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Trans-siberian blog Moscow Kremlin History

Moscow Kremlin History

The History of the Moscow Kremlin

Literally meaning “fortress inside a city” and usually known simply as “the Kremlin”, the Moscow Kremlin refers to the fortified collection of palaces and cathedrals that look over Red Square and Saint Basil’s to the east and the Moskva River to the south. It comprises of 5 palaces and 4 cathedrals as well as the fortified walls and towers surrounding the complex and is the current residence of the President of Russia and visit is a highlight of Trans-Siberian tours.

Renovation and Building of the Kremlin Walls by Ivan III

The Kremlin was to have a turbulent beginning to its existence with it being sacked by the Mongols before being rebuilt in oak. It was to continue to be a seat of residence for the Grand Dukes long after Moscow had been founded by Yuri Dolgorukiy, the Grand Prince of Kiev. During the reign of Ivan the Great, one of Russia’s longest and most successful rulers, the Kremlin was to be given a major overhaul. Ivan III ordered the reconstruction of the Kremlin including the construction of 3 cathedrals of the Kremlin, the Deposition Church, and the Palace of Facets. He called in Renaissance Italy’s finest architects and designers to carry out this makeover which also saw the construction of the Kremlin’s walls as they now appear between the years of 1485 – 1495.

Building of St Basil’s and Decline as the Capital Moves to St Petersburg

St. Basil’s Cathedral was constructed during the reign of Ivan the Terrible over the 30 metres wide moat that surrounded the Kremlin and he was also to renovate the palaces that had been constructed by his grandfather and add an additional cathedral and palace for his sons. It was to continue to be used as the imperial residence right up until the Moscow Uprising of 1682 which was to see Peter the Great nearly killed. It is believed that this is why he never liked the Kremlin and was to abandon Moscow completely 30 years later for his new capital of St Petersburg.

It was to lay abandoned for all but coronations until the time of Catherine the Great. In 1773 she commissioned a Neoclassical residence to be built there of epic proportions. It was derailed due to a lack of funds and it would be several years before the Walls were reconstructed. In 1812 Napoleon invaded and actually managed to occupy the Kremlin for just over a month before being forced to retreat. On retreat, he ordered the Kremlin to be blown up and the Arsenal as well as sections of the walls and towers were all destroyed. Fortunately there were heavy rains at the time and many of the fuses did not go off properly meaning the damage was no way near as bad as had originally been intended.

Revival of the Kremlin by the Time of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917

It was to be restored over the coming years and eventually a new palace to rival the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg (now the Hermitage) was constructed called the Grand Kremlin Palace and a couple of years later in 1851 the Kremlin Armoury joined it. Things would remain unchanged for some time after, until the Bolshevik revolution in 1917. Lenin was to remove as many signs of Tsarist Russia as possible. He replaced the Eagles with Soviet stars.

These days the curator of the Kremlin museums is Elena Gagarina – the daughter of Yuri Gagarin and restoration work continues.

Article originally posted by Phil Stanley and Headseast: 19th March 2015

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