Inextricably linked to all the most important historical and political events in Russia since the 13th century, the Kremlin (built between the 14th and 17th centuries by outstanding Russian and foreign architects) was the residence of the Great Prince and also a religious centre. At the foot of its ramparts, on Red Square, St Basil’s Basilica is one of the most beautiful Russian Orthodox monuments.
At the geographic and historic centre of Moscow, the Moscow Kremlin is the oldest part of the city. First mentioned in the Hypatian Chronicle in 1147 as a fortification erected on the left bank of the Moskva river by Yuri Dolgoruki, Prince of Suzdal, the Kremlin developed and grew with settlements and suburbs which were further surrounded by new fortifications – Kitaigorodsky Wall, Bely Gorod, Zemlyanoy Gorod and others. This determined a radial and circular plan of the centre of Moscow typical of many other Old Russian cities.
In 13th century the Kremlin was the official residence of supreme power – the center of temporal and spiritual life of the state. The Kremlin of the late 15th – early 16th century is one of the major fortifications of Europe (the stone walls and towers of present day were erected in 1485–1516). It contains an ensemble of monuments of outstanding quality.
The most significant churches of the Moscow Kremlin are situated on the Cathedral Square; they are the Cathedral of the Dormition, Church of the Archangel, Church of the Annunciation and the bell tower of Ivan Veliki. Almost all of them were designed by invited Italian architects which is clearly seen in their architectural style. The five-domed Assumption Cathedral (1475–1479) was built by an Italian architect Aristotele Fiorvanti. Its interior is decorated with frescos and a five-tier iconostasis (15th–17th century). The cathedral became the major Russian Orthodox church; a wedding and coronation place for great princes, tsars and emperors as well as the shrine for metropolitans and patriarchs.
In the same square another Italian architect, Alevisio Novi, erected the five-domed Church of the Archangel in 1505-1508. From the 17th to 19th century, its interior was decorated by wonderful frescos and an iconostasis. In this church many great princes and tsars of Moscow are buried. Among them are Ivan I Kalita, Dmitri Donskoi, Ivan III, Ivan IV the Terrible, Mikhail Fedorovich and Alexei Mikhailovich Romanovs.
The Cathedral of the Dormition was built by Pskov architects in 1484–1489. Inside the cathedral some mural paintings of 16th–19th century have been preserved and the icons of Andrei Rublev and Theophanes the Greek are part of the iconostasis.
In 1505-1508 the bell tower of Ivan Veliki was built. Being 82 metres high it was the highest building in Russia which became the focal point of the Kremlin ensemble.
Among the oldest civil buildings of the Moscow Kremlin, the Palace of the Facets (1487–1491) is the most remarkable. Italian architects Marco Fryazin and Pietro Antonio Solario built it as a great hall for holding state ceremonies, celebrations and for receiving foreign ambassadors. The most noteworthy civil construction of the 17th century built by Russian masters is the Teremnoi Palace.
From the early 18th century, when the capital of Russia moved to St. Petersburg, the Kremlin mainly played a ceremonial role with religious functions. By the end of the century the architectural complex of the Kremlin expanded with the Arsenal reconstructed after the Fire of 1797 by Matvei Kazakov. The Senate was built in 1776–1787 according to the plans of the same architect as the home of the highest agency of State power of the Russian Empire – the Ruling Senate. Today it is the residence of the President of Russia.
From 1839 to 1849 a Russian architect K.A. Thon erected the Great Kremlin Palace as a residence of the imperial family which combined ancient Kremlin buildings such as the Palace of the Facets, the Tsarina’s Golden Chamber, Master Chambers, the Teremnoi Palace and the Teremnoi churches. In the Armory Chamber built by K.A. Thon within the complex of the Great Kremlin Palace, there is a 16th century museum officially established by the order of Alexander I in 1806.
Red Square, closely associated with the Kremlin, lies beneath its east wall. At its south end is the famous Pokrovski Cathedral (Cathedral of St Basil the Blessed), one of the most beautiful monuments of Old Russian church architecture, erected in 1555–1560 to commemorate the victory of Ivan the Terrible over the Kazan Khanate. In the 17th century the cathedral gained its up-to-date appearance thanks to the decorative finishing of the domes and painting both inside and outside the cathedral. The construction of Red Square was finished by the late 19th century together with the erection of the Imperial Historic Museum (today the State Historical Museum), the Upper Trading Rows (GUM) and the Middle Trading Rows. In 1929, , Lenin’s Mausoleum, designed by A.V. Shchusev and an outstanding example of the Soviet monumental architecture, was finished.
Criterion (i): The Kremlin contains within its walls a unique series of masterpieces of architecture and the plastic arts. There are religious monuments of exceptional beauty such as the Church of the Annunciation, the Cathedral of the Dormition, the Church of the Archangel and the bell tower of Ivan Veliki; there are palaces such as the Great Palace of the Kremlin, which comprises within its walls the Church of the Nativity of the Virgin and the Teremnoi Palace. On Red Square is Saint Basil the Blessed, still a major edifice of Russian Orthodox art.
