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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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Thursday, Apr. 17


Expocenter Eurasia at 13 Ulitsa Kapitan Voronin is the sight of Goods on the Way, a five-day event starting today showcasing the latest in the industrial products industry. Bags, backpacks, swimsuits and much, much more will be available to attendees hoping to update not only their style but their accessories for the upcoming summer.


Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldnt miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norways largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianitys holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the deserts most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDAs Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBAs Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.