The Independence Square (Piata Independentei)

The Independence Square, also known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti, is the central square of the Ukrainian capital city, Kiev. The name of this square has changed throughout time due to specific events that took place here, events that influenced the nation to a certain extent. The present name attached to the square derives from the political action of 2004 which led to the freedom of Ukraine.

The importance of the Independence Square cannot be expressed in a few of words. The history of this specific location dates back a couple of centuries and in each of these long gone periods of time the square had played a significant role in the development of the Ukrainian nation.

In the first decades of the 19th centuries, the first accommodation facilities were built in the area. These were preponderantly made out of wood, but the stone dwellings did not take long to appear (in the 1850s). Probably the most relevant public figure to have dwelt in the area was Taras Shevchenko, the prominent Ukrainian writer.

While the area was not among the most developed regions in the country, this changed dramatically in the middle of the 19th century when due to commercial progress the square became the center of the city. Kiev expanded greatly during the Russian Industrial Revolution, when it occupied the 3rd position among the most important cities in the Russian Empire.

At the beginning of the 20th century (in 1919) the square became known as the Soviet Square, but this name was later transformed into Kalinin Square, after Mikhail Ivanovich Kalinin, the leader of the USSR.

The first reconstruction of the square occurred in the years subsequent to the Soviet War, when the area was completely rebuild from the ground up. The architectural design conveyed to the square was neo-classical Stalinist, the same architecture which was noticeable in the buildings located in vicinity of the square, buildings which were erected in the same timeframe.

The second reconstruction occurred in 1976. This time, the square was damaged due to the project undertaken by the municipality to construct the metro, a project which affected everything situated above the area of construction. With this occasion, the square was renamed the October Revolution Square. The reconstruction process took place more or less around the time of the year when the October Revolution occurred so the decision to rename the square was obvious. With the occasion of commemorating the 60 years that had gone by since the October Revolution, a colossal cubist monument and a system of fountains were erected.

In 2001, the square was heavily used as the scene for major protests. In order to prevent such occurrences, the mayor of the city decided to begin another “reconstruction” work for the square. In fact the whole purpose of this plan was to fence the area so as to ban any demonstrators from entering the square.

But the project did alter the appearance of the square. The elaborate system of fountains, as well as the general look of the Independence Square was changed. The modifications were not necessarily positive. When revealed, the project was not received with appreciation by the viewers. Many did not know how to react when presented with the new square.

But the importance of this specific location goes beyond its look. The square was in fact the center of the public political activity. In the latter decade of the 20th century, the square was used as the center place for various political demonstrations and hunger strikes, events which contributed extensively to the change of the political leaders that were in power. The prime minister at that time, Vitaliy Masol, turned in his resignation when faced with the public’s disdain.

These are but a few of the important events that center around the Independence Square. It is a place filled with history which plays a valuable role in the Ukrainian culture.

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