The rich history of Red Square is reflected in many artworks, including paintings by Vasily Surikov, Konstantin Yuon, and others. The land that Red Square is situated on was originally covered with wooden buildings, but cleared by Ivan III's edict in 1493, as those buildings were dangerously susceptible to fires. The newly-opened area (originally known simply as the Pozhar, or "burnt-out place") gradually came to serve as Moscow's primary marketplace. Later, it was also used for various public ceremonies and proclamations, and occasionally as the site of coronation for Russia's tsars. The square has been gradually built up since that point, and has been used for official ceremonies by all Russian governments since it was established.
The name of Red Square derives not from the colour of the bricks around it, nor from the link between the colour red and Communism. Rather, the name came about because the Russian word красная (krasnaya) can mean either "red" or "beautiful" (the latter meaning is archaic). The word was originally applied (with the meaning "beautiful") to Saint Basil's Cathedral, and was subsequently transferred to the nearby square. It is believed that the square acquired its current name (replacing the older Pozhar) in the 17th century. Several ancient Russian towns, such as Suzdal, Yelets, or Pereslavl-Zalessky, have their main square named Krasnaya ploshchad, namesake of Moscow's Red Square.