Moscow Kremlin is the Russian national sanctuary and a
unique creation of world culture. The unquenchable
interest in the history of the Kremlin, in its
architectural masterpieces and artistic valuables in its
possession is quite justifiable: History willed it that a
modest Slav settlement in the backwoods of the Vladimir
principality grew into a center of north-east Rus and
later became the capital of the biggest state in medieval
images of art and culture of Old Rus ruled by princes and
tsars, of the two centuries’ old Russian Empire, of the
Soviet decades-its past and present days-are to be found
in the Moscow Kremlin to the present day.
Moscow Kremlin stands on the left bank of the Moscow
River, where it joins the Neglinnaya River.
Geographically, it stands on a high ridge, at a watershed
between the two rivers. Its lower bank terrace-podol-is
organically linked to the lower part of
area occupied by the Kremlin within the limits of the
fortified walls is 27.5 hectares. The “Kremlin riverside
hill”, as it was called in olden days, is 25m high. In
all probability this hill took its new name from the
pinewoods (Bor), which covered the hill. It is noteworthy
that in the explanatory notes to Godunov’s draft on the
Kremlin the Borovitsky gate were called “The High Forest
outline of the Kremlin is an irregular triangle. It
stretches 676 meters from west to east and 639 meters from
north-west to south-east.
Kremlin was artificially separated from the center of
Moscow in the early 16th century when its
fortifications had been built and the Alevisio moat along
Red Square had been dug out.
are quite a few poetic legends and tales rooted in the
Kremlin’s history. such as a legend about the hermit
Bukol whose hut stood in the backwoods on a hill or
another one about the famous boyar Kuchka, whose “good
and red” villages caught the fancy of the future founder
early Kremlin settlement appeared as the center of crafts
and trade owing to its extremely advantageous geographic
position: it lay at the crossroads of trade routes and
waterways meeting at the foot of the hill. The rivers and
the encircling forest turned the settlement into a natural
fortress. In olden times a Slav tribe of Pagan Vyatichis
lived there and Moscow became one of the centers of
Christianisation of this woodland area.
the early period of its history Moscow and the Kremlin are
inseparable. According to the chronicles, they came into
being in 1147 when Yuri, nicknamed Dolgoruky (long armed),
the son of the Kievan prince Vladimir Monomach, invited
his ally prince Svyatoslav Olgovich to a feast to Moscow,
on his return from a military campaign.
as the well-known expert in Slavonic studies, historian
and archeologist I.E.Zabelin noted, “The Moscow and
namely the Kremlin settlement had been founded long before
the prince Ryurik’s tribe appeared in those parts.”
This hypothesis was confirmed by archeological excavations
at Borovitsky hill. Since olden days people sought to
find-hidden treasures and Ivan the Terrible’s famous
library here. Expeditions organized by the Institute of
Archaeology of the USSR Academy of Sciences and the Museum
of Moscow’s History marked the beginning of purposeful
scientific studies, which are now being carried on by the
Moscow Kremlin State Museum. With every passing year
scientific data on the history of the growth of the
Kremlin settlement and the rise of Moscow become more
extensive and more reliable.
Hill bears the imprints of various epochs. One of the most
interesting archaeological finds is a stone battle axe
dating back to the late 3rd-the middle of the 2nd
millennia B.C. Similar axes are often found in the mounds
of the Bronze Age.
the beginning of the 1st millennium A.C., a
fortified settlement typical of the archaeological culture
of the early Iron Age situated here.
main part of the archaeological collection displayed in
one of the Kremlin museums is compiled of artifacts of
medieval material culture.
this mysterious mother of history, enables us to get a
clear idea of the first wooden town, the life of the first
Kremlin settlers, the techniques of major urban crafts,
trade ties, fashions and decorations.
first fortified wooden settlement of the Kremlin mentioned
in chronicles dates from 1156. The remnants of its walls
are among the most valuable archaeological finds.
Kremlin wooden buildings often suffered from devastating
fires, enemy attacks and natural calamities. Thus, the
Kremlin was totally destroyed in the first third of the 13th
century, a tragic period in the history of Rus when the
Mongol-Tatar hordes attacked in with fire and sword
pillaging and ravaging the Russian lands. For nearly 250
years the Mongol-Tatar yoke wasted the soul of the Russian
people who prevented the Tatars from moving to Europe. At
that time, Moscow was a sort of suburb of the capital town
of Vladimir and the Kremlin, with its court yard, mansions
and subsidiary buildings, old churches and necropolis, was
a frontier post in the outlying districts of the Vladimir
principality. Out of all the towns in the Vladimir land,
the Moscow bridgehead was the first one where the nomad
hordes delivered a crushing blow. The Kremlin was razed to
the ground. It noteworthy that during the Mongol-Tatar
campaign against Europe only one out of the six Mongol
princes who led the invaders’ army perished and his
blood was spilt on the very approaches to the Kremlin.
Owing to our ancestors’ resources, industry, patience
and courage, Moscow and the Kremlin were restored to life
“as the legendary phoenix raised out of the ashes”.
These words belong to M.Y. Lermontov who handed down a
poetic description of the Kremlin to his descendants.
treasures buried eight centuries ago and found by
archaeologists remind us of the severe ordeals undergone
by the Kremlin. Today these treasures are part of the
Golden Fund of Early Russian art.
the 14th century Moscow appeared in the arena
of world history. The town grew and became richer. In
1339, Prince Ivan Kalita enclosed the Kremlin within a new
circle of oak walls and transformed it into a formidable
fortress. This is one of the glowing descriptions of the
the town of Moscow is great and beautiful, there are many
people possessing riches and fame here… and this is part
of the Russian land…” It was during this period of its
history that the Kremlin (“Kremnik” meaning
“fortress”) was first mentioned in Russian chronicles.
