Ukraine News - History

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In The News

Land reform transforming Ukraine

How Joseph Stalin Starved Millions in the Ukrainian Famine

At the height of the 1932-33 Ukrainian famine under Joseph Stalin, starving people roamed the countryside, desperate for something, anything to eat. In the village of Stavyshche, a young peasant boy watched as the wanderers dug into empty gardens with their bare hands. Many were so emaciated, he recalled, that their bodies began to swell and stink from the extreme lack of nutrients.

"You could see them walking about, just walking and walking, and one would drop, and then another, and so on it went," he said many years later, in a case history collected in the late 1980s by a Congressional commission. In the cemetery outside the village hospital, overwhelmed doctors carried the bodies on stretchers and tossed them into an enormous pit.

A Brief History of Conflict in Ukraine

The events of the last three weeks have catapulted Ukraine to the forefront of the U.S. policy agenda, sparking an intense crisis of confidence between the United States and Russia—the worst since 1979.

Russia is stridently claiming that Crimea should have a “right of return” to Russia, and the United States is citing concerns about territorial integrity and the sovereignty of state borders.

Europe and the United States are almost certainly not willing to go to war over Crimea—and Russia almost certainly is.

Unlike the Cold War, this is not a simple U.S.—Russian issue. Rather, U.S. and Russian interests both converge and collide over issues ranging from space, the Arctic, the Pacific, Iran, and energy security in myriad ways and places.

What brought this issue to this crossroads, and what are the implications for the immediate future as well as the long term?

The history of Russia, Ukraine and Crimea is complex even more complex is the role of democracy in the so-called “Borscht Belt” and the ability of civil society to create an enduring, sustainable local-flavored democracy that allows a nation of almost 50 million, seated at the crossroads of Central Asia, Russia, Europe and the Black Sea, to find its own autonomous way forward in a complex neighborhood.

It is a complexity built on centuries of common culture and shared history, as well as unique regional traits. Regrettably, neither the United States. nor Europe have time to take a crash course in East European history—but their consideration of options must be grounded in a realistic appreciation of the facts and levers as they are, not as we might wish them to be.

‘I Live in the East — Not the West’

Russian President Vladimir Putin

In order to best understand the past fifteen years of Russian history, and how Russian President Vladamir Putin has arrived at where he is in this crisis, one must first understand how Putin views Russia, his immediate neighbors, Russia’s national interests and the rest of the world.

“I live in the East, not the West,” he said in 1999.

Putin appears to have played the last decade well by identifying national goals and policy priorities, and putting into action activities to support and achieve his aims.
To that end, the crux of the issue in current Crimean standoff is Ukraine desires to be free and clear of the former Soviet Union, while Russia wants to readdress the dissolution of the Soviet Union and re-litigate borders that have been in flux for centuries.
To illustrate the dynamics, we need a quick canter through history.

Shifting Control
It has been a very long time (at least three centuries) since Ukraine has been effectively ruled as an independent and sovereign state.

The region was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth under Polish rule beginning in the mid-1500s.

Poles occupied Moscow during part of the Russian Time of Troubles (smuta in Russian, which in Polish ironically means “sadness”) in the early 17th century, even as Cossacks rampaged across Ukraine (the kresy in Polish) and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth struggled to maintain its super-power status.

Then a distracted Europe enabled confusion and chaos in Ukraine.

The Cossack uprising of the Khmelnitsky’s Rebellion shattered Polish governance (1648-1657), as Western Europe was signing the Westphalia Treaty and recovering from the twin ravages of the Plague and the Thirty Years’ War.

Austria was part of the three-nation dismemberment of Poland in the late 18th century, and as a result gained Galicja, a region that encompassed most of today’s Ukraine west of Kiev.

Soviet Influences

A Ukrainian wheat field in 2008.

The period after World War I saw Czarist Russia collapse, and then a series of brutal civil wars, as well as a war with Poland (the Poles won, much to the chagrin of a young komisar named Joseph Stalin), meant that a Ukraine in the Soviet Union was not master of its own destiny.
The wheat fields of Ukraine were too valuable to the Soviet Union to be allowed out of their geopolitical orbit.

With the collectivization campaign, vigorously resisted, the farmers and peoples of Ukraine were brought to heel.

This was continued with two famines and the counter-kulak campaign that resulted in the chłodomor or Голодомор (in Ukrainian, the “Hunger-extermination”), the serial starving of Ukraine by the Soviets. Estimates range from 2.5 to 7.5 million killed—the mention brings shudders to Ukrainians.

During World War II, Ukraine was a bitterly contested sub-theater of operations. Some Ukrainians fought for the Germans, others for the Soviets, still others (especially in western portions) for their own independence.

Accurate statistics are difficult to come by, but Ukraine along with Poland and Germany certainly saw a greater percentage of death and destruction than any other region in the war.
Stalin was replaced by Nikita Khrushchev, who was born in a small village close by the Ukrainian border, and cut his teeth as a young apparatchnik in Ukraine.

Elderly Ukranian man and his ruined home, Tschernigow region, Ukraine, June, 18 1943. Photo by K. Lishko, Russian International News Agency via World War II Database

He was party to the crimes and policies of Stalin, yet during World War II he tried — with limited effect—to alleviate some of Ukraine’s suffering.
For myriad reasons, the USSR “gave” Crimea to Ukraine in 1950s in the immediate aftermath of the “Secret Speech” denouncing the legacy of Stalin and Khrushchev’s bungling attempts to reverse decades of deleterious Soviet policy.

Khrushchev, though, never anticipated that the USSR would dissolve, and that one day Ukraine would no longer be a satellite but a free and sovereign nation.
Today a central flashpoint is not “just” Crimea, but the entire complex post-USSR period in grappling with the fallout of two Russian empires collapsing in 75 years. One cannot understand Ukraine and Crimea without considering this pivotal period in Russian (Soviet)-Ukrainian relations.

Post-Soviet Period

On Christmas Day 1991 Mikhail Gorbachev resigned, stating that the, “disintegration of the Soviet Union had been a most tragic event.” By January 1992, Ukraine and 14 other former Soviet Republics had become independent nations.

Ukraine handed over all of its nuclear weapons, leading to the signing of the Budapest Memorandum of “Assurances” (a complicated term and document in international law and diplomacy) in 1994.

The people of Ukraine were rewarded with the poisoned candidate Viktor Yushchenko becoming president—Viktor Yanukovych was out, and a dynamic new prime minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, in as well in a fledgling coalition government.

Viktor Yushchenko, April 5, 2005. JFK Library Photo

This quickly changed in 2006, though, as Yanukovych staged a comeback and replaced Timoshenko as prime minister through 2007.
Ukraine, still grappling with emergent democracy as practiced, not as preached in western capitals far removed from Russia’s near-abroad, continued looking for a shared cultural and political understanding that could effectively lead the diverse peoples of Ukraine.

Protesters in Maidan Square. Kiev, Ukraine. Dec. 12, 2013.

That experiment continues today with the demonstrations in Maidan and the political fallout.
Yanukovych tried to straddle a delicate balance between Russia and Europe. After NATO announced at the Bucharest Summit in 2008 that they would not offer membership to Ukraine or Georgia, relations between “Europe,” Russia, Ukraine and the United States seemed to improve, allowing the new president to announce a “reset” with Russia.

Events proved that perhaps this was overly optimistic as Russia (albeit provoked, a favorite Russian tactic) invaded Georgia in 2008, and in 2009-10 successfully pressured Ukraine to cancel military exercise with the United States and other NATO countries.

