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For centuries, Independence Square has been Kiev’s vibrant heart and the country’s most historic location. This is where revolutions have taken place (as recently as 2014), victories have been celebrated and many festivals are held, even today. Friends meet up by the Independence Monument, children play in the fountain and the sunny terraces always draw a crowd.
Maidan Nezalezjnosti (Independence Square) is usually just called Maidan, ‘the square’. The top floor of the enormous Hotel Ukrayina offers the best view: to the left is the conservatory, to the right the concert hall, and in the centre stands the 40-metre-high Independence Monument topped by a representation of the Slavic goddess Berehynia. Behind the monuments is a fountain with heroic sculptures representing the 4 founders of the city and a replica of a city gate with Archangel Michael. This city square is packed with symbolism.
“The many name changes of the square illustrate Kiev’s turbulent history”
Cross Square, Duma Square, Sovjet Square, Kalinin Square, Square of the October Revolution and finally, Independence Square: the square’s many name changes tell the story of Kiev and the Ukraine’s turbulent history. At the beginning of the 19th century, this area was nothing more than a swamp: the first houses were built around 1830. During the Industrial Revolution, Kiev underwent a rapid growth and the square became the city’s commercial centre. In World War II, the square was completely destroyed and then rebuilt from scratch. In 1991, the Ukraine gained its independence from the Soviet Union and the square was renamed Independence Square. After the controversial 2004 presidential election, Independence Square became the epicentre of the Orange Revolution: a series of demonstrations and protests that followed the questionable election results. 10 years later the fight between pro-Russian and pro-European sympathizers flared up again; in February 2014 dozens of people were killed and hundreds were injured at the Maidan.
The most striking building on Independence Square is Hotel Ukrayina; it was built in 1961 and for many years it was known as Moskva. It was designed as a palace with a Stalinist architectural style. However, Soviet leader Khrushchev ordered the building to be stripped of all unnecessary decorations: the grand entrance with marble columns was removed and countless statues, reliefs and the giant red star on the roof were taken away. To many, the giant concrete square box is an eyesore. There are plans to demolish the building but for now you can still book a room here. For 50 euros you can sleep in a 4-star room with a 5-star view of Independence Square.