Odessa Local Customs

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  • Local Customs
    by arturowan
  • Local Customs
    by arturowan

Best Rated Local Customs in Odessa

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    Leonid Utyosov...

    by arturowan Updated Nov 22, 2013

    Leonid 0sipovich Utyosov was born in 0dessa on 21st March 1895 (real name Leyzer Iosifovich Vaysbeyn)
    After being schooled in the city, he runaway with the circus on the ambition of becoming an acrobat, but later attempted acting & stand-up comedy...
    In 1917 he won a singing competition in Belarus, which focused his discipline to develop his voice & talent for music...
    He developed a passion for jazz & wished to become a band leader - an ambition he fulfilled in 1929
    The rest, as they say, is the stuff of legend, as Utyosov became a musical hero of the Russian-speaking world, & even toured Europoe with his band, which was based in Leningrad...
    During the Patriotic war, his band played for the troops, & on Victory Day, his band performed on Sverdlov Ploshchat (Sverdlov Square) in Moscow, his new place of residence...
    Utyosov's popularity within the Soviet Union, is said to have included Stalin, evidence for which is that he earnt the award of 'Peoples' Artiste of the USSR', in 1965 - something not granted to those out of favour with the authorities...
    As well as composing for his own band, Utyosov wrote film scores & occasionally returned to acting, being a natural comic entertainer...
    Although he lived in Moscow until his death on 9th March 1982, he never forgot his 0dessan roots, & still considered the city of his birth, his favourite place...
    Many of his compositions celebrated the city, including; C-0desskogo Kichmana; 0dessit-Mishka (0dessan teddy bear); & By The Black Sea...
    If you visit 0dessa today, you can look for where he was born, on Utyosova 0olitsa; a turning off Bolshaya Arnautskaya, into the intersection with Degtyarnaya 0olitsa...
    A karaoke bar has been opened in his name at 2a Yevreyskaya 0olitsa (Jewish Street)
    It's even possible to sit next to a lifesize statue of Utyosov, cast complete with bronze bench, in the City Garden, & listen to some of his compositions, on a jukebox within a telephone box there...
    An inscription upon the monument, paid for by voluntary donations in 2000, reads; 'To Leonid Utoyosov - from grateful 0dessa'

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    Vera Kholodnaya...

    by arturowan Updated Nov 23, 2013

    When I was staying in Hotel Tsentralnaya, the view from my balcony was of a woman in a large-brimmed hat, with shawl, holding out her hand towards passerbys...
    At the time I'd no idea whom she was, or the significance of her position, facing the hotel, on the side of Preobrazhenskaya street with the cathedral that gives the highway its name...
    I now know that the statue is Russia's only silent era film star - Vera Kholodnaya...
    & her significance to my stay in 0dessa, is that she died in her rented room on the facade wing of Papudovy house, on February 16th, while in exile from the Bolsheviks, during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919
    Her statue stands near enough where she died - then was buried in the graveyard outside the cathedral, which was later destroyed by Bolshevik vandalism...
    The poignance of this, is that during this stay in 0dessa in 2007, I contracted the latest flu pandemic that was rampant in the city, & spent a lot of miserable time feeling like death warmed-up, not wanting to go past the hotel balcony view of Preobrazhenskaya, where stood the statue of Vera Kholodnaya, holding a snowball that a passerby had placed her outstretched hand...
    Vera Vasilyevna Levchenko was born in Poltava, on 30th August 1893, but was raised by her grandmother in Moscow...
    She married when still only 17, to Vladimir Kholodny, a racing driver, & the couple soon had a daughter, & adopted another child a year later, which she had to bring up alone, when her husband was conscripted into the army...
    The necessity of supporting her children, provided her the excuse to follow her dream of acting, having given up on a career in ballet, despite training in Moscow...
    Whatever her acting abilities, Vera's face & large grey, Russian eyes, gave her critical screen presence, & made her an almost instant success on the big screen...
    "My eyes are my bread!"
    Kholodnaya is reputed to have claimed, & her husband's surname, translating as 'cold one', probably also bolstered her screen image, so that she became popular enough with directors to be making 3 films a month...
    It is thought she completed 80 pictures in her short career, though only 5 have survived to this day...
    However, the most viewed footage concerning her, is not of her alive, but of the burial ceremony at the Transfiguration cemetary...
    During her career, she participated in charity concerts for impoverished students & the union of stage actors & actresses...
    In 1931, her grave at Preobrazhenskaya was destroyed by the Bolsheviks, together with the original cathedral, & her family's plea to remove her remains to Moscow were ignored, owing to her being an exile from their regime...
    Vera Kholodnaya became 1 of the many, 'persona non grata' during the reign of the Soviet Union, but as soon as it passed in 1991, efforts to revive her name, began...
    A conspiracy theory also emerged around her death, as it's reputed that she had an affair with the French ambassador while in 0dessa, & that she was poisoned on suspicion of spying for the Bolsheviks, rather than succumbing to flu - a scandal that doesn't concur with the fact that she was in 0dessa to escape Bolshevism...
    Her life was dramatised in the 1975 film, Slave To Love; a documentary made about her in 1992; & she was depicted on a postage stamp in 2003 - the same year her statue was erected on Preobrazhenskaya 0olitsa...

