Red place

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Red Square, facing southeast
The Red Square at night
Red Square, looking north-west

The Red Square ( Russian Красная площадь , German transcription Krasnaja ploschtschad , scientific transliteration Krasnaja ploščadʹ ) is one of the oldest and, due to its size, its historical significance and the adjacent historical buildings, the most internationally famous square in Moscow and one of the most famous in the world. It is located in the center of historic Moscow's historical, in the eastern walls of the Kremlin , and is regarded with buildings such as the St. Basil's Cathedral , the Lenin Mausoleum and the GUM department store as a landmark of the city. In addition, it has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1990 .


Map of Red Square from 1917

The Red Square has an almost rectangular shape, is 70 meters wide and 330 meters long. It extends lengthways from northwest to southeast along part of the wall of the Kremlin, which forms its boundary on the southwest side. To the northeast, the square is bounded by the GUM department store building and the old district of Kitai-Gorod , to the northwest by the Historical Museum and the Resurrection Gate and to the southeast by St. Basil's Cathedral . Tverskaya Street begins to the northwest of the square behind the building of the History Museum , and to the southeast is the so-called Basil's slope, which leads down to the nearby Moskva River and over a bridge to the Samoskvorechye district . Two streets branch off northeast from Red Square: Nikolskaya Street ( Никольская улица , named after the Nikolaus Tower of the Kremlin that is directly opposite) and the Ilyinka ( Ильинка ), both of which have existed since the 14th century and were once important arteries of old Moscow . Today, the square itself, with the exception of the access road leading through it to the Savior Gate of the Kremlin, is a pedestrian zone.



The name Red Square has no reference to the era of socialism in Russia or to the color of the Kremlin walls and towers , which were painted white until the 19th century. The name is already used in the 17th century and actually means "beautiful place". The adjective " красный " ( krasny ) originally meant both "red" and "beautiful" in the Russian language, but over time it has lost the meaning of "beautiful" and is now only used as "red" in everyday language . This leads to false assumptions regarding the origin of the name even among Russians and to the somewhat erroneous translation as Red Square in German and other languages.

Creation and use as a marketplace

The emergence of today's Red Square is directly linked to the expansion of the old tsarist capital, Moscow, beyond the borders of its core, the medieval fortress of the Kremlin. From the founding of Moscow in 1147, it represented the actual city for several centuries, while the areas outside its walls were either quite rural or completely uninhabited. It was not until the 14th century that the craftsmen and traders' settlement Kitai-Gorod grew in front of the Kremlin walls, and in the 16th century it was protected from potential attacks by the construction of a fortification wall. At that time, the Kremlin was not only the home of the Tsar, as well as numerous boyars and other high nobility, but also a lively trading center where craftsmen from Kitai-Gorod, among others, sold their products.

Book booths on Red Square in front of the Savior Tower, 16th century. A drawing by Apollinari Wasnezow , 1902

When, towards the end of the 15th century, trading activities in numerous, rather chaotically arranged stalls and stands almost overflowed the territory of the Kremlin, the Moscow Grand Duke Ivan III decided. to relocate trade outside the Kremlin to Kitai-Gorod so that the residents of the fortress do not feel bothered by the traders and the defense capability of the facility is preserved in the event of an attack. The specific reason for this relocation came in 1493 when one of the then frequent major fires in Kitai-Gorod, which was dominated by wooden buildings, destroyed a large number of the houses east of the Kremlin. Shortly thereafter, a tsar's decree was issued, according to which all rows of markets were to be relocated from the territory of the Kremlin in front of its eastern walls and the fire-ravaged area immediately next to these eastern walls could no longer be built with houses so that a possible fire would not endanger the Kremlin . Therefore, the year 1493 is also considered to be the year the Red Square was created, even if there may have been a place in this area before.

In the 16th century, the square had little in common with an ordinary inner-city square; on the contrary, the newly created open space east of the Moscow Kremlin resembled a huge bazaar , in whose numerous rows there was constant hustle and bustle every day. All kinds of goods from all over Russia and abroad were offered here, most of which came by river - there was a landing stage for merchant ships only a few hundred meters away. Since that time, the tsar's edicts have been announced to the people precisely on this lively marketplace. Until the 18th century, the square was not paved and could therefore become very muddy in rainy weather.

