Red Square (outside the Kremlin's northeast wall) has changed quite a bit since the break up of the Soviet Union. American tourists wander about, street vendors sell home-made wine, babushka dolls and umbrellas, Marx. Lenin and Gorbachev look-alikes offer photo opportunities, and buskers perform for small change where goose stepping soldiers, tanks and intercontinental missiles used to be paraded during the May Day celebrations and where Tsars were married and executions were carried out. Empty cans and newspaper litter the cobblestones that were once spotless. Billboards advertising island vacations and cosmetics have replaced the huge portraits of Marx and Lenin.
Located along the longest brick wall of the Kremlin, Red Square is a rectangular, cobblestone square covering about 12 acres measuring about 400 by 150 meters. The Lenin Mausoleum sits next the Kremlin wall as does the Resurrection Gates, the ceremonial entryway or the tsars, which was restored in advance of Moscow's 850th anniversary in 1997. Raushskaya (across from the south side from Red Square) is riverbank area where drunk and stoned young people gather after the nightclubs close at 3:00am.
Red Square is included as part the Kremlin UNESCO World Heritage Site. According to UNESCO: “Red Square, closely associated with the Kremlin, lies beneath its east wall. At its south end is the famous Pokrovski Cathedral (Cathedral of St Basil the Blessed), one of the most beautiful monuments of Old Russian church architecture, erected in 1555–1560 to commemorate the victory of Ivan the Terrible over the Kazan Khanate. In the 17th century the cathedral gained its up-to-date appearance thanks to the decorative finishing of the domes and painting both inside and outside the cathedral. The construction of Red Square was finished by the late 19th century together with the erection of the Imperial Historic Museum (today the State Historical Museum), the Upper Trading Rows (GUM) and the Middle Trading Rows. In 1929, , Lenin’s Mausoleum, designed by A.V. Shchusev and an outstanding example of the Soviet monumental architecture, was finished.”
St. Basil's Cathedral sits alone on the south side of the square, while the State Historical Museum sides in the middle of the northern side. On the other side of the square, opposite the Kremlin wall is the GUM department store. At 1 Red Square there is an elegant restaurant that serves Tsarist-era dishes. The square illuminated at night and closed to traffic except for black Mercedes and Soviet-era limousines carrying government VIPs, that go in and out of the Kremlin's Saviour Gate. Most of the people mulling around are tourists. On Red Square you can sample both the world's best ice cream and the world's worst pizza.
The Monument to Minin and Pozharsky (in Red Square) by sculptor Ivan Petrovich Martos was opened in 1818 in the presence of the Tsar. It honors two heros involved in the ouster of the Poles and Lithuanians in 1612 and was paid for with funds collected by conscription among residents of Nizhny Novgorod (homeland of Kuzma Minin).. Later, the monument was moved because it blocked traffic along the Red Square during parades. The creator of the monumnet wrote: “Minin is dashing to rescue his Motherland, his right hand is grabbing Pozharsky's hand — as a token of their like-mindedness — and his left hand is pointing at Moscow being on the the verge of downfall.”
History of Red Square
Red Square has always been the center of action in Moscow. In the old days tsarist edicts were read here, criminals were sentenced here and executions were all preformed on a white stone platform called the Place of Brow. Russians fought Tartars; Reds fought Whites. Napoleon's army marched through the square and then retreated across it after Moscow was burned.
Ivan the Terrible confessed at Red Square in 1547, built St. Basil's cathedral to commemorate his victories and witnessed the executions he ordered of aristocrats and perceived enemies. Others who have met a cruel fate here include the Cossack rebel Stepan Razin (dismembered in 1767), the 2000-member mutinous palace guard of Peter the Great (executed in masse in 1698). The name of the square has nothing to do with Communism or blood. Its namesin Russian, Krasnaya means both "Red" and "Beautiful."
In the Soviet era tanks practiced for May Day celebrations here in the middle of the night and the huge crowds that listened to hours-long speeches by Soviet leaders where often bused in. For a while in the early 2000s, almost all of Red Square was closed for security reasons. Visitors could still see Lenin’s Tomb and St. Basil’s Cathedral but only after passing through metal fencing. The Moskva Hotel and the 19th century Manezh exhibition hall, which were once prominent features of Red Square, are now gone. The Moskva Hotel was torn down. The Manezh exhibition hall burned down in a dramatic election night fire in March 2004.
