What is the Kremlin?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

The Kremlin, located in Moscow, Russia, is a complex of buildings enclosed within a wall, originally designed as a medieval fortress. The buildings within it include churches, palaces, armories, and a variety of watchtowers. The Kremlin also integrates beautiful gardens and a forest, which are well maintained with footpaths so that visitors can walk through them. It has long been associated with Russian government and culture. In 1990, the complex was recognized as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations.

The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, features tall watchtowers.
The Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, features tall watchtowers.

In Russian, the word "kremlin" means fortress. The first mention of the Kremlin was in 1147, when a feast was hosted there. In the 1100s, it was a self-enclosed fortified town, and very easily defended. The complex expanded in the 12th century, and became a seat of Russian power. In 1703, power was transferred to St. Petersburg, which remained the capital until the 1918 Russian Revolution; Moscow was then restored as the capital of Russia.

The city of Moscow rose around the Kremlin as the population expanded, and the fortress itself is now enclosed within the City. In addition to housing a museum, it is also the current seat of Russian government, and the home of the President since 1992. The Russian congress meets at the Kremlin, and a variety of social and cultural artifacts are housed there.

The exterior wall of the Kremlin is broken up by a series of tall watchtowers. The towers are built of red brick, like the walls, and capped with distinctive green spires. In the 1930s, red stars were added to the top of the towers. The towers were constructed at the end of the 15th century by several Italian architects. Visitors to the Kremlin usually enter through the Trinity tower, which is on the west end of the complex.

Within the Kremlin, the complex includes the house of Congress, the presidential residence, the Cathedral of the Assumption, and the historic armory. It also includes the Ivan the Great Belltower, which dominates the complex. The belltower is 262 feet (80 meters) tall. There are a number of other buildings in the fortress, but these stand out as historic and physically impressive structures.

The Cathedral of the Assumption is perhaps the crowning jewel of the Kremlin, constructed in 1470 by Ivan the Great. The Cathedral remains the seat of the Russian Orthodox Church, and is capped with beautiful and distinctive golden domes. A variety of other churches on the grounds supplement the Cathedral of the Assumption, including the Cathedral of the Archangel Michael and the Cathedral of the 12 Apostles.

The armory is no longer used to store weapons. Today, it houses Russian treasures and serves as a museum where visitors can see artifacts from Russian history. Next to it is the Diamond Treasury, where visitors can see the Orlov Diamond along with a variety of other treasures.

The Kremlin is an iconic collection of Russia culture, society, and architecture. A trip to Moscow is not complete without a visit to the famous site, which can yield days of exploration for interested visitors. The palaces, churches, and administrative buildings which combine to form the Kremlin complex span almost 900 years of Russia's architectural and cultural history.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


Not true, the word Kermen is from Turkic, and yes, it means fortress. The Kremlin itself was built by Turks during the Golden Horde and afterward, during indo-european anti-turkic movement, who were using Russians, both occupied our lands and removed crescents from the Kremlin building and replaced with, with Pravoslavic crosses. This building is not Russian.


It was the Revolution of 1917 and Moscow was restored as the capital of Russia in 1918 when the Bolsheviks moved to Moscow from Petrograd, formerly St. Petersburg, which had been the capital of Russia before 1914 when it was renamed by the Russian czar at the start of the war with Kaiser Germany.

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