— Odessa (Одесса) ~ pre-1917

As I said in my other page about Odessa, the places that the Pio-Ulskis and the Borodinoffs seem to have visited/lived in seem to have criss-crossed at times.

George’s mother, Maria, had a couple of portraits taken in Odessa when she was 28/29 years old, wearing the same hat but a different outfit  – LOL!!  😀

Maria - 1908

Maria – 1908


Another photo of Maria taken in 1909

She was born in Sevastopol so the Black Sea was obviously her “stomping ground”, so to speak, but why was she in Odessa in 1908.  Her eldest, Lyova, would have been 3 and I assume Valia was already born or maybe about to be born.

George was born in Odessa in October 1910 but in January 1911, the family was celebrating his christening in the Church of Alexander Nevsky Siberian Naval Depot which was located in the Ekipazh Naja Slobodka, in the barracks of the Siberian Naval Depot in Vladivostok.

I can only presume that Wladyslaw was stationed with the Black Sea Fleet during this time and was reassigned to Vladivostok around the time of George’s birth.

The Black Sea Fleet was stationed in Sevastopol but to get to Odessa by land, one would have to go along the coast and pass through Nikolayev.  Another criss-cross with the Borodinoffs!

An ancient Greek colony called «Odessos» (Ὀδησσός in ancient Greek) was originally on the site of Odessa and from that time the area went through rulers from many different tribes and countries.

Russian and Cossack troops take the fortress of Khadjibey

Russian and Cossack troops take the fortress of Khadjibey (Click to enlarge)

During the 16th century, the city on Odessa’s site was an old Tartar settlement called «Khadjibey». The area was part of the Ottoman Empire and nearby was a Turkish fortress called «Yeni Dünya»; this fort was taken by Russian forces in 1789 during the Russian-Turkish War.

Due to the Russian victory, the Turks ceded Khadjibey to the Russians in 1791 and three years later the city of Odessa was founded by decree by Catherine the Great. This meant that the Russian Empire controlled the Black Sea coast from the Kerch strait right up to the mouth of the Danube and this part of the country was given the name of Novorossiya (Russian: Новоро́ссия), which means «New Russia».

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Potemkin Mutiny

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In 1905 Odessa became famous for a workers’ uprising in mid-May which resulted in strikes and various disturbances in the city.

Demonstrators had clashed with the Cossacks and police, most of the stores had closed and trams and trains had stopped running. Lenin’s magazine «Iskra» (which means “spark” or “flash” in Russian) was involved during this time and probably urged the crowds to create civil unrest in the city.

On June 14 (June 27 on the Gregorian calendar), the cooks on the battleship «Potemkin» complained that there were maggots in the meat which was for the crew’s borscht. The ship doctor took a look and said that the infestation was from flies’ eggs, not maggots, therefore it was perfectly fine to serve to the sailors 😮

The cooks brought their indignation to certain crew members and those sailors formed a deputation to go and complain about this to the Captain and his XO, Cdr Giliarovsky. The spokesman for the group was a sailor called Valenchuk, who addressed his senior officers with such rudeness and insolence that Cdr Giliarovsky saw red (pun intended) and in a fit of anger, pulled out his pistol and shot the seaman dead.

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The others in the deputation grabbed Giliarovsky and dragged him outside, threw him into the sea and shot him while he was floundering around in the water.

There were 800 seamen on board the Potemkin and so the officers were pretty outnumbered, even if some sailors didn’t partake in this. They grabbed the captain, doctor and some other probably unpopular officers and killed them, while the other officers were locked up in a cabin.

The sailors hoisted a red flag and formed a «people’s committee», which was tasked to take the ship back to Odessa. It arrived at 6am on June 15, and an honour guard brought Valenchuk’s body ashore and placed it in a bier by the famous steps.

As the day progressed, more and more people came down to the harbour bringing food for the sailors and flowers to put on Valenchuk’s coffin. They listened to inflammatory speeches, sang revolutionary songs and enjoyed downing bottles of vodka. Then the drunken mob started looting the warehouses and set fire to the buildings at the harbour.

The Governor had been ordered by the tsar to be firm with rioters so he ordered the troops to the harbour in the evening. They took up their positions and around midnight started firing into the unruly crowd. The rioters had nowhere to flee to so were either shot or fell into the harbour and drowned.

