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Odessa Travel Guide

Odessa History

Odessa History Odessa is a young city. An antique Greek colony had once occupied the site of the City. In the Middle Age these lands were under control of the Kievan Rus, Galicia-Volhynia, the Kipchak Khanate, the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire. These lands were captured by Russia at the end of the 18th century during the Russian-Turkish wars.

Odessa itself was founded in 1794 by Catherine II of Russia; the purpose of the Tsarina was to establish a seaport, fortifying southern borders of the Russian Empire. Soon migrants and merchants from Europe and Asia arrived to the city attracted by the benevolent climate and the Porto Franco conditions, these new inhabitants gave Odessa a singular spirit of freedom.

From 1819 to 1858 Odessa was a free port (porto franco). In the 19th century Odessa become an important grain-exporting port and was the third leading city in Old Russia, after Moscow and St. Petersburg. During the Crimean War (1853-1856) the city was bombarded by British and French naval forces.

The city became the home of a large Jewish community during the 19th century, Jews were estimated to comprise some 37% of the population, they were repeatedly persecuted; pogroms were carried out in 1821, 1859, 1871, 1881, and 1905. Between the 1970s and 1990s, many Odessa's Jews migrated to Israel, United States and other Western countries.

In the revolution of 1905, Odessa was the site of a mutiny by workers of the Russian battleship Potemkin.

In 1920, Odessa felt under the control of the Red Army, the area was integrated it to the USSR. In Soviet Times it was the most important trade port and also a Soviet Naval base. The city suffered serious damage during World War II, when it was occupied by German and Romanian armed forces. Approximately 280,000 Odessites were either massacred or deported during the war.

In 1991, after the collapse of the communism, Odessa became part of the independent country of Ukraine. In 1994 Odessa celebrated its 200th anniversary.

Since January 1, 2000 the Quarantine Pier of Odessa Trade Port was declared a free-port and free-economic sector for the period of 25 years.

Nowadays, Odessa is one of the biggest cities in Ukraine and the Ukraine’s biggest commercial port.


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