Moscow Kremlin

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Kremlin, Moscow


the oldest part of Moscow, the main sociopolitical and historical-artistic complex of the center of the capital of the USSR; the seat of the highest bodies of state power —the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR, and the government of the USSR.

The Kremlin originally was a small fortification for a settlement that arose on Borovitskii Hill, a cape located at the point where the Neglinnaia River empties into the Moskva River. The oldest archaeological finds on the territory of the Kremlin date to the Bronze Age (second millennium B.C.). In the early Iron Age (second half of the first millennium B.C.), the Kremlin was the site of a settlement whose traces were discovered at what is now Arkhangel’skii Cathedral. A small Slavic town arose on the territory of the Kremlin no later than the end of the 11th century. Excavations have unearthed remnants of wooden structures, a road, artisans’ tools, and household objects, as well as ornaments used by the Viatichi (a Slavic tribe). Among the finds was the seal of the Kievan metropolitan of 1091–96.

The fortress (the old name was “city” or “city of Moscow”; the name “Kremlin” did not appear until the 14th century) occupied the extreme southwestern part of Borovitskii Hill, covering approximately 1.5 hectares. A moat, which has been unearthed by excavations, ran along near what is now the western facade of the Great Kremlin Palace. By the time Moscow was first mentioned in the chronicles (1147), the settlement occupied the upper part of the hill. In the east it included what are now Cathedral and Ivan squares. It extended along the shore of the Moskva River to the middle of the area occupied at present by the Rossiia Hotel. In the north the settlement reached roughly the middle of what is now the site of the Palace of Congresses.

The “city” of 1156, which was built on a directive from Prince lurii Dolgorukii, covered an area five or six times larger than the original city. The central part of Borovitskii Hill was left free of any settlement by the general population. A wooden church with a cemetery was located on the northern part of what is now Cathedral Square. At that time the fortification of the Kremlin was a wooden and earthen structure (a moat and a rampart with wooden foundation). In the second half of the 12th century the Kremlin occupied the site of the present-day Palace of Congresses and Cathedral Square in the north and east, as well as the territory of the original fortifications in the southwest. The settlement at that time covered almost the entire upper part of Borovitskii Hill; along the bank of the Moskva River it extended eastward (including what was later Zariad’e). In 1237, during the Mongol-Tatar invasion, the Kremlin was destroyed.

The subsequent development of the Kremlin was closely related to Moscow’s increasing importance, first as the capital of the principality and then as the capital of the centralized Russian state. The construction of the first stone churches dates to the end of the 13th century; these churches were the predecessors of the Uspenskii, Blagoveshchenskii, and Arkhangel’skii cathedrals. The building of these churches inspired the subsequent development of the central Cathedral Square of the Kremlin.

Under the reign of Ivan I Danilovich Kalita, several cathedrals and a church were built in the Kremlin, including Uspenskii Cathedral (1327; with the Chapel of Worship to the Chains of the Apostle Peter, 1329), the Church of John Climacus (1329), Spasa na boru Cathedral (1330, with a monastery), and Arkhangel’skii Cathedral (1333). In late 1339 the construction of walls and towers made of oak was undertaken.

In the second half of the 14th century, the Chudov Monastery and the Voznesenskii Nunnery were founded. In 1367, Dmitrii Donskoi, in preparation for the decisive struggle against the Tatars, ordered that walls and towers of white stone be built for the Kremlin (hence the name “Moscow With the White Walls”) and substantially expanded its area. In the late 14th and early 15th centuries, stone construction continued (including Rozhdestvo Church and Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral in the sovereign’s courtyard), the towers and walls of white stone were restored, and the first tower clock was installed (1404). Working in the Kremlin at this time were the famous Russian painters Andrei Rublev, Theophanes the Greek, and Prokhor of Gorodets; in 1405 they created an iconostasis for Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral.

