The Moscow Kremlin, designated by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, is a symbol of Russia and one of the greatest architectural complexes in the world.
The word ‘kremlin’ in early Rus meant ‘fortress’, and every important ancient town featured such citadel to protect its residents against enemy raids.
Moscow Kremlin, cradle of the city, was founded around 1156 by Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy (‘Long Arms’). Back then within the ramparts of the fortified stronghold nestled all local population: the Prince Court, boyars (medieval noblemen), peasants and merchants. Later, the fort being the residence of Grand Princes and also a religious center, formed the heart of the ancient city. The Russian poet Lermontov said that Kremlin was “sitting on a high hill like the crown of sovereignty on the brow of an awesome ruler”.
The inimitable architectural ensemble of Moscow Kremlin dates back to XVI-XVIII centuries.
Its world famous red walls (erected in late 15th century and made from 8-kilogram bricks), up to 19 meters high and 2235 meters long, tower above the Moskva River and Red Square. Within the triangular enceinte pierced by 4 gates and reinforced with 20 towers, the Kremlin preserves a unique architectural collection, ranging from ancient Russian ecclesiastical style, through Romanovs’ imperial classicism, to 1960s Soviet modernism. The 36-hectare site of the ancient fortress is an amazing monumental center of architecture, painting, and decorative and applied arts. The best craftsmen and artists worked on these cathedrals and palaces, bequeathing to us their priceless work framing the power and fame of Russia.
Magnificent Cathedral Square is flanked by three splendid temples, white stone jewels, showcasing all glory of the ancient capital. The Assumption Cathedral (1479), designed by Italian master Aristotele Fioravanti, was a never changed site of Russian Tsars' coronations. The Cathedral of the Archangel Michael (1508), an eye-catching Italian Renaissance style creation by Alevis Novy, was the burial place of Grand Princes and Tsars. The lovely gold-domed Cathedral of the Annunciation (1489) used to be the domestic church of Russian rulers. The awesome dazzling white Ivan the Great Bell Tower (1509), with its shining golden “head”, dominating the Kremlin ensemble is one of Moscow hallmarks. The ornate Chamber of the Facets (1491) once was the gala palace of Russian sovereigns.
The world’s biggest Tsar Cannon (1586) and Tsar Bell (1733) are the breathtaking monuments of artistic casting. The gorgeous Grand Kremlin Palace (1849) is a unique gem of architecture and plastic arts. It was designed as the Romanovs’ royal residence to demonstrate all power and pride of the Russian Empire. Nowadays the palace boasting interiors of head-turning magnificence and glamour is the official residence of the Russian President being used for protocol events, official ceremonies and international meetings.
And a special lure for thousand tourists that visit Moscow Kremlin is a sensational Armoury Chamber Museum, a great treasure house of Russia’s priceless and most preserved historic and artistic heritage.
Since the 13th century, the Moscow Kremlin was inextricably associated with Russia’s every major historical and political event. From here, Grand Prince Dmitry of the Don went to the battle against Tatar-Mongols to put end to the 200-year-old yoke of the Golden Horde in Russian lands; from here sinister Ivan the Terrible opened the floodgates of his terror; in 1812, Napoleon, “from here deep sunk in pensive woe gazed out on a threatening glow” of the big Moscow fire; Lenin fashioned the world first proletarian socialist state; greatest Soviet dictator Joseph Stalin promoted the industrial rise of Russia and led the victorious fight in World War II; Nikita Khrushchev made fateful decisions in the context of the Cold War; Mikhail Gorbachev lifted the Iron Curtain and declared perestroika; Boris Yeltsyn orchestrated big state reforms to change Russians’ life for better… Nowadays, the Moscow Kremlin is the apex of political power, symbol of the Russian statehood and residence of the President Vladimir Putin.
If by chance your Kremlin visit is on summer Saturday, you can enjoy watching a spectacular ceremonial mounting parade of horse guard and foot guard of the Presidential regiment.
And what about Kremlin secrets? Hidden dungeons, rich prizes and art treasures, unknown burials, collections of ancient books, containing special knowledge... Today archaeological excavations continue on the grounds of the Moscow fortress.
Being for centuries a silent witness of the most dramatic historical events, Moscow Kremlin is a great place of power, the sacred energetic kernel of this land. It's the essence of all Russia which Winston Churchill once said to be "a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma".