Capital: Moscow Currency: Russian ruble Population: 141,377,752 Moscow
For centuries Moscow has been the symbol of power and wealth of this part of the world. Moscow was the capital of Russia during the Middle Ages, the main city of the Soviet Empire and now days it is the capital of modern Russia and a symbol of unity for Russians all across 11 time zones.
This city has always loved to make an impression on its visitors and along with centuries-old Red Square, the Kremlin and Bolshoy theatre it now also boasts the largest sports arena, the tallest building and the largest residential complex in Europe, the largest museum, the tallest average building height (an average of 13 floors per building) and the largest Orthodox Church dome in the world.
The city is in constant search for ways to impress, amuse and entertain so there is always a lot to see.
The Kremlin is the historical, spiritual and political heart of Moscow and the city's most famous landmark and tourist attraction. It's an intriguing ensemble of buildings with an architectural variety that reveals a long and fascinating history. The Kremlin is home to Russia's political power, seat of the ancient Russian Orthodox Church and the historical heart of the country. Here we can virtually explore the intriguing home of Soviet power, the majestic residence of the Russian Tsars, and the world of all those nail-bitingly tense Cold War thrillers and block-buster spy films!
Legend has it that while hunting in the forest a group of boyars (Russian nobles) saw an enormous two-headed bird swoop down on a boar, carry it away and deposit it on the top of the hill that was to become the Kremlin. That night the boyars dreamt of a city of tents, spires and golden domes and resolved the next morning to build a settlement on the hill.
History sees it a little differently and attributes the founding of the Kremlin to Prince Yury Dolgoruky, who built the first wooden fort on the hill in 1147 AD, although historians believe that the site may have been inhabited as long ago as 500 BC. The word "kremlin" means simply "fortification" or "citadel" in Russian, and is thought to derive from either the Ancient Greek words kremn or kremnos, meaning a steep hill above a ravine, or the Slavonic term kremnik, meaning thick coniferous forest, that being the likely material from which the original fort was constructed.
As the fortress was enlarged and developed, the city of Moscow rapidly sprung up around it. During the 14th century, when Moscow became the center of a Grand Principality, the fortress was for the first time perceived as a separate citadel and a principle part of the city and in 1331 was given the title "Kremlin”. Kremlin became the heart of Moscow City. All major streets meet here, other streets run in concentric circles around the Kremlin. It is the navel of this large city.
The 15th century saw the unification of the Russian feudal principalities under the authority of the Grand Prince Ivan III of Moscow and to celebrate he ordered the reconstruction of the Kremlin on a grand scale. Architects, builders and craftsmen were drafted in from Pskov, Novgorod and Vladimir and the Italian architects Alberti Fioravante, Marco Bono and Pietro Antonio Solari began work on the Kremlin's ramparts and cathedrals. The new Cathedral of the Assumption was the first to be reconstructed, followed by the Cathedral of the Annunciation and the Church of the Deposition of the Robe in the 1480s and finally the Cathedral of the Archangel in the early 16th century.
The Bell Tower of Ivan the Great, built between 1505 and 1508, completed the Cathedral Square ensemble and new Kremlin walls and towers were constructed simultaneously from 1485 onwards. Successive rulers left their mark on the Kremlin and its architectural ensemble grew more and more varied throughout the centuries. The 15th century saw the addition of the Faceted Palace, the oldest secular building in the Kremlin complex. The 16th century ruler Ivan the Terrible further embellished the Kremlin's cathedrals and ramparts and constructed the enormous Tsar Canon and the Old English Embassy, for the purpose of accommodating English merchants and facilitating duty-free trade. At the start of the 17th century Mikhail Romanov assumed power and rebuilt and restored much of the fortress, adding the Terem Palace and the Patriarch's Palace and in 1655 Tsar Alexei's reign saw the casting of the impressive Tsar Bell.
Although Peter the Great preferred St. Petersburg as his capital, he commissioned the construction of the Kremlin Arsenal in the 1730s for the storage of weapons and military equipment. Catherine the Great added the Senate building later that century and in the 1840s Nicholas I commissioned the Russo-Byzantine-style Armory and the Great Kremlin Palace. With the Bolshevik storming of the Kremlin during the 1917 Revolution the fortress was closed to the public for the next 50 years and the only architectural additions made by the Soviet regime were the 1934 Presidium and the modernistic State Kremlin Palace (previously the Palace of Congresses) in 1961.
