About The Kremlin
The Kremlin (Kreml) is an iconic symbol of Russian statehood and forms the seat of its political power. Characterised by colourful domes and opulent buildings, this vast triangular shaped complex, together known as The Kremlin, spans an area of around 28 hectares and includes several beautiful palaces, numerous churches and even armouries and a medieval fortress.
History of the Kremlin
The Kremlin’s history can be traced back as far back as 1156, preceding even the founding of the principality of Moscow in 1236. However, most of the buildings in the Kremlin were built between the fourteenth and seventeenth centuries, initially under the reign of Dmitry Donskoy, then rebuilt in the fifteenth century under Ivan the Great. It was also under Ivan the Great that The Kremlin served as the seat of Russian power, a role which it fulfilled until Peter the Great transferred the Russian government to St Petersburg.
It was only in March 1918, when the Bolsheviks chose Moscow as their political centre, that The Kremlin once again took centre stage.
The Kremlin offers visitors a plethora of incredible sites. Many of these, including the Cathedral of the Assumption, which was built in the 1470s, are contained in Cathedral Square. Many of Russia’s important religious leaders are buried here.
Cathedral Square in The Kremlin was once a centre of political and religious importance and the site of many significant ceremonies such as coronations. It is the home of what was once Russia’s tallest structure, an imposing sixteenth century tower known as Ivan the Great Belltower. This 81 metres high tower was largely destroyed in 1812 by Napoleon’s army, but the main pillar remained and the whole structure was restored in the nineteenth century.
The Cathedral of the Annunciation is another worthy site in this part of The Kremlin, built by Ivan III in the fifteenth century and once being the official chapel of Russia’s tsars.
Beyond its religious sites, The Kremlin has much to offer the history enthusiast, notably in its Armoury which contains a myriad of exhibits relating to Russian culture including ceremonial clothing of the tsars, Faberge eggs, the chalice of the founder of Moscow, Yuri Dolgoruky and, next door, the stunning Orlov Diamond which measures a staggering 190 carats.
The Communist Era
During the twentieth century, The Kremlin became the focal point of Russia’s communist regime, being the home of, amongst others, Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin. Both of these leaders unleashed waves of destruction upon The Kremlin’s architecture, including demolishing monuments, such as one dedicated to Alexander II and buildings such as the Chudov Monastery.
Today, The Kremlin contains the President’s residences, including The Great Kremlin Palace, a nineteenth century building constructed during the reign of Tsar Nicholas I, The Senate and The Kremlin Administrative Building. The Kremlin became a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1990
The Kremlin today
Overall, the Kremlin is a fascinating site, having played a vital role throughout Moscow’s social and political history. It contains several museums, some within its churches, whilst other exhibits are peppered throughout its grounds. The sheer beauty of its architecture makes the Kremlin an incredible place to visit and a must see site when visiting Moscow.
Unfortunately, some of its buildings, particularly its palaces are not open to the public, but even given this there is too much to see in one day.
The complex is unsurprisingly under tight security measures: you’ll need to check your bags (free) by the Kutafya Tower before entering, and expect to see a lot of armed guards throughout your visit. They’re unlikely to crack a smile and their English is limited so avoid interactions where possible. Look out for the signs prohibitting photography, which includes the Armoury and the buildings on on Sobornaya pl.
The entrance ticket alone covers five church-museums and the Patriarch’s Palace, but if you’ve made it this far, you’ll want to purchase the optional extras – the Armoury, Diamond Fund Exhibition and Ivan the Great Bell Tower. The Russian Imperial treasures are truly a sight to behold, and should satisfy the diamond-lust of even the most seasoned traveller. The Armoury holds the famous collection of Faberge eggs, so keep an eye out for them. Tours are a great way to see certain parts of the Kremlin if you’re short on time or feel overwhelmed.
At noon daily you can watch the changing of the guards at Sobornaya Sq, which has plenty of horses and men in historical attire doing formal choreography.
Getting to the Kremlin
The entrance to the monumental complex can be found at the Kutafiya Gatetower, which is accessed by Mokhovaya Street. Taxis will be able to drop you outside or the nearest metro stops are Biblioteka imeni Lenina (red line 1), Aleksandrovskiy sad (blue line 4) and Arbatskaya (line 3), which are all less than a 5 minute walk.
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