Walks in Odessa: Deribasivska Street
bus rental is not required for excursions in the center of this city by a large company.
Even those who have never been to Odessa have heard this name – Deribasovskaya. This street appears in many Odessa jokes and songs. Remember the comedy film “The weather is fine on Deribasovskaya, it’s raining again on Brighton Beach”, the last masterpiece of director Leonid Gaidai. Interestingly, the American part of the film was helped by the current US President Donald Trump, and in the credits of the film, the authors of the film express their gratitude to him.
(frame from the film “The weather is fine on Deribasovskaya, it’s raining again on Brighton Beach”, director Leonid Gaidai, 1993)
But back to Odessa. Parallel to the street Grecheskaya, Deribasovskaya rises from the port to Cathedral Square. This is a favorite place of the promenade for citizens and visitors, since the street is partially pedestrian.
Who was the person whose name is given to the street, in which the whole soul of Odessa is?
If someone were to write a book, The 100 Most Fortunate Crooks in History, it would certainly include a chapter dedicated to José de Ribas. But no one, neither the readers, nor the author himself, could say with certainty what is true in the biography of de Ribas and what is a lie. Judge for yourself.
According to the official version, Jose de Ribas came from a family of a Barcelona nobleman, received a good education, at the age of 17 he entered the military service, and at 30 he voluntarily enlisted on the ship of the Russian Count Alexei Orlov in the Italian port of Livorno.
But there is another story. In which the boy Joseph was born into a family of marans – this is how the Jews who converted to Christianity were called in Spain. The Spanish Inquisition no longer terrified Europe, but still burned objectionable people at the stake, and the marans, who secretly professed their faith, were her favorite prey. That is why young Joseph forged documents, changing the year of birth and turning into Jose. He learned five languages while earning a living in the port of Barcelona. From there he went to Livorno. And Count Orlov was impressed not at all by his military bearing, but by how deftly and quickly he got everything that Russian sailors needed, from provisions for sailors to compliant women for the count himself. Alexei Orlov appreciated the enterprise of a new acquaintance and took him with him. And only later, in Russia, when de Ribas received the post of mentor to the young Count Bobrinsky, he was corrected a decent biography. Do not admit that the illegitimate son of the Empress is being raised by a Jewish convert.
Why dwell on the personality of de Ribas in such detail? The fact is that he is almost the father of Odessa. During the war with Turkey, the Russian army captured several fortifications between the mouths of the Dnieper and Danube. Each of them could become a Russian base on the Black Sea. It was de Ribas – not without a mercenary purpose – who personally proved to the Empress that the Khadzhibey Bay would be the most convenient place for the fleet to stay. And convinced. After that, the Khadzhibey fortress was renamed Odessa, and de Ribas received huge funds from the treasury for the development of the city.
Having become the mayor, de Ribas turned around in full. He moved both of his brothers to Odessa, found a decent position for each, built a house in St. Petersburg, supported his legal wife and children, as well as an illegitimate son … But let’s leave the accountants to calculate how much state funds the first mayor of Odessa spent on himself, and how much – on construction. The important thing is that without the dexterous Spanish rogue, there would be no city that we know and love.
Now Deribasovskaya is the tourist center of Odessa. It has everything that is customary to entertain guests: shopping, attractions, restaurants and photo facilities. These marble nymphs show the entrance to the Passage, a shopping center where you can find Odessa souvenirs for every taste. Opposite the Passage, the City Garden adjoins Deribasovskaya Street. Joseph’s brother, Felix de Ribas, donated this piece of land to the city in the early 19th century.
Between the benches and flower beds there are several monuments popular with tourists. Firstly, it is a monument to the twelfth chair from the novel by Ilf and Petrov from Odessa. A little further away is a monument to the heroes of the same novel, Ostap Bender and Kise Vorobyaninov. And Leonid Utyosov sat down on a bronze bench, as if alive. Thanks to his songs, people fell in love with Odessa even in absentia.
By the way, about the songs: do you remember the obscene song “Like on Deribasovskaya, the corner of Richelieuskaya”? About the grandmother and the raiders? So, this address is now the Odessa branch of the National Bank of Ukraine, one of the most guarded buildings in the city. Hello raiders.
And a little further, in a stone cellar, there is the famous Gambrinus beer house, which is remembered according to Kuprin’s story.
In a word, if you are in Odessa, visiting Deribasovskaya is a must. Otherwise, visiting the city will not be counted.