At the same time, Ukraine did deploy forces to Iraq early on, and while this may have endeared them to the United States and NATO, it certainly did not endear them to Putin’s Russia.
Yanukovych tried to work an agreement with the EU, but at the same time the Ukrainian treasury was empty (in part perhaps because he is alleged to have stashed billions of dollars skimmed form the till overseas).

When Yanukovych made a sudden about face from Europe and toward the deep pockets of Moscow, protestors took to the square.

According to most accounts, the protests had almost petered out, until the government sent in heavily armed forces to clear the square, and in the days of Instagram and other streaming social media, the strategic situation changed overnight, whilst simultaneously tremendously raising the stakes.

What Crimea Means to Russia

An artist’s illustration of Crimea.

In Moscow there remains deep resentment at how the post-1991 borders were drawn, and perhaps nowhere is it more contentious than Crimea.

While most Russians have historically considered Ukraine an integral part of Russia (Solzhenitsyn, Tolstoy, et al), and Kievan Rus the birthplace of modern Russia, they are even more attached to Crimea.

The 1856 painting, ‘Siege of Sevastopol’ by Grigoryi Shukaev.

Crimea occupies an emotional place in the heart of many Russians. They fought The Crimean War here in 1853-1856, disastrously executed by Prince Menshikov, embarrassing Russia across all of Europe, allowing the Ottoman Empire to totter on and the Austro-Hungarian Empire to extend and exert even greater control in the Black Sea region.

Russians resent their loss of prestige and power, and Crimea may well be the diamond in the Fabergé egg to them. It should surprise no one that a re-emergent Russia would seek to “correct” perceived borders, but, if Crimea today, does that mean Narva, Estonia tomorrow (with an ethnically approximately 90 percent Russian population)?

The question, then and now, boils down to what degree of Russian interference was/is Ukraine and the West willing to tolerate?

What’s Happening Now

An image of the North (or Nord) Stream pipeline. Gazprom Image

Ukraine, like many former Soviet Republics, is a “Fourth World” country in that it must first dismantle the damage done by Soviet rule—the destruction of trust, consensus and civil society, as well as crumbling infrastructure—before it can rebuild.

Poland and others have done this, but not without significant struggle and assistance. The question is posed, then: Can Ukraine do the same and how much external assistance and assurance does it need?

In the 2000s, I once sat in a high level U.S. diplomatic discussion about Russia conducting its annual energy slowdown offensive to squeeze Ukraine, Poland, and most of Europe with restricted energy supplies and sudden price spikes. A very senior U.S. leader commented that “Russia hasn’t learned its lesson about doing this” and sage heads nodded obsequious concurrence around the table—except for me. I opined that in fact the Russians had learned their lessons—they could energy squeeze Ukraine, Poland, and Europe any time they wanted to and there was nothing that Europe or the United States could or would do about it.

Nonetheless, only having one spigot to turn limited the strategic choices of Russia and Putin, who wanted more nuanced options.

Three new energy pipeline projects allow Russia to have a symphony of energy options with which to optimize their regional power policies—Blue Stream, South Stream and Nord Stream.

It is worth noting that the original EU idea was built on coal and steel—because damp and frigid European winters demand a reliable source of energy with which to heat homes, businesses, and public buildings. With the extensive Soviet-era energy lines supplemented by these new projects, Russia now has the ability to increase energy supplies (and lower prices) to some parts of Europe whilst simultaneously constricting supplies (and raising prices) to other parts of Europe.

Using the energy weapon, Russia may be more powerful in Europe than at any time in the past two centuries—since Russian troops walked down the Champs Elysees yelling ‘bistro, bistro’ (quickly, quickly) to startled French waitresses—and without a shot fired or battalion mobilized.
Thus where we are this month with the Ukrainian-Russo crisis.

Only after we carefully consider the myriad factors at play in Ukraine we begin to carefully—albeit very quickly—begin crafting a “return to Europe” strategy that will provide the best set of compromise positions, policy and strategy to de-escalate this crisis, recognizing Russia’s interests while supporting the earnest yearnings of Ukraine to breathe free as a vast land of undulating fields and varied peoples at the crossroads of geography and history.

Conflict in Ukraine

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has transitioned to a stalemate after it first erupted in early 2014, but shelling and skirmishes still occur regularly, including an escalation in violence in the spring of 2018.

Since taking office, the Donald J. Trump administration has continued to pressure Russia over its involvement eastern Ukraine. In January 2018, the United States imposed new sanctions on twenty-one individuals and nine companies linked to the conflict. In March 2018, the State Department approved the sale of anti-tank weapons to Ukraine, the first sale of lethal weaponry since the conflict began, and in July 2018 the Department of Defense announced an additional $200 million in defensive aid to Ukraine, bringing the total amount of aid provided since 2014 to $1 billion.

In October 2018, Ukraine joined the United States and seven other North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries in a series of large-scale air exercises in western Ukraine. The exercises came after Russia held its annual military exercises in September 2018, the largest since the fall of the Soviet Union.

The crisis in Ukraine began with protests in the capital city of Kiev in November 2013 against Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych’s decision to reject a deal for greater economic integration with the European Union. After a violent crackdown by state security forces unintentionally drew an even greater number of protesters and escalated the conflict, President Yanukovych fled the country in February 2014.

In March 2014, Russian troops took control of Ukraine’s Crimean region, before formally annexing the peninsula after Crimeans voted to join the Russian Federation in a disputed local referendum. Russian President Vladimir Putin cited the need to protect the rights of Russian citizens and Russian speakers in Crimea and southeast Ukraine. The crisis heightened ethnic divisions, and two months later pro-Russian separatists in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine held a referendum to declare independence from Ukraine.

Violence in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatist forces and the Ukrainian military has by conservative estimates killed more than 10,300 people and injured nearly 24,000 since April 2014. Although Moscow has denied its involvement, Ukraine and NATO have reported the buildup of Russian troops and military equipment near Donetsk and Russian cross-border shelling.

In July 2014, the situation in Ukraine escalated into an international crisis and put the United States and the European Union (EU) at odds with Russia when a Malaysian Airlines flight was shot down over Ukrainian airspace, killing all 298 onboard. Dutch air accident investigators concluded in October 2015 that the plane had been downed by a Russian-built surface-to-air missile. In September 2016, investigators said that the missile system was provided by Russia, determining it was moved into eastern Ukraine and then back to Russian territory following the downing of the airplane.

Since February 2015, France, Germany, Russia, and Ukraine have attempted to broker a cessation in violence through the Minsk Accords. The agreement includes provisions for a cease-fire, withdrawal of heavy weaponry, and full Ukrainian government control throughout the conflict zone. However, efforts to reach a diplomatic settlement and satisfactory resolution have been unsuccessful.

In April 2016, NATO announced that the alliance would deploy four battalions to Eastern Europe, rotating troops through Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Poland to deter possible future Russian aggression elsewhere in Europe, particularly in the Baltics. These battalions were joined by two U.S. Army tank brigades, deployed to Poland in September 2017 to further bolster the alliance’s deterrence presence.

Ukraine has been the target of a number of cyberattacks since the conflict started in 2014. In December 2015, more than 225,000 people lost power across Ukraine in an attack, and in December 2016 parts of Kiev experienced another power blackout following a similar attack targeting a Ukrainian utility company. In June 2017, government and business computer systems in Ukraine were hit by the NotPetya cyberattack the crippling attack, attributed to Russia, spread to computer systems worldwide and caused billions of dollars in damages.

