Moscow Kremlin

Moscow, Russia

The Moscow Kremlin, usually referred to as simply the Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It is the best known of kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.

Early history

The site was continuously inhabited by Finno-Ugric peoples since the 2nd century BC. The Slavs occupied the south-western portion of Borovitsky Hill as early as the 11th century, as evidenced by a metropolitan seal from the 1090s, which was unearthed by Soviet archaeologists in the area. Vyatichi built a fortified structure (or 'grad') on the hill where the Neglinnaya River flowed into the Moskva River.

Up to the 14th century, the site was known as the 'grad of Moscow'. The word 'kremlin' was first recorded in 1331 (though this was disputed by etymologist Max Vasmer). The grad was greatly extended by Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy in 1156, destroyed by the Mongols in 1237 and rebuilt in oak in 1339.

Seat of grand dukes

Dmitri Donskoi replaced the oak walls with a strong citadel of white limestone in 1366–1368 on the basic foundations of the current walls; this fortification withstood a siege by Khan Tokhtamysh. Dmitri's son Vasily I resumed construction of churches and cloisters in the Kremlin. The newly built Annunciation Cathedral was painted by Theophanes the Greek, Andrei Rublev, and Prokhor in 1406. The Chudov Monastery was founded by Dmitri's tutor, Metropolitan Alexis; while his widow, Eudoxia, established the Ascension Convent in 1397.

Residence of the tsars

Grand Prince Ivan III organised the reconstruction of the Kremlin, inviting a number of skilled architects from Renaissance Italy, like Petrus Antonius Solarius, who designed the new Kremlin wall and its towers, and Marcus Ruffus who designed the new palace for the prince. It was during his reign that three extant cathedrals of the Kremlin, the Deposition Church, and the Palace of Facets were constructed. The highest building of the city and Muscovite Russia was the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, built in 1505–08 and augmented to its present height in 1600. The Kremlin walls as they now appear were built between 1485 and 1495. Spasskie gates of the wall still bear a dedication in Latin praising Petrus Antonius Solarius for the design.

After construction of the new kremlin walls and churches was complete, the monarch decreed that no structures should be built in the immediate vicinity of the citadel. The Kremlin was separated from the walled merchant town (Kitay-gorod) by a 30-meter-wide moat, over which Saint Basil's Cathedral was constructed during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The same tsar also renovated some of his grandfather's palaces, added a new palace and cathedral for his sons, and endowed the Trinity metochion inside the Kremlin. The metochion was administrated by the Trinity Monastery and boasted the graceful tower church of St. Sergius, which was described by foreigners as one of the finest in the country.

During the Time of Troubles, the Kremlin was held by the Polish forces for two years, between 21 September 1610 and 26 October 1612. The Kremlin's liberation by the volunteer army of prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin paved the way for the election of Mikhail Romanov as the new czar. During his reign and that of his son Alexis, the eleven-domed Upper Saviour Cathedral, Armorial Gate, Terem Palace, Amusement Palace and the palace of Patriarch Nikon were built. Following the death of Alexis, the Kremlin witnessed the Moscow Uprising of 1682, from which czar Peter barely escaped. As a result both of them disliked the Kremlin. Three decades later, Peter abandoned the residence of his forefathers for his new capital, Saint Petersburg.

Imperial period

Although still used for coronation ceremonies, the Kremlin was abandoned and neglected until 1773, when Catherine the Great engaged Vasili Bazhenov to build her new residence there. Bazhenov produced a bombastic Neoclassical design on a heroic scale, which involved the demolition of several churches and palaces, as well as a portion of the Kremlin wall. After the preparations were over, construction halted due to lack of funds. Several years later, the architect Matvey Kazakov supervised the reconstruction of the dismantled sections of the wall and of some structures of the Chudov Monastery, and constructed the spacious and luxurious offices of the Senate, since adapted for use as the principal workplace of the President of Russia.

During the Imperial period, from the early 18th and until the late 19th century, Kremlin walls were traditionally painted white, in accordance with the time's fashion.

