On March 12, 1918, Moscow (Москва́ — Moskva) became the capital of Russia again after Saint Petersburg held this status for 215 years. Today, it is remains the capital and is the most populous city of Russia, with 12.2 million residents within the city limits and 17.1 million within the urban area. Moscow is recognized as Russian federal city. It is one of my favorite cities in the world, in my personal top five which also includes San Francisco, London, Paris, and Washington, D.C. I find it an endlessly fascinating place, full of history, monumental architecture, and beautiful parks.
Moscow is currently a major political, economic, cultural, and scientific center of Russia and Eastern Europe, as well as the largest city entirely on the European continent. By broader definitions Moscow is among the world’s largest cities, being the 14th largest metro area, the 18th largest agglomeration, the 15th largest urban area, and the 11th largest by population within city limits worldwide. According to Forbes in 2013, Moscow has been ranked as the ninth most expensive city in the world and has one of the world’s largest urban economies, being ranked as an alpha global city according to the Globalization and World Cities Research Network, and is also one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the world according to the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index.
Moscow is the northernmost and coldest megacity and metropolis on Earth. It is home to the Ostankino Tower, the tallest free standing structure in Europe; the Federation Tower, the tallest skyscraper in Europe; and the Moscow International Business Center. By its territorial expansion on July 1, 2012 southwest into the Moscow Oblast, the area of the capital more than doubled, going from 421 to 970 square miles (1,091 to 2,511 square kilometers), and it gained an additional population of 233,000 people.
Moscow is situated on the Moskva River in the Central Federal District of European Russia, making it Europe’s most populated inland city. The city is well known for its architecture, particularly its historic buildings such as Saint Basil’s Cathedral with its brightly colored domes. With over 40 percent of its territory covered by greenery, it is one of the greenest capitals and major cities in Europe and the world, having the largest forest in an urban area within its borders — more than any other major city — even before its expansion in 2012. The city has served as the capital of a progression of states, from the medieval Grand Duchy of Moscow and the subsequent Tsardom of Russia to the Russian Empire to the Soviet Union and the contemporary Russian Federation.
Moscow is the seat of power of the Government of Russia, being the site of the Moscow Kremlin, a medieval city-fortress that is today the residence for work of the President of Russia. The Moscow Kremlin and Red Square are also one of several World Heritage Sites in the city. Both chambers of the Russian parliament (the State Duma and the Federation Council) also sit in the city. Moscow is considered the center of Russian culture, having served as the home of Russian artists, scientists and sports figures and because of the presence of museums, academic and political institutions and theatres.
The city is served by a transit network, which includes four international airports, nine railway terminals, numerous trams, a monorail system and one of the deepest underground rapid transit systems in the world, the Moscow Metro, the fourth-largest in the world and largest outside Asia in terms of passenger numbers, and the busiest in Europe. It is recognized as one of the city’s landmarks due to the rich architecture of its 200 stations.
Moscow has acquired a number of epithets, most referring to its size and preeminent status within the nation: The Third Rome (Третий Рим), The Whitestone One (Белокаменная), The First Throne (Первопрестольная), The Forty Forties (Сорок Сороков) (The Forty Soroks, sorok translates as forty, but here it is old name of district or parish, and “forty” in old Russian means not 40, but “great many”). Moscow is one of the Hero Cities. In old Russian the word Сорок (forty) also meant a church administrative district, which consisted of about forty churches. The demonym for a Moscow resident is москвич (moskvich) for male or москвичка (moskvichka) for female, rendered in English as Muscovite.
The name of the city is thought to be derived from the name of the Moskva River. Finno-Ugric Merya and Muroma people, who originally inhabited the area, called the river Mustajoki. It has been suggested that the name of the city derives from this term. However, there have been proposed several theories of the origin of the name of the river. The most linguistically well-grounded and widely accepted is from the Proto-Balto-Slavic root *mŭzg-/muzg– from the Proto-Indo-European *meu– “wet”, so the name Moskva might signify a river at a wetland or a marsh. Its cognates include Russian: музга, muzga “pool, puddle”, Lithuanian mazgoti and Latvian mazgāt “to wash”, Sanskrit majjati “to drown”, Latin mergō “to dip, immerse”. There exist as well similar place names in Poland like Mozgawa.
