In Russia, there are almost no fortresses or castles, which were built by the feudal lords in medieval Europe. However, in many cities there are powerful fortresses, which are called the "Kremlin".

The "Kremlin" in a Russian city means a fortress that was built at its foundation. All of Russia's Kremlins were originally made of wood. They were fortified towns, necessary for the protection of a large number of people who, in case of danger, could hide behind the walls of the fortresses.

In this review on the online travel guide Geomerid you can read about the most known Kremlins of Russia:

1.    Moscow Kremlin
2.    Novgorod Kremlin
3.    Pskov Kremlin
4.    The Kazan Kremlin
5.    The Astrakhan Kremlin
6.    Tobolsk Kremlin
7.    Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin
8.    Verkhotursky Kremlin
9.    Rostov Kremlin
10.    The Solovetsky Kremlin
11.    The Tula Kremlin
12.    Kolomna Kremlin
13.    Suzdal Kremlin
14.    Ryazan Kremlin
15.    Vologda Kremlin

Moscow Kremlin

The Moscow Kremlin is not just a beautiful architectural complex. The Moscow Kremlin is associated with the Russian government, as it is the residence of the President of Russia. Therefore, by their popularity in the world, the Moscow Kremlin and Red Square are the most recognizable sights of Russia.

Moscow was founded in 1147 by Prince Yuri Dolgoruky. This was a period of fragmentation of the Russian principalities, and Moscow was only a small provincial city. However, by the 15th century, the Moscow Principality had become the most powerful in economic and military terms. Under Prince Ivan III, all the Russian principalities were united into a single state with capital in Moscow.

Since the 15th century, the Moscow Kremlin has become the most powerful fortress in Russia. Today, the area of the Kremlin is 27 hectares. There are famous cathedrals, as well as several museums. Access to some Kremlin palaces is closed, as they are part of the official residence of the President of Russia.

The greatest interest for tourists is the Cathedral square of the Moscow Kremlin. It is surrounded on all sides by cathedrals and churches. There is located Assumption Cathedral, built in 1475. Before the October Revolution of 1917, the Assumption Cathedral was a place for the coronation ceremonies of all Russian tsars. It was also the Dom Cathedral of the Russian Orthodox Church until 1917.

Other cathedrals of the Moscow Kremlin include the Archangel Cathedral (the necropolis of the princes), the Annunciation Cathedral (the house Church of Ivan the Terrible), and the Ivan the Great Bell Tower (81 m - the tallest building in Moscow until 1917). The Kremlin is completely surrounded by fortress walls. Their height is 20 meters. 20 towers rise above the walls.

The main museums of the Moscow Kremlin are the Armory and the Diamond Fund. The Armory houses the most valuable relics, which were made by Moscow craftsmen for several centuries. There are also gifts received by Russian tsars from foreign guests. The Diamond Fund stores the most valuable gold bars, precious stones and jewelry made from them. Here you can see the crowns of Russian tsars, Royal regalia, and also precious things.

Read more about the Moscow Kremlin

Novgorod Kremlin

The Novgorod Kremlin is the oldest of all the Russian Kremlins. The city of Novgorod was founded in 859. Only the town of Staraya Ladoga was founded earlier on the territory of Russia in 753. However, if Staraya Ladoga remained a small settlement, then Veliky Novgorod played a key role in the formation of Russian statehood.

In 862, the Norman Prince Rurik was invited to Russia. He came to Russia with his retinue, married the daughter of a Novgorod elder and began to rule in Russia. Thus, the scattered Slavic tribes were United into a single state, and the Rurik dynasty ruled in Russia until 1589.

The fortress walls of the Novgorod Kremlin, which have remained to this day was built in the 11th century. St. Sophia Cathedral, which was built in 1045-1050, is of great importance for Russian culture and history. This is the oldest surviving Church in Russia.

On the territory of the Novgorod Kremlin there are several churches. Be sure to walk along the fortress wall, as well as visit two museums. The Episcopal Chamber Museum houses church utensils from 11-14 centuries from Byzantium and Russia. In the Novgorod Historical Museum you can get acquainted with the history of Veliky Novgorod and the Russian state.

Read more about the Novgorod Kremlin

Pskov Kremlin

The Pskov Kremlin was founded at the same time with Novgorod Kremlin. It was in the 8