7km Market

The 7th km Market, Odessa, Ukraine: A case of post-Soviet heterotopia

What is interesting about these markets is that they are characteristically located in a grey zone just outside the city boundary and yet they exert a huge influence on the city’s regional clout, employment, immigration and transport links. The use of extraterritorial land raises constant conflict over taxation and the destination of the huge profits generated.

Here, we discuss the case of the Black Sea port city of Odessa in Ukraine, which has both old and famous central marketplaces (including one called ‘Privoz’ ) and a vast, externally located, container market called the ‘7th Kilometre’ or Sedmoi (‘seventh’ in Russian). The importance of spatiality to the latter market is indicated in its name, which designates its location seven kilometres out of town along the main road leading to the airport and onwards to Moldova, Romania and Bulgaria.

The market sprawls over 170 acres. For comparison, the largest shopping centre in the United States, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, occupies only 96 acres (Myers 2006). But ‘7th Kilometre’, is nothing like a shopping mall. The market, expanding over open fields, is an entity that sees itself extending horizontally into areas called ‘sectors’, ‘stations’ and ‘fields. It has no pretensions to comfort, pleasure, ‘design’, or ‘atmosphere’. Instead, buyers must shoulder their way through narrow, dusty, open-air alleys between steel containers, opened at the front to reveal heaps of the cheapest goods. The ‘shops’ consist mainly of steel shipping containers stacked two high in rows long enough to be called ‘streets’. Many of these ‘streets’ are simply colour coded and names accordingly: there are green, blue, grey, white, etc. streets.