The Moscow Kremlin is a fortress in the center of Moscow and its oldest part, the main socio-political, historical and artistic complex of the city, the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation, until the collapse of the USSR in December 1991, it was the official residence of the General Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU (in 1990 -1991 – President of the USSR). One of the most famous architectural structures in the world.
It is located on the high left bank of the Moskva River – Borovitsky Hill, at the confluence of the Neglinnaya River. In plan, the Kremlin is an irregular triangle with an area of 27.5 hectares. The southern wall faces the Moskva River, the northwestern one faces the Alexander Gardens, and the eastern one faces Red Square.
The Kremlin is the fortified core and central and most ancient part of the historical Russian city of Moscow. The word “Kremlin” from the XIV century became widespread in North-Eastern Rus’, gradually replacing the original name detinets. In the structure of ancient Russian cities, in most cases, one or two larger roundabout cities, which were also fortified, adjoined the walled Kremlin-detinets. The unfortified parts of the city were called settlements.
In 1156, on the southwestern tip of Borovitsky Hill, on the territory of the modern Kremlin, the first fortifications were built with a total length of about 850 m and covered about 3 hectares. A moat 16-18 m wide and at least 5 m deep surrounded the fortification. The earth rampart was about 14.5 m wide and 7 m high. It was a typical average Russian fortress for those times. Lastly, the shaft was reinforced with oak beams.
In the fall of 1176, Moscow and the surrounding villages were burned when the Ryazan prince Gleb Rostislavich attacked it. However, the city was restored quickly.
In 1238, during the Tatar invasion, after a five-day resistance, the Tatars took Moscow, which the youngest son of Yuri Vladimir defended. The Kremlin was destroyed, all its defenders were killed and Vladimir Yurievich was captured. According to the Laurentian Chronicle, all monasteries and churches with villages were burned.
In 1339, under Ivan Kalita, oak walls and towers were built.
In the XIV century, five monasteries were built in the Kremlin. The first of them (the Spaso-Preobrazhensky monastery inthe forest) was created in 1330, in the millennium of Constantinople – the “New Rome.” Its center was the ancient Moscow church of the Cathedral of the Savior on Bor or the Cathedral of the Transfiguration of the Savior “that on Bor.” Here tzars were buried until the role of the tomb was transferred to the Archangel Cathedral for men and the Ascension Monastery (destroyed in 1929) for women.
After the establishment of the Novospassky Monastery at the end of the 15th century, the Cathedral of the Savior on Bor received the status of a court church. Because of the construction of the Kremlin Palace in 1830-1840, the Church of the Savior was inscribed in the courtyard of the Palace. The temple was destroyed on May 1, 1933,based on the decision of the Politburo of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks.
In the years 1366-1368, under Grand Duke Dmitry Donskoy, local white stone replaced the wooden walls of the Kremlin. Since this period, the name “White-Stone Moscow” is often found in the annals.
Brick Kremlin of Ivan III
In the second half of the 15th century, under Ivan III the Great, a radical restructuring of the Moscow Kremlin began. The first to start building a new Assumption Cathedral, because the old one, built by Ivan Kalita, by that time had already become very dilapidated.
Construction in 1471 was originally entrusted to the Russian architects Krivtsov and Myshkin, but the building brought to the vaults collapsed in 1474 during an earthquake. Ivan III invited the architect Aristotele Fioravanti from Italy, who by 1479 erected the existing building in the likeness of the Assumption Cathedral in Vladimir.
In 1484-1486, Pskov craftsmen erected a new Church of the Robe, and in 1484-1489, a new Cathedral of the Annunciation in the basement of the former church. By that time, following Fioravanti, other Italian architects were invited to Moscow.
In 1485, the construction of the new Grand Duke’s Palace began, which continued with long interruptions until 1514. The front part of the palace was built first, and the Faceted Chamber (Palace of Facets) that Italian architects Mark Fryazin and Pietro Antonio Solari built in 1487-1491 has survived to this day.