“This Rain Will Never Stop”: documentary shot across Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, and Germany to screen in the U.S.

This May, the feature-length documentary by Alina Gorlova “This Rain Will Never Stop” will screen in the U.S., in competition at the True/False Film Festival. The story follows a young Red Cross volunteer, Andriy Suleiman. Born to a Kurdish father and a Ukrainian mother in Syria, he fled the.


The city was named in compliance with the Greek Plan of Catherine the Great. It was named after the ancient Greek city of Odessos, which was mistakenly believed to have been located here. Odessa is located in between the ancient Greek cities of Tyras and Olbia, different from the ancient Odessos's location further west along the coast, which is at present day Varna, Bulgaria. [8]

Catherine's secretary of state Adrian Gribovsky [ru] claimed in his memoirs that the name was his suggestion. Some expressed doubts about this claim, while others noted the reputation of Gribovsky as an honest and modest man. [9]

Early history

Odessa was the site of a large Greek settlement no later than the middle of the 6th century BC (a necropolis from the 5th–3rd centuries BC has long been known in this area). Some scholars believe it to have been a trade settlement established by the Greek city of Histria. Whether the Bay of Odessa is the ancient "Port of the Histrians" cannot yet be considered a settled question based on the available evidence. [11] Archaeological artifacts confirm extensive links between the Odessa area and the eastern Mediterranean.

In the Middle Ages successive rulers of the Odessa region included 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.

Since middle of the 13th century the city's territory belonged to the Golden Horde domain. [12] On Italian navigational maps of 14th century on the place of Odessa is indicated the castle of Ginestra, at the time the center of a colony of the Republic of Genoa (more Gazaria). [12] At times when the Northern Black Sea littoral was controlled by the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, there existed a settlement of Kachibei which at first was mentioned in 1415. [12] By middle of 15th century the settlement was depopulated. [12]

During the reign of Khan Hacı I Giray of Crimea (1441–1466), 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 fortress known as Khadjibey (named for Hacı I Giray, and also spelled Kocibey in English, Hacıbey or Hocabey in Turkish, and Hacıbey in Crimean Tatar).

Ottoman Silistre

Khadjibey came under direct control of the Ottoman Empire after 1529 [12] as part of a region known as Yedisan after one of Nogay Hordes, and was administered in the Ottoman Silistra (Özi) Eyalet, Sanjak of Özi. [ citation needed ] In the mid-18th century, the Ottomans rebuilt the fortress at Khadjibey (also was known Hocabey), which was named Yeni Dünya [12] (literally "New World"). Hocabey was a sanjak centre of Silistre Province. [ citation needed ]

Russian conquest of Sanjak of Özi (Ochacov Oblast)

The sleepy fishing village that Odessa had witnessed a sea-change in its fortunes when the wealthy magnate and future Voivode of Kyiv (1791), Antoni Protazy Potocki, established trade routes through the port for the Polish Black Sea Trading Company and set up the infrastructure in the 1780s. [13] During the Russian-Turkish War of 1787–1792, [12] on 25 September 1789, a detachment of the Russian forces, including Zaporozhian Cossacks under Alexander Suvorov and Ivan Gudovich, took Khadjibey and Yeni Dünya for the Russian Empire. One section of the troops came under command of a Spaniard in Russian service, Major General José de Ribas (known in Russia as Osip Mikhailovich Deribas) today, the main street in Odessa, Deribasivska Street, is named after him. Russia formally gained possession of the Sanjak of Özi (Ochacov Oblast) [14] as a result of the Treaty of Jassy (Iaşi) [12] in 1792 and it became a part of Yekaterinoslav Viceroyalty. The newly acquired Ochakov Oblast was promised to the Cossacks by the Russian government for resettlement. [15] On permission of the Archbishop of Yekaterinoslav Amvrosiy, the Black Sea Kosh Host, that was located around the area between Bender and Ochakiv, built second after Sucleia wooden church of Saint Nicholas. [16]

By the Highest rescript of 17 June 1792 addressed to General Kakhovsky it was ordered to establish the Dniester Border Line of fortresses. [16] The commander of the land forces in Ochakiv Oblast was appointed Graf (Count) Suvorov-Rymnikskiy. [16] The main fortress was built near Sucleia at the mouth of river Botna as the Head Dniester Fortress by Engineer-Major de Wollant. [16] Near the new fortress saw the formation of a new "Vorstadt" (suburb) where people moved from Sucleia and Parkan. [16] With the establishment of the Voznesensk Governorate on 27 January 1795, the Vorstadt was named Tiraspol. [16]

The city of Odessa, founded by the Russian Empress Catherine the Great, centers on the site of the Turkish fortress Khadzhibei, which was occupied by a Russian Army in 1789. The Flemish engineer working for the empress, Franz de Volan (François Sainte de Wollant) recommended the area of Khadzhibei fortress as the site for the region's basic port: it had an ice-free harbor, breakwaters could be cheaply constructed that would render the harbor safe and it would have the capacity to accommodate large fleets. The Namestnik of Yekaterinoslav and Voznesensk, Platon Zubov (one of Catherine's favorites) supported this proposal, and in 1794 Catherine approved the founding of the new port-city and invested the first money in constructing the city.

However, adjacent to the new official locality, a Moldavian colony already existed, which by the end of the 18th century was an independent settlement named Moldavanka. Some local historians consider that the settlement predates Odessa by about thirty years and assert that the locality was founded by Moldavians 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. Another version posits that the settlement appeared after Odessa itself was founded, as a settlement of Moldavians, Greeks and Albanians fleeing the Ottoman yoke. [17]

Renaming of the settlement and establishment of sea port

In 1795 Khadjibey was officially renamed as Odessa after a Greek colony of Odessos that supposedly was located in the area. [12] [18] In reality it was located at the mouth of Tylihul Estuary (liman). [12] The first census that was conducted in Odessa was in 1797 which accounted for 3,455 people. [12] Since 1795, the city had its own city magistrate, and since 1796 a city council of six members and the Odessa Commodity Exchange. [12] In 1801 in Odessa had opened the first commercial bank. [12] In 1803 the city accounted for 9,000 people. [18]

In their settlement, also known as Novaya Slobodka, the Moldavians owned relatively small plots on which they built village-style houses and cultivated vineyards and gardens. What became Mykhailovsky Square was the center of this settlement and the site of its first Orthodox church, the Church of the Dormition, built in 1821 close to the seashore, as well as of a cemetery. Nearby stood the military barracks and the country houses (dacha) of the city's wealthy residents, including that of the Duc de Richelieu, appointed by Tzar Alexander I as Governor of Odessa in 1803. Richelieu played a role during Ottoman plague epidemic which hit Odessa in the autumn 1812. [19] [20] Dismissive of any attempt to forge a compromise between quarantine requirements and free trade, Prince Kuriakin (the Saint Petersburg-based High Commissioner for Sanitation) countermanded Richelieu's orders. [21]

In the period from 1795 to 1814 the population of Odessa increased 15 times over and reached almost 20 thousand people. The first city plan was designed by the engineer F. Devollan in the late 18th century. [6] Colonists of various ethnicities settled mainly in the area of the former colony, outside of the official boundaries, and as a consequence, in the first third of the 19th 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 Francesco Carlo Boffo and Giovanni Torricelli, Moldovanka was included in the general city plan, though the original grid-like plan of Moldovankan streets, lanes and squares remained unchanged. [17]

The new city quickly became a major success although initially it received little state funding and privileges. [22] Its early growth owed much to the work of the Duc de Richelieu, who served as the city's governor between 1803 and 1814. 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 [ by whom? ] 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. His contributions to the city are mentioned by Mark Twain in his travelogue Innocents Abroad: "I mention this statue and this stairway because they have their story. Richelieu founded Odessa – watched over it with paternal care – labored with a fertile brain and a wise understanding for its best interests – spent his fortune freely to the same end – endowed it with a sound prosperity, and one which will yet make it one of the great cities of the Old World".

