Red Square

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Red Square (Russian: Красная площадь, Krásnaya plóshchad’) is a city square in Moscow. The square separates the Kremlin, the former royal citadel and currently the official residence of the President of Russia, from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitai-gorod. As major streets of Moscow radiate from here in all directions, being promoted to major highways outside the city, Red Square is often considered the central square of Moscow and all of Russia.

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Origin and name

The rich history of Red Square is reflected in many artworks, including paintings by Vasily Surikov, Konstantin Yuon and others. The square was meant to serve as Moscow's main marketplace. It was also used for various public ceremonies and proclamations, and occasionally as the site of coronation for Russia's czars. The square has been gradually built up since that point and has been used for official ceremonies by all Russian governments since it was established.

The name Red Square derives neither from the colour of the bricks around it (which, in fact, were whitewashed at certain points in history) nor from the link between the colour red and communism. Rather, the name came about because the Russian word красная (krasnaya) can mean either "red" or "beautiful" (the latter being rather archaic). This word, with the meaning "beautiful", was originally applied to Saint Basil's Cathedral and was subsequently transferred to the nearby square. It is believed that the square acquired its current name (replacing the older Pozhar, or "burnt-out place") in the 17th century. Several ancient Russian towns, such as Suzdal, Yelets, and Pereslavl-Zalessky, have their main square named Krasnaya ploshchad, namesake of Moscow's Red Square.

History before the 18th century

The east side of the Kremlin triangle, lying adjacent to Red Square and situated between the rivers Moskva and the now-underground Neglinnaya River was deemed the most vulnerable side of the Kremlin to attack, since it was neither protected by the rivers, nor any other natural barriers, as the other sides were. Therefore, the Kremlin wall was built to its highest height on this side, and furthermore, the Italian architects involved in the building of these fortifications convinced Ivan the Great to clear the area outside of the walls in order to create a field for fire shooting. The relevant decrees were issued in 1493 and 1495. They called for the demolition of all the buildings within 110 sazhens (234 metres) of the wall.

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