The marketplace did not have an official name in the 16th century either. The former main market square within the Kremlin had already been called Schöne Platz before it was relocated . However, it would be several centuries before the name followed the actual square out of the Kremlin. Because of its primary meaning, the name Torg ( Торг ), literally "trade", was popular for this. After the wooden Trinity Church was built in 1552 exactly where today's St. Basil's Cathedral stands, the name Troitskaya ( Троицкая ), meaning “Place of the Holy Trinity”, had become natural for the square in front of it . However, only three years later, Tsar Ivan the Terrible demolished the Church of the Holy Trinity and had St. Basil's Cathedral built in its place.

For decades, however, the brisk trade on the Holy Trinity Square was unchanged, which ultimately led to it being closed with ever larger market stalls, craft booths and tents. Again and again there were decrees from the tsars to demolish certain buildings and to refrain from erecting houses on the square below. But that was of little use, the buildings were always being built anew - and there were always major fires. That is why the square has been popularly called Poschar ( Пожар , literally "fire") since the end of the 16th century . This condition would last well into the 17th century.

The "beautiful place"

The Red Square in the 17th century. A drawing by Apollinari Wasnezow, 1925

The decisive change of the square from a pure trading center to the literally “beautiful square” of the Tsar's capital began at the end of the 17th century. In the 1690s, the state authorities had all rows of the market, some of which reached right up to the Kremlin wall, moved a few hundred meters below to Kitai-Gorod. As a result, the various retail chains arose there, some of which are considered the forerunners of today's GUM department store on the east side of Red Square. Some of these rows are still reminiscent of the names of alleys in the vicinity of Red Square (for example "Fischgasse" ( Рыбный переулок ) or "Bleikristallgasse" ( Хрустальный переулок )).

In the late 17th and 18th centuries, in addition to St. Basil's Cathedral, which was completed in 1561, several architecturally sophisticated buildings were built on the vacated Trinity Square, including the Kazan Cathedral and the building of the government administration. In addition, during the reign of Catherine the Great, the previously almost entirely unpaved area was covered for the first time with wooden planks, which was first replaced by cobblestones in 1804 . The first historical documents in which it is listed for the first time under its current name Krasnaya Ploschtschad , or “Beautiful Square”, date from the late 17th century, when the beautification of the square was just beginning .

Coronation of Tsar Alexander II in Red Square, September 1856

For centuries the Red Square retained its undisputed role as the central square of Moscow. Before the capital of the Russian Empire moved to the newly founded Saint Petersburg , the Tsar's laws and edicts were publicly proclaimed on Red Square. In addition, various popular festivals and all official celebrations took place here, such as the annual large church services on important Orthodox holidays, the first Russian New Year according to the Julian calendar in 1700, the military parade in 1912 on the 100th anniversary of the Russian victory in the war against Napoleon or the solemn act to mark the 300th anniversary of the Romanovs' dynasty in 1913. Even after the capital moved, all the coronation celebrations came to a pompous conclusion on Red Square. Admittedly, the square was also the scene of less glorious events in its history: During the time of Ivan the Terrible, among other things, there were executions of disgraced boyars by his bodyguard, the so-called oprichnina , and between 1698 and 1699 there were hundreds of them on Red Square insurgent Strelets on the orders of Peter the Great executed.

Today's architectural ensemble of the Red Square was essentially completed at the beginning of the 20th century, after its northeastern side was built with the new building of the upper trade rows (today: Warenhaus GUM) and to the right of it with the very similarly designed wholesale building. After the completion of these buildings, which were based on the style of the historical architecture of the Kremlin, the pavement of the Red Square was extensively renovated and a tram line was laid through the center of the square along the Kremlin wall by 1909 . This existed there until 1930. In 1892 the square received electrical lighting for the first time.

Red Square since the 20th century

360 ° panorama of Red Square

A few months after the political upheaval in Russia caused by the October Revolution in 1917, Moscow became the capital again, initially of Soviet Russia , then from 1922 the capital of the Soviet Union . The Kremlin thus became the residence of the head of state again and the Red Square the main grandstand of state power and one of the symbols of the new system. After the death of the revolutionary leader Lenin in 1924, this was particularly evident when his mausoleum was built directly on Red Square.

Red Square in 1941

In particular, during the Soviet era, the square became the regular venue for military parades and other propaganda events: the first of these took place on November 7, 1918, on the first anniversary of the revolution, and was crowned by a symbolic burning of the Tsar's straw doll. The parade on November 7, 1941, with which the then head of state and party Josef Stalin wanted to demonstrate the strength of the Soviet state in the middle of the battle for Moscow , and the parade on June 24, 1945 on the occasion of the victory over Germany, also went down in history during the Second World War , during which 200 Wehrmacht flags were thrown down in front of the Lenin mausoleum in a symbolic gesture . Since then, pompous Victory Day parades have been held annually on May 9th on Red Square ; With the exception of the years 1991 to 1994, this tradition has continued to this day. In Soviet times, apart from the military parades, other ideologically motivated annual celebrations took place in the square, including centrally organized workers' marches on Labor Day every May 1st and on November 7th every year on November 7th for the anniversary of the October Revolution.

