Odessa's candidacy for World Heritage Sites listing was welcomed by Greece


Odessa's nomination for inclusion in the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites was welcomed by the Greek Foreign Ministry.

In its announcement on Friday, the ministry underlined that Odessa is of particular importance to Greece, being a city inextricably linked to the history of both Greece and of the Greek diaspora in Ukraine.

The ministry also noted that Greek Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias had expressed active support for this candidacy during his second visit to Odessa in July 2022.

The announcement also recalled that Dendias had attended the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Consulate General of Greece in Odessa and the State Archives of the Odessa Region for the digitisation of archives of Greek interest with Greek funding.

Finally, Greece's support for this candidacy had also been mentioned by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky at his UNESCO address in October 1.

In 1795 the city was named Odessa in accordance with the Greek Plan of Russian Empress Catherine the Great.

Catherine's Secretary of State Adrian Gribovsky claimed in his memoirs that the name was his suggestion. Some expressed doubts about this claim, while others noted the reputation of Gribovsky as an honest and modest man.

Odessa is located between the ancient Greek cities of Tyras and Olbia and it was named as a feminine form for the ancient Greek city of Odessos (Ancient Greek: Ὀδησσός).

The Filiki Eteria, a Greek freemasonry-style society which was to play an important role in the Greek war of independence, was founded in Odessa in 1814 before relocating to Constantinople in 1818.

Odessa, known for centuries for its cosmopolitan architecture and atmosphere, has been on Unesco’s World Heritage Tentative List since 2009.

The city’s most famous historic sites include the Odessa Opera House, which became a symbol of resilience when it reopened in June, and giant stairway to the harbour immortalised in Sergei Eisenstein’s 1925 silent film Battleship Potemkin.

Catherine the Great’s role in the city’s history has become a point of controversy as Ukraine disengages from Russian imperial connections. A tsarist era monument to Catherine was torn down in communist times.

A copy installed in 2007 was officially sponsored by a local businessman, but Ukrainian media have reported that Rossotrudnichestvo, a Russian government organisation, was the source of funds and a new campaign is calling for its removal.

A petition to replace the Russian empress with a statue of gay porn star Billy Harrington drew thousands of signatures.

The city’s other major landmark is a monument dedicated to the Duke de Richelieu, a Frenchman who became Odessa’s most famous tsarist governor in the 19th century.

Unesco has already stepped up its support for Odessa by providing funding for repair of war damage to the Odessa Art Museum, support for digitisation of art and archival materials in the city, and supplying equipment, including sandbags and gas masks, to the regional government for protection of cultural properties.

READ MORE: Why do so many cities in Ukraine and Crimea have Greek sounding names?