An international city that symbolizes Russia
Founded by Empress Catherine II in 1794, Odessa is located 500 km south of Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, and is a very iconic city for Russia. It was the third city of the Russian Empire and its second port.
In April 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that he is historically part of Novorossiya (New Russia), not part of Ukraine, and wants to establish it.
The majority of people, whether Ukrainian or Russian, speak Russian. This prosperous city is international, with the opening of the Suez Canal (1869) and the development of iron, leading to a succession of immigrants of all origins, including Greeks, Bulgarians, Turks and Moldovans. The population increased in the process.
The population increased from 100,000 in 1870 to 400,000 in 1900 and 600,000 in 1913. According to the United Nations, it is estimated to be 993,800 in 2018 (latest figures available).
Until the 1940s, Odessa was home to a very large Jewish community, destroyed by slaughter and deportation.
Near Transnistria, Moldova’s pro-Russian separatist region, Odessa is in an armed conflict of rebels (more than 14,000 dead since 2014) despite the division between Kyiv and Moscow supporters. The eastern Ukraine region has succeeded in resisting the transnistrian impulses.
Nevertheless, it has gone through a very tense period in recent years, with some mysterious explosions targeting pro-Ukrainian organizations there.
It was a tragic scene that killed 48 people, mainly pro-Russians who died in a fire, after attacking and killing Kyiv supporters on May 2, 2014. The tragedy commemorated by both camps each year left a vivid mark.
Keyport and seaside resort
The city has a port in Odessa (specializing in oil and iron metals) and two other important ports in the Odessa region: Yuzhny (chemicals) and Illychyivsk (transportation of metals and containers).
It is also one of the major transit points for grain exports (barley, corn) from very fertile “black soil”.
Its oil and chemical industry is linked to Russia and the European Union by a strategic pipeline.
Odessa’s sunny climate, beaches and mild lifestyle have made it a popular seaside resort for summer tourists, especially since Russia annexed Crimea in 2014.
From “Battleship Potemkin” to “Capital of Crime”
The silent cinema masterpiece “Battleship Potemkin” was filmed by Soviet director Sergei Eisenstein in 1925 in Odessa, inspired by one of the most famous episodes of the 1905 Russian Revolution.
The baby carriage scene running down the stairs of Odessa is one of the most famous in movie history.
The city also has a tenacious reputation as the “capital of crime” somewhere between reality and legend.
Sophie Brustein founded a “school of theft art” there at the end of the 19th century, and the thug king Mihika Iaponchik (“little Japanese”) became the character of Veneer Klik in the Odessa story. It had an impact. By Isaac Babel.
The city influenced other characters of cunning and arrogant scammers, such as Ostap Bender, the hero of the former Soviet Union cult satirical novel.
Its reputation for sulfur has been exported to the United States, a refuge for immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and the New York district, which is considered a Russian mafia fortress, has been baptized by “Little Odessa.”