Admittedly, not only state-ordered rallies took place in Red Square during the Soviet era. The square hit the international headlines on August 25, 1968 when a group of eight regime critics (also known as dissidents ) organized an unauthorized protest against the recent invasion of Czechoslovakia by the troops of the Soviet Union and other Eastern Bloc countries. which went down in history as the end of the so-called Prague Spring . Within a few minutes, the demonstrators were arrested and taken away by the militia and KGB guards , and the posters (including “Hands off the ČSSR !” Or “Freedom for Dubček !”) Were confiscated. Six dissidents came to court two months later and received various prison and banishment sentences for disseminating subversive propaganda.

A football festival on Red Square on May 18, 2008, on the occasion of the
2007/08 UEFA Champions League final in Moscow

On May 28, 1987, the Red Square again attracted the world's attention when the German private pilot Mathias Rust flew over the square in a Cessna 172 machine and then landed, which a little later brought him a year imprisonment in the Soviet Union. However, contrary to what has been described in some reports in western media, the landing did not take place on Red Square itself, but on St. Basil's slope, which extends south of St. Basil's Cathedral.

In April 1990, the Red Square was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites together with the Kremlin . This recording was made on the recommendation of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS), with St. Basil's Cathedral in particular being recognized as a “masterpiece of human creativity” (criterion 1) for Red Square. This award was one of the first that UNESCO presented to objects on the territory of the former Soviet Union. Today all the buildings on Red Square are on the national list of historical and cultural monuments; their protection is enshrined in the 2002 Law on Objects of Cultural Heritage of the Peoples of Russia .

Currently, Red Square, which continues to be the central square of Moscow, is part of the sightseeing program of every Moscow tourist and is still the scene of remarkable events time and again: In addition to the annual victory parades, major events have been held here since the 1990s; the most spectacular of these were the concert by the band Red Hot Chili Peppers in front of around 200,000 spectators on August 14, 1999 or by Paul McCartney on May 24, 2003. When preparing such events, the space, which is otherwise freely accessible around the clock, is used for several days in the Locked in advance. A public ice rink has been set up in front of the entrance to the GUM department store every winter since December 2006.


In the following, all the buildings located directly on the Red Square are to be presented in a clockwise direction, starting with the Historical Museum at the northwest end of the square.

State Historical Museum

historical Museum

The striking dark red building of the State Historical Museum forms the end of the Red Square from the north-western side. It was built in the years 1875–1883 ​​and is therefore one of the younger components of the architectural ensemble of Red Square. Before it was built, the first pharmacy building in Moscow stood here since the beginning of the 18th century, which was rebuilt in 1755 and served as the first campus of the then newly founded Moscow State University for two decades .

Today's museum building was built especially for the Historical Museum, which was newly founded in 1872, and was ceremoniously handed over to its destination in May 1883. Its architect was Vladimir Sherwood , who is considered to be one of the main representatives of the "Russian style", a variant of historicism based on traditional Russian architecture, which was widely used at the time . The museum building looks correspondingly “Old Russian”: The facades are decorated with arched windows and ornaments reminiscent of traditional Russian Orthodox churches, several decorative towers are built on the sides, reminiscent of some of the Kremlin towers, and the shape of the roof is reminiscent of the Terem Palace in the Kremlin, a form of the Russian mansion that was particularly preferred in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Today the Historical Museum is the largest and most famous history museum in Russia. In 16 specialist departments, it houses around 4.5 million exhibits on Russian history from almost all epochs and also organizes themed special exhibitions several times a year. In addition to the actual museum building, the historical museum complex also includes, among other things, St. Basil's Cathedral and the Moscow New Maiden Monastery, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site .

Resurrection Gate

Resurrection Gate, facing southeast

The Resurrection Gate forms one of the two entrances to Red Square from the northwest side. This structure, erected for the first time in 1680, initially belonged to the fortifications of the Kitai-Gorod . In its base part it consists of two arched portals, which are crowned in a symmetrical manner by two rectangular towers, the tops of which are strongly reminiscent of the Kremlin towers. Originally, the Resurrection Gate represented part of the architectural ensemble at the northern end of Red Square, which, in addition to the gate, included the attached government building (see below) and the no longer preserved pharmacy building, which had to give way to the Historical Museum at the end of the 19th century . In the times of the Russian Empire, the gate served as a symbolic entrance gate to the heart of Moscow, especially during large celebrations: the tsars always passed the gate at their coronation celebrations before the coronation was proclaimed in front of the people on Red Square.