Touring Red Square
Many tourists enter Red Square from the Okhotny Ryad. On the right side the Victory in the Great Patriotic War, built in 1995 to mark the 50th anniversary of end of World War II; the equestrian monument to Marshal Georgy Zhukov, the great World War II leader, by the sculptor Klykova. The beautiful building with four tall towers at its corners is the State Historical Museum. To the left — near a subsidiary building that once housed the Lenin Museum — is a pavement marker that reads "Kilometer Zero road the Russian Federation".
Near Resurrection Gate, built in the late 16th century and destroyed in 1931, is the Chapel of the Iberian Icon of the Mother of God, an active Orthodox church that is open to visitors. A wall of Chinatown is flanked by the Kremlin Arsenal and Beklemishev (Moskvoretskaya) tower. It is part of Red Square. The blue building is a former Mint. Next to it is Kazan Cathedral, built in 1612 to commemorate the liberation of Moscow from the Poles and copied by other churches in Russia. It was destroyed in Soviet times but reappeared in the same place in 1993. The street, branching off to the left in this area is Nicholaskaya, one of the three famous streets of Chinatown. From here there ar several entrances to the GUM Department Store.
Near St. Basil's Cathedral is the monument of the citizen Minin and Prince Pozharsky by the sculptor Ivan Martos. Behind the cathedral is Vasilevsky descent. After passing through it you reach Moskvoretsky bridge leading to the Baltschug and Zamoskvorechye. To the right — on the Kremlin Embankment — is the Church of Christ the Savior, and to the left and slightly back is China town.
Lenin Mausoleum (next to the Kremlin Wall in Red Square) is the red granite building where the embalmed corpse of the former Bolshevik is displayed in a glass case. It is not as popular as it once was. Lines used to extend for nearly half a mile around the Kremlin Wall and into Alaxandrovskii Gardens. People even use to camp out overnight in front of the Kremlin to get a good position for the next day. Now the lines outside GUM department store across Red Square are sometimes longer. Often the mausoleum is closed.
Lenin's Tomb is a story and half tall. Built in 1930 on a the site of temporary crypt erected after Lenin's death, it is made from large blocks of porphyry (a highly valued purplish or red rock) and black granite. Red light illuminates the room with the corpse. In the Soviet Union era, the mausoleum also served as a viewing stand for Soviet leaders during major events in Red Square.
Lenin's has been on display here since 1924. Over 120 million people since then have walked past the body which has rested disturbed in the mausoleum consistently expect for an interlude during World War II when the body was moved to Siberia for safe keeping.
Gone are the goose-steeping soldiers who used to perform a changing of the guard ceremony every half hour, holding the rifles, not leaning them on their shoulders, but balanced in the palms of their hand, something that is actually quite difficult to do. They were removed in October 1993 after the attack on the Russian White House, out of fear that they fueled radical nationalism, and have been replaced by soldiers who look as of they would rather be somewhere else. Gone too are the KGB agents and uniformed guards who used to order the line to march along with military precision, and made sure no one talked disrespectfully or had their hands in their pockets and who arranged couples so women stood on the left and men on the right.
History of Lenin Mausoleum
Lenin's family had no wish for his body to be displayed, it was the Russian people who demanded it. The first mausoleum — made of wood — was constructed by A.V. Shchusev for Lenin’s funeral on January 27, 1924. This temporary mausoleum was shaped like a cube and topped with a three-tiered pyramid and stood only in the spring of 1924. A second temporary wooden mausoleum, again created by Shchusev, was installed in spring 1924, rostrums were added to the steps from two sides.
The third, present mausoleum, is made of reinforced concrete with brick walls, a granite lining, and a finish made of marble, labradorite and raspberry quartzite. It was made in 1929-1930 and designed by a team led by Shchusev. New visitor rostrums designed by the architect I.A. Frantsuz were built along the sides of the mausoleum in 1930. The mausoleum’s main rostrum was built in 1945. Renovation of the mausoleum was completed in 2013.
During World War II, the body of V.I. Lenin was evacuated toTyumenin in July 1941 and returned toMoscow in April1945. From 1953 to 1961, the mausoleum also contained the body of Stalin and was called The Mausoleum of V.I. Lenin and I.V. Stalin.