Aleviz Fryazin was engaged in the construction of the princely choirs and the inner wall that separated them from the rest of the Kremlin; he also moved the front part of the palace to a new place – from the south side to the east, facing the Cathedral Square. Even though Italian architects led the construction of the palace, its architecture completely preserved the principles of construction of the ancient Russian choir: separate stone and wooden volumes were erected on a single high stone basement. With the construction in 1505-1508 of the Archangel Cathedral (architect Aleviz Novy) and the bell tower of Ivan the Great (architect Bon Fryazin), as well as the building of the Treasury Court between them, the formation of Cathedral Square as the main square of the Moscow Kremlin was completed.
At the beginning of the 16th century, Italian masters built new churches in the Kremlin: the Cathedral of the Chudov Monastery (1501-1503), the Cathedral of the Ascension Monastery (1519), the Church of Ivan of the Ladder (1505-1508) and the Church of St. Nicholas Gostunsky. The Church of Ivan the Baptist at the Borovitsky Gate (1504) was also rebuilt at this time.
Simultaneously with the construction of the Grand Duke’s Palace and the renovation of the Kremlin churches, the construction of new Kremlin walls and towers was going on. Starting from 1485, for a whole decade, under the guidance of Italian architects, the white-stone fences of the walls and towers were dismantledand new ones were erected from baked bricksand put in their place.
The area of the fortress was increased due to the annexation of significant territories in the northwest and reached 27.5 hectares. The Kremlin received the modern shape of an irregular triangle. The shape of the towers and the completion of the wall in the form of battlements are reminiscent of the Scaligero Castle in Verona and the Sforzesco castle in Milan. The Moscow Kremlin repeats the Sforzesco castle down to the smallest detail – the top of the walls of the fortress in Russia was crowned with 1045 teeth in the shape of a dovetail. Even the height of the Filaret Tower, where the entrance to the Sforza Castle is located, and the Spasskaya Tower are the same – 71 m.
With the accession of the Romanovs, the active construction of churches and secular buildings resumed. In 1624, the Spasskaya Tower was built. In 1635-1636, the Terem Palace and palace churches were built. During the reign of Tsar Fyodor Alekseevich (1676-1682) and Princess Sophia (1682-1689), a large-scale restructuring of the Kremlin ensemble was conducted. New buildings of Orders and the Chudov Monastery, riding gardens and chambers of queens and princesses were erected, and all the towers of the Kremlin except for Nikolskaya received multi-tiered superstructures with tents decorated with colored tiles. At the same time, the Kremlin changed its color: from red brick, it became white.
With the beginning of the reign of Peter I, the significance of the Moscow Kremlin changed markedly – the tsar moved first to Preobrazhenskoye, and then to St. Petersburg, and the fortress lost the status of a permanent royal residence. At the beginning of the 18th century, the nature of the Kremlin buildings also changed: after the devastating fire of 1701, Peter issued a decree in 1704 prohibiting the construction of wooden buildings inside the Kremlin.
In the early years of the 19th century, contemporaries began to perceive the Kremlin as a symbol of the historical and military glory of Russia, which caused the appearance of bright pseudo-Gothic forms in its buildings. The architect I.V. Egotov used Gothic elements to reconstruct the Poteshny Palace and some other Kremlin buildings.
At the same time, at the beginning of the 19th century, many ancient buildings were demolished. Among others, the famous Heraldic Gates, Sretensky Cathedral, part of the Poteshny Palace, several temples of the Ascension Monastery, and the complexes of the Bread Palace, Tsareborisov Yard and the Trinity Compound were destroyed.
In 1812, Napoleon’s army captured Moscow and the Kremlin. The French army entered the Kremlin on September 2, 1812, and Napoleon himself on September 3. However, the very next day he fled from the Kremlin through a secret passage under the threat of a spreading fire. Retreating, Napoleon ordered them to mine and blow up the Kremlin buildings. Even though most of the charges did not explode, the damage was significant. The Arsenal, Vodovzvodnaya, Petrovskaya and First Nameless Towers were blown up, the Corner Arsenal Tower and extensions to the Ivan the Great Bell Tower were seriously damaged, and the Senate was partially damaged.
The architect F. K. Sokolov led the restoration; some towers were rebuilt according to designs and under the supervision of Joseph Bové. During the reconstruction of Red Square, Bové gave the Nikolskaya Tower a Gothic look. The arsenal was restored and received a new finish in 1815-1828 as part of the project of Moscow architects A. N. Bakarev, I. L. Mironovsky, I. T. Tamansky and E. D. Tyurin. At the same time, captured cannons were placed around the Arsenal and then Alexander I ordered them to besent to Moscow. In total, it took more than twenty years to rebuild the Kremlin: the work was finally completed by 1836.