In 1931, the new state authorities had the gate dismantled so that it would not hinder the passage of military technology during major military parades on Red Square. Today's gate is largely a replica of the original and dates from 1996. Between the two portals on the north side of the gate, the chapel of the icon of the Mother of God of Iviron ( Икона Божией Матери Иверская ), originally built in 1781, was rebuilt at the same time . A new copy of the icon was made for this chapel on Athos , where the Iviron monastery is located.

Former government administration

Original sketch of the rebuilt government administration building by Joseph Bové

The building standing between the Resurrection Gate and the Kazan Cathedral is one of the less conspicuous structures on Red Square. It was built between 1733 and 1740 and since then has served as the headquarters of the administration of the city of Moscow and the Moscow Governorate (the latter partially corresponds to today 's Moscow Oblast ). The government administration building was not spared from the war against Napoleon in 1812 , in which large parts of Moscow were destroyed. In the 1810s it was rebuilt under the direction of the architect Joseph Bové , who played a key role in the reconstruction of the city. In the course of this reconstruction, a tower was added to the roof of the house, which for a long time served as an observation tower for a fire station. At the beginning of the 20th century, however, this tower was dismantled.

The building today

The old building of the state mint has been preserved in the courtyard of the former government administration building . This was built in 1697 on the decree of Peter the Great and since then has housed a production facility for silver coins for almost a quarter of a century, before the money issuing system of the Tsarist Empire was essentially relocated to Petersburg. After the end of coinage, the lower part of the building, which had no windows in its lower part, was used at times as a debt tower for insolvent merchants. Today, both the former government administration building and the old mint belong to the neighboring historical museum.

Kazan Cathedral

Kazan Cathedral

The Kazan Cathedral is to the right of the former government administration building, on the corner of Red Square and Nikolskaya Street. Today's cathedral is a replica from 1993. Originally, there was a church on this site since the 1620s, initially a wooden one, then a stone one from 1636 onwards.

The Kazan Cathedral owes its name to the icon of Our Lady of Kazan, which has been venerated by Russian Orthodox believers for centuries . Since, according to a legend, this icon is said to have brought the Russian people's army, led by the national heroes Kusma Minin and Dmitri Poscharski , the victory over the Polish-Lithuanian occupiers of Moscow in 1612 , the devout Prince Poscharsky donated it to them a few years after the victory Icon consecrated cathedral. This corresponded to the then usual Russian tradition of building churches in memory of historically important victories of Russia - the previously built St. Basil's Cathedral (see below), for example, was built at the time as a thank you for defeating the Tatars.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Kazan Cathedral on Red Square was one of the most important places of worship in Moscow and was the scene of solemn cross processions led by the patriarch and the tsar, especially on the anniversary of the victory over Poland-Lithuania .

In 1936 the cathedral, like many other Moscow places of worship, was demolished at the approval of Joseph Stalin . The reconstruction, which was called for by the public several times and was completed in 1993, did not begin until the early 1990s. This made the Kazan Cathedral one of the first places of worship in Moscow to be destroyed during the Soviet era, which was rebuilt in the 1990s.

GUM department store

GUM department store

The GUM department store building on the east side of the square occupies the entire section between Nikolskaya and Ilyinka streets. Due to its location directly on Red Square, its considerable size - the sales area is around 35,000 m² - and the distinctive architecture, the GUM is internationally the most famous shopping center in Russia.

The GUM building was built in 1893, replacing a building that had housed the Upper Trading Ranks ( Верхние торговые ряды ) since 1815 - a lavish Empire building that combined a large part of Kitai-Gorod's trading activities under one roof . After this building began to deteriorate in the middle of the 19th century, there were always plans for a replacement building. However, due to organizational difficulties, these could only be implemented in the 1890s, for which a special company was founded and an ideas competition among architects was advertised. This was won by a project by the St. Petersburg professor of architecture Alexander Pomerantsev and the sometimes little-known engineer Vladimir Schuchow . The construction of the new trade rows lasted from 1890 to 1893. When they were ceremoniously opened on December 2, 1893, the new structure was able to impress the Russian and foreign public not only with an unprecedented range of all kinds of consumer goods, but also with one for the then Russia completely new type of glass roof construction of the three passages, which was designed by Schuchow and built using around 60,000 panes of glass. Outwardly, like the neighboring Historical Museum a decade earlier, the building was kept in the Russian- historical style, with a roof gable based on typical boyar palaces of the 16th century, two decorative towers based on the Kremlin and one reminiscent of old Russian buildings Main facade.

