,UkraineOdessa or Odesa (Ukrainian: Одеса; Russian: Одесса; Romanian: Odesa; Greek: Οδησσός; Yiddish: אדעס) is the administrative center of the Odessa Oblast (province) located in southern Ukraine. The city is a major seaport located on the shore of the Black Sea and the fourth largest city in Ukraine with a population of 1,029,000 (as of the 2001 census).

The predecessor of Odessa, a small Tatar settlement, was founded by Hacı I Giray, the Khan of Crimea, in 1240 and originally named after him as "Hacıbey". After a period of Lithuanian control, it passed into the domain of the Ottoman Sultan in 1529 and remained in Ottoman hands until the Ottoman Empire's defeat in the Russo-Turkish War of 1792. The city of Odessa was founded by a decree of the Empress Catherine the Great in 1794. From 1819 to 1858 Odessa was a free port. During the Soviet period it was the most important port of trade in the Soviet Union 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.

In the 19th century it was the fourth largest city of Imperial Russia, after Moscow, Saint Petersburg, and Warsaw. Its historical architecture has a style more Mediterranean than Russian, having been heavily influenced by French and Italian styles. Some buildings are built in a mixture of different styles, including Art Nouveau, Renaissance and Classicist.

Odessa is a warm water port, but militarily it is of limited value. Turkey's control of the Dardanelles and Bosphorus has enabled NATO to control water traffic between Odessa and the Mediterranean Sea. The city of Odessa hosts two important ports: Odessa itself and Yuzhne (also an internationally important oil terminal), situated in the city's suburbs. Another important port, Illichivs'k, is located in the same oblast, to the south-west of Odessa. Together they represent a major transport hub integrating with railways. Odessa's oil and chemical processing facilities are connected to Russia's and EU's respective networks by strategic pipelines.

City Name

Port of Odessa Odessa,UkraineThe origins of the name, or the reasons for naming the town Odessa, are not known, though etymologies and anecdotes abound. According to one of the stories, when someone suggested Odessos as a name for the new port (see History), Catherine II said that all names in the South of the Empire were already 'masculine,' and didn't want yet another one, so she decided to change it to more 'feminine' Odessa. This anecdote is highly dubious, because there were at least two cities (Yevpatoria and Theodosia) whose names sound 'feminine' for a Russian. Furthermore, the Tsaritsa was not a native Russian speaker, and finally, all cities are feminine in Greek (as well as in Latin). Another legend derives the name 'Odessa' from the word-play: in French (which was then the language spoken at the Russian court), 'plenty of water' is assez d'eau; if said backwards, it sounds similar to that of the Greek colony's name (and water-related pun makes perfect sense, because Odessa, though situated next to the huge body of water, has limited fresh water supply). Regardless, a legend regarding a link with the name of the ancient Greek colony persists, so there might be some truth in the oral tradition. The Turkish name for the district was Yedisan, meaning "nine arrows", and this is a more likely explanation of the name Odessa.


From the first settlements to the end of the 19th century

Horse and Carriage  Odessa,UkraineOdessa Сircuit Court building and Church of the monastery of St. Panteleimon (church consecrated in 1895; used as a planetarium from 19611991).The site of Odessa was once occupied by an ancient Greek colony. Archaeological artifacts confirm links between the Odessa area and the eastern Mediterranean. In the Middle Ages the Odessa region was ruled in succession by various nomadic tribes, (Petchenegs, Cumans), the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, and the Ottoman Empire. Yedisan Crimean Tatars traded there in the 14th century. During the reign of Khan Hacı I Giray of Crimea, the Khanate was endangered by the Golden Horde and the Ottoman Turks and, in search of allies, the khan agreed to cede the area to Lithuania. The site of present-day Odessa was then a town known as Khadjibey (named for Hacı I Giray, and also spelled Kocibey in English, Hacıbey or Hocabey in Turkish, Chad?ibėjus in Lithuanian, and Hacıbey in Crimean Tatar). It was part of the Dykra region. However, most of the rest of the area was largely uninhabited in this period.

Horse and Carriage  Odessa,UkraineKhadjibey came under direct control of the Ottoman Empire after 1529 and was part of a region known as Yedisan and was administered in the Ottoman Silistra (?zi) Province. In the mid-18th century, the Ottomans rebuilt a fortress at Khadjibey (also was known Hocabey), which was named Yeni D?nya. Hocabey was a sanjak centre of Silistre Province.

