Day 1: St. Basil’s Cathedral, Red Square & The Kremlin
We began the morning with a city tour on our bus, starting with Tverskaya Street, a beautiful street many shops, cafes, museums and monuments. We saw Sparrow Hills, which is where the picture of Moscow University below was taken .
Moscow State University
Monument to Peter the Great
The Monument to Peter the Great commemorates the establishment of the Russian navy. The statue is controversial for its enormous size and questionable aesthetic appeal but also because Peter the Great was hated in Moscow, largely because he moved the capital city to St. Petersberg. Moscow has tried to give the statue to St. Petersburg, but they have no interest.
Fallen Monument Park
Fallen Monument Park features fallen monuments (obviously), socialist realist statues of Soviet leaders, unidentifiable workers and peasants, and various other sculptures as part of the Tretyakov Gallery and Central House of Artists. Below is a photo of a statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, also known as “Iron Felix,” founder of the Cheka. The Cheka were the Soviet Secret Police (precursor to the KGB), known for mass executions, policing labor camps, and running the Gulag system. The statue was erected in Dzerzhinsky Square (now called Freedom Square) in 1958 but dismantled in 1991 and moved to the park in 1994. There is still engraved and painted graffiti on the monument.
Below is a statue of Yakov Sverdlov (I think), a Bloshevik leader.
After the park, we went to Red Square, which is the area by the Kremlin with St. Basil’s Cathedral (below) and other historical monuments. If you would like to see a video of the interior, click here. The name Red Square actually originates from the Russian word krasnaya, which can mean either “red” or “beautiful.”
St. Basil’s Cathedral
In the afternoon we went inside the Kremlin where they were a little more strict about photos, as you can imagine. The Kremlin is kind of like the White House, the symbolic seat of the Russian government. I didn’t realize that a kremlin is actually just walled and fortified central square and most historic cities in Russia have their own. But if you say the Kremlin, people usually assume you’re talking about the one in Moscow. We visited the Armory Historical Museum which was stunning. The artifacts, weaponry, faberge eggs, carriages, and clothing were ornately exquisite. Unfortunately no photos were allowed. Below is a photo of the external Kremlin and a photo of a sign that gives you an orientation of how the Kremlin is laid out.
There were an ensemble of Orthodox churches on the main square, including the Cathedral of the Assumption (dating back to the 15th century and which Napoleon used as a stable in the War of 1812) and the Cathedral of the Archangel (dating back to the 16th century). The Cathedral of the Archangel was the burial place of the tsars until the early 18th century, when Peter the Great moved the government to his new capital of St. Petersburg.
Ivan the Great Bell Tower
The Cathedral of the Archeangel