During the Soviet era, the new Upper Ranks had an eventful history: In 1921 they were given their current name GUM (at that time this was an abbreviation for Gossudarstwenny Uniwersalny Magasin - "State Department Store", today it stands for Glawny Uniwersalny Magasin - " Main Department Store ") in the early 1930s -Years they were closed for two decades and served as office and residential buildings, and from the end of 1953 until the collapse of the Soviet state, the GUM was considered a kind of model department store in the middle of the real socialist shortage economy . In the 1990s, the GUM was privatized and thoroughly renovated and today it presents itself to the locals and tourists as a noble shopping center, which is characterized by boutiques in the upper price range.

Former wholesale building

The former wholesale building, in the foreground the Lobnoje Mesto

The building at the easternmost point of the square, on the corner of Ilyinka Street, stands exactly where the so-called Middle Trade Ranks ( Средние торговые ряды ) were still in the 17th century . These were - in addition to the upper trading rows, where today's GUM department store is located - a part of all those market rows that had shaped Kitai-Gorod, which is adjacent to Red Square. The massive collection of various market stalls, stalls and self-made wooden huts was replaced for the first time at the end of the 18th century by a building complex specially built for trade, the authorship of which is attributed to the Italian builder Giacomo Quarenghi . In the war of 1812, however, these buildings burned down and were rebuilt a few years later by Joseph Bové - the building of the Middle Trade Ranks that was built at that time has been preserved to this day and is located on Ilyinka Street a few hundred meters east of Red Square.

The wholesale building on Red Square was not built until 1894, at the same time as the current GUM department store was built. Since it was planned from the beginning to complement this - while the upper rows were supposed to accommodate the retail trade, the house to the right of it was reserved for the wholesale trade - it is not surprising that both buildings look very similar architecturally, with one of the magnificent old Russian buildings 15th and 16th century ajar facade. The building's architect was Roman Klein , who also designed numerous other well-known Moscow structures in the late 19th century, including the Pushkin Museum .

After the communists came to power, the building was no longer used as a trading house, but as the headquarters of various authorities. Until recently it belonged to the Russian military. At the beginning of 2007, four inner structures of the former trading rows were demolished and are currently being rebuilt; The plan is to reconstruct the entire building true to the original and to set up an exclusive hotel in it. These building measures have recently been criticized by both Russian and foreign media as circumventing monument protection by cleverly exploiting a loophole in the law.

Lobnoje Mesto

The so-called Lobnoje Mesto ( Лобное место ) is a round, grandstand-like structure made of white stone in the southeastern part of the square in front of St. Basil's Cathedral. At the same time, it is one of the oldest buildings on the square that can be documented to have survived to this day: It was first mentioned in 1549 when the then 19-year-old Tsar Ivan IV "the terrible" gave a speech there. Thus, from the beginning, the Lobnoje Mesto must have been thought of as a platform from which, above all, tsar decrees were announced to the people. The name Lobnoje Mesto could literally be understood as "forehead" or "skull" (and thus as a literal translation of Golgotha ), but according to other hypotheses it has nothing to do with a forehead, but with its location near the praise , as in medieval Russia was called a steep river bank.

The painting “The Morning of the Execution of the Strelizos” by Vasily Surikov . The Lobnoje Mesto can be seen on the left in front of St. Basil's Cathedral.

According to tradition, the grandstand on Red Square was originally made of wood; the current stone building with a gate made of iron grating dates from the late 1590s. Over time, the Lobnoje Mesto was not only used as a platform for state announcements and announcements, but also as the center of solemn events: For example, the tsars and patriarchs of the Russian Orthodox Church held speeches to the people here at solemn services on Red Square. At the same time, the Lobnoje Mesto became notorious as the scene of executions , although these were not carried out directly in the stands, but a few meters away. Among the most spectacular executions on Lobnoje Mesto are the quartering of the insurgent peasant leader Stenka Razin in 1671 and the mass executions of insurgent strikers at the end of the 1690s. 1768 next to the Lobnoye Mesto the serial killer was Darya Saltykowa publicly to the front of their detention Pranger made.

After the capital of the tsars moved to Saint Petersburg, the Lobnoje Mesto lost its function as a tribune for the tsars and has been a memorial ever since. In 1786 it was rebuilt according to a design by the architect Matwei Kazakow and moved a few meters to the east.

