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Current Name
Ancient Name
unknown (see History section)
Medieval Name
Kaczubeiow (Cacybei), Hacibey
History of the name

The origin of the name has been a subject to debates since late 19th c. Kaczubeiow was apparently named after Lithuanian magnate Kocub Jakuszynski, the arguably founder of the initial settlement here in the late 14th c. The Ottoman name appeared as a meaningful Turkish name consonant with another transcription of its Lithuanian name – Cacybei (some scholars suggest that Hacibey can be interpreted as “prince who visited Mecca” and associate it with the name of a local Tatar ruler of the middle 14th c known as Koçibey.

After the annexation of this area from the Ottoman Empire, in 1794 Empress Catherine the Great ordered to build here the port town of Hacibey (in Russian transcription – Gadgibey). However, following of the established at the time tradition of giving Greek names to towns newly founded in the area annexed from the Ottoman Empire, already in the beginning of 1795 Hacibey was renamed to Odessa. The legend tells that the Empress suggested the name Odessa as a feminine form of Odessos, the name of an ancient Greek settlement on the northern coast of the Black Sea. Russian historians of that time localized Odessos somewhere in the area known today as the Bay of Odessa, though later archaeological research found remains of ancient Odessos near Varna in Bulgaria.

Place :

Geopolitical Unit
Odessa oblast (region)
Administrative subdivision
On the northwest coast of the Black Sea, about 480 km south of the capital city of Kyiv (46°28' N 30°44' E).
Foudation Date
September 2nd,1794
Current condition
The city of Odessa with a population of 1,01 million residents (as per December 1st, 2012) is an administrative center of Odessa Oblast and a large industrial, cultural, research and resort center. The city also has the largest sea port in Ukraine and is a rail and road junction connecting Ukraine with the Balkans. Today in Odessa there are near 40 colleges, universities and research institutions, more than 10 theaters and almost 20 museums. People of some 130 different nationalities and ethnic groups live today in Odessa. Central part of the city has preserved the original layout from the late 18th c and a large number of historic buildings and monuments from the 19th – early 20th cc. Due to this cultural heritage, in 2009 the historic part of the city-port of Odessa was included in the UNESCO Tentative List of World Heritage. Rich historic, cultural and natural environment of Odessa every year attracts thousands of tourists from both Ukraine and abroad.

Some archaeological finds suggest that the area within the present-day city limits witnessed human occupation since prehistoric times. However, most archaeological remains found in Odessa indicate that true settlements appeared in this area in relation with the Greek colonization in the late 6th - 5th cc BC. These include rather scanty evidence of small ancient villages such as a site on Zhevakhova Mound and remains of a settlement in Luzanovka conventionally called Istrian Harbor. In the late 5th c BC here appeared a larger Greek settlement which together with its necropolis occupied much of the area of what today is a central part of Odessa. Unfortunately, ancient Greek name of that settlement remains unknown though some archaeologists refer to it as Isiac Harbor. Results of archaeological excavations in these settlements have so far indicated that they had been abandoned by the early 2nd c BC.
Practically nothing is known today about Late Classical and Early Medieval history of the area of present-day Odessa because relevant archaeological record is lacking. On Italian navigation maps of the 13th c the present-day Bay of Odessa is marked as a harbor and an anchorage called Ginestra which, most likely, was used as a post for trading with local Tatar population. It appears that there were no true settlements in this harbor at that time. The first written evidence of a medieval settlement here comes from Polish chronicles dated to 1415. They referred to a port town of Kaczubeiow which at the time was used for shipping grains to Constantinople seized by Ottomans. In some later medieval written sources it is mentioned under names of Kaczubinyow, Cacybei or Cacubius which are also believed by some researchers to be of Tatar origin. These documents allowed historians to suggest that the town appeared here in the late 14th c during the times of Vytautas, the ruler of Grand Duchy of Lithuania. It is possible that the town was founded in a location of the former Tatar trading post from which it arguably derived its name. Other available data suggests that the town might had gotten its name after Lithuanian magnate Kocub Jakuszynski, the arguably founder of the initial settlement here.
The Lithuanian port town served as an important trading port on the northwest coast of the Black Sea until the middle of the 15th c when the Ottomans practically closed the Bosporus for European ships and merchants. By the end of the 15th the town had been abandoned by most its residents and apparently survived only as a small settlement until the middle of the 16th c. On sailing maps of the 16th-17th cc it is depicted as a navigation mark in the form of ruins observable from the sea rather than a settlement.   
In 1765 the Ottomans began to renew the abandoned medieval settlement they called Hacibey and built here the fortress of Yeni Dünya. In the late 18th c the town was an important trading port and a fort frontier on the northern frontier of the Ottoman Empire. It housed multinational population including Turks, Tatars, Jews, Greeks, Albanians and fugitive peasants from southern provinces of Russian Empire. Their main economic activities included trade and evaporating salt from the nearby estuaries or coastal lakes.
In the course of Russian – Ottoman wars, in 1789 Russian troops captured the fortress of Yeni Dünya and in accordance with the conditions of the Peace Treaty signed in Iasi in 1791 the town of Hacibey was annexed to Russian Empire. Given strategic location of the town, Russians considered it as important military post and in 1793 built here a fortress and started construction of a port. However, already in the beginning of 1794 Empress Catherine the Great ordered to build here the town of Hacibey (in Russian transcription – Gadgibey) with functions of both a naval base and a commercial port.  Plans of the city, the fortress and the port were designed by Russian military engineer of Dutch origin François de Wollant (in Russian spelling – Franz Devolan). In 1795 the town was renamed to Odessa and over a period of less than a century grew into a fourth largest city of Russian Empire after St. Petersburg, Moscow and Warsaw and the largest Russian port on the Black Sea.


