In Ancient Russia a kremlin was a city fortress seen as a refuge from enemies. Later, fortified monasteries and episcopal residences bore the same name. Today, we bring the most stunning, powerful and romantic Russian fortresses, worth visiting this summer, into the spotlight.
In 1558 the army of Ivan the Terrible took over Astrakhan. Soon after, the Tsar ordered the relocation of the city's fortress. Construction of the Kremlin, which was lead by the architects Matvey Velyaminov and Dey Gubatyi, became a priority. An island, shaped by the rivers Volga, Kutum and Tsarev, was deemed to be the perfect site. However, during construction, the Kremlin was captured by Marina Mniszek’s Polish forces and Ataman Zarutsky, a Cossack chieftain. Since then, the Astrakhan Kremlin has faced more troubling times, but has never fallen to its enemies.
This is the most ancient part of Kazan, out of which the modern city grew. Once a solid oak stronghold with stone mosques and Khan’s palace, surrounded by deep ditches and dense woods, it is now an open museum, spread over nearly 14 hectares, and located on the high bank of the Kazanka river. It comprises a 10th-16th century town, 16th-18th century stone-brick Kremlin and 16th-19th century structures.
The fortress in Kolomna is twinned with the Moscow Kremlin. It was built in the border town at the beginning of the 16th century and over time witnessed devastating Mongol-Tatar invasions and ravaging campaigns during the Time of Troubles. Its walls can bear witness to Dmitry Donskoy gathering troops against the Tatars, the imprisonment of the Polish beauty Marina Mniszek, and the solitary prayers of Ivan the Terrible. When Kolomna lost its defensive significance, the townspeople took stone from the Kremlin’s high walls for their own use.
The Kremlin is the heart of the capital. Over the centuries, crucial state affairs were administered here and people’s fates decided. Today it is considered to be the world’s largest architectural compound, where many museums sit right next door to the president’s office. The enormous Tsar's Cannon and Tsar's Bell are its most famous attractions and consistently attract crowds of tourists.
Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin
Legend has it that Soviets planned to demolish the kremlin to clear a path to the Volga river. However, the fortress was not only spared, but entirely reconstructed. The architect had to order custom-made bricks to recreate the stronghold's original appearance.
A stone Novgorod citadel, aka Novgorod Kremlin, was erected by Prince Yaroslav on the Volkhov River in the first half of the 11th century. It is mentioned in records dating back to 1044, but nothing of the original structure remains. Later it was repeatedly rebuilt and expanded. The kremlin houses the famous monument "Millennium of Russia", the Sofia belfry, the "Eternal flame" memorial, the Hall of Facets and more besides.
The Pskov kremlin is often referred to as krom, an old name for a kremlin. The wooden fortress was built in the 8th century, and replaced by a stone kremlin two centuries later. The Pskov krom was attacked more than a hundred times, attacks which were almost all successfully repelled.
Rostov's kremlin, which is something of a misnomer, is the most interesting sight in Rostov. The city walls appeared in the 17th century, when ‘kremlins’ were no longer built for defensive purposes. It served as a border for Metropolitan Jonah’s courtyard rather than as a fortress. The Rostov kremlin first became a museum of church antiquities, then after the revolution- a state museum of antiquities, before finally being converted into a local history museum and a filming location for the Soviet classic "Ivan Vasilievich changes profession".
This is the oldest part of Ryazan, and was once home to Pereslavl-Ryazan, whose house became a museum at the end of the 19th century. Inside the kremlin walls, you'll find eight churches, the oldest of which is the Archangel and Nativity Cathedral, dating back to the 15th century, and a few public buildings: Oleg’s palace, the Ryazan Chamber of bishops, a hotel, and the Pevchensky and Konsistorsky buildings.
One of Russia’s most celebrated monasteries, is located on the Solovetsky islands. Assembled in the 1420s-1430s, for many centuries it reflected the country’s spirit and acted as a fortress, with a garrison and artillery. During times of famine monks helped the locals to survive: they were able to do so because the monastery was one of the richest in the north.
The kremlin, the city’s heart, was first mentioned in the records of 1024. It is situated in the southern part of the present-day city, on the bend of the Kamenka river. The wooden kremlin structure was damaged by a fire in 1719. The remaining kremlin consists of the ramparts and moats of the ancient fortress, several churches, and, most importantly, the episcopal court buildings with the ancient Nativity Cathedral, built in 1222-1225.
The city’s main fortification was rebuilt several times due either to fire or its state of dilapidation. During the 19th century restoration it was given a flamboyant touch. This resulted in quite a vivid, non-uniform architectural ensemble, the most famous of which is the Church of Tsarevich Dmitry on Spilled Blood, constructed in memory of Ivan’s son. No less striking are the prince's personal chambers. The boy, who died at the age of eight, was later canonised.