The first settlers inhabited the area around the Kremlin in the 11th century. Yuri Dolgoruki, the Prince of Susdal, is said to have founded Moscow in 1147. Ninety years later, the wooden fortress on the Moskva River was burnt to the ground for the first time by the Tartar hordes. Its citizens were forced to pay tolls to the Tartars, until Grand Duke Ivan III came to power and drove out the invaders from the east. In 1571, the Crime- an Tartars burnt the city to the ground again on one of their plundering raids. But no matter how many times Moscow has been threatened, besieged and destroyed, its inhabitants have always rebuilt their city.
When Tsar Peter the Great moved the Russian capital to the newly founded St. Petersburg in 1712, Moscow’s importance declined. But it remained significant enough to be the main goal of Napoleon’s Russian campaign in 1812. On the night the French entered, a great fire destroyed much of the city. Later, after the Revolution, the Bolsheviks moved the capital back to Moscow, which became the focal point of a Soviet empire. In the late 20th century Moscow finally blossomed into the undisputed centre of Russia and one of the world’s largest cities.
Moscow today is the political and economic capital of Russia. With over 12 million inhabitants, it is the largest city in Europe. Moscow is the melting pot of a collapsed empire, a mix of European and Asian. Skyscrapers sprout up from the ground and the city centre has being ruthlessly renovated. But there is another Moscow, away from Sadovoye Koltso (Garden Ring) and the Kremlin. Cosy cafes, narrow alleys, hidden artists’ studios and idyllic parks are as much a part of the cityscape as the gigantic wedding- cake buildings of Stalin’s era, the expensive fashion stores and McDonalds.
There is always something happening in Moscow. The club scene has developed rapidly in the last few years, establishing Moscow as one of Europe’s party capitals. And Moscow can stand proud with other metropolises in terms of bars, pubs and chic restaurants too. Going out in Moscow is great fun.
A Tsarist castle, the administrative headquarters of the Soviet Union and now the presidential residence – for centuries the Kremlin has been the symbol of Russia’s power. It was built as a fortification in the 12th century and today it is Moscow’s oldest quarter. It was completely rebuilt after its destruction in Napoleon’s 1812 Russian campaign. After the Revolution, it became the seat of the Soviet government and was closed to the public. In addition to the government buildings, the Kremlin contains palaces and cathedrals, a gigantic conference hall, the largest cannon and the heaviest bell in the world.
It was in Red Square where executions of famous rebels like the Cossack leader, Stepan Razin, used to take place. The square separates the Kremlin from a historic merchant quarter known as Kitay-gorod (literally “Chinatown”). The name Red Square derives neither from the colour of the bricks around it nor from the link between the colour red and communism. Rather, the name came about because the Russian word красная (krasnaya) could mean either “red” or “beautiful” (the latter meaning is very old).
St. Basil’s Cathedral was commissioned in the 16th century by Ivan IV (also known as Ivan the Terrible) to commemorate the capture of of Kazan. The nine onion towers rising up from Red Square are often used as a backdrop for Western TV reports from Moscow. Today the cathedral is no longer in use. Today the cathedral hosts a museum.