Seventh kilometer market is made up containers left over from bankrupt German shipping company.
The market near Odessa, Ukraine, is one of Europe’s largest open-air malls and covers 170 hectares.
Existing in the 1960s and 1970s, it was originally open only on Sundays (later on Saturdays) in Slobodka, near the 3rd Jewish cemetery on the Chemistry street, at the time a small walled-in area of 150m wide and 250m long, hence totally inadequate for a market and where the association with shoving originated. The new version was founded in 1989 during Perestroika reforms, it is now possibly the largest market in Europe.
When originally founded as an Odessa flea market in the 1960s, the market was officially restricted to selling used items only, but entry was charged to anyone entering with anything held in their hands because new items would be sold by traders from their hands walking the market as opposed to used goods sold off the ground displays. The market was open until 3-4pm, but owing to the difficulty in reaching it, which until 1966 involved a 2 km walk from the nearest tram (no.15) stop, it was paramount to reach the market very early in the morning as all worth-while goods were sold by 10-11am.
When relocated in 1989, it was expelled to an area outside of the city’s limits at the seventh kilometer of the Odessa-Ovidiopol highway, thus acquiring its name. As of 2006, the market covers 170 acres (0.69 km²) and consists largely of steel shipping containers, which rent for up to US$6,000 (EUR 4,700) or more per month, as well as an increasing number of ordinary shops in buildings. It has roughly 6,000 traders and an estimated 150,000 customers per day. Daily sales, according to the Ukrainian periodical Zerkalo Nedeli, were believed to be as high as US$20 million in 2004. With a staff of 1,200 (mostly guards and janitors), the market is also the region’s largest employer.
The independent traders on the market sell goods in all price ranges, from authentic merchandise to all sorts of cheap Asian consumer goods, including many counterfeit Western luxury goods.
The market is divided up into streets with names of colours. In the larger ones, the containers are two storeys high, the lower part being the shop and the one above serving for storage. They all look much the same at first sight, but behind each one lies a story. Take Anatoli Kotchenko, 75, who specialises in football shirts. He travels to China twice a year to stock up, but in a past life Kotchenko used to be a well-known conductor. Now he has his own business with a website to promote his sports clothing, and business cards that state only his first name.
According to the impressions of S. L. Myers of the New York Times who visited the market in 2006:
“the market is part third-world bazaar, part post-Soviet Wal-Mart, a place of unadulterated and largely unregulated capitalism where certain questions — about salaries, rents, taxes or last names — are generally met with suspicion.”
And Zerkalo Nedeli wrote in 2004 that “it is a state within a state, with its own laws and rules. It has become a sinecure for the rich and a trade haven for the poor.”
The market is always busy. No matter what time of year, what the temperatures are, there will be thousands of people mirroring the activities of lab rats in a maze seeking out that “special piece of cheese”. It can be unbearable to all but the most dedicated shopper and bargain hunter at times.
This is a world apart, with its own rules, codes and language – or rather the many languages of globalisation. You hear Chinese, French spoken by Africans, Farsi, Georgian, Turkish, Pashto and many others. This is the largest market in the post-Soviet area.