The first wooden version of the mausoleum had no rostrums. Later on, the mausoleum was used as a rostrum on which Politburo and Soviet government figures and military leaders, as well as honoured guests, would appear during celebrations — primarily parades on Labour Day and November 7, and after 1965 also at the May 9 parade— at Red Square. After 1997, leading government figures stood on temporary, specially-constructed rostrums during parades. Since 2005, the mausoleum has been closed and fenced off during events such as parades, concerts).
In his will, Lenin asked to be buried next to his mother in St. Petersburg. His wish was disregarded by Stalin, who wanted to make Lenin into an object of worship as a way of building religious-like support for the Communists. Against the wishes of Lenin and his mistress, Lenin's body was embalmed, dressed in trousers and a khaki jacket buttoned to the neck, and placed in a red porphyry mausoleum in Red Square (built in 1930), where it has been viewed by millions.
The 34-kilogram body is in surprising good shape. The skin doesn't look waxy and the beard is still red. He is wearing a black jacket and tie. His head rests on a white pillow and his left hand is clenched as result of a stroke he suffered shortly before he died. The only that is missing is his brain which is stored in a jar in the Institute of Neurosurgery. The formula that keeps him preserved is a state secret.
The inner organs were taken out because they leak toxins. Ilya Borisovich Zbarsky, who took care of Lenin's embalmed body for 18 years, told Newsweek, "After his death his brain had been removed and sent to a special laboratory set up to look for signs of genius, They didn't find anything particularly interesting." Lenin's brain was cut into 20,000 sections and experiments were conducted that attempted to proved the superiority of his brain over those of ordinary men.
The embalming of the body was poorly done at first. The face became wrinkled and shrunken. A Russian doctor, who reportedly used techniques practiced on mummies by the Egyptians, re-embalmed the body and restored the face with a younger more serious look. The formula used to preserve Lenin remains a carefully guarded secret although it is known that contains potassium acetate. Lenin was soaked in the solution after being washed with water and different concentrations of alcohol. Cuts were made in the body to absorb the solution. Embalming fluid was not added to the veins, the usual method of embalming, because the veins were removed by doctors who performed the autopsy.
When the Lenin’s widow visited the mausoleum shortly before her death she commented that Lenin retained his youth while everyone else had aged. Shortly after the body was put on display, a bitter Moscow frost caused water pipes in the mausoleum to explode, flooding the tomb. Afterwards Patriarch Tikhon, the head of the Orthodox Church, was arrested and executed, in part for commenting on the incident by saying, "Myrrh fits the relics."
Book: “Lenin's Embalmers” by Ilya Zbarsky and Samuel Hutchinson (Havril Press, 1999). Zbarsky's father led the team that embalmed Lenin.
Care of Lenin's Body
Lenin was the first person evacuated from Moscow in July 1941 when the German army appeared near the capital. With the exception of the rotting of Lenin's nose and ear the corpse has held up very well. The condition of the body appears to have improved and Lenin has even put on some weight.
As of the 1990s, twelve scientists employed by the Kremlin Center for Biological Structures, working on a budget of around US$1 million a year, were responsible for upkeep of the body. Two or three times a week they washed the body with a special solution to remove mold and blemishes. Every 18 months or so Lenin's corpse was removed and soaked for a couple of months in a special chemical bath. After the collapse of Communism, the people that kept Lenin's body on good shape made money by embalming murdered gangsters. They were especially adept at putting bodies back together that were ripped apart in gun battles and bombings.
Lenin’s body is kept at a temperature of 61̊F and in humidity of 70 percent. During the every-18-month bath Lenin’s body is removed from the mausoleum and immersed in a bath of glycerols, potassium acetate and other chemicals. After the body is removed from the bath, liquid on the skin is allowed to drip off and the body is wrapped with rubber bandages to prevent leakage. The head and the hands are bathed in embalming fluids and checked for bacteria ever two weeks.
Controversy Over Lenin's Body
After the break up of the Soviet Union and the discrediting of Leninist thought a controversy arose over what to do with Lenin's body. Some people wanted to see Lenin buried in St. Petersburg, where his family had a plot. For many this would symbolize the death of the Communist party. Others wanted it remain where it was in the mausoleum.
A 28 year-old shopping at the GUM Department Store told the New York Times, his burial "should have happened a long time ago. I mean this person died, so he should be buried underground. How long can this go on?" A 45-year-old Russian chemist said, "the mausoleum reminds me of a time when we were proud and strong. It's a symbol of the good things embodied by the former Soviet Union." Some nationalists have threatened to start a civil war if a hair on Lenin’s body is touched.
