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Across the cobbled street from the main entrance of the State Kremlin Palace we see a yellow classical two-storey building, with cannon barrels lying on the ground in piles before it. This is the Arsenal building. It takes up the Northern corner of the Kremlin, between the Nikolskaya, Troitskaya and Arsenal Corner-Towers. In the square to the right of the Arsenal there's a monument to the students of the Kremlin Military School, founded in 1917-1918, who fell in the Civil War of 1918-1922.
The building of the Arsenal began under Tsar Peter the Great, in 1702. “Arsenal” isn't a Russian word, and was employed to mean an “Armoury Store”. Peter had originally intended it would display foreign arms captured in battle by the Russian forces – and in fact his reign was marked by numerous Russian victories by both land and sea. Today the building is used as offices for the Kremlin Commendant's staff, and the victories themselves are commemorated by the cannon-barrels lying outside. You can walk up to the cannons, although no further. Most of them were cast in various ordnance factories around Europe and arrived in Russia with Napoleon's armies. Look closely and you will see a large engraved letter “N” - for Napoleon - on many of the barrels. The others are old Russian arms, and several were cast at the Moscow cannon-foundry.
After Russia's victory over Napoleon in 1812 it had been intended to create a War Museum, and to this end captured cannon-pieces from the war had been brought to the Kremlin by 1819 and arranged outside the Arsenal building. In addition to examples of old Russian firing-pieces we find here 875 barrels of Napoleonic cannon, captured from Bonaparte's retreating army in 1812. 365 of these are French – the others include pieces cast in Austria, Prussia, the Kingdom of Naples, Bavaria, Italy and Holland. Several bear intriguing inscriptions – for example one Prussian barrel has the challenge ‘The King's clinching argument’. Another cannon previously belonging to King Stephan Bathory of Poland claims ‘I am the Basilisk – one touch from me, and walls collapse’.
The Arsenal building, with its internal courtyard, comprises four two-storeyed blocks. To get an idea of the thickness of their walls, take a look at the paired windows which resemble fortress arrow-slits. The lower storey of the Arsenal is painted to give the impression that it's built of gigantic boulders. This huge building took 34 years to build. Part of the problem was a Royal Decree forbidding the construction of stone military buildings anywhere other than St.Petersburg. In 1737 a fortress fire severely damaged the building, burning-out its internal wooden floors. The building was only restored to service at the end of the C18th
The tower with the white open-work decoration close to the Arsenal is the Nikolskaya Tower, built in the Gothic style. Actually it's best to view the tower from the Red square side. The gatehouse of the tower is the Staff Entrance for Kremlin personnel.
Moscow Kremlin is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River to the south, Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square to the east, and the Alexander Garden to the west. It is the best known of Kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes five palaces, four cathedrals, and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation. It is also open-air museum. Tourists can just walk outdoors there or can visit cathedrals, Big Kremlin Palace and the Armory Chamber. The Kremlin Museums were established in 1961 and the complex was among the first Soviet patrimonies inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1990.
The site has been continuously inhabited since the 2nd century BC, and originates from a Vyatich fortified structure on Borovitsky Hill where the Neglinnaya River flowed into the Moskva River. Up to the 14th century, the site was known as the 'grad of Moscow'. The grad was greatly extended by Prince Yuri Dolgorukiy in 1156, destroyed by the Mongols in 1237 and rebuilt in oak in 1339. Later in 1366–1368Dmitri Donskoy replaced the oak walls with a strong citadel of white limestone on the basic foundations of the current walls. This fortification withstood a siege by Khan Tokhtamysh.
Grand Prince Ivan III organised the reconstruction of the Kremlin, inviting a number of skilled architects from Renaissance Italy who designed the new Kremlin wall and its towers, and the new palace for the prince. It was during his reign that three extant cathedrals of the Kremlin, the Deposition Church, and the Palace of Facets were constructed. The highest building of the city and Muscovite Russia was the Ivan the Great Bell Tower, built in 1505–08. The Kremlin walls as they now appear were built between 1485 and 1495. During the Time of Troubles, the Kremlin was held by the Polish forces for two years, between 21 September 1610 and 26 October 1612. The Kremlin's liberation by the volunteer army of Prince Dmitry Pozharsky and Kuzma Minin paved the way for the election of Mikhail Romanov as the new czar. During his reign and that of his son Alexis, the eleven-domed Upper Saviour Cathedral, Armorial Gate, Terem Palace, Amusement Palace and the palace of Patriarch Nikon were built. During the Imperial period, from the early 18th and until the late 19th century, Kremlin walls were traditionally painted white, in accordance with the time's fashion. During the Soviet period the Chudov Monastery and Ascension Convent, with their 16th-century cathedrals, were dismantled to make room for the military school and Palace of Congresses. The Little Nicholas Palace and the old Saviour Cathedral were pulled down as well. Now the plans of the government are to restore those lost masterpieces. And probably soon the Kremlin will return all its former buildings.