Located on Khreshchatyk Street, Independence square, locally known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti, is the central and one of the main squares of Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. However, the square earned its current name only in 1991, after the collapse of the Soviet Union and the eventual Independence of Ukraine. But often it is simply referred to as Maidan, which stands for a square or open space in the Ukrainian language. Interestingly, Maidan Nezalezhnosti is the only square in the city, which is officially designated as a Maidan, while all the other squares in Kyiv are designated as a Ploscha since the Soviet epoch, which is a more common Ukrainian equivalent of a square.
Located close to the European Square, which is the terminal end of Khreshchatyk Street, Independence Square is one of the three squares in Kyiv, situated along Khreshchatyk, close to the northern end of the street.
However, Khreshchatyk Street, and several important buildings situated on it was completely destroyed by the retreating Red Army during World War II, which was rebuilt later in the neo-classical style of post-war Stalinist architecture. Nevertheless, it has been significantly renovated during the modern period of Ukraine's independence.
The site of the square, as well as the rest of Khreshchatyk, located along the Dnieper River, was known as Perevisyshch until the 10th century, which had three main gates, around which lived the Polish population of the city of Lacka Sloboda. The new Pecherski Gates were erected sometime during the 18th century and stood there till 1833. However, until the early 18th century, the area was a low-lying vacant ground and was known as the Goat Swamp. The first wooden dwellings were built on the site in the 1830s, while the stone buildings started to appear in the 1850s.
But the development of the area rapidly intensified after the mid-19th century, during the Russian Industrial Revolution, when it gradually became the commercial centre of Kyiv and was known as the Khreshchatitskaya Ploshchad or Khreshchatyk Square, till 1871. However, the name was changed to Dumskaya Ploshchad or Duma Square, when the Kyiv City Duma Building was constructed here in 1876. Unfortunately, when the withdrawing Soviet army destroyed the city infrastructure, the building was ravaged by fire, along with many other buildings of Khreshchatyk, never to be built again.
During the first couple of years after the end of the war, the square was completely rebuilt from scratch, when the building of the Central Post Office and the Trade Union House with its high rise clock was constructed in the square. The square was renamed Soviet Square in 1919, but it became Kalinin Square in 1935, after the name of Mikhail Kalinin, the first chairman of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. However, much of the square was rebuilt again in 1976-77, as a part of metro construction, when it was renamed October Revolution Square and a massive cubist monument was installed in the square, as was the complex ensemble of fountains, to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the October Revolution. During those days of Soviet rule, the square was used for parades and demonstrations, commemorating May Day on 1st May till 1969, Victory Day on 9th May and October Revolution.
Today, adorned with six fountains, an artificial waterfall, the Independence Column, the huge building of the Trade Unions Federation of Ukraine, equipped with a tall tower and chimes, the Independence Square has much to offer to the visitors, where concerts and festivals are regularly arranged. While the left side of the square is covered with granite, the splendid panoramic view of Old Kyiv opens from the upper floors of the square buildings.
Apart from shops and hotels, the square includes several cafes, where the visitors can relax and leisurely watch the magnificent domes of Sofia Cathedral, built in the 11th century; the Andreevskaya Church, built in the 18th century, the building of the Verkhovna Rada or the City Parliament and lots of administrative buildings.
One of the fountains of the square is decorated with statues of legendary brothers Kyi, Shchek and Khoryv and their sister Lybid, believed to be the founders of the medieval city of Kyiv. Another attractive fountain, known as the Friendship of Nations, is the 5,000-sprays fountain, designed by architect Komarovsky. Lach Gates, a monument at the Independence square, constructed in 2001 to commemorate one of the Medieval Kyiv city gates, is topped with a sculpture of Archangel Michael, the symbol of the city. However, perhaps the most notable decoration of the square is the 200 feet (61 m) tall Independence Monument, topped with a 22 feet (6.7 m) tall statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of Victory, holding a laurel crown in her arms. The monument was built in a compositional centre of the square to commemorate the 10th Anniversary of the independence of Ukraine in 2001.
Unfortunately, in view of the recent military invasion of Russia, the fate of Ukraine, including Independence square, seems to be uncertain.