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Odessa Memories

Edited by Nicolas V. Iljine, Essay by Patricia Herlihy

University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington, 2004, 143 pages, hardcover.


Odessa, the city founded on the Black Sea by Catherine the Great in 1794, quickly became a thriving international crossroads. This virtual "melting pot of Russia" the gateway to Russia from Constantinople, Athens, Venice, and Genoa, and third largest metropolis in the country rose to prominence as a European cultural capital and a vibrant center of Jewish culture. Odessa in its prime shared with St. Petersburg the distinction of being one of the few places where international ideas and commerce could flourish.

In this album of pre-1917 Odessa, Nicolas Iljine assembled a wealth of old postcards, rare photographs and illustrations from private archives, colorful posters and advertisements, and materials from the Russian National Library that have never before been published, to recapture a lost time in the life one of the worlds greatest cities. Historian Patricia Herlihy's essay paints textured historical tableaux of Odessa's nightlife and resorts, its theaters and criminal underworld, its schools and industries, not least of all, the synagogues, philanthropic societies and organizations for defense against pogroms that were such large part of Jewish life in old Odessa. Her portrait brings to life the city as experienced by such luminaries as Isaac Bable, Sholem, Aleichem, and Vladimir Jabotinski.

Both a visual treat and a serious exploration of Odessa's rich history, culture, and social fabric, this book stands alone as a sumptuous homage to a storied city that has inspired affinity and curiosity all over the world.

Nicolas V. Iljine writes in the Preface: "The first recollection I have of Odessa is my parents telling me that my godfather, Nikolai Poltoratzky, had left Paris in the later 1940s in order to go back to Odessa to assist his ailing elderly mother, certainly a courageous step in those Stalinist times. This book started as a collection of prorevolutionary postcards of Odessa. My fascination with life in what a popular song calls the "pearl of the sea" grew as I talked with historians, archivists, artists, and musicians about the city and its role in the developments of Russian and world culture."

Deribasovskaya Street. Postcard, 1900s.
City Theater and Opera House, rear view, Postcard.

Related Articles:

Review by Nicolas Iljine

Review by Kenneth B. Moss


Odessa Memories

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