In 1819, the city became a free port, a status it retained until 1859. It became home to an extremely diverse population of Albanians, Armenians, Azeris, Bulgarians, Crimean Tatars, Frenchmen, Germans (including Mennonites), Greeks, Italians, Jews, Poles, Romanians, Russians, Turks, Ukrainians, and traders representing many other nationalities (hence numerous "ethnic" names on the city's map, for example Frantsuzky (French) and Italiansky (Italian) Boulevards, Grecheskaya (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 1823 and 1824. 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 1853–1856, during which it was bombarded by British and Imperial French naval forces. [23] 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 Kyiv and Kharkiv as well as with Iaşi in Romania.

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. The community, however, was repeatedly subjected to anti-Semitism and anti-Jewish agitation from almost all Christian segments of the population. [24] Pogroms were carried out in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881 and 1905. Many Odessan Jews fled abroad after 1882, particularly to the Ottoman region that became Palestine, and the city became an important base of support for Zionism.

Beginnings of revolution

In 1905, Odessa was the site of a workers' uprising supported by the crew of the Russian battleship Potemkin and the Menshevik'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 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. Following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 during Ukrainian-Soviet War, Odessa saw two Bolshevik armed insurgencies, the second of which succeeded in establishing their control over the city for the following months the city became a center of the Odessa Soviet Republic. After signing of the Brest-Litovsk Treaty all Bolshevik forces were driven out by 13 March 1918 by the combined armed forces of the Austro-Hungarian Army, providing support to the Ukrainian People's Republic. [25]

With the end of the World War I and withdrawal of armies of Central Powers, the Soviet forces fought for control over the country with the army of the Ukrainian People's Republic. A few months later the city was occupied by the French Army and the Greek Army that supported the Russian White Army in its struggle with the Bolsheviks. The Ukrainian general Nikifor Grigoriev who sided with Bolsheviks managed to drive the unwelcome Triple Entente forces out of the city, but Odessa was soon retaken by the Russian White Army. Finally, by 1920 the Soviet Red Army managed to overpower both Ukrainian and Russian White Army and secure the city.

The people of Odessa suffered badly from a famine that resulted from the Russian Civil War in 1921–1922 due to the Soviet policies of prodrazverstka.

Odessa during first days of Revolution - 1916

Revolutionary soldiers - 1916

Revolutionary soldiers, Odessa - 1916

World War II

Odessa was attacked by Romanian and German troops in August 1941. The defense of Odessa lasted 73 days from 5 August to 16 October 1941. The defense was organized on three lines with emplacements consisting of trenches, anti-tank ditches and pillboxes. The first line was 80 kilometres (50 miles) long and situated some 25 to 30 kilometres (16 to 19 miles) from the city. The second and main line of defense was situated 6 to 8 kilometres (3.7 to 5.0 miles) from the city and was about 30 kilometres (19 miles) long. The third and last line of defense was organized inside the city itself.

A medal, "For the Defence of Odessa", was established on 22 December 1942. Approximately 38,000 medals were awarded to servicemen of the Soviet Army, Navy, Ministry of Internal Affairs, and civil citizens who took part in the city's defense. It was one of the first four Soviet cities to be awarded the title of "Hero City" in 1945. (These others were Leningrad, Stalingrad, and Sevastopol).

Lyudmila Pavlichenko, the famous female sniper, took part in the battle for Odessa. Her first two kills were effected near Belyayevka using a Mosin-Nagant bolt-action rifle with a P.E. 4-power scope. She recorded 187 confirmed kills during the defense of Odessa. Pavlichenko's confirmed kills during World War II totaled 309 (including 36 enemy snipers).

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's remaining harbour facilities. The city was land mined in the same way as Kyiv. [ citation needed ]

During World War II, from 1941–1944, Odessa was subject to Romanian administration, as the city had been made part of Transnistria. [26] Partisan fighting continued, however, in the city's catacombs.

Following the Siege of Odessa, and the Axis occupation, approximately 25,000 Odessans were murdered in the outskirts of the city and over 35,000 deported this came to be known as the Odessa massacre. Most of the atrocities were committed during the first six months of the occupation which officially began on 17 October 1941, when 80% of the 210,000 Jews in the region were killed, [27] compared to Jews in Romania proper where the majority survived. [28] After the Nazi forces began to lose ground on the Eastern Front, 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 labourers. As a result, despite the events of 1941, the survival of the Jewish population in this area was higher than in other areas of occupied eastern Europe. [27]

The city suffered severe damage and sustained many casualties over the course of the war. Many parts of Odessa were damaged during both its siege and recapture on 10 April 1944, when the city was finally liberated by the Red Army. Some of the Odessans had a more favourable view of the Romanian occupation, in contrast with the Soviet official view that the period was exclusively a time of hardship, deprivation, oppression and suffering – claims embodied in public monuments and disseminated through the media to this day. [29] Subsequent Soviet policies imprisoned and executed numerous Odessans (and deported most of the German population) on account of collaboration with the occupiers. [30]

Postage stamp of the USSR 1965 “Hero-City Odessa 1941-1945”

Obverse of the Soviet campaign medal "For the Defence of Odessa"

Reverse of the Soviet campaign medal "For the Defence of Odessa" inscription reads “For our Soviet homeland”

Certificate "For taking part in the heroic defense of Odessa" Logvinov Petr Leontievich was awarded the Medal for the Defense of Odessa.

Postwar history

During the 1960s and 1970s, the city grew. Nevertheless, the majority of Odessa's Jews emigrated 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 the Odessan middle and upper classes to Moscow and Leningrad, cities that offered even greater opportunities for career advancement, also occurred on a large scale. Despite this, the city grew rapidly by filling the void of those left with new migrants from rural Ukraine and industrial professionals invited from all over the Soviet Union.

As a part of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic, the city preserved and somewhat reinforced its unique cosmopolitan mix of Russian/Ukrainian/Jewish culture and a predominantly Russophone environment with the uniquely accented dialect of Russian spoken in the city. The city's unique identity has been formed largely thanks to its varied demography all the city's communities have influenced aspects of Odessan life in some way or form.

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 known for its large outdoor market – the Seventh-Kilometer Market, the largest of its kind in Europe.

The city has seen violence in the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine during 2014 Odessa clashes. The 2 May 2014 Odessa clashes between pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian protestors killed 42 people. Four were killed during the protests, and at least 32 trade unionists were killed after a trade union building was set on fire after Molotov cocktails exchange between sides. [31] [32] Polls conducted from September to December 2014 found no support for joining Russia. [33]

Odessa was struck by three bomb blasts in December 2014, one of which killed one person (the injuries sustained by the victim indicated that he had dealt with explosives). [34] [35] Internal Affairs Ministry advisor Zorian Shkiryak said on 25 December that Odessa and Kharkiv had become "cities which are being used to escalate tensions" in Ukraine. Shkiryak said that he suspected that these cities were singled out because of their "geographic position". [34] On 5 January 2015 the city's Euromaidan Coordination Center and a cargo train car were (non-lethally) bombed. [36]


The city's location on the coast of the Black Sea has also helped to create a booming tourist industry in Odessa. [ citation needed ] The city's Arkadia beach has long been a favourite place for relaxation, both for the city's inhabitants and its visitors. [ citation needed ] This is a large sandy beach which is located to the south of the city centre. Odessa's many sandy beaches are considered to be quite unique in Ukraine, [ citation needed ] as the country's southern coast (particularly in the Crimea) tends to be a location in which the formation of stoney and pebble beaches has proliferated.

