Whenever we consider the tourist attractions available in Russia, the Kremlin springs to mind.
Its history dates back 800 years, from the moment it bore high importance as a medieval citadel until the present day when it is a fortified construction where the central power in Russia is located.
The Kremlin is representative for two colossal imperial cultures: the medieval Muscovite regime and the Soviet Union, in both cases having held immense power and being looked upon both with fear and admiration.
The architecture of the construction bears marks of the two historical periods: opulence and austerity are blend together offering an impressive tableau of what Russia was once. While some might regard these inconsistencies in the design as architectural absurdities, others see them as enigmas, as markers of cultural change.
With the passage of time, the mystery shrouding the Kremlin has not been lifted. Even today, visitors do not have access to 2/3 of the construction ensemble and because of this we cannot help but wonder what is it that Kremlin hides within its walls?
However, the portion that is opened for visitation is impressive, as it is rich in treasures. One day is insufficient to explore this place. Tourists can visit one of the most remarkable and largest museums worldwide, but also the official dwelling of the Russian President.
The history of the Kremlin begins around 1147, this being the year when a wooden fort was constructed on the location of the present Kremlin on the orders of Yuri Dolgoruky, Grand Duke of Kiev.
The city expanded at a fast pace and as a consequence, constructions made out of stone started to appear every here and there. Near the end of the 14th century the Kremlin had stone walls, thus becoming a truly fortified citadel.
The reign of Ivan the Great (1462 – 1505) is noteworthy in the evolution of the Kremlin. The citadel, as the epicenter of a unified Russia, underwent a series of transformations meant to make it worthy of the new role bestowed upon it.
As time went by, Moscow expanded further and further outside the walls of the fortress and this led to a “separation.” The Kremlin comprised within its walls a different world where the central power of the state and the national religion were based.
This period saw grand transformations. The Cathedrals of the Assumption, the Annunciation and the Archangel were constructed, as well as the imperial abode, the Russian Terem Palace. Ivan the Great Bell Tower was an important addition to the overall construction, transforming it into the magnificent site it is today.
But the remodeling project did not finish with the death of Ivan the Great. His descendants continued his work, transforming the fortress in as much as it would reflect the period they were living in. Russia’s capital was changed to Saint Petersburg by Peter the Great but this did not impede the rulers of the time to leave their mark on Kremlin – a symbol of the Russian culture.
The Kremlin was further developed with the construction of the Kremlin Arsenal by Peter the Great – this was initially developed as a military museum. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Senate Building and the Great Kremlin Palace were added – real works of art bearing the stamp of the neoclassical period.
The 1917 Revolution led to the Kremlin becoming once more the residence of the Russian regime. As remembrance of the communist regime are the large red stars painted on the towers, as well as inside the State Kremlin Palace.
The surface encompassed by the Kremlin walls reaches 275,000 square meters, with a total length of 2235 meters. The size of the edifices varies from 5 to 19 meters, while the width of the wall ranges from 3.5 to 6.5 meters. The initial construction comprised 18 towers, but 2 more were added back in the 17th century.
The State Kremlin Palace
This edifice was finished in 1961 and the main materials used in its constructions were concrete and glass. The purpose of the construction was to hold congress meetings for the Communist Party. The State Kremlin Palace was constructed in a peaceful period of the nation, when the Khruschev government was in power.
The architecture of the building is exquisite and its most noteworthy characteristic is the immense amphitheater it holds between its walls (which can house as much as 6000 people). Above the stage used to be a uniquely crafted bas-relief which represented Lenin’s head encircled by golden rays – a true statement of the communist regime. But the relief is no longer found within the edifice, where the Kremlin Ballet Company performs its pieces at present.
Ivan the Great Bell Tower
This tower is built out of white stone and has a glistening golden dome which is representative for the entire fortress, not just for the square in which it is located (the Cathedral Square). The construction of the edifice commenced at the beginning of the 16th century under the ruler Ivan the Great (hence the name of the tower) and was finished in 1600, when Russia was ruled by Boris Godunov.
The height of the tower exceeds 80 meters. The Bell Tower is in close proximity of another belfry in which the Resurrection Bell is found – a bell dating from the 19th century and weighting 64 tones.
The Assumption Cathedral
This cathedral is the most relevant one of all the churches located within the fortress. It was built in the same place where Ivan I constructed a smaller church as a means to commemorate the moment when Moscow became the central point of orthodoxy.
When Ivan the Great came to power, he reached the conclusion that the small cathedral was too modest to be representative for the city’s greatness; not to mention that by then the passage of time left its imprint on the construction.
Ivan the Great was not pleased with the local builders so he looked elsewhere for a contractor to develop a one-of-a-kind edifice. This task was appointed to Alberti Fioravante, of Italian origin. The builder first decided to visit different parts of Russia in order to create an idea about the architectural designs used for religious edifices. Only afterwards, did he return to Moscow and resume his work.
It took four years to complete the construction and the result was impressive – in as much as Ivan the Great denied Fioravanti’s request to return to his homeland and threw him in prison. The Italian never got to see his country again as he died incarcerated a couple of years later.
The cathedral is renowned for its architecture which consists of elaborate frescos and icons. The architect managed to blend beautifully all the elements characteristic of Russian religious structural design and this is what attracts tourists the most to this place.
But the Assumption Cathedral also bears high importance due to the historical events that it witnessed. For once, it was on its steps that Ivan the Great ripped to pieces the agreement through which the rulers of Moscow were supposed to pay tribute to the Mongolian people. Not to mention that this was the first church dedicated to the orthodox religion.
Only a couple of edifices have been presented here but the Kremlin has numerous towers, cathedrals, museums and palaces. All of these are representative for the Russian culture and stand as evidence for different regimes which have come to power in this region. But the most relevant fact is that all of them combine impressive decorative elements.