The original Old Russian form of the name is reconstructed as *Москы, *Mosky, hence it was one of a few Slavic ū-stem nouns. As with other nouns of that declension, it had been undergoing a morphological transformation at the early stage of the development of the language, as a result the first written mentions in the 12th century were Московь, Moskovĭ (accusative case), Москви, Moskvi (locative case), Москвe/Москвѣ, Moskve/Moskvě (genitive case). From the latter forms came the modern Russian name Москва, Moskva, which is a result of morphological generalization with the numerous Slavic ā-stem nouns.
However, the form Moskovĭ has left some traces in many other languages, such as English Moscow, Spanish Moscú, German Moskau, French Moscou, Latvian Maskava, Ottoman Turkish Moskov, Tatar Мәскәү, Mäskäw, Kazakh Мәскеу, Mäskew, Chuvash Мускав, Muskav, etc. In a similar manner the Latin name Moscovia has been formed, later it became a colloquial name for Russia used in Western Europe in the 16th–17th centuries. From it as well came English Muscovy and muscovite.
The oldest evidence of humans on the territory of Moscow dates from the Neolithic (Schukinskaya site on the Moscow River). Within the modern bounds of the city other late evidence was discovered (the burial ground of the Fatyanovskaya culture, the site of the Iron Age settlement of the Dyakovo culture), on the territory of the Kremlin, Sparrow Hills, Setun River and Kuntsevskiy forest park, etc.
In the 9th century, the Oka River was part of the Volga trade route, and the upper Volga watershed became an area of contact between the indigenous Finno-Ugric such as the Merya and the expanding Volga Bulgars (particularly the second son of Khan Kubrat who expanded the borders of the Old Great Bulgaria), Scandinavian (Varangians) and Slavic peoples.
The earliest East Slavic tribes recorded as having expanded to the upper Volga in the 9th to 10th centuries are the Vyatichi and Krivichi. The Moskva River was incorporated as part of Rostov-Suzdal into the Kievan Rus in the 11th century. By AD 1100, a minor settlement had appeared on the mouth of the Neglinnaya River.
The first known reference to Moscow dates from 1147 as a meeting place of Yuri Dolgoruky and Sviatoslav Olgovich. At the time it was a minor town on the western border of Vladimir-Suzdal Principality. In 1156, Knjaz Yury Dolgoruky fortified the town with a timber fence and a moat. In the course of the Mongol invasion of Rus, the Mongols under Batu Khan burned the city to the ground and killed its inhabitants.
The timber fort na Moskvě “on the Moscow river” was inherited by Daniel, the youngest son of Alexander Nevsky, in the 1260s, at the time considered the least valuable of his father’s possessions. Daniel was still a child at the time, and the big fort was governed by tiuns (deputies), appointed by Daniel’s paternal uncle, Yaroslav of Tver. Daniel came of age in the 1270s and became involved in the power struggles of the principality with lasting success, siding with his brother Dmitry in his bid for the rule of Novgorod. From 1283, he acted as the ruler of an independent principality alongside Dmitry, who became Grand Duke of Vladimir. Daniel has been credited with founding the first Moscow monasteries, dedicated to the Lord’s Epiphany and to Saint Daniel. Daniel I ruled Moscow as Grand Duke until 1303 and established it as a prosperous city that would eclipse its parent principality of Vladimir by the 1320s.
Sometime before 1282, Daniel founded the first monastery in Moscow with the wooden church of St. Daniel-Stylite on the right bank of the Moskva River, at a distance of five miles (8.0 kilometres) from the Kremlin, It is now the Danilov Monastery. Daniel died in 1303, at the age of 42. Before his death he became a monk and, according to his will, was buried in the cemetery of the St. Daniel Monastery.
Moscow was stable and prosperous for many years and attracted a large number of refugees from across Russia. The Rurikids maintained large landholdings by practicing primogeniture, whereby all land was passed to the eldest sons, rather than dividing it up among all sons. By 1304, Yury of Moscow contested with Mikhail of Tver for the throne of the principality of Vladimir. Ivan I eventually defeated Tver to become the sole collector of taxes for the Mongol rulers, making Moscow the capital of Vladimir-Suzdal. By paying high tribute, Ivan won an important concession from the Khan.
While Khan of the Golden Horde initially attempted to limit Moscow’s influence, when the growth of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania began to threaten all of Russia, the Khan strengthened Moscow to counterbalance Lithuania, allowing it to become one of the most powerful cities in Russia. In 1380, prince Dmitry Donskoy of Moscow led a united Russian army to an important victory over the Mongols in the Battle of Kulikovo. Afterwards, Moscow took the leading role in liberating Russia from Mongol domination.
In 1462, Ivan III became Grand Prince of Moscow (then part of the medieval Muscovy state). He began fighting the Tatars, enlarged the territory of Muscovy, and enriched his capital city. In 1480, Ivan III had finally broken the Russians free from Tatar control, and Moscow became the capital of an empire that would eventually encompass all of Russia and Siberia, and parts of many other lands. By 1500, it had a population of 100,000 and was one of the largest cities in the world.
Ivan III conquered the far larger principality of Novgorod to the north, which had been allied to the hostile Lithuanians. Thus he enlarged the territory sevenfold, from 170,000 to 1,080,000 square miles (430,000 to 2,800,000 km²). He took control of the ancient “Novgorod Chronicle” and made it a propaganda vehicle for his regime.
The original Moscow Kremlin (Моско́вский Кремль — Moskovskiy Kreml) was built during the 14th century. It was reconstructed by Ivan, who in the 1480s invited architects from Renaissance Italy, such as Petrus Antonius Solarius, who designed the new Kremlin wall and its towers, and Marco Ruffo who designed the new palace for the prince. The Kremlin walls as they now appear are those designed by Solarius, completed in 1495. The Kremlin’s Great Bell Tower was built in 1505–08 and augmented to its present height in 1600.
The name Kremlin means “fortress inside a city”, and is often also used metonymically to refer to the government of the Russian Federation in a similar sense to how “White House” is used to refer to the Executive Office of the President of the United States. It had previously been used to refer to the government of the Soviet Union (1922–1991) and its highest members (such as general secretaries, premiers, presidents, ministers, and commissars). The term “Kremlinology” refers to the study of Soviet and Russian politics.
A trading settlement, or posad, grew up to the east of the Kremlin, in the area known as Zaradye (Зарядье). In the time of Ivan III, the Red Square, originally named the Hollow Field (Полое поле) appeared.
In 1508–1516, the Italian architect Aleviz Fryazin (Novy) arranged for the construction of a moat in front of the eastern wall, which would connect the Moskva and Neglinnaya and be filled in with water from Neglinnaya. This moat, known as the Alevizov moat and having a length of 1,775 feet (541 meters), width of 118 feet (36 meters), and a depth of 31-43 feet (9.5 to 13 meters) was lined with limestone and, in 1533, fenced on both sides with low, 13-foot (four-meter) thick cogged-brick walls.
In the 16th and 17th centuries, the three circular defenses were built: Kitay-gorod (Китай-город), the White City (Белый город) and the Earthen City (Земляной город). However, in 1547, two fires destroyed much of the town, and in 1571 the Crimean Tatars captured Moscow, burning everything except the Kremlin. The annals record that only 30,000 of 200,000 inhabitants survived.
The Crimean Tatars attacked again in 1591, but this time were held back by new defensive walls, built between 1584 and 1591 by a craftsman named Fyodor Kon. In 1592, an outer earth rampart with 50 towers was erected around the city, including an area on the right bank of the Moscow River. As an outermost line of defense, a chain of strongly fortified monasteries was established beyond the ramparts to the south and east, principally the Novodevichy Convent and Donskoy, Danilov, Simonov, Novospasskiy, and Andronikov monasteries, most of which now house museums. From its ramparts, the city became poetically known as Bielokamennaya, the “White-Walled”. The limits of the city as marked by the ramparts built in 1592 are now marked by the Garden Ring.
Three square gates existed on the eastern side of the Kremlin wall, which in the 17th century, were known as: Konstantino-Eleninsky, Spassky, Nikolsky (owing their names to the icons of Constantine and Helen, the Saviour and St. Nicholas that hung over them). The last two were directly opposite the Red Square, while the Konstantino-Elenensky gate was located behind Saint Basil’s Cathedral.