Today approximately two-thirds of the Kremlin is off-limits to visitors, including the Arsenal, the Presidium, the Terem, Faceted and Great Kremlin Palaces and most of the buildings in the northern half of the fortress. All of that territory is occupied by various President’s offices, his residence and the Kremlin Guards. Tourists do, however, have access to all the cathedrals, the unmissable and priceless collections of the Armory, the Patriarch's Palace and the State Kremlin Palace, which hosts regular concerts and gala performances.
The Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts
The biggest Moscow's collection of the Western-European art is on display at the State Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts.
The museum is a Moscow's leading western art museum. It was built in the classical style in 1898 and today looks like some grand palazzo
At present the collection of the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts constitutes more then 500.000 works of art - paintings and sculptures, graphic art, decorative art, archaeological monuments and numismatic items, photography. Documents on the history of the Museum, scientific and epistolary heritage of its founders, other museum's prominent individuals and important arthistorians and artists are kept there. Archives of some other museums whose collections have been passed to the Pushkin Museum are preserved as well. In 1991 the Pushkin State Museum of Fine Arts acquired a status of the "Institution of particularly valuable cultural heritage of the Russian Federation".
The State Tretyakov Gallery
The Tretyakov Gallery dates from 1856, when the purchase of Nikolai Schilder's painting The Temptation saw the beginning of the collecting activities of the young, wealthy Moscow merchant, Pavel Tretyakov (1832 - 1898). Whereas his first acquisitions followed no clear pattern, paintings by Vasily Perov, added to the collection in the sixties, determined paths which the Gallery was to follow. There was to be a collection of Russian painting, the fulfilment of a historic mission - that of patriotic and moral education of the people.
Now the Tretyakov Gallery houses one of the most celebrated and extensive collections of Russian art and artifacts in the world and it is named after its founder Pavel Tretyakov who donated approximately 2,000 works of Russian art from his own private collection to the city of Moscow at the end of the 19th century. Along with his paintings, Tretyakov also generously donated his own house and surrounding buildings, which became the original premises of the gallery.
The gallery is still housed on the same site, but in an extended and recently renovated complex of buildings, and its collection now comprises the entire spectrum of Russian art. Exhibition halls feature icons (most notably an impressive collection of icons by the artist Andrei Rublyov), 18th century portraits, 19th century Realist works, 20th century Romantic, Symbolist and avant-garde canvases and displays of graphic and applied arts. The Tretyakov's magnificent collection of Soviet art is now housed independently in the enormous Central House of Artists, opposite Gorky Park, and is well worth a visit for those admirers of 20th century art.
St. Basil's Cathedral
Saint Basil's Cathedral is the most recognizable symbol of Russia. Its colorful onion domes are instantly recognizable around the world as emblems of Moscow and the Russian Orthodox Church.
It is the domes that make this, and other Russian Orthodox architecture unique. Saint Basil's has a total of ten towers sporting domes. The largest is at the center of the cathedral known as the Church of the Feast of the Pokhrov. There are four more, each topping a church located on an cardinal point, north, south, east, and west. Then an additional four at the northeast, southeast, northwest, and southwest points. Each of these eight churches represent an important historical event in Russian history. Then there is one that does not stand on a rose point. It was built in 1555 and is located over the grave of Saint Basil. It became part of the Cathedral in 1588. The cathedral may have been designed by Russian architects Posnik and Barma. But the early records are confusing, and they may be a single person.
There is also a legend that the cathedral was designed by an Italian architect who was blinded so he could never create a more beautiful building. The root of this legend may lie in the fact that between 1475 and 1510 Italian architects were employed to restore the Kremlin and two of its churches. In some ways, it is amazing that the cathedral has survived as long as it has. Two of the world's most ruthless leaders -- Napoleon and Stalin -- tried to destroy it. Napoleon tried to burn it down with little success. Stalin wanted to have it razed so his military parades would have more room. Another Moscow legend has it that the demolition was stopped by an architect who threatened to slit his own throat on the cathedral steps in protest.
The Arbat is Moscow's most charming and lively pedestrian street. Once a bohemian quarter of the city, littered with cafes crammed full of the capital's intellectual elite, the Arbat still retains a vibrant and artistic air today, with souvenir stalls selling traditional Russian gifts, artists offering original canvases and street performers entertaining the shoppers.
