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Odessa Has Chutzpah

Published: September 19, 2012 (Issue # 1727)



  • Locals celebrating the citys Yumorina humor festival on April 1 around the famous Deribasovskaya Ulitsa in the heart of downtown Odessa. Odessa is renowned for its humor.
    Photo: ODESSA.UA

  • The monument to the citys defenders.
    Photo: TATYANA DENISOVA / FOR SPT

  • Built in 1810, Odessas oldest theater is a local architectural landmark.
    Photo: TATYANA DENISOVA / FOR SPT

  • The Potemkin Stairs, immortalized in the film The Battleship Potemkin.
    Photo: TATYANA DENISOVA / FOR SPT

ODESSA, Ukraine The air conditioner is broken, but youre very welcome tocome in, anattractive restaurant hostess says with acharming smile. Here inOdessa, you cannot feel let down.

Situated onthe Black Sea insouthern Ukraine, thenations fourth-largest city is as renowned forits warm water seaport as forits humor.

Native son Mikhail Zhvanetsky, abeloved satirist, once wrote: In Odessa they joke without end, but this is not humor, its acondition caused byheat andaudacity.

Ilya Ilf andYevgeny Petrov, who co-authored two ofthe Soviet Unions most-famous comedies, The Twelve Chairs andits sequel, The Little Golden Calf, grew up inOdessa. Many oftheir works poke fun atthe Soviet system.

Isaak Babel, heralded as one ofthe greatest writers ofRussian prose, was also born inOdessa. His collections ofshort stories, including theacclaimed Red Cavalry andTales ofOdessa, are considered masterpieces ofRussian literature.

Zhvanetsky, Ilf, Petrov andBabel were all members ofthe citys once-prominent Jewish population, which atthe turn ofthe 20th century made up nearly 40 percent ofthe populace.

Although pogroms andemigration have left theJewish community ashadow ofits former self, its influence remains clearly palpable inthe citys cultural identity.

After thedissolution ofthe Soviet Union, many Jews moved toNew Yorks Brighton Beach, settling inan area now called Little Odessa.

Russian director Leonid Gaidai noted thesimilarity inhis 1992 comedy, Weather Is Good onDeribasovskaya, It Rains Again onBrighton Beach. Thetitle refers toa pedestrian walkway incentral Odessa, named after Jose de Ribas, aSpanish nobleman who founded thecity while serving as anadmiral inthe Russian imperial navy.

Odessas population is predominantly Russian-speaking. Andwith adiverse demography including Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Romanians andTurks, many here consider themselves as being ofone ethnicity: Odessian.

Ina tribute tothe citys uniqueness, street vendors hawk Russian-Odessian dictionaries, featuring comical scenarios. Inone, arecently widowed Odessian inquires ata funeral home: How much would afuneral cost? Oh, andwithout abody?

Theideal place tolearn theOdessian language is ata cafe or aboard one ofthe old-fashioned trolleys that criss-cross thetown.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Aug. 2


Gatchina Palace Park Museum will host its second annual Night of Light, an impressive audio-visual show across the night sky. Tickets are 600 rubles ($16).


If graphic design is more your thing then check out Illustration Day, where you will be able to visit an exhibition, attend lectures by professionals and even show experts some of your own work. The event starts at noon at Zona Deystvia, 73 Ligovsky Prospekt. The entrance fee is 350 rubles ($10).



Sunday, Aug. 3


History lovers shouldnt miss the chance to see reenactments of World War I battles in Pushkin at noon. Besides exciting war scenes, visitors can enjoy live music, historical costumes, an equestrian show and a fancy-dress parade starting from the Moscow gates.


Garage Sale, the popular and growing flea market where nothing is priced over 500 rubles ($14.11), starts today at noon in Loft-Project Etagi, 74 Ligovsky Prospekt. Be sure to get in early to score a bargain. Entry costs 50 rubles ($1.40)



Monday, Aug. 4


Continue the working week with a calm and steady mind with a free yoga lesson at 7 p.m. in the Bukvoyed store at 23A Vladimirsky Prospekt.



Tuesday, Aug. 5


Visit The Romanov Dynasty doll exhibition today, where more than fifty porcelain dolls depicting Russian rulers, and made by Olina Ventzel, will be on show. The exhibition continues through Aug. 31 in Sheremetyev Palace, 34 Fontanka Naberezhnaya.



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