For those of us who grew up during the “Cold War,” the word “Kremlin” has a particular connotation, not altogether warm and fuzzy. As far as I knew then, it was synonymous with the Soviet government, that cabal of mysterious leaders who, in Khrushchev’s words, would eventually “bury us.” Of course had I bothered, I could have discovered much more about the truth of the Kremlin, although its image probably would not have changed much in my imagination.
The word itself is more of a generic description than an actual name, somewhat the equivalent to the English word “citadel,” and as such is used to describe similar sites in other Russian cities such as Yaroslavl and Smolensk. It is the one in Moscow to which it almost invariably refers however, and it is that one that interests us now.
Recently I had the good fortune to visit Moscow and of course, could not have left without dedicating a good bit of time for a visit to the Kremlin. As I passed through the outer wall of the famous citadel, I couldn’t help but think that a few decades earlier I would have been immediately arrested and never seen again had I actually gotten this far. Times have changed, however, and the once forbidden Kremlin is now one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations. It’s not difficult at all to see why as soon as you pass through its mighty walls.
The first major attraction is found at the below street level entrance to the famous Kremlin Museum, and if not for the usually long line of visitors it could easily be missed and passed right by. What really draws the attention however, is the collection of cathedrals crowning the aptly named Cathedral Hill. There are three magnificent cathedrals there and two more churches to complete the set. If I had done my homework as a kid, I would have known that these religious structures not only existed in but dominated the Kremlin. But alas, I hadn’t done it so I was truly surprised to see such an imposing spiritual component of the heart of what President Reagan had called the “evil empire.”
If you can withstand the magnetic attraction of these beautiful buildings, it would be good to step over to the Kremlin Museum first and take advantage of the culture and history lessons it offers. Splendid examples of the enormous wealth of past empire are housed in its several sections and include items that you will likely never see outside its walls, ranging from the fur lined crowns of Russia’s first Tsars to the beautiful Faberge jeweled eggs of its last. You will leave the Museum with a much better sense of and feeling for the power and magnificence of Russia’s past empires and perhaps an insight into the psychology and character of today’s Russia.
After leaving the windowless galleries, stepping out into the fresh air to behold the architectural splendor of the Kremlin is a refreshing change. …