History of Odessa

The port of Odessa On the edge of the Black Sea, Odessa is a city of Ukraine, this immense, flat and fertile country where more than one thousand years ago was born the first flourishing Russian civilization, the “Kievan Russia”. Since then, the most diverse and colorful peoples colonized its huge plain, out of which the famous Cossacks. Its natural wealth attracted numerous conquerors in the course of the centuries, like the Mongols, the Turks or the Germans. The XXth century was not the most peaceful in the history of Ukraine: after a fierce Civil war, the soviet era imposed the hardship of the collectivization and, in the thirties, a fatal starvation which was artificially created by the government. At the beginning of the nineties, the country fell into a serious crisis linked with the collapse of the USSR, which it supplied for almost half of its wheat and iron. But since the end of the nineties the economy spectacularly reorganized itself; several reforms were successful, allowing the earth to liberate its energy; the life standard has improved. As the only port of Ukraine, exporting again, Odessa plays particularly well its game.

But today like in the ancient times, Odessa is not only a prosperous port on the edge of the Black Sea. The city was founded by the tsarina Catherine the Great in 1794, who wanted it to become the first port of Russia year-round free of ice and to ensure the Russian domination on the newly conquered shore of the Black Sea (the “New Russia”). Thanks to unique privileges, it very soon encountered an extraordinary development, of which typical effects can still be seen nowadays. Many people whose life was difficult in other parts of Russia, like foreigners and fleeing serfs, or who were not allowed to live in other regions, like Jews, were free to settle down in Odessa. They came in large numbers. In the same way, the city council gave plots of land for free to those ready to build new houses within two years and to follow strict architectural rules. The city became very soon one of the biggest of Russia and the most cosmopolite. More than half of its governors where foreigners, like the first of them, the Duke of Richelieu, a French emigrate considered by the Odessites as the true father of the city.

The city remains true to its history and image. Odessa is today as original as ever and is very interesting for foreigners wishing to study Russian. Russian humorists are told to all come from Odessa. And Odessites have the reputation to always answer to a question with an other question. Thanks to the free spirit of Odessa toward central power, nowadays Kiev, the city keeps speaking only Russian, and intends to do so in future, even if Ukrainian became the only official language of the country. Indeed, its inhabitants do not come from Ukraine but from various nationalities spread in the Russian Empire; their common language has been Russian from the very beginning of the city. In the contrary of other Ukrainian cities, especially of those in the west or even Kiev, public notice is almost only in Russian. This is a good reason to come and study russian in Odessa.