The coastal cliffs adjacent to the city are home to frequent landslides, resulting in a typical change of landscape along the Black Sea. Due to the fluctuating slopes of land, city planners are responsible for monitoring the stability of such areas, and for preserving potentially threatened building and other structures of the city above sea level near water. [38] Also a potential danger to the infrastructure and architecture of the city is the presence of multiple openings underground. These cavities can cause buildings to collapse, resulting in a loss of money and business. Due to the effects of climate and weather on sedimentary rocks beneath the city, the result is instability under some buildings' foundations.


Odessa has a hot-summer humid continental climate (Dfa, using the 0 °C [32 °F] isotherm) that borderlines the semi-arid climate (BSk) as well as a humid subtropical climate (Cfa) This has, over the past few centuries, aided the city greatly in creating conditions necessary for the development of summer tourism. During the tsarist era, Odessa's climate was considered to be beneficial for the body, and thus many wealthy but sickly persons were sent to the city in order to relax and recuperate. This resulted in the development of spa culture and the establishment of a number of high-end hotels in the city. The average annual temperature of sea is 13–14 °C (55–57 °F), whilst seasonal temperatures range from an average of 6 °C (43 °F) in the period from January to March, to 23 °C (73 °F) in August. Typically, for a total of 4 months – from June to September – the average sea temperature in the Gulf of Odessa and city's bay area exceeds 20 °C (68 °F). [39]

The city typically experiences dry, cold winters, which are relatively mild when compared to most of Ukraine as they're marked by temperatures which rarely fall below −10 °C (14 °F). Summers on the other hand do see an increased level of precipitation, and the city often experiences warm weather with temperatures often reaching into the high 20s and low 30s. Snow cover is often light or moderate, and municipal services rarely experience the same problems that can often be found in other, more northern, Ukrainian cities. This is largely because the higher winter temperatures and coastal location of Odessa prevent significant snowfall. Additionally the city hardly ever faces the phenomenon of sea-freezing.

Climate data for Odessa (1981–2010)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 15.1
Average high °C (°F) 2.2
Daily mean °C (°F) −0.5
Average low °C (°F) −2.8
Record low °C (°F) −26.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 34
Average rainy days 9 7 10 11 12 13 10 8 9 10 13 10 122
Average snowy days 11 10 6 0.4 0 0 0 0 0 0.2 4 9 41
Average relative humidity (%) 83 81 78 74 71 70 66 65 72 77 82 84 75
Mean monthly sunshine hours 77 80 125 186 265 291 314 302 240 169 77 57 2,183
Source 1: [40]
Source 2: NOAA (sun 1961–1990) [41]

According to the 2001 census, Ukrainians make up a majority (62 percent) of Odessa's inhabitants, along with an ethnic Russian minority (29 percent). [42]

Historical population

A 2015 study by the International Republican Institute found that 68% of Odessa was ethnic Ukrainian, and 25% ethnic Russian. [48]

Despite Odessa's Ukrainian majority, Russian is the dominant language in the city. In 2015, the main language spoken at home was Russian − around 78% of the total population − followed by Ukrainian at 6%, and an equal combination of Ukrainian and Russian, 15%. [48]

Odessa oblast is also home to a number of other nationalities and minority ethnic groups, including Albanians, Armenians, Azeris, Crimean Tatars, Bulgarians, Georgians, Greeks, Jews, Poles, Romanians, Turks, among others. [42] Up until the early 1940s the city had a large Jewish population. As the result of mass deportation to extermination camps during the Second World War, the city's Jewish population declined considerably. Since the 1970s, the majority of the remaining Jewish population emigrated to Israel and other countries, shrinking the Jewish community.

Through most of the 19th century and until the mid 20th century, the largest ethnic group in Odessa was Russians, with the second largest ethnic group being Jews. [49]

Historical ethnic and national composition

  • 1897 [50]
    : 198,233 people (49.09%) : 124,511 people (30.83%) : 37,925 people (9.39%) : 17,395 people (4.31%) : 10,248 people (2.54%) : 5,086 people (1.26%) : 1,437 people (0.36%) : 1,401 people (0.35%) : 1,267 people (0.31%) : 1,137 people (0.28%)
  • 1926 [51]
    : 162,789 people (39.97%) : 153,243 people (36.69%) : 73,453 people (17.59%) : 10,021 people (2.40%) : 5,522 people (1.32%) : 2,501 people (0.60%) : 1,843 people (0.44%) : 1,377 people (0.33%) : 1,186 people (0.28%) : 1,048 people (0.25%)
  • 1939 [52]
    : 200,961 people (33.26%) : 186,610 people (30.88%) : 178,878 people (29.60%) : 8,829 people (1.46%) : 8,424 people (1.39%) : 4,967 people (0.82%) : 2,573 people (0.43%) : 2,298 people (0.38%)
  • 2001 [53]
    : 622,900 people (61.6%) : 292,000 people (29.0%) : 13,300 people (1.3%) : 12,400 people (1.2%) : 7,600 people (0.7%) : 6,400 people (0.6%) : 4,400 people (0.4%) : 2,100 people (0.2%)

Whilst Odessa is the administrative centre of the Odessa Raion and Odessa Oblast, the city is also the main constituent of the Odessa Municipality.

The city of Odessa is governed by a mayor and city council which work cooperatively to ensure the smooth-running of the city and procure its municipal bylaws. The city's budget is also controlled by the administration.

The mayoralty [54] plays the role of the executive in the city's municipal administration. Above all comes the mayor, who is elected, by the city's electorate, for five years in a direct election. 2015 Mayoral election of Odessa Gennadiy Trukhanov was reelected in the first round of the election with 52,9% of the vote. [55] Trukhanov was again reelected in the second round of the 2020 Mayoral election of Odessa when 54.28% of the voters voted for him. [1]

There are five deputy mayors, each of which is responsible for a certain particular part of the city's public policy.

The City Council [56] of the city makes up the administration's legislative branch, thus effectively making it a city 'parliament' or rada. The municipal council is made up of 120 elected members, [57] who are each elected to represent a certain district of the city for a four-year term. The current council is the fifth in the city's modern history, and was elected in January 2011. In the regular meetings of the municipal council, problems facing the city are discussed, and annually the city's budget is drawn up. The council has seventeen standing commissions [58] which play an important role in controlling the finances and trading practices of the city and its merchants.

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

In addition, every raion has its own administration, subordinate to the Odessa City council, and with limited responsibilities.

Many of Odessa's buildings have, rather uniquely for a Ukrainian city, been influenced by the Mediterranean style of classical architecture. This is particularly noticeable in buildings built by architects such as the Italian Francesco Boffo, who in early 19th-century built a palace and colonnade for the Governor of Odessa, Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, the Potocki Palace and many other public buildings.

