Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square)
Maidan Nezalezhnosti literally means Independence Square. Crossed by Khrechtchatyk street, it is the central square of Kiev. It bore several names, but it is often simply called the Maidan.
Until the tenth century, the square and the rest of Khrechtchatyk were called Perevisychtch. From then on, until the late 18th early 19th century, the area surrounding the square was empty and was called Kozyne Boloto. It then went through many names reflecting the political ideology of the authorities. Following the heavy damages caused by World War II, the square was completely rebuilt. The new architecture integrated impeccably with the new Khrechtchatyk neo-classical Stalinian style. The Central Post Office and the House of Unions, recognizable by its tower were added. In 1976-1977, in connection with the construction of the subway, the square was refurbished and renamed Ploshcha Jovtnevoyi Revolyutsii (The October Revolution Square). A set of fountains and a monument commemorating the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution were built during this renovation. The monument was later removed.
The square received its present name following Ukraine's independence in 1991. The name of Ploshcha Svobody (Freedom Square) was also proposed, but events such as the Orange Revolution contributed to affirm the choice of Maidan Nezalejnosti. In 2001, while the square was the center of the protest campaign "Ukraine without Kuchma", a large construction project was suddenly decided by the mayor of Kiev, Oleksandr Omelchenko. The square was closed for construction purposes, and became inaccessible to protesters. Many observers believed that the main objective of the project was to disrupt the protests, a tactic commonly used by authorities in other Ukrainian cities. However, the constructions significantly altered the appearance of the square. It now harbors several glass domes and a monument dedicated to figures who placed a major role in Kiev's history, namely Kyi, Schek and Khoryv — the legendary founders of Kiev, the folk hero Mamay, and the Archangel Michael — the protector of the city. An underground shopping mall was built under Maidan Nezalejnosti, replacing the old underground passage.
After the Soviet era, and as Kiev's central square, the Maidan has been the center of popular political activity. In the fall of 1990, student demonstrations and hunger strikers took place on the square forcing the Prime Minister Vitaliy Masol to resign. Since 2000, large-scale events such as the campaign "Ukraine without Kuchma" or the Orange Revolution took place in the square. In late 2004, Maidan Nezalejnosti was under the spotlight as despite the cold and the snow, thousands of protesters gathered on the square and surrounding streets, set up tents and occupied the premises for several weeks. These protests against the electoral fraud led the Ukrainian Supreme Court to order an extra round in the presidential election, which would be won by the candidate of the opposition Viktor Yushchenko. Following his election, and after being officially sworn in in the Parliament, Yushchenko took the oath before the people on Maidan Nezalejnosti. Maidan Nezalejnosti keeps attracting political demonstrations, but in a lesser scale than that of 2004. On any other day, it's a fun place to go for a stroll, to sit at a café and to shop.
For your safety, it's recommended that you avoid Maidan Nezalezhnosti's underground at night.