Minin and Pozharsky monument

Monument to Minin and Poscharsky

The monument to the two Russian national heroes Kuzma Minin and Prince Dmitri Poscharsky , erected between 1812 and 1818, stands directly in front of St. Basil's Cathedral . Just like the Kazan Cathedral donated by the latter at the time in the northern part of the square, this monument also commemorates the liberation of Moscow from the Polish-Lithuanian occupation troops in 1612, to which the popular army led by Minin and Poscharsky made a decisive contribution. To this day, is to this for the Russian Tsardom , annually important victory recalls on November 4 since 2005, this day is a day of unity of the people again one of the official national holidays in Russia.

The bronze monument, which weighs 20 tons and was financed entirely from donations at the time, was designed by the sculptor Iwan Martos . After almost 15 years of planning and construction, it was unveiled in a festive ceremony in February 1818. Since at that time Russia's victory in the war against Napoleon had been five years and the reconstruction of Moscow had just been completed, the monument was celebrated when it was erected as a symbol of the invincibility of the Russian state and the heroism of its sons. Originally, however, the sculpture did not stand in front of St. Basil's Cathedral, but in front of today's GUM department store at the level of the main entrance. It was only moved to its current location in 1930 to make more space for military parades and large-scale demonstrations.

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral

St. Basil's Cathedral, which delimits the square on the south side, is undoubtedly the most famous building from the Red Square ensemble and is considered one of Moscow's landmarks. Her full name is actually Cathedral of the Protection and Intercession of the Virgin Mary . Once it was the main place of worship in the Tsar's capital, today the cathedral is mainly a museum that is part of the State History Museum opposite. Since the beginning of the 1990s, services have also been held in St. Basil's Cathedral at irregular intervals.

In the middle of the 16th century, the wooden Church of the Holy Trinity, which at times also gave the square its name, stood exactly on the site of St. Basil's Cathedral. In 1555, the then Tsar Ivan the Terrible ordered a monumental church to be built on this site, which was to be a token of thanks to the Blessed Mother for the victory of Tsarist Russia over the Kazan Khanate three years earlier - according to the tradition of that time, places of worship for To commemorate military victories. The wooden church was then demolished and the present stone cathedral was built on this site by 1561, making it one of the oldest buildings on the square. The name of the cathedral, which is still more common today, was given in memory of Basil the Blessed , a fool who was also venerated by Tsar Ivan at the time , who died around 1552 and was also buried near the cathedral. Almost nothing is known about the architects of the cathedral, Barma and Postnik Jakowlew (according to some hypotheses, they are actually one and the same person).

From the completion of the cathedral to the relocation of the tsar's capital from Moscow to Petersburg, it was the most important church building in the city and the venue for solemn services on all major Orthodox festivals. In its history, the cathedral was threatened with destruction several times: According to legend, Napoleon Bonaparte is said to have ordered the cathedral to be blown up when he withdrew from Moscow in 1812, but a sudden downpour extinguished the fuses that had already been ignited. In 1918, after the October Revolution, the cathedral was closed by the new state power and its head was executed. At that time, too, there were demolition plans for the cathedral, only the personal commitment of the architect Pjotr ​​Baranowski, who was commissioned with the preparation of the demolition, to prevent the plans from being implemented.

What is particularly striking about the cathedral is its asymmetrical architecture, which greatly distinguishes it from most other Russian Orthodox church buildings. The central element of the house are its nine church towers with brightly painted onion-shaped domes, some of which are very different in size and color. The latter also has the effect that the building does not have a main facade and therefore offers the viewer an unusual view from every side. Originally built of white stone, the cathedral was decorated in places with red bricks during a renovation in the middle of the 17th century, which gives it its striking color heterogeneity to this day. The inside of the cathedral is also very imposing with a labyrinth-like system of corridors and galleries. The wall paintings from the 16th and 17th centuries in the hall under the highest tower are also worth seeing.

