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Photos author is Alexander Lytvyn

Khreshchatyk and Maidan

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Khreshchatyk and Maidan

The current architectural ensemble of Khreshchatyk is the result of post-war construction, and Maidan Nezalezhnosti underwent reconstruction not so long ago in 2001.

However, the very name Khreshchatyi Yar (the Cross Valley) is known since the 17th century. It is connected with the fact that the valley was crossed by hollows. According to another, more legendary version, Khreshchatyk was the name of a stream that flowed along the Khreshchatyi valley to a lake where, allegedly, the children of Prince Volodymyr were baptized. The area where Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) is now located was called the Goat Swamp in the 19th century. In the 18th century, the Khreshchatyk Valley became less wild: a road was laid here that connected Pechersk to Podil along the present-day Hrushevskyi Street and Volodymyrskyi Descent. First residential buildings appeared in Khreshchatyk at the end of the 18th century, between the current European Square and Independence Square. In the first years of the 19th century, the buildings reached the intersection with the current Prorizna Street.

In 1803, at the beginning of Khreshchatyk, where the Ukrainian House now stands, the first stationary city theater in Kyiv was built. Several other Empire-style buildings were erected around it, and together they formed a harmonious ensemble of the square. As early as the 1820s, paved sidewalks were laid in the quarter adjacent to the theater, thus beginning the history of Khreshchatyk as a street for strolls and entertainment.

In 1851, the wooden theater was demolished and the European Hotel was built in its place. Within a few decades, other hotels, shops with all kinds of goods, representative offices of banks and insurance offices and credit institutions, cafes, restaurants, photo studios and even a post office emerged in Khreshchatyk. The building of the latter was erected in 1849 with later additions: in 1886, the first telephone line reached the post office, and now the Ukrainian Radio is located in this building. In 1876, the building of the City Council was erected on the present Maidan Nezalezhnosti, and the square was named Dumska (the Council Square), and Khreshchatyk became the main street of Kyiv. In 1890, the first tram route (horse tram at the time) was laid here, and two years later the first electric tram in the Russian Empire rolled from the European Square to the Poshtova Square.

In the 19th century, Khreshchatyk became a place where citizens of all walks of life and social groups went for a stroll, where European luster reigned, entertainment was concentrated, and the street life flourished. This is how Khreshchatyk appears in literature: for example, in Ivan Nechui-Levytskyi’s Clouds, there is a mentioning of Khreshchatyk’s evening festivities and strolling to the Royal Garden (now Khreshchatyk Park and the City Garden). And the writers of the 1920s especially liked to depict the night city with its romance and hidden passions: Mykhailo Semenko admires the night Khreshchatyk, Stepan Radchenko from Pidmohylnyi’s City walks in the evening Khreshchatyk crowds.

The narrow Khreshchatyk with new buildings did not survive the World War II: before leaving the city, Soviet troops mined almost the entire street. New construction of the main metropolitan highway was carried out in the postwar years: then Khreshchatyk was expanded and planted with already traditional for us chestnuts.

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