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GUM – the State Universal Store - occupies almost the entire length of one side of Red Square. It completely closes off Red Square to the East.
Red Square was the commercial centre of Moscow from the C15th onwards. During the C16th reign of Ivan the Terrible the square was full of market stalls — by the C17th the stalls had given way to organised wooden rows of market stands, where all of Moscow's business life went on. Tsar Alexander I ordered that his bustling mayhem be shut down, and replaced with more orderly trading. At first they put up a stone building which couldn't be seen for the number of wooden stalls around it, whose stoves continuously caught fire and burned down. Then in 1815 a new Empire-Style Covered Market building emerged – the Upper Trading Rows... or GUM, as they would later become.
The Industrial Revolution reached Russia in the C19th in a huge burst of industry and commerce. The Upper Trading Rows, as they were, no longer met present need – so a Competition was announced for the design of new Upper Trading Rows. The prize was awarded to the most controversial of the 23 entries – three huge aisles of shops within a building in neo-traditional Russian style. But the controversial aspect was the arched, glassed-in atrium roof. Nothing like it had ever been seen in Russia before!
The New Upper Trading Rows were enclosed within the facade of a new building designed in the C19th – marble, sandstone and granite graced the exterior. It was a truly vast construction, including not only the three gigantic aisles but also staircases and basements – hosting more than one thousand shops all told.
The Soviet 1920s saw a relaxing of the tight State control originally imposed by Lenin, in the so-called New Economic Policy – when private business once again appeared in Russia. Producers once more gained the right to sell their goods however they best saw fit. It was also permitted for whole companies to be put out on lease. And thus it happened that the Upper Trading Rows (as they still were) were rented-out by a new company called GUM – the State Universal Store. However, it didn't stay just a store for very long – by the 1930s all kinds of different organisations and offices were housed in GUM, and even light manufacturing moved into the premises.
Stalin believed that the GUM building hampered and hindered Red Square. Thus discussions began about erecting a Grand WW2 Victory Monument – on the GUM site. Anything, in fact, to get rid of GUM – but all the plans which came forward were complex and pricey. But then with the Khruschev thaw that followed Stalin's death in 1953 it was decided to evict all of GUM's non-commercial tenants, and restore it to full use as a shopping arcade once more.
GUM was effectively born again on Stalin's death – in 1953. The building underwent major reconstruction – shock-labour workers were drafted from across the USSR, to finish the task in just 3 months. The reopened GUM was the USSR's shopping Mecca, where even shortage items could always be found. The queues for such exotica were so long that they even provoked popular laughter. In short, the new GUM became a Moscow landmark on the same level as the Kremlin, Lenin's Mausoleum and the Exhibition of Economic Achievement.
Today's GUM is not merely a shopping arcade – it's a retail and entertainment complex. The world's most exclusive brands rub shoulders with popular goods, and shoppers can relax in comfortable cafes, restaurants, delicatessens, and even entertainment zones with a multiplex cinema. GUM has a restored Demonstration Showroom, part of its historic legacy project named “GUM & The Upper Trading Rows” - laid-out as it would have been in the heyday of the C19th Moscow merchants. The showroom often hosts fashion shows and art exhibitions, and even concerts and Christmas programs.
At the very centre of GUM's three aisles there's a magnificent fountain – details of which can be found in GUM's brochures going back to the 1920s. The fountain is as old as the Trading Rows themselves. Shoppers love to gather near the fountain – traditionally for an ice-cream wafer. GUM is beautifully illuminated by evening, showing all of its architectural elegance in a garlands of light.
Since 2006 GUM's very own skating-rink on Red Square has quickly become one of Moscow's best-loved traditions. Skating on Red Square is one of the capital's happiest experiences – being able to skate on the country's main square. You can often see some of Russia's ice-skating stars here on the GUM rink. In 2006 they held a celebration ice-hockey match on the rink, with the Russian national team playing the World All-Stars – to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Russian Hockey League.
Moscow is the capital of the ancient and modern Russian state. It has been playing crucial role for centuries. Here you can face all episodes of rich and gorgeous Russian history.
The city is full of historical buildings, monuments, cathedrals, museums and parks. It started many centuries ago from the Kremlin – medieval city-fortress overlooking the Moskva River. Now it is not only the government seat but open air museum. Behind the tall red brick walls palaces, cathedrals and museums are hidden. You can get there through one of the gates and walk along the streets that saw Ivan the Terrible, Boris Godunov, Peter the Great and all other Romanovs, and the Soviet leaders.
You can visit all the cathedrals on Sobornaya (Cathedral) Square, climb Ivan the Great Bell Tower, take photos of the Tzar Bell and Tzar Cannon, see state regalia, ceremonial vestments and gold and silver relics in the world-known treasury-house – the Armoury Chamber. To say more, the Kremlin and its vicinities are on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
We would like to advise you not to concentrate on the Kremlin only. Now you can get out of the Kremlin through the Spasskiye Gate and find yourself on Red Square – the main square of the country where Victory Day parades take place. In winter there is a skating rink with some kind of souvenir bazar. Red Square is famous for being the part of so called Kitai-Gorod – the second ring of fortified walls. Here you will see the beautiful fairy-tale St. Basil’s Cathedral. It is open for tourists and it’s worth visiting. Other places that pay tourists’ attention are GUM (the main center for shopaholics), Lenin’s Mausoleum, the State History Museum and the small Cathedral of the Kazan Icon of Our Lady. If you go along Nikolskaya Street, you will get to Lubyanka Square with the imposing buildings of former KGB and the biggest in Russia Children's World Department Store.
If you decide to go through the Resurrection Gate you will find yourself on Manezhnaya (Manege) Square at the entrance to the Alexander Garden. It’s a large pedestrian open space and a nice place to walk and relax near the fountains. Underground Trade Centre ”Okhotny Ryad” or “the Hunter’s Row” is a paradise for shopping. You can continue your walk towards Arbat or Tverskaya Street. There are also fine buildings to visit and to take pictures of: The Shilov Art Gallery, hotels “Moskva”, “Nationale”, Pashkov's House, The Former House of the Moscow State Duma etc.
If you decide to turn round Georgy Zhukov’s horse monument you’ll occur on Revolution Square where you can visit the Museum of Patriotic War of 1812. From there it’s very easy to get to Teatralnaya or “Theatre” Square limited by the Metropol Hotel, The Bolshoi and the Maly Theatres. In the center you will find a beautiful fountain by Vitali.
All these sites and even more you will be able to visit and explore with knowledgeable audio excursion with offline map from Your Audio Guide “Attractions around the Kremlin”. You will find Moscow very pleasant for spending holidays.