In the second half of the 15th century, when Moscow became the political and cultural center of the unified Russian state, reconstruction of the Kremlin was undertaken, with the participation of Italian architects. The Kremlin was transformed into a major architectural ensemble, whose majestic center was Cathedral Square, with its Uspenskii Cathedral. The cathedral was built between 1475 and 1479 by the Italian architect Aristotele Fioravante and Russian masters (this was the fourth building on the site). Using the previous achievements of Russian architecture, the architects imparted monumental and majestic elements to the traditional triple-nave, five-cupola cathedral. In the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries, Uspenskii Cathedral was decorated with murals by the artists Dionysii, Ivan Paisein, Boris Paisein, and others. Metropolitans and patriarchs were buried in the cathedral; it also was the site of weddings of princes and tsars, coronations, and other ceremonies. A unique collection of icons from the 11th to the 17th century has been preserved in Uspenskii Cathedral.

Pskov masters built the new Rizpolozhenie Church (1486) and Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral (1484–89). The latter was the sovereign’s private cathedral. Preserved in the lower part of Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral are remains of the lower floor of a stone cathedral that had previously stood on the same site (late 14th century; rebuilt in 1416). An iconostasis executed in 1405 by Andrei Rublev and others was transferred to the cathedral. In 1508, under the direction of the painter Feodosii, Blagoveshchenskii Cathedral was decorated with murals.

Between 1505 and 1508 the Italian architect Aleviz Friazin Novyi built Arkhangel’skii Cathedral, applying architectural and decorative devices of the Italian Renaissance, such as division of buildings into stories, pilasters with capitals, and shell-gables, to a typically Russian cathedral. Very little remains of the 16th-century Russian murals in the cathedral; the main murals were executed between 1652 and 1666 (la. T. Kazanets, S. G. Riazanets, I. Vladimirov, and others). ArkhangePskii Cathedral served as a burial place for princes and, later, for tsars (up to Ivan V Alekseevich).

The construction of a stone sovereign’s palace (on the site of the present-day Great Kremlin Palace) with the Hall of Facets (1487–91, architects Mark Friazin and Pietro Antonio Solari) completed the western side of Cathedral Square. The Hall of Facets is a magnificent reception hall, with an area of approximately 500 sq m; it is covered with cross vaulting that rests upon a central pillar. The hall derives its name from the faceted blocks of its eastern facade. The central element of the Kremlin ensemble is the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great (1505–08, architect Bon Friazin). East of the bell tower was Ivan Square with the Prikazy Building (late 16th century).

Between 1485 and 1495 new brick walls and towers were built around the Kremlin (Italian architects Mark Friazin, P. A. Solari, Aleviz Friazin Milanets, and Anton Friazin); these walls and towers are in existence today. The plan of the Kremlin is an irregular triangle with an area of 27.5 hectares; the walls measure 2.25 km long, 3.5–6.5 m thick, and 5–19 m high (depending on the elevation of the land). The Kremlin had 18 towers; of the six that served as entryways into the Kremlin, three had turrets with loopholes. The corner towers are round; the remaining, rectangular. At present there are 20 towers, including one turret (Kutaf’ia) and a tent-like tower that had been built over the wall (Tsar Tower) in the second half of the 17th century. On the Red Square side, the Kremlin was protected by a moat filled with water from the Neglinnaia River. The moat was lined with stone and fortified by additional low walls. All work was completed by 1516. In the early 16th century the Kremlin was one of Europe’s most powerful fortresses. As early as the 1490’s, Ivan III attempted to retain the Kremlin’s identity as the nucleus of the capital by separating it from the rest of the city by an area free from urban structures.

In the 17th century, intensive construction began in the Kremlin, which had suffered heavily during the peasant wars and the Polish and Swedish intervention. Taller buildings were erected, with more complex decoration of their facades. The colors of the structures became more diverse and imposing. In 1600 upper stories were added to the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great (81 m). In 1625 a tall stone tower with diverse decorations and a new clock was built above Spasskaia Tower. In 1635 and 1636 the architects A. Konstantinov, T. Sharutin, L. Ushakov, and B. Ogurtsov built the three-story Teremnoi Palace, which housed the Verkhospasskii Cathedral, above the second floor in the northeastern part of an old 16th-century palace. The palace and the cathedral were typically imposing, richly decorated residential chambers of the feudal elite (until the end of the 18th century Teremnoi Palace was the tallest civic structure in the Kremlin). Wooden chambers were added to Teremnoi Palace for the tsaritsa Natal’ia Kirillovna and Tsar Aleksei’s daughters. In 1651 and 1652, chambers were built for the tsar’s father-in-law, I. Miloslavskii, near Troitskie Vorota, northwest of Teremnoi Palace. After Miloslavskii’s death his chambers became part of the palace premises; they were known as Poteshnyi Palace (Palace of Entertainment), because they were the site of the first theatrical presentations. Between 1642 and 1656 Patriarch Nikon supervised the reconstruction of his residence (living and office quarters with a christening chamber that served as a reception hall and with court chapels). His architectural complex, in terms of design and actual dimensions, equals the grandeur of the sovereign’s palace. The addition of stone tent-like roofs over all of the Kremlin towers in the 1680’s marked the completion of the Kremlin’s development as one of the most outstanding Russian medieval urban ensembles.