The street boasts an impressive selection of cafes, restaurants and bars, where you can sample everything from a decent cup of coffee and a French pastry, to a genuine Lebanese shawerma (kebab) or a tasty thick milkshake in a genuine 1950s American Diner. The Arbat is a symbol of old Moscow and its name is mentioned in the city chronicles as far back as
From the second half of the 18th century onwards, the Arbat and the maze of back streets that surround it became Moscow's most aristocratic and literary neighborhood and home to the city's intelligentsia. House number 2 features the famous Prague Restaurant, opened in the 1870s by the merchant Tararykin and famed as one of the best dining establishments in Moscow until well after the turn of the century.
The word 'Bolshoi' means 'big' in Russian... so this is literally the 'Big Theatre'. The theatre is considered to be the second largest of Europe after the famous "
The Bolshoi has hosted some of Russia's most famed performers and celebrated premieres by some of the world's best-loved composers. Glinka's opera "A Life for the Tsar" premiered there on 7th September 1842 and Richard Wagner conducted a series of concerts there in 1863. This century has seen the theater premiering works by the composers Prokofiev and Shostakovich, as well as the spectacularly successful ballet hit of the 1960s "Spartacus", by Aram Khachaturyan. The theater's star dancers, among them Maya Plisetskaya, Vladimir Vasiliev, Galina Ulanova and Rudolf Nuryev, helped to build the theater's reputation and boosted their careers into the dazzling heights of international success.
The theater has also played host to numerous political dramas, one of the stormiest of which was the Fifth Party Congress of July 1918, during which the final split between Lenin's Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries took place. The latter's leader denounced Lenin and the entire Left SR delegation was held prisoner in the Bolshoi while the Bolsheviks put down an uprising of their followers on the streets outside. The theater also played host to the famous First All Union Congress of Soviets held on December 30th 1922, which officially acknowledged the birth of the Soviet Union. Not long after that, the theater was reopened for public performances and its reputation and repertoire has continued to grow and gather international acclaim ever since.
The Great Moscow State Circus
The Great Moscow State Circus was opened on 30th of April 1971. It has been designed and built by a group of the architects and engineers under the leadership of Mr. I.Belopolsky and still today it strikes everyone with its technical possibilities. There wasn't and still there isn't a similar circus anywhere in the world. Its auditorium represents a
Five interchangeable rings are located in a huge machine hall at the depth of
The artistes of the Great Moscow Circus take part in the most prestigious international festivals and contests winning highest awards. The whole programs and separate acts tour every year in more than 20 countries of the world performing not only in the circuses, but on the theatre stages, in the cabarets and in the theme parks. From the moment of its birth the Circus presented to the spectators over one hundred different programs including theme shows and divertissements performances where best Russian and foreign circus artistes took part.
Cathedral of Christ the Saviour
The enormous gleaming golden dome and gigantic structure of the newly built Cathedral of Christ the Savior is visible from all over central Moscow and is the largest church in Russia. The original Cathedral was built by the architect Konstantin Ton between 1839 and 1881 to commemorate Russia's victory over the French in the Napoleonic Wars.
The church was demolished in
The recreation of the Church of Christ the Savior was considered a symbol of Russia's spiritual revival after the long years of atheistic Communist rule. In the early 1990s a public fund was set up to raise money for the costly project. The reconstruction raised considerable patriotic feeling amongst many Russians, although some Muscovites opposed the project on aesthetic grounds, claiming that the hastily built replica of the original church lacked elegance and balanced proportions. Many also saw the massive construction project as an entirely ego-motivated attempt by Moscow Major Yuri Luzhkov to leave his mark on the city, as many powerful rulers had done before him.
Clad in marble and granite, with huge bronze doors covered in relief depictions of the saints, the cathedral is one of Moscow's most impressive ecclesiastical buildings.
The stations of Moscow's subway system have often been called "the people's palaces", for their elegant designs and lavish and profuse use of marble, mosaics, sculptures and chandeliers. Built during Stalin's rule, these metro stations were supposed to display the best of Soviet architecture and design and show how privileged the lifestyle of the Russian people was.
Although plans proposing the construction of an underground train system in Moscow were drawn up in 1902 and again in 1912, the outbreak of WWI, and later the revolution, delayed the start of the project for many years. The first line, the Sokolnicheskaya Line, was tunneled and built mainly by forced laborers and was finally and ceremoniously inaugurated on 15th May 1935, boasting just 13 stations.
