The Kremlin. Just hearing the word can instill fear and dread in both Russian and non-Russian alike. For many, especially in the west, it’s the place where the Soviets and today Vladimir Putin plot their conquest of all that is free and righteous in the world. It’s that towering, domed, not quite European but not exactly eastern building that has become the symbol of the city of Moscow in particular and for many, Russia in general.
And yet when you go there, all of your fear turns into awe. This is the place from where Czars, Communist Party bosses and now Presidents have ruled large swaths of the earth and over millions of people, both in and outside of Russia. Even non-Russians have been captivated by this structure dedicated to ultimate power. Napoléon for one occupied the building in 1812 as he tried and failed to subdue and annexed Russia into his empire.
The word “Kremlin” itself means “citadel” and was first constructed in the 12th century when it was a simple wooden building used as a garrison along the Moscow River. It premises was constantly expanded over the centuries and buildings constructed. Today, the Kremlin is more of a little walled-city within Moscow equipped with its own cathedrals, a concert hall, museums and palace where the President of Russia resides. The walls themselves encircle the complex for nearly 1.5 miles (2.5km) and are dotted with 19 watchtowers.
The most popular site on the premises is the Armory Museum. This building contains over 4000 exquisite items from the famous Fabergé eggs, the ivory throne of Ivan the Terrible, the jewel-studded helmet of Czar Mikhail Fyodorovich Romanov and many other priceless works of art.
Other famous and well-visited sites include the three magnificent Kremlin cathedrals. The tallest of these is the Cathedral of the Annunciation with its famous 266-foot high Ivan the Great bell tower. There is also the Archangel Cathedral where many of Russia’s royals are laid to rest. Finally, and probably most famous of all is the Cathedral of the Assumption, also know as the Cathedral of the Dormition. This last cathedral is crowned with five glittering gold domes and houses some of Russia’s most beautiful icons. It is also where Russia’s Czars were crowned and took their oaths to protect the Russian state.
Next to the Kremlin on the eastern side is the famous Krasnaya Ploshchad, or Red Square. It was here that all of those famously choreographed Soviet parades with troops marching alongside tanks and nuclear missiles (at least that’s what we were meant to believe) took place. You can also see Lenin’s tomb nearby where the first Soviet leader rests embalmed in his personal mausoleum.
The Kremlin and adjacent Red Square are two things that a visitor to the Russian capital should not miss.
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