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Next to the Historical Museum, stretching across the entire northeastern, side of Red Square, is the three – story State Universal Store, known as GUM. It is the largest shopping center in Russia, with a total length of 2.5 kilometers (1.5 miles), selling half a million items to almost a quarter of a million Russians and 100,000 foreigners every day. GUM’s 100th anniversary was celebrated in 1993. The initials GUM stood for Gosudarstvenny Universalny Magazine, the Government Department Store, until 1990, when the Moscow city government turned it into a joint stock company owned mainly by the employees. The initials now stand for Glavny Universalny Magazine, the Main Department Store.
It was designed in 1893, in neo – Russian style, by Alexander Pomerantsev to replace a market destroyed by one of Napoleon’s fires in 1812, as his troops were attempting to occupy Moscow. When it was built it was known as the Upper Trading Stalls. It was a showcase for goods and one of the world’s most modern commercial areas, built of steel and concrete with ornate glass roofing and even electrical and heating systems. Today the building has been thoroughly renovated, and over 100 shops, both Russian and foreign, along with numerous cafes, line the first and second floors. The grand ceremonial entrance on Red Square, closed since the Bolshevik Revolution, was reopened in 1992. It is well worth visiting to view the interiors of preserved Old Russian shops, ornate bridges, ornamental stucco designs and the large glass roof.
Exiting GUM at the northwest corner (towards the History Museum) brings you to the Kazan Cathedral. The original church was built in 1625 by Prince Pozharsky (whose statue stands in front of St Basil’s) in tribute to the Virgin of Kazan icon, whose power was thought to lead Russia in victory over the invading Poles. Stalin had it destroyed in 1936. After the fall of the Soviet Union, private contributions led to the reconstruction of the cathedral. In 1990, a procession led by Boris Yeltsin, the Orthodox Patriarch Alexis II and the Moscow mayor left the Kremlin to lay the foundation stone. The structure was consecrated by the Orthodox Church in 1993. Religious services are conducted. Open to visitors from 8am – 7pm daily.
Exiting Red Square to the north takes you through the Iberian Resurrection Gates. The original main entrance gateway and white towers, first built in 1680, were torn down by Stalin in 1931 to create more room for mass parades and machinery to enter. The gates were reconstructed as a copy of the original in the early 1990s. On the other side of the arch stands the small Gate Church of the Iberian Virgin, also rebuilt. It was once customary for the czar to pray here before he entered the Kremlin.