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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

Monday, Oct. 20


Amateur pictures from World War I are on display for only one more day at Rosphotos exhibition On Both Sides, chronicling the conflict through the eyes of observers on both sides of the trenches. The price of entrance to the exhibition is 100 rubles ($2.50).



Tuesday, Oct. 21


The Environment, Health and Safety Committee of AmCham convenes this morning at 9 a.m. in the organizations office.


Take the chance to pick the brains of Dmitry V. Krivenok, the deputy director of the Economic Development Agency of the Leningrad region, and Mikhail D. Sergeev, the head of the Investment Projects Department, during the meeting with them this morning hosted by SPIBA. RSVP for the event by emailing office@spiba.ru before Oct. 17 if you wish to attend.


Improve your English at Interactive English, the British Book Centers series of lessons on vocabulary and grammar in an informal atmosphere. Starting at 6 p.m., each month draws attention to different topics in English, with the topic for this months lessons being visual arts.



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