In 1887 one of the city's most well known architectural monuments was completed – the theatre, which still hosts a range of performances to this day it is widely regarded as one of the world's finest opera houses. The first opera house was opened in 1810 and destroyed by fire in 1873. The modern building was constructed by Fellner and Helmer in neo-baroque its luxurious hall was built in the rococo style. It is said that thanks to its unique acoustics even a whisper from the stage can be heard in any part of the hall. The theatre was projected along the lines of Dresden's Semperoper built in 1878, with its nontraditional foyer following the curvatures of the auditorium the building's most recent renovation was completed in 2007. [59]

Odessa's most iconic symbol, the Potemkin Stairs, is a vast staircase that conjures an illusion so that those at the top only see a series of large steps, while at the bottom all the steps appear to merge into one pyramid-shaped mass. The original 200 steps (now reduced to 192) were designed by Italian architect Francesco Boffo and built between 1837 and 1841. The steps were made famous by Sergei Eisenstein in his film, Battleship Potemkin.

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 tunnels beneath Odessa, known as "Odessa Catacombs". During World War II, the catacombs served as a hiding place for partisans and natural shelter for civilians, who were escaping air plane bombing.

Deribasivska Street, an attractive pedestrian avenue named after José de Ribas, the Spanish-born founder of Odessa and decorated Russian Navy Admiral from the Russo-Turkish War, is famous by its unique character and architecture. [ citation needed ] During the summer it is common to find large crowds of people leisurely sitting and talking on the outdoor terraces of numerous cafés, bars and restaurants, or simply enjoying a walk along the cobblestone street, which is not open to vehicular traffic and is kept shaded by the linden trees which line its route. [60] A similar streetscape can also be found in that of Primorsky Bulvar, a grand thoroughfare which runs along the edge of the plateau upon which the city is situated, and where many of the city's most imposing buildings are to be found.

As one of the biggest on the Black Sea, Odessa's port is busy all year round. The Odessa Sea Port is located on an artificial stretch of Black Sea coast, along with the north-western part of the Gulf of Odessa. The total shoreline length of Odessa's sea port is around 7.23 kilometres (4.49 mi). The port, which includes an oil refinery, container handling facility, passenger area and numerous areas for handling dry cargo, is lucky in that its work does not depend on seasonal weather the harbour itself is defended from the elements by breakwaters. The port is able to handle up to 14 million tons of cargo and about 24 million tons of oil products annually, whilst its passenger terminals can cater for around 4 million passengers a year at full capacity. [61]

Parks and gardens

There are a number of public parks and gardens in Odessa, among these are the Preobrazhensky, Gorky and Victory parks, the latter of which is an arboretum. The city is also home to a university botanical garden, which recently celebrated its 200th anniversary, and a number of other smaller gardens.

The City Garden, or Gorodskoy Sad, is perhaps the most famous of Odessa's gardens. Laid out in 1803 by Felix De Ribas (brother of the founder of Odessa, José de Ribas) on a plot of urban land he owned, the garden is located right in the heart of the city. When Felix decided that he was no longer able to provide enough money for the garden's upkeep, he decided to present it to the people of Odessa. [62] The transfer of ownership took place on 10 November 1806. Nowadays the garden is home to a bandstand and is the traditional location for outdoor theater in the summertime. Numerous sculptures can also be found within the grounds as well as a musical fountain, the waters of which are computer controlled to coordinate with the musical melody being played.

Odessa's largest park, Shevchenko Park (previously Alexander Park), was founded in 1875, during a visit to the city by Emperor Alexander II. The park covers an area of around 700 by 900 metres (2,300 by 3,000 feet) and is located near the centre of the city, on the side closest to the sea. Within the park there are a variety of cultural and entertainment facilities, and wide pedestrian avenues. In the center of the park is the local top-flight football team's Chornomorets Stadium, the Alexander Column and municipal observatory. The Baryatinsky Bulvar is popular for its route, which starts at the park's gate before winding its way along the edge of the coastal plateau. There are a number of monuments and memorials in the park, one of which is dedicated to the park's namesake, the Ukrainian national poet Taras Shevchenko.

Odessa is home to several universities and other institutions of higher education. The city's best-known and most prestigious university is the Odessa 'I.I. Mechnikov' National University. This university is the oldest in the city and was first founded by an edict of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1865 as the Imperial Novorossian University. Since then the university has developed to become one of modern Ukraine's leading research and teaching universities, with staff of around 1,800 and total of thirteen academic faculties. Other than the National University, the city is also home to the 1921-inaugurated Odessa National Economic University, the Odessa National Medical University (founded 1900), the 1918-founded Odessa National Polytechnic University and the Odessa National Maritime University (established 1930).

In addition to these universities, the city is home to the Odessa Law Academy, the National Academy of Telecommunications, the Odessa State Environmental University and the Odessa National Maritime Academy. The last of these institutions is a highly specialised and prestigious establishment for the preparation and training of merchant mariners which sees around 1,000 newly qualified officer cadets graduate each year and take up employment in the merchant marines of numerous countries around the world. The South Ukrainian National Pedagogical University is also based in the city, this is one of the largest institutions for the preparation of educational specialists in Ukraine and is recognised as one of the country's finest of such universities.

In addition to all the state-run universities mentioned above, Odessa is also home to many private educational institutes and academies which offer highly specified courses in a range of different subjects. These establishments, however, typically charge much higher fees than government-owned establishments and may not have held the same level of official accreditation as their state-run peers. [ citation needed ]

With regard to primary and secondary education, Odessa has many schools catering for all ages from kindergarten through to lyceum (final secondary school level) age. Most of these schools are state-owned and operated, and all schools have to be state-accredited in order to teach children.

Museums, art and music

Fine Arts museum is the biggest art gallery in the city, which collection includes canvas mostly of Russian painters from 17th-21st centuries, icon collection and modern art. The Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art is big art museum it has large European collections from the 16–20th centuries along with the art from the East on display. There are paintings from Caravaggio, Mignard, Hals, Teniers and Del Piombo. Also of note is the city's Alexander Pushkin Museum, which is dedicated to detailing the short time Pushkin spent in exile in Odessa, a period during which he continued to write. The poet also has a city street named after him, as well as a statue. [63] Other museums in the city include the Odessa Archeological Museum, which is housed in a neoclassical building, the Odessa Numismatics Museum, the Odessa Museum of the Regional History, Museum of Heroic Defense of Odessa (411th Battery).

Among the city's public sculptures, two sets of Medici lions can be noted, at the Vorontsov Palace [64] as well as the Starosinnyi Garden. [65]

Jacob Adler, the major star of the Yiddish theatre in New York and father of the actor, director and teacher Stella Adler, was born and spent his youth in Odessa. The most popular Russian show business people from Odessa are Yakov Smirnoff (comedian), Mikhail Zhvanetsky (legendary humorist writer, who began his career as a port engineer) and Roman Kartsev (comedian Карцев, Роман Андреевич [ru] ). Zhvanetsky's and Kartsev's success in the 1970s, along with Odessa's KVN team, contributed to Odessa's established status as "capital of Soviet humor", culminating in the annual Humoryna festival, carried out around the beginning of April.

Odessa was also the home of the late Armenian painter Sarkis Ordyan (1918–2003), the Ukrainian painter Mickola Vorokhta and the Greek philologist, author and promoter of Demotic Greek Ioannis Psycharis (1854–1929). Yuri Siritsov, bass player of the Israeli Metal band PallaneX is originally from Odessa. Igor Glazer Production Manager Baruch Agadati (1895–1976), the Israeli classical ballet dancer, choreographer, painter, and film producer and director grew up in Odessa, as did Israeli artist and author Nachum Gutman (1898–1980). Israeli painter Avigdor Stematsky (1908–89) was born in Odessa.

