We have heard this words over and over in the news but few times we know exactly what its meaning or definition is. What is the Kremlin? A kremlin is a major fortified central complex found in historic Russian cities. This word is often used to refer to the most famous one, the Moscow Kremlin, or metonymically to the government that is based there. Outside Russia, the name Kremlin is sometimes mistakenly thought of as being Saint Basil’s Cathedral because of its distinctive environment, although the cathedral is not a part of the Moscow Kremlin. Russia’s presidential administration is located in the Moscow Kremlin. During the Cold War the government of the USSR was located in the Moscow Kremlin but now the Russian government occupies a building outside it.
Therefore, as you have already seen, the Moscow Kremlin is not the only one in Russia. In fact, throughout the country were built several Kremlins to protect Russian cities from enemy attacks. The Moscow kremlin is undoubtedly the grandest of them all but there are others with a unique beauty and with many stories to tell. In the 18th and 19th centuries, these strongholds lost their strategic importance and were often torn down and used for construction materials. Most of the surviving fortresses have now been turned into museums, each with its own legend living on behind its walls. Meet some of the most famous Russian Kremlins:
1. Ryazan Kremlin
Ryazan Kremlin encompasses 18 historic monuments, built between the 11th and 19th centuries. One of the Kremlin’s eight churches, the 17th-century Dormition Cathedral, is the centerpiece of the fortress. The oldest building is the 15th-century Nativity of Christ, while the largest civic construction is the 17th-century Oleg’s palace.
2. Rostov Kremlin
What started as an archiereus residence in the 17th century is now a visually arresting museum-reserve with five churches, the Dormition Cathedral, and civil buildings—all surrounded by monumental fortress walls. Be sure to stop by the Kremlin’s 17th-century bell-cot—one of the most celebrated in Russia.
3. Kazan Kremlin
Something you would not expect to see within the walls of an ancient Kremlin, especially next to a traditional 16th century orthodox cathedral, is Europe’s largest Mosque. Kazan also has the largest halal meat warehouse in Russia. Although being the centre of Russian Islam it is a tribute to Kazan’s religious tolerance that Muslims, Christians and Jews live harmoniously.
4. Suzdal Kremlin
Not strictly a kremlin the Spaso-Evfiniev Monastery complex is every bit as impressive as Moscow’s Kremlin – some would say more so. As far back as the 60’s Suzdal’s potential as a tourist site was recognised so you will find no buildings over two stories and a delightful medieval time warp to explore.
5. Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin
Built in 1515, the stone Kremlin in Nizhny Novgorod replaced the wooden fortress, which had been protecting the city since 1221. The Kremlin features dramatic elevation changes, which makes it one of the most sophisticated constructions of its time. The word is that somewhere in the Kremlin’s dungeons, Ivan the Terrible hid his library, which his grandmother Sophia Palaiologina had brought from Byzantium.
6. Kolomna Kremlin
In its prime, the Kolomna kremlin was one of the biggest fortresses of the time, but in the 18th and early 19th centuries, the locals took most of it apart using the aging walls as a source of construction materials. Only the decree of Nicholas I helped preserve what remained of the fortress. The Kolomna kremlin had 17 towers, one of which was named after Maryna Mniszech, the wife of False Dmitry I, who was reportedly incarcerated in that tower where she subsequently died. One of the legends, though, says that she did not die, but rather turned into a magpie and flew out the window. As a result, it was called Marina’s tower. There is one more legend, however, that links the name to a common nun who was accused of being a lesbian and put into the tower wall to protect other nuns from this morbid temptation.