Red Square

Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow
UNESCO World Heritage Site
Moscow July 2011-16.jpg
View from northwest, from the State Historical Museum, with Saint Basil's Cathedral and the Spasskaya Tower in the background
Location Moscow, Russia
Criteria Cultural: i, ii, iv, vi
Reference 545
Inscription 1990 (14th session)
Coordinates 55°45′15″N 37°37′12″E / 55.75417°N 37.62000°E / 55.75417; 37.62000
Red Square is located in Central Moscow
Red Square
The location of Red Square in Central Moscow
Show map of Central Moscow
Red Square is located in European Russia
Red Square
Red Square (European Russia)
Show map of European Russia
Red Square is located in Europe
Red Square
Red Square (Europe)
Show map of Europe

Red Square (Russian: Красная площадь, tr. Krasnaya ploshchaď, IPA: [ˈkrasnəjə ˈploɕːətʲ]) is a city square in Moscow, Russia. It separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and now the official residence of the president of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod. Red Square is often considered to be the central square of Moscow since the city's major streets, which connect to Russia's major highways, originate in the square.

Origin and name

The main squares in Russian cities, such as those in Suzdal, Yelets, and Pereslavl-Zalessky, are frequently named Krasnaya ploshchad, or Beautiful Square. Archaically, the Russian word красная (krasnaya) meant "beautiful", but now means "red", with the current word for "beautiful", красивая ('krasivaya'), being derived from it.

In Moscow, the name Red Square originally described the small area between St. Basil's Cathedral, the Spasskaya Tower of the Kremlin, and the Lobnoye Mesto herald's platform. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich officially extended the name to encompass the entire square, which had previously been called Pozhar, or "burnt-out place", reflecting that previous buildings occupying the site had burned down.[citation needed]


The rich history of Red Square is reflected in paintings by Vasily Surikov, Konstantin Yuon and others. The square was meant to serve as Moscow's main marketplace. It was also the site of various public ceremonies and proclamations, and occasionally a coronation for Russia's Tsars would take place. The square has been gradually built up since that point and has been used for official ceremonies by all Russian governments since it was established.

Before the 18th century

The East side of the Kremlin triangle, lying adjacent to Red Square and situated between the rivers Moskva and the now underground Neglinnaya River was deemed the most vulnerable side of the Kremlin to attack, since it was neither protected by the rivers, nor any other natural barriers, as the other sides were. Therefore, the Kremlin wall was built to its greatest height on this side, and the Italian architects involved in the building of these fortifications convinced Ivan the Great to clear the area outside of the walls to create a field for shooting. The relevant decrees were issued in 1493 and 1495. They called for the demolition of all buildings within 110 sazhens (234 meters (768 ft)) of the wall.

From 1508 to 1516, the Italian architect Aloisio the New arranged for the construction of a moat in front of the Eastern wall, which would connect the Moskva and Neglinnaya and be filled in with water from Neglinnaya. This moat, known as the Alevizov moat having a length of 541 meters (1,775 ft) and width of 36 meters (118 ft), as well as a depth of 9.5–13 m was lined with limestone and, in 1533, fenced on both sides with low, 4 meters (13 ft)-thick cogged brick walls. Three square gates existed on this side of the wall, which in the 17th century, were known as: Konstantino-Eleninsky, Spassky, Nikolsky (owing their names to the icons of Constantine and Helen, as well as Christ the Savior and St. Nicholas which hung over them). The last two are directly opposite Red Square, while the Konstantino-Elenensky gate was located behind Saint Basil's Cathedral. In the early 19th century, the Arch of Konstantino-Elenensky gate was paved with bricks, but the Spassky Gate was the main front gate of the Kremlin and used for royal entrances. From this gate, wooden and (following the 17th century improvements) stone bridges stretched across the moat. Books were sold on this bridge and stone platforms were built nearby for guns – "raskats". The Tsar Cannon was located on the platform of the Lobnoye mesto.

