Odessa – St. Petersburg of the South:
Odessa, often referred to as the “Pearl of the Black Sea” is the third largest city in Ukraine and the largest city along the Black Sea. It is the Ukraine’s most significant commercial centre.
A Brief History of Odessa
Odessa’s history includes settlement by the Greeks in the region as early as 1700 years ago, the Crimea-Tartarians settled here in the 14th century and the region was part of the Turkish Empire from 1526 to 1789.
During period of Russian territorial acquisitions, this coastal region was conquered by Russia and integrated into the Russian Empire. Catherine the Great fancied Odessa as the St. Petersburg of the South and the town was officially founded in 1794 and served the Russians as a naval base.
Catherine the Great wanted Odessa to be a European city and you’ll see that its architecture is heavily influenced by French and Italian styles, with a distinct Russian flavour. It is said that foreigners built Odessa – the Dutch were brought in as engineers, the British did the waterworks and the Italians were responsible for the architecture – so it’s no wonder that Odessa resembles a Mediterranean town.
Odessa’s history as a thriving region has left the city with some splendid architecture from the 18th and 19th centuries. As early as the first half of the 19th century, the profitable grain trade attracted wealthy merchants and factory owners who moved to Odessa. They built opulent residences for themselves, including palace-like compounds, two-storied mansions with forecourts and grand entrances. These mansions were built to the designs of the best Odessa architects.
Odessa is one of the few planned cities in Ukraine and its city centre is laid out in a grid. The stately 19th century classical buildings are set on orderly planned streets and surrounded with green space, giving the city an air of elegance. Strikingly ornate buildings of the late 19th and early 20th century are reminiscent of Paris Right Bank.
Today, Odessa has over a million inhabitants and is an industrial centre. Shipyards and oil-refineries are major industries, as well as chemical and metal-processing. Odessa is also the home of the Ukrainian naval base and a large fishing fleet.
On our brief river cruise stop, our visits were centred around the Old city centre
- The Potemkin Steps is the city’s symbol and made famous the world over thanks to Eisentein’s “Battleship Potemkin”.
- Odessa’s historical city centre with its Opera House and classical buildings
- Deribasovskaya Street and City Garden
- Onion-domed Orthodox churches, an Islamic church and the two remaining synagogues
- Tomb of the Unknown Sailor