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Top 10 Facts about the Red Square in Moscow


Moscow’s Red Square is also known as Krasnaya Ploshchad is famous for its political representation. It has been the meeting point for crowds since the 1400s.

The Red Square has been the front yard for Russian rulers since the time of Ivan the Terrible to the current leader Vladimir Putin.

Located east of the Kremlin, the Red Square is a great testament to Russian architectural design. Some of the architectural wonders at the Red Square include Kremlin walls and St. Basil’s onion domes.

These landmarks date back to the 15th century when Ivan the Great expanded the Kremlin as a sign of power and influence to its neighbours.

The Red Square began as a public market place and later on transitioned to a meeting place for the public and military parades for centuries.

Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Red Square is a place to visit while in Moscow. Here are the top 10 facts about the Square that you will find interesting and fascinating.

1. Red Square has nothing to do with the colour red

The name of the Square is derived from an Old Russian word “Krasnyi”.

This word means beautiful or pretty. The word was used to describe the Square before the 18th century to the late 19th century.

Several of the main squares in Russian cities were called Krasnaya ploshchad or beautiful square in English. Krasnaya now means red.  

The 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 incorporate the entire square.

2. The Red Square is rectangular in shape

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The Red Square has an almost rectangular shape it is 70 meters wide and 330 meters long. The entire square is 800,000 square feet.

It extends from northwest to southeast along part of the wall of the Kremlin that forming a boundary on the southwest side.

3. There are several attractions at the Red Square

The Kremlin in Moscow has several monuments, cathedrals, museums and GUM galleries.

St. Basil’s Cathedral was completed in 1561. It is made up of ten separate churches. This Cathedral was designed by Russian architects.

This cathedral is the most visited place in Red Square. It is also the most prominent landmark in the Square.

While the Kremlin of Moscow shares a border with the Red Square, its entrance is through the western part. 

GUM Galleries is the best-known shopping place in Russia. It is among the most visited by tourists. The galleries are in the centre of Red Square.

4. Red Square was meant to be the main Russian marketplace

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When Red Square was constructed, the main purpose of the square was to be the main marketplace for Moscow.

The square was used for public ceremonies, government declarations and even for the coronation of Russian Tsars.

It was not as big as it is today. The square was gradually built and more structures added.

Several speeches were delivered at this square including political demonstrations.

Execution of those that broke the law happened at this square during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great.

Mid-20th century, the Russian military held their parades at the Red Square. These parades were to demonstrate the strength of Soviet armed forces.

5. Basil Cathedral at the Red Square almost got destroyed

St. Basil’s Cathedral survived Napoleon Bonaparte’s invasion in 1812.

He arrived in Moscow in 1812 and wanted to use the church as a stable. Napoleon ordered the destruction of the cathedral but there was a sudden downpour that put off the fire.

Another attempt at destroying the cathedral was during the rule of Stalin. He intended to destroy all religious monuments but spared the cathedral.

In 1918, after the October Revolution, the cathedral was closed by the new state power. The leader of the cathedral was executed.

6. Russia’s first communist leader is interred here

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Vladimir Lenin’s was buried in a tomb in Red Square in 1924. Another Russian leader, Joseph Stalin, was also interred in the tomb from 1953 to 1961.

Lenin’s Mausoleum is still preserved and open to the public. His mausoleum is the main tourist attraction in Moscow.

The decision to be buried at the Square was not Lenin’s idea. He wanted to be buried next to his mother in St. Petersburg.

7. Red Square was considered a sacred place

During special events, the Red Square was the centre of processions.

On Palm Sunday, the famous procession on a donkey had the patriarch sitting on it while being accompanied by the Tsar.

Between the 17th and 18th centuries, the Square was used to celebrate the victory over the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.

8. Mathias Rust landed a plane at the Red Square

On March 28, 1987, a Cessna landed on the Red Square. The pilot was a German teen, Mathias Rust.

He landed on the Bolshoy Moskvoretsky bridge that was next to the square to avoid hitting tourists. The soviet air force had not given him land clearance.

His intended message was to preach peace to put an end to Cold War.

Several senior officers were dismissed and Rust was arrested and jailed for 14 months.

9. Some of the landmarks at the Red Square were redone

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The Kazan Cathedral that was destroyed by Joseph Stalin in 1936, was reconstructed from old blueprints after the collapse of the Soviet state.

Another structure rebuilt was the Resurrection Gates. They had been removed in 1931 to allow military tankers to enter the square.

The reconstructions were done in the early 90s.

10. There’s only one monument at the Red Square

Moscow’s most prominent landmark has only one statue. The statue of that of Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitry Pozharsky. These two were considered to be patriots.

They were installed between 1812 and 1818 in front of St. Basil Cathedral. The monument celebrates the liberation of Moscow from the Polish-Lithuanian occupation in 1612. 

It is celebrated as an official national holiday in Russia.