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Red Square Moscow, Russia

Your first stop in Moscow HAS to be the Red Square!  Once the scene of those massive Soviet military parades in the dead cold of winter, the Red Square is still a very important area in Russia's capital city. 


Like many old European cities, Moscow was densely packed with buildings that often caught fire and razed entire neighborhoods.  The Red Square began as a massive burnt-out area of land after the Great Fire of 1493.  All of the ruins were subsequently cleared and the area was overtaken by a large public marketplace known simply as Pozhar (burt-out place). 

Throughout later centuries, the Pozhar was used as a large public place for ceremonies and proclamations.   Most notably, the Russian Tsars' coronation took place in the Pozhar.  After the fall of the Tsars and the rise of the Soviet Union, the square was built up as a large parade ground for military reviews.

The Red Square is not named after the red of the bricks.  It's also not named after the communist color of red.  Instead, the 'red' reference derives from the Russian word 'krasnaya' which holds two meanings: beautiful and red.  That word was once used for St. Basil's Cathedral when it was still within the square.  After it was moved to another square, it's believed that in the 17th century that the 'red' connotation gained popularity.


The square is a flat expanse that is almost 700 meters long and 130 meters wide.  Within the space lie several buildings of note including Lenin's Tomb.  Adjacent to the square are critical Russian buildings like the Kremlin, the GUM Department store, the State Historical Museum, and the brightly colored St. Basil's Cathedral.

With so many key Moscow attractions within walking distance, any traveler should make the Red Square his or her first stop in the city.  From there, you can branch out and visit all of the important tourist landmarks.

Today, standing in the square endows a strange sense of nostalgia for anyone who witnessed the massive military parades of the Cold War.  Now, tourists and government officials alike walk around nonchalantly on everyday business.  Though now a throwback to a different time, the Red Square is still an important meeting place for a variety of Russian festivals and events.