Maidan Nezalezhnosti – Kiev’s Central Square
As the central square of Kiev, Maidan Nezalezhnosti has been the scene of many notable events in the capital city of Ukraine. It has also been known by different names through the years, and is often referred to simply as The Maidan. Dominated by a statue of the archangel Mikhail (Kiev’s patron saint) on top of a tall column, at the base of which is an intricately decorated pavilion with archways, Maidan Nezalezhnosti, has wide grass-covered areas, fountains and magnificent historic buildings, and is within walking distance of many of Kiev’s attractions.
The current name, which means Independence Square, was given to Maidan Nezalezhnosti in 1991 in celebration of Ukraine’s independence, following the collapse of the Soviet Union. The square has played a prominent role in Kiev’s history, and even when the city went through a phase of rapid development in the 19th century, the open space was preserved, with the city springing up all around it. Known as the Khreschatyk Square until 1871, the area was used as an open market, with trade and folk entertainment gathering the crowds. It was renamed Duma Square in 1876 after the Kiev City Duma building constructed there. During the period when Ukraine fell under Soviet rule, Maidan Nezalezhnosti was first known as Soviet Square, and then renamed Kalinin Square in 1935 after the first chairman of the ruling authority of the time, the USSR.
With World War II, the square suffered extensive damage as the Red Army retreated from Kiev after having rigged most of the square’s building with explosives. These explosives were detonated from a distant location by radio-control once German troops had occupied the city, resulting in heavy casualties. Following the war, Maidan Nezalezhnosti was completely reconstructed, with the neo-classical Stalinist architecture of the new buildings remaining as an interesting feature of the city, and as a reminder of the Soviet rule era of Ukraine’s history.
Maidan Nezalezhnosti has continued to play a role in Ukraine’s post-independence history, and has been the scene of politically motivated demonstrations such as Ukraine Without Kuchma and the subsequent Orange Revolution. It was thanks to the efforts of Orange Revolution protestors that election fraud was uncovered, resulting in a victory for Viktor Yushchenko – and it was in Maidan Nezalezhnosti, in front of his supporters, that the first President of Ukraine took a public oath of office.
Today, visitors can enjoy the beautifully landscaped grounds, refreshing fountains, magnificent buildings, underground shopping center and the general buzz of activity of Maidan Nezalezhnosti – the heart of the City of Kiev.