The landscape architecture of Maidan Nezalezhnosti = Independence Square Kiev

Independence Maidan Kiev

Independence Maidan Kiev

Asked by a communist dictator to design the central space in a capital city what should a landscape architect do?

  • go for the Baroque, as so many communist leaders did (left above)?
  • spend on bling, as was done in Kiev? (below)
  • keep the space clear, to facilitate future revolutions (right above)?

It was the ‘square’s’ name which made me wonder about the alternatives. ‘Maidan’, I assume, is a Persian word which, I guess, was brought to Kiev by the Tartars. They were a Turkic people and the Turks, as former nomads, learned much from the urban civilisation of Persia (just as the Persians, also formerly nomadic, learned from the urban civilisation of Mesopotamia). See photos of the Maidan in Isfahan – it was a space used for markets, games of polo and military displays. The present square dates from after the Tartar period and took its present form after the Second World War. In 1919 it was Soviet Square and in 1935 it became Kalinin Square. The present name came with independence in 1991. Please correct me if I am wrong but I think the bling (fountains, planters etc) appeared after the Orange Revolution of 2004. [Note: one can’t help wondering if the re-design proposal for Gezi Square is, in part, an idea for how to prevent public spaces being used by revolutionaries). If so, please could we know the designers’ names.
Should the Maidan be re-designed to take account of the latest revolution?
independence_square_kiev_maidan

19 thoughts on “The landscape architecture of Maidan Nezalezhnosti = Independence Square Kiev

      1. Tom Turner Post author

        Simon Jenkins concurs: ‘If I were a dictator I would build shopping malls over these places right away, as Turkey’s Recep Erdoğan tried to do last year in Taksim’s Gezi Park. At the very least, I would learn the message of Tiananmen: that a crowd once formed in a square is fiendishly hard to remove, and creates worse publicity worldwide than a dozen provincial massacres.’

        Reply
  1. Christine

    It seems democratic nations like seeing gatherings of people demonstrating. I am not sure what the boundaries are between legitimate demonstrations and civil unrest (ie. riots)?

    Has a date been set for a new election in Kiev to legitimise the current (interim) president? Apparently they were due to have an election within the year, but with the current situation it would seem more prudent to set an immediate date with a much shorter time frame?

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I think protests are almost always legitimate but that a boundary is crossed when one or other side resorts to violence. London has seen quite a lot of near-violence over the years and the police have mostly learned the lessons of Amritsar and Bloody Sunday – and responded with moderation. There is a well-justified storm over police malpractice at present but they deserve credit for the skill with which they have trod the tightrope between trying to retain order without over-reacting.

      The Ukraine election date has been brought forward to 25th May 2014 – odd they did not make it 22 May, which is the date for the European election.

      Reply
  2. Christine

    Vladimir Putin is credited with the ability to accept moral responsibility for past acts. He is said to have not only stood next to his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk at the unveiling of the Katyn Forest Memorial but to have given him a comforting hug as well.

    I am hoping he has all his diplomatic skills still well polished for the events ahead in the coming months.

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I tend to damn Putin as ‘an old KGB man’ but you are right that he is much better than the Kremlin’s old gerontocracy and accepting responsibility for Katyn was a great step forward. In the cold war days, when they were still debating who did it, the UK was timid about giving an opinion. It only came by the act of allowing a memorial in London with the wording Katyn 1940 – meaning ‘the Russians did it’. No announcement was made.

      Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Historically based claims to the ownership of land are more dangerous than minefields. If Israel belongs to the Jewish people then Britain belongs to the Celts. The Tartars have a fair claim to the Crimea but not as good as the claims of the Cimmerians and Scythians.

      Reply
  3. Christine

    Do you know if there are any Cimmerians or Scythians still living in Crimea (or descendants thereof)? It seems the Tartars are bi-lingual speaking Russian in public and Turkish in private.

    This seems to lend weight to Putin’s position.

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Sorry I do not know. I think Putin’s position is defensible but that his methods are indefensible. A referendum in which you can only vote ‘Yes’ deserves to enter folklore as a RUSSIAN REFERENDUM – and first cousin of the well-known party game, Russian Roulette.

      Reply
  4. Christine

    Hmmm. Yes, it seems there were only two voting options – autonomy or annexation. Do we take seriously that the Crimean parliament asked for Russian assistance like the Ukrainian parliament asked for European assistance after deposing its elected president?

    A similar event occurred in Australia in 1975 when the Prime Minister was sacked by the Governor General. What happened next sparked a constitutional crisis. It was resolved by the Governor General appointing the opposition as a caretaker government and elections being called.

