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Swivel-eyed cosmopolitanism – Odessa

June 26, 2015

Odessa it is often said, is one of the most cosmopolitan cities in Ukraine – and it is.  It has always been a cosmopolitan city throughout Greek, Roman, Ottoman, Tsarist, Soviet and contemporary times.  That is nothing particularly unusual for major sea ports with centuries of history of course.  Continual exposure to foreigners coming, going, and staying, over the aeons leave their mark.

Throw in the fact that Odessa was a place of exile and/or hiding for those that fell out with the ruling elites during Tsarist and Stalinist times, and a city with a special place in the hearts of many Jews, and cosmopolitan is where you end up.

Indeed, the last time a UK diplomat of lofty position visited your author, he commented that within the restaurant where we met were Turks, Syrians, Nigerians, Chinese, Indians, Americans, Ukrainians, Georgians, Armenians, Azerbaijan and ourselves.  Something, he stated, you don’t see in Kyiv.

Avoiding Kyiv like the plague, and going only under pain of death, how accurate that statement is your author cannot comment upon – but it was nonetheless made.

Odessa is also now an Oblast with a governor that was once a President of Georgia, and a Police Chief in Giya Lordkipanidze,  that was also a Georgian politician – albeit both are now citizens of Ukraine.

Such is the cosmopolitan nature of the Odessits, the electorate has barely raised an eyebrow.  In fact weeks after his appointment of governor, Mr Saakashvili is still asked to be in many a “selfie” with his constituents, as countless Facebook and VKontakte accounts continually bare testimony too.

It is of the tasks, or indeed to one of the tasks, facing Giya Lordkipanidze this entry will address.

He has claimed that he intends to make Odessa “the safest city in Ukraine”.  A bold claim for a city that is almost perennially the host to the first political murder of the year in Ukraine.

One of the first things he intends to do is to put all the AK weapons currently carried by the police back in the armoury.  This, apparently to make the electorate feel more at ease with the police.  Security guards/firms with AKs are a daily sight entering and leaving banks with those depositing or removing large sums of cash.  Police with AKs are not any more scary – and it is not as though they all carry them.  The sight of the police carrying AKs remain few and far between.

If the intent behind the spate of bombings within the city over the past year or so was meant to scare the populous, it failed – and failed miserably.  Police carrying AKs also fail to scare the locals.

To be frank, nobody is bothered by them, other than the tourists perhaps.  It seems little more than a “high visibility policy change” for the sake of form, rather than necessary substance.

Anyway, aside from making Odessa the “safest city in Ukraine”, forming a new metropolitan force similar to that in Kyiv, and notwithstanding the chronic corruption within the ranks, eventually Giya Lordkipanidze will have to deal with the few hundred swivel-eyed loons from Kulikovo Pol sect, and the swivel-eyed far right nationalists – neither of which it has to be said, have much, if any genuine societal support and hence their number is of a few hundred between them.

Indeed, in true Odessa cosmopolitanism, of the numerous splinter groups on either side, all with differing swivel-eyed deformed visions of the future, and representing nobody other than themselves and their own warped ideologies, of the swivel-eyed Kulikova Pol side, currently one of the most prominent leaders is a Lebanese Marxist who moved to Odessa just in time for the collapse of the USSR.  One of the leaders of the most prominent swivel-eyed nationalist right is a barrel-chested man who hails from Cherkasy.

(No names for these two individuals will appear here, but the scant details provided above will be enough to identify them as genuine to those who know, or need to know.)

Thus Odessa will eventually see a native Georgian police chief have to reign in the collective nuttery and continuing illegal actions of a Lebanese Marxist and followers seeking an impossible return to a Communist/Soviet past, and an equally delusional native of Cherkasy Oblast and his small band of merry men of nationalist fervor, seeking a future that is equally unattainable and undesirable.

Nowhere amongst either (albeit tiny) group will the definition of patriot be found – nor do they represent of the overwhelming majority.

That neither group have been written about for some considerable time here is because the only people to take any notice of them are themselves, journalists looking for an “extremist” story, and the security services – and it is debatable just how much attention either side are getting from the security services considering their on-going illicit activities.

It is very unlikely there will be another entry on this subject for some considerable time until  Giya Lordkipanidze gets around to reigning them in, or one or other side does something so incredibly stupid that it simply cannot be ignored due to significant societal impact.   Until any of that occurs,  they will continue to play amongst themselves, continue to break the law, and continue to be entirely ignored by everybody else.

Governor Saakashvili has refused to meet either group despite requests being made – and quite rightly.  Until either act consistently within the law, they should not be given an official audience.  It falls to Giya Lordkipanidze, the new city police chief, together with the SBU to reign them in.  Should he manage to do so, and they consistently act within, rather than without, the law, then perhaps they will get to see the governor – not that any governor is about to deliver (or could deliver) either side their delusional aspirations to the detriment of the wishes of the overwhelming number of constituents.

There is a longstanding saying in Odessa that “Ukraine is Ukraine, but Odessa is Odessa” based upon the city having always been far more cosmopolitan, and thus different, to the “whole” – whatever the “whole” was, and whomever was ruling it at the time.

Once again there will inevitably be an “only in Odessa” moment when a native Georgian (acting for the overwhelming majority) takes on a Lebanese Marxist and a Cherkasy native.  Even amongst the swivel-eyed, cosmopolitanism is an Odessa trademark it seems.

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