Red Square is 690 meters long and 130 meters wide.
The thickness of the artificial ground layer is from 4.6 to almost 10
meters. This is the size of the layer left by history.
one side of the square was Kremlin, where the Prince, the Metropolitan
and Boyars with their servants lived. On the other side was a
settlement, which appeared later; craftsmen of all trades populated it:
potters, leather-dressers, blacksmiths, shoemakers, jewelers, welders
Two rivers were flowing below, under the
hill: Moskva and Neglinnaya, a tributary of Moskva. There was a pier at
the bank of Moskva river, where ships with goods from faraway cities
and countries anchored. The goods were sold in the market square - near
the Kremlin walls. The Kremlin stood close to the rivers, which served
as additional de-fense barriers. The moat - dug at the approaches to the
Kremlin - on the eastern side, was filled with water. When at the end
of the 15th century - new brick walls and towers of the Kremlin were
erected, all buildings in the market square were destroyed: houses,
yards, shops and churches. Thus, in front of the Kremlin - there
appeared a space, which was clearly visible and could be shot through
from the fortress walls. There was nothing that could catch fire, which
was also very important. Since that time the site in front of the
Kremlin has been a square.
The square was called Great
Mart. As it often happened in those times there was a fire in 1571, and
all shops in the square were burnt down. After that - the square was
called Fire. Stone trading arcades were built in the end of 16th
century, which would withstand the fire.
The square was
gradually expanding and became more beautiful. People gave it a new name
- Krasnaya (Red), that meant beautiful. Under this name - it is known
all over the world.
The oldest structures in the square are the
walls and towers of the Kremlin: the Savior and the Saint Nickolai
Towers - built in 1491 by Pietro-Antonio Solari. The Savior tower is the
tallest. It was the main gate of the Kremlin. It acquired its present
appearance in the 16th century. Then it was topped with a multi-level
spire. In those days ceremonial processions of the clergy passed through
the gate. It was forbidden - to drive or walk through the gate having a
hat on a head. Even the tsars had to remove their hats. In the middle
of the 19th century the Kremlin chimes consisting of 10 bells were
installed. This chime mechanism occupied 3 floors. And now the clock on
the Savior Tower chimes every 15 min, and the melody of the national
anthem is played at noon and at midnight.
The southern side
of Red Square is closed by the CHURCH OF THE PROTECTING VEIL OF THE
MOTHER OF GOD ON THE MOAT (Saint Basil’s cathedral ), better known
as the Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed. It was built between 1555
and 1561 by order of Ivan the Terrible - in memory of the victory of
the Russian army over the Kazan Khanate in 1552. Originally it was
planned to put up 8 chapels. Each of them was to be devoted to the
saint, whose day coincided with the day of a given episode in the
military action at Kazan. The fall of Kazan coincided with the feast of
the Protecting Veil of the Mother of God. That feast was greatly
venerated in Russia, and that was why the central chapel was dedicated
to that feast. The architects Barma and Postnik, for the sake of
symmetry, built 9 chapels - the central one and eight around it. Later
on two more chapels were added - over the graves of Blessed Basil and
John. Most attended was the chapel of Saint Basil the Blessed; that was
the reason why the cathedral began to be called by the name of that
chapel - the Cathedral of Saint Basil the Blessed. To this day - the
cathedral remains as unsurpassed example of unique fairy-tale
architecture and is regarded as a symbol of Old Russia across the world.
On the other side of Saint Basil’s cathedral is the Monument to
Minin and Pozharsky. The idea of erecting this monument appeared in
connection with the coming - 200 anniversary of Russian victory over
Polish-Lithuanian and Swedish invaders. The sculpture group represents
the military leader, Prince Dmitry Pozharsky - who headed the Voluntary
Guards against the invaders, and the merchant Koozma Minin - who
initiated the money subscription for the army.
Next to the
monument of Minin and Pozharsky is a gray cylindrical structure on a
'rise'. It was the place for reading the state pronouncements. For
example, Ivan the Terrible publicly confessed his misdeeds here. A boy,
the heir of the Russian throne, was shown to the populace of Moscow from
this place. It also remembers a death sentence of the Cossack rebel
Stepan Razin - who was dismembered here in 1671. Executions took place
on wooden scaffoldings erected nearby. In 1698 - 2000 Peter the Great's
Archers (Sharpshooters) were killed here too. A court architect Matvey
Kazakov - designed the present version of this place in 1780.
eastern and northern parts of Red Square got their present look only at
the end of the last century.
At first sight they look like the
old structures. It is the so-called Russian style (Old Russian revival)
that was widespread - first in wooden - then in the late 19th century
stone architecture. The elements of the Old Russian architecture are:
hipped roofs, kokoshniks, barrel-shaped columns, etc. But back in the
late 19th century the buildings, mentioned above, looked ultra-modern -
large trading centers and the Historical Museum in the north. One of the
trading centers later became GUM department store. The great
building originally contained over 1000 individual shops along 3
parallel glass-roof passages.
