The Red Square

The Red Square

The Red Square – In the heart of Moscow sits The Kremlin, a fortification that was the center of the Russian Empire until 1703, the center of the Soviet Union from 1918, and the center of the Russian Federation since 1991. Along the eastern wall of the Kremlin lies the Red Square, a place where many state ceremonies take place. The Red Square is where St. Basil’s Cathedral and the Lenin Mausoleum are situated.

Nevertheless, the importance of the Kremlin was mostly based on its geographic position. From the south, the area is protected by the merging of two rivers, the Moskva and the Neglinnaya. Therefore, the Kremlin is, as many other fortresses were, surrounded by water from all sides. Bridges leading to the entrance to the Kremlin were built over time, while the moat around the fort was lined with stone blocks. The walls of the Kremlin changed over the years, changing the overall appearance of the Red Square with every new look. In 1491, under the leadership of architect Pietro Antonio Solari, a tower was built in the Kremlin, whose Frolovskiy Gates became one of the main attractions of Moscow, being used even today for many important state officials to excuse themselves from various celebrations and ceremonies.

During the 16th century, the Red Square was called the Troitskaya Square, based on the name of the nearby cathedral, while strangers visiting the Moscow square used to call it a market, because various shops at the square sold different goods at the time. During the reign of Ivan the Terrible, the square was also called the Great Square.

The oldest construction at the square is the so-called Lobnoye Mesto, which was first mentioned in 1547. It was the place where Ivan the Terrible held a speech in front of the people which called for the unification and consolation of two warring sides of Russia. The platform was originally built from concrete, but during a reconstructive project in the 16th century, it was re-built from stone.

In 1571, a great fire occurred which burned down many wooden shops. It was at this time that the square became known as Fire Square. New shops were built after the fire, as well as stone two-storey buildings to prevent the square from catching fire again.

The official recognition of the name “Red Square” came when Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich decreed it, while the name entered official use in documents in 1661. The Red Square has since seen many cultural buildings built in its bounds, including the Kazan Cathedral and a triumphal arch, and the square then lost its commercial significance. In the 18th century, the square officially became the cultural center of Moscow. The first public library was built in the Red Square, the main pharmacy was rebuilt, as well as several two-storey shops which constituted a new commercial side of the square. In 1786, under architect Matwey Kazakov, the Red Square underwent significant restorations, which also expanded the square to the east, and it was cobbled in 1894. Capital punishments were conducted in the square as well.

The State Historical Museum is located in the north of the Red Square. It was established by order of Alexander II in 1872. Today, the museum is one of the most valuable cultural heritage institutions of Russia. Its 29 rooms show the history of Russia from the ancient times to the beginning of the 20th century.

Close to the walls of the Kremlin sits the memorial graveyard- a true necropolis. It holds the remains of Josef Stalin, Leonid Brezhnev, Yuri Andropov, Maxim Gorky, Klara Zetkin, Yuri Gagarin and many other notable people. The Lenin Mausoleum was constructed in January 1924. The structure is shaped like a step pyramid, symbolizing eternity.

In 1918, the Red Square acquired significance as the place where parades and worker protests took place. The Vasilevsky Square became part of the Red Square in 1924, and this site was the starting place from which the Soviet Army began their march to the frontline on 7th November, 1941.

Today, the Red Square is not only notable for the many culturally and historically significant buildings that are located in it, but also for the annual military parade that has been held every 9th May, the day when Nazi Germany signed the act of unconditional surrender in the Great Patriotic War. The first military parade was held on the 24th June 1945.

In 1990, the Moscow Kremlin complex, along with the Red Square, were pronounced a UNESCO world heritage site.

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