And the “town of the Kremlin” was first mentioned in
the Voskresensky chronicle in 1331.
is worth nothing that as distinct from the chroniclers the
memorializes of the late 15th-early 17th
centuries never used the word “Kremlin” but instead
called it “the Castle”, “the Fortress” and since
the late 16th century- “The Old Town”.
long rule of Ivan III (1462-1505) was divided into two
historical periods: in 1462-1480 he joined vast
territories of the Great Novgorod, the Rostov Principality
and the Dmitrov appendage principality to Moscow. The
unification of the Russian lands around Moscow was
completed in 1481-1505. The development of an all-Russian
statehood and the growth of Russia’s international
prestige were supported by an official ideology which
regarded the Russian state as a legitimate successor to
the greatest world empires- Roman and Byzantine, and
Moscow as the “Third Rome”.
fact that Moscow took the lead of this all-Russian process
of unifying separate principalities into an integral
centralized state could not but improve its appearance.
More and more often written sources mention stone-built
dwelling houses in the Moscow Kremlin. From the 1360s to
1420s alone, Moscow masons built 15 stone buildings.
Kremlin’s increasing national importance also influenced
the development of its architectural tradition. Herein
lies the basis of the formation of the Kremlin
architectural ensemble. The foundations of the state and
administrative center were laid. White-stone walls were
built under Dmitry Donskoy in 1367-1368 and provided
reliable protection for it.
walls were the first stone fortifications in Vladimir-Suzdal
Rus, a real step in the development of the Moscow school
of architecture. The fortress successfully withstood both
sieges of Lithuanian Prince Olgerd’s armies in 1368 and
1370. The Russian forces were headed by Moscow. The
Kremlin stronghold secured its rear and enabled them to
attack the Golden Horde and gain a glorious victory at the
Kulikovo Field in 1380, thus saving Rus from national
the process of restoring the walls and towers specifically
cut white-stone quad roes were found but it did not seem
possible to study the constructive peculiarities of early
we know nothing about the architecture of walls and towers
in the days of Dmitry Donskoy. The historian V.L. Snegirev
concluded that their style was similar to that of
Byzantine. Five towers out of eight or nine were
gate-towers; three of them faced Red Square. White stone
mined near the village of Myachkovo in the vicinity of
Moscow served as the building material.
far from Dmitry Donskoy’s golden-roofed palace stood the
Cathedral of the Savior of Transfiguration in the forest
built by Ivan Kalita back in 1330. Later, a monastery was
set up here. The Spassky (Saviour’s) Cathedral became a
burial place for the grand Princesses. Other monasteries
began to appear, among them the Chudov (Miracles)
monastery founded in 1358 and the Voznesensky (Ascension)
convent, founded in 1386. A stone Cathedral of the Miracle
of the Archangel Michael was erected in 1365. Although the
first monuments of the early Moscow stone architecture
were closely tied in with the Vladimir-Suzdal
architectural tradition, they were not a direct
continuation of it. A type of small single-domed churches
with a cross on top decorated with Kokoshnik-shaped Ogee
gables and carved friezes on the facades, which took shape
on the basis of the Vladimir model, underlay the further
development of Moscow architecture. The overland parts of
those buildings have not survived. Therefore it is all the
more important to study their basements (Podklets),
various archaeological finds and written sources.
best Russian and Greek painters (among them the famous
painter Theophanus the Greek) took part in painting and
decorating the first Moscow churches. Icon –stands which
represent a specifically Russian form of church interior
decoration appeared in the cathedrals of the late 14th
and early 15th centuries. Those were the years
when the famous Russian painter Andrei Rublev lived and
period is considered to be the greatest historical
landmark in the establishment of the Russian national art
and culture when local architectural schools merged into a
unified national school of architecture.
Ivan III completed the unification of the independent
Russian principalities into an integral centralized state
started by his predecessor Ivan Kalita, and took the title
of “the sovereign of all Russia”. Economic and
political conditions were provided for large-scale
construction work in the Kremlin, the residence of the
and artistic culture of early Moscow was characterized by
the fact that it seemed to have absorbed all the best that
had been created in the rest of Russia. As far as the
Kremlin was concerned, it became the treasure house of all
national relics and family treasures of the grand princes
and tsars handed down from one generation to another.
Valuable articles for the state depository were either
purchased or received as presents of foreign states’
the Russian state’s countless riches were kept in the
cellars of the Cathedral of the Annunciation and other
Kremlin churches. Later, in 1484-85 a stone building was
erected specially for this purpose between the Archangel
Cathedral and the Cathedral of the Annunciation.
now one of the main Kremlin sights and a museum of world
importance, was first mentioned by the “Short
Chronicles” in 1537. It became the Russian
treasure-house as shown by testaments left by Ivan the
Terrible and other dynasts.
new extensive reconstruction of the Kremlin was started in
1485 with the erection of the Tainitsky Tower, which was
the first of the future complex of fortifications. The
Kremlin’s special role in the defense of the state, its
engineering and technical solution and
architectural-artistic merits determined the historical
importance of these fortifications. The Kremlin fortress
built anew from red brick retained the peculiarities of
the layout of the Old-Russian detinets (fortress) and the
form of an irregular triangle with the walls’ total
length of 2,235 meters. There are 18 built-in towers and
one detached tower-Kutafya-, which stand at the entrance
to the Troitsky Bridge over the Neglinnaya River. A small
tower called the Tsar’s Tower was added to the wall.
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