Odessa - Encyclopedia

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ODESSA, one of the most important seaports of Russia, ranking by its population and foreign trade after St Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw. It is situated in 46° 28' N. and 3 0 ° 44' E., on the southern shore of a semi-circular bay, at the north-west angle of the Black Sea, and is by rail ioi 7 m. S.S.W. from Moscow and 61o S. from Kiev. Odessa is the seaport for the basins of two great rivers of Russia, the Dnieper, with its tributary the Bug, and the Dniester (20 m. to S.). The entrances to the mouths of both these offering many difficulties for navigation, trade has from the remotest antiquity selected this spot, which is situated half-way between the two estuaries, while the level surface of the neighbouring steppe allows easy communication with the lower parts of both rivers. The bay of Odessa, which has an area of 14 sq. m. and a depth of 30 ft. with a soft bottom, is a dangerous anchorage on account of its exposure to easterly winds. But inside it are six harbours - the quarantine harbour, new harbour, coal harbour and "practical" harbour, the first and last, on the S. and N. respectively, protected by moles, and the two middle harbours by a breakwater. Besides these, there are the harbour of the principal shipping company - the Russian Company for Navigation and Commerce, and the petroleum harbour. The harbours freeze for a few days in winter, as also does the bay occasionally, navigation being interrupted every year for an average of sixteen days; though this is materially shortened by the use of an ice-breaker. Odessa experiences the influence of the continental climate of the neighbouring steppes; its winters are cold (the average temperature for January being 23.2° F., and the isotherm for the entire season that of Konigsberg), its summers are hot (72.8° in July), and the yearly average temperature is 48.5°. The rainfall is scanty (14 in. per annum). The city is built on a terrace Too to 155 ft. in height, which descends by steep crags to the sea, and on the other side is continuous with the level of the "black earth" steppe. Catacombs, whence sandstone for building has been taken, extend underneath the town and suburbs, not without some danger to the buildings.

The general aspect of Odessa is that of a wealthy westEuropean city. Its chief embankment, the Nikolai boulevard, bordered with tall and handsome houses, forms a fine promenade. The central square is adorned with a statue of Armand, duc de Richelieu (1826), who was governor of Odessa in 1803-1814. A little back from the sea stands a fine bronze statue of Catherine II. (1900). A magnificent flight of nearly 200 granite steps leads from the Richelieu monument down to the harbours. The central parts of the city have broad streets and squares, bordered with fine buildings and mansions in the Italian style, and with good shops. The cathedral, founded in 1794 and finished in 1809, and thoroughly restored in 1903, can accommodate 5000 persons; it contains the tomb of Count Michael Vorontsov, governor-general from 1823 to 1854, who contributed much towards the development and embellishment of the city. The "Palais Royal," with its parterre and fountains, and the spacious public park are fine pleasure-grounds, whilst in the ravines that lead down to the sea cluster the houses of the poorer classes. The shore is occupied by immense granaries, some of which look like palaces, and large storehouses take up a broad space in the west of the city. Odessa consists (i.) of the city proper, containing the old fort (now a quarantine establishment) and surrounded by a boulevard, where was formerly a wall marking the limits of the free port; (ii.) of the suburbs Novaya and Peresyp, extending northward along the lower shore of the bay; and (iii.) of Moldavanka to the south-west. The city, being in a treeless region, is proud of the avenues of trees that line several of its streets and of its parks, especially of the Alexander Park, with a statue of Alexander II. (1891), and of the summer resorts of Fontaine, Arcadia and Langeron along the bay. Odessa is rising in repute as a summer sea-bathing resort, and its mud-baths (from the mud of the limans or lagoons) are considered to be efficacious in cases of rheumatism, gout, nervous affections and skin diseases. The German colonies Liebenthal and Lustdorf are bathing-places.

