Unlike my mother, I don’t remember a childhood full of Cold War, anti-communist sentiment. By the time I was in 6th grade, our teacher Mrs. McCaffrey was talking to us about propaganda (in the past tense) and perestroika and glasnost for the future. But I do remember hearing about “the Russians” and “the Soviets” on TV, and of course lots and lots of talk about the Kremlin. Whenever newscasters would talk about the Kremlin, they’d flash up an image of a beautiful building with lots of colorful, bulbous spires on top. It looked like it belonged in Candy Land, made of sugary sweets and gold. It was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen. “If that’s where the bad guys live,” I thought, “they must really know what they’re doing!”
I learned later that the image that had grown synonymous in my mind with Soviet Russia wasn’t the Kremlin at all, but rather St. Basil’s Cathedral, celebrating its 450th anniversary today. Despite its age, the architectural wonder, its beauty and majesty rivaled best by the Taj Mahal, still looks as if it’s made of gingerbread and marzipan. The Kremlin itself sits next door to St. Basil’s, off Moscow’s Red Square. Russian president Vladimir Putin resides in the Kremlin complex, which consists of four palaces, four cathedrals and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. Not all of us can afford to travel to Moscow, so if you’d like to show your kids an amazing view of Red Square, check out this brilliant panorama of Red Square by Hans Nyberg.
So am I the only child of the 80’s who thought St. Basil’s was the Kremlin? (Which, by the way, I assumed was also the headquarters of the KGB. Like, until I was in college, I imagined spies inside the candy-colored spires. ‘Merica!)