Urban Fold

Square Roots

As part of a special issue on cities, the Canadian magazine The Walrus examines the little-known histories of famous public squares around the world.

Place de la Concorde, Paris:

Famous for: During the French Revolution, the square, temporarily renamed Place de la Révolution, housed the guillotine that killed more than a thousand people.

What you didn't know: While Louis xvi and Marie Antoinette would meet their ends there, the square was the scene of violence long before the blade began to fall.

Independence Square, Kiev:

Famous for: Independence Square was the scene of 2004's so-called Orange Revolution, which delivered Ukraine's presidency to pro-Western candidate Viktor Yushchenko over the pro-establishment Viktor Yanukovich.

What you didn't know: Just four years earlier, the Ukraine Without Kuchma campaign, provoked by evidence that then president Leonid Kuchma had conspired in the murder of independent journalist Georgiy Gongadze, pitched a tent city in the square.

Durbar Square, Kathmandu:

Famous for: As a frequent site of rallies and protests, Durbar Square has been central to the power struggle that has beset the Nepali capital since Crown Prince Dipendra's suicide and mass murder of the royal family in 2001.

What you didn't know: During a much earlier period of political strife, the ambitious and ruthless Jung Bahadur used the square in his plot to skip a few rungs on the ladder of power.

Full Story: Squares


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