Gangster Odessa: legends of crime world

Odessa is attracting many people by remarkability and special atmosphere that can be experienced through entertaining tourist programs. Different kinds of activities that shows you historical, cultural and religious spots will give you tons of positive emotions. To fully experience the spirit of this city you must plunge into history of crime Odessa, hear entertaining stories about famous kingpins, walk through Moldavanka. It’s a district with typical cozy courtyards is filled with endless secrets and legends of crime Odessa.

Криминальная Одесса
 © Alexandr Gimanov

Lots of tour agencies in Odessa would offer you to learn about most outstanding personalities an tell you their life stories. Some of them can not only tell you tell you the stories about fraudsters, jiggers and pickpockets but also project into a characters of heroes that were prototypes of Babel and Olesha stories. Welcome to the fascinating world of adventure that will reveal many interesting facts and stories of gangster Odessa!

Moldavanka: Odessa’s crime hotbed

Odessa’s most famous district was first mentioned in1793. Initially, it was a suburb, a trade settlement that was attracting lots of runaways of different nationalities who were hoping to start a new life. As a developing port city Odessa became a shelter for wanderers and jailbirds giving a life for black casinos, stashes and brothels. As far back as the beginning of the 19th century Moldavanka became a gangland where legendary personalities were born whose life stories circulate till today. Nowadays, townspeople and city visitors can see the spots of their past glory and if they are lucky even get to know old residents and hear  tall tales.

Moldavanka became a birthplace of criminal kingpins. The most criminal district has trained the craftiest thieves, entire families were engaged in crime industry and the skills were inherited. The best guides can tell about most touching moments of their lives, about stashes and thief schools.

In the footsteps of  famous rampers

Misha Japonchik, Sonka Golden Hand, Kotovsky, Mishka Yastreb, Yasha Blumkin, Karabas – all those people lived their risky life and tied up their names with Odessa history and its criminal past. You will walk through the streets Zaporizhzhya and Spiridonovskaya and lanes near Privoz where Sonka was once famous. You will visit spots on Moldovanka where she had young thieves school headed by the raider Moisha Ox. An independent adventuress took up the implementation of the most risky cases perceiving beforehand all the possible results. For example she made up a trick called "Guten Morgen"  that was successfully used during hotel robberies. At early mornings if she got caught stealing belongings in a hotel room she started getting undressed, played astonishment  and apologized for getting into the wrong room. She managed to steal diamonds in sellers presence. You will find out the details of skilfully performed robbery of Jeweler Carl Mel.

The rulers of crime district were Vinnytsky's gang members headed by brilliant Misha Japonchik, who was born in a house located at two famous streets intersection of Rishelievskaya and Deribasovskaya.  He owned the restaurant "Monte Carlo" and the cinematograph "Corso".  There was always a table reserved for him in a restaurant Fanconi that was a favorite place for well knows writers.

But that was happening after he became a head of Odessa crime world. Having lost his father at an early age little Moishe-Yakov had to learn the burden of labour and growing up among the criminal elements predetermined his future where there was joining the gangs, raids, robberies and imprisonment. Recognition of such an extraordinary personality as a king was a solved matter.  To conquer the city completely Mishka Yaponchik made up his "rider code" according to which all the doctors, lawyers and artists had were privileged to work without fear and those who violated their privileges were punished.

Grigory Kotovsky is worth mentioning too as the whole district in Odessa is named after him. The rumour has it he was a cellmate of Mishka Japonchik and he joined the Bolsheviks during the revolution of 1917 where he became a commander soon after. There was a monument erected to him but it was disassembled during Perestroika.

Tours and programs

Once you are in Odessa you must visit:

  • Museum of contraband at 6, Ekaterininskaya Street.  Exhibits and photographs along with stories would give you a full picture of contrabandist life and their activities. The museum is constantly refilled with new items of seized contraband goods.
  • The People's Museum of Militsiya located at 14, Yevreyska Street.  The museum collection is one of the largest in Ukraine counting about 8000 of exhibits. In addition to the photos, there are weapons, uniforms, evidence and documents. Misha Japonchik is honored with a separate stand.
  • Odessa Prison Castle located on Lustdorfskaya Road 9, was built in 1826. It was hosting such famous people as P. Matyushenko, Pavka-Georgian, L. Trotsky, G. Kotovsky and Mishka Yaponchik. From the bird's eye panorama this building resembles the cross and numerous legends add even greater mystery to this place.
  • A Bribe monument or an Orange on Zhvanetsky Boulevard. According to legend Odessa Port construction was stopped by emperor Paul Ι but local merchants bribed him with 3000 oranges which was an exotic fruit that time. The construction was renewed and Odessites say that the city was rescued thanks to the bribe.
  • A secret courtyard at 8, Spiridonovskaya street where the shooting of films "Liquidation" and "Adjuster" took place. This place is known for a very steep metal staircase and doors resembling a huge wardrobe!

You will learn how Kuprin explored the contrabandist paths in Prince Gagarin Palace. And let’s not forget about Malaya Arnautskaya where all the contraband was produced. Ostap Bender Square named after the character of the book "12 chairs" is only 5 square meters big and is located on Deribasovkaya Street. Myasoedovskaya street also hides many secrets  since many of its cellars and abandoned buildings were used by gangsters for hiding. But the most clever ones used more interesting places such as Jewish hospital morgue.

Many tours include visiting that were a hiding place for robbers and their plunder. The shocking cases of people disappearance still take place. The latest sensational rescue operation took place in 2012 to find a finding a young man who descended under a dungeon and disappeared.

You can order exciting tours in following agencies:

  • Bureau “YOUR GUIDE” offers car tours and walks in 7 languages!
  • “Koleso-tour” offers group and individual car tours.
  • Excursionnuy Dom offers walking through streets and yards where film shooting of "Liquidation" and movie about Mishka Yaponchik took place.
  • Shodka and Tudoy-Sudoy  offer to plunge into the crime world through interesting quests.
  • Navigator offers inexpensive tours to the crime world.

As you can see tourist Odessa is full of sights and legends that you will learn during the excursion. Do not limit yourself and your family! Broaden the mind in travels!

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