The city is a seaport and the administrative centre of Odessa oblast (province), southwestern Ukraine. It stands on a shallow indentation of the Black Sea coast at a point approximately 19 miles (31 km) north of the Dniester River estuary and about 275 miles (443 km) south of Kiev. Although a settlement existed on the site in ancient times, the history of the modern city began in the 14th century when the Tatar fortress of Khadzhibey was established there; it later passed to Lithuania-Poland and in 1764 to Turkey. The fortress was stormed by the Russians in 1789 and ceded to Russia in 1791. A new fortress was built in 1792–93, and in 1794 a naval base and commercial quay were added. In 1795 the new port was named Odessa for the ancient Greek colony of Odessos, the site of which was believed to be in the vicinity.
During the 19th century Odessa's growth was rapid, especially after the coming of railways in 1866. Odessa became the third city of Russia and the country's second most important port, after St. Petersburg; grain was its principal export. The city was one of the chief centres of the Russian Revolution of 1905 and was the scene of the mutiny on the warship Potemkin; Sergey Eisenstein's classic film Potemkin was made there in 1925. Odessa suffered heavy damage in World War II during its prolonged and unsuccessful defense against German and Romanian forces.
The city remains a major port, the largest in Ukraine, with well-equipped docks and ship-repair yards. After 1857 a new outport was built at Ilichevsk, 12 miles (20 km) to the south. Odessa is the base of a fishing fleet. The city's rail communications are good to all parts of Ukraine, Moldova, and Romania. Odessa is also a large industrial centre, with a wide range of engineering industries, including the production of machine tools, cranes, and plows. The chemical industry makes fertilizers, paints, dyes, and other materials. Odessa also has an oil refinery, a large jute mill, and a number of consumer goods and food-processing factories. Most factories lie north of the port along the waterfront, with newer plants on the western outskirts.
Odessa is also an important cultural and educational centre. It has a university, founded in 1865, and numerous other institutions of higher education. Its many research establishments are headed by the Filatov Institute of Eye Diseases. There are a number of museums and theatres, including the opera house and ballet theatre, dating from 1809. The seashore south of the harbour is a popular resort area, with numerous sanatoriums and holiday camps.
"Odessa." Encyclopædia Britannica. 2004. Encyclopædia Britannica Premium Service.