- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 25, 2006

Either through ignorance or intentional malice, the author of “Dark deeds on Moscow nights” (March 3), wants your readers to believe Red Square was named because of a history of bloody retribution against anti-czarist dissidents.

The common assumptions that the “Red” in Red Square refers to communism, blood spilled blood during czarist days, or even the color of the monuments — are in fact commonly misplaced. Red Square is in the center of Moscow and was originally the city’s market place that served as a public gathering place to celebrate festivals, listen to government announcements and yes, even to witness executions. However, the executions were not the reason for the square’s name.

In Russian, the square is called Krasnaya Ploschad. The word krasnaya means both “red” and “beautiful,” the latter, which was the original meaning, referred to St. Basil’s Cathedral at the southern end of the square.

The Cathedral of St. Basil the Blessed was commissioned by Ivan IV in 1552 to commemorate his successful military campaign against the Tartar Mongols in the city of Kazan. It is composed of nine different churches, each with its own unique dome and each commemorates a victorious assault on Kazan. Perhaps this was Ivan’s way of fighting his war on terrorism. In Russia, Ivan IV is not seen as Ivan the Terrible, but as Ivan the Awesome, for his imposing presence and his accomplishments.


Stella Jatras has traveled widely and has lived in Moscow for two years (where her husband, George, was the Senior Air Attach), and worked there in the Political Section of the US Embassy.

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