A police officers guarding Lenin's body said, "Is he bothering anyone by lying there? Anyway, if they close the mausoleum there will be absolutely nothing to do on Red Square." A rock singer said it should be buried but only after going on a world tour first.
In a 1998 poll, 51 percent of the Russians asked said they were in favor in an honorable burial. 25 percent were opposed. Communists and nationalists are particularly opposed to Lenin's burial. Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin proposed holding a nationwide referendum on the issue. President Vladimir Putin objected to the removal of Lenin's corpse on the basis that it implied Russians "had worshipped false values.”
Visiting Lenin's Mausoleum
V.I. Lenin’s Mausoleum is entered through the checkpoint by NikolskayaTower. Inside the building is a vestibule and a memorial hall designed by I.I. Nivinsky with an area of 100 square meters. The original sarcophagus containing the body of Lenin that was constructed by K.S. Melnikov and replaced in 1945 by a sarcophagus constructed by A.V. Shchusev and sculptor B.I. Yakovlev. In 1973, it was replaced by a bulletproof sarcophagus by designer N.A. Myzin and sculptor N.V. Tomsky). [Source: Russian Tourism Official Website]
The mausoleum is open from 10:00am to 1:00pm everyday except Monday and Friday. . Admission is free, but cameras and cellular phones must be left at the checkroom for a small fee. Tourist are still escorted one by one by guards who harshly scold anyone who utters a sound, even a whisper. Cameras and handbags and other items are confiscated and given back after the visit is over. Visitors do a U-turn and walk around three sides of the glass coffin and have about a minute or so to actually gaze upon the body while the walk by. Most people are just curiosity seekers
During the visit one must abide by certain rules: while remaining silent and not lingering at the coffin, one is advised to go in a semicircle around the sarcophagus; it is forbidden to hold one’s hands in one’s pockets, and men must remove their hats. It is prohibited to have in one’s possession photo and video cameras, mobile telephones with cameras, or carry a bag, rucksack, packages, large metallic objects or bottles containing liquid (if necessary, a paid storage service is available in the building of the State Historic Museum).
Jim Heintz of Associated Press wrote: Lenin's Mausoleum is “the epicenter of the overwhelming blind devotion to a man whose every utterance was treated as revealed word. Despite repeated suggestions that it should be closed and Lenin's mummified corpse buried, the mausoleum is still open 15 hours a week. And it's still a profoundly unsettling experience. Guards take umbrage at any even mildly disrespectful behavior, admonishing a recent visitor to take his hands out of his pockets. The corpse, under a glass cover, shows a sickly white face set off with garishly rouged cheeks. Visitors get only about 30 seconds to take a look as they walk by, the point apparently being to make a show of devotion rather than to reflect on what Lenin did. As institutional and deferential as this may seem, it's less so than it used to be. The line of pilgrims used to snake across Red Square; now, visitors marshal in an adjacent alley, as if setting out for a slightly shameful activity.” [Source: Jim Heintz, Associated Press, October 12, 2009]
Lenin Impersonator at Red Square
John-Thor Dahlburg wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “Lenin and the Tsar were ready. There were no cops in sight, and the sunny weather had brought out a swarm of tourists on this early winter afternoon. Adjusting the worker’s cloth cap on his bald head, Lenin set off at a brisk pace across the dark-gray cobblestones of Red Square, trailed by Nicholas II, who shouldered a flag emblazoned with the double-headed eagle, the emblem of Russia’s emperors. “Lenin,” came voices, some amused, others astonished. “It’s Lenin.” “The Tsar is back.” [Source: John-Thor Dahlburg, Los Angeles Times, January 15, 2012]
“The dvoiniki, or impersonators of historical figures, got down to business. Price of a souvenir snapshot with them: 100 rubles, or about US$3. Demand was brisk, but the costumed entrepreneurs had to keep an eye out for the police. Lenin (real name: Sergei A. Solovyov) had 20,000 rubles, or about US$630, in fines pending against him for unlicensed peddling. “It’s only become a crime because I don’t pay off the police,” he said, insisting that he has a license. (“I pay taxes; I’m an honest businessman.”)
