Formed in 1932 in the south-west of the country, the Odesa Region borders on Romania, Moldova and the unrecognized Pre-Dniester Republic. The terrain is mostly steppe or forested plains that constitute the Prychornomorya Lowland, slanting south-westward by about 150 m and carved by rivers and estuaries.
Along the coastline, as the Prychornomorya plain meets the sea. Odeschyna is also known for its lemans, usually oblong lakes with slanting banks, which are common in the coastal steppe and liven the otherwise dull landscapes.
The first settlements in the area appeared in late Paleolithic era (40—13 thousand years ago). From 5th—2nd c.c. BC, the Prychornomorya steppes were populated by the tribal Scythians.
The бth с. ВС saw the arrival of the Greeks, who founded several townships, e.g. Tyras and Nikony, located on the opposite banks of the Dniester Leman. In the 1st—3rd c.c. AD, the northwest Prychornomorya was conquered by the Romans, followed by the Hots (3th c. AD) and Huns (4th c. AD).
In the 7th c., the area between the Danube and Dniester was home to Alan and Bulgar tribes, which were partly driven away and partly assimilated by the Slavs during the Princely times. In the 8th c. the area fell to the Tartar-Mongols, whose raids soon turned the populated northern Prychornomorya into the wilderness.
With the collapse of the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate gained control of the territory between the Dniester and the Pivdenny Buh, whereas the Transdniester lands fell under the Moldovan Principality, which in the 15th c. was later absorbed by the rapidly expanding Turkish Empire. In 1475 the Crimean Khanate became a vassal of the Ottoman Empire, with its territories used as a bridgehead for devastating inland raids into Cossack and Russian towns.
The three Russo-Turkish wars of 1768—74, 1787—91 and 1806—12 brought victory to Russia, ousting the Turks out of Eastern Europe altogether. On the newly-liberated lands, the Russian government initiated an intensive port maritime build-up, making Odesa (after the Greeks’ colony Odessos) its main Black Sea gateway. The territories of what was known as the Wild Barren Land under Tatar-Mongols and the Crimean Khanate were proclaimed free for relocation. Lucrative from the North contracts were promised to immigrants from Western Europe. In 1916 the south-western part of the region between the Dniester, Danube and Prut passed to Romania, under which it remained until 1940.
The multi-ethnical Odesa region displays Orthodox, Moslem, Catholic and Jewish confessions, dating from the 13th—20th ex., along with the remains of fortifications of the 13th—15th c.c., palaces, public buildings, mansions, administrative houses of the last two centuries.
Odesa, the capital of the region, is conveniently located in a Black Sea harbour, which makes it both a major sea-port and a health-resort. The area was popular since antiquity, with early Greek settlements appearing in the Prychornomorya in the 6th с. ВС. In the 15th c. in the locality there existed a small port of Kachybay, where, upon the seizure by the Turks the Yeni-Dunia Fortress was founded. In 1789, during the Russo-Turkish war, both the Port and the Fortress fell to the Russians. Soon after the conclusion of the 1791 Jassy Peace Treaty, by the order of the Empress Catherine I, a new city was commenced here in 1794. In a year’s time the city received the name of Odesa after the antique Greek settlement. The vice-admiral De Ribas of French origin, whose name was commemorated in the city’s main street Deribasivska, supervised the city construction. Under and due to the new mayor, French refugee Armand-Emmanual du Plessis, Odesa became the fastest growing city in Europe, the unprecedented rate of construction soon making it the key Black Sea port of the Russian Empire.
One of the first grand edifices of the city was the family palace of the rich Polish Ilk Pototsky, 1810, now the Museum of Fine Arts.
In 1817—59 Odesa enjoyed a free port status, during which time Odesa’s architectural visiting-card of the sort, Prymorskyy Boulevard, was completed (1820—40). Stretching along the coast, the boulevard is formed by a row of edifices facing the sea, including the hotel ‘Londonsky’ (1828) and Princess Naryshkina Palace (1830), which now houses the Maritime Club. The other side of the boulevard features the 1829 Governor Vorontsov Palace, and Odesa’s first stock exchange city hall (1834), with the 1886 Pushkin monument in front of it. Half-way along Prymorskyy Boulevard there is a semi-circus formed by the Black Sea Shipping Company premises and the Hotel ‘Peterburzky’ (1833), where the 1833 statue of the Duc de Richelieu stands. The inscription says that it is to the one who led Novorossia in 1805—14 and laid the foundation for Odessa’s well-being.
Towards the sea descend the 192 steps of the 1841 magnificent Potyomkin stairway, immortalized in the S. Eisenstein film Battleship Potyomkin. At the foot of the stairway there are the 1967 Morsky Vokzal buildings renovated to the city’s 200th anniversary, and the Odesa hotel was inserted into the Morsky Vokzal site.
Behind Prymorskyy Boulevard, begin the city blocks with the two remarkable buildings of the ex-English club, which now houses the Museum of Maritime History, and the 1883 Archeological Museum. Farther away, there stand a celebrated 1887 Opera and Ballet Theatre built in Viennese Baroque Style, the 1906 monument-like City Library and 1899 Pasazh and other architectural sites. Odesa’s main streets Pushkinska and Deribasivska and their districts have been glorified by the Odesites all over the world. Odesa is renowned by a unique spirit, inimitable accent, and paradoxical thinking, all of which take presence and involvement to be appreciated to the full.
Bilhorod-Dniestrovsky is Ukraine’s oldest city on the western side of the Dniester (Dnistro) estuary. The city, which has borne its present day name since 1944, dates back to antiquity, as the Greeks founded the Tyras colony here in 4th с. ВС. The ruins of the colony that stood here from the 4th с. ВС to the 4th c. AD have been subject of archeological research for more than a century. The excavations held here revealed fragments of old streets and drains, numerous implements, remains of statues, decorations and coins.
Throughout centuries Tyras experienced rises and falls, prosperity and ruine, but life never stopped. Due to this, the city was entered to the UNESCO list of the world’s ten oldest surviving cities.
An important part in the city’s history was played by the ІЗth—15th c.c. Akerman Fortress on the rocky steeps of the Dniester. Apart from the deep moats, the fortress owes much of its impregnability to the Genoese castle, overlooking the river bank. The tall 5-m thick walls with narrow loopholes and bastions covered with a pavilion-like Byzantine-type hipped dome will impress a beholder even after the ages passed. Adjacent to the citadel was a fortified garrison and court with barracks, stalls and store-houses separated from the rest by a tall interval wall. The ‘civil’ court was meant to give shelter to the local craftsmen and tradesmen in time of a siege. Formerly part of a Tartar Mosque, the minaret is also believed to be the oldest of the surviving Moslem religious edifices in Ukraine. Approximately of the same age are the 13th—14th c.c. Armenian St. Mary’s Assumption Church, the 14th—16th c.c. Moldovan St. loann Suchavsky Cave Church, and the Greek St. loanne the Predecessor Church.
During the Russo-Turkish wars, the Russians took over the Akerman Fortress but it wasn’t until the 1812 Bucaresti Peace Treaty, that the fortress lost its military significance. Eventually, in 1896 it was declared a history and architecture heritage reserve. The 19th c. added a lot to the architectural looks of the city. Most impressive sites of the time are the Akerman St. Insurrection Catheral and the Bulgarian St. George and St. Nicholas Churches.
From the pre-Soviet time, in the city quarters there have remained old family mansions, the Zemstvo Assembly Hall, the male gymnasium and military barracks.