The Secrets of Muslim Odessa

Hadzhibey, XVII сentury
Emir of Bukhara
Plan of Hadzhibey
Rate this article: 
(1125 votes)
О. Степанченко
О. Степанченко's picture

Written during the domination of the Russian Empire, the official history of Odessa claims that The Empress Catherine II issued a rescript of the founding of the town in 1794. So, the first piles were pitched on September 2. This day is considered the birthday of the sea capital of Ukraine.

The imperial historians tried hard to stroke out at least four centuries of the city’s history, including three hundred year period, when Odessa (Hadzhibey, Kocibey) was a part of the Golden Horde, the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire.

The first mention about the territory of the future city is the Battle of Blue Waters (1362). During this historic battle, Grand Duke Algirdas of Lithuania defeated the the forces of the Golden Horde emirs, Kutlubug, Hadzhibey and Demir (Demetrius). Polish historian Maciej Stryjkovsky described the final battle in his work in the following way: "The Tatars couldn’t resist the long frontal assault of Lithuanian forces, they were scared and, as a result, they broke into a disorganized retreat. At the battle place three petty kings were killed: Kutlubah, Kachibey (The Kachibey’s salt lake is named after him, it is situated in the Wild Fields, on the way to Ochakov) and Sultan Dimeyter, as well as a lot of mirzas and uhlans. "

You may easy recognize in "Kochubey’s salt lake" a current Khadzhibey Estuary. It is reasonable to suppose that not only the estuary, but also the town were named after Tatar Emir. This town was an administrative center of a small ulus, which was ruled by Emir Khadzhibey at that time. It should be noted that during the archeological excavations in Odessa a lot of ceramics dated back to the Golden Horde period were found.

After the Battle of Blue Waters, the territory between the Dniester and the Dnieper became dependent on the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the 20s of the XV century Duke Vytautas built a stone castle in Khadzhibey (present-day Odessa). In 1482, taken an advantage from the weakening of the power of Lithuanian princes, the Crimean Khan Mengli Giray made a campaign against Kyiv, during which, the Black Sea lands of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, including Kochubey Castle, were captured.

For a long time, the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire did not show interest in the restoration of the municipal buildings, but they invested more in the building of the seaport town Ochakov (Ozyu) situated not far from Hadzhibey. But in the middle of the XVIII century, the Sublime Porte built a small Khadzhibey’s fort, waiting for the unavoidable military conflict with Russia. The storage facilities were constructed next to it, as well as the port infrastructure was developing step by step.

In 1766, the Russian intelligence agent, Ivan Islenyev, visited Khadzhibey in the guise of the merchant, and made a plan of the fortress of «Turkish town Gadzhibey newly built right on the sea». There was also a mosque among the other buildings in the plan of Islenev. It was situated in the present-day place of the Literary Museum. Probably, it was a small building, considering that the Muslim population of the town was small.

In 1789, Russian troops stormed Khadzhibey’s fortress. Most of the buildings were immediately destroyed. All survived residents had been evicted from the town. The mosque was also destroyed, but no one knows exactly, when and under what circumstances.

The Muslim community appeared again in the town, became known as Odessa, 60 years after taking Khadzhibey. In the State archives of Odessa Region the first acts of registration of Muslims were dated back to1849. The construction of the "Tatar mosque" (in some documents it is called Turkish) was dated from 1870.  The author of mosque’s project is considered to be an outstanding Azerbaijani architect Karbalayi Safikhan Karabakhi, one of the representatives of Karabakh architecture schools.

Up to the present, not only building of the mosque, but even its image has been lost. Moreover, the exact place, where the mosque was located, is also unknown. According to old-timers, the building stood at the end of Staroportofrankovskaya Street. In the illustrated guide "Odessa 1900" it is written that the tram "line skirts the cemetery, passes by the Turkish mosque and the Turkish cemetery." According to the map of Odessa published in 1919, the mosque was somewhere between Vodoprovodnaya and Staroportofrankovskaya Streets, just after the first municipal cemetery, which included the "Mohammedan" sector. It was destroyed by the Soviet authorities in the 30s. Until the present, the Muslim cemetery gates are all that remains of that place.

Ibrahim Adikaev was a Mullah in the Odessa mosque in the 90s of the XIX century, and his follower was Sabirzyan Safarov until the Revolution of 1917. In those days, there was a Mekteb with male and female divisions.

In 1893, Odessa Muslims solemnly greeted the Emir of Bukhara, Sayyid Abd al-Ahad Bahadur Khan, a bright political figure and famous philanthropist. It should be noted that the cathedral mosque of St. Petersburg was built thanks to the efforts of the Emir of Bukhara  as well as the hospital in Yalta was built by him.

The most muslims of Odessa came from Volga and were Tatars and Bashkirs by origin, as well as Crimean Tatars were among them. In 1892, about 1 thousand of Odessa townspeople were Muslims. Thanks to the Kalmykov family, 16 shops of "halal" meat were opened at the different districts of the town.

For several decades, the mysterious story of the ruins of the mosque was widespread in Odessa press. That mosque was supposedly located at the old part of the town, on the land belonged to the Gagarin dukes in the ХІХ century. The roots of this story go back to the days when Odessa was the center of organization of the Hajj to Mecca.

In the late XIX and early XX centuries, the pilgrims gathered in the town from all over the Russian Empire. Hajj Organization was occupied with "Society for muslim piligrims transporting". In 1908, Haji Khan was opened for pilgrims in the district Peresyp, it was a sort of caravanserai for poor people. However, due to the outbreak of the First World War, transporting the pilgrims from Odessa to Mecca was canceled.

For a long time, it was believed that the Muslims were deprived of performing Hajj during the time of the Soviet active struggle against religion. But thanks to recent investigations of the officer of the State archives of Odessa Region, Zhelyaskov S., a previously unknown chapter in the history of Hajj is clarified. Zhelyaskov has found several classified documents.

It turned out that in the 1920s, Soviet Russia, interested in the involvement of foreign currency, resumed sending pilgrims by ships of the Azov-Black Sea Shipping Company from Odessa port. First of all, it was talking about the Muslims from China, Persia and Afghanistan, although, it was possible that Soviet Union’s citizens could also be in groups, performing the hajj.

Haji Khan for pilgrims was organized at the port area, at the corner of the Primorskaya and Voyenniy Spusk Streets. There was also a prayer hall. Probably, this fact was conductive to the appearance of the legend about the existence of an ancient mosque in this place, for which the locals have taken the abandoned and dilapidated buildings of Hadji Khan.

The Soviet authority did not promulgate about transporting of pilgrims to Mecca by ships. The State Archives of Odessa Region store the encryption reported that the head of the Arabian port of Jeddah pointed out the Soviet passenger ship "Theodore Nette" "as the best carriage for pilgrims according to sanitary codes."

In the early 30-ies of XX century Middle Eastern steamship line was closed, as well as transporting the pilgrims to Mecca. The Thaw of the 20s ended and the era of Stalinist terror and repression began.

You can find the other materials about "History of Islam in Ukraine" by clicking the following reference.

Alexander Stepanchenko specially for "Islam in Ukraine"


Log in or register to post comments
If you find an error, select the desired text and press Ctrl + Enter, to notify the publisher.