During the years of Soviet power, the architectural ensemble of the Moscow Kremlin suffered significantly. The author of a study on the destruction of the Kremlin monuments during this period, Konstantin Mikhailov, in the book “The Destroyed Kremlin” writes that “in the 20th century, the architectural ensemble of the Moscow Kremlin was destroyed by more than half.”
By looking atthe plans of the Kremlin at the beginning of the 20th century, one can distinguish 54 structures that stood inside the Kremlin walls. More than half of them – 28 buildings – no longer exist.
In 1918, with the personal participation of Lenin, the monument to Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich was demolished. In the same year, the monument to Alexander II was destroyed. In the mid-1920s, the chapels near the gate icons were demolished near the Spasskaya, Nikolskaya and Borovitskaya towers.
In 1922, during the campaign to “seize church valuables” from the Kremlin cathedrals, more than 300 pounds of silver, more than 2 pounds of gold and thousands of precious stones were seized.
The Grand Kremlin Palace began to be adapted for holding congresses of Soviets and congresses of the Third International. A kitchen was placed in the Golden Chamber and a public dining room was placed in the Faceted Chamber.
The Small Nikolaevsky Palace turned into a club for workers of Soviet institutions, and a gym was built in Catherine’s Church of the Ascension Monastery and a Kremlin hospital in Chudovoye.
In the late 1920s, a large series of demolition of the ancient structures of the Kremlin began.
In 1935, gilded copper stars covered with Ural gems replaced the double-headed eagles that crowned the main travel towers of the Kremlin: Spasskaya, Nikolskaya, Troitskaya and Borovitskaya. In 1937, the gemstone stars were replaced with ruby glass stars. The ruby star was first installed on the Vodovzvodnaya Tower.
During the Great Patriotic War, the Kremlin was camouflaged to avoid its destruction. Streets and facades of other buildings were depicted on the walls, green roofs were repainted and ruby stars were extinguished and covered. The mausoleum was hidden under a two-story fake building. The architect Boris Iofan supervised the work. The Germans could not conduct a targeted bombing of the Kremlin, since the Kremlin visually disappeared. During the war, 18 high-explosive aerial bombs weighing from 50 to 500 kg and about one and a half hundred incendiary bombs were dropped on the territory of the Kremlin and Red Square but did not cause catastrophic destruction to the building.
Since 1955, the Kremlin has been partially open to the public, becoming an open-air museum. In the same year, a ban on residence on the territory of the Kremlin was introduced. In 1967, a monument to V. I. Lenin was unveiled in the Kremlin (sculptor V. B. Pinchuk, architect S. B. Speransky).
The last major building of the Kremlin during the years of Soviet power was the Palace of Congresses, built-in 1958-1961 according to the project of architects M. V. Posokhin, A. A. Mndoyants, E. N. Stamo, P. P. Shteller and N. M. Shchepetilnikov. To clear space for the new building, the old Armory, the Synodal Administration, the Officers’, Kitchen and Grenadier’s buildings and two of the three Cavalier buildings of the Kremlin were demolished.
During the restoration work of the late 1960s and early 1970s, the clay tiles on the Kremlin towers were replaced in many places with metal sheets painted to look like tiles. In addition, in connection with the construction of the “Tomb of the Unknown Soldier” memorial, part of the surface layer of the wall between the Corner and Middle Arsenal towers was hewn to a depth of 1 m and then laid out again to create a monotonous surface in color and texture, designed to serve as a background for the memorial.
In 1990, the Kremlin was included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Since 1991, the Kremlin has been the residence of the President of Russia. From 1993-1994, the Red Porch of the Faceted Chamber was rebuilt, and from 1994 to 1998 the Andreevsky and Alexander Halls of the Grand Kremlin Palace were rebuilt. In 1995, a monument to V. I. Lenin was dismantled in the Tainitsky Garden (the monument was first transferred to the “Park of Arts”, later – to Leninskiye Gorki). From 1992 to 1996, the Senate Palace was restored.