Odessa is the real capital, intellectual and commercial, of so-called Novorossia, or New Russia, which includes the governments of Bessarabia and Kherson. It is the see of an archbishop of the Orthodox Greek Church, and the headquarters of the VIII. army corps, and constitutes an independent "municipal district" or captaincy, which covers 195 sq. m. and includes a dozen villages, some of which have 2000 to 3000 inhabitants each. It is also the chief town of the Novorossian (New Russian) educational district, and has a university, which replaced the Richelieu Lyceum in 1865, and now has over 1700 students.

In 1795 the town had only 2250 inhabitants; in 1814, twenty years after its foundation, it had 25,000. The population has steadily increased from ioo,000 in 1850, 185,000 in 1873, 225,000 in 1884, to 449,673 in 1900. The great majority of inhabitants are Great Russians and Little Russians; but there are also large numbers of Jews (133,000, exclusive of Karaites), as well as of Italians, Greeks, Germans and French (to which nationalities the chief merchants belong), as also of Rumanians, Servians, Bulgarians, Tatars, Armenians, Lazes, Georgians. A numerous floating population of labourers, attracted at certain periods by pressing work in the port, and afterwards left unemployed owing to the enormous fluctuations in the corn trade, is one of the features of Odessa. It is estimated that there are no less than 35,000 people living from hand to mouth in the utmost misery, partly in the extensive catacombs beneath the city.

The leading occupations are connected with exporting, shipping and manufactures. The industrial development has been rather slow: sugar-refineries, tea-packing, oil-mills, tanneries, steam flour-mills, iron and mechanical works, factories of jute sacks, chemical works, tin-plate works, paper-factories are the chief. Commercially the city is the chief seaport of Russia for exports, which in favourable years are twice as high as those of St Petersburg, while as regards the value of the imports Odessa is second only to the northern capital. The total returns amount to 16 to 20 millions sterling a year, representing about one-ninth of the entire Russian foreign trade, and 14% if the coast trade be included as well. The total exports are valued at 10 to II millions sterling annually, and the imports at 6 to 9 millions sterling, about 81% of all the imports into Russia. Grain, and especially wheat, is the chief article of export. The chief imports are raw cotton, iron, agricultural machinery, coal, chemicals, jute, copra and lead. A new and spacious harbour, especially for the petroleum trade, was constructed in 1894-1900.


The bay of Odessa was colonized by Greeks at a very early period, and their ports - Istrianorum Portus and Isiacorum Portus on the shores of the bay, and Odessus at the mouth of the Tiligul Liman - carried on a lively trade with the neighbouring steppes. These towns disappeared in the 3rd and 4th centuries, and for ten centuries no settlements in these tracts are mentioned. In the 14th century this region belonged to the Lithuanians, and in 1396 Olgerd, prince of Lithuania, defeated in battle three Tatar chiefs, one of whom, Khaji Beg or Bey, had recently founded, at the place now occupied by Odessa, a fort which received his name. The Lithuanians, and subsequently the Poles, kept the country under their dominion until the 16th century, when it was seized by the Tatars, who still permitted, however, the Lithuanians to gather salt in the neighbouring lakes. Later on the Turks left a garrison here, and founded in 1764 the fortress Yani-dunya. In 1789 the Russians, under the French captain de Ribas, took the fortress by assault. In 1791 Khaji-bey and the Ochakov region were ceded to Russia. De Ribas and the French engineer Voland were entrusted in 1794 with the erection of a town and the construction of a port at Khaji-bey. In 1803 Odessa became the chief town of a separate municipal district or captaincy, the first captain being Armand, duc de Richelieu, who did very much for the development of the young city and its improvement as a seaport. In 1824 Odessa became the seat of the governors-general of Novorossia and Bessarabia. In 1866 it was brought into railway connexion with Kiev and Kharkov via Balta, and with Jassy in Rumania. In 1854 it was unsuccessfully attacked by the Anglo-Russian fleet, and in1876-1877by the Turkish, also unsuccessfully. In 1905-1906 the city was the scene of violent revolutionary disorders, marked by a naval insurrection. (P. A. K.; J. T. BE.)

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