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The Garden of duels in Odessa


The old Botanical Garden of Odessa (48/50 Franzuskiy Boulevard) was famous in XIX century for the duels of famous people.


The construction of the Botanical Garden began in 1819, on the initiative of the Governor-General Count Alexander Fedorovich Langeron, who planted the first tree and was an expert in the cultivation of roses.

Starting from the 1830s, duels were arranged in the garden. That year, a contemporary wrote about the death of the editor of “Odessa Bulletin”, Alexander Gibal, as a consequence of a duel. University historians reported back in 1894:

It should be noted that although the noble part of the population was not strong in Odessa, duels in the Botanical Garden (often with a fatal outcome) were quite common.

A famous duel between Keshko and Martynov (brother of the same Martynov, who killed Lermontov in another duel) was also described in great detail. Although the first of the duellers did not really know how to shoot, and the second was an experienced shooter, the outcome was decided by an accidental hit in Martynov’s right hand.

However, in 1823-1824. the green area was hardly suitable for such events, and the duels had to take place in some other garden of the nearest suburb. Private farms could be used only by an agreement with the owner, who had to be responsible for the possible consequences. It is another matter if he himself was a participant in a duel, or was on friendly terms with a participant or both.

They say that in 1824, between April 1 and 15, Pushkin and a stranger were at the scene of a duel, which ultimately did not take place. The rival refused to shoot and the Poet declared: “lets him go in peace”. Eventually, Pushkin would have died in another duel in St. Petersburg, in 1837. But it could have happened in Odessa earlier.

Unfortunately, there are not enough details to identify Pushkin’s opponent. But he was clearly not a man from the inner circle of Pushkin’s Odessa friends. Otherwise, the Governor-General Count Vorontsov would probably have learned about the duel (Pushkin was under the supervision of tsarist police for suspicion of revolutionary ideas). Even Odessa memoir writers of the time (Liprandi, Vigel, Buturlin and Vyazemskaya) did not mention him.

Probably, a petty conflict with an unfamiliar nobleman, maybe, a neighbour at a club hotel or tavern, ended easily and bloodlessly. Presumably, the duel field was the former Richelieu farm, named also Dyukovsky garden.

The Botanical Garden, since 1867 was regulated as a park and put under the Imperial Novorossiysk University (now Odessa National University named after I.I. Mechnikov) and is one of the oldest parks in Odessa. Under the guidance of Professor L.V. Reingard, who taught botany and an expert in anatomy and physiology of plants L.A. Rishavi, many plants were collected from different parts of the globe, including Paris, Singapore, Melbourne, Saigon, Berlin, Palermo.

Unfortunately, the park was badly damaged during the Bolshevik revolution and during the Second World War many plant collections were destroyed. Thereafter, the Botanical Garden’s collection was replenished. The park covers an area of ​​16 hectares, with more than 3000 kinds of green plantings of different ages.