Criterion (ii): Throughout its history, Russian architecture has clearly been affected many times by influences emanating from the Kremlin. A particular example was the Italian Renaissance. The influence of the style was clearly felt when Rudolfo Aristotele Fioravanti built the Cathedral of the Dormition (1475-79) and grew stronger with the construction of the Granovitaya Palace (Hall of the Facets, 1487-91) by Marco Fryazin and Pietro Antonio Solario. Italian Renaissance also influenced the towers of the fortified enceinte, built during the same period by Solario, using principles established by Milanese engineers (the Nikolskaya and the Spasskaya Towers both date from 1491). The Renaissance expression was even more present in the classic capitals and shells of the Church of the Archangel, reconstructed from 1505 to 1509 by Alevisio Novi.
Criterion (iv): With its triangular enceinte pierced by four gates and reinforced with 20 towers, the Moscow Kremlin preserves the memory of the wooden fortifications erected by Yuri Dolgoruki around 1156 on the hill at the confluence of the Moskova and Neglinnaya rivers (the Alexander Garden now covers the latter). By its layout and its history of transformations (in the 14th century Dimitri Donskoi had an enceinte of logs built, then the first stone wall), the Moscow Kremlin is the prototype of a Kremlin – the citadel at the centre of Old Russian towns such as Pskov, Tula, Kazan or Smolensk.
Criterion (vi): From the 13th century to the founding of St Petersburg, the Moscow Kremlin was directly and tangibly associated with every major event in Russian history. A 200-year period of obscurity ended in 1918 when it became the seat of government again. The Mausoleum of Lenin on Red Square is the Soviet Union’s prime example of symbolic monumental architecture. To proclaim the universal significance of the Russian revolution, the funerary urns of heroes of the revolution were incorporated into the Kremlin’s walls between the Nikolskaya and Spasskaya towers. The site thus combines in an exceptional manner the preserved vestiges of bygone days with present-day signs of one of the greatest events in modern history.
From the date of including the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square on the World Heritage List all the components representing the Outstanding Universal Value of the property are within its boundaries. The territory and the integrity of the World Heritage property have also remained unchanged. Within its boundaries the property still comprises all the elements that it contained at the date of nomination. The biggest threat, however, is unregulated commercial development of the adjacent areas.
The history of the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square is reflected in the archival documents of 12th–19th century, for example in medieval chronicles, cadastral surveys, estimated construction books, painted lists, inventories, foreign notes and in graphic matters such as manuscripts, chronicles, plans, drafts, engravings, lithographs, sketches of foreign travelers, paintings and photographs. These documents are exceptionally valuable information sources. Comparison of the data received from archival documents and those obtained in the process of field study gives the idea of authenticity of the property and its different elements. This comparison also serves as the basis for project development and for the choice of the appropriate methods of restoration that may preserve the monuments’ authenticity.
On the border of the ensemble a number of monuments destroyed in the 1930s were reconstructed according to measured plans.
Protection and management requirements
The statutory and institutional framework of an effective protection, management and improvement of the World Heritage property “Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow” has been established by laws and regulations of the Russian Federation and the city of Moscow.
According to the decree of the President of RSFSR of 18 December 1991 № 294, the Moscow Kremlin was included among especially protected cultural properties of nations of Russia – the highest conservation status for cultural and historical monuments in Russian legislation.
“Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow” is a Cultural Heritage Site of federal importance. State protection and management of federal sites is provided by Federal Law of 25.06.2002 № 73-FZ “On cultural heritage sites (historical and cultural monuments) of nations of the Russian Federation”. The federal executive body responsible for protection of the cultural property is the Department for Control, Supervision and Licensing in the Cultural Heritage Sphere of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation.It is in charge of all methodological and control functions concerning restoration, usage and support of cultural heritage sites and the territories connected.
The World Heritage property is situated in the urban environment of Moscow. The city policy regarding cultural heritage protection and town-planning regulation is the responsibility of Moscow City Government, represented by the Department of Cultural Heritage, the Department of Urban Development and the Committee for Urban Development and Architecture of Moscow. In 1997 the boundaries of the protective (buffer) zone were approved in order to preserve the property, and to maintain and restore the historical architectural environment as well as the integral visual perception of the property.. There is a need to ensure the creation of an appropriate buffer zone and to develop close liaison between all stakeholders, including the Moscow City authorities, to ensure that constructions around the property do not impact adversely on its Outstanding Universal Value.
The World Heritage property is used by the following organizations: FGBUK (Federal Government Budgetary Institution of Culture), the State Historical and Cultural Museum-preserve “The Moscow Kremlin”, the Administrative Department of the President of the Russian Federation, the Federal Guard Service of the Russian Federation and OJSC “GUM Department Store”.