The Russian famine of 1601–03 killed perhaps 100,000 in Moscow. From 1610 through 1612, troops of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth occupied Moscow, as its ruler Sigismund III tried to take the Russian throne. In 1612, the people of Nizhny Novgorod and other Russian cities conducted by prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin rose against the Polish occupants, besieged the Kremlin, and expelled them. In 1613, the Zemsky sobor elected Michael Romanov tsar, establishing the Romanov dynasty. The 17th century was rich in popular risings, such as the liberation of Moscow from the Polish–Lithuanian invaders (1612), the Salt Riot (1648), the Copper Riot (1662), and the Moscow Uprising of 1682.
During the first half of the 17th century, the population of Moscow doubled from roughly 100,000 to 200,000. It expanded beyond its ramparts in the later 17th century. By 1682, there were 692 households established north of the ramparts, by Ukrainians and Belarusians abducted from their hometowns in the course of Russo-Polish War (1654–1667). These new outskirts of the city came to be known as the Meshchanskaya sloboda, after Ruthenian meshchane “town people”. The term meshchane (мещане) acquired pejorative connotations in 18th-century Russia and today means “petty bourgeois” or “narrow-minded philistine”.
The entire city of the late 17th century, including the slobodas that grew up outside the city ramparts, are contained within what is today Moscow’s Central Administrative Okrug.
Numerous disasters befell the city. The plague epidemics ravaged Moscow in 1570–1571, 1592 and 1654–1656. The plague killed upwards of 80% of the people in 1654–55. Fires burned out much of the wooden city in 1626 and 1648. In 1712, when Peter the Great moved his government to the newly built Saint Petersburg on the Baltic coast Moscow ceased to be Russia’s capital except for a brief period from 1728 to 1732 under the influence of the Supreme Privy Council.
After losing the status as capital of the empire, the population of Moscow at first decreased, from 200,000 in the 17th century to 130,000 in 1750. But after 1750, the population grew more than tenfold over the remaining duration of the Russian Empire, reaching 1.8 million by 1915.
By 1700, the building of cobbled roads had begun. In November 1730, the permanent street light was introduced, and by 1867 many streets had a gaslight. In 1883, near the Prechistinskiye Gates, arc lamps were installed. In 1741, Moscow was surrounded by a barricade 25 miles (40 kilometres) long, the Kamer-Kollezhskiy barrier, with 16 gates at which customs tolls were collected. Its line is traced today by a number of streets called val (“ramparts”). Between 1781–1804, the Mytischinskiy water-pipe (the first in Russia) was built.
In 1813, following the destruction of much of the city during French occupation, a Commission for the Construction of the City of Moscow was established. It launched a great program of rebuilding, including a partial replanning of the city-center. Among many buildings constructed or reconstructed at this time were the Grand Kremlin Palace and the Kremlin Armory, the Moscow University, the Moscow Manege (Riding School), and the Bolshoi Theatre. In 1903, the Moskvoretskaya water-supply was completed.
In the early 19th century, the Arch of Konstantino-Elenensky gate was paved with bricks, but the Spassky Gate was the main front gate of the Kremlin and used for royal entrances. From this gate, wooden and (following the 17th-century improvements) stone bridges stretched across the moat. Books were sold on this bridge and stone platforms were built nearby for guns – raskats. The Tsar Cannon was located on the platform of the Lobnoye mesto.
The road connecting Moscow with St. Petersburg, now the M10 highway, was completed in 1746, its Moscow end following the old Tver road, which had existed since the 16th century. It became known as Peterburskoye Schosse after it was paved in the 1780s. Petrovsky Palace was built in 1776–1780 by Matvey Kazakov as a railway station specifically reserved for royal journeys from Saint Petersburg to Moscow, while coaches for lesser classes arrived and departed from Vsekhsvyatskoye Station.
When Napoleon invaded Russia in 1812, the Moscovites were evacuated. It is suspected that the Moscow fire was principally the effect of Russian sabotage. Napoleon’s Grande Armée was forced to retreat and was nearly annihilated by the devastating Russian winter and sporadic attacks by Russian military forces. As many as 400,000 of Napoleon’s soldiers died during this time.
