Russia II: The Red Square Part 4

So what’s been missing from the picture? If you’ve been following through from Part 1 til now, you might notice the starkly different architectural style that has been gathered on the Red Square. This time on the East of the Red Square (i.e. on the right of the State Historical Museum – remember on the left of the State Historical Museum stands Lenin’s Mausoleum) we see this:

The GUM (pronounced goom) is an acronym for the Russian equivalent of the “state universal store” and is the main department store for many international brands. Facing the Red Square, the GUM’s 242metres facade gives the Red Square yet another architectural wonder to boast of. Prior to the 1920s, the GUM was known as “upper trading  rows” and it was again, a unique and opulent building of its time, with its glass ceilings that looked nothing like the construction of St Basil’s Cathedral or the State Historical Museum. The GUM’s interior design is worthy of a visit even if you do not wish to splurge on the “exhibition of prices”. The GUM holds three rows of shop, each built on three levels. Some walkways doors act as dividers for the long rows of shops – it’s like walking from a chamber to the next – but there is no real division in the building, hence the extremely extended facade in the pictures above.

By 1917, the building hosted 1200 stores and was later nationalised, after which, a brief period saw to Stalin’s conversion of the GUM into his office space – I would have too, liked a little spot as my office in the brilliant building! I’m not a shopper, but this is one place you don’t want to miss when in the Red Square – even if it’s just to look at the wonderful architecture.

Moving on to some other other areas of the Red Square that I found interesting:
I had imprudently given little attention to the Resurrection Gates & the Iveron Chapel that you’ll pass through to enter the Red Square (there’s just so much history in this Square you couldn’t give attention to every part of it!), so here’s a little mention.

The Resurrection Gate symbolised by twin steeples used to have two golden double-headed eagles representative of Imperial Russia – but which was demolished during Stalin’s era to make way for none other than military demonstrations – heavy vehicles driving through the Square. Today what stands in its place is a replica. Between the doorways of the Gates stands the Iveron Chapel – originally a small wooden chapel that is today seen as a blue star-studded dome.

A bronze plaque marked on the ground signified Russia’s Kilometre Zero in Moscow – considered to be the centre of Moscow and is close by to the State Historical Museum. It is common to see many people standing on the Zero Kilometre medallion, throwing coins over their shoulders as they make a wish.

Enough said, I hope this has spurred some interest in visiting the area or giving some kind of orientation to the Square. There was just so much to learn about Moscow that it was imperative for me to start some kind of documentation for at least the Red Square. I must have missed many others and failed to do justice to the beauty of its history, so please share with me what you know too! Most importantly, remember to look out for these when you next visit!

Russia II: The Red Square Part 3

Nobody goes to Russia without looking at the Red Square in entirety. Having looked at the North of the square with the State Historical Museum, the (West?) where Lenin’s Mausoleum stands, let’s now look at the South of the Red Square.

South of the Red Square, one sees a very more colourful and vibrant scene, signified by none other than St Basil’s Cathedral. St Basil’s Cathedral is a Russian Orthodox Church (it has a much longer name – Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat) and marks the centre of Moscow. The Cathedral was erected in 1550s as ordered by Ivan the Terrible and interestingly, was the origin of “Red” Square’s name. The Russian word красно could be translated into English as red, or beautiful. The Cathedral, with its dazzling colours and unique architecture that was unparalleled in its years, was a beautiful addition to the state. The meaning of красно was shifted across time to mean “Red”, describing both ideology and the vast amount of red brickworks around the Square.

A statue stands in front of St Basil’s cathedral – looking oddly out of place, but not reducing the appeal factor of the Cathedral. Maybe it’s the colours, or just its unique architecture that makes the Cathedral nothing like the surroundings, that one will be instantly captivated by its magnificence. Anyway,  the statue dates back to 1818 and is known as the Monument to Minin & Pozharsky. Minin (standing) and Pozharsky (seated) had in 1612 contributed to the end of the Time of Troubles by driving Polish invaders out of Moscow. This statue stood originally in the middle of the Red Square as decided by Tsar Alexander I. However, with a regime change, the new government chose to use the Square for parades that demonstrated their military prowess, hence the statue was moved to where it stands today. Another interesting piece of history (I hope I remember correctly) – As many buildings were ordered to be restructured or removed, St Basil’s Cathedral was no exception, but with much protests that included even Stalin’s resistance to the destruction of the Cathedral, we can now see this amazing architecture as it is today.