The Soviet period changed the look
of Red Square. The main necropolis grew up at the Kremlin' eastern
wall. After two mass graves of Red Guards who were killed in October
1917 fights, all leaders of the Soviet State and the Communist Party
were buried there, with the exception of Nikita Khrushchev.
Lenin’s Tomb is the compositional center of the memorial that
accomplishes the whole ensemble of Red Square. Initially it was wooden
and built within a few days (3 days) to receive the body of the leader
who died on 21 January 1924. Russian architect Alexey Schusev headed the
project. The temporary wooden Mausoleum was constructed during a
few days. It was built in the shape of a cube crowned with a
three-story pyramid. In a few month in spring 1924, the first mausoleum
was replaced by a more monumental building also made of wood (oak
timber) shaped as a stepped pyramid. This mausoleum existed till 1929,
when the Government of the USSR issued a decree to replace it by a stone
building and announced competition for best project. There were many
different drafts presented by both, the venerable masters and the people
of different professions. However, non of them could compete with the
initial project by A. Schusev. The main feature of the Lenin mausoleum's
architecture is its epic simplicity and monumentality. And the present
building of the Mausoleum was erected in 1930 by the design of Shusev.
It is decorated with dark red granite, porphyry and black labradorite,
and that emphasizes the feeling of solemnity and tragic character. Above
the bronze doors the simple inscription "Lenin" was made from red
quartzite. The black stripe symbolizes the band of mourning. The Victory
Parade to celebrate the defeat of Hitler Germany was held on here on
June 24, 1945. To the roll of drums, soldiers threw down 2 hundred enemy
standards in front of the mausoleum. Under the Soviets the Mausoleum
also served as a platform (a tribune), from which party officials
(leaders of the country) made speeches on important Soviet holidays and
greeted festive demonstrations and military parades (the annual May Day
and 7 November parades). This tradition had been initiated by Stalin.
The soviet scientists were entrusted with the extremely difficult task
of preserving the image of great Bolsheviks leader for the future
generations. They worked out the unique embalming technology and made
special equipment that created all the conditions and controlled the
level of lighting, temperature and humidity for the preserving of the
corpse. After Stalin's death in March 1953 his body was also embalmed
and put in Mausoleum next to Lenin's, but soon afterwards in 1961 on the
order of Khrushchev Stalin's corpse was removed and buried by the
In the end of the 20th century, the
proposals to bury the remains of Lenin and demolish the mausoleum were
frequently discussed in the society. However, it was decided that the
mausoleum is one of the outstanding sights of Moscow and a monument of
the historical epoch that should be conserved for descendants. In
October 1993 the Guard of Honor that stood in front of the Mausoleum's
doors since the first days of its existence was disbanded. Since 1991
all the procedures, connected with preserving Lenin's mummy, have been
financed not from the State budget, but from the Fund of Lenin's
Mausoleum and private donations. Up to now, many curious tourists and
staunch communists try to take a look at a crystal sarcophagus with the
embalmed body of V. Lenin that lies inside.
occupied by Historical Museum, was originally the location of
Moscow University, established in 1755. The State History Museum is one
of the major all-Russia scientific institutions. Its items cover a
period from the Stone Age to the middle of the 19th century.
The Historical Museum built in 1875–83 as designed by architect V.O.
Sherwood continues the traditions of the Russian national heritage in
architecture. The composition of the façade of the building fronts
the Red square strictly. The elements of the side segmentation are
mirror reflections of each other. Fractional tower-building tops of the
structure produce complicated and broken rhythm. The walls' surface is
decorated with numerous elements made of hewn brick. The main entrance
to the museum was anticipated from the side that looks on the Red
Square. The staircase from the gala hallway led into the museum's first
floor. The stairs between floors were located in separate rooms. There
were totally 25 rooms at the first floor – of the heathen, Kiev's,
Suzdal's and Moscow periods. The last room – of the Smuta (Disturbance)
Time – was located at the left side tower that exits to the Red square.
The tower itself was intended for arrangement of the museum's director
The structure of the museum's internal rooms
gives an idea of complexity and intricacy of the building's layout, and
that was reasoned by the traditions of timber architecture. The first
exposition was opened in the museum in 1883 and occupied 11 rooms.
The Nikolskaya Tower is a tower on the eastern wall of the
Moscow Kremlin, which overlooks the Red Square not far from the State
Historical Museum. The Nikolskaya Tower was built in 1491 by an Italian
architect Pietro Antonio Solari, also known as Pyotr Fryazin. It was
named after Nikolaevsky (Nikolsky) Greek Monastery, which is no longer
there. And because Nikolskaya Street starts from it (the name of the
street, in its turn, is associated with an old Monastery of St.
