Odessa was often lucky with city governors. Thanks to them the city flourished and became more and more beautiful and rich. Some of Odessa mayors where even not Russian nationals or were born in the city, but belonged to foreign cultures and traditions: Italian, French, British, German and Greek.
This is the story of Grigory Grigorievich Marazli (Grigorios Maraslis), who entered the post of mayor at the end of the 19th century. For 17 years he served as the mayor of Odessa, and this record was not broken. An extraordinary person, who devoted his whole life to the service of the State, did not spare his own fortune for the development of the city. The city loved him and its citizens still remember his merits.
Grigorios Maraslis was born in Odessa on the 25th of July, 1831, in a family of Greek merchants. He long sought to be included in the nobility of the Russian Empire. Marazli will prove to deserve more than anyone a noble title. He was a statesman, collector, millionaire, philanthropist, secret adviser, honorary guardian of many societies. In 1850, he graduated from the renowned Richelieu Lyceum, at the legal department, and he entered the State service immediately after his diploma.
He was appointed as official in the staff of the office of the Caucasian governor, Prince Mikhail Vorontsov, with the rank of provincial secretary, where he worked for several years. Then, he left the service from 1853 to 1863, when he was again appointed as collegiate adviser. Already in 1868 he was a State councilor, and in 1869, he served as honorary magistrate of the Iasi Judicial District. After spending some time in Paris, Grigory Grigorievich returned to his native Odessa. Then, became member of the Duma (City Council) since 1873 and was acting Mayor in 1871-72, 1873 and 1875, in the absence of the Mayor. In the autumn of 1878 he finally replaced Mykola Novoselsky as the Mayor of Odessa. Marazli remained in this position until 1895, when he was already 64 years old. Then, he resigned of his own volition, for health reasons. But even then, until his death in 1907, he continued to serve the city, in the rank of deputy speaker of the Duma.
A life for Odessa
Grigory Marazli did not take care of his personal life: he married very late, only in 1903, so he had no children of his own. He gave all his strength, knowledge, skills and personal funds to the needs of his hometown. It is difficult to list of the many areas of charity in which he participated.
During his management of the city, many were the achievements: the opening of the first tram line in Odessa (1881), the laying and construction of the building of the city theater and the Pavlovsk building of cheap apartments (with funds donated by P.Z.Yamchitsky), a gardening school opened at his own dacha (financed by himself), a medical complex built on the Kuyalnitsky estuary (where a barrack for poor patients was directly paid by the Mayor), a psychiatric department of the city hospital, a steam tram line to the Khadzhibey estuary. Marazli financed the construction of the building of the first bacteriological station in the Russian Empire, a city public auditorium, several almshouses, cheap canteens, orphanages, public schools in the city and its suburbs. On his initiative, the foundation the Alexandrovsky Park was laid by the by Emperor Alexander II, during a visit to Odessa.
Among his main goals, remained till our days, there is the construction of the public library by his own funds. After his death, he donated his personal library, which numbered at least 10,000 volumes. Marazli contributed also to the expansion of the network of reading rooms. In 1899, a spacious school building with a reading room in Slobodka was built at his expense. In the same year, the construction of a new auditorium for public reading was completed.
Finally, he purchased one of the most beautiful buildings in Odessa, Potocky Palace in Sofievskaya Street, and donated to the city to host the Museum of Fine Arts (today’s Odessa Fine Arts Museum).
As a reward for the merits of Grigory Marazli, during his lifetime, one of the streets adjacent to this park was named after him. In memory of his deceased parents, he built a church at the second women’s gymnasium in honour of Saint Gregory the Theologian and Saint Martyr Zoya (1896).
A scandalous marriage
When he was 64-year-old, Grigory Marazli fell in love with Maria Ferdinandovna Kich, the wife of the Chairman of the City Commercial Court and former mayor of Odessa. She was considered one of the most beautiful women of Odessa, but she was 26 years younger than Marazli. Moreover, Grigory Grigorievich and Pavel Kich were friends since two decades.
When the former mayor took away his friend’s wife, a huge scandal erupted. However, the 55-year-old Kich nobly gave his wife a divorce and took all the blame at the trial. In October 1903, Marazli married Maria Ferdinandovna in the Greek Holy Trinity Church in Odessa.
They were married for four years, until Grigory Grigorievich died in 1907. His property, estimated at 10-12 million rubles, consisted of 14 shops and houses, two summer cottages in Odessa, a house in Chisinau, 27,500 acres of land in the Bessarabian province, as well as a large collection of European paintings and porcelain. The widow, according to her will, received an annual pension of 18 thousand rubles. It was a very large amount.
Unfortunately, after the revolution, the 60-year-old woman’s property was confiscated and she was left with nothing. They say she baked pies and sold them from the window of her room. According to some sources, the Greek King sent a personal cruiser to Odessa to rescue her. Maria Ferdinandovna lived in Greece, until 1935.
Memory of Marazli
Odessites remember their Greek Mayor. The street that runs along today’s Shevchenko park opened on his initiative is named Marazlivskaya after him. At the intersection of this street with Troitska there is a monument to Grigorios Maraslis. His bust was installed at the fountain in Greek Square. During his lifetime he was awarded a huge number of various orders and medals, each of which was deserved. Unfortunately, it was not possible to save the grave of Maraslis. When he died on May 1, 1907, he was buried in the territory of the Greek Holy Trinity Church in Odessa. Outrageously, the temple was plundered by Soviets, his grave was excavated and the body was thrown away. According to some sources, local residents reburied Grigory Marazli at the Slobodske cemetery. But the place of this grave, if really exists, is unknown.