Following the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the French forces occupied the Kremlin from 2 September to 11 October. When Napoleon retreated from Moscow, he ordered the whole Kremlin to be blown up. The Kremlin Arsenal, several portions of the Kremlin Wall and several wall towers were destroyed by explosions and fires damaged the Faceted Chamber and churches. Explosions continued for three days, from 21 to 23 October. Fortunately, the rain damaged the fuses, and the damage was less severe than intended. Restoration works were held in 1816–19, supervised by Osip Bove. During the remainder of Alexander I's reign, several ancient structures were renovated in a fanciful neo-Gothic style, but many others were condemned as 'disused' or 'dilapidated' (including all the buildings of the Trinity metochion) and simply torn down.

On visiting Moscow for his coronation festivities, Nicholas I was not satisfied with the Grand, or Winter, Palace, which had been erected to Rastrelli's design in the 1750s. The elaborate Baroque structure was demolished, as was the nearby church of St. John the Precursor, built by Aloisio the New in 1508 in place of the first church constructed in Moscow. The architect Konstantin Thon was commissioned to replace them with the Grand Kremlin Palace, which was to rival the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in its dimensions and the opulence of its interiors. The palace was constructed in 1839–49, followed by the new building of the Kremlin Armoury in 1851.

After 1851, the Kremlin changed little until the Russian Revolution of 1917; the only new features added during this period were the Monument to Alexander II and a stone cross marking the spot where Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia was assassinated by Ivan Kalyayev in 1905. These monuments were destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.

Soviet period and beyond

The Soviet government moved from Petrograd to Moscow on 12 March 1918. Vladimir Lenin selected the Kremlin Senate as his residence. Joseph Stalin also had his personal rooms in the Kremlin. He was eager to remove from his headquarters all the 'relics of the tsarist regime'. Golden eagles on the towers were replaced by shining Kremlin stars, while the wall near Lenin's Mausoleum was turned into the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.

The Chudov Monastery and Ascension Convent, with their 16th-century cathedrals, were dismantled to make room for the military school and Palace of Congresses. The Little Nicholas Palace and the old Saviour Cathedral were pulled down as well. The residence of the Soviet government was closed to tourists until 1955. It was not until the Khrushchev Thaw that the Kremlin was reopened to foreign visitors. The Kremlin Museums were established in 1961 and the complex was among the first Soviet patrimonies inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990.

Although the current director of the Kremlin Museums, Elena Gagarina (Yuri Gagarin's daughter) advocates a full-scale restoration of the destroyed cloisters, recent developments have been confined to expensive restoration of the original interiors of the Grand Kremlin Palace, which were altered during Stalin's rule. The Patriarch of Moscow has a suite of rooms in the Kremlin, but divine service in the Kremlin cathedrals is held irregularly, because they are still administered as museums.

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Details

Founded: 14th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in Russia

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4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Konstantinos Bistas (7 months ago)
One of the most interesting buildings in the centre of Moscow. You can clearly the history passing over it, from the tsars till modern history. The architecture is unbelievable and the art in it is even more impressive. The tickets prices are cheap compared to what you get to see
Imperial Guard #28 (7 months ago)
United forever in friendship & labor, our mighty republics will ever endure. The great Soviet Union will live through the ages, a dream of our people:Their fortress secure! Long live our Soviet motherland, built by the people's mighty hand, long love her people:united & free! Strong in our friendship's pride by fire, long may her crimson flag inspire. Shining in glory for all men to see! Today's dark & starry where great Linen lead us, our eyes saw the bright sun of freedom above...
John Dougan (8 months ago)
This place is absolutely gorgeous. From the intricate details to the impeccably dressed guards, this place is sure to impress. And while you're here, make sure you walk through Alexander gardens and see a wonderful performance at the theater.
Austin Ravioli (8 months ago)
Personally enjoy when the Red Army would march in front of this thing which looked really nice and was a great symbol. I also enjoy how Napoleon Bonaparte made the Russians burn down Moscow to a crisp including the Kremlin as Napoleon made a retreat back home but there was no food and his army starved.
maureen howell (8 months ago)
Such history. Very impressive and interesting and so, so clean. Red square was amazing. Turing and looking as St. Basil Cathedral...just beautiful. And the Russian people were lovely.
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