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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Better late than never (why is the Red Square red?) 

I was supposed to do some historical research on Red Square in Moscow, but never got around to it. First, let's take a look at part of a letter that was not sent to President Putin:

Dear President Putin:

So, why do you still call it “Red Square” if hardly anyone in your country is a communist anymore? Maybe you should paint it a washed out rust or a faded pink, metaphorically speaking. Plus, from what I can see, the spot is paved in black asphalt and there are cars parked there instead of tanks....

Some smart aleck (probably has over 100,000 NTN Players Plus points) made an absurd comment:

Somewhere I remember hearing that the name "Red Square" predated Lenin. I'd research it, but it's awfully late, and I don't have the excuse of having younguns in the home. (Age 14 doesn't count.)

Posted by: Ontario Emperor | November 19, 2005 at 03:29 AM

No, I can't remember why I was up at 03:29 AM. But I finally got around to the research:

Moscow's famous Red Square earned its name not from the red walls of the Kremlin, nor from the traditional symbol of Communism, but from the Russian word for "red", which many centuries ago also meant "beautiful"....

The square first came into being at the end of the 15th century during the reign of Ivan III. It was initially called Trinity Square after the Trinity Cathedral, which stood on the site of the later St. Basil's Cathedral. The name by which we all know the square today originated much later, possibly as late as the 17th century.

Located on the site of the city's old market place, Red Square served as Moscow's equivalent of ancient Rome's Forum - a meeting place for the people. It served as a place for celebrating church festivals, for public gatherings, hearing Government announcements and watching executions, the later becoming particularly commonplace during the reigns of Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great and during the anarchic Time of Troubles in the early 17th century. Occasionally the Tsar himself would address the people from a platform on the square, named Lobnoye Mesto.

The new Communist regime turned the square into a memorial cemetery and parade ground and in 1924 the Lenin Mausoleum was built to house the embalmed body of the founder of the Communist state. Red Square became the ideological focus of the new Soviet state and some of its ancient building weren't seen as appropriate to the new regime. The Kazan Cathedral and the Iverskaya Chapel with the Resurrection Gates were destroyed to make space for the military parades and demonstrations that frequented the square. The Bolsheviks even planned to knock down the GUM Department Store and the Historical Museum, but the onset of WWII diverted attention from the idea and thankfully it was never realized....

An Earthcam from Moscow can be found here.

From the Ontario Empoblog (Latest OVVA news here)

Ah ... many thanks for the info.
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