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A name synonymous with Moscow and Russia, The Red Square is the most famous landmark and tourist destination, after the Kremlin. Historically known by different names, The Red Square acquired its current name in 1650 when it was called Krasnaya Ploschad, which essentially means red and beautiful. Contrary to popular belief, Red Square does not denote the Communist legacy of Russia but was a name appropriated to the St. Basil’s Cathedral which is located here and got later extended to the square itself.

The Red Square has been a witness to many a historic and social change in Russia, and has a rich historical past. The square came into being in the reign of Ivan III, in the 15th Century; it was he who ordered the clearing of wooden structures and buildings which were originally situated on the square for the fear of a major fire outbreak. Following the razing, the square was cleared to make way for a thriving marketplace and was known as the Trinity Square. It was also used as a major meeting space for residents, as well as a site to make important public announcements and proclamations. The Red Square has seen the crowning of Russian Tsars as well as the execution of those who angered the Tsars. The site for the executions was the Lobnoye Mesto or the “Place of Skulls”, which is situated to the North of the St. Basil’s Cathedral. It was also used as a pulpit for the Tsar, when he chose to address his public occasionally.

The Red Square is situated literally in the heart of the city, from where a network of roads originates and flows out into various directions. The Red Square is a magnificent sight to behold, with its 500,000 area of cobbled streets, hemmed in by beautiful buildings and monuments. The Red Square is also the geographical landmark which separates the Kremlin, which has historically been the seat of government and power in Russia from the commercial centre of the city, also called the Kitay-Gorod. Some of the major landmarks which are situated at the Red Square are the St. Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s Mausoleum GUM Departmental Store and the State Historical Museum. The Red Square was pronounced a UNESCO World Heritage Sight in 1991.

Amongst the landmarks which flank the Red Square, St.Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s Mausoleum are the most popular. St. Basil’s Cathedral with its colourful onion domes was built on the orders of Ivan III to mark the historic victory of the Russians over the Tartars in 1552. Two Russian architects were commissioned to create this magnificent monument, paying homage to the Saint on whose feast day the victories were achieved. In keeping with the brief, the architects designed this cathedral with eight separate domes, denoting the eight victories over the Tartans. St. Basil’s Cathedral is situated on the southern end of the Red Square. The Lenin Mausoleum, which is located on the Western part of the square houses the embalmed body of the legendary Russian political figure, Vladimir Lenin. The Mausoleum is open for the visitors and acts as a shrine to the historical figure. Originally a wooden structure, the Mausolem was renovated in 1929.

The Red Square with its historical monuments and sites forms the heart of Moscow and is a major tourist destination. It is also a contradiction of sorts, having seen its share of military parades and rock concerts. This is a place which provides brilliant photography opportunities to the visitor, as well as opens the door of Russia’s historical legacy to those in search of it.

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The Red Square

The Red Square

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