The square was called Veliky Torg (Great market) or simply Torg (Market), then Troitskaya by the name of the small Troitskaya (Trinity) Church, burnt down in the great fire during the Tatar invasion in 1571. After that, the square held the name Pozhar, which means "burnt". It was not until 1661–62, when it was first mentioned by its contemporary Krasnaya – "Red" name.

Moscow Kremlin (finished 1495)

Red Square was then the foremost landing stage and trading center for Moscow. Even though Ivan the Great decreed that trade should only be conducted from person to person, in time, these rules were relaxed, and permanent market buildings began appearing on the square. After a fire in 1547, Ivan the Terrible reorganized the wooden shops that lined its eastern side into market lines. The streets Ilyinka and Varvarka were divided into the Upper lines (now GUM department store), Middle lines and Bottom lines, although Bottom Lines were already in Zaryadye).

After a few years, the Cathedral of Intercession of the Virgin, commonly known as Saint Basil's Cathedral, was built on the moat under the rule of Ivan IV. This was the first building which gave the square its present-day characteristic silhouette (pyramidal roofs had not yet been built on the Kremlin towers). In 1595, the wooden market lines were replaced with stone. By that time, a brick platform for the proclamation of the tsar's edicts, known as Lobnoye Mesto, had also been constructed.

Red Square was considered a sacred place. Various festive processions were held there, and during Palm Sunday, the famous "procession on a donkey" was arranged, in which the patriarch, sitting on a donkey, accompanied by the tsar and the people went out of Saint Basil's Cathedral in the Kremlin.

During the expulsion of the Polish army from Moscow in 1612, Prince Dmitry Pozharsky entered the Kremlin through the square. In memory of this event, he built the Kazan Cathedral in honor of the "Kazan Icon of the Mother of God," which had followed his army in a campaign.

At the same time (1624–1625), the Spasskaya tower received contemporary tent roofs. This was done on the proposal and subsequent draft of Christopher Galloway from Scotland, who was summoned to design the new tower's clock and suggested the arrangement of the tent roof over the clock. In mid-century, a gilded double-headed eagle was set on top of the tower. After this, the square became known as Krasivaya ("beautiful").

In the late 17th century (1679-1680) the square was cleared of all wooden structures. Then all Kremlin towers received tent roofs, except Nikolskaya. One tent was erected on the wall above Red Square (the so‑called Tsarskaya Tower, so that the tsar could watch from this spot the ceremonies in the square). Tent roofs were also constructed at Voskrerensky (Iberian) gates, arranged in the wall of Kitai-gorod. These were the fortified gates at Voskresensky Bridge over the River Neglinnaya.

In 1697 and 1699, gates on both sides of Voskresensky Bridge were rebuilt into large stone buildings: the Mint and Zemsky prikaz (department in charge of urban and police matters). Zemsky prikaz (on the site of current Historical Museum) was then known as the Main Pharmacy, founded under orders of Peter The Great. In 1755 the first Russian University was originally housed in the building of Zemsky prikaz, before moving to the better known building on Mokhovaya street further across Manege Square. At the same time the (by then already drained) Alevizov moat was used as a state Pharmacy's garden for growing medicinal plants.

18th century

In 1702, the first public theater in Russia was built near the Nikolsky gate. It existed until 1737, when it was destroyed in a fire. In the 1730s, a new mint building, called the Gubernskoye pravlenie (Provincial Board), was built in front of the old one.

During her reign, Catherine the Great decided to make improvements to the square. In 1786, the upper floor of the market lines was made of stone. This line was built on the opposite side of the square, near a moat between the Spasskaya and Nikolskaya towers. Then architect Matvey Kazakov built (in the old forms) the new Lobnoye mesto of hewn stone, slightly West of the place where it was before.

