The Moscow Kremlin, sometimes referred to as simply the 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). 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”, and is often used as a metonym to refer to the government of the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and its highest members (such as general secretaries, premiers, presidents, ministers, and commissars). It is still used in reference to the government of the Russian Federation and even the Russian President‘s official website is Kremlin.ru. Kremlinology refers to the study of Soviet and Russian policies.
Soviet government moved from Petrograd to Moscow on 12 March 1918. Vladimir Lenin selected the Kremlin Senate as his residence. Joseph Stalin also had his personal rooms in the Kremlin. He was eager to remove from his headquarters all the “relics of the tsarist regime”. Golden eagles on the towers were replaced by shining Kremlin stars, while the wall near Lenin’s Mausoleum was turned into the Kremlin Wall Necropolis.
The Chudov Monastery and Ascension Convent, with their 16th-century cathedrals, were dismantled to make room for the military school and Palace of Congresses. The Little Nicholas Palace and the old Saviour Cathedral were pulled down as well. The residence of the Soviet government was closed to tourists until 1955. It was not until the Khrushchev Thaw that the Kremlin was reopened to foreign visitors. The Kremlin Museums were established in 1961 and the complex was among the first Soviet patrimonies inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990.
Although the current director of the Kremlin Museums, Elena Gagarina (Yuri Gagarin‘s daughter) advocates a full-scale restoration of the destroyed cloisters, recent developments have been confined to expensive restoration of the original interiors of the Grand Kremlin Palace, which were altered during Stalin’s rule. The Patriarch of Moscow has a suite of rooms in the Kremlin, but divine service in the Kremlin cathedrals is held irregularly, because they are still administered as museums.
Read more on The Kremlin, The President of Russia and Wikipedia Moscow Kremlin. Photos by Wikimedia Commons.