One thing that strikes you about traveling in Eastern Europe is that everything seems BIG. Buildings, monuments, and other things are not only built large, but somehow conspicuously large. For instance, here's a photograph of one of the government buildings in Kiev:
This is evidently a Soviet-era building, which I suspect is designed to scare the hell out of you before you even set foot inside. Incidentally, the EU and Ukrainian banners are present because of a meeting between the two organizations which took place that week.
Here's another, egregious, Soviet-era example, the 'Friendship of Nations Monument':
This massive, dull-steel arch was built to commemorate the 1654 'integration' of the two countries (and that is 1654, not 1954: not a typo). It's located right at a scenic overlook of the river and the greater part of Kiev, and is a place where people will buy a beer and hang out.
The best example of 'build it big' in Kiev, however, is harder to find. The metro system of Kiev is located way, way underground. One of the stations which comes up in the center of Kiev is located at the top of a very large hill, so you have to descend a great distance in order to get to the train. Most people would probably build a series of escalators which would gradually take you there, but in Kiev, there's essentially just one long escalator to the bottom:
From an engineering standpoint, this is highly impractical. If the escalator craps out, people will have a quarter-mile walk uphill to get out of the station. It is damn impressive, though, and this seems to be the point.
My impression is that building big isn't just a Soviet proclivity. We'll see more examples of grandness and opulence when I post some pictures of the various cathedrals around Kiev.