“By some counts, as many as five Lenins compete for the tourist trade in Red Square (known among themselves as “Tall Lenin,” “Drunk Lenin,” and so on). There’s also a Putin, a Brezhnev and a Stalin. There was a Karl Marx as well, but he died. “Brezhnev doesn’t even look like Brezhnev, except for those eyebrows,” a figure dressed like one of Ivan the Terrible’s musketeers said as he stood outside the entrance to the State Historical Museum of Russia. “Plus, he’s from Kazakhstan.” None of the dvoiniki appear to inspire more astonishment, passion or desire for a posed snapshot than those who look and dress like Lenin.
“About a dozen years ago, Solovyov, 53, on weekdays a mechanic who drives a Ford Focus, came dressed like Lenin to the car dealership where he then worked and caused an uproar. His break came in 2004, when he was hired to impersonate Lenin during Communist Party celebrations of the Soviet leader’s birthday in Red Square. For a few hours’ work, Solovyov found out, he could earn the equivalent of a week’s pay. That astonished him, but so did the rapturous reception he got. “I didn’t know a lot about Lenin,” he recalled. “People came up to me, saying, ’Vladimir Ilyich, Vladimir Ilyich!’ thanking me, asking my advice about what was happening in the country now.”Old women wept. When he stood in line to pay his respects to the remains of the real Lenin, housed in a squat granite mausoleum in Red Square since his death in 1924, some children gave Solovyov a military-style salute.
“For the last four years, Solovyov (he’s Tall Lenin) has partnered with Viktor A. Chepkasov, a bearded ex-Interior Ministry guard who dresses like the last of the Romanov Tsars. On the other Lenin’s Solovyov said, “We envy each other, worry about what the others are earning. And Fat Lenin … he’s starting to think he’s really Lenin.” Solovyov said that won’t happen to him; never mind that his email address uses the names Lenin and Lenin’s real family name, Ulyanov, and that he is wont to quote the late revolutionary like a member of the old Komsomol, or Young Communist League. “Remember how Lenin said, ’We must proceed by a different way?’ ” he asked at one point.
“Solovyov said that for him, the different way was to stop bribing the police. He said he bought the equivalent of an occupational license and that since he’s being compensated for nothing but his appearance, isn’t a peddler under Russian law. That’s not the view of the police, though, who keep bundling him and Nicholas II off to the Kitai Gorod precinct station near Red Square. In November, he said, he was busted for being a “hooligan” and allegedly interfering with the police in the fulfillment of their duties. His problems, he said, all come from the police demanding payoffs and needing to make arrest quotas. “In our country, things never change,” Solovyov said. “Only the methods change – the methods of extortion.”
“The upshot: This father of three is now talking of emigrating. Working as Lenin here subjects him to too much harassment, Solovyov said, though the extra cash has been welcome. He says his weekly take from photo ops varies, but he sometimes can earn US$150 or more from a personal appearance. As Tall Lenin downed a final glass of vodka, he disclosed that he and Nicholas II have been talking about asking for political asylum in the United States, though it’s unclear on what grounds. Being subject to police harassment for posing for snapshots in period dress probably won’t suffice. Solovyov pondered what to do. “Perhaps the moment has come for Lenin to leave Russia,” he said. “For I’m never going to stop being Lenin. I’m going to die the way you see me.”“
Stalin’s Grave and Tombs of Communist Heros
Kremlin Wall Necropolis (behind Lenin Mausoleum, in a grassy area just outside the Kremlin) is an area with tombs of famous Soviets and Communists, including of the former Soviet leaders Stalin, Andropov, Chernenko and Brezhnev and important Communists such as Felix Dzerzhinsky, founder of the Cheka (forerunner of the KGB), Yakov Sverdlov, organizer of the October Revolution, and Mikhail Frunze, who secured Central Asia for the Soviet Union.
Each grave has a bust baring the likeness of the former leader. Also buried here are Inessa Armand, Lenin's lover, Yuri Gagarain, the first man in space; and Igor Kurchatove, the leader of the team that developed the Soviet hydrogen bomb. Also buried here are Kalinin, S.M. Budyonny. Clara Zetkin and M. Gorky. The American Communist John Reed is buried nearby in the wall itself. Khrushchev's body is in a grave somewhere else in Moscow.
The memorial cemetery near the Kremlin wall on Red Square is probably the most famous necropolis of Moscow, and perhaps all of Russia. The first burial came here occured in November 1917. The week of street fighting during the October armed uprising in Moscow killed many people. The Moscow Military Revolutionary Committee decided to bury the dead who were in favor of the Bolsheviks — soldiers, workers, sailors — in Red Square. Two mass graves were dug between the Kremlin wall and the tram rails on Red Square.