Nicholas). The Icon of St. Nicholas the Miracle-Worker was mounted above
the gates. As with all gate towers, there was a drawbridge across the
moat and protective grilles over the entrance. In 1806, the tower was
rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style by an architect Karl Rossi. In 1612,
during the struggle with the Polish invaders, a volunteer militia led by
Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin rushed through this gate and
liberated the Kremlin. The tower was twice restored after
destruction: In 1812, the top of the tower was blown up by the
retreating French army (Napoleon’s retreating troops). It was restored
in 1816 by an architect Osip Bove. Its older top replaced by a Gothic
one with openwork details. In October 1917 the Nikolskaya Tower was
once again severely damaged by the artillery fire and was later restored
by an architect Nikolai Markovnikov. The tower’s decorative elements
together with the four small elegant Gothic turrets on the corners of
its quadrangular base and arrow-shaped arches make it unlike any other
Kremlin tower. In 1935, the Soviets installed a red star on top of the
tower. Its current height with the star is 70.4 m.
mention of the church of Our Lady of Kazan dates back to 1625,
when it was built on the initiative and money of Prince Pozharsky and
made of wood. Ten years later the church was burnt and it was taken
decision to erect a stone cathedral.
The tsar Mikhail
Fyodorovish contributed his own money to the construction of the temple.
In 1636 the cathedral was solemnly consecrated by all-Russian patriarch
Joseph. The main altar of the cathedral was consecrated in honor of the
famous and miraculous icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which gave to the
church the similar name. The miraculous icon of Our Lady of Kazan
traveled together with the troops of the 1st and the 2nd levies to
Moscow during the Polish occupation of 1611 and 1612 and helped to throw
the occupants out of the city. Then the icon became the pride of the
church and was kept there. Besides, banners symbolizing victories of
Russian arms hung on posts inside the cathedral. Here was a magnificent
iconostasis made of silver looted by the French which the Cossacks
retook back to the Cathedral.
The building of the church was
often reconstructed. In the beginning of the XIX century the old
pavilion was demounted, and by 1805 a new two-storied bell tower was
built. 60 years later the third storey was added to the church. In the
middle of the twenties the cathedral was restored under the direction of
an eminent architect Petr Baranovsky.
The fate of this
All-Russia holy place on Red Square was tragic. In 1930s Stalin ordered
to blow it up, because it impeded the flow of celebrating workers on May
Day and Revolution parades. It was restored in 1993 according to the
original design of the 18th century on the initiative of Moscow mayor
Yuri Luzhkov. The author of the project was a disciple of P. Baranovskiy
– the architect O.Zhurin. To mark the beginning of the restoration
there on November, 24, 1990, a solemn service was held. By 1993 the
restoration works were finished.
The Resurrection Gate
was one of the seven and most beautiful existing entrance gates of the
Kitay-Gorod's Wall. The name changed many times: during the long life,
it used to be called Kuretnye, Neglimenskie, L'vinye, Triumphalnye and
Iverskie. The final name appeared in 1689 after the icon of the
Resurrection of Christ was placed on the tower facing towards Red
Square. The Resurrection Gate, as well as the whole Kitay-Gorod
Fortress, was erected in 1535-38. It was a short time period, when Elena
Glinskaya ruled Russia being a regent of her minor son future Ivan the
Terrible. Architect Petrok Maly (Minor) used to work at the project,
though, some scientists mention Frances Annibal.
was used for protective purpose as a place for military shooting.
Originally, there were no special recorations on the Resurrection Gate;
it had low passage arches and wide battlements on top. In 1636, the
chambers were added on the top, and in 1680, the gate was completely
rebuilt and decorated with additional architectural elements – two
hipped roofs. Until 1731, the chambers above the gate were shared by
the neighbouring Mint and the Central Drug Store. Until 1731, the
chambers above the gate were shared by the neighbouring Mint and the
Central Drug Store. After Mikhail Lomonosov founded the Moscow
University in the latter structure, the university press moved into the
gate chambers. Nikolay Novikov, who ran the press in the late 18th
century, turned the second storey into his headquarters.
Since 1669, the wooden chapel in front of the gate (facing away from Red
Square) has housed a copy of the miracle-working icon of Panaghia
Portaitissa ("keeper of the gate"), the prototype of which is preserved
in the Georgian Iveron monastery on Mount Athos. Hence is the name
Iversky (that is, "Iberian"). In 1781, the Nikolo-Perervinsky Monastery
constructed a new brick chapel on this site. The star-splattered cupola
of the structure was topped with a statue of an angel bearing a cross.
Before entering the Kremlin Russian tsars stopped and prayed at the
Chapel, as well as everyone visited the chapel to do honour to the
shrine (to pay homage) befor entering through the gate.
rebel Emelyan Pugachev asked the Russian people for forgiveness a few
hours before his execution.
In 1931, the Resurrection Gate
and the chapel were demolished by Stalin's order in order to make space
for heavy military vehicles driving through Red Square during military
parades. In 1995 by the decision of Moscow Government at the entrance
into the Red Square the beautiful Resurrection Gate and Our Lady Of
Iberia Chapel were restored and currently makes one of the Moscow
downtown embellishments. A new icon of the Iveron Theotokos was painted
on Mount Athos to replace the original.
The square today is a
place for public gatherings, musical concerts, and a military parade
once a year on Victory Day.