Moscow State University was established in 1755. Its main building was reconstructed after the 1812 fire by Domenico Giliardi. The Moskovskiye Vedomosti newspaper appeared from 1756, originally in weekly intervals, and from 1859 as a daily newspaper. The Arbat Street had been in existence since at least the 15th century, but it was developed into a prestigious area during the 18th century. It was destroyed in the fire of 1812 and was rebuilt completely in the early 19th century.
In the 1830s, General Alexander Bashilov planned the first regular grid of city streets north from Petrovsky Palace. Khodynka field south of the highway was used for military training. Smolensky Rail Station (forerunner of present-day Belorussky Rail Terminal) was inaugurated in 1870. Sokolniki Park, in the 18th century the home of the Tsar’s falconers well outside Moscow, became contiguous with the expanding city in the later 19th century and was developed into a public municipal park in 1878. The suburban Savyolovsky Rail Terminal was built in 1902. In January 1905, the institution of the City Governor, or Mayor, was officially introduced in Moscow, and Alexander Adrianov became Moscow’s first official mayor.
When Catherine II came to power in 1762, the city’s filth and smell of sewage was depicted by observers as a symptom of disorderly life styles of lower-class Russians recently arrived from the farms. Elites called for improving sanitation, which became part of Catherine’s plans for increasing control over social life. National political and military successes from 1812 through 1855 calmed the critics and validated efforts to produce a more enlightened and stable society. There was less talk about the smell and the poor conditions of public health. However, in the wake of Russia’s failures in the Crimean War in 1855–56, confidence in the ability of the state to maintain order in the slums eroded, and demands for improved public health put filth back on the agenda.
Following the success of the Russian Revolution of 1917, Vladimir Lenin, fearing possible foreign invasion, moved the capital from Saint Petersburg back to Moscow on March 12, 1918. The Kremlin once again became the seat of power and the political center of the new state.
With the change in values imposed by communist ideology, the tradition of preservation of cultural heritage was broken. Independent preservation societies, even those that defended only secular landmarks such as Moscow-based OIRU were disbanded by the end of the 1920s. A new anti-religious campaign, launched in 1929, coincided with collectivization of peasants; destruction of churches in the cities peaked around 1932. In 1937 several letters were written to the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union to rename Moscow to Stalindar or Stalinodar, one from an elderly pensioner whose dream was to “live in Stalinodar” and had selected the name to represent the “gift” (dar) of the genius of Stalin. Stalin rejected this suggestion, and after it was suggested again to him by Nikolai Yezhov, he was “outraged”, saying “What do I need this for?”. This was following Stalin banning the renaming of places in his name in 1936.
During the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet State Committee of Defense and the General Staff of the Red Army were located in Moscow. In 1941, 16 divisions of the national volunteers (more than 160,000 people), 25 battalions (18,000 people) and 4 engineering regiments were formed among the Muscovites. In November 1941, German Army Group Centre was stopped at the outskirts of the city and then driven off in the course of the Battle of Moscow. Many factories were evacuated, together with much of the government, and from October 20 the city was declared to be in a state of siege. Its remaining inhabitants built and manned antitank defenses, while the city was bombarded from the air. On May 1, 1944, a medal “For the defense of Moscow” and in 1947 another medal “In memory of the 800th anniversary of Moscow” were instituted.
Both German and Soviet casualties during the battle of Moscow have been a subject of debate, as various sources provide somewhat different estimates. Total casualties between September 30, 1941, and January 7, 1942, are estimated to be between 248,000 and 400,000 for the Wehrmacht and between 650,000 and 1,280,000 for the Red Army.
During the postwar years, there was a serious housing crisis, solved by the invention of high-rise apartments. There are over 11,000 of these standardized and prefabricated apartment blocks, housing the majority of Moscow’s population, making it by far the city with the most high-rise buildings. Apartments were built and partly furnished in the factory before being raised and stacked into tall columns. The popular Soviet-era comic film Irony of Fate parodies this construction method.
The city of Zelenograd was built in 1958 at 23 miles (37 km) from the city center to the north-west, along the Leningradskoye Shosse, and incorporated as one of Moscow’s administrative okrugs. Moscow State University moved to its campus on Sparrow Hills in 1953.