During the Russo-Turkish War of 17871792, on 25 September 1789, a detachment of Russian forces under Ivan Gudovich took Khadjibey and Yeni D?nya for the Russian Empire. One part of the troops was under command of a Spaniard in Russian service, Major General Jos? de Ribas (known in Russia as Osip Mikhailovich Deribas) and the main street in Odessa today, Derybasivska Street, is named after him. Russia formally gained possession of the area as a result of the Treaty of Jassy (Iaşi) in 1792 and it became a part of the so-called Novorossiya ("New Russia").

Horse and Carriage  Odessa,UkraineHowever, adjacent to the new official locality, a Romanian colony already existed, which by the end of 1700s was an independent settlement known under the name of Moldavanka. Legend has it that the settlement pre-dates Odessa by about thirty years and asserts that the locality was founded by Romanians from what was then the Principality of Moldavia (hence the name) who came to build the fortress of Yeni Dunia for the Ottomans and eventually settled in the area in the late 1760s, right next to the settlement of Khadjibey (since 1795 Odessa proper), on what later became the Primorsky Boulevard. The Romanians owned relatively small plots on which they built village style houses and cultivated vineyards and gardens. What was to become Mikhailovsky Square was the centre of this settlement and the site of its first Orthodox church, the Church of the Domitian, built in 1821 close to the sea shore, as well as of a cemetery. Nearby were the military barracks and the country houses (dacha) of the city's wealthy residents, including that of the Duc de Richelieu, appointed by Tsar Alexander I as Governor of Odessa in 1803. In the period from 1795 to 1814 the population of Odessa has increased 15 times and reached almost 20 thousand people. The first city plan designed by the engineer F. Devollan in the late 18th century. Colonist of various ethnicities settled mainly in the area of former Romanian colony, outside of the official boundaries, and as a consequence, in the first third of the nineteenth century, Moldavanka emerged as the dominant settlement. After planning by the official architects who designed buildings in Odessa's central district, such as the Italians Franz Karlowicz Boffo and Giovanni Torichelli, Moldovanka was included in the general city plan, though the original grid-like plan of Moldovankan streets, lanes and squares remained unchanged.

Ivan Aivazovsky, Nineteenth-Century painting depicting Odessa Harbor.

Ivan Martos's statue of Duc de Richelieu in Odessa The new city quickly became a major success. Its early growth owed much to the work of the Duc de Richelieu, who served as the city's governor between 18031814. Having fled the French Revolution, he had served in Catherine's army against the Turks. He is credited with designing the city and organizing its amenities and infrastructure, and is considered one of the founding fathers of Odessa, together with another Frenchman, Count Andrault de Langeron, who succeeded him in office. Richelieu is commemorated by a bronze statue, unveiled in 1828 to a design by Ivan Martos.

Horse and Carriage  Odessa,UkraineRichelieu Street and the Opera Theater in the 1890s.In 1819 the city was made a free port, a status it retained until 1859. It became home to an extremely diverse population of Albanians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Frenchmen, Germans (including Mennonites), Greeks, Italians, Jews, Poles, Romanians, Russians, Ukrainians, and traders representing many other nationalities (hence numerous 'ethnic' names on the city's map, e.g., Frantsuzky (French) and Italiansky (Italian) Boulevards, Gretcheskaya (Greek), Yevreyskaya (Jewish), Arnautskaya (Albanian) Streets). Its cosmopolitan nature was documented by the Great Russian poet Alexander Pushkin, who lived in internal exile in Odessa between 18231824. In his letters he wrote that Odessa was a city where "the air is filled with all Europe, French is spoken and there are European papers and magazines to read". Odessa's growth was interrupted by the Crimean War of 18531856, during which it was bombarded by British and French naval forces. It soon recovered and the growth in trade made Odessa Russia's largest grain-exporting port. In 1866 the city was linked by rail with Kiev and Kharkov as well as Iasi, Romania.

The city became the home of a large Jewish community during the 19th century, and by 1897 Jews was 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 Odessa 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

Horse and Carriage  Odessa,UkraineThe 142-metre-long Potemkin Stairs (constructed 18371841), made famous by Sergei Eisenstein in his movie The 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 Odessa 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 the Duc de Richelieu. The actual massacre took place in streets nearby, not on the steps themselves, but the film 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.

Bolshevik forces enter Odessa. February, 1920.Following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 during World War I, Odessa was occupied by several groups, including the Ukrainian Tsentral'na Rada, the French Army, the Red Army and the White Army. In 1918, Odessa became the capital of the independent Odessa Soviet Republic. Finally, in 1920, the Red Army took control of the city and united it with the Ukrainian SSR, which later became part of the USSR.