The sailors who caused this just sat on their battleship and didn’t do anything to assist those who fell into the harbour and the casualties amounted to 2000 dead and 3000 seriously wounded.

Fortunately this incident was quelled quickly and Valenchuk was buried without any further incident. The sailors asked the authorities for amnesty but it was refused, so on June 18 the Potemkin left Odessa and sailed to Constanza (Constanța), a Romanian port further down the coast of the Black Sea.

They asked for water and coal, which was refused by the port authorities, so the ship sailed back to the Crimean port of Feodosia and some sailors went ashore hoping to steal supplies but they were driven off.

The Potemkin headed back to Constanza and once there, on June 25, the crew surrendered to the Romanian authorities, who handed the ship back to the Russians.

The sailors had hoped their actions would galvanise crews from other ships to mutiny against their officers but the whole incident fizzled out without igniting more mutinies.
[Source: The Mutiny on the Potemkin by Richard Cavendish, History Today]



If Wladyslaw and Manya were living in Sevastopol at the time, it was probably a frightening time for officers and their families so it wouldn’t surprise me if Wladyslaw sent his wife to Mogilev to spend time with his family and also to give birth in a less stressful atmosphere.

I don’t know how long she spent in Mogilev but perhaps she returned to Sevastopol once Lyova was old enough to travel safely.



The famous steps of Odessa

Prince Mikhail Vorontsov

Prince Mikhail Vorontsov (Click to enlarge)

Prince Mikhail Vorontsov paid 800,000 rubles to gift a “staircase” to allow people on the high steppe plateau where Odessa was situated to get down to the harbour below.

Work commenced in 1837 and finished four years later, and the result was 220 stairs and 10 landings from the top to the bottom. At the top of the stairs is a statue of the Duc de Richelieu, Odessa’s first Governor.

Richelieu Stairs

Richelieu Stairs (Click to enlarge)

From the bottom, the steps seemed to stretch almost to the sky, a ladder that gleamed gray-white in the sun. That effect was calculated, for the steps are considerably wider at the bottom than at the top, giving the sense that the statue of Richelieu is in fact far larger than it is in reality, an imagined colossus at the head of his own artificial mountain. From the top, the observer looks down the staircase and sees only the wide landings; from the bottom, the landings disappear entirely, leaving only a formidable flight of steps. Even today—with ten of the original steps now gone to provide for an enlarged port and the entire staircase encased in local granite rather than the original, fragile sandstone—Vorontsov’s creation pulls Odessa toward the sea while convincing newcomers of the grandeur of the city on a hill.

The staircase was generally reviled at the time as an “escalier monstre” and a poorly constructed folly likely to collapse in a few years.27 Yet crowned by the statue of Richelieu on Nikolaevsky Boulevard, the steps almost immediately became the preeminent symbol of the city.
[Source: Odessa, Genius and Death in a City of Dreams by Charles King]




On a happier note … the year George was born, the «Factory, Art and Industry and Agriculture Russia Exhibition» was hosted in Odessa.

Factory, Art and Industry and Agriculture Russia Exhibition 1910

This exhibition, which was built at Alexander Park, raised the prestige and status of Odessa both within the Empire and within the rest of Europe.  It took up a huge area, as you can see – it looks like a little city …

An aerial view of the Exhibition

An aerial view of the Exhibition

The mayor opened the exhibition on May 25 (not sure if that’s the Julian or Gregorian calendar date) and it cost 2 rubles and 10 kopecks to get in on the opening day; however it cost twice as much to attend the actual opening ceremony.

One of the guests attending the grand opening was Muhammed Ali, the former Shah of Iran who was living in exile in Odessa.

The exhibition was opened to the public until October 1, 1911 and established Odessa as one of the leading cities in the Russian Empire.

The Opening Ceremony

The Opening Ceremony (Click to enlarge)




During WWI the port of Odessa was closed when the Turks closed the Dardanelles then following the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, the city was occupied by the Central Powers, the French, the Reds and the Whites until the Red Army managed to wrestled it away from General Denikin (who was leading the White Russians) in 1920.

Incredibly … by 1920 both the Pio-Ulskis and the Nozadzes were living in Vladivostok!  😮






Photos of Odessa before the Revolution

*NB – when you click on the album, the screen will show the top of this page. Please just scroll down to see the pictures.
Old photos of Odessa …




Photos of the 1910 Exhibition in Odessa …



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