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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, Nov. 1


The men and women who dedicate their lives to fitness get their chance to compete for the title of best body in Russia at todays Grand Prix Fitness House PRO, the nations premier bodybuilding competition. Not only will men and women be competing for thousands of dollars in prizes and a trip to represent their nation at Mr. Olympia but sporting goods and nutritional supplements will also be available for sale. Learn more about the culture of the Indian subcontinent during Diwali, the annual festival of lights that will be celebrated in St. Petersburg this weekend at the Culture Palace on Tambovskaya Ul. For 100 rubles ($2.40), festival-goers listen to Indian music, try on traditional Indian outfits and sample dishes highlighting the culinary diversity of the billion-plus people in the South Asian superpower.



Sunday, Nov. 2


Check out the latest video and interactive games at the Gaming Festival at the Mayakovsky Library ending today. Meet with the developers of the popular and learn more about their work, or learn how to play one of their creations with the opportunity to ask the creators themselves about the exact rules.



Monday, Nov. 3


Non-athletes can get feed their need for competition without breaking a sweat at the Rock-Paper-Scissors tournament this evening at the Cube Bar at Lomonosova 1. Referees will judge the validity of each matchup award points to winners while the citys elite fight for the chance to be called the best of the best. Those hoping to play must arrange a team beforehand and pay 200 rubles ($4.80) to enter.



Tuesday, Nov. 4


Attend the premiere of Canadian director Xavier Dolans latest film Mommy at the Avrora theater this evening. The fifth picture from the 25-year-old, it is the story of an unruly teenager but the most alluring (or unappealing) aspect is the way the film was shot: in a 1:1 format that is more reminiscent of Instagram videos than cinematic art. Tickets cost 400 rubles ($9.60) and snacks and drinks will be available.



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