Edited by Nicolas V. Iljine, Essay by Patricia Herlihy
University of Washington Press, Seattle, Washington, 2004,
143 pages, hardcover.
Odessa, the city founded on the Black Sea by Catherine the Great
in 1794, quickly became a thriving international crossroads. This
virtual "melting pot of Russia" the gateway to Russia
from Constantinople, Athens, Venice, and Genoa, and third largest
metropolis in the country rose to prominence as a European cultural
capital and a vibrant center of Jewish culture. Odessa in its prime
shared with St. Petersburg the distinction of being one of the few
places where international ideas and commerce could flourish.
In this album of pre-1917 Odessa, Nicolas Iljine assembled a wealth
of old postcards, rare photographs and illustrations from private
archives, colorful posters and advertisements, and materials from
the Russian National Library that have never before been published,
to recapture a lost time in the life one of the worlds greatest cities.
Historian Patricia Herlihy's essay paints textured historical tableaux
of Odessa's nightlife and resorts, its theaters and criminal underworld,
its schools and industries, not least of all, the synagogues, philanthropic
societies and organizations for defense against pogroms that were
such large part of Jewish life in old Odessa. Her portrait brings
to life the city as experienced by such luminaries as Isaac Bable,
Sholem, Aleichem, and Vladimir Jabotinski.
Both a visual treat and a serious exploration of Odessa's rich
history, culture, and social fabric, this book stands alone as a
sumptuous homage to a storied city that has inspired affinity and
curiosity all over the world.
Nicolas V. Iljine writes in the Preface: "The first recollection
I have of Odessa is my parents telling me that my godfather, Nikolai
Poltoratzky, had left Paris in the later 1940s in order to go back
to Odessa to assist his ailing elderly mother, certainly a courageous
step in those Stalinist times. This book started as a collection
of prorevolutionary postcards of Odessa. My fascination with life
in what a popular song calls the "pearl of the sea" grew
as I talked with historians, archivists, artists, and musicians
about the city and its role in the developments of Russian and world
Review by Nicolas Iljine
Review by Kenneth B. Moss