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German Odessa: the city of all trades

GERMAN ODESSA: the city of all trades
Talking about internationality of our city we mean Jewish, Greek, French, Italian and
definitely German heritage in Odessa! It is difficult to overestimate the contribution of
the German community to life and prosperity of our city!
On arrival for his duty in Odessa, Duke de Richelieu found only a few tradespeople in
the city. That is why it was decided at the level of the Russian Empire to engage
foreign professionals by means of providing them with various benefits. Starting from
1803 the coming German tradespeople took leading positions and established colonies
right in the city: the Upper and the Lower ones!

The first Germans – military engineers – were building the city under the guidance of the
engineer Kaiser. The defense barracks around Odessa were built by George Forster.
German villages-colonies started to emerge outside the city. Some names remained till today,
e.g. Lustdorf (German for ‘a merry village’). Other settlements have the translated names:
Bolshaya and Malaya Dolina (Großliebental und Kleinliebental), Mirnopolye (Friedental),
Petrodolina (Peterstal). It is interesting that there were villages named after native places of
the German settlers. In Odessa and Nikolaev regions one could find Munich and Mannheim,
Strasbourg and Alsace. Nowadays all these settlements have quite different names.
German colonies quickly became unprecedentedly prosperous. It was not only due to well-
known German hard-working nature, diligence and prudence, but to a great extent thanks to
land use organization and social order of the colonies. Since then the Black Sea Germans have
been called as ‘colonists’.

Soon two German churches appeared in Odessa – the Reformed church (today -
Presbyterian church) in Pastera Street and St. Paul’s Cathedral in Novoselskogo Street which is
called ‘kirkha’ by local people. These churches were not only religious, but also cultural and
educational centres of the German community. Despite of their complicated architectural fate
they remind local citizens of a German heritage in the history of Odessa, the ‘Pearl by the Sea’.
Even today the archives of Odessa keep the names of German citizens of honour that opened
the first photostudio and the first pharmacy. The first German trade houses provided the
citizens with expensive qualitative goods: musical instruments, books and music sheets,
watches and sewing machines, paper and stationery, pharmaceutical and medical items,
furniture, typographic machines, gardener's tools, flowers, plants and bicycles.
Among German names there were both ordinary tradespeople, architects, bakers and people
holding key positions and even tycoons. Talking about bakers, it is certainly worth mentioning
Bernhardt Liebmann. He was the owner of the luxurious building at the corner of
Preobrazhenskaya and Sadovaya Streets. Café Liebmann offered its visitors local and foreign
drinks, the freshest bread, pastries and special sweets for people with a sugar disease.
Farm machinery was manufactured at the factory of the colonists Restel and Gen (in the
Soviet period known as ‘October Revolution Factory’). The high-end machinery of that time
allowed the German colonies to take leading positions in grain production in the south of
modern Ukraine and considerably contributed to the wealth of Odessa.
What a German without beer! One of the most famous brewers was a tradesman and a
magnate Wilhelm Sanzenbacher. On the beer bottle label the following words were written:
‘A good remedy for griefs and illnesses’. That beer was sold not only in Odessa, but throughout
the Russian Empire. Unfortunately, Sanzenbacher factory which used to be Brewery No.1 in
the Soviet times is nowadays ruined. The building was burnt under strange circumstances in

This German also earned his fame thanks to Odessa circus. At that time Odessa circus was
the first stationary circus in Europe with the state-of-the-art equipment. The frame of the
building made out of forged beams lined with wood and felt at the top allowed to sustain heat
and improve the acoustics. Besides, steam heating was made which was also important. Yuriy
Olesha wrote: ‘Velour paradise… a paradise of marble, steps, gold, frosted lamps, arches,
corridors, echo, laughter, sparkling eyes, perfume and heels clicking’.

Talking about manufacturers, it is worth mentioning the Falz-Feins. They owned the House
with the Atlants in Gogol Street. This family originates from Friedrich Fein, who moved to the
Russian Empire in the 20s of the 19 th century and was engaged in sheep farming. For generous
donations during the Crimean War, the Germans from Odessa received hereditary honorary
citizenship. Their surname is well-known not only in Odessa, but throughout Ukraine, because
Friedrich Falz-Fein founded the famous nature reserve Askania Nova.