The Kremlin at the center of Moscow is an outstanding historical and architectural monument that serves as a symbol for the whole Russia.
In Old Russia the word «kreml» meant the central, fortified part of a city. The Moscow Kremlin that originally was made of wood was mentioned in the chronicles in 1156 as «Moscow fortress». At that time it occupied only the south-western part of the Borovitsky Hill. In 1326-1327 on the highest point of the hill the Assumption Cathedral, the first stone cathedral in the Kremlin, was constructed. And in 1366-1368, during the reign of Prince Dmitry Donskoy, the first stone Kremlin was put up.
As Moscow and Moscow Principality were getting more and more important, the significance of the Kremlin was also growing. The ordinary fortified city center was turning into the residence of Great Prince of Moscow and metropolitan.
At the time of Ivan III, who was the first one to be called the Prince of Whole Russia, the Kremlin was constructed in stone. Ivan III invited not only Russian, but also Italian architects to participate in the Kremlin creation.
In 1475-1479 the new Assumption Cathedral was designed by Italian architect Aristotel Fioravanti. In front of the Assumption Cathedral another Italian architect Aloisio Novy put up the Cathedral of Saint Mikhail the Archangel (Archangelsky Cathedral). In the western side of Sobornaya Square the palace of Ivan III was built. It included several chambers, but until nowadays only the Granovitaya Chamber survived. This chamber, designed by Marco Fryazin and Pietro Antonio Solari in 1487-1491, served as a gala throne hall of Ivan III.
In 1485-1495 Italian masters put up the new, notched walls and towers of the Kremlin. In 1505-1508 architect Bon Fryazin constructed the Bell-Tower of Ivan the Great, so the ensemble of Sobornaya Square was complete. The square served as a place for important ceremonies and devotions.
In 1547 Great Prince Ivan IV the Terrible officially accepted the title of tsar. Since then the Kremlin turned into the residence of Russian tsars. To commemorate the conquest of Kazan khanate by Ivan the Terrible in 1555-1561 the Cathedral of Protection of the Virgin was erected. Today it is more known as St. Basil Cathedral. It was built outside the Kremlin walls, close to Spasskie Gates where another important center of Moscow, Red Square, formed.
The Polish intervention of 1605-1612 damaged the architectural complex of the Kremlin. The cathedrals were looted and desecrated, tsars' treasury suffered greatly, and all the wooden constructions were demolished and burnt. When the Romanov family got the power, the Kremlin was restored. It reached its golden age by the end of the 17th century. The distinctive beauty of the Kremlin ensemble made the contemporaries compare it with «the city of Jerusalem».
The 18th century started for the Kremlin with a terrible fire. On the site of burned constructions Peter I ordered to put up the Arsenal. Construction works were finished by 1736 at the time of Empress Anna Ioannovna. In front of the Arsenal the Tsar Cannon was installed. It was cast in 1586 by master Andrey Chokhov. The caliber of the Tsar Cannon is the largest in the world. In 1735 cast-iron gun-carriage and balls were made for the cannon. Nowadays the Tsar Cannon is placed on the pedestal close to the Church of Twelve Apostles.
Another sight of the Kremlin is the Tsar Bell cast in 1733-1735 by Russian masters Matorins by order of Anna Ioannovna. During the fire of 1737 the Tsar Bell cracked, and a piece of it broke off. Until 1836 the bell was in the founding pit, and then it was placed on the pedestal designed by architect Montferrand. Nowadays the Tsar Bell is installed near the Bell-Tower of Ivan the Great.
In the 18th century it became obvious that the Kremlin was too patriarchal and did not match the tastes and requests of the time. So some new constructions were put up on the territory of the Kremlin. For example, on the place of Gosudarev Yard built in the 15th century, the stone baroque-styled Winter Palace was erected by architect F.-B. Rastrelli in 1749-1753. In 1776-1787 between the Arsenal, Voznesensky and Chudov monasteries the Senate building was constructed by architect M. Kazakov.
In 1810 the Armory Museum was built in the Kremlin. Construction works were supervised by architect A. Egotov. The facade of the museum was decorated with bas-relieves depicting scenes from Russian history. As for the attic, it was topped with statues of outstanding Russian enlighteners. The war of 1812 broke out, so the museum was not opened. Moscow captured by French troops was looted and burnt, and the Kremlin was badly damaged. After the end of the war the blown-up walls and towers of the Kremlin, the Arsenal, the Assumption belfry and Filaretova annex of Bell-Tower of Ivan the Great were carefully restored. In 1814 the Arsenal was opened for the visitors.
In 1838-1851 Emperor Nicolas I ordered to put up the new palace complex in traditional Russian style on the territory of the Kremlin. The complex consisted of the Great Kremlin Palace, constructed on the site of the Winter Palace, the building of Apartaments and the new Arsenal building that was more solemn than the previous one. Architect K. Ton was appointed to supervise the construction works. The new buildings completed the ensemble of Palace or Imperial Square.
At the end of the 19th-the beginning of the 20th century the Kremlin was already taken by contemporaries as the monument of Russian history and culture. There was an idea to turn the Kremlin complex into the giant museum, but the October Revolution of 1917 interfered with the plans.
In March, 1918 the first Soviet Government moved to Moscow and settled down in the Kremlin. The Kremlin was closed for visitors. In 1929 the old monasteries on the Kremlin territory were pulled down. Instead of them the Military School was put up. In 1935 the double-headed eagles were taken away from the Kremlin Towers. In 1937 the five towers of the Kremlin were decorated with ruby stars of 3-3,75 meters in size.
Since 1955 the Kremlin was opened for the public. In 1961 on the site of the first Armory, at the Troitskie Gates the State Kremlin Palace was put up. It was the last significant construction on the territory of the Kremlin.
In 1970-1980s the unique restoration works took place in the Kremlin. And in 1990 it was included in the World Cultural Heritage List of UNESCO.
In 1991 the State Historical and Cultural Museum-Preserve Moscow Kremlin was founded. It consists of the Armory, Assumption Cathedral, Archangelsky Cathedral, Annunciation Cathedral, the Church of the Deposition of the Holy Robe, the Museum of Applied Art and Russian Everyday Life of the 17th century, and the architectural ensemble of the Bell-Tower of Ivan the Great.