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The Red Square

The history of Красная площадь (the Red Square) is irremediably linked with the history of Кремль (the Kremlin) as it has witnessed so much of Russian history. It is not only considered as the main square of Moscow but of all Russia.

The 330m by 70m cobbled square is dominated in the south by the brightly-domed собор Василия Блаженного (Saint Basil’s Cathedral). The cathedrals and the Palace of the Kremlin keep a careful look on it from behind its red bricks wall. On the eastern side, you can see the ГУМ (GUM department store) and next to it Казанский собор (the Kazan Cathedral). Государственный исторический музей (The State Historical Museum) and Воскресенские ворота (the Iberian Gate and Chapel) are situated on the north.

Lenin’s mausoleum and the place of skulls

On the Red Square, close to the Kremlin’s wall, you can’t miss the Мавзолей Ленина (Lenin’s mausoleum), where the embalmed body of the founder of the Soviet Union rests, Владимир Ильич Ленин (Vladimir Ilyich Lenin). The circular platform that can be seen not far from Saint Basil’s Cathedral is the Лобное Место (Place of skulls). Build around 1530, it was used for announcing the tsar’s decrees and special religious ceremonies.

The monument of Minin and Pozharsky

The only erected sculpture on the square is in front of Saint Basil’s Cathedral. This bronze statue represents Кузьма Минин (Kyzma Minin) and Дмитрий Пожарский (Dmitry Pozharsky), who in 1612, helped to clear Moscow from the Polish invasion during Смутное время (the Time of Trouble).

Name and origin

Strangely enough, Красная площадь doesn’t mean Red Square. Its name has nothing to do with the red bricks wall and even less with any communist references. The name comes from old Russian. The adjective красный/красная had 2 meanings: either red or beautiful. In that case it should be understood as “Beautiful square”.

At first the name was only given to Saint Basil’s Cathedral, and the square was called “Пожар” (fire) referring to its construction after a huge fire that entirely destroyed that part of Moscow in 1493. In that time, Ivan 3rd decided to demolish all the wooden houses around the Kremlin. The name Красная площадь was first mentioned in 1661-62. It then became a market place and the place for big manifestations as the crowning of tsars.

Recent history

In 1936, Иосиф Сталин (Joseph Stalin) ordered to destroy the Kazan Cathedral and the Iberian Gate and Chapel, which made the square bigger. According to the legend, Saint Basil’s Cathedral was also meant to be destroyed, but when the architect Лазарь Каганович (Lazar Kaganovich) showed plans of the square without the church, Stalin told him “Lazar, put it back!”

The Red Square today

Nowadays, everybody can walk on the Red square, except on special occasions. It is used for military parades that were and still are particularly appreciated. Great stars like Michael Jackson or Paul McCartney played on concerts on the square. In winter there is a open-air ice-skating ring, a wonderful place to ice-skate right in the heart of Moscow.

Since 1990, The Kremlin and Red square were recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.