Greece’s Foreign Affairs Ministry welcomed the World Heritage Committee’s decision to inscribe the Historic Centre of the city of Odessa, in Ukraine, on the World Heritage List, it said in a statement on Thursday.
This decision “is a successful outcome of coordinated efforts, in which the Greek side took the lead, as a member of the Committee -in coordination with Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy and Japan- in order to immediately respond to Ukraine’s request for the city’s protection, especially under the current war conditions prevailing in the region,” noted the Greek ministry.
Furthermore, “following relevant instructions from the Minister of Foreign Affairs Nikos Dendias, [the ministry] engaged in a diplomatic campaign in order to bend any reservations, considering the protection of this emblematic city of utmost importance for Hellenism, as well as for Ukraine,” it added.
The Historic Centre of Odessa has also been inscribed on the List of World Heritage in Danger, which could provide Ukraine with extra technical and financial international assistance for its protection, but also for its repair – in the event of damages incurred by the war.
Odessa’s links with Greece and the War of Independence
In a recent visit to Odessa, Dendias vowed to coordinate efforts to make the historic centre of Odessa a cultural monument protected by UNESCO, a World Heritage monument, creating in this way a cultural shield that will protect this historic centre from the repercussions of the war.
“A centre that is linked to Greece, chiefly because this is where the Greek Revolution began,” Dendias said.
The Filiki Eteria Museum in Odessa is a beacon of Hellenism, housed as it is in the very place where the Greek War of Independence was conceived and planned.
The former Kresnij Pereulok Street home of Greek businessman and national benefactor Grigorios Maraslis (1831-1907), the mayor of Odessa between 1878 and 1895, was where the secret society — much like the Sons of Liberty in the American colonies– hatched the plans that would come to fruition in the Revolution.
It was in this home that the founders of Filiki Eteria (Φιλική Εταιρία), or the Society of Friends —Emmanuil Xanthos, Athanasios Tsakalov and Nikolaos Skoufas — vowed to revolt against the Ottomans who had ruled Greece for almost 400 years.
Greece is also linked to Odessa via the Opera House, which had been built when the city’s mayor was Maraslis.
During the southern Ukraine offensive of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the city of Odesa and the surrounding region have been the target of shelling and air strikes by Russian forces on multiple occasions since the conflict began, fired predominantly from Russian warships situated offshore in the Black Sea.
The city has also been targeted by Russian cruise missiles.