Eleven months since the Russian- Ukraine war, the port city of Odesa in Ukraine has been added to UNESCO‘s World Heritage List. This decision recognises the outstanding universal value of the site and the duty of all humanity to protect it, UNESCO said.
“Odesa, a free city, a world city, a legendary port that has left its mark on cinema, literature and the arts, is thus placed under the reinforced protection of the international community,” said UNESCO Director GeneralAudrey Azoulay.
“While the war continues, this inscription embodies our collective determination to ensure that this city, which has always surmounted global upheavals, is preserved from further destruction,” she said.
The decision commits the 194 States Parties of the Convention – which includes Russia – not to undertake any deliberate step that may directly or indirectly damage the World Heritage site and to assist in its protection.
The Historic Centre of Odesa has also been inscribed on the more than 50-strong List of World Heritage in Danger, which gives it access to reinforced technical and financial international assistance.
ODESSA, THE HISTORICAL PORT CITY
Odesa represents an architectural ensemble that provides a unique example of a newly founded city built in the late 18th century on the north-western shore of the Black Sea. It was conceived as a trade gateway, and this was the driving force behind its development as one of the most important trading ports in the world between the late 18th century and the first half of the 19th century. The historical centre of Odesa has numerous well-preserved historical buildings, designed by renowned architects and engineers, and constitutes an integral historical ensemble. Such urban phenomenon also demonstrates a rare type of historical development of a multinational classicist settlement, where different cultural traditions of Bulgarians, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, Italians, Moldovans, Poles, Russians, Romanians, Tatars, and Ukrainians merged into one social and cultural environment.
The historic centre of Odesa shows an important exchange of human values in the Eurasian area representing a fragment of Late Renaissance Western European civilization on the desert coast of the Northwest Black Sea. The establishment of the Free Port area triggered rapid development of the city, which quickly became a well-integrated cultural melting pot due to its vibrant commercial activities and economic and political freedoms. In this frame, Odesa embodied the result of the efforts, well-thought-out and properly planned decisions of the “man-colonizer” of the New Age.
At the end of the XVIII – first half of the XIX centuries Odesa became one of the main transshipment points for the Mediterranean and Black Sea trade; a huge number of jobs and unrivalled cheapness attracted a lot of representatives of various professions and strata of society to Odesa from different ethnic groups.
Urban environment of the port city of Odesa developed under the influence of many cultures: Ukrainians, Poles, Greeks, Jews, Italians, Armenians, Karaites, Bulgarians, French, Moldovans, and other peoples. This determined its urban composition, which was originally formed according to the best examples of European architecture of various styles, such as classicism, empire, historicity, eclecticism, and later modernism.
NEWLY FOUNDED AND CLEAR ENGINEERING
The historic center of Odesa is an outstanding example of a newly founded town built in accordance with the laws of proportions and symmetry in the norms of classicism, that bears witness to the period of industrial revolution in Central and Eastern Europe (late XVIII – early XIX century), and the formation of a market economy integrated into international trade.
The port city of Odesa is the implementation of a clear engineering plan with the effective use of the topography, reflecting climatic conditions and the entrepreneurial orientation of the city. It resulted in the formation of one of the most significant port commercial gates in the world, which represents a largely homogeneous, complete historic ensemble of the 19th century.
In the period from 1794 to 1854, Odesa was one of the few “new cities” in Europe with an extremely fast pace of development due to a combination of reasons of a geographical, ethnic, political, and economic nature.
In view of the threats to the city from Russia armed forces and irregulars, the World Heritage Committee used an emergency procedure provided for by the World Heritage Convention, the UNESCO said.
As early as the summer of 2022, UNESCO linked international experts with Ukrainian experts to prepare the nomination, with the support of Italy and Greece.
Ukraine’s President Zelensky made the submission official in October 2022.
In parallel with the inscription process, UNESCO implemented emergency measures on the ground to help protect the site. The Organization ensured repairs were carried out following damage inflicted by Russian attacks, on the Odesa Museum of Fine Arts and the Odesa Museum of Modern Art.
So far, the historic western Ukrainian city has not come under the kind of sustained bombardment that laid waste to the once-thriving port city of Mariupol, hundreds of kilometres to the east.
UNESCO said that it also provided equipment for the digitization of nearly 1,000 works of art and of the formal collection of the Odesa State Archives. Equipment was also delivered to protect the buildings as well as open-air works of art on display.
These measures are part of UNESCO’s overall action plan for Ukraine, which has already mobilized more than $18 million to preserve education, science, culture and information, as the battle for control of the country rages on.