Friday, 2 December 2011

Red Square

There’s snow falling today in what would be called a light drizzle if it were rain. The temperature must be a little below zero. The sky is featureless grey. I had coffee a while ago and then wandered down to Red Square to take a couple of photographs, but the light is a little subdued.

I suppose I ought to mention Red Square early in my posts. I’ve been a bit reluctant as this place is covered exhaustively in every guide book ever written about Russia, so inevitably I feel I’m just offering more of the same.

OK, so what was there about Red Square that surprised me or that I didn’t know?

Well, for one thing, Red Square and the Kremlin are not the same thing. I have always had them sort of jumbled together in my mind, but they are actually quite distinct entities. The Kremlin is the old fortress and is surrounded by big, red, crenulated walls. Red Square is right beside the Kremlin, but outside the fortress walls. It was the market square created in the 15th century. Both the Kremlin and Red Square are beside the Moscow River.

I knew Red Square was big – I’d seen all those Cold War documentaries of tanks and mobile missile launchers rumbling along beside parading soldiers. But I had no idea how large it really is until I stepped into it. It’s the biggest public square I’ve seen (and I’ve seen a lot of them). One would think such an enormous space would create a disharmony of proportion with the many beautiful buildings surrounding it, but it all just seems to work. It’s a stunning place.
Red Square looking north from beside St Basil's (out of view to the right). The large building on the right is GUM, now an upmarket shopping mall. The red and white structure in front of GUM is the temporary skating rink.

At the moment, Red Square is gearing up for winter. A large skating rink has just been completed with a Christmas tree nearby. Moscow’s many public squares each seem to have their own large Christmas tree. I’ll prepare a post on them in the next week or two. Orthodox Christmas in Russia is 7 January – which also happens to be my birthday (in case anyone wants to send presents). 

Entrance to the skating rink from just inside GUM

The only part of Red Square that bothers my sense of harmony is St Basil's Cathedral, perhaps the most famous icon in Russia. Not the cathedral itself, which is wonderful. However, whereas three perimeters of Red Square are clearly defined by various buildings, walls or gates, the southern end, where St Basil’s is located, seems somehow incomplete. While I believe St Basil’s officially marks the southern perimeter of Red Square, to me it sort of sits as an island in the middle of a cobblestone sea, with the ‘square’ south of St Basil’s finding its uninspired way down to a multi-lane highway that runs beside the river. I believe Stalin wanted to knock St Basil’s down because he felt it got in the way of his Red Square parades. He did knock down one of the lovely gates at the northern end, which has since been rebuilt.
From the same location as the top picture, but looking south. Beyond St Basil's in this direction Red Square sort of fizzles out quietly as it descends towards a main road and the Moscow River.
Well, that’s my mandatory Red Square post. I’ve had my photo taken beside St Basil’s, but have so far resisted buying a furry hat from the furry hat stalls. If it gets much colder, I might just reconsider.

No comments:

Post a Comment