Much archaeological remains from the period of Greek colonization were destroyed during the first decades of construction of Odessa. Today some ruins and artifacts from that period can be seen only in a small glass-roofed excavation area in Primorsky Boulevard. No remains have survived in the present-day city from the Medieval times. Today artifacts from those epochs can be seen in Odessa Archaeological Museum in Lanzheronivska Street.

The earliest historic buildings in the city date to the first quarter of the 19th c, while the majority of cultural monuments were erected from the middle of the 19th c till the beginning of the 20th c. The former are represented, in particular, by a few residential houses, the remains of the so-call Quarantine Arcade with a Tower (1803-1807), Greek Church of St. Trinity (1808) and Palace of Prince Vorontsov (1826-1828). Later structures include a plethora of public and residential buildings of various architectural styles, a dozen of monuments to historic figures, several bridges located in the central part of Odessa and storehouses built in the port in early 20th c. The most renowned historic building in the city is undoubtedly the Opera House (1884-1887).



Scanty archaeological record and historic documents, unfortunately, do not give us any impression of how harbors of ancient and medieval ports on the shores of the Bay of Odessa might look like. Nor we know much about appearance of the Ottoman port of Hacibey.
Following the plan developed by de Wollant, original port of Odessa with a single pier was built in 1794-1797. During this time period 132 ships moored in the port. In 1830-1840 the port underwent major expansion and by the end of reconstruction in 1850 it included three harbors and three piers. Other reconstructions of the port took place in 1866-1888 and 1890-1905, and by the beginning of the 20th c the port had taken its modern appearance. In 1879-1882 the first 1200 m of water-breaks were built to protect the port’s harbors. In 1900 nearly 9800 ships visited the port of Odessa. That time over 50 percent of the total turnover of goods of the port constituted various construction materials and foods.

Today the port of Odessa is one of the largest commercial and passenger ports in the Black Sea Basin. In the area of 141 ha there are 7 harbors with 54 berths of a total frontal length of over 9000 m. The port can take ships up to 330 m long. The overall productive capacity of the port amounts to 21 million tons of dry cargo and some 25 million tons of bulk cargo a year. Types of cargos handled in the port include oil and oil products in bulk, liquefied gas, tropical and vegetable oils, technical oils, containers of all types and sizes, ferrous and nonferrous metals, ore, pig-iron, raw sugar in bulk, grains in bulk, perishables in containers, various cargoes in bags, boxes, packages, big-bags and integrated cargo units and motor transport.

The passenger terminal is capable of serving up to 4 million tourists a year. Over 70 cruise liners visit the port of the Odessa every year.