Under Peter I, governmental institutions were taken out of the Kremlin and the Arsenal was erected (1702–36, principal architects D. Ivanov and Kh. Konrad, with assistance from architect I. M. Choglokov). In 1707 the Kremlin’s walls and towers were fortified with earthen bastions. Construction in the Kremlin continued after the transfer of the capital to St. Petersburg in 1712. The foundation of an enormous palace (design by V. I. Bazhenov) was laid in 1773; construction was halted because of a lack of funds. In connection with this project, several old buildings and a section of the Kremlin wall (subsequently restored) were demolished.

From 1776 to 1787 the architect M. F. Kazakov built the Senate building in the classicist style. It is organically integrated with the architectural ensembles of the Kremlin and Red Square. After the Patriotic War of 1812, the architects O. I. Bove and F. Sokolov began to restore the buildings in the Kremlin that had been damaged by Napoleon’s troops, including the belfry of the Bell Tower of Ivan the Great, the Arsenal, several towers, and some wall sections (1816–19).

The Kremlin remained the historical and artistic center of Moscow. In the 1830’s and 1840’s the layout and physical features of the site were changed somewhat, and several old structures were demolished. Based on designs by the architect K. A. Ton, the Great Kremlin Palace (1839–49) and the new Armory (1844—51) were constructed. Both of these buildings combined with the older structures of the tsar’s residence to form a distinctive ensemble, with main courtyards, private chambers for the tsar’s family, and magnificent halls. The halls included the St. George Room, St. Vladimir Room, St. Catherine Room, Throne Room of St. Andrew, and St. Alexander Room (the last two halls were remodeled in 1933 and 1934 and converted into the Hall of Meetings, designed by the architect I. A. Ivanov-Shits).

After the Great October Socialist Revolution, a new period began in the history of the Kremlin. On Nov. 3 (16), 1917, the Kremlin was occupied by revolutionary detachments, marking the climax of the struggle for the establishment of Soviet rule in Moscow. On Mar. 12, 1918, the Soviet government moved from Petrograd to Moscow, locating itself in the Kremlin. The office and apartment of chairman of the Council of People’s Commissars V. I. Lenin have been preserved in the Senate building, the present site of the Council of Ministers of the USSR (by 1973 more than 700,000 people had visited these rooms). On Lenin’s directive (May 17, 1918) research and restoration of the Kremlin were undertaken.

During Soviet rule the buildings of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee School for Red Commanders (now the building of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, 1932–34, architect I. Rerberg) and the Palace of Congresses (1959–61) were built in the Kremlin. Five of the Kremlin towers have been crowned with five-pointed ruby-colored stars. In 1967 a monument to V. I. Lenin was erected (bronze, granite, and labradorite; sculptor V. B. Pinchuk; architect S. B. Speranskii).

Museums have been established in the Kremlin. The Tsar’s Cannon and the Tsar’s Bell, remarkable monuments of Russian craftsmanship, have been preserved. Restoration and architectural and archaeological research are being conducted on a wide scale. The Kremlin is closely tied with the outstanding events in the life of the USSR. It was the site of the first through fifth congresses of the Comintern. On May 1, 1920, V. I. Lenin participated in a Communist subbotnik (unpaid mass workday) in the Kremlin. Also held there are congresses of the CPSU, the Komsomol, and trade unions; sessions of the Supreme soviets of the USSR and RSFSR; congresses and conferences of frontline workers in industry and agriculture and of unions of creative workers; ceremonial meetings and receptions. The Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR and the Council of Ministers of the USSR work at the Kremlin.


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The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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