The funeral took place on November 10, 1917. In the a mass grave 238 bodies were buried. The identity of only 57 of them was established. Lenin made a speech at the opening of the necropolis. From Red Square the funeral procession went through 11 districts of Moscow. Beforehand the routes are published in newspapers. In 1919, Yakov Sverdlov, organizer of the October Revolution, was buried in Red Square. and later Lenin's Mausoleum was placed nearby. Several more mass graves were placed here later. Burial at the Kremlin wall became a kind of tradition: the grave lay along it, she herself became a columbarium for urns with ashes.
Stalin's Grave (behind Lenin Mausoleum) lies with other important Communists in a grassy area just outside the Kremlin. He is interred under a black granite slab with a small bust bearing his name and vital details Four days after his death, Stalin's body was embalmed and placed on display next to Lenin from 1953 to 1961, when Khrushchev ordered it removal. During that period the glass coffin with Stalin's embalmed corpse lay two or three feet away from Lenin’s body and Stalin's nose fell off.
In 1961 Stalin's embalmed body was removed in the middle of the night and was "deaccessioned, hoiked out" and cremated and placed in a grave in a cemetery for lesser Communist heros within Kremlin and covered in cement. Later a pedestal with a bust was placed on the grave to identify who it belonged to. According to one report Stalin's copse was moved away from Lenin's after a party member had a dream in which Lenin complained of being to choose his successor.
St. Basil's Cathedral
St. Basil's Cathedral (within Red Square) is Russia's most famous building. Commissioned by Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victory over the Tatars at Kazan in 1552, this flamboyant cathedral with its swirling onion domes seems more like something a child would dream up, not a cruel tyrant. Crowning the red and white ice-cream cone towers are an assortment of flavored domes: lemon and blueberry swirl, orange and lime striped parfait and pine cone upside cake. Some call the structure Russia’s Taj Mahal.
There is some order to St. Basil's madness. The cathedral is a symmetrical ensemble of eight chapels surrounding a central chapel, topped with a tent. Each of the nine chapels has its own unique onion-dome. . The tall spire-like roof covers the main chapel in the center. Four large octagonal-shaped chapels are by the four largest domes on the east, west, north and south sides, Four small domes are in between. Extra spire-like roofs sit over the stairways. An additional chapel built over St. Basil's grave and and a bell tower were added later. Although most of the structure was built between 1555 and 1561, it didn't takes its present shape until the 1670s.
Each chapel is named in honor of a saint and a person involved in Ivan the Terrible’s Kazan campaign. The central chapel honors Pokrova Bozhiej Materi's, whose name is attached to the official Russian name of the church: The Museum “Pokrovsky Cathedral”. St. Basil’s has nine iconostases — one in each chapel — with about 400 icons, dating to the 16th to 19th centuries. The walls are decorated by frescos.
The inside of St. Basil's is open from 11:00am to 3:30 pm everyday except Tuesday. Admission for foreigners is about US$2.00. The museum St. Basil’s isn't nearly as impressive of turbaned building itself. There is a small exhibition on St. Basil and some fine frescoes of saints, flowers and landscapes and a collection of church utensils. Among the most valued objects is 17th-century chalice belonging to tsar Alexey Mihajlovichu You can also see the web of scaffolding that supports the central tower. Near St. Basil's is the Place of Skulls, the traditional execution site, and a statue of a Russian general who drove the Poles from the Kremlin in 1612.
History of St. Basil's Cathedral
The original church was constructed between 1555 and 1561 under a decree by Ivan the Terrible to honor the capture of the Kazan khanate. Kazan was taken after a siege on October, 1, 1552, on feast day of Pokrova Bozhiej Materi. One of the “official” name’s of church is the Church of the Cover of Bozhiej of Mother. The site where the church was built is said to have been where the where a barefoot holy man named Vasily Blazhennyj was buried. It is said he raised money for the future cathedral, brought it to present-day Red Square and threw through the money over right shoulder and where the coins landed is where he was buried and the church as to be built.
