The year 1800 began unhappily in Odessa.
A few years ago, local residents were full of rainbow plans. The shrewd businessman Joseph de Ribas obtained imperial permission to build a port in Khadzhibey Bay. Considerable funds were allocated for the project – 2 million rubles for five years. In 1794, a solemn prayer was held and the first piles of the future port were driven.
But the construction, which began so enthusiastically, was stopped in two years. In 1796, the patroness of Odesa and de Rybasa, Empress Catherine II, died. Her son Pavlo, after ascending to the throne, did not think to continue his mother’s efforts. He had other ideals in politics, he imagined the development of the state differently – and, besides, he just wanted to let off steam. After all, he was waiting for the throne for more than 20 years, from the moment he came of age. And the domineering Catherine, instead of ceding the throne to her son, ruled until her death.
It is not surprising that the largest projects launched under Kateryna were the first to feel the new trends in politics. Those created under the patronage of Platon Zubov, the last leader of the empress, whom Tsarevitch Pavlo openly hated, were especially successful. They included Odesa Port.
Portrait of Paul I by Stepan Shchukin, Wikipedia
Barely had time to celebrate the coronation, the mayor of Odessa, Joseph de Ribas, was dismissed from his post by imperial decree. The Dutch engineer de Vollan, the chief city architect, also resigned. An audit commission was created to investigate possible embezzlement of budget funds during the construction of the port – and the embezzlement was discovered, and considerable.
In three years, the city, which was destined to prosper, slipped to the edge of survival. Trade did not develop due to the lack of infrastructure, and there was no money for construction. Immigrants were in no hurry to move to the open steppe near the sea, the city lacked people. Only a miracle could save Odessa.
And a miracle happened, and in the true Odessa spirit. The city magistrate, having gathered at the beginning of 1800 for a council, decided to send a request to Emperor Paul for the restoration of funding. In order for the message to reach its addressee more accurately, 3,000 Greek oranges were added to it. According to rumors, the idea to send an aromatic cargo to St. Petersburg belonged to the head of Odesa customs Mykhailo Kiryakov, who often visited the court and was familiar with the tastes of the new emperor. As soon as a ship with cargo from Greece arrived at the Odesa port, three thousand selected fruits left for St. Petersburg.
Apparently, the oranges that arrived in the Northern capital at the beginning of February really pleased Emperor Paul. He sent a rescript to the Odessa governor Destuni, in which he thanked the people of Odessa for the offering. And at the same time, he lifted the ban on the supply of building materials to Odessa, paid for from the treasury, and approved a huge loan for a period of 14 years. Odesa was saved.
In 2004, the story with the oranges was remembered, and they decided to erect a monument to this anecdotal story by the day of the city. The authors of the monument, Oleksandr Tokarev and Volodymyr Glazyrin, created a huge bronze orange, in one part of which Emperor Pavlo admires the overseas fruit. On top of the orange are miniature copies of Odessa attractions. Tour guides present it as a “monument of bribery”. But the orange’s adventures don’t end there.
The history of the installation of the monument is no less interesting than the story of the oranges themselves. Initially, the bronze monument was installed in the very heart of Odessa, at the corner of Lanzheronivska and Pushkinska streets. But less than a year has passed since he moved to Zhvanetskyi Boulevard – also a popular, albeit less crowded, place. The official version is that there are so many sights in the Lanzheronivska district, and one more was superfluous.
And the unofficial version says that the then Odessa mayor Eduard Hurwitz ordered the orange monument to be moved. The fact is that the names of Ruslan Bodelan and Serhii Hrynevetskyi, the mayor and head of the regional council, who oversaw the creation and installation of the monument, are engraved on the monument. In 2005, after the victory of the Orange Revolution in Kyiv, the curator of the orange monument, Ruslan Bodelan, was removed from the post of mayor by a court decision. What an Odesa irony.
Eduard Hurwitz, a long-time political rival of Bodelan, took the mayor’s seat after the removal of a competitor. And so that the name of his predecessor would not callous his eyes on the way to work, he ordered to remove the monument to another place.
So if you want to see the world’s only monument to bribery, look for it on Zhvanetsky Boulevard in Odessa.