Red Square


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Red Square

 

the central square of Moscow at the Kremlin, the arena of many important events in Russian history and in the history of the Soviet state, the site of mass demonstrations by Moscow’s working people and of parades of the Armed Forces of the USSR. It is bounded by the eastern wall of the Kremlin, GUM (State Department Store), St. Basil’s Cathedral (Pokrov-skii Cathedral), and the State Historical Museum.

Red Square is an open square that was created in the late 15th century, after the construction of the Kremlin walls. Originally it was called the Torg (Market). In the 16th century it was known as Troitskaia Square (after Troitsa Church, which was located in the southern part of the square). After the devastating Fire of 1571, the square was called Pozhar (Fire) Square. Since the second half of the 17th century, the square has been called Red Square (the Russian word, krasnaia, means red and beautiful). A moat was dug between 1508 and 1516 for defensive purposes (it was filled with water in 1516 and was filled in and covered after 1812). It measured 9.6-12.8 m deep and 36 m wide; bridges leading to the gates of the Kremlin were built across the moat. Filled with water from the Neglinnaia River, the moat was protected by jagged stone walls. The gates in the wall of Kitai Gorod were located on the northern side of the square. On the eastern side were rows of commercial establishments. The main elements of the architectural ensemble of Red Square were the Kremlin wall, with the Spasskaia (Frolovskaia), Senatskaia, and Nikol’skaia towers, and St. Basil’s Cathedral (1555-60, architects Barma and Postnik). The Kremlin wall determined the elongated composition of the square, and St. Basil’s closed off its southern side. In the 1530’s a tribune known as Lobnoe mesto was built on the square (the one that is preserved today was built in 1786 by the architect M. F. Kazakov). By means of a special decree issued in 1679 for the purpose of beautification, the commercial structures that were chaotically situated on the square and stood apart from the market arcades were demolished. In the late 17th century a number of administrative buildings were erected on Red Square, including the Mint (1697) and the Zemstvo Office (1699, on the side of the Historical Museum). Later the Main Pharmacy was built on the square.

At the beginning of the 18th century the city’s cultural life was centered on Red Square. Spasskie Vorota, the Gate of the Redeemer, was the site of book shops (from the 17th to the late 18th century) and of the first public library. A theater, the komedii-naia khoromina, was located at Nikol’skii Gate. In 1755, Moscow University opened in the building of the Main Pharmacy. Beginning in 1785, offices were opened.

In 1786 the old market arcades were rebuilt (from a plan by G. Quarenghi), and a new building was erected across from the Kremlin wall. After the devastation caused by the invasion of Napoleon’s French troops in 1812, this building was rebuilt (1814-15, from a design by O. I. Bove; not preserved). In 1818 a monument to K. Minin and D. Pozharskii was erected in front of the building (sculptor I. P. Martos; in 1930 the monument was placed in front of Pokrovskii Cathedral to facilitate the passage of parades and demonstrations along Red Square). Together with the dome of the Senate (1776-87, architect M. F. Kazakov), which protruded above the Kremlin wall, the monument formed the transverse axis of the ensemble. In 1819, Bove restored Nikol’skaia Tower, which had been destroyed in 1812. Intensive construction on Red Square occurred during the last quarter of the 19th century. Between 1875 and 1881 the Historical Museum (architect V. O. Shervud), which forms the northern face of the square was built. The Upper Market Arcades (now GUM, architect A. N. Pomerantsev) were constructed from 1889 and 1893, and the Middle Market Arcades (architect R. I. Klein), in 1892. These buildings were erected in a pseudo-Russian style; the architects tried to coordinate the appearance of the buildings with the walls and towers of the Kremlin.

Red Square was the site of several urban revolts in Moscow, including the Salt Rebellion (1648), the Copper Rebellion (1662), and the Revolt of the Strel’tsy (1682).

On Oct. 27 (Nov. 9), 1917, there was a battle on Red Square between the Junkers, who opposed Soviet rule, and a detachment of revolutionary Dvintsy soldiers (Bolshevik soldiers who had been imprisoned in the city of Dvinsk). On Nov. 10 (23), 1917, a funeral ceremony was held in Red Square for the soldiers who gave their lives for the victory of the socialist revolution in Moscow. V. I. Lenin gave speeches at the square a number of times. In 1924 his body was laid to rest in the Mausoleum (architect A. V. Shchusev) in Red Square. Constructed on the transverse axis of the composition, the Mausoleum organically blended into Red Square and became its architectural center. The Mausoleum, originally a wooden structure, was rebuilt in stone between 1929 and 1930. Reviewing stands were constructed by the architect I. A. Frantsuz in 1930 and 1931; at the same time, spruces were planted along the Kremlin wall. There are graves along the wall, and bricked up in the wall are urns with the ashes of outstanding figures in the Communist Party, the Soviet state, and in the fields of science and culture, as well as several individuals in the international workers’ movement.

REFERENCES

Istoriia Moskvy, vols. 1–6. Moscow, 1952–59.
Nasha glavnaia ploshchad’, 2nd ed. [Moscow, 1966].
Istoriia Moskvy v gody Velikoi Otechestvennoi voiny i ν poslevoennyi period 1941–1965 gg. Moscow, 1967.
U Kremlevskoi steny. Moscow, 1967.
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