Odessa: A History of Diversity, Creativity and Turmoil


Photo Courtesy: Intelligent Life

The author A.D. Miller writes in this recent article from Intelligent Life about his experience visiting the Ukrainian city of Odessa and the Odessa State Literary Museum.  Opened in 1984, the museum survived the post-Soviet transition.  Visitors can view exhibitions dedicated to writers and poets as diverse as Nikolai Gogol, the 19th century Polish poet Adam Mickiewicz, and the Soviet era short-story writer Isaak Babel.

The city, historically a popular attraction for writers and musicians, owed much of its cultural legacy to its immensely diverse population, and also, as a result, its diversity of languages:

“Founded by Catherine the Great in 1794 as a free port, it soon became probably the most cosmopolitan city in the world, drawing in Greeks, Poles, Germans, Italians, Tatars, Turks, Armenians, runaway serfs and Jews fleeing the anti-Semitic restrictions in force across the rest of the Russian empire.  Even today, with its Mediterranean architecture and post-Soviet ricketiness, Odessa seems to belong to many other places, and at the same time only to itself.  Poetry and polemic in a variety of languages, forgotten heroes of foreign struggles and minority masterpieces are remembered in the museum’s portraits and manuscripts.”


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