Maidan Nezalezhnosti, which translates into “Independence Square” has not only been the location for the 2014 uprising against the Ukrainian government which was ultimately billed the “Maidan revolution” in many publications, but it had been in the center of political rallies and it is also frequently used for large public events. Even before the 2014 “Euromaidan” revolution took place here, ultimately escalating into a bloodbath and followed by the war in Eastern Ukraine, the square had been the center place of the so-called “Orange Revolution” of 2004 and a student revolution in 1989.
From the middle of the 19th century on, the area where the square is located had been home to fixed structures. In one of these, Ukrainian national writer Taras Shevchenko made his home for a while. Soon thereafter, the general area developed into Kiev’s central district and in 1876, the city parliament opened a new building at the square, which was later destroyed in World War II, along with large parts of the square itself. After being known as “Duma Square” in that time, the name changed to “Soviet Square” in 1919 and to “Kalinin Square” in 1935. Today’s name was bestowed upon it after Ukraine’s independence in 1991. At around the same time, an extensive shopping mall was constructed under the square. There are today a supermarket and several other stores below the ground, as well as the access to the Metro station.
Above ground, next to a number of makeshift memorials to victims of the battles at Euromaidan in 2014, visitors will find several notable buildings. On one side, the view is dominated by the massive Stalinist style Kyiv main post office, opened in 1957. The building also hosts a postal history museum. Across the square, the Trade Union Building stands, which was constructed from 1975 to 1980. This is a remarkable structure, as it became the central headquarter of the otherwise little-organized Euromaidan movement in December 2013. Activists came here to rest, sleep, eat and to exchange information. On February 18, 2014, at the height of the clashes between police forces and demonstrators on Maidan, the building burned out completely, with may people saying the police set the fire to the building. As of early 2015, the facades of the burnt-out building facing Maidan and Khreshchatyk are entirely covered by large canvas screens with the words “Glory to Ukraine” printed on them.
Completing the northern half of the plaza are the Lach Gates, a monument erected in 2001. The location of the monument that is topped by a bronze sculpture of archangel Michael is the place where one of three medieval Kyiv’s town fortification gates once stood, marking the path to the Kiev Monastery of the Caves (Pechersk Lavra). The monument was designed by Ukrainian sculptor Anatolyi Kushch, who was also responsible for creating the fountain of the founders of the city and the Independence monument, both of which can also be found on Maidan.
Across the street from Trade Union Buidling and Post Office, the Hotel Ukrayina dominates the southern side of the plaza. The hotel’s construction had been finished in 1961. The building was designed to meet two purposes: It was supposed to complement the architectural composition of the area by acting as a counterbalance to the opposite side and it was intended to fulfill the position of a landmark hotel for the Soviet Union. Fittingly, it was opened under the name “Hotel Moscow” and was renamed after Ukrainian independence. The hotel, which is state-owned, stands on historic ground as its location was occupied by the Ginzburg apartment house before World War II, then the highest building in the Soviet Union. Notably, rooms at the Hotel Ukrayina are often booked by TV stations from around the world, as the 21-floors building offers great views of the central city area. Right around the corner from the building is the Kiev Conservatory, the country’s National Music Academy.
In front of the hotel, the Independence Monument was the main element of the square’s reconstruction in 2001. In that year, marking the 10th anniversary of Ukrainian independence, the monument took the place of the sculpture in honor of the October revolution that had been standing there until 1991. In total, the monument is 63 meters tall, with the elegant white column measuring 38 meters. It is equipped with a tuned mass damper to prevent it from swaying from vibrations. Atop the monument, a bronze sculpture depicts Berehynya, a female figure in slavic mythology, wearing traditional Ukrainian clothes.