Moscow Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west

Panorama of Moscow Kremlin from Bolshoi Kamenny bridge
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It is the best known of kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.

The name Kremlin means «fortress inside a city», and is often used as a metonym to refer to the government of the Russian Federation in a similar sense to how the White House is used to refer to the Executive Office of the President of the United States.  

Panorama of Moscow Kremlin from Bolshoi Kamenny bridge
pinterest button Panorama of Moscow Kremlin from Bolshoi Kamenny bridge Минеева Ю. (Julmin), CC BY-SA 3.0

Indeed, even the Russian president's official website is Kremlin.ru. It had previously been used to refer to the government of the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and its highest members (such as general secretaries, premiers, presidents, ministers, and commissars). «Kremlinology» refers to the study of Soviet and Russian politics.

Buildings

The existing Kremlin walls and towers were built by Italian masters over the years 1485 to 1495. The irregular triangle of the Kremlin wall encloses an area of 275,000 square metres (68 acres). Its overall length is 2,235 metres (2,444 yards), but the height ranges from 5 to 19 metres, depending on the terrain. The wall's thickness is between 3.5 and 6.5 metres.

Originally there were eighteen Kremlin towers, but their number increased to twenty in the 17th century. All but three of the towers are square in plan. The highest tower is the Troizkaya, which was built up to its present height of 73,9 metres in 1495. Most towers were originally crowned with wooden tents; the extant brick tents with strips of colored tiles go back to the 1680s.

 Church of the Deposition of the Robe (1488)
pinterest button Church of the Deposition of the Robe (1488) Smack, Public Domain

Cathedral Square is the heart of the Kremlin. It is surrounded by six buildings, including three cathedrals. The Cathedral of the Dormition was completed in 1479 to be the main church of Moscow and where all the Tsars were crowned. The massive limestone facade, capped with its five golden cupolas was the design of Aristotele Fioravanti. Several important metropolitans and patriarchs are buried there, including Peter and Makarii.

The gilded, three-domed Cathedral of the Annunciation was completed next in 1489, only to be reconstructed to a nine-domed design a century later.

On the south-east of the square is the much larger Cathedral of the Archangel Michael (1508), where almost all the Muscovite monarchs from Ivan Kalita to Alexis I of Russia are interred. (Boris Godunov was originally buried there, but was moved to the Trinity Monastery.)

There are two domestic churches of the Metropolitans and Patriarchs of Moscow, the Church of the Twelve Apostles (1653–56) and the exquisite one-domed Church of the Deposition of the Virgin's Robe, built by Pskov artisans over the years 1484–88 and featuring superb icons and frescoes from 1627 and 1644.

Inside the Terem Palace
pinterest button Inside the Terem Palace Ra'ike, CC BY-SA 3.0

The other notable structure is the Ivan the Great Bell Tower on the north-east corner of the square, which is said to mark the exact centre of Moscow and resemble a burning candle. Completed in 1600, it is 81 metres (266 feet) high. Until the Russian Revolution, it was the tallest structure in the city, as construction of buildings taller than that was forbidden. Its 21 bells would sound the alarm if any enemy was approaching. The upper part of the structure was destroyed by the French during the Napoleonic Invasion and has, of course, been rebuilt. The Tsar bell, the largest bell in the world, stands on a pedestal next to the tower.

The oldest secular structure still standing is Ivan III's Palace of Facets (1491), which holds the imperial thrones. The next oldest is the first home of the royal family, the Terem Palace. The original Terem Palace was also commissioned by Ivan III, but most of the existing palace was built in the 17th century.

The Terem Palace and the Palace of Facets are linked by the Grand Kremlin Palace. This was commissioned by Nicholas I in 1838. The largest structure in the Kremlin, it cost an exorbitant sum of eleven million rubles to build and more than one billion dollars to renovate in the 1990s. It contains dazzling reception halls, a ceremonial red staircase, private apartments of the tsars, and the lower storey of the Resurrection of Lazarus church (1393), which is the oldest extant structure in the Kremlin and the whole of Moscow.

The northern corner of the Kremlin is occupied by the Arsenal, which was originally built for Peter the Great in 1701. The southwestern section of the Kremlin holds the Armoury building. Built in 1851 to a Renaissance Revival design, it is currently a museum housing Russian state regalia and Diamond fund.

The haloalkaliphilic methylotrophic bacterium Methylophaga murata was first isolated from deteriorating marble in the Kremlin.

Helipad

In order to stop the disruptions to Moscow traffic caused by motorcades, President Vladimir Putin authorized the construction of the Kremlin helipad.

The helipad was completed in May 2013. The President will now commute back and forth to the Kremlin using a Soviet-designed Mi-8 helicopter. Careful consideration was taken in choosing the location of the helipad, the location chosen is said to be of no threat to the architecture of the Kremlin.

Chairman of the Government Dmitry Medvedev has been using a helicopter for his commute in St. Petersburg since 2012.

Useful Information

The Moscow Kremlin
Russian: Моско́вский Кремль
tr. Moskovskiy Kreml
IPA: [mɐˈskofskʲɪj krʲemlʲ]

Admission

Ticket for visiting the architectural complex of the Cathedral Square:
Full ticket price: ₽ 350
Discount ticket price for schoolchildren and students: ₽ 100

Opening hours

  • Kremlin opening hours: 10:00–18:00
  • Ticket offices: 9:30–17:00
  • Closed: Thursday

Contacts

Moscow, Kremlin

☎ +7 495 695-37-76 24-hour inquiry +7 495 697-03-49 - excursion +7 495 697-46-11 - office
www.kreml.ru

Moscow Metro

The nearest Moscow Metro stations to the Kremlin are:

  • Biblioteka Imeni Lenina (Sokolnicheskaya Line),
  • Arbatskaya (Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line), 
  • Alexandrovsky Sad (Filyovskaya Line) and
  • Borovitskaya (Serpukhovsko-Timiryazevskaya Line).