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Moscow

The Moscow Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin is without doubt the main attraction of the capital. It is visible fr om almost any point in the city center, so finding it is no problem. Its red walls and battlements, running to a length of 2,235 meters and covering an area of 27.5 hectares, are a familiar image in every guidebook. Not all of the Kremlin territory, however, is open to visitors. For example, the presidential residence located in the Kremlin is closed for tours. Visiting the Kremlin with its many museums and architectural landmarks, built between the fourteenth and nineteenth centuries, requires a whole day.

Quite curiously, tourists and ordinary Muscovites have been able to visit the architectural masterpieces of the Kremlin since only a little more than half a century ago. After Lenin's Soviet Government settled in the Kremlin in March 1918, the area acquired a special status. First, monks and church officials were expelled from the Kremlin, then, in 1922, two functioning monasteries in the Kremlin were demolished: the Ascension Monastery and the Chudov Nunnery. By 1934, the only persons authorized to visit the Kremlin were government officials and employees holding special permits issued by the so called Sovnarkom (the Council of People's Commissars).  Those officials not only worked but also lived in the Kremlin during the Soviet era. Even the Grand Kremlin Palace, the former residence of the Russian tsars, had dozens of apartments for high-ranking officials and their families. The Kremlin was opened to the public by decision of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union only in 1955.

In the 1990s, Moscow's main attraction could be enjoyed for free.  Today, however, you must buy a ticket to enter the Kremlin. There are ticket offices in the Alexander Garden and the Kutafia Tower, selling tickets to visit various architectural masterpieces.

The cheapest ticket gives you the opportunity to explore the ensemble of the Cathedral Square: the Cathedral of the Dormition, the Cathedral of the Archangel, the Cathedral of the Annunciation, the Church of the Deposition of the Robe, and the Patriarchal Palace. This ensemble should certainly be seen by all who have an interest in ancient culture. The Cathedral of the Dormition was founded in 1326 and for several centuries served as the burial place of the heads of the Russian Church, including metropolitans and patriarchs. The Cathedral of the Archangel, founded by Prince Ivan Kalita, was the resting place of Russian princes and tsars until the eighteenth century. The Cathedral of the Annunciation was the main church of the Russian tsars for about 150 years, and as a rule its superiors were spiritual advisers of the tsars.

Tickets to visit the Ivan the Great Bell Tower are a bit more expensive, but you will enjoy breathtaking birds-eye views of the Kremlin. There are legends about the strength of this Tower, constructed in the early sixteenth century. For example, when Napoleon's army was retreating from Moscow, they blew up the Ivan the Great Bell Tower together with the adjacent church of John of the Ladder, but the tower of the main bell was not harmed and was left standing in the middle of the ruins.

While speaking of the Kremlin, perhaps the most famous attractions to be noted are the Tsar Bell, which has never been rung, and the Tsar Cannon, which has never fired a single shot. The Tsar Bell was cast by order of Empress Anna Ioanovna in 1733–1735. Two years after the casting the bell was cooling off in a special pit. A terrible fire broke out in the Kremlin in May 1737.  While extinguishing the fire, water was splashed on the hot metal bell, causing a huge slab weighing 11.5 tons to fall off. This monument of Russian casting weighing 202 tonnes and measuring 6.14 meters high was removed from the pit only in 1836 and set on a pedestal, wh ere it stands today. The Tsar Cannon was made in 1586 by order of Tsar Fedor Ioanovich. No disaster has struck this weapon, which weighs about 40 tons  and soon after the casting it was placed near the Spassky Gate to frighten enemies. Since then, no one has dared to encroach on Russian soil, and the cannon has never demonstrated its fire power.

The most impressive part of the Kremlin ensemble is certainly the well-known Kremlin towers. There are twenty towers in the Kremlin. Probably the most famous of them are the Kutafya Tower, which served as the bridge-head, and the Tsar's Tower built in the middle of the Kremlin wall. The oldest tower, the Taynitskaya Tower, was built in 1485 and the most recent towers constructed along the Neglinnaya River, facing the current Alexander Gardens, were built in the sixteenth century.

The main tower of the Kremlin is Spasskaya Tower. Its gate was intended for ceremonial marches, and it was here that tsars and foreign ambassador made their entrance. Now the members of the government use the Borovitskaya Tower, the only tower which is suitable for automotive traffic. In the past, it was the entrance to the area of the Kremlin's household outbuildings.

The third tower with an entrance to the territory is the Troitskaya Tower. It is now the point of entry for tourists into the Kremlin.  To be more precise, they first go up Kutafia Tower, and from there they continue over the bridge to the Kremlin. One more tower that has a gate is Nikolskaya Tower. The remaining 15 towers were not used as entrance gates, apart from those which had underground passages to the river. One of them is Taynitskaya Tower (the Russian name of the tower sounds like «the tower with a secret»).

Many towers have charactonyms, some of them have at least two names; as one became obsolete, the other was used instead. The Troitskaya (Trinity) Tower has changed its name more than any other tower of the Kremlin, as it had five different names in different eras: Trinity Tower, Epiphany Tower, the Tower of Lord's Robe Deposition, the Tower of Our Lady of the Sign, and Kuretnaya Tower.

What do the names of the Kremlin's towers tell us? Some names are related to adjacent buildings, such as Arsenalnaya and Senatskaya, while other names explain the functions of the tower: the Water Tower had a water pumping machine used to bring water to the gardens of the Kremlin.

Unfortunately, tourists are not allowed inside the towers and cannot look inside, although many people would love to go up a tower to see its internal structure, and then take in the view, like an ancient guardian of Moscow.  

If you look carefully at the towers and the walls, you may notice that there are many interesting details. It is interesting to note that only corner towers have a round bases, while the others have rectangular ones.  One tower has no base at all. This is Tsarskaya Tower, whose name means «tsar's tower». In this case the name is most likely misleading, because historians do not support the legend that tsars sat there overlooking Red Square. The tower housed the bells of the fire service. The name of this tower was probably due to its appearance, reminding us of a Tsar's throne as we know it from illustrations to Russian fairy-tales.

Site on the map

Website: www.kreml.ru
Address: Museums of Moscow Kremlin, Kremlin


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