Odessa Recollected: The Port and the People

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The present Ukrainian city of Odessa, formerly an economic asset for the Russian Empire and a resort town for the Soviet Union, always a non-conformist city at once rambunctious and European in style, has become a contested area. Imperial Russian tsars and Soviet leaders maintained an ambivalent attitude towards the maverick city, appreciating the fame and fortune it generated, but also leery of the activities of secret foreign national societies, pogromists, revolutionaries, and simply the perceived lack of patriotism in the singular city so far away from the heart of Russia. With the withering of the lucrative grain trade by the time of the Soviet Union, Odessa became a neglected city, drained of its foreign flavor. With the independence of Ukraine in 1991, there were hopes raised that the architectural beauty and economic prospects of the city would be revived. Given the current hostilities in Eastern Ukraine, with the potential of the Odessa area becoming a possible land bridge to the Crimean Peninsula, the fate of the former Pearl of the Black Sea hangs in suspension.