We know of two fortresses that existed in what today is Odessa. One of them, Yeni Dünya or Hacibey, was built by the Ottomans in 1765 on the edge of a high plateau overlooking the sea in the area of present-day Primorsky Boulevard. From historic documents we know that in plan view the fortress represented a square surrounded by a high wall with embrasures and round towers in the corners. In the middle of the main wall facing the sea there was a rectangular tower with an archway and a conical roof. Earthen ramparts protected the fortress from other sides. The fortress was captured by Russian troops and completely destroyed in 1789 and, unfortunately, no on-ground remains of this fortress have survived into the present.

The other fortress was built by Russians in 1793-1795 in the present-day area of Taras Shevchenko Park.  The fortress functioned only for nearly 20 years, until 1811 when it lost its military status and turned into a facility of the port quarantine. Finally, during construction of the park in 1875 the majority of structures of the fortress were demolished. Remains of only two on-ground structures of the fortress have survived until today: (1) Quarantine Arcade with a Tower built in 1803-1807 and (2) a hill of Andreevsky Bastion, on a top of which the monument dedicated to Emperor Alexander II also known as Pillar of Alexander was built in 1891.

Medieval Sites


There are over a thousand historic buildings and monuments in Odessa. Some  of the most interesting of them include:

• Opera House, 1884-1887 (8 Lanzheronivska Street)

Built in place of an old wooden theater burned out in 1873, the newly erected Opera House designed by renowned Viennese architects  Ferdinand Fellner and Hermann Helmer turned out the most spectacular building in Odessa and one of the most beautiful theaters in Europe.

Exterior and interior of the building features combination of several architectural styles: Italian Renaissance, Viennese and Classical Baroque and Rococo. Last time restored in 2007, the Opera House remains the most frequently visited tourist attraction in Odessa and a site for numerous cultural festivals.

• Greek Church of St. Trinity, 1808 (55 Katerynynska Street)

Built in 1804-1808, it was the first stone church in Odessa. The Byzantine style church is cross-shaped in plan, has a single dome and a bell tower with a broach. In 1821 there were buried remains of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople Gregory V executed by Ottomans (later in 1871 his remains were removed from the church and reburied in Athens). In 1900-1908 the church underwent reconstruction. In 1907 a former mayor and an honorary freeman of Odessa, a philanthropist and a prominent member of local Greek community Grigory Marazli was buried by the church (unfortunately the burial place has not survived into the present)

• Quarantine Arcade with a Tower, 1803-1807 (Suvorov Alley in Taras Shevchenko Park)

The site represents a tower and a partial quarantine wall once belonged to the fortress built here by Russians in 1793-1795. The complex is 77 m in length and is made of locally quarried limestone. A small stairway leads into a round tower with lancet window openings and a basement. The wall is 1 m thick and contains 7 round arches opening a spectacular view of the present-day commercial port.

• Pillar of Alexander, 1891 (Main Alley in Taras Shevchenko Park)

A pillar-shaped monument dedicated to Emperor Alexander II was built in a place where in 1875 he planted the first tree for a public park. The monument seats on top of a mound, has two plaques – one under the medallion depicting Alexander with dedication to the Emperor and another with commemoration of Alexander’s decision to plant the park. The pillar was crowned with double-headed eagles and Crown of Monomakh. During the Soviet times the monument suffered numerous changes due to frequent renaming and dedication to Karl Marx, Bogdan Khmelnitsky and Alexander Suvorov. Eventually, in 2012 restoration of the monument returned it its original appearance.

• Palace of Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, 1826-1828 (2 Vorontsovsky Lane)

The site represents a complex of three buildings (1) a residential palace of Grand Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, the Governor General of Novorossiyskaya Province, (2) a stable and (3) a belvedere commonly also referred to as colonnade. The Empire-style building of the palace was erected on the edge of a hill where once stood the Ottoman fortress of Hacibey. The interior of the palace represents the best example of interiors that survived from the Empire period in Odessa. The colonnade is overlooking the sea opening a great panoramic view of the Bay of Odessa and the present-day port.