St. Basil's was designed by the architect Posnik Pokrovsky and based on a style first displayed in wooden churches and based on a plan by Metropolitan Makarius to create an image of the Holy City of Jerusalem.. Known in Russian as Pokrovsky Cathedral “on the Moat”, it was founded based on the vow given by Tsar Ivan the Terrible before his campaign to Kazan in 1552 and Metropolitan Makarius’s blessing. According to legend the eyes of Pokrovsky were ordered gouged out by the Ivan the Terrible after it was completed so they that they never be used be build something more beautiful that St. Basil's. This is likely a myth.
St. Basil's is named after the holy man Vasily (Basil) who predicted Ivan's victory at Kazan and Ivan's murder of his son. Vasily died during the siege of Kazan and was and later canonized. He is buried beside the church . Napoleon called St. Basil’s a mosque and kept his horses in it. He would have torn it down if he had conquered Russia. The white platform nearby is where tsarist proclamations were held and criminal beheaded.
Stalin ordered St. Basil's to be blown up in the spring of 1936 to make more room for military parades. Only when the 43-year-old restoration specialist Petr Baranovsky threatened to chain himself the cathedral did Stalin cancel the order. St. Basil's Cathedral was repaired and repainted in 1948 and spruced up again prior to the 1980 Olympics.
Museums in Red Square
State History Museum (north end of Red Square) is located in a delightful, Russian-style, red-brick building built between 1878 and 1883. It was reopened in 1997 after 11 years of repairs and restoration work. Before the restoration it housed a large, dreary collections of coins, costumes and artifacts and served as an attic of the Kremlin museums.
The new museum is more upbeat and interesting, covering Russian history from the Stone Age to the present, with displays relating to tsars and other important historical figures. Among them more contains gold plated death mask of Peter the Great and other tsars. Some objects in the museum before the restoration have claimed by churches and other organizations.
About 22,000 items are presented in the State Historical Museum in an area of 4,000 square meters. The cover the entire museum one has to walk about three kilometers. If you spent one minute at each exhibit you would need 360 hours to absorb everything. In 2006, work on the Historical Museum permanent exposition was finished. It covers the history of Russia from the most ancient times to the beginning of 20th century on two levels in 39 halls. Information materials — quite a lot of it in English — is provided in the halls. A large great number of screens and monitors are put to use. Some of them show items that are not on display.
Central Lenin Museum (next to the State History Museum in Red Square) was closed by a decree from Yeltsin after the 1993 assault in the White House. It housed Lenin's coat, study, Rolls Royce and letters and showed films of Lenin getting crowds riled up with his fiery speeches. It also contained Stalin's war medals and Brezhnev's hunting rifles, along with a half million other relics dating back to the Soviet period. The red brick building that contained the museum has been given to the State Historical Museum which is next door.
GUM Department Store
GUM Department Store (on the side of Red Square opposite the Kremlin) is the largest department store in Russia. Occupying a vast 19th century Victorian structure, it has gone through an incredible transformation since it was privatized in 1993. In the Soviet era, it was known for its long lines, shortages of things people wanted and plentiful supplies of things nobody wanted.
The GUM of today is a modern shopping complex with 1,000 different shops and emporiums that sell a wide variety of Russian-made and foreign goods. After being neglected for 70 years, the building was refurbished in the mid 1990s with stuccoed archways, curved staircases, pedestrian bridges and shops like Galleries Lafayette, Esté Lauder, Levis, Revlon, Christian Dior, Bennetton and Yves Rocher. The prices are higher than those in the United States.
GUM (pronounced "goom") stands for Gosudarstveniy Universalniy Magazin. It is a two-story arcade with fountains and thousands of shoppers, many from outside of Moscow looking for items they can't find back home. The atmosphere of GUM isn't all that different from large shopping mall in The West.
Attractions in and around the GUM complex include the GUM-skating rink (open every day from November to March), an outdoor skating rink on Red Square with an area of 3000 square meters, a capacity of 500 people and warm dressing rooms, a café and skate rental and sharpening services; the Fountain in GUM, a popular meeting place (“By the fountain in GUM” is a phrase familiar to most Muscovites); the Cinema Hall of GUM, a nostalgic cinema located on the third line on the third floor of GUM. The GUM lies at the heart of the Christmas Fair on Red Square.
History of GUM Department Store
GUM got its start in the 1880s, when it was known as the Upper Trading Rows, where vendors set up wooden carts to hawk their wares. Later it became the worlds first indoor mall. The roots of the store go back to the 17th century when brisk trade was carried out near the Red Square. At that times trade was conducted in trading rows. GUM is the result of the placement of upper trading rows in a two-storey building, long enough and located in the close proximity to the Red Square. Wooden shops place around the building often caught fire, especially in the winter when people tried to warm themselves with makeshift stoves.