19th and early 20th centuries

In 1804, at the request of merchants, the square was paved in stone. In 1806 Nikolskaya Tower was reconstructed in the Gothic style, and received a tent roof. The new phase of improvement of the square began after the Napoleonic invasion and fire in 1812. The moat was filled in 1813 and in its place, rows of trees were planted. The market Line along the moat, dilapidated after the fire, had been demolished, and on the Eastern side, Joseph Bové constructed new building of lines in the Empire style. In 1818 the Monument to Minin and Pozharsky, was erected; its construction symbolized the rise in patriotic consciousness during the war.

In 1874 the historic building of Zemsky prikaz was demolished. In its place the Imperial Historical Museum was built in pseudo-Russian style. After Bové's lines were demolished, new large buildings were erected between 1888 and 1893, also in the pseudo-Russian style: upper lines (Gum department store) and middle lines. The upper lines were intended for retail sale and together in fact comprised the first department store in Moscow. Middle lines were intended for wholesale trade. At the same time (in 1892) the square was illuminated by electric lanterns. In 1909 a tram appeared on the square for the first time.

Soviet era and modern era

During the Soviet era, Red Square maintained its significance, becoming a focal point for the new state. Besides being the official address of the Soviet government, it was renowned as a showcase for military parades from 1919 onward. Lenin's Mausoleum would from 1924 onward be a part of the square complex, and also as the grandstand for important dignitaries in all national celebrations. In the 1930s, Kazan Cathedral and Iverskaya Chapel with the Resurrection Gates were demolished to make room for heavy military vehicles driving through the square (both were later rebuilt after the fall of the Soviet Union). There were plans to demolish Moscow's most recognized building, Saint Basil's Cathedral, as well to make way for a larger Red Square, as well as the State Historical Museum. The legend is that Lazar Kaganovich, Stalin's associate and director of the Moscow reconstruction plan, prepared a special model of Red Square, in which the cathedral could be removed, and brought it to Stalin to show how the cathedral was an obstacle for parades and traffic. But when he jerked the cathedral out of the model, Stalin objected with his rather famous quote: "Lazar! Put it back!". However, no documented evidence exists of this encounter.[1]

In 1963, a group of African students organized a protest on Red Square in response to the alleged murder of a medical student named Edmund Assare-Addo. This was the first recorded political protest on Red Square since the late 1920s.[2] On May 28, 1987, a West German pilot named Mathias Rust landed a Cessna F172P light aircraft at St. Basil next to Red Square, causing a major scandal in the Soviet Air Defense Forces.

In 1990 the Kremlin and Red Square were among the first sites in the USSR added to UNESCO's World Heritage List.[3]

Red Square has also served as a venue for high-profile concerts. Linkin Park, The Prodigy, t.A.T.u., Shakira, Scorpions, Paul McCartney, Roger Waters, Red Hot Chili Peppers, and other celebrities performed there. For the New Year 2006, 2007, and 2008 celebrations, a skating rink was set up on Red Square. Paul McCartney's performance there was a historic moment for many, as The Beatles were banned in the Soviet Union, preventing any live performances there of any of The Beatles. The Soviet Union also banned the sales of Beatles records. While McCartney's performance was historic, he was not the first Beatle to perform in Russia. Former Beatle Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band performed at Moscow's Russia Hall in August 1998. On December 4, 2008, the KHL announced they would be holding their first all-star game outdoors on January 10 at Red Square.[4]

360° Panorama of Red Square: Kremlin (direction: SE), Saint Basil with Lenin Mausoleum (from 1930) in front, State Historical Museum (NW) and GUM store. Hardly seen are Voskresensky gates just to the right of museum, Kazan Cathedral just to the left of GUM store and the Minin-Pozharsky monument in front of Saint Basil (originally it was in front of GUM store).

Two of the most significant military parades on Red Square were 1941 October Revolution Parade, when the city was besieged by Germans and troops were leaving Red Square straight to the front lines, and the Victory Parade in 1945, when the banners of defeated Nazi armies were thrown at the foot of Lenin's Mausoleum. The Soviet Union held many parades in Red Square for May Day (until 1969), Victory Day, and October Revolution Day, which consisted of propaganda, flags, labor demonstration, marching troops, and showing off of tanks and missiles. Individual parades have been held on Defender of the Fatherland Day (23 February 1925),[5] the Day of Tankmen (8 September 1946),[6] and the state funeral of Joseph Stalin (9 March 1953). On Victory Day in 1945, 1965, 1985, and 1990, there were Soviet military marches and parades as well, and since 1995, the annual Moscow Victory Day Parade has been held on the square, marking anniversary of the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II.

In January 2008, Russia announced it would resume parading military vehicles through Red Square,[7] although recent restoration of Iverski Gate complicated this, by closing one of existing passages along Historical Museum for the heavy vehicles. In May 2008, Russia held its annual Victory day parade, during which for the first time since the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russian military vehicles paraded through the square. On May 9, 2010, to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the capitulation of Germany in 1945, the armed forces of France, the United Kingdom, and the United States marched in the Moscow Victory Day parade for the first time in history.[8]

Main sights

The buildings surrounding the Square are all significant in some respect. Lenin's Mausoleum, for example, contains the embalmed body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. Nearby to the South is the elaborate brightly domed Kremlin and the palaces and cathedrals of the Saint Basil's Cathedral.

On the Eastern side of the square is the GUM department store, and next to it the restored Kazan Cathedral. The Northern side is occupied by the State Historical Museum, whose outlines echo those of Kremlin towers. The Iberian Gate and Chapel have been rebuilt to the Northwest.

Flags of the Soviet Republics were flown there until 1987. The actual flagpoles were removed in 1997.[citation needed]

The only sculptured monument on the square is a bronze statue of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, who helped to clear Moscow from the Polish invaders in 1612, during the Time of Troubles. Nearby is the so‑called Lobnoye Mesto, a circular platform where public ceremonies used to take place. Both the Minin and Pozharskiy statue and the Lobnoye Mesto were once located more centrally in Red Square but were moved to their current locations to facilitate the large military parades of the Soviet era. The square itself is around 330 meters (1,080 feet) long and 70 meters (230 feet) wide.

World Heritage Listing

Foreign troops march on Red Square as part of Victory Day celebrations in 2010.

The Kremlin and Red Square were jointly recognized as a "UNESCO World Heritage Site" in 1990, due to their inextricable links to Russian history since the 13th century.


Starting in 2011, an annual children's bandy tournament for the prizes of the Patriarch of Moscow and all Rus' (Турнир по хоккею с мячом на призы Святейшего Патриарха Московского и всея Руси) is played.[9] However, the rink is not a full-sized bandy field. So it's rather a rink bandy event.[10]

See also


  • Юрий Федосюк. Москва в кольце Садовых. М., Московский рабочий, 1991. ISBN 5-239-01139-7
  • П.В.Сытин. Из истории московских улиц (очерки). М.. Московский рабочий, 1958

Coordinates: 55°45′15″N 37°37′12″E / 55.75417°N 37.62000°E / 55.75417; 37.62000


  1. ^ Shevchenko, Nikolay (December 4, 2017). "How did an architect convince Stalin to spare St. Basil's Cathedral from destruction?". Retrieved May 6, 2019.
  2. ^ Julie Hessler. "Death of an African Student in Moscow". Retrieved July 15, 2014.
  3. ^ Centre, UNESCO World Heritage. "Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow". UNESCO World Heritage Centre. Retrieved October 14, 2020.
  4. ^[permanent dead link]
  5. ^
  6. ^ Soviet Military Parade | Day of Tankmen, 8 September 1946, retrieved June 13, 2020
  7. ^ Aksyonov, Pavel (January 21, 2008). "Tanks to return to Red Square". BBC News. Retrieved June 14, 2009.
  8. ^ Chance, Matthew (May 9, 2010). "Western troops join Russia's Victory Day parade". CNN. Retrieved May 9, 2010.
  9. ^
  10. ^

External links