Odessa produced one of the founders of the Soviet violin school, Pyotr Stolyarsky. It has also produced many musicians, including the violinists Nathan Milstein, David Oistrakh and Igor Oistrakh, Boris Goldstein, Zakhar Bron and pianists Sviatoslav Richter, Benno Moiseiwitsch, Vladimir de Pachmann, Shura Cherkassky, Emil Gilels, Maria Grinberg, Simon Barere, Leo Podolsky and Yakov Zak. (Note: Richter studied in Odessa but wasn't born there.)

The Odessa International Film Festival is also held in this city annually since 2010.


Poet Anna Akhmatova was born in Bolshoy Fontan near Odessa, [66] however her further work was not connected with the city and its literary tradition. The city has produced many writers, including Isaac Babel, whose series of short stories, Odessa Tales, are set in the city. Other Odessites are the duo Ilf and Petrov - authors of "The Twelve chairs", and Yuri Olesha - author of "The Three Fat Men". Vera Inber, a poet and writer, as well as the poet and journalist, Margarita Aliger were both born in Odessa. The Italian writer, slavist and anti-fascist dissident Leone Ginzburg was born in Odessa into a Jewish family, and then went to Italy where he grew up and lived.

One of the most prominent pre-war Soviet writers, Valentin Kataev, was born here and began his writing career as early as high school (gymnasia). Before moving to Moscow in 1922, he made quite a few acquaintances here, including Yury Olesha and Ilya Ilf (Ilf's co-author Petrov was in fact Kataev's brother, Petrov being his pen-name). Kataev became a benefactor for these young authors, who would become some of the most talented and popular Russian writers of this period. In 1955 Kataev became the first chief editor of the Youth (Russian: Юность, Yunost' ), one of the leading literature magazines of the Ottepel of the 1950s and 1960s. [ citation needed ]

These authors and comedians played a great role in establishing the "Odessa myth" in the Soviet Union. Odessites were and are viewed in the ethnic stereotype as sharp-witted, street-wise and eternally optimistic. [ citation needed ] These qualities are reflected in the "Odessa dialect", which borrows chiefly from the characteristic speech of the Odessan Jews, and is enriched by a plethora of influences common for the port city. The "Odessite speech" became a staple of the "Soviet Jew" depicted in a multitude of jokes and comedy acts, in which a Jewish adherent served as a wise and subtle dissenter and opportunist, always pursuing his own well-being, but unwittingly pointing out the flaws and absurdities of the Soviet regime. The Odessan Jew in the jokes always "came out clean" and was, in the end, a lovable character – unlike some of other jocular nation stereotypes such as The Chukcha, The Ukrainian, The Estonian or The American. [67]

Resorts and health care

Odessa is a popular tourist destination, with many therapeutic resorts in and around the city. The city's Filatov Institute of Eye Diseases & Tissue Therapy is one of the world's leading ophthalmology clinics.

Celebrations and holidays

April Fools' Day, held annually on 1 April, is one of the most celebrated festivals in the city. Practical joking is a central theme throughout, and Odessans dress in unique, colorful attire to express their spontaneous and comedic selves. The tradition has been celebrated since the early 1970s, when the humor of Ukraine’s citizens were drawn to television and the media, further developing into a mass festival. Large amounts of money are made from the festivities, supporting Odessa’s local entertainers and shops. [68]

Notable Odessans

Pyotr Schmidt (better known as "Lieutenant Schmidt"), one of the leaders of the Sevastopol uprising, was born in Odessa.

Ze'ev Jabotinsky was born in Odessa, and largely developed his version of Zionism there in the early 1920s. [69] One Marshal of the Soviet Union, Rodion Yakovlevich Malinovsky, a military commander in World War II and Defense Minister of the Soviet Union, was born in Odessa, whilst renowned Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal lived in the city at one time.

Georgi Rosenblum, who was employed by William Melville as one of the first spies of the British Secret Service Bureau, was a native Odessan. Another intelligence agent from Odessa was Genrikh Lyushkov, who joined in the Odessa Cheka in 1920 and reached two-star rank in the NKVD before fleeing to Japanese-occupied Manchuria in 1938 to avoid being murdered.

The composer Jacob Weinberg (1879–1956) was born in Odessa. He composed over 135 works and was the founder of the Jewish National Conservatory in Jerusalem before immigrating to the U.S. where he became "an influential voice in the promotion of American Jewish music". [70]

Valeria Lukyanova, a girl from Odessa who looks very similar to a Barbie doll, has received attention on the Internet and from the media for her doll-like appearance. [71]

Mikhail Zhvanetsky, writer, satirist and performer best known for his shows targeting different aspects of the Soviet and post-Soviet everyday life is one of most famous living Odessans. [72]

VitaliV (Vitali Vinogradov), and artist and sculptor based in London since 1989, was born in Odessa. [73]

Kostyantyn Mykolayovych Bocharov, better known by his stage name, Mélovin, is a native of Odessa. He is best known for winning season six of X-Factor Ukraine and for representing Ukraine in the Eurovision Song Contest 2018, singing the song "Under the Ladder".

Yaakov Dori, the first Chief of Staff of the Israel Defense Forces, and President of the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology, was born in Odessa, as was Israel Dostrovsky, Israeli physical chemist who was the fifth president of the Weizmann Institute of Science.

The economy of Odessa largely stems from its traditional role as a port city. The nearly ice-free port lies near the mouths of the Dnieper, the Southern Bug, the Dniester and the Danube rivers, which provide good links to the hinterland. [74] During the Soviet period (until 1991) the city functioned as the USSR's largest trading port it continues in a similar role as independent Ukraine's busiest international port. The port complex contains an oil and gas transfer and storage facility, a cargo-handling area and a large passenger port. In 2007 the Port of Odessa handled 31,368,000 tonnes of cargo. [75] [76] The port of Odessa is also one of the Ukrainian Navy's most important bases on the Black Sea. Rail transport is another important sector of the economy in Odessa – largely due to the role it plays in delivering goods and imports to and from the city's port. The Container Terminal Odessa (CTO) in the port is the largest container terminal in Ukraine. It has been operated by the Hamburg-based HHLA Group since 2001 and, in addition to containers, also handles bulk goods, general cargo and project cargo. This means that Odessa is networked with the ports of Hamburg, Muuga and Trieste via the logistics group HHLA. [77] [78]

Industrial enterprises located in and around the city include those dedicated to fuel refinement, machine building, metallurgy, and other types of light industry such as food preparation, timber plants and chemical industry. Agriculture is a relatively important sector in the territories surrounding the city. The Seventh-Kilometer Market is a major commercial complex on the outskirts of the city where private traders now operate one of the largest market complexes in Eastern Europe. [79] The market has roughly 6,000 traders and an estimated 150,000 customers per day. Daily sales, according to the Ukrainian periodical Dzerkalo Tyzhnia, were believed to be as high as USD 20 million in 2004. With a staff of 1,200 (mostly guards and janitors), the market is also the region's largest employer. It is owned by local land and agriculture tycoon Viktor A. Dobrianskyi and three partners of his. Tavria-V is the most popular retail chain in Odessa. Key areas of business include: retail, wholesale, catering, production, construction and development, private label. Consumer recognition is mainly attributed [ by whom? ] to the high level of service and the quality of services. Tavria-V is the biggest private company and the biggest tax payer.