Today the Metro system has grown into an enormous network of 11 lines and over 160 stations, with new stations opening every year.
During WWII the city's metro stations were used as air-raid shelters and many of the larger stations were used for important political and tactical meetings. During the war the Chistiye Prudy station was used as the nerve center for Supreme Command HQ and the Soviet Army General Staff.
Mayakovskaya, one of the largest stations on the Gorkovsk-Zamoskvoretskaya Line, was used as a command post for the city's anti-aircraft batteries and on 6th November 1941, hosted an underground ceremony to celebrate the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution, for which a podium with a bust of Lenin, surrounded by banners, was set up in its main hall, trains were stopped at its platforms and sumptuous buffets arranged within them and hundreds of seats brought into the station to accommodate the invited Party members.
The Dushkin-designed Ploschad Revolutsii Station was opened on 13th March 1938 and abounds with bronze figures of the creators of the new socialist order, nestled into niches between the station's broad columns. The sculptor Manizer created a total of 76 magnificent statues of soldiers, workers and collective farm workers, as well as a heroic sculpture of the soldiers and sailors who defended the Young Soviet order, placed at the top of the station escalator.
The next line to be opened was the Gorkovsk-Zamoskvoretskaya Line, in which the Dushkin-designed Mayakovskaya Station is by far the most architecturally impressive. The station features glistening chrome columns and soaring vaults adorned with mosaic panels depicting "A Day in the Land of Soviets", designed by the artist Deineka. Coming from the escalator commuters first see happy Soviet workers rising with the dawn, combining happily in the fields and toiling in the factories before returning to their beds as the sun sets in the last panel.
In the 1950s probably the most luxurious station on the Circle line was opened - Komsomolskaya , designed by the architect of the Leningradsky Station, Shchusev. A veritable palace to the might of the Russian army, the station's ceiling is adorned with mosaic panels designed by Korin and depicting the country's great military leaders from Alexander Nevsky and the 14th century Dmitry Donskoy to the famed Alexander Suvorov and Prince Kutuzov, the great Russian hero of the Napoleonic Wars. The mosaic panels were created using ancient Byzantine techniques and include in them tiny squares of colored glass, marble and even granite. One of the station's original panels, entitled "Handing over the Guards' Banner", featured Stalin holding a banner, while an officer kneels and kisses it. After the 20th Party Congress, in which Krushchev denounced Stalin, the mosaic panel was removed and another featuring "Lenin's Speech to the Red Guards before Their Journey to the Front" was put in its place.
In January 1952 Novoslobodskaya Station was opened. Designed by the architects Dushkin and Strelkov, the station is perhaps the brightest and most ornate station on the Moscow underground and features beautiful stained-glass windows crafted in Riga and a stunning mosaic panel entitled "Peace Throughout the World" by the famed Korin.
Lenin's Mausoleum has to be one of Moscow's most curious tourist attractions. Locals tend to regard it either as an awkward reminder of the country's communist past or a cherished relic of the good old days, but for visitors to the city it is not only one of Moscow's finest examples of Soviet architecture but it holds an endless fascination.
Shchusev's wooden structure was built in the shape of a cube; the symbol of eternity, and Lenin's body was placed in a glass sarcophagus past which thousands of people filed each day in mourning. Despite the objections of Lenin's widow, Nadezhda Krupskaya, the former leader's party colleagues saw a way to manipulate Lenin's death to their own political advantage and decided to attempt the embalming of his body. Shchusev designed a larger mausoleum, still made from wood but this time forming a stepped pyramid from the top of which party officials could gather and make speeches on important Soviet holidays.
When it became apparent that the embalming process had been successful, Shchusev began work on a stone replica of the mausoleum, which was constructed between 1929 and 1930. The mausoleum is a step-pyramid of cubes faced with red granite and black labradorite. It bears the simple inscription "Lenin" over its bronze doors, which were originally flanked by a guard of honor, who changed every hour on the hour.
After Stalin's death in 1953 his body was also embalmed and put on display alongside Lenin's, but he was later removed in 1961 on the orders of Krushchev and buried by the Kremlin wall alongside various other significant party functionaries. Visitors should note that the mausoleum is only open in the mornings, when the rest of Red Square is cordoned off. After 1pm the mausoleum closes and the square is opened again to the public.go back