Everyone born in Moscow knows that Red Square is a repository of Russian historical memory, the altar of the motherland and, in general, the center of the universe. Its architecture has served as the backdrop for many a historical drama, ranging from the tragic to the comedic, from the uplifting to the depressing.
Yet sometimes it seems that, over the years, the image of Russia’s main square has blurred, and that for most observers it has become just a postcard: beautiful and beloved, but stripped of its erstwhile grandeur. This change is reflected in the recent uses to which Red Square has been put: as a concert venue, a skating rink, and an advertising billboard. It has reached the point where the idea of removing the revered Soviet necropolis – eternal resting place of Vladimir Lenin – is being seriously debated, since it gets in the way of various holiday celebrations. This is a good time to explore the hidden meanings and symbols that abound throughout Red Square and its architectural monuments, and to consider what kind of treatment it deserves.
The first recorded name for the site on which Red Square stands is Pozhar (Fire). In the thirteenth century, a settlement sprung up on level ground separated from the Kremlin by a small ravine. Whenever enemies approached the city, it was set ablaze to prevent hostile forces from using its houses and fences as cover.
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Russian Life is a 29-year-young, award-winning publishing house that creates a bimonthly magazine, books, maps, and other products for Russophiles the world over.
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