In 1959, Nikita Khrushchev launched his anti-religious campaign. By 1964, over 10 thousand churches out of 20 thousand were shut down (mostly in rural areas) and many were demolished. Of 58 monasteries and convents operating in 1959, only sixteen remained by 1964; of Moscow’s fifty churches operating in 1959, thirty were closed and six demolished.
The MKAD (ring road) was opened in 1961. It had four lanes running 68 miles (109 km) along the city borders. The MKAD marked the administrative boundaries of the city of Moscow until the 1980s, when outlying suburbs beyond the ring road began to be incorporated. On May 8, 1965, due to the actual 20th anniversary of the victory in World War II Moscow was awarded a title of the Hero City. In 1980, it hosted the Summer Olympic Games, which were boycotted by the United States and several other Western countries due to the Soviet Union’s involvement in Afghanistan in late 1979. In 1991, Moscow was the scene of a coup attempt by conservative communists opposed to the liberal reforms of Mikhail Gorbachev.
When the USSR was dissolved in the same year, Moscow remained the capital of the Russian SFSR (on December 25, 1991, the Russian SFSR was renamed the Russian Federation). Since then, a market economy has emerged in Moscow, producing an explosion of Western-style retailing, services, architecture, and lifestyles.
The city has continued to grow during the 1990s to 2000s, its population rising from below nine to above ten million. Mason and Nigmatullina argue that Soviet-era urban-growth controls (before 1991) produced controlled and sustainable metropolitan development, typified by the greenbelt built in 1935. Since then, however, there has been a dramatic growth of low-density suburban sprawl, created by a heavy demand for single-family dwellings as opposed to crowded apartments.
In 1995–1997, the MKAD ring road was widened from the initial four to ten lanes. In December 2002, Bulvar Dmitriya Donskogo became the first Moscow Metro station that opened beyond the limits of MKAD. The Third Ring Road, intermediate between the early 19th-century Garden Ring and the Soviet-era outer ring road, was completed in 2004.
The greenbelt is becoming more and more fragmented, and satellite cities are appearing at the fringe. Summer dachas are being converted into year-round residences, and with the proliferation of automobiles there is heavy traffic congestion. Multiple old churches and other examples of architectural heritage that had been demolished during the Stalin era have been restored, such as Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.
There are 96 parks and 18 gardens in Moscow, including four botanical gardens. There are 170 square miles (450 km²) of green zones besides 39 square miles (100 km²) of forests. Moscow is a very green city, if compared to other cities of comparable size in Western Europe and North America; this is partly due to a history of having green “yards” with trees and grass, between residential buildings. There are on average 290 square feet (27 m²) of parks per person in Moscow compared with 6 square meters for Paris, 7.5 in London and 8.6 in New York.
Gorky Park (officially the Central Park of Culture and Rest named after Maxim Gorky), was founded in 1928. The main part (170 acres or 689,000 square meters) along the Moskva River borders the Neskuchny Garden (101 acres or 408,000 m²), the oldest park in Moscow and a former imperial residence, created as a result of the integration of three estates in the 18th century. The Garden features the Green Theater, one of the largest open amphitheaters in Europe, able to hold up to 15 thousand people. Izmaylovsky Park, created in 1931, is one of the largest urban parks in the world along with Richmond Park in London. Its area of 5.92 square miles (15.34 km²) is six times greater than that of Central Park in New York.
On October 1, 2009, Russia released a set of 12 self-adhesive stamps and a miniature sheet depicting Kremlins around the nation (Scott #7170-7181a). The Moscow Kremlin is portrayed on the 4-ruble denomination. The stamps are perforated with a serpentine die-cut in a gauge of 11. The Moscow Kremlin is the best known of the kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. Also within this complex is the Grand Kremlin Palace. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.
The site has been continuously inhabited by Finno-Ugric peoples since the 2nd century BC. The Slavs occupied the south-western portion of Borovitsky Hill as early as the 11th century, as evidenced by a metropolitan seal from the 1090s which was unearthed by Soviet archaeologists in the area. Vyatichi built a fortified structure (or grad) on the hill where the Neglinnaya River flowed into the Moskva River.
