By Steven Eke
BBC News, Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine
At first glance, little appears to have changed in the Ukrainian city of Dnipropetrovsk since Soviet times.
Nasha Ukraina pushes the Orange agenda in unfamiliar territory
The Soviet-era housing estates, in particular, are just as grim as they were before.
The city's streets and squares still carry the names of Soviet-era heroes.
And a huge statue of Lenin still stands on its central square, his right arm elevated, pointing to what the Bolsheviks called "the right path".
Dnipropetrovsk is the third largest city in Ukraine, home to many types of heavy industry. Among them, the most important are steel and chemicals, as well as cutting-edge weapons manufacturing.
The presence of the latter is the reason why the city was closed to foreigners for decades. Located in south-eastern Ukraine, it voted for the forces opposed to the so-called "Orange Revolution" during the turbulent presidential elections of 2004.
And yet a great deal has, in fact, changed. Not only because the city council has decided to rename one of the roads leading off the main square "Europe Boulevard", but also because the city has a vibrant and pluralistic political life.
Push for change
Vladimir Lenin might continue to scowl, but recently he has overseen big public rallies on the square named after him, by groups and movements whose manifestos are anything but communist.
Nasha Ukraina, President Viktor Yushchenko's political party, has been very active here ahead of the 26 March parliamentary election.
Its supporters waved huge orange flags, set up tents, stalls, and entertained the masses with top pop stars.
Their Ukrainian rock and techno music was so loud it made the windows in my Soviet-era hotel shake.
The liberal "Orange agenda" does not go down very well in a part of Ukraine which is not its natural territory.
This is the Russian-speaking east, where many people still regret the collapse of the Soviet Union and the EU appears both far away and somewhat irrelevant.
I met up with one of the top Ukrainian pop stars, Oleh Skrypka, in his luxury hotel after a concert on Lenin Square. Yes, he said, the Orange Revolution had encountered many problems and there was a lot to complain about.
But he put that down to "a post-revolutionary hangover". And No, he did not want a return to the past.
He would use his music, he said, to persuade people that the power of the Orange Revolution could still be harnessed to bring about positive changes in Ukraine.
Later, the former world heavyweight boxing champion, Vitali Klitschko, appeared. He is now a politician, heading an electoral movement pushing a liberal, reformist agenda, but prone to public divisions.
Forcing my way through an incredible media scrum, I got to him and asked what he wanted to say to Ukrainian voters.
"I'll clean things up," he said. "I'll make life better."
Given his incredible size - he is more than two metres tall - I was reluctant to ask him just how realistic that might be.
A visit to an ordinary Ukrainian family living on the outskirts of the city revealed both hopes and problems. The physical infrastructure was, quite simply, horrible, although the small Soviet-era flat was as warm and welcoming as ever.
The whole family had voted for Viktor Yushchenko and believed in the Orange Revolution. But many hopes had been dashed.
If there was one, big positive change, it was, they said, that Ukrainians could now say and write whatever they wanted to, wherever they wanted.
There was real freedom of speech, and none of the fear that previously inhibited people.