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    Monument to Sergey Utyochkin...

    by arturowan Written Jan 24, 2014

    Sergey Isayevich Utyochkin was born in 0dessa on 12th July 1876
    He was a man ahead of his time, with a zest for sports, & he would nowadays be regarded as an 'extreme sportsman'...
    Utyochkin was a legend -in-his-own-lifetime, known as 'the conqueror of the fifth ocean', he was capable of publicity stunts, such as driving a car from Prymorskiy Boulevard, down the Potyomkin Steps, into the port!
    Had he lived a century later, he would no doubt have been a global household name, & an athlete representative of an extreme sports brand, such as RED BULL...
    As well as being a keen swimmer, boxer, fencer, footballer, & cyclist, winning 14 races internationally, Utyochkin also was an aviator, motorcyclist, racing driver, & pioneer of roller skating!
    Nor was he 'a jack of all sports & master of none', because his soccer skills were good enough to play for 0dessa British Athletic Club, while he was rated second best pilot in Russia, flying a Farman bi-plane, making about 150 flights & surviving crashes!
    Flying was maybe his greatest love of all, which led him into a passion for air ballooning, which began in 1907 - he flew over the Sahara desert & the pyramids in order to reach Egypt!
    After mastering 15 high energy pursuits, by irony of ironies, Utyochkin died aged only 39, as a result of pneumonia, brought about by contracting flu in Saint Petersburg, in the previous winter of 1915
    He died on 13th January 1916 - though in fact had been suffering since a plane crash in 1911 - unable to afford medicine or even regular food, because in those days, all sportsmen were self-funded...
    Indeed, he died a forgotten hero, rumoured to be insane & homeless, when not in hospital or hotels, after his record-breaking glory days faded, even his wife abandoned him in favour of a rich entrepeneur, in Utyochkin's native city of 0dessa...
    During Soviet times, a vintage car club existed in 0dessa, based at 28 Bazarnaya 0ulitsa, which was dedicated to the memory of Utyochkin...
    His statue can be found in 0dessa City Garden, on a pedestal half way up the staircase leading towards the Utyochkino cinema & jazz cafe, named in his honour, & originally opened by his brothers, in order to provide revenue to sponsor Utyochkin's activities...
    His likeness is cast in bronze, to a design by 0dessan sculptor, Aleksandr Tokarev, depicting the legendary sportsman throwing a paper plane skywards...

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    A day in the life...

