Ukraine’s third-largest city, Odessa has a rich and diverse history. Situated on the Black Sea, Odessa is a renowned port city and has witnessed many rebirths over the past few centuries (Geohistory, 2015). Although the rulers of this city have changed hands many times, Odessa has become home to a uniquely diverse population. In fact, even in 1855, Robert Sears proclaimed in his guide to the Russian Empire that “there is perhaps no town in the world in which so many different tongues may be heard as in the streets and coffeehouses of Odessa” (Buzynski, 2018).
Odessa’s economic location on the Black Sea has been coveted by many over centuries. Although a settlement existed there in ancient times, the birth of the modern city began when the Tatar fortress of Khadzhibey was established there in the 14th century (Britannica, 2008). Since then, it was ruled by Lithuania-Poland and the Ottomon empire until it was conquered and renamed by tsarina Catherine the Great in 1794 (Buzynski, 2018). Odessa’s status as a free port until 1859 attracted foreign merchants and exporters, and the city served as the primary grain exporting center (Geohistory, 2015). Odessa was also a hub for Jewish life and creativity in the nineteenth century, during its golden age of cafes, and the Odessa cafe grew to become a symbol of Jewish culture and creativity (Buzynski, 2018).
Today, Odessa’s population of over a million people continues to reflect the unique and diverse history of the city. The city’s architecture and cuisines feature a myriad of cultural influences, from Slavic and Mediterranean to Italian and Russian (Geohistory 2015). The numerous cafes lining Deribasivska Street and famed Potemkin Stairs continue to draw visitors from all over the world, and Odessa retains its historical position as a social and economic hub (Sibirtseva, 2017).
Britannica. 2008. “Odessa.” Britannica, June 10, 2008. https://www.britannica.com/place/Odessa-Ukraine.
Buzynski, Isabelle. 2018. “The History of Odessa.” December 29, 2018. https://scalar.usc.edu/works/odessa/a-brief-history-of-odessa.
Geohistory. 2015. “Odessa: A City Born Again and Again.” Geohistory, February 1, 2015.
Sibirtseva, Maria. 2017. “The 10 Best Things to See and Do in Odessa, Ukraine.” Culture Trip, October 31, 2017. https://theculturetrip.com/europe/ukraine/articles/the-10-best-things-to-see-and-do-in-odessa-ukraine/.