April 11, 2013

UKRAINE (Odessa Oblast) - Historic Center of the Port City of Odessa (UNESCO WHS - Tentative List)

On terraced hills that descends to a small harbor on the Black Sea, located at 30km north of the estuary of the Dniester river, there were settlements from ancient times, firstly a Greek colony, and then a Tatar village, fallen under Ottoman rule in 1529, but the city of Odessa was founded only in 1794, by a decree of the Empress Catherine the Great, after the Ottomans, defeated in the Russo-Turkish War, ceded the region to Russian Empire. The city grew rapidly, and in the 19th century Odessa was the center of the General Government of Novorossiya (New Russia).

The free port status, held between 1819 and 1858, transformed Odessa into a cosmopolitan city, with a large Jewish community, subjected over time of severe persecution. During the Soviet period it was the most important port of trade in the Soviet Union. WWII left deep scars, in 1945 the city being one of the four which received the title of "Hero City" (together with Leningrad, Stalingrad and Sevastopol). In the 19th century it was the fourth largest city of Imperial Russia (after Moscow, Saint Petersburg and Warsaw).

Odessa is the only city in  Ukraine that has entirely preserved the urban structure of a multinational southern port town typical for the late 18th - 19th centuries. The port function of the town played a dominant role in determining urban system of Odessa, and plans for development of the port town were achieved in extremely short terms - just one hundred years, from 1794 to the late 19th century. This resulted in a complete urban system that followed regular Classicistic principles.

In the modem city of Odessa these characteristics are best evident in the former Porto Franco area, particularly in its coastal part which encompasses territory delimited by Primorska Street, Preobrazhenska Street, Bunina Street and Polska Street. This area contains over 300 historic buildings and monuments inscribed on regional and national lists of architectural and cultural heritage. The coastal or maritime area of Odessa shows also well preserved architectural ensembles.

Because during the WWII Odessa did not suffer from bombardments as much as did many other Soviet cities it managed to preserve authentic urban environment in its central historic part. To sum up, Odessa shows a unique example of a city, which due to its status of Porto Franco became a center of gravitation for multiethnic population who build a settlement representing both conglomerate of different cultural traditions and a harmonic architectural polyphony.

The famous landmarks of the city present on the postcards of my collection are: 
Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral
Opera and Ballet Theater

Odessa - Wikipedia
Historic Center of the Port City of Odessa - UNESCO official website

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