Up to the 14th century, the site was known as the grad of Moscow. The word “Kremlin” was first recorded in 1331 although etymologist Max Vasmer mentions an earlier appearance in 1320. The grad was greatly extended by Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy in 1156, destroyed by the Mongols in 1237 and rebuilt in oak in 1339.
Dmitri Donskoi replaced the oak walls with a strong citadel of white limestone in 1366–1368 on the basic foundations of the current walls; this fortification withstood a siege by Khan Tokhtamysh. Dmitri’s son Vasily I resumed construction of churches and cloisters in the Kremlin. The newly built Cathedral of the Annunciation was painted by Theophanes the Greek, Andrei Rublev, and Prokhor in 1406. The Chudov Monastery was founded by Dmitri’s tutor, Metropolitan Alexis; while his widow, Eudoxia, established the Ascension Convent in 1397.
Grand Prince Ivan III organized the reconstruction of the Kremlin, inviting a number of skilled architects from Renaissance Italy, including Petrus Antonius Solarius, who designed the new Kremlin wall and its towers, and Marcus Ruffus who designed the new palace for the prince. It was during his reign that three extant cathedrals of the Kremlin, the Deposition Church, and the Palace of Facets were constructed. The highest building of the city and Muscovite Russia was the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, built in 1505–08 and augmented to its present height in 1600. The Kremlin walls as they now appear were built between 1485 and 1495. Spasskie gates of the wall still bear a dedication in Latin praising Petrus Antonius Solarius for the design.
After construction of the new kremlin walls and churches was complete, the monarch decreed that no structures should be built in the immediate vicinity of the citadel. The Kremlin was separated from the walled merchant town (Kitay-gorod) by a 30-meter-wide moat, over which Saint Basil’s Cathedral was constructed during the reign of Ivan the Terrible. The same tsar also renovated some of his grandfather’s palaces, added a new palace and cathedral for his sons, and endowed the Trinity metochion inside the Kremlin. The metochion was administrated by the Trinity Monastery and boasted the graceful tower church of St. Sergius, which was described by foreigners as one of the finest in the country.
During the Time of Troubles, the Kremlin was held by the Polish forces for two years, between September 21, 1610, and October 26, 1612. The Kremlin’s liberation by the volunteer army of prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin paved the way for the election of Mikhail Romanov as the new tsar. During his reign and that of his son Alexis and grandson Fyodor, the eleven-domed Upper Saviour Cathedral, Armorial Gate, Terem Palace, Amusement Palace and the palace of Patriarch Nikon were built. Following the death of Alexis’s son, Fyodor, the Kremlin witnessed the Moscow Uprising of 1682, from which czar Peter barely escaped. As a result, he disliked the Kremlin. Three decades later, Peter abandoned the residence of his forefathers for his new capital, Saint Petersburg.
Although still used for coronation ceremonies, the Kremlin was abandoned and neglected until 1773, when Catherine the Great engaged Vasili Bazhenov to build her new residence there. Bazhenov produced a bombastic Neoclassical design on a heroic scale, which involved the demolition of several churches and palaces, as well as a portion of the Kremlin wall. After the preparations were over, construction halted due to lack of funds. Several years later, the architect Matvey Kazakov supervised the reconstruction of the dismantled sections of the wall and of some structures of the Chudov Monastery, and constructed the spacious and luxurious offices of the Senate, since adapted for use as the principal workplace of the President of Russia.
During the Imperial period, from the early 18th and until the late 19th century, Kremlin walls were traditionally painted white, in accordance with the time’s fashion.
Following the French invasion of Russia in 1812, the French forces occupied the Kremlin from September 2 to October 11. When Napoleon retreated from Moscow, he ordered the whole Kremlin to be blown up. The Kremlin Arsenal, several portions of the Kremlin Wall and several wall towers were destroyed by explosions and fires damaged the Faceted Chamber and churches. Explosions continued for three days, from October 21 to 23. However, the rain damaged the fuses, and the damage was less severe than intended. Restoration works were held in 1816–1819, supervised by Osip Bove. During the remainder of Alexander I’s reign, several ancient structures were renovated in a fanciful neo-Gothic style, but many others were condemned as “disused” or “dilapidated” (including all the buildings of the Trinity metochion) and simply torn down.
