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You've now entered the Moscow Kremlin! If you stand with your back to the Holy Trinity Tower, to your right-hand side is a stern modern building of white marble and glass, with a gilded two-headed eagle above – it's the State Kremlin Palace. Until 1992 its Soviet-era name was the Palace of Congresses.
The State Kremlin Palace was built in 1961 on the orders of Soviet premiere Nikita Khruschov. At the time it was named the Palace of Congresses, and it housed meetings of the Communist Party Congress and Government. From its inception it was conceived as a dual-purpose building, providing a second stage for the Bolshoi Theatre company for concerts and staged productions. Opera and ballet performances were regularly staged here, including premieres of the Bolshoi Theatre. Today the State Kremlin Palace is considered the most prestigious concert venue in Moscow.
The State Kremlin Palace is one of the rare Soviet-era buildings within the Kremlin. Its main facia, with the vertical marble columns, extends for some 120 metres. The exterior of the Palace is decorated with white Urals marble, golden anodised aluminium and glass. The whole thing went up in record time – just 16 months. To pack in the required floorspace within the building would have taken the building's height above the surrounding historic buildings of the Kremlin – the problem was solved by sinking the lower storeys of the building underground by 16 metres.
Nowadays the Kremlin State Ballet is based at the State Kremlin Palace. In addition, there are special Christmas Tree shows for children every New Year held here. The auditorium of the State Kremlin Palace can seat more than 6000 people. The hall was entirely revamped in 2003, with new sound and lighting systems installed.
The space where the State Kremlin Palace now stands was once occupied by the buildings of the Empire-style Armoury Chambers at the end of the C19th. Before the Armoury, the private royal chambers of Tsar Boris Godunov had stood here. When the Armoury here was demolished, the examples of old Russian weaponry were moved to the Arsenal instead, and mounted alongside the piles of captured French cannon. While builders were digging the foundations for the modern State Kremlin Palace, they came across remains of Boris Godunov's private chambers, and the C17th chambers of Tsaritsa Natalia Kirillovna, where Tsar Peter the Great would have spent his Moscow childhood.
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.