After the great fire during the Patriotic War the trade rows were once again rebuilt. New building was functionally divided into a several parts, but due to the fact that owners constantly argued over the need for further renovation work and didn’t do anything, the buildings quickly became worthless. In one case, a woman who came to buy a dress fell through the floor because of a broken wooden board and broke her leg. However, nothing was done This incident, however, nothing was done. At the end of the 19th century, over the objections of owners, old buildings were removed. A contest for the project of constructing a new GUM was announced and project created by Alexander Pomerantsev prevailed. In may 1880 the cornerstone was laid. Two years later the new, safe shopping center opened.
The new building followed the old principle of dividing the building into the parts according to their owners and trades. But in the new setting what had been simple tiny shops were now fashionable salons. In the 322 different departments of the three-storey building one could find almost everything, including elegant silk, expensive furs, perfume and cakes. There were also bank departments, workshops, post office, restaurants and other service departments. Exhibitions and music evenings were organized and GUM became a place one went to often and spent a lot of time.
After Russian Revolution in 1917, GUM was closed for some time, Trade was allowed in the times of New Economic Police (NEP), but in the 1930s it was prohibited again, and the building housed different ministries and agencies. In 1935 there some some discussion of destroying the building in order to extend the Red Square. Luckily these plans never materialized. GUM was reconstructed two more times: in 1953 and in 1985.
Kazan Cathedral (next to the GUM on Red Square) was founded in 1936 to celebrate the expulsion of the Poles in 1612. It housed “The Virgin of Kazan” icon which is credited with helping to drive the Poles out. In 1936, the church was destroyed reportedly because it created an obstacle for the May Day paraded. In 1993 it was rebuilt.
It is believed that the first wooden church on this site was built in 1620 by Prince Pozharskii. Soon after a stone cathedral replaced it that was consecrated in 1636. The church has been rebuilt several times and suffered serious damage during the Napoleonic invasion. Between 1925 and 1930 it was restored, but the cathedral was demolished in 1936. A modern building was built in here 1990 to 1993. It is an operating Orthodox church.
Near Red Square
Kitay-Gorod (Chinatown) (east of Red Square) is a area of old narrow streets that has been a center to trade and business since the 13th century. Its primary attraction is shopping and the Church of the Trinity in Niktniki, one of Moscow's finest onion-domed churches. Among the other places of interest here are church of the Zaikonospassky Monastery, the old printing house, the old stock exchange, the reconstructed the-century English House (where Queen Elizabeth I's emissaries stayed on their visit to Moscow), the Monastery of the Sign and its gold-domed cathedral, the Chamber un Zaryadie Museum (devoted to Romonav family before they became tsars).
Bolshoi Theater is about 500 meters from Red Square. See Theaters. Lubyanka KGB Headquarters (Dzerzhinsky Square) is about one kilometer northeast of Red Square. See Museums. The 15 KGB Museum is near the Lubyanka KGB Headquarters). See Museums Duma Building (near the Kremlin) is the home of the Russian Parliament.
Alexandrovsky Garden (next to Red Square) extends along the west of the Kremlin. It is large, pleasant open space — green in the spring and summer — where Muscovites gather to relax and chat. Manezhnaya Square Shopping Mall (near the Kremlin) is nearby. It is filled with ugly, kitschy figurines of bears, village idiots and Russian fairy-tale characters
Tomb of the Unknown Soldier (within Alexandrovsky Garden) with its eternal flame commemorates not only Soviet troops who lost their lives in World War II but the nearly 20 million victims of the war, most of them civilians. The tomb contains the remains of one soldier who died in December 1941 at kilometer 41 on Lenigradskow, the nearest the Nazi came to Moscow. The inscription reads: "Your name is unknown, your deed immortal." The flowers placed at the foot of the tomb are not from the families of war victims, but rather from newly-wed brides, an old Communist wedding day custom.
Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons
Text Sources: Federal Agency for Tourism of the Russian Federation (official Russia tourism website russiatourism.ru ), Russian government websites, UNESCO, Wikipedia, Lonely Planet guides, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, Reuters, Associated Press, AFP, Yomiuri Shimbun and various books and other publications.
Updated in September 2020