Moskow, Russia

Russia - Moscow 2

Red Square is a city square in Moscow, Russia. The square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod.

As major streets of Moscow spread from here in all directions, being promoted to major highways outside the city, Red Square is often considered the central square of Moscow and all of Russia.

The name Red Square comes neither from the colour of the bricks around it (which, in fact, were whitewashed at certain times in history) nor from the link between the colour red and communism. Rather, the name came about because the Russian word красная (krasnaya) can mean either “red” or “beautiful” (the latter being rather archaic; cf. прекрасная, prekrasnaya). This word, with the meaning “beautiful”, was originally applied to Saint Basil’s Cathedral and was subsequently transferred to the nearby square. It is believed that the square acquired its current name (replacing the older Pozhar, or “burnt-out place”) in the 17th century. Several ancient Russian towns, such as Suzdal, Yelets, and Pereslavl-Zalessky, have their main square named Krasnaya ploshchad.

The rich history of Red Square is reflected in many paintings, including paintings by Vasily Surikov, Konstantin Yuon and others. The square was meant to serve as Moscow’s main marketplace. It was also the site of various public ceremonies and proclamations, and occasionally a coronation for Russia’s Tsars would take place. The square has been gradually built up since that point and has been used for official ceremonies by all Russian governments since it was established.

The buildings surrounding the Square are all significant in some respect. Lenin’s Mausoleum, for example, contains the embalmed body of Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, the founder of the Soviet Union. Nearby to the South is the elaborate brightly domed Saint Basil’s Cathedral and the palaces and cathedrals of the Kremlin.

On the Eastern side of the square is the GUM department store, and next to it the restored Kazan Cathedral. The Northern side is occupied by the State Historical Museum, whose outlines echo those of Kremlin towers. The Iberian Gate and Chapel have been rebuilt to the Northwest.

The only sculptured monument on the square is a bronze statue of Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, who helped to clear Moscow from the Polish invaders in 1612, during the Times of Trouble. Nearby is the so-called Lobnoye Mesto, a circular platform where public ceremonies used to take place. Both the Minin and Pozharskiy statue and the Lobnoye Mesto were once located more centrally in Red Square but were moved to their current locations to facilitate the large military parades of the Soviet era. The square itself is around 330 meters (1100 ft) long and 70 meters (230 ft) wide.

The Kremlin and Red square were together recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1990, due to their inextricable links to Russian history since the 13th century. (wikipedia)

The State Historical Museum, Moskow

Russia - Moscow

The State Historical Museum, Moskow

The imposing building that stands to your right if you enter Red Square through the Resurrection Gate is the State Historical Museum.The museum was opened in 1894, to mark the coronation of Aleksander III, and was the result of a 20-year-long project to consolidate various archaeological and anthropological collections into a single museum that told the story of the history of Russia according to the latest scientific methodology.

The building, which prompts mixed aesthetic reactions, is undeniably impressive. A mass of jagged towers and cornices, it is a typical example of Russian Revivalism, the Eastern equivalent of the Neo-Gothic movement. It was built by architect Vladimir Sherwood (whose father was an English engineer, hence the very un-Russian surname) on the site of the old Pharmacy Building, which was the original home of the Moscow University.

The museum holds a supremely rich collection of artifacts that tell the history of the Russian lands from the Paleolithic period to the present day. Each hall of the museum is designed to correspond to the era from which the exhibits are taken. The wide variety of the ancient cultures that developed on the territory of modern Russia is well represented, with highlights including Scythian gold figures, funerary masks from the Altai and the Turmanskiy Sarcophagus, a unique mixture of Hellenic architecture and Chinese decoration.

Later displays focus on the history of Russia’s rulers, with a number of historical paintings, court costumes, thrones and Carlo Rastrelli’s silver death mask of Peter the Great. Many of the museum’s halls are still closed for restoration work, but the museum is still well worth visiting, and makes for an excellent introduction to the history of Russia. Unfortunately, the exhibits are not labeled in English, although there are English-language guide books and videos available in the lobby.

The building also contains a restaurant, Red Square No. 1, and the Red Square Jazz Cafs. You can either see this as unchecked commercialism, or as a tribute to the inn that used to stand here, and was frequented by Peter the Great.

Opening hours: Daily from 11.00 to 19.00, closed on Tuesdays.

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