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THE KREMLIN AND THE RED SQUARE IN MOSCOW

The Moscow Kremlin, which is the unique State Historical and Cultural Museum-Preserve, is situated on the bank of the Moscow River in the very heart of the Russian capital. Its monumental walls and elegant towers, gilded domes of cathedrals and majestic palaces create the splendid architectural ensemble that comprises cultural and architectural monuments of the 15th-20th centuries. The Kremlin has always been the administrative center of Russia, and it still remains as such. Remaining one of the world largest museums, the Kremlin also houses the residence of the President of the Russian Federation.

 

For its 8-century long history the Moscow Kremlin has seen many glorious and dramatic events. And each period of Moscow development can be easily traced in the architecture of the ensemble. The magnificent buildings represent the best works of Russian and foreign architects of the past.
Nowadays on the territory of this large cultural and historic preserve there are several world famous museums that treasure historic relics, priceless works of arts and unique cultural monuments.

 
The Armory Chamber is one of the first museums that should be mentioned. Gold and silverware by Russian, European and Eastern masters, arms and armories, royal carriages, horse ceremonial harness and other valuable items are exhibited in this treasure-house.
Four cathedral-museums occupy the most important place in the Kremlin Museum-Preserve. These are the Assumption Cathedral, the Annunciation Cathedral, the Archangel Cathedral and the Church of Laying our Lady's Holy Robe. All the temples have played a significant role in the history of the Russian State and are open to the public.

 
For centuries, the Assumption Cathedral has been the main cathedral of Russia. There the inaugurations of princes, tsars, emperors and heads of the Russian Orthodox Church were held.

 
The Archangel's Cathedral is the royal burial vault of great princes and tsars of Russia. Great Princes Ivan Kalita, Dmitry Donskoy, Ivan III, Ivan the Terrible, Tsarevich Dmitry, Tsars Mikhail and Alexey Romanov were buried there.

 
The Church of Laying our Lady's Holy Robe hosts a continuous exhibition of Russian wooden sculpture. And the Annunciation Cathedral, which was a home church of Russian Great Princes, boasts of unique paintings dating back to Ivan the Terrible times and ancient iconstand, some icons of which were said to be created by Feofan Grek and Andrei Rublev.

 
The collections of the Patriarch's Palace that was built in 1653-1655 for patriarchy Nikon are devoted to the Russian culture of the 17th century. In the palace you will find ancient crockery, furniture, tsar's hunting kits and icons of the 17th century.

 

Moscow, Kremlin and Red Square
Moscow, Kremlin and Red Square
Moscow, Kremlin and Red Square
Moscow, Kremlin and Red Square

 

Grand Kremlin Palace

 

The Grand Kremlin Palace was built from 1837 to 1849 on the site of the estate of the Grand Princes, which had been established in the 14th century on Borovitsky Hill. Designed by a team of architects under the management of Konstantin Thon, it was intended to emphasise the greatness of Russian autocracy. Konstantin Thon was also the architect of the Kremlin Armoury and the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.

 

The Grand Kremlin Palace was formerly the tsar's Moscow residence. Its construction involved the demolition of the previous Baroque palace on the site, designed by Rastrelli, and the Church of St. John the Baptist, constructed to a design by Aloisio the New in place of the first church ever built in Moscow.

 

Thon's palace is 125 metres long, 47 metres high, and has a total area of about 25,000 square metres. It includes the earlier Terem Palace, nine churches from the 14th, 16th, and 17th centuries, the Holy Vestibule, and over 700 rooms. The buildings of the Palace form a rectangle with an inner courtyard. The building appears to be three stories, but is actually two. The upper floor has two sets of windows. The west building of the Palace held state reception halls and the imperial family's private chambers.

 

Its five reception halls are named for orders of the Russian Empire. Georgievsky Hall is used today for state and diplomatic receptions and official ceremonies. International treaties are signed at the Vladimirsky Hall. Such as the instance on June 1, 1988, U.S. President Ronald Reagan and Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty ratification. It also leads to the Palace of Facets, the Tsarina's Golden Chamber, Terem Palace, the Winter Palace, and the Palace of Congresses. Aleksandrovsky Hall and Andreyevsky Hall were combined in Soviet times to be used for meetings and conferences of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR; they were lavishly restored in accordance with Thon's designs in the 1990s.

 

The Grand Kremlin Palace is officially the residence of the President of Russia, but is used for official ceremonies, diplomatic receptions, and signing international treaties. It is closed to casual tourists, as a visit is possible only after going through a long procedure complete with security controls and acquiring special permits.

 

Moscow, The Grand Kremlin Palace
Moscow, The Grand Kremlin Palace
Moscow, The Grand Kremlin Palace
Moscow, The Grand Kremlin Palace

 

Tsar Bell

 

The Tsar Bell, a masterpiece of the Russian casting technology of the XVIII century, stands on the stone base to the east of the Ivan-the-Great Bell-Tower. It was cast in 1733-1735 on the order of empress Anne Ioannovna by the casting-masters Ivan Motorin and his son Mikhail. Up till now the Tsar Bell is considered to be the biggest one in the world. It weights about 202 ton and is 6,14 meter high. Its diameter is 6,6 m. 