• Vorontsov Lighthouse, 1865-1888 (Reidovy Pier in the Port of Odessa)

The original lighthouse represented a 17 m high iron cast tower of an elegant shape and was named after Grand Prince Vorontsov. During the World War II in 1941 the lighthouse was destroyed. The present-day 26 m high lighthouse was built in 1954. It is visible from a distance of 15 nautical miles and serves as the front lighthouse of a range leading from the open sea into the area of the port.

• Monument to Founders of Odessa, 1900 (2007) (Katerynynska Square)

The original monument showing a large statue of Empress Catherine the Great standing on a large pedestal surrounded by smaller sculptures of historic figures who participated in foundation of the city and the port was erected in 1900. However, already in 1920 Soviet authorities demolished the monument and substituted it first with a small bust of Karl Marx and later, in 1965, a monument to the 1905 rebellion on battleship Potiomkin. Only in 2007 the original monument was reconstructed and replaced onto its historic place. Today this historic monument nicely supplements architectural ensemble of Katerynynska Square located in the very core of Odessa.

• Potiomkinska Stairway, 1837-1841 (Primorsky Boulevard)

In the past commonly referred to as either Gigantic or Seaside Stairway, this architectural masterpiece gained its present name after Sergey Eisenstein in 1925 had filmed it in his world-famous silent movie “Battleship Potiomkin”.  This stairway designed as the main entrance to the city from the sea originally had 200 steps (nowadays 192) leading from the boulevard on the plateau to the port. Today the stairway is 142 m long and 27 m high. From the top of the stairway there opens a great panoramic view of the port of Odessa.

• Monument to Duke de Richelieu, 1828 (9 Primorsky Boulevard)

The monument to Armand Emmanuel du Plessis, duc de Richelieu (one of the founders of Odessa and Governor General of Novorossiyskaya Province in 1803-1814) was the first monument erected in Odessa. The monument represents a bronze statue of duke de Richelieu dressed in a Roman toga and holding a scroll in his hand. The granite pedestal features a commemorative bronze plaque and three brass high relieves symbolizing agriculture, trade and justice.

• Old Exchange House, 1828-1834 (1 Dumska Square)

Originally it was a neoclassical building with Corinthian columns on the main façade. During its reconstruction in 1870s behind the columns there appeared a front door while the façade was decorated with niches containing sculptures of Ceres and Mercury. On the top of the main façade there also appeared a clock on both sides of which are female statues symbolizing day and night. Since 1892 the building has been housing municipal authorities, and nowadays Odessa City Council is also located in this building.


In Odessa there is a number of different museums, but as long as cultural and historic content is considered the most important of them are:

• Odessa Archaeological Museum (4 Lanzheronivska Street)

This is one of the oldest museums in Ukraine. It was founded in 1825 and since 1883 has been located in a beautiful historic building in the very heart of Odessa. The museum’s exposition covers a period from prehistoric times to the Middle Ages and includes, among others, artifacts and artworks from ancient Egypt, Greece, Italy, northern coast of the Black Sea (Scythian and Sarmatian). Numismatic collection of the museum contains over 50.000 coins.

• Museum of History of Odessa (4 Gavanna Street)

Founded in 1956, the museum is located in a historic building erected in 1876. Exposition of the museum features old artifacts, documents, pictures and photographs depicting history of Odessa from the times preceding its foundation until the World War II. 

• Odessa Museum of Fine Arts (5a Sofiivska Street)

The museum has been operating since 1899 in a historic palace built in 1828. The exposition features Russian icons and portraits from the 16th-17th cc, paintings of renowned Russian artists of the 19th-20th cc including, among others, Ayvazovsky, Savrasov, Levitan, Shishkin, Kuindzhi, Repin, Surikov, Serov, Vrubel, Rerikh, Kustodiev, Kandinsky and Kostandy.

• Odessa Museum of Western and Oriental Arts (9 Pushkinska Street)

The museum was founded in 1923 and is located in a spectacular eclectic palace-like building with rich interiors erected in 1856-1858. Collection of artworks from the museum includes Classical red-glazed and black-figured pottery, glassworks and marble bas-reliefs, Greek and Roman sculptures, artifacts from ancient Egypt.
West European art is represented by paintings, graphic works and sculptures from the Renaissance period until the 20th c including masterpieces by famous Italian, French, Dutch, Flemish, German, Austrian and Spanish painters as well as a espaliers of French and Flemish manufacturers and collections of furniture and chinaware.  
The collection of Oriental arts spans a time period from the 16th c until the middle of the 20th c and contains over 2.500 artifacts from China, Japan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Tibet.