Horse and Carriage  Odessa,UkraineSoviet gun crew in action at Odessa in 1941The people of Odessa barely suffered from a famine that occurred as a result of the Civil war in Russia in 19211922. Before being occupied by Romanian troops in 1941, a part of the city's population, industry, infrastructure and all cultural valuables possible were evacuated to inner regions of the USSR, and the retreating Red Army units destroyed as much as they could of Odessa harbor facilities left behind. The city was land mined in the same way as Kiev. During World War II, from 19411944, Odessa was subject to Romanian administration, as the city had been made part of the Transnistria occupation district. The Romanian occupation may be described a "soft one", let alone the slaughter of thousands of Jews during the first months of occupation, compared to the short period of German one in 1944. The Romanian commanding General made an "unofficial armistice" with the partisans hidden in the city's catacombs pumping in poison gas or flooding them, who in turn did not mount much resistance to the Romanians.

During the April 1944 battle Odessa suffered severe damage and many casualties. Many parts of Odessa were damaged during its siege and recapture on 10 April 1944, when the city was finally liberated by the Red Army. It was one of the first four Soviet cities to be awarded the title of "Hero City" in 1945, though local narratives, though sometimes ambivalent, often contradict Soviet claims that the occupation was a time of hardship, deprivation, oppression and suffering - claims embodied in public monuments and disseminated through the media to this day. Subsequent Soviet policies imprisoned and executed numerous Odessans (and deported most of the German and Tatar population) on account of collaboration with the occupiers.

The Odessa Massacre

Following the Siege of Odessa, and the Axis occupation, approximately 25,000 Odessans (mostly Jews) were murdered in the outskirts of the city and over 35,000 deported. Most of the atrocities were committed during the first six months of the occupation which officially began on 17 October 1941, after the bombing of the Romanian HQ and the subsequent brutal response of the Romanian military. After this time period, the Romanian administration changed its policy, refusing to deport the remaining Jewish population to extermination camps in German occupied Poland, and allowing Jews to work as hired laborers. As a result, despite the tragic events of 1941, the survival of the Jews in this area was higher than in other areas of occupied Eastern Europe.

Second half of the 20th century

Passenger Terminal of the Odessa port - Tolstogo Street. During the 1960s and 1970s the city grew tremendously. Nevertheless, the majority of Odessa's Jews immigrated to Israel, the United States and other Western countries between the 1970s and 1990s. Many ended up in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Brighton Beach, sometimes known as "Little Odessa". Domestic migration of Odessa middle and upper classes to Moscow and Leningrad that offered even greater opportunities for career advancement, also occurred on a large scale. But the city grew rapidly by filling the void with new rural migrants elsewhere from Ukraine and industrial professionals invited from all over the Soviet Union.

Despite being part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the city preserved and somewhat reinforced its unique cosmopolitan mix of Russian/Ukrainian/Mediterranean culture and a predominantly Russo phone environment with a uniquely accented dialect of Russian spoken in the city. The city's Russian, Ukrainian, Greek, Armenian, Italian, Moldovan, Bulgarian, and Jewish communities have influenced different aspects of Odessa life.

In 1991, after the collapse of Communism, the city became part of newly independent Ukraine. Today Odessa is a city of more than 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 largest market of its kind in Europe.

Government and administrative divisions

The Odessa Main Railway Station. While Odessa is the administrative centre of the Odessa Oblast (province), the city is the capital of the Odessa City Municipality. However, Odessa is a city of oblast sub ordinance, thus being subject directly to the oblast authorities rather to the Odessa City Municipality housed in the city itself.

The territory of Odessa is divided into four administrative raions (districts):

Kyivsky Raion (Ukrainian: Київський район)
Malinovsky Raion (Ukrainian: Малиновський район)
Primorsky Raion (Ukrainian: Приморський район)
Suvorovsky Raion (Ukrainian: Суворовський район)
In addition, every raion has its own administration, subordinate to the Odessa City Council, and with limited responsibilities.

Geography and features

Odessa is situated (4628′N 3044′E / 46.467N 30.733E / 46.467; 30.733) 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. The city has a mild and dry climate with average temperatures in January of −2 C (28 F), and July of 22 C (72 F). It averages only 350 mm (14 in) of precipitation annually.

Odessa's Spoken Languages

The primary language spoken is Russian, while Ukrainian is used primarily for official purposes. The city is a mix of many nationalities and ethnic groups, including Armenians, Bulgarians, Georgians, Germans, Greeks, Jews, Koreans, Moldovans, Russians, Turks, Ukrainians, and many others.