 

In 1735, the Tsar Bell was finally cast. However, it still remained in the moulding pit. In May, 1737, a terrible Troitskiy (Trinity) fire broke out in Moscow and spread to the Kremlin buildings. When the flames on the scarffolding around the bell were being extinguished, cold water fell on the bell itself. The difference in temperature caused it to crack, and a huge piece of 11,5 ton broke off. 

 

In 1836, the Tsar Bell was lifted up from the moulding pit and placed on a stone pedestal by French architect Auguste Montferrant (also built the famous Isaac's Cathedral in St. Petersburg).

The Tsar Bell is decorated with bas-relief portraits of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich and empress Anna Ioannovna, also adorned with vegetation ornament in the baroque style and images of saints, angels and inscriptions telling the story of the bell.

 

Tsar Cannon

 

The Tsar Cannon is a unique item of the Kremlins artillery collection. It was created in 1586 in Moscow's Cannon Court by eminent Russian cannon-caster Andrei Chokhov on the order of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich, the sovereign ruler of All Great Russia. The Tsar Cannon is located on the west side of Ivanov Square, between the Ivan-the-Great Bell-Tower and the Twelve Apostles' Church.

 

Judging by the Tsar Cannon's caliber of 890 mm, it was given its name as the worlds biggest cannon. The gun's tube's weight is about 40 ton, its length is 5,34 m. The cannon's surface is adorned with the cast figured friezes, vegetation ornament, memorial inscriptions and an equestrian image of Tsar Feodor Ioannovich. In 1835, the Tsar Cannon was fixed on the carriage specially cast for it at the Berdts factory in St. Petersburg. Four hollow decorative cannonballs were made at the same time.

 

The Tsar Cannon has never shot. Mostly of symbolic impact, it was never used in a war. 

 

Initially, the Tsar Cannon was fixed on Red Square near the Spasskiye Gate. In 1706, it was moved into the Kremlin, fixed at first in the Arsenals inner yard and than at the main gate (with another cannon). In 1835, the two cannons were staged on the new bases, specially cast on the project of A. Bryullov. In 1843, the Tsar Cannon and other old Russian cannons were placed in front of the Armoury Chambers old building in the opposite of the Arsenal. The captured cannons were left by the Arsenal.

 

In 1960, when the Palace of Congresses (now it is named the Kremlin's State Palace) was under construction, the building of the Armoury Chamber (architect I. Yegotov) was dismantled. The old cannons were transferred to the Arsenals building.

Later the Tsar Cannon was fixed on its present-day place. In 1970s the Tsar Cannon, its base and cannonballs were renovated.

 

Tsar Bell, The Moscow Kremlin
Tsar Bell, The Moscow Kremlin
Tsar Cannon, The Moscow Kremlin
Tsar Cannon, The Moscow Kremlin

The Armoury is one of the oldest museums on the Kremlin grounds and now is a part of the Grand Kremlin Palace's complex. It is situated in the building constructed in 1851 by architect Konstantin Ton. The museum collections consist of precious items that had been preserved for centuries in the tsars' treasury and the Patriarch's vestry. Some of the exhibits were made in the Kremlin's craft shops; others were accepted as ambassadorial gifts. The museum was named after one of the oldest Kremlin's treasury store. The Armoury Chamber preserves ancient state regalia, ceremonial tsar's vestments and coronation dresses, vestments of the Russian Orthodox Church's hierarchs, the largest collection of gold and silverware by Russian artisans, West European artistic silver, ceremonial weapons and arms, carriages, horse ceremonial harnesses. Included in treasures are the Faberge Eggs, furniture, and the coronation crowns of the Tsars and Tsarinas. The State Armoury presents more than four thousands items of Russian, European and Eastern applied art of IV - early XX centuries. The highest artistic level and particular historical and cultural value of the exhibits have made the State Armoury of the Moscow Kremlin a worldwide known museum. Included in treasures are the Faberge Eggs, furniture, and the coronation crowns of the Tsars and Tsarinas.

 

Moscow, Kremlin, The Armoury Chamber
Moscow, Kremlin, The Armoury Chamber
Moscow, Kremlin, The Armoury Chamber
Moscow, Kremlin, The Armoury Chamber