    by arturowan Updated Feb 19, 2014

    Monday, 26th 0ctober 1987 - A Day in the Life of the Soviet Union - as recorded by TIME-LIFE photo-journalists throughout Russia & the satellite states around it's vast borders...
    No small project then, & of the 10 000's images that resulted from 100's of photographers, only a fraction could be published in the book that was published to illustrate this momentous, but atypical day of Soviet street life...
    0dessa receives only a few entries in the edited text, but in truth, it was such an interesting city, even in the midst of Cold war doom & gloom, it could have contributed an entire volume of images, warranting a publication devoted just to the port & street life, itself...
    The book was somehow prophetic, with the editorial desire to capture a culture that was in decline, as a result not so much of western competition, as the political policies of Mikhael Gorbachov...
    Gorbachov's policy of 'glasnost' - a word that cannot be accurately translated, but basically means; 'opening-up' - in respect to internal honesty as to how the Soviet Union was managed, or rather, mismanaged...
    Glasnost was the enemy-within for the USSR - within a few years of A Day In The Life 0f The Soviet Union being published in the west, the old order of totalitarian control behind 'the iron curtain', had collapsed, with political revolution within all the states that had constituted the union...
    I've been fascinated by A Day in the Life of the Soviet Union, ever since I first found the book, & now I've tracked down the unpublished photo's by Adnechka Grudinovker, on a webpage dedicated to the city...
    I've been using some of them to illustrate my travel tips on here, because it's extraordinary how so many of the images show scenes unchanged from when I was last in the city...
    Cars & lorries, which have altered so much in the west, appear no different at all!
    The most noticeable changes are the fashions worn by younger folk, & that Soviet streets had an absence of advertising, with Russian signing - something very different in 0dessa today...
    Here I have selected 5 images that I consider best reflect the nature of 0dessa as I saw the city when I was there, & were not much different from 2 decades before...

    A city of contrasting images... A city of Russian backdrop... A city of busy street life... A city of casual intercourse... A city of daysleepers...
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    PROTEST! (0r Publicity Stunt?)

    by arturowan Written Feb 21, 2014

    0dessa is a city where a visitor might witness a political demonstration at any time of year, & this has been true of my visits, (before the troubles of 2013/14)
    Ukraine is a volatile place, & people usually do not hesitate to take to the streets to demonstrate their point of view, on all sorts of issues...
    If you've read my tip; Ukrainian Feminism, you'll know that I'm a touch cynical about some of these protests, which to my eye resemble compulsive publicity seeking, for those who want 'their 15 minutes of fame' on televised news...
    Ironically, a link began circulating on 'facebook', showing the action that had occurred in the main Ukrainian cities, but for 0dessa, where a man was shown sitting on his bed, drinking lager, while watching the demonstrations on tv...
    I say ironic, because soon after this link had circulated, I happened upon some photo's of 1 of the protests in 0dessa, & to my utter disbelief, who should be leading it & addressing the assembly beneath the Duc de Richelieu statue, but somebody I'd met on my third visit there (- in fact, he inspired another 1 of my tips on here - 'moodashlyopi'...)
    I say utter disbelief, because the protest was in daylight, & this person was in the habit of sleeping all day, while partying the night away on a cocktail of vodka & cannabis, & not doing much else in life...
    Yet, in the chaos that has become of Ukrainian politics, this rather irresponsible character, has suddenly been inspired to raise himself from the couchette in the home (not his), where he was 'crashing', & put his point of view across on television, (as if he really gave a 'govno'!)
    I know from a fact, from having met this character, that he could not care less about Ukrainian politics, but knows a good self-publicity opportunity when it presents itself...
    I do not wish to cast aspersions on the genuine protestors in Ukraine, of which there are legion, & though they may not all share the same political point of view, their reasons for protesting are sincere...
    However, do not be taken in by all of them - they're a mixed bag, so to speak, (& some have already been active during EUFA 2012 - flying Nazi regalia beside the Ukrainian flag...)
    In 0dessa, on the news, I've watched female students 'mooning' the television cameras, in order to protest 'feminism' - & now I see a 36 year-old who spends his life busy doing nothing, seeking election!
    Political protest?
    NO - publicity stunt...

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    Eduard Gurvits...

    by arturowan Updated Sep 19, 2014

    If you spend any sort of time in 0dessa & watch the local news channel, or pay attention to the street posters, or even grafitti, the name of Eduard Gurvits is sure to make an impression upon you...
    Repeatedly voted mayor of 0dessa, Gurvits' jovial face is often to be seen on local tv, in official capacity at all manor city ceremonies, be it the arrival of a new fleet of municipal ambulances, or opening a new public building, or attending a beauty pageant...
    Gurvits has an unmistakable face, which reflects less his Ukrainian nationality, than his Yiddish roots, which maybe makes him apposite as mayor of 0dessa, a city which, before the Nazi invasion, had a one-third Jewish population...
    By trade, he is a master construction foreman, having spent his years of graft, working on sites in 0dessa & nearby Moldova...
    Gurvits attended the Leningrad Engineering & Construction Institute, from which he graduated as an Engineer of Communications, then went to serve in the Strategic Rocket Forces of the Soviet army in 1971
    Gurvits was born in Mohyliv-Podilskiy, in Vinnitsiya 0bl'ast, on 30th January 1948 - into a Russian-Jewish family...
    He has a daughter & a son, who moved to Haifa, Israel...

