The Significance of the Color Red in Russian Culture

From Communism to Beauty, Red Is Heavy With Meaning

Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg, Russia.
••• by Tatsiana Volskaya / Getty Images

Red is a prominent color in Russian culture and history. The Russian word for red, "​krasni," was, in the past, also used to describe something beautiful, good or honorable. Today, "krasni" is used to indicate something that is red in color, while "krasivi" is the modern Russian word for “beautiful.” However, many important sites and cultural artifacts still reflect the combined usage of the word, and a name that incorporates this root might still be considered something elevated in status. In fact, the Russian word for excellent --  "prekrasni" --shares the root " kras" with these other words.

  • 01 of 08

    Red Square

    Red Square and Kremlin
    ••• Red Square and the Kremlin. iStockphoto/GP232

    Red Square, or "Krasnaya ploshad," is one of the most famous examples of the red/beautiful connection. Red Square is the most important square in Moscow and sits adjacent to the Kremlin. Many people believe that Red Square is so named because communism and Soviet Russia are associated with the color red. But Red Square's name, which may have originally come from the beauty of St. Basil's Cathedral or the beauty of the square itself, predates the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and thus is not the basis for the commonly used term "Reds" for Russian communists.

  • 02 of 08

    Red Corner

    Russian Icon
    ••• Russian icon. CC BY carulmare

    A red corner, " krasni ugol," in Russian culture is the so-called icon corner, which was present in every Orthodox household. This was where the family's icon and other religious accouterments were kept. In English, the "krasni ugol" is translated either as “red corner,” "honorable corner" or “beautiful corner,” depending upon the source.

  • 03 of 08

    Red as a Symbol of Communism

    Soviet Flag
    ••• The Soviet flag. CC BY-NC-SA philster02188

    The Bolsheviks appropriated the color red to symbolize the blood of the workers, and the red flag of the Soviet Union, with its gold-colored hammer and sickle, is still recognized today. During the revolution, the Red Army (Bolshevik forces) fought the White Army (loyalists to the czar). During the Soviet period, red became a part of daily life from an early age: Virtually all children were members of a communist youth group called the Pioneers from ages 10 to 14 and were required to wear a red scarf around their necks to school every day. Russian communists and Soviets are called Reds in popular culture -- "Better dead than red" was a popular saying that rose to prominence in the U.S. and U.K. in the 1950s and meant it was better to die than to live under communism. 

  • 04 of 08

    Red Easter Eggs

    Russian Easter
    ••• Beautiful eggs abound on Easter in Russia, many of which feature the color red. iStockphoto/big-dan

    Red eggs, a Russian Easter tradition, symbolize Christ's resurrection. But red eggs were present in Russia even in pagan times. The only ingredient necessary for red Easter egg dye is the skin of red onions. When boiled, they produce the red dye used to color the eggs red.

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  • 05 of 08

    Red in Russian Folk Costumes

    Russian Winter Festival
    ••• Women dress in traditional clothing for the Russian Winter Festival. CC by Maarten (Superchango)

    Red, the color of blood and life, features prominently in Russian folk costumes.

  • 06 of 08

    Russian Place Names

    Sochi's Krasnaya Polyana
    ••• Sochi's Krasnaya Polyana. iStockphoto/liseykina

    Many place names in Russia contain the root word for “red” or “beautiful.” Krasnoyarsk (red slope), Krasnodar (beautiful gift) and Krasnaya Polyana (red valley) are examples.

  • 07 of 08

    Red Roses

    Some meanings of the color red are universal the world over. In Russia, men give their sweethearts red roses to say "I love you," just as they do in the United States and many other Western countries. The fact that the color red carries the connotation of beautiful in Russia no doubt adds to the symbolism of giving this particular color of roses to someone you love.

  • 08 of 08

    Women's Clothing

    In modern Russia, only women wear red clothing, and it has a positive and beautiful -- if also aggressive -- connotation. A woman might wear a red dress or shoes, carry a red handbag or wear bright red lipstick if she wants to radiate that symbolism.