Eastern Kremlin Wall

The overgrown Alewis Trench shortly before it was built over. A drawing by Fyodor Alexejew , around 1800

The eastern section of the Kremlin's protective wall running along Red Square had the following peculiarity right from the start: Was the Kremlin from its southern side not only through the wall, but also through the Moskva River and from the west or northwest through the (today Neglinnaja, which only flows underground, was shielded from the outside world, so its wall in the area of ​​its eastern section facing Kitai-Gorod was not additionally protected by natural obstacles. Since the fortress was therefore considered to be particularly endangered from its eastern side, the wall in this area is particularly high at up to 19 meters. In order to further increase the Kremlin's ability to defend itself against frequent attacks, an artificial moat about 30 meters wide and about 12 to 13 meters deep was created along its eastern wall at the beginning of the 16th century. This trench connecting the Neglinnaja and the Moskva, known as the Alewis Trench ( Алевизов ров , named after its builder Alewis the New ), existed until the beginning of the 19th century when it was no longer found necessary and was filled in. Of the three Kremlin towers that stand on Red Square, two have entrance gates, to which bridges that were previously built for this purpose led across the Alewis moat. Today nothing on the eastern Kremlin wall reminds of the moat and these bridges.

Nicholas Tower of the Kremlin

The northernmost of the three Kremlin towers on Red Square is the 70-meter-high Nikolausturm ( Никольская башня ), named after Saint Nicholas of Myra , whose icon originally adorned the lower part of the tower. This tower is one of the four towers of the Moscow Kremlin today that have an entrance gate to the Kremlin. It was originally built in 1491 to a design by the master builder Pietro Antonio Solari , who as one of several Italian architects who were active in Moscow at the time, played a key role in the construction of the Kremlin ensemble. In 1806, the tower was significantly redesigned and - completely unusual for the Kremlin buildings - received a Gothic top. Only a few years later it was destroyed by the French troops in the war against Napoleon and finally rebuilt in 1816 with the participation of Joseph Bové . With its Gothic style, the Nikolaus Tower is still the most unusual of the total of 20 Kremlin towers.

Savior Tower

The Savior Tower ( Спасская башня ) also has an entrance gate, which closes Red Square together with the neighboring St. Basil's Cathedral from the south. It owes its name to an image of the Savior that once hung over the gate. The Redeemer Tower is 71 meters high and, like the Nicholas Tower, was built in 1491 by Pietro Antonio Solari. However, it was then only about half as high as it is today. The tower has roughly the current shape since a reconstruction in the years 1624–1625, when it was supplemented by a bell tower with a large tower clock . The latter was designed by Scottish architect and watchmaker Christopher Galloway and is now the most famous architectural element of the Savior Tower. The clock's four dials - one on each side of the tower - date from 1852; each of them has a diameter of 6.12 meters. The high-precision clockwork occupies three floors of the tower, and a dozen bells below the top of the tower ring every quarter of an hour.

Both the St. Nicholas and the Redeemer Tower are crowned by a three-meter-wide red star made of three-layer ruby and agate glass . These stars as symbols of communism were placed on a total of five Kremlin towers in 1937; previously these towers were adorned with a symbol of the Russian Empire - the double-headed eagle .

The small tower at the level of the Lenin Mausoleum between the Nicholas and the Savior Tower is the so-called Senate Tower ( Сенатская башня ), which owes its current name to the former Senate building immediately behind it on the side of the Kremlin . This tower was built at the same time as its two neighbors and also by Pietro Antonio Solari, but it never had an entrance gate and is only 34 meters high.

Lenin mausoleum

Senate Tower and Lenin Mausoleum

An important monument of the Soviet era is the Lenin Mausoleum, which is located on the west side of Red Square. It stands by the Kremlin wall at the height of the Senate Tower, almost exactly where the protective moat ran until the 18th century and a tram line ran from 1909–1930. Inside the mausoleum the elaborately embalmed corpse of the Russian revolutionary leader Lenin rests in an armored glass sarcophagus. To this day, the mausoleum is open to visitors on certain days.

Today's building made of granite and Labrador stone was preceded by two provisional mausoleums made of oak. The first of these was erected in January 1924, a few days after Lenin's death, and had a simple cube shape at a height of three meters; a second temporary arrangement was set up in the spring of 1924. The current building was erected between 1929 and 1930. From the outside it has the shape of a multi-tiered pyramid, which should underline the character of the mausoleum as a monumental burial place based on ancient models. The author of the design was the renowned architect Alexei Shtusev , who also had the two previous mausoleums built.

From the completion of the mausoleum until the end of the Soviet Union, this building was a central attraction and place of worship in the socialist world. During the military parades and marches on Red Square, heads of state appeared from the central stands on the roof of the mausoleum until the mid-1990s. In 1953 the body of the late Lenin successor Josef Stalin was embalmed and laid out in the mausoleum. Eight years later, however, he was removed from the mausoleum in the course of the so - called de - Stalinization and buried at the Kremlin wall (see below).

Today the mausoleum continues to attract numerous tourists, although mostly no longer motivated by the personality cult surrounding the revolutionary leader. Regardless of this, the further laying out of Lenin's remains in the mausoleum is controversial; Many celebrities, including the last Soviet head of state, Mikhail Gorbachev , spoke out in favor of Lenin's funeral.

Necropolis on the Kremlin wall

Tombs on the Kremlin wall

Right behind the Lenin mausoleum, along the Kremlin wall, there is a large cemetery of honor . This was created in November 1917; At that time around 250 soldiers who had fallen during the October Revolution in Moscow found their final resting place in two collective graves near the Senate tower. The tradition of burying revolutionaries on Red Square, the ultimate symbol of the Bolshevik revolution, continued immediately: as early as the spring of 1919, Lenin's leading comrade-in-arms Yakov Sverdlov was buried at the Kremlin wall and received with the Lenin mausoleum, which was completed in 1930 the burial place is its central element. Since then, the mausoleum and the surrounding cemetery have been collectively referred to as the Revolutionary Necropolis.

From the 1920s to the 1980s, hundreds of people were buried in Red Square who were considered to be the most deserving sons and daughters of the Soviet state, i.e. above all revolutionaries, heroes of the Soviet Union , statesmen and military leaders of the highest order. The burial in the Kremlin wall necropolis was in fact considered the highest posthumous honor that was only reserved for very few. A total of twelve statesmen - including Sverdlov, Kalinin , Voroshilov , Brezhnev and Stalin , who was laid out in the mausoleum until 1961 - were buried in individual graves, and a large number of the revolutionaries rest here in a total of 15 collective graves. Most of the burials here, however, are niches in the Kremlin wall, in which over 100 urns with the remains of revolutionaries, heroes or main ideologues are walled in. The people whose urns are in the Kremlin wall include, among others, Lenin's companion and combat companion Nadezhda Krupskaya , the first cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin , the revolutionary writer Maxim Gorky , the nuclear weapons developer Igor Kurchatov , but also foreign politicians Clara Zetkin and Fritz Heckert .

The necropolis on the Kremlin wall has been a memorial since 1974. After the burial of the head of state Konstantin Tschernenko in 1985, no more burials were carried out there. The graves of the necropolis can now be visited at the same times as the mausoleum.


  • Igorʹ Bondarenko: Krasnaja ploščadʹ Moskvy . Veče Publishing House, Moscow 2006, ISBN 5-9533-1334-9
  • Andrej Dëmin: Zolotoe kolʹco Moskvy , pp. 57–72. Veče Publishing House, Moscow 2006, ISBN 5-9533-1454-X
  • Dmitrij Evdokimov: Kremlʹ i Krasnaja ploščadʹ . ITRK Verlag, Moscow 2003, ISBN 5-88010-160-6
  • AJ Kiselëv et al. a .: Moskva: Kremlʹ i Krasnaja ploščadʹ . AST / Astrelʹ, Moscow 2006, ISBN 5-17-034875-4
  • Sergei Romanjuk: Kremlin. Krasnaya ploščadʹ . ANO IC Moskvovedenie, Moscow 2004, ISBN 5-7853-0434-1

Web links

Commons : Red Square  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

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  2. Rustam Rachmatullin: Krasnaya ploščad'. Opyty metafiziki. Oktjabrʹ, 10/2002
  3.; Retrieved June 14, 2008
  4.; accessed on November 22, 2012 (Russian)
  5.; Retrieved June 15, 2008
  6. Original KGB document from the arrest; accessed on July 19, 2008 (PDF; 90 kB)
  7. Thomas Urban , The truth is next to the square , in: Süddeutsche Zeitung , May 28, 2007; Retrieved July 19, 2008
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  9. Complete Official List of Russian Cultural Heritage; Retrieved on July 20, 2008 ( Memento from April 16, 2009 in the Internet Archive )
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  12., accessed June 21, 2008
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  16.; accessed on July 9, 2008 (page no longer available)
  17. NFKalinin: Postnik Barma - stroitel' sobora Vasilije Blažennogo v Moskve i Kazanskogo Kremlja ; Sovetskaya Archeologija, 3/1957
  18.; Retrieved on June 21, 2008 ( Memento of December 13, 2007 in the Internet Archive )
  19. Redeemer Tower; Retrieved July 19, 2008
  20. ^ Gorbachev Foundation: Press conference on June 4, 2008
  21. ^ Nezavisimaya Gazeta, January 31, 2001; Retrieved July 20, 2008

Coordinates: 55 ° 45 ′ 15 ″  N , 37 ° 37 ′ 12 ″  E

This article was added to the list of excellent articles on August 11, 2008 in this version .