The Moscow Kremlin Diamond Fund is a separate exhibition, located inside the Armoury Museum building.  Its a fabulous collection of Russia's state jewels. The Diamond Fund of Russia is a collection of masterpieces of jewelry of the 18th-20th centuries, rare precious stones, gold and platinum nuggets of great historic, artistic and scientific importance, as well as vast material value. It is one of the few treasuries in the world that house unique crown jewels. Being part of the State Fund of Precious Metals and Precious Stones formed by the State Depository of Valuables (Gokhran) of Russia, the collection is on a permanent display at the exhibition of the same name situated on the territory of the Moscow Kremlin.  The Diamond Fund dates back to the time of Peter I. It was this tsar-reformer who set up a state form of depositing the most valuable and important objects, which included crown regalia in the first place. In 1914 values from the Diamond room (Saint Petersburg) were transferred to the storerooms of the Armory Museum in Moscow. In 1925 jewelry were shown to public in the House of the Unions for the first time. Later most of them were sold abroad. Remaining jewelry made up the basis of the Diamond Fund exhibition in 1967. The collection is a part of the State Depository for Precious Metals and Jewels (as a constituent part of Sate Fund of precious metals and jewels). Tour to the Diamond Fund with an exact description of a guide presents a collection of pieces of jewelry of 18-20 centuries, rare diamonds and jewels, nuggets of precious metals from domestic entrails. Collection of crowning emperors regalia including the crown, scepter and orb are magnificent. Experimental jewelry laboratory doing the restoration and creation of new jewelry has been a part of the State Depository for Precious Metals and Jewels since 70s of the 20 century. Treasures have been hidden and difficult of access for a long time. Now they are opened for view and admiration.

 

The Moscow Kremlin Diamond Fund
The Moscow Kremlin Diamond Fund
The Moscow Kremlin Diamond Fund
The Moscow Kremlin Diamond Fund

The Red Square, which in Old Russian meant "beautiful, with unforgettable ensemble of architectural monuments of various epochs, among which the most known is St.Basils cathedral, the most prominent monument of Russian architecture. St. Basil's was built in 1550 s to commemorate Ivan the Terrible's capture of the Mongol stronghold of Kazan. Red Square has always been the main square in Moscow. The new Communist regime turned the square into a memorial cemetery and parade ground, and in 1924 the Lenin Mausoleum was built to house the embalmed body of the Communist State founder. Nowadays, Red Square is a popular place of interest for both Russian and foreign visitors alike. The area between St. Basil's Cathedral and the Moscow River is often used for rock and pop concerts and other entertainment events, during the wintertime it is converted into skating rink.

 

Red Square played important role in the life of Moscow. In 1712 Peter the Great moved the Russian capital to St. Petersburg and Red Square lost its political significance for some time only to regain it two centuries later, when the Bolsheviks moved the capital back to Moscow in 1918. After the revolution Red Square maintained its significance, becoming the main square in the life of the new state. The new Communist regime turned the square into a memorial cemetery and parade ground, and in 1924 the Lenin Mausoleum was built to house the mummified body of the Communist State founder.

 

Moscow, The Red Square
Moscow, The Red Square
Moscow, The Red Square
Moscow, The Red Square

Officially the cathedral is called the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Virgin. It was constructed in 1560 to the order of Ivan the Terrible to commemorate his victory over the Tartar city of Kazan on the Volga. The architects from Pskov Barma and Postnik  were commissioned to build something new and astonishing on the Red Square, and in a strikingly original way. The architects incorporated all the features of Russian wooden churches and rendered them into stonework. The result was stunning. There is a story that after seeing the cathedral for the first time, Ivan the Terrible had the men blinded so that they could never build anything to surpass the wonder of this new edifice. It was painted in rich colours and in the 17th century coloured tiles were added for decoration. Today the Cathedral is a museum. It contains an exhibition relating to the history of the building, the story of its construction. The building has no expressed main facade and is designed for an all-round viewing. The Cathedral contains the iconostasis of the Trinity Church, the famous Entry into Jerusalem icon. The exotic splendour of the Cathedral makes it one of the best and most striking examples of Old Russian architecture.

 

Moscow, St. Basils' Cathedral
Moscow, St. Basils' Cathedral
Moscow, St. Basils' Cathedral
Moscow, St. Basils' Cathedral

This famous statue commemorates Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and the butcher Kuzma Minin, the leaders of the militia that repelled the Polish invasion of 1612, at the height of the Time of Troubles. Designed by the architect I. Martos, it was erected in 1818 and became Russia's first monumental sculpture. One of the bas-reliefs shows the people of Novogorod bringing their sons to be armed - Minin famously forced the city to provide funds and fighting men by holding their womenfolk hostage. The other shows the Poles fleeing from the Kremlin, pursued by Russian troops. The pediment is inscribed with the words: "To Citizen Minin and Prince Pozharsky, from a grateful Russia".

 

The statue once stood in the centre of Red Square, with the figure of Minin pointing towards the Kremlin. However, it was moved in 1930, after the construction of Lenin's mausoleum - rumour has it that Minin's rabble-rousing gesture appeared rather ambiguous in relation to the positioning of the great leader's tomb. In fact, the reason for moving the statue was more simple than that - its location interfered with Stalin's plans for massed military parades.

 

The Statue of Minin and Pozharsky, Red Square, Moscow
The Statue of Minin and Pozharsky, Red Square, Moscow
The Statue of Minin and Pozharsky, Red Square, Moscow
The Statue of Minin and Pozharsky, Red Square, Moscow

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