a glimpse of a fortress

St Basil’s Cathedral and Lenin’s Mausoleum, Red Square, Moscow (early-mid 1990s).

Moscow architecture is designed to make you feel small. To make you realize the State is bigger than you. A lot bigger. That you are an ant in relation to it, a dwarf. The Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat, otherwise known as “St Basil’s Cathedral” is no exception.

Ivan the Terrible ordered it to be built in 1551, to commemorate his capture of the Eastern cities Kazan and Astrakhan. When it was completed, he blinded the architect to make sure he wouldn’t ever build anything as magnificent again.

How can you photograph it?

This was taken in passing, from the side, quickly, in sub zero temperatures, with a crap Russian camera.

The Soviets built Lenin’s Mausoleum on Red Square in 1925, 374 years after the Cathedral of the Protection of Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat. Inside is Lenin’s body.

You can’t take photos inside (or talk, or put your hands in your pockets.) I visited the Mausoleum by accident. Walking through the square one day, I was caught up in a huge crowd and pulled inexorably towards the Mausoleum. There was no way out. I had to file through with everyone else. It took just a minute or so to walk past Lenin. He wasn’t in good shape. It seemed his ear was falling off.

Incidentally, Red Square (Krasnaya Ploshchad) wasn’t named after the Communists. The word originally meant ‘beautiful’.

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