Icon of Elegance: Moscow’s Red Square

Red Square, that familiar bricked expanse in the heart of Moscow is located just outside the Kremlin...

Icon of Elegance: Moscow's Red Square

History Facts

Where: East of the Kremlin, Moscow, capital of Russia in North Eastern Europe
When: Became a public space in 15th Century
History: A great fire turns bare land into a space for the people and an icon of Western Russia.
Sights: Embalmed body of Vladimir Lenin, one of the world’s greatest leaders

Where It’s At

Red Square, that familiar bricked expanse in the heart of Moscow is located just outside the Kremlin, along its Eastern Wall.
The word ‘red’ doesn’t refer to the colour of the bricks or to Communism. In Russian, the square is called ‘Krasnaya Ploschad.’ The word Krasnaya means both ‘red’ & ‘beautiful,’ and the latter, referring to St. Basil’s Cathedral at the southern end of the square. The cathedral is also the place where the 20th Century Red Army paraded its tanks and missiles to impress its leaders and frighten the world.

When the great fire of 1493 laid bare a vast area between the Kremlin and the city Torg (Mart), the square was left vacant and was turned into a market centre. At first, the site of the future square was called the Pozhar (Burnt-Out Place).

The Red Square of today is more than 500,000 square feet of open land. It’s a place where people gather to celebrate official state events, to be photographed in front of favourite sites, or just to drink in the historic splendour.

Meeting Lenin

On the western edge of Red Square, nestled up against the exterior of the Kremlin wall, stands a monument to the founder of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Lenin’s Mausoleum. Following his death, in 1924, Lenin’s embalmed body was placed in a temporary wooden mausoleum after government offices were flooded with telegrams requesting the construction of a shrine to the illustrious revolutionary. Although Lenin had clearly indicated his desire not to be immortalised, the temporary structure was replaced in 1929 with the granite and black labradorite version seen today. Each year, thousands of people line up for the opportunity to view Lenin on his glass-enclosed bier and to watch the hourly ritual of the changing of the guard.

By Susi O’Neill

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