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Odessa History, Ukraine

Odessa is the fourth largest city in Ukraine after Kiev, Kharkiv and Dnepropetrovsk and it is also one of the country’s chief tourist attractions. Odessa’s rich and fascinating history has given birth to some unique sights in the city. The old town of Odessa is an attraction in itself thanks to the wealth of distinctive architectural features and quaint little streets. From ancient catacombs to lively nightlife, Odessa has many things to offer its visitors. This Odessa History Guide will briefly present the most important events in the past of this charming city.

Odessa History - Foundation and Early History

The beginnings of Odessa go back to Antiquity. At its origin, the city was a Greek colony on the shores of the Black Sea. Under the influence of the colonists and their trade with the local people, Odessa flourished throughout Antiquity. However, the benevolent guidance of the Greek civilization perished under the successive invasion of various nomadic tribes. From the early Middle Ages onward, the city was tossed back and forth between the tribes that happened to be passing through the region at the time. Odessa belonged to the Petchenegs, to the Cumans, the Tatars of the Golden Horde and the Turks.

The Ottomans occupied Khadjibey, as Odessa was called at the time, at the beginning of the 16th century. The Ottomans built the fortress of Yeni Dunya in the 18th century in Khadjibey, and made it the capital of the province of Silistra. In 1789, in the middle of the Russo-Turkish war, Odessa was captured by the Russian forces led by Major General Jose de Ribas, who is the namesake of the largest street in the city today, Deribasovskaya Street.

Odessa History - Modern History and Present

After the Russo-Turkish war, Odessa became part of the New Russia area, comprising Transnistria and Bessarabia. In the 19th century, several well known architects among whom Karlovicz, Boffo and Torichelli designed a city plan that made Odessa one of the most popular cities in Europe. Being a port city, Odessa was home to various peoples from the Balkans and beyond. Odessa’s growth was stunted by the Crimean War when it became the target of bombings, but recovered quite quickly.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the crew of the Potemkin rebelled against the tsarist regime and started an uprising in the city, during which hundreds of citizens were murdered on the Potemkin Stairs. After the Siege of Odessa in 1941, over 25.000 people were killed by the Axis forces, and 35.000 more were deported. Many of the city’s Jew emmigrated to the US and settled in the Little Odessa in Brooklyn. Odessa officially became a city of Ukraine in 1991, when the communist regime collapsed.

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