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The length of Red Square today is 330 metres (or 1082 feet) if measured from the History Museum to St.Basil's Cathedral; and from the Kremlin Walls to GUM it's 70 metres (or 230 feet) wide. Red Square came into being under Tsar Ivan III in the C15th – Ivan ordered the demolition of wooden buildings outside the Kremlin Walls, to create a trading market. The square had many names during its history, only becoming “Red Square” in the C19th. The Russian words “red” (krasny) and “beautiful” (krasivy) come from the same root. Contrary to popular rumour, the name “Red Square” has no connection to communism, and the name existed for centuries before Lenin.
Red Square was the main marketplace of the entire country for centuries. Here they sold fabrics, manuscripts, books, stationery, woodcut-print cartoons, and engravings. Even the USSR was unable to stamp out trading on Red Square. The frontage of the GUM Shopping Arcade looks out at the mausoleum of the USSR's founder, across the square.
Red Square's appearance changed considerably during the C20th. After the Russian Revolution in 1917 burials of revolutionary leaders began in the Kremlin Wall, followed by Lenin's Mausoleum in 1924. To create more space for military parades, Stalin had the Kazan Cathedral and the Chapel of the Iverian Virgin pulled down – both have since been rebuilt here. Stalin also intended to double the space of Red Square, by demolishing GUM – but WW2 intervened.
The USSR entered WW2 in 1941 – in November Soviet troops held a parade on Red Square from which they marched directly to the front line. In 1945 a Victory Parade was held on Red Square, during which 200 captured German military standards were thrown at the feet of the Mausoleum. At the end of the C20th both the Kazan Cathedral and the Chapel of the Iverian Virgin were rebuilt at the Resurrection Gates – and Red Square assumed its current appearance.
Red Square is situated at the brow of Moscow's principle hill, to the East of the Kremlin. Stand looking towards the Kremlin Wall, and your back will be facing the State Universal Store, or GUM. To your right, the History Museum is at the North end, and the red-and-white Nikolskaya Tower is adjacent. To your left, you see the huge clocktower of the Spassky Gate, and the multicoloured domes of the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin – more usually known as St Basil's Cathedral. In front of the cathedral is a statue of Minin & Pozharsky, and nearby the circular construction of the Place of Skulls.
In the Spring of 1987 – to be exact, on May 28th or Border-Guard's Day! - a German amateur pilot named Mathias Rust made a flight from Helsinki to Moscow. He touched down in Moscow adjacent to Red Square, behind St.Basil's Cathedral. After this legendary incident, a joke circulated... a foreigner is smoking a cigarette on Red Square when a policeman approaches him, demanding that he put the cigarette out. The foreigner obediently does so, saying “Ah, of course – airport regulations!”
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.