History of Odessa
A colony from ancient Greece may have once occupied the site of the city. Numerous
monuments of antiquity confirm links between this territory and the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the Middle Ages these lands were a part of the Kiev Rus, Galich and Volyn Principality,
the Golden Horde, the Great Lithuanian Principality, the Crimean Khanate and the
Osman Empire. Crimean Tatars traded there in the 14th century. In the course of
Russian-Turkish wars these lands were captured by Russia at the end of the 18th
Odessa was founded in 1794 by Catherine the Great. In 1764 the Empress formed
the territories newly acquired in the south-west other empire into a province
called Novorossiya. During the Russian-Turkish war of 1787-91, Don Josef de Ribas,
a soldier of fortune born in Naples of Spanish and Irish stock and one of many
adventures in Catherine's service, stormed the fortress of Yeny-Dunai at Khadzhibei.
De Ribas and his close collaborator, a Dutch engineer named Franz de Volan, recommended
Khadzhibei as the site for the region's principal port. Its harbor was deep and
nearly ice-free. Breakwaters, on the model of those found at Naples, Livorno and
Ancona, could be cheaply constructed and would render the harbor safe even for
large fleets. The Governor General of Novorossiya, Prince Platon Zubov —
one of Catherine's favorites — gave decisive support to the latter proposal.
In 1794, Catherine gave it her approval. She immediately sent twenty-six thousand
roubles to de Ribas and de Volan to build a harbor. This new settlement was given
the name Odessa.
The city's name came about as a result of an error. It was meant to be named after
the ancient Greek city of Odessos or Ordissos, which was believed to have been
founded in the
vicinity. Actually, it was somewhere near the present day town of Varna in Bulgaria.
But Catherine the Great liked "Adessa" — as it is pronounced by
the Russians and Ukrainians.
In 1803, Tsar Alexander I appointed a young French emigrant, then 36 years old,
the Duke de Richelieu to be the gradonachalnik, or the mayor, of Odessa. Eighteen
months later, in 1805, the Tsar enlarged his authority by appointing him to serve
simultaneously as the governor of the three provinces of Novorossiya. In the 11
years of his administration, the Duke de Richelieu acquired an extraordinary reputation
for statesmanship and sense, both abroad and in Russia. Clothed inexplicable in
a toga, his statue now points out to the sea, presumably to indicate the source
of Odessa's wealth. Duke left Odessa on September 26, 1814 for France. Even after
his return to France to serve as prime minister under the restored monarchy, he
retained cordial ties with the Imperial Russian Court and with the Russian ambassador
to France, Pozzo di Borgo.
By 1820 Odessa had become an important commercial, industrial and cultural center
in the southern part of Tsarist Russia and the greatest seaport on the Black Sea.
The economy of Odessa was based on private businesses. They made the city a 'dissident'
in the old feudal Russia.
The unique position of Odessa as a vital trade link between the West and the East,
and the growth in importance of Russia's external trade through the Black Sea
in the 19th century made way for the establishment of a big trade port center
for the development of Odessa into an advanced European city. A crucial event
in the trade policy was the declaration of a free port regime in Odessa in August,
1819, establishing a customs border in the vicinity. It was aimed at overcoming
scarcity in the domestic market, by the attraction of investment capital. It has
been also done because of absence of Russia's trade fleet in the Black Sea.
The free port was a guarantee of Odessa's financial security, a breakthrough into
the civilized world, a dress rehearsal for the development of an open economy
in the Russian Empire. The transformation of Odessa into an advanced European
city was put forward by prominent administrators — experienced and cultured
governor generals of the Novorossiya region. Their work was based on the activities
of representatives of numerous nations and nationalities that came to Odessa bringing
their cultures of manufacturing, trade and management. It resulted in a new culture
comprising the best features of all its constituents.
Throughout the whole period of the free port in Odessa (1819-1858) there was a
huge discussion between supporters and opponents of the privileged tax regime.
Free trade influenced negatively the development of manufacturing in the region.
Local products could not compete in quality with overseas goods.
The Crimean War (1853-56) revealed the bankruptcy of the closed economy in feudal
Russia compared to the developed capitalistic economies of the Great Britain and
France. The war prompted the reforms of the 1860's. With new trade regulations,
the free port regime in Odessa was out of date, and was eventually abolished.
By its hundredth anniversary (1894), Odessa occupied the 4th place in the Russian
Empire in size and economic power - after St. Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw. Odessans
were noted for their powerful economic and wonderful spirit of freedom which allowed
them to achieve great success in the field of science, education and the arts.
Nowadays the city of Odessa, with a total population of 1,050,000, is the capital
city of Odessa region. Odessa in conjunction with its satellite towns of Ilyichevsk
and Yuzhny, forms an important port and industrial complex and one of the largest
urban conurbations on the entire Black Sea coast. It is strategically located
on one of the shortest and most convenient waterways leading from Northern and
Central Europe to the Middle East and Asia through the Rhine and Danube river
and canal system. This system, together with such waterways as the Dnieper, Dniester,
and Volga-Don rivers combined with the three large ports of Odessa, Ilyichevsk
and Yuzhny and the Odessa railroad provides a unique opportunity for the economic
processing of transit cargo traffic and passenger flows. Odessa is a leading center
of learning and culture with many secondary, higher education, and training institutions.
It is also a major resort area. The economic profile of Odessa is dominated by
the activities of the three major ports, but in addition to this there are industries
such as: ship repairing, machine tool manufacturing, food processing and textile
industries. Ilyichevsk runs the largest fishing fleet in Ukraine.
Among the great cities of the world, Odessa can claim certain distinctions. One
of the major cities of contemporary Europe, Odessa, officially founded in 1794,
is among the youngest ones. No other European city can match such growth rate
in the 19th century. It also developed in an area of the continent that has an
ancient tradition of trade and a long, though discontinuous, history of urban