The square is one of the most prominent sights in the city. It is called Yekaterininskaya as there was St.Catherine’s Church there initially. It was meant to be finished by 1797. However, the construction stopped after the queen’s death and the church was never finished and removed in 1821.
In 1873 the first fountain in the city was set up in the middle of the square. Later the fountain was moved to Palais-Royal Square where it can be seen today.
In 1894 it was claimed that Odessa was a hundred years old. It was not quite true. It was the port of Odessa that was founded here in 1794, but the Russian Empire tried to persuade everybody that there had been nothing in this area before (err, not even the fortress that de Ribas took by storm from Turkey in 1791, and fortress was not there to defend a city, just the fields around it)... So, they decided to present the foundation of the port as that of the city. And, it was decided to set up a monument to its founders. Empress Catherine the 2nd belongs to them. The legend has it that she gave this name to Odessa. In the monument Catherine the Great holds a scroll with the words written on it that read: Let the port be. Below are the other prominent figures who allegedly took an active part in the birth of a new town: admiral de Ribas, Prince Potyomkin, Count Zubov, engineer de Wollant. Though Prince Potyomkin never visited Odessa as he died in 1791, and neither did Catherine herself... Give me a break, will you? In fact, Odessa was first mention in 1415 when it belonged to the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. Later it was seized by Turkey and for three hundred years belonged to the Ottoman Empire. The original name of the city is Kotsybey or Hajibey, renamed to Odessa only in 1795.
It is notable that the monument to Odessa Founders has been opened twice. For the first time it happened on the 6th of May, 1900.
The sculptors were M.Popov, B.Eduards, L.Menzione. The architect was Yu.Dmitrenko. The cost of the monument was 50,000 roubles.
In 1901 Paris Architecture Conference awarded Yekaterininskaya Square along with the monument as the best architecture complex in Europe. Each of the eight buildings in the square is an architecture monument.
After the revolution the monument was wrapped in clothes.
In 1920 Yekaterininskaya Square as well as Yekaterininskaya Street were named after Marx. The bronze figures were removed and handed over to the local history museum, and the pedestal used for a statue of Marx which did not last long and was removed by... a strong wind! Later, there was a flower bed in the middle of the square.
In 1965 the monument to the mutinous sailors of the Potyomkin was put here.
In 2007 the City Council decreed to restore the lost monument to the city founders. The monument to the mutiny was moved to the entrance to the port. The new monument is a carbon copy of the original one opened in 1900. The new bronze figure of the Russian empress was cast by Kiev sculptor O.Chernoivanov based on old photos, and the four men are original, they were taken from the local history museum where they had stayed for a long time. By the way, the upper part of the empress' figure can still be seen in the courtyard of the museum.
The four men are: commander-in-chief the Southern Army that fought against the Turks Prince Potyomkin-Tavricheskiy (it is symbolic that the monument to the mutiny also bore his name as the mutinous ship was called the Price Potyomkin-Tavricheskiy, and the sailors were referred to as the Potyomkintsy), the commander during the taking of Hajibey by storm vice admiral Jose de Ribas, New Russia Governor Count Platon Zubov, the man who planned and built the port and downtown of Odessa Francois de Wollant. Above them stands the stately mantle clad figure of the Tsarina trampling on the Turkish flag, her left hand pointing at the port and the right one holding the decree on founding of the city. There is a big bronze wreath around the capital on its conical part consisting partly of laurels and partly of oak leaves meaning glory and might respectively. The pedestal is new. Its shape is meant to remind a port berth.
There was minor public unrest when the monument was formally reopened in 2007. The communists wanted to prevent the removal of a monument to revolutionaries, and Ukrainian nationalists also opposed the opening as they considered Catherine the 2nd the enemy of the Ukrainian people. They are right, yet for the Odessites this monument is history rather then politics, as it is a tribute to the city founders (Odessa would not have come into being had it not been for Catherine, and would not have been named Odessa either) as well as part of the cultural heritage. Also, it was not meant to be a new monument to the empress, but merely a restored old one without any political background.
Since then, a police detachment is on duty 24/7 to guard the monument. So far there has been only one minor incident when red paint was thrown at the monument. It happened in 2010.
Today the monument is a decoration of the square and is a popular tourist attraction. There is a web camera on the wall of one of the buildings in the square that makes it possible to watch the monument in good quality.
Yekaterininskaya Square, Odessa, Ukraine.
E30°44'21.5" N46°29'14.3" (E30.739306° N46.487306°).
Odessa | Sights | Dating | Genealogy
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