Deribasivska Street is one of the city's most important commercial streets, hosting many of the city's boutiques and higher-end shops. In addition to this there are a number of large commercial shopping centres in the city. The 19th-century shopping gallery Passage was, for a long time, the city's most upscale shopping district, and remains to this day [update] an important landmark of Odessa.

The tourism sector is of great importance to Odessa, which is currently [ when? ] the second most-visited Ukrainian city. [80] In 2003 this sector recorded a total revenue of 189,2 mln UAH. Other sectors of the city's economy include the banking sector: the city hosts a branch of the National Bank of Ukraine. Imexbank, one of Ukraine's largest commercial banks, was based in the city, however on May 27, 2015, the Deposit Guarantee Fund of Ukraine made a decision to liquidate the bank. Foreign business ventures have thrived in the area, as since 1 January 2000, much of the city and its surrounding area has been declared [ by whom? ] a free economic zone – this has aided the foundation of foreign companies' and corporations' Ukrainian divisions and allowed them to more easily invest in the Ukrainian manufacturing and service sectors. To date a number of Japanese and Chinese companies, as well as a host of European enterprises, have invested in the development of the free economic zone, to this end private investors in the city have invested a great deal of money into the provision of quality office real estate and modern manufacturing facilities such as warehouses and plant complexes.

Odessa also has a well-developed IT industry with large number of IT outsourcing companies and IT product startups. Among most famous startups is Looksery [81] and AI Factory both developed in Odessa and acquired by Snap inc. [82]

"Very provocative action"

Top U.S. officials are in Europe this week, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Blinken. Austin announced during a stop in Germany on Tuesday that the U.S. was going to deploy an additional 500 troops to that country.

When asked if the move was meant as a message to Russia, he said it was "a sign to NATO" of the U.S. commitment to the transatlantic alliance, and of the firm commitment to Germany. Under President Donald Trump, Washington said it would withdraw thousands of the American forces who've been stationed in Germany for decades. That decision was suspended by the Biden administration, and now the force is set to grow.

Blinken, meanwhile, was in Brussels, meeting NATO partners, and he met separately with his Ukrainian counterpart to discuss the standoff with Russia.

"The United States stands firmly behind the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, and I'm her to reaffirm that with the foreign minister today," Blinken said. "That's particularly important in a time when we're seeing, unfortunately, Russia take very provocative action when it comes to Ukraine. We're now seeing the largest concentration of Russian forces on Ukraine's border since 2014. That is a big concern not only to Ukraine, but to the United States and indeed to many of our allies and partners."

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (R) meets with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba (L) in Brussels on April 13, 2021. JOHANNA GERON/POOL/AFP/Getty

Sitting across from him, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said the Russian buildup was "taking place not only along the border of Ukraine, but along the border of the democratic world. For thousands of kilometers to the north and to the east of our border with Russia, there is no democracy. So, this is the struggle that is taking place between democracies and authoritarianism, and in this struggle the support of the United States is absolutely crucial, and deeply appreciated."

Kuleba thanked NATO, also, and said that warnings already conveyed to Moscow through diplomatic channels, "will be supported by actions that make it very clear for Russia that the price of further aggression against Ukraine will be too heavy for it to bear."

He said the Ukrainian and U.S. delegations in Brussels, and more broadly the NATO allies at large, would continue discussing ways to ensure stability along his country's tense border with Russia.

While no NATO deployments have been confirmed, Russia's Defense Ministry claimed the alliance was planning to position 40,000 more troops and 15,000 pieces of military equipment close to Russian territory. He didn't elaborate, but said that "in response to the military activity of the alliance that threatens Russia, we have taken appropriate measures."

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said earlier on Tuesday that he was "seriously concerned" by Russia's deployment of additional forces to the Ukrainian border.

"Russia is now trying to reestablish some kind of sphere of influence where they try to decide what neighbors can do," Stoltenberg said.

Where&rsquos the government?

That might be a clue as to why the government in Kiev hasn&rsquot done anything to curb these overt Nazi displays. The ultra-nationalists brought Petro Poroshenko to power in the first place, and he was not inclined to go against them. Indeed, he embraced their cult of Stepan Bandera, the WWII leader of Ukrainian nationalists.

Though Bandera&rsquos followers collaborated with the Nazis and murdered tens of thousands of Poles and Jews, modern Ukrainian nationalists claim the alliance was &ldquoforced&rdquo and that he was first and foremost fighting the hated Russian Communists, which makes him a national hero. Bandera&rsquos birthday, January 1, became an official Ukrainian holiday this year. Since 2015, it has been celebrated with torchlight parades through downtown Kiev.

Ukrainian courts have also sided with the radicals over the general public and even their own media.

When the Kiev-based Hromadske news outlet &ndash itself a major player in the 2013 protests that led to the coup &ndash referred to the ultra-nationalist group C14 as &ldquoneo-Nazis&rdquo last year, C14 sued for defamation and the court ruled in their favor. Hromadske had to pay a fine. Human Rights Watch complained, but the verdict stood.

Yet the very name of C14 is a direct reference to the &ldquo14 words&rdquo of US white nationalist David Lane, and the group celebrated Hitler&rsquos birthday in 2018 by destroying a Roma camp in Kiev and chasing its terrified residents, including children, through the streets.

What did the government do? It gave C14 public funding to run &ldquonational-patriotic education projects&rdquo at youth summer camps. Moreover, this happened under Ukraine&rsquos first-ever Jewish prime minister, Volodymyr Groysman.

Hatred of Yanukovych and the Donbas

A good number of people were fed up with peaceful protest in 2013.

Many realised that Viktor Yanukovych would hold on to power to the last, but at the time few considered where this hatred of him came from, a hatred that roused hundreds of thousands of people from their usual state of political apathy and sent them to Kiev's Maidan to stand under the blows of police truncheons and the deadly aim of expert snipers.

Today, I am sure that this hatred appeared a long time before the student protests.

It took shape back in 2010 when Mr Yanukovych first became president. That was when he decided to take the entire country under his control, replacing the top and middle echelons of state authority with representatives of the Donbas region, sweeping aside the indigenous elite.

He had never studied Ukrainian history and probably did not know that, in 1945, exactly the same policy had been practised by the Communist Party of the Soviet Union. In Western Ukraine, the local elite were replaced by "specialists" from other regions and republics of the USSR.

That policy gave rise to a guerrilla war that lasted for 15 years.

The attempt to colonise the whole of Ukraine with the Donetsk elite set the population of all regions against Yanukovych, at the same time reinforcing in the minds of the population the idea of the Donbas as a territory where criminal methods were casually employed to take control of the entire country - all the business and the flow of financial resources.

President: Volodymyr Zelensky

Mr Zelensky's initial claim to fame was playing a fictional president in a television comedy programme, and his victorious election campaign emphasised content-light social media videos over traditional rallies and policy speeches.

His message was, like that of his TV character, pitched against corruption and the power of oligarchs, but Mr Zelensky himself has close ties to Ihor Kolomoisky, who owns the 1+1 channel that his show appears on.

Mr Kolomoisky, who fell out with the then President Petro Poroshenko in 2015, has been living abroad because of numerous investigations into his business dealings at home, and gave the incoming president strong support during the election campaign.

In his inaugural address, President Zelensky said ending the Russian-backed insurgency in the east of the country would be his priority.

His Servant of the People party went on to win early parliamentary elections in July, giving President Zelensky control of both the executive and the legislature.