In my next post – we finally move towards the East of the Red Square…

Russia II: The Red Square Part 2

Continuing from my previous post on the State Historical Museum, I wish to again talk about the Red Square and its amazing history. Next up on the discussion list is none other than Lenin’s Mausoleum. Lenin’s Mausoleum might be familiar to most – it is situated on the left of the State Historical Museum, taking the foreground of a yellow domed Senate Building that stands behind the kremlin walls, with the Senate Tower built right into the walls.

Lenin’s Mausoleum is the resting place (as of now), for Lenin’s embalmed body. The mausoleum is open for visitors – I recalled awaiting at the entrance of the mausoleum as solemn guards took their position inside the dark space. Much respect had to be shown – typically all electronic equipment were checked, and no photography, videos, etc were allowed. After a series of serious checks, watchful eyes followed as you enter. A surreal silence pervaded despite the many people walking in line into the mausoleum. I was intrigued  as historical facts raced in my mind  … but let’s leave that for you to experience when you visit Moscow.

For those who might wish to visit, you might want to know before-hand that you should never stick your hands in your pockets, fold your arms, wear a hat/hoodie or whatever when entering the mausoleum. I recall a Russian friend telling me to “keep your hands to yourselves” and not touch even the inner walls within. This clearly is no surprise – as in every state, ideology or the likes of it, one must show respect to others’ culture, belief and history. Notably, the State went through extensive measures to preserve the body and restore the mausoleum alike. As a note of history, the original mausoleum was that of typical wood, only converted to a stone tomb in the 1930s. The body has also been carefully preserved with great scientific means that I shall not (and cannot, with my limited scientific knowledge) discuss here.

Stalin shared the tomb from 1953 – 1961 until de-Stalinization began during Khrushchev’s era – his body was then re-buried at the Kremlin Wall Necropolis. Tombs of various prominent figures such as Kalinin, Brezhnev, Andropov and more line the Kremlin Wall behind the Mausoleum – a sight one could not miss after exiting the mausoleum.

Years have passed and many have debated the burial of Lenin in ground. I am conflicted in my opinion for that. The mausoleum stands in magnificence, reminding many of the history of Russia and beyond; but a man has got to be put to rest in peace. We’ll leave the decision to those who have the power to make it – but for those of you who might be interested to visit – don’t wait no more!

questionable past or present?

This is purely a page-long rant derived from an observation that has occurred in history and now applicable to daily life. Allow me to indulge in a purely social-historical analysis beyond politics, nation and preferences.

Oct 23 1941 marked the day of Zhukov assuming command of the Red Army to stop German advance into the heart of Russia. Zhukov’s capabilities were proven with multiple engagements throughout war era. Having empowered Zhukov during the war, Stalin later saw him as a threat and decided to place him in less prominent roles – a sign of Stalin’s insecurity of public comparisons that may undermine his status.

Oct 31 1961, Stalin’s body was removed from Lenin’s mausoleum, five years after Khrushchev denounced Stalin’s cult of personality, having disregarded the wise choice of Zhukov’s appointment & the hard-won victory in WWII.

I do not pretend to comprehend all the brutalities of the era, but I did notice two stark issues in the above.

– Zhukov’s dismissal in importance was due largely to his capability – deemed as a threat to personal power, Zhukov’s value was undermined. Do we get punished for being capable? A recent debate on the rise of Khrushchev appeared to derive the same conclusion: the strongest link and the weakest link are often noticed and removed – as a threat or a burden. An unfortunate practice that prevails in life…

– Stalin was removed from the mausoleum following the period of destalinszation. Look at the power of words, how impressionable and forgetful the world might be. I recalled a news-cast I’d seen in 2008 fromRussiaon how Stalin remains a hero for the new generation. Interesting how people forget in 1956 the works of Stalin, and in recent years forget the brutality they had once denounced.


I have a strong stance and argument for Stalin’s case justifying or countering his moves, of which needs no discussion here, but I am nonetheless amused by how things have turned out.

Zhukov’s contributions are way beyond the imaginable – a soldier aligned with national goals. Stalin’s decisions are similarly in consideration of national success against external threat. Yet both have been sidelined after they have proven their worth.

As negativity is more prevalent than the positive, I question if this is truly a universal norm that has yet to be amended.