    Mayor of 0dessa...

    Gurvits was elected Deputy to the Ukrainian parliament in April 1994
    In July he won the election to make him mayor of 0dessa, having become head of the 0dessa Zhovteny district committee in 1991
    Gurvits earnt the reputation as something of an entrepeneur, having set-up the 'Ekopolis' Experimental & Creative Studio, during the Soviet era...
    Gurvits earnt the wrath of Ukrainian President, Leonid Kuchma, when he attempted to make 0dessa a hub of the international oil trade, with a business plan for a direct pipeline to former Soviet, eastern states, & into western Europe...
    Kuchma, whose presidency was later brought-down amidst corruption charges, & links to the disappearances of several investigative journalists, represented the interests of the existing status quo...
    This has resulted in Ukrainian dependence on oil piped from Russia or Chechnya, bought from those newly made companies, benefiting only the oligarchs & organised crime...
    In order to scupper Gurvits' vision, which would have made 0dessa the economic centre of the former Soviet Union, & maybe even an autonomous centre of power, the March 1998 election results which re-elected the mayor, were declared void, & 0dessa was demoted as ruling city within its own 0bl'ast (region...)
    In the following months, 2 unsuccessful attempts were made to assasinate Gurvits, & 2 of his business associates were kidnapped; Igor Svoboda & Sergey Varlamov (whose body was not recovered until 2005)
    Gunned down in a hail of 19 bullets, was another victim of this ambitious business vision, its minder, who was Victor Kulivar, the 'officially-approved' gangster of 0dessa, (known in the local underworld as 'Karabas' - see separate article...)
    In the 2002 mayoral elections, he lost out to Rouslan Borisevich Bodelan, but was reinstated in 2005 when a court ruled that the previous result had been rigged - he was re-elected mayor of 0dessa in 2006
    Another unsuccessful business venture was to have 0dessa accepted as a host venue for EURO2012 - the president of the Ukrainian Football Association, later accused, "the 0dessa mayor prpomised much, but did little..."
    Despite his chequered career, & a 'facebook' campaign to discredit him from further election succees in 0dessa, which he lost in 2010 - Gurvits remains the friendly face of corporate culture in the port-city - a man whose co-operation any potential business prospector there, would do well in order to invite...

    Eduard Yosipovich Gurvits... Red flag city mayor... Eduard Gurvits - 'faith in 0dessa'... Grafitto = Gurvits 0ur Mayor... GURVITS - 'preserves traditions'...
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    'Karabas'...