The first car in Russian Empire, a Mercedes-Benz belonging to V. Navrotsky, came to Odessa from France in 1891. He was a popular city publisher of the newspaper The Odessa Leaf. Odessa was the first city in Imperial Russia to have steam tramway lines since 1881, only one year after horse tramway in 1880 operated by the "Tramways d?Odessa", a Belgian owned company. The first metro gauge steam tramway line run from Railway Station to Great Fontaine and the second one to Hadzhi Bey Liman. These were operated by the same Belgian company. Electric tramway started to operate on 22.08.1907. Trams were imported from Germany. The city public transit in Odessa is currently represented by trams (streetcars), trolleybuses, buses and fixed-route taxis (marshrutkas). Odessa also has a cable car, cable-way, and recreational ferry service. Odessa International Airport is served by major airline carriers, including Aerosvit, Ukraine International, Austrian Airlines, Czech Airlines, El Al, and Turkish Airlines. These and other airlines provide flights to numerous locations in Europe and Asia. Passenger trains connect Odessa with Warsaw, Prague, Bratislava, Vienna, Berlin, and Moscow, St.-Petersburg, the cities of Ukraine and many other cities of the former USSR. Intercity bus services are available from Odessa to many cities in Russia (Moscow, Rostov-on-Don, Krasnodar, and Pyatigorsk), Germany (Berlin, Hamburg and Munich), Greece (Thessaloniki and Athens), Bulgaria (Varna and Sofia) and several cities of Ukraine and Europe. Passenger ships and ferries connect Odessa with Istanbul, Haifa and Varna.

Odessa catacombs

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 gigantic complicated labyrinth of underground tunnels beneath Odessa, known as "catacombs". During World War II, the catacombs served as a hiding place for partisans. 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. The tunnels are a primary reason why no subway system was ever built in Odessa.

Odessa Today

Odessa Opera House Odessa,UkraineToday Odessa is a city of more than 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 largest market of its kind in Europe.
Odessa is renowned for its nightlife. Unlike Moscow and Kiev, Odessa is a relatively small city, and all of Odessa's nightlife attractions are easily accessible. People often switch several nightclubs before dawn. Prices for nightlife entertainment are much lower in Odessa than in Kiev or Moscow.

City Garden on Deribasovskaya Street Odessa,UkraineArcadia district is the best place for summer nightlife in Odessa. Teeming with dozens of discos, nightclubs, and bars, the area provides ample opportunities for visitors of Odessa. There are some famous summer clubs here, such as Assol, which is a large ship-type club, operating as a seafood restaurant all day and during night turning into a wild club with dancers and striptease shows. Itaka is the club designed as an ancient Greek temple, with columns, Greek statues and marble elements that create a unique atmosphere for the guests. The place is very crowded during weekend, and the most popular nightclubs in Odessa are already full by 11pm. You can always sneak in by giving a $10 bill to security guys.

In winter, there are many nightclubs in Odessa city centre, as the town is bustling with nightlife. Popularity of nightclubs in Odessa changes often so it's best to ask the locals what is popular at present.
Odessa in Ukraine has been always proud of its cuisine which is multinational as well as Odessa population. Food in Odessa, Ukraine is great because of numerous word cuisines influence. There are high qualified chefs working for Ukrainian, Russian, Greek, Jews, Moldavian, Bulgarian as well as Europeans restaurants in Odessa.

Ekaterinskaya Square Odessa,UkraineLooking for a romantic setting? There are many Odessa restaurant options that provide intimate dining for when you want to be close and solitary. Known for its special coffee and American style menus, the "Steakhouse" also boasts catering to business dinners and romantic interludes. The menu is a bit pricey, but the food and ambiance are worth it.
There is no shortage of specialty Odessa restaurants something for everyone's palette is available. If you're looking for Mexican cuisine, try "Estrellita". Have a craving for great fish try the "Gulf Stream". Perhaps you require a kosher establishment, in which case there is "Rozmarin". This is a cozy and modern cafe providing a traditional Jewish menu. If a Japanese atmosphere is more to your liking, try "Yokogama" where they offer stylish Japanese fair.

Dolphins at the Dolphinarium Odessa,UkraineAs well as the great food there are also great beaches nearby. Lanzheron is a popular Odessa beach among the locals and tourists alike. Located next to Park Schevchenko, one can enjoy the greenery of the park and take a dip in the warm black sea at the same time. This is the closest beach from Odessa's historical centre, about a 15 minute walk from the Opera Theatre. Lanzheron stretches over many different beaches, each with its own unique Odessa flavor. Some are fully equipped while others were left alone in their natural state. There are even numerous water slides available for your entertainment along the water, just in case you get bored while in Odessa. If you get bored, you can visit a large newly built Dolphinarium. The well known Khutorok Restaurant is perched on the bank nearby offering panoramic sea views from the terrace.

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