Moscow's Red Square is a unique concoction of Russia's imperialist past, remnants of Soviet Union and the excesses of modern capitalism. With Kremlin walls lining its east side, St Basil's Cathedral to the south, GUM shopping gallery on the west and the State History Museum at the north entrance, history & culture oozes out of every paving stone.
The Red Square is a large open space and attracts many locals alongside as tourists from all corners of the world. With its central location and the proximity of Kitay Gorod and Tverskaya street, this is a perfect place for Muscovites meeting friends for a quick drink.
There are two sights located on the square itself. The first is a statue of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky following Moscow's defence from Polish invaders in 1612. The second is the Lobnoye Mesto which contrary to the popular myth was never a place for executions, but instead used for public announcements and ceremonies.
Interestingly enough, the name of the square has nothing to do with its colour or the colour of anything around it. It even hasn't got anything to do with colours typically associated with Russia or the Soviet Union. While historians may disagree as to the exact origins, the debate is between the name "beautiful" (same word as Red in Russian) or the blood that was meant to be shed by forces invading the Kremlin.
At the end of the 15th century, the Kremlin triangle was surrounded by two rivers on two of its three sides - Moskva river to the south and the Neglinnaya river along the north (now running underground). With the only side open to overground invasion being to the east, Ivan the Great decreed that all buildings within shooting distance be cleared so that any advancing troops can be easily identified and fired upon.
Cannons lined the walls adjacent to the square with the Tzar Cannon (largest Cannon in the world) occupying the Lobnoye Mesto pedestal. Despite this, the large open space naturally evolved into a market leading to its original name of Velikiy Torg meaning 'Great Market'. The square was later renamed Troitskaya after a Church which was adjacent to it and Pozhar (Fire) after a great fire which also burned down the church. It was not until the 1660s that the Square got its current name.
Subsequent developments of the market and decrees clearing the square of any fixed stalls led to all the shops being arranged in lines along the eastern side creating a number of 'passages' which have since become the GUM shopping centre.
The Red Square continued to be at the forefront of political life in the 20th century throughout the time of the Soviet Union. Over time a number of adjustments were made to the layout, in part to facilitate the military parades that the square became famous for. The Mausoleum was erected and later reconstructed and the Kremlin Wall Necropolis has served as the final resting place for many prominent Soviet leaders.
The Kazan Cathedral at the north-east corner seen today is a reconstruction of the original cathedral consecrated in 1936. This beautiful building has been progressively expanded over a number of centuries before its destruction in 1936 on Stalin's orders. Being somewhat smaller than some other of the sites surrounding it, it is often overlooked, but we would highly recommend paying a visit.
The Red Square continues to be a prominent front-runner on Moscow's social scene and events are staged all year long drawing crowds to the Kremlin walls.
Perhaps best known, is the Victory Day parade on the 9th May celebrating the end of World War 2. A tradition reinstated from its soviet origins sees tanks, missile launchers & fighter planes make appearances interspersed with marching troops. While you will not be able to get to the Square itself, it is still possible to weave your way around tight security elsewhere in the city centre to get your look in on the tanks making their way there. The following few weeks are typically spent repairing the damaged roads!
The summer calendar often includes concerts attracting the world's best performers. From Paul McCartney to Shakira and The Prodigy, these concerts attract thousands of music fans.
The snow-covered domes surrounding the square make the winter months very popular for visitors. With New Year being Russian's primary celebration, the celebrations are truly spectacular. The last few years have seen the introduction of a large Ice Skating rink open to the public and has even staged high profile Ice Hockey games!
Throughout the Year