    So far the Ukraine has not had elections to legitimate its current government. I am not sure how the situation has been resolved under the Ukraine constitutional arrangements.

    We can hope that Putin is wise and does not act in the Ukraine as he has said.

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      A Times correspondent (Matthew Paris) often observes that ‘all politicians go mad after ten years’. I think this has happened to Putin. The poor chap should retire to a dacha with his favourite gymnast.

      Reply
  5. Christine

    I am wondering whether Europe is concerned about Putin reconstructing the Russian Empire?
    [ http://ampp3d.mirror.co.uk/2014/03/18/err-mr-putin-crimea-has-not-always-been-part-of-russia/ ]

    It seems like the issue is illustrated by the results of the 2010 election in the Ukraine. Perhaps more attention needs to be paid to the democratic will of all the people in the Ukraine rather than considering whether they are pro-Russia or pro-Europe?

    It would be interesting to understand more about the Budapest Memorandum and the Treaty of Catherine the Great with the Turkish government of 1783. Some say that if the Crimea becomes independent it will return to Turkey. Apparently, with the break up of the Soviet Union Turkey acquired this right which it has not acted on?

    Perhaps Putin has a more intimate knowledge of the Treaty between Turkey and Russia than the European community does? Maybe he has been pouring over it in his dacha?

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Russia’s population was expanding when it grew from a small unimportant East European state into the world’s largest country and largest empire. But now its population is falling. Putin is running such an awful society that people don’t want to live there. So I do not see why they should want to expand and I can think of many reasons why, like the other great empires, it should not fragment. But if Siberia regained its independence we might have a new Genghis Khan and it might not be too good for the rest of the world.

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  6. Christine

    I am not at all familiar with life in Russia.

    It is possible to imagine that there is something to be said for being Russian no matter how bad your government and consequently life in your nation might be. (If that is the case.)

    The situation in the Ukraine from afar seems less like an expansion of Russia and more like the results of the chaotic fragmentation of the USSR.

    The response of the west seems more like a revisiting of WWII and a desire to absorb more territory into Europe?

    The EU is struggling with its current member states and arrangement. A period of consolidation would seem more sensible. But of course, Ukraine (minus Crimea) needs a friend and it is sensible given the genesis of this crisis in the EU v Russia question that the EU is now that friend.

    Yes the situation even complicates the football!
    [ http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/mar/22/crimea-ukraine-football-ultras ]

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      Everywhere, people are wonderful and governments are awful: so, yes, its great to be Russian.
      The word Ukraine means ‘border’ and land borders are fraught with problems. Some things are better on one side and some are better on the other side. So the people interchange and have loyalties to both sides. So which side should they belong to? Neither? Both?
      In a few centuries time the EU may come to be seen as a great solution to this problem. With its wonderful principle of subsidiarity it could allow all decisions to be taken at the lowest possible level. But the system is not working well yet. Some of the reasons for creating the EU were idealistic and some were base. Then the unelected bureaucrats made a power grab (there is a real comparability with China here).
      Re the Ukraine, I like to think that it is the idealistic aspect of the EU which led to Union’s rather mild intervention. Europeans tend to think liberal democracy is better than kleptocratic autocracy so they want Ukrainians to be ‘free’. Big subject. Beyond my knowledge, really.

      Reply
  7. Christine

    Strange Ukraine made no9 on the Klepocratic list while Russia is not in the top 11!

    In early 2004, the anti-corruption Germany-based NGO Transparency International released a list of what it believes to be the ten most self-enriching leaders in recent years. In order of amount allegedly stolen (in USD), they were:
    1.Former Indonesian President Suharto ($15 billion – $35 billion)
    2.Former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos ($5 billion – $10 billion)
    3.Former Congolese President Mobutu Sese Seko ($5 billion)
    4.Former Nigerian Head of State Sani Abacha ($2 billion – $5 billion)
    5.Former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević ($1 billion)
    6.Former Haitian President Jean-Claude Duvalier ($300 million – $800 million)
    7.Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori ($600 million)
    8.Former Cuban President Fulgencio Batista ($300 million)
    9.Former Ukrainian Prime Minister Pavlo Lazarenko ($114 million – $200 million)
    10.Former Nicaraguan President Arnoldo Alemán ($100 million)
    11.Former Philippine President Joseph Estrada ($78 million – $80 million)

    So lets hope the EU is a good influence on Ukraine!

    Reply
    1. Tom Turner Post author

      I wonder if the figures came from Swiss banks (!) and I would like to see figures for the whole oligarchate. But even more I would like to see a book of photographs of world leaders’ retirement homes (particularly those of Chinese leaders).

      Reply

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