History of Red Square

Here I am in front of the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed in Red Square! The main square in Moscow is Red Square but before the 15th century it was a market place called Krasnaya Polshcad the Great  Marketplace. After a fire in 1403 which destroyed more than half of the wooden buildings, it was called Pozhar (Fire Site)!  Only in the mid-17th century when official ceremonies began to be held here, stone buildings were erected, and the decrees of the Tsar were announced at the southern end did people begin to call it Krasnaya or beautiful which also means red.

The Cathedral of the Protecting Veil also know as the Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed after the saint who was well known in Moscow and buried close by. It was built between 1555 and 1560 on the orders of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate the victory over the Kazan Khanate. It is believed to have been built by a master builder by the name of Postnik Barma. He created this complex of nine tower-like churches on one foundation. 

After building it, he became blind, but the rumor has it he was blinded by Ivan so he could never build another church that beautiful again. Each of the nine domes of the cathedral form the tops of separate churches, each dedicated to a saint on whose feast day the Russian army achieved a victory.

In front of the cathedral are two statues, one of Kuzma Minin and the other Prince Dmitry Pozharsky, who saved the city from invasion by the Polish troops led by the imposter False Dmitry II in 1612. Near the cathedral is a small stone mound of white stone built in the 16th century where the tsar's proclamations were read and public executions were carried out. In 1698 the square saw the execution of the streltsi, royal musketeers, who, incited by Sophia, Peter the Greats sister, rose in revolt against the tsar. In 1671 Stepan Razin was executed for leading a peasant uprising against the tsar and so on and on.

Of course now Lenin is buried in Red Square but perhaps not for much longer as the political force now wants to bury him where he originally wanted to be buried, in St. Petersburg. What was very interesting, only a few years ago there were lines of Russians waiting to see his body. When we were there the only people in line were tourists, nary a Russian in sight. How far the mighty have fallen! Actually, ever place we went, the Russian people had nasty things to say about the government They especially criticized the KGB and made nasty comments about it whenever possible.

Buying a T-Shirt in Red Square!

I had visited Red Square several times and each time two brothers in their early 20's would chase us around and try and sell us T-Shirts. We kept saying "No - no - no!" It didn't seem to stop them until we told them to keep away from us or else. They were mad and said some nasty things about us behind our backs. Tough luck. 

On our next to the last day I suddenly wanted to get some shirts for my nephew and sister. They love T-Shirts from around the world. I told my friends I wanted some nice shirts and they suggested Red Square! Sure, and after the scene I had with the two brothers. So off we went to Red Square again on the subway because we also wanted to stop at Gums again and have coffee under the beautiful glass roof. We got to the square and of course couldn't find the brothers so we went for coffee, so European. Then back to the square and no one, where are they when you need them? 

So we went to leave and heard this scream, "Hey you Americans!" I rushed over and pawed their T-Shirts looking for just the right ones. They thought it was funny and told us that they knew we would come back, it was in the stars, Red stars I am sure!


Return to Russian Home Page