Between 1996-2000, the Kremlin walls and towers were restored.
In 2001, the repair of the 14th building of the Kremlin on Ivanovskaya Square began. By 2011, all presidential administration services were transferred to Staraya Square. The Interior of B.N. Yeltsin was transferred to the Presidential Center named after him in Yekaterinburg.
In July 2014, President of Russia V.V. Putin proposed not to restore the 14th building, which has no architectural and historical value but to recreate the historical appearance of the Moscow Kremlin and restore the ancient monasteries on this site – Chudov founded by Metropolitan Alexy and Voznesensky, founded by the widow of Dmitry Donskoy Evdokia Dmitrievna. The proposal was discussed at a meeting with Moscow Mayor S. S. Sobyanin, Deputy Director of the Moscow Kremlin Museums, specialist in ancient Russian architecture A. L. Batalov, Rector of the Moscow Architectural Institute D. O. Shvidkovsky and commandant of the Moscow Kremlin S. D. Khlebnikov.
In the spring of 2016, the 14th building was completely dismantled. For the first time, opportunities became available for a large-scale archaeological study of the Kremlin Hill and the layers of the cultural and spiritual heritage of the 12th – early 20th centuries hidden in it. The Institute of Archeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences conducted research work. When the excavations were completed, a square was laid out in their place for the duration of the project for the restoration of the monasteries.
In the winter of 2017, the first “archaeological windows” in Moscow were opened on Ivanovskaya Square, to allow people to be acquainted with the well-preserved ancient foundations of the Small Nikolaevsky Palace and the Chudov Monastery. The discovered remains of the foundations of the Catherine’s Church of the Ascension Monastery are located under Spasskaya Street and are hidden from the eyes of visitors to the Kremlin.
The Moscow Kremlin State Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve has opened a new tourist route that introduces Muscovites and guests of the capital to the history of destroyed shrines.
A new exit is now open through the Spasskaya Tower directly to Red Square.
103132 Russia, Moscow, Kremlin. Tour desk +7 495 695-41-46, +7 495 697-03-49 from 9:00 to 18:00 7 days a week.
The territory of the Moscow Kremlin and its museums are open to the public every day, except Thursday, from 10:00 to 17:00. The Armory is open at 10:00, 12:00, 14:30, 16:30. You can buy tickets for an independent visit to the Kremlin and its museums at the box office of the Alexander Garden and at the Kutafya Tower, in the Armory and on Cathedral Square.
Ticket offices are open daily, except Thursday, from 9:30 to 16:00.
It is prohibited to enter the territory of the Kremlin with large bags, bicycles, scooters and hoverboards. Baby strollers are allowed.
You can leave your luggage for free in the luggage room.
Luggage storage is located next to the Kutafya Tower.
It works daily from 9:00 to 18:30 (on the days of religious events in the churches of the Moscow Kremlin – from 7:30 to 18:30, and the days of theatrical and entertainment events in the State Kremlin Palace – from 9:00 to 23:00).
Breaks: from 11:00 to 11:30 and from 15:30 to 16:00.
Things (objects) of visitors to the Moscow Kremlin are accepted into the storage room upon presentation of a ticket (invitation) to the State Armory and museum objects of the architectural ensemble of the Cathedral Square of the State Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve “Moscow Kremlin”, the Grand Kremlin Palace, to the exhibition “ Diamond Fund”, theatrical and entertainment events in the State Kremlin Palace or religious events in the temples of the Moscow Kremlin.
Places to visit inside the Kremlin ensemble
Nearest attractions: Alexander Gardens, Arbat street, New Arbat Avenue, Church of Simeon Stolpnik on Povarskaya, Khudozhestvenny cinema, Arseny Morozov’s mansion, Shakhovsky – Krause – Osipovsky’s mansion, Shchusev State Museum of Architecture, Razumovsky-Sheremetev House, Russian State Library, Vozdvizhenka Street, Bolshoi Theatre, Maly Theatre, Manezhnaya Square, Ploschad Revolyutsii (square), State Duma building, House of the Unions, Teatralnaya Ploschad, TSUM, Monument to Alexander Ostrovsky, Tretyakovskiy proezd, Central Children’s Store, Lubyanka Building, Metropol Hotel, Moskva hotel.