Textual Sources

Known historic documents contain no evidence for a settlement on the shore of what today is the Bay of Odessa prior to the beginning of the 13th c. On Italian sailing maps of that time the place is marked as a harbor and an anchorage called Ginestra. Polish chronicles dated to 1415 refer to a port town of Kaczubeiow. The map compiled by Venetian monk Fra Mauro in 1459 shows here a navigation mark in a form destroyed settlement of Fiordelixe. Texts for the map of Poland published by Grodetius in Basel in 1558 mention Caczibei as an ancient, destroyed castle which used to be a Polish trading post. In 1578 Martin Bronevsky, the envoy of Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth to Crimean Khanate, also noticed an abandoned and destroyed settlement of Caczibei.


• Atlas D.G. Staraia Odessa. Ee druzia I vragi [Old Odessa. Its Friends and Enemies] (in Russian). Odessa, 1992.
• De Ribas A. Staraia Odessa. Istoricheskie ocherki I vospominania [Old Odessa. Historic Essays and Memoirs] (in Russian). Odessa, 1913.
• Ersoy I.K. Ottoman Cultural Heritage in the Ukraine. In: Islamic Art and Architecture in the European Periphery: Crimea, Caucasus, and the Volga-Ural Region. Deutsche Morgenlandische Gesellschaft, 2008. - pp. 53-59.
• Herlihy. P. Odessa: A History, 1794-1914. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986.
• Istoria Odessy (pod red. V.N. Stanko I dr.) [History of Odessa (edited by V.N. Stanko et al.)] (in Russian). Odessa, 2002.
• Markevich A.I. Gorod Kachibey ili Gadgibey – predshestvennik Odessy [The Town of Kacibey ili Gadgibey – a predecessor of Odessa] (in Russian). In: Zapiski Odesskogo obschestva istorii I drevnostei [Proceedings of the Odessa Society for History and Anrtiquities], vol. XVII. – Odessa, 1894.
• Sapozhnikov I.V., Sapozhnikova G.V. Zaporozhskie i chernomorskie kazaki v Hadgi-bee I Odesse (1770-1880-e gody) [Zaporozhie and Black Sea Cossacks in Hacibey and Odessa (1770s-1880s)]. Odessa, 1998.

Links (Official web-site of the Municipality of Odessa) (Odessa Commercial Sea Port and F.P. de Volan Museum of Odessa Commercial Sea Port) (Department of Cultural Heritage Preservation of Odessa Regional State Administration) (Department of Culture and Tourism of Odessa Regional State Administration)
http:/ (Department of Culture and Tourism of Odessa Municipal Council) (Presentation of Odessa for Tourists) (Odessa Museum of Archaeology) (Odessa Numismatics Museum) (Odessa Museum of Western and Oriental Arts) (Museum of History of Odessa) (Odessa Museum of Literature) (Odessa Museum of Fine Arts) (Museum of the Philiki Etairia) (Odessa National Academic Theater of Opera and Ballet)

Visual Material

01. Map of Hacibey Fortress (1780s)
02. Opera House
03. Greek Church of St. Trinity
04. Quarantine Arcade with a Tower
05. Pillar of Alexander
06. Palace of Prince Vorontsov
07. Palace of Prince Vorontsov. Colonnade
08. Vorontsov Lighthouse
09. Mounumet to Founders of Odessa
10. Potiomkinska Stairway
11. Monument to Duke de Richelieu
12. Old Exchange House
13. Archaelogical Museum
14. Museum of Fine Arts
15. Museum of Western and Oriental Arts
16. Harbor of Odessa Today

Writer / Date
Sofronios Paradeisopoulos, Brach of the Hellenic Foundation for Culture Valeriy Suntsov 10/06/2013
This website has been produced with the assistance of the European Union. The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of European Centre for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine monuments and can in no way reflect the views of the European Union