Monday, March 17, 2008

Maidan - Independence Square

Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) is the main square in Kyiv, the capital city of Ukraine. The square was named after Ukraine received its independence in 1991.

The two biggest political protests that have occurred in Ukraine since 1991 have been centrally located in Maidan. In December 2000, the "Ukraine without Kuchma" campaign began rallying in Independence Square. Protesters set up tents on Khreshchatyk Street, the street that runs through Maidan. Oleksandr Omelchenko, the mayor of Kyiv at the time, ordered a major construction project to begin soon after in an attempt to dissolve the protest. This sort of practice is commonly used by local authorities in Ukraine in an attempt to non-violently end protests. In March 2001, the protest took a violent turn when riots began between the police and protesters. Dozens were injured in what some call the most violent riots in Ukraine's history. Soon after the protest ended.

From 2004 to 2005, a series of protests occurred in Maidan that came to be known as the Orange Revolution. Thousands of Ukrainians gathered in the streets near to Maidan to protest the corrupt political system and electoral fraud that prevailed in the 2004 presidential election. The protests, all of which were non-violent, led to an additional round of elections and the opposing candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, won. Unlike the "Ukraine without Kuchma" campaign, the Orange Revolution ended just as peacefully as it began.

Political protests continue to occur in Maidan, but none have reached the level that the "Ukraine without Kuchma" and Orange Revolution did. Maidan is a popular meeting place for Ukrainians and attracts thousands of visitors with its beautiful buildings and scenic landscape, but the true importance of this area lies within the political protests that have occurred here that have shaped Ukraine's political future.

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