On visiting Moscow for his coronation festivities, Nicholas I was not satisfied with the Grand, or Winter, Palace, which had been erected to Rastrelli’s design in the 1750s. The elaborate Baroque structure was demolished, as was the nearby church of St. John the Precursor, built by Aloisio the New in 1508 in place of the first church constructed in Moscow. The architect Konstantin Thon was commissioned to replace them with the Grand Kremlin Palace, which was to rival the Winter Palace in St. Petersburg in its dimensions and the opulence of its interiors. The palace was constructed in 1839–49, followed by the new building of the Kremlin Armory in 1851.
After 1851, the Kremlin changed little until the Russian Revolution of 1917; the only new features added during this period were the Monument to Alexander II and a stone cross marking the spot where Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich of Russia was assassinated by Ivan Kalyayev in 1905. These monuments were destroyed by the Bolsheviks in 1918.
The Soviet government moved from Petrograd to Moscow on March 12, 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 all the “relics of the tsarist regime” from his headquarters. 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. 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 existing Kremlin walls and towers were built by Italian masters over the years 1485 to 1495. The irregular triangle of the Kremlin wall encloses an area of 68 acres (275,000 m²). Its overall length is 2,444 yards (2,235 m), but the height ranges from 5 to 19 meters, depending on the terrain. The wall’s thickness is between 3.5 and 6.5 meters.
Originally there were eighteen Kremlin towers, but their number increased to twenty in the 17th century. All but three of the towers are square in plan. The highest tower is the Troitskaya, which was built up to its present height of 80 meters in 1495. Most towers were originally crowned with wooden tents; the extant brick tents with strips of colored tiles go back to the 1680s.
Cathedral Square is the heart of the Kremlin. It is surrounded by six buildings, including three cathedrals. The Cathedral of the Dormition was completed in 1479 to be the main church of Moscow and where all the Tsars were crowned. The massive limestone façade, capped with its five golden cupolas was the design of Aristotele Fioravanti. Several important metropolitans and patriarchs are buried there, including Peter and Makarii. The gilded, three-domed Cathedral of the Annunciation was completed next in 1489, only to be reconstructed to a nine-domed design a century later. On the south-east of the square is the much larger Cathedral of the Archangel Michael (1508), where almost all the Muscovite monarchs from Ivan Kalita to Ivan V of Russia are interred. (Boris Godunov was originally buried there, but was moved to the Trinity Monastery.)
There are two domestic churches of the Metropolitans and Patriarchs of Moscow, the Church of the Twelve Apostles (1653–56) and the exquisite one-domed Church of the Deposition of the Virgin’s Robe, built by Pskov artisans over the years 1484–88 and featuring superb icons and frescoes from 1627 and 1644.
The other notable structure is the Ivan the Great Bell Tower on the north-east corner of the square, which is said to mark the exact center of Moscow and resemble a burning candle. Completed in 1600, it is 266 feet (81 m) high. Until the Russian Revolution, it was the tallest structure in the city, as construction of buildings taller than that was forbidden. Its 21 bells would sound the alarm if any enemy was approaching. The upper part of the structure was destroyed by the French during the Napoleonic Invasion and has been rebuilt. The Tsar bell, the largest bell in the world, stands on a pedestal next to the tower.
The oldest secular structure still standing is Ivan III’s Palace of Facets (1491), which holds the imperial thrones. The next oldest is the first home of the royal family, the Terem Palace. The original Terem Palace was also commissioned by Ivan III, but most of the existing palace was built in the 17th century. The Terem Palace and the Palace of Facets are linked by the Grand Kremlin Palace. This was commissioned by Nicholas I in 1838. The largest structure in the Kremlin, it cost an exorbitant sum of eleven million rubles to build and more than one billion dollars to renovate in the 1990s. It contains dazzling reception halls, a ceremonial red staircase, private apartments of the tsars, and the lower story of the Resurrection of Lazarus church (1393), which is the oldest extant structure in the Kremlin and the whole of Moscow.
The northern corner of the Kremlin is occupied by the Arsenal, which was originally built for Peter the Great in 1701. The southwestern section of the Kremlin holds the Armory building. Built in 1851 to a Renaissance Revival design, it is currently a museum housing Russian state regalia.