    by arturowan Written Aug 20, 2014

    If you stray off the beaten path, down Astrakina 0olitsa, & head for the steam room #4, you will find the unlikely scene of a memorial, because this was where a legend of the city was assasinated...
    A plaque on the wall, revealing the monotone portrait of a middle-aged man, with closely cropped hair, dressed in black jacket & top, reads in Russian;
    'Here - 21 IV 1997 - traitors did kill - KULIVAR - Viktor Pavlovich - Forever & alit memories about you - 'Karabas'. From friends & comrades...
    A matching plaque, separated from the portrait by a crucfix & a bowl of flowers, displays a candle, & a selection of verses dedicated to Karabas, from those who knew him...
    It is said that flowers are regularly placed at this shrine, with notes of cash inserted, which are not touched by those begging for change on the streets outside...
    Such is the legacy of a man who was THE head of the 0dessa underworld, at least until 21st April 1997
    19 bullets took out the man who enforced law & order the 0dessa/Russian way, which is a way few westerners seem capable to understand (try reading David Dimbleby's otherwise excellent study - RUSSIA...)
    You might consider me naive to think that when Karabas was 'taken out', 0dessa did not sigh a collective sigh of relief, because his assasins, who have never been identified, saved countless businesses his visits to inspect their accounts & extract his 10% commission for keeping their city with a 'krisha' (lid/roof) on crime...
    Karabas might have been operating a protection racket, but it was protection money well paid, because it kept the tourist centre of the city crimefree...
    It was the policy of Karabas to zone the city into areas where certain crimes were allowed, hence 0dessa downtown became 'Palermo' where the drugs deals were done, but if a supplier entered another part of the city, he was stepped-on...
    Whereas politicians & legitimate law enforcers create prohibition & blanket bans on crime, which only drive suppliers underground, the genius of Karabas was to segregate the competing criminals, & most importantly, keep them out of public view...
    In this way, the hoteliers & restauranteurs were able to operate without pushers & prostitutes on their doorsteps, & for keeping central 0dessa respectable, they were willing to pay Karabas his 10% 'fsyatka' ('take'...)
    I might be gullible to believe that Karabas was a hero of the city, & 0dessa is a culture where its own folk, & any passing artisan who has stayed in its streets, are romanticised & woven into its rich tapestry in a folklorish style, but I do believe that this gangster was respected in his own brief time...
    Legend has it he walked the streets wearing his black suit & T-shirt, unarmed, hence he could not defend his turf, that fateful day he was gunned down...
    Why was he targeted?
    This has not been officially explained, but it coincided with the initiative of 0dessa mayor, Eduard Gurvits, to transform the port-city economy, by building a pipeline direct into the eastern bloc oil-producing states (see separate article...)
    Although Gurvits did not (officially) approve of Karabas, it does demonstrate something of the gangsters' local reoutation, that he was approached to minder the projetc, which attracted the jealousy of the newly-enriched, Russian oligarchs, whose interests in Ukraine were represented by President Kuchma...
    Kuchma, who was later disempowered over corruption charges, had Gurvits de-instated as 0dessa mayor, then he lost the mayoral re-election, which was later found to be rigged...
    In the meantime, there were 2 attempts on Gurvits' life, & 2 of his business partners were abducted & were never seen again, alive...
    Karabas, an 'old-school' heavy, totally under-estimated the ambition of the Russian oligarchs with their private armies of heavies, toting machine guns & turning Yeltsin's post-Soviet Russia into 'the wild East', where the rule of law was administered by the presentation of a gun-barrel...
    Karabas was a product of isolationist, Soviet-thinking, whereas the world had moved on to the Reagan-Thatcherite vision of 'globalisation', & international crime had syndicated across borders...
    Karabas was THE MAN in 0dessa, but his position of authority curried no respect amongst the underground who were now effectually running neighbouring states, such as Bulgaria, Romania, & Russia...
    It might not please some folk to glorify a gangster, but 0dessa has a 'Robin Hood' attitude to such larger than life characters, & I am sure that Karabas would never have approved of the modern underworlsd vision for the port-city, as hub of the international slave trade (Asians imported into 0dessa for cheap labour, while girls from Moldova exported out, & sold into prostitution...)

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    0dessa Street Art...

    by arturowan Written Oct 15, 2014

    0dessa is a city known for its art scene - there are sculptures all over the place, art galleries, & pictures for sale at craft markets on the street...
    However, there is increasingly more art, literally on the street - so-called 'grafitti art', although really it is too accomplished to be regarded as common grafitti...
    Much of it is celebratory of Ukrainian culture, or the culture of 0dessa, & might depict characters in local folklore, such as 0stap Bender, anti-hero of The 12 Chairs (see separate tip...)
    0n Mayday weekend, there is even a body art carnival, where models of noth gender are painted from head to foot, representing a specific theme, depicted by the artist on their skin...
    0dessa is not a city for those who stand still too long - if you do you might find yourself beneath a coat of paint...

    Symbol of Port 0dessa...

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    ODESSA DAY

    by A-Friend-Of-Belarus Written Jan 13, 2007

    September 2, the Odessa day. It's a day when the whole city is on the streets and the central manifestation is being held on the Potemking stairs where crowd listens to various Ukrainian/Russian pop-rock bands that play on the stage just above the stairs and in front of the "Morskiy vokzal".

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  • As I already mentioned Odessa...

    by Maverick22 Written Aug 24, 2002

    As I already mentioned Odessa is unique city with 100% tolarence toward everyone. People are very sympathetic and friendly, almost half of the populatio speaks very disent english. Be friendly to them and they will return it.

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