The world-famous Red Square in central Moscow, Russia, separates St. Basil’s Cathedral from the Kremlin and the Kitai-gorod. Although most non-Russians cannot pinpoint Red Square on a map, many are familiar with images of Cold War Soviet soldiers marching through it. During the Cold War, Red Square served as a sort of propaganda forum for the Red Army, with missiles, tanks, and infantry soldiers marching in front of dictators such as Joseph Stalin, who would smile approvingly. Although Red Square is best known for its modern history, construction on its stone buildings began during Tsar Ivan III’s reign (ruled 1462-1505).
Interesting facts about Red Square:
After the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453, Ivan III wanted to make Moscow the “third Rome,” and part of his plan included constructing the Kremlin in stone.
Many believe that the name Red Square was given during the twentieth century because red is the color of communism.
Actually, the term refers to the central square in Russian cities and means “beautiful.”
Until the seventeenth century, the square was known as the “market” because it was the location of Moscow’s main market.
During the reign of Ivan IV, “the Terrible,” the Mongols sacked Red Square during a raid in 1571. (ruled 1547-1575).
St. Basil’s Cathedral was constructed between 1555 and 1561. It is actually a conglomeration of ten different churches. Although many of Moscow’s structures were designed by Western architects, St. Basil’s Cathedral was the brainchild of two Russian architects, Ivan Barma and Postnik Yakovlev.
St. Basil’s Cathedral was converted into a museum during communism and remains so today.
In 1924, Communist Russia’s first leader, Vladimir Lenin, was buried in a tomb in Red Square. From 1953 to 1961, Joseph Stalin was also interred in the tomb. Lenin’s body is still in the tomb, which attracts millions of visitors each year.
Mathias Rust, a German teenager, famously landed a small plane in Red Square in 1987. He was imprisoned in the Soviet Union for two months before being released and deported as part of the peace talks between the US and the Soviet Union.
Red Square has recently hosted a number of rock concerts, including one by Paul McCartney.
In 1990, Red Square was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
During the Communist era, most large military parades took place on May Day (May 1), Victory Day (May 9), and November 7 to commemorate the Bolshevik Revolution. Although the number of parades has decreased significantly since the Soviet Union’s demise, Victory Day parades are still held in Red Square.
The Kremlin was the royal palace for the tsars and, like the White House, it became the presidential headquarters during communism. Since the fall of communism, the Kremlin has served as Russia’s executive headquarters.