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Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow

Cultural criteria: i, ii, iv, vi
Year of inclusion in the List of World Heritage: 1990

The Moscow Kremlin, together with the adjoining Red Square, was inscribed in UNESCO's list among the very first Russian objects: this is a genuine symbol not only of Moscow, but of the whole Russia indeed. The State Historical and Cultural Museum-Reserve "Moscow Kremlin" has been functioning since 1991 and is annually visited by many thousand tourists.  

The Moscow Kremlin embracing an area of 27. 5 ha is the oldest part of the city. It was here, on the Borovitsky Hill, on the left bank of the Moskva River, that already Yuri Dolgoruky founded his fortress estate, for the first time mentioned in a chronicle of 1147.  

Typical of the Moscow Kremlin structures has been always their clear functional destination. In this regard they can be subdivided into three large groups: fortress, church and civil ones.  

The fortress structures include walls and towers of the Kremlin. The first wooden walls surrounding only a part of the Borovitsky Hill were destroyed by Tartars in 1237, and then they were built again and reconstructed many times. And the walls one can see now were raised in the second half of the XV century. These red brick walls height (without merlons on top) is 15-19 m, thickness is 3.5 – 6.5 m, and total length is 2,235 m.  

Simultaneously with fortress walls 18 towers were raised (in the modern Kremlin there are 20 towers): three round ones, at the corners of the Kremlin, six travel towers with gates, plus nine blind square towers. Several towers were equipped with drinking water wells in case of a siege, and under some of them subterranean passages were breached.  

The main church buildings of the Moscow Kremlin are situated on the Cathedral square – these are the Cathedral of the Assumption, Archangel Cathedral and Annunciation Cathedral, as well as the Bell tower of Ivan the Great. All of them were raised by specially invited Italian masters, which strikingly showed up in these splendid monuments’ architectural aspect.

The five-domed Cathedral of the Assumption (1475–1479) was built by the Italian architect Aristotele Fioravanti, its interior was decorated by paintings and five tier iconostasis (XV-XVII centuries). The Cathedral became the main Russian Orthodox Church, place of wedding ceremonies and coronation of great princes, then – of tsars and emperors, as well as burial vault for metropolitans and patriarchs.  

In 1505-1508 on the same place another Italian – Aleviz Friazin Novy raises the five-domed Archangel Cathedral, and after it the interiors are decorated by wonderful paintings and iconostasis (XVII-XIX centuries) The Cathedral served as prince's burial vault: now one can see here 46 white-stone ornamented gravestones over burial places of Moscow and appanage princes, and then also of tsars, including Ivan I Kalita, Dmitriy Donskoy, Ivan III, Ivan IV the Terrible, Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexei Mikhailovich Romanov.  

The Annunciation Cathedral was built by Pskov masters in 1484–1489. Originally this Cathedral was three-domed, but in the XVI century it was rebuilt in nine-domed one. Wall paintings of the XVI–XIX centuries remained in its interior, and in the iconostasis – icons of Andrei Rublev and Theophanes the Greek.  

In 1505-1508 near the Archangel Cathedral the Italian architect Bon Friazin built the Ivan the Great Bell Tower (82 m) – for those times it was the highest construction in Russia, it became a composition center of the whole Kremlin ensemble. A little later a bell gable was attached to it.  

The Faceted Chamber (1487–1491) is distinguished among the oldest civil structures of the Moscow Kremlin. The Italian architects Mark Friazin and Pietro Solari built it as a stateroom for holding ceremonial events of national importance, solemnities, and receptions of foreign ambassadors. The Faceted Chamber proper is a vast hall on the second floor of the building in area of almost 500 m2, covered by cross vaults rested upon the central pillar. The most remarkable civil structure of the XVII century is the Teremnoi Palace (1635–1636) built by Russian masters for tsar’s children, in the aspect of which influence of wooden structures of temple type is manifest.  

In the XVIII century the architectural complex of the Kremlin was increased by buildings of the Arsenal (1702–1736) and Senate (1776–1787). The Senate building is easily recognized by its big green dome playing a quite important role in formation of the Moscow Kremlin’s architectural aspect. Nowadays there is a residence of the President of Russia here.  

And in the XIX century buildings of the Grand Kremlin Palace (1839–1849, architect K.A.Ton, served as Moscow residence of the imperial family, a place for gala receptions, for example, in the luxurious St George's Hall) were constructed, as well as the Armoury (actually existing since the XVI century, and in the early XIX century was transformed into a museum, where thousands of works of Russian and foreign applied art are exhibited – arms and armors, jewelry, gold ware and argentry, tissues etc.)  

On the territory of the Moscow Kremlin unique samples of Russian founding art are exhibited – “Tsar Cannon” (40 tons weight, 890 mm calibre) and “Tsar Bell” (over 200 tons weight, 6.6 m diameter).  

The beginning of the Red Square’s history dates from the XIV–XV centuries, when the city’s commercial centre was situated here. Later the square was gradually becoming a center of Russia’s social life, and in the second half of the XVII century it was called Red, i.e. Beautiful. It was reconstructed more than once, many structures were taken down, and now one can see here the following: The Cathedral of the Virgin Protectress (more known as the Cathedral of St. Basil), Place of execution, the Mint, Upper and Medium rows of stalls and a building of the State Historical Museum, as well as the Mausoleum of V. I. Lenin.  

The Cathedral of St. Basil situated on the southern side of the Red Square, was constructed in 1555–1560 by Russian architects Barma and Postnik on the occasion of Ivan the Terrible’s victory over Kazan khanate. In the XVII century even without that very refined aspect of this church assumed new features – thanks to decorative processing of domes and ornamental paintings both on the outside and inside. This splendid monument is not only a universally recognized masterpiece of Russian mediaeval architecture, but is also playing now the role of a "trademark” of Moscow and Russia in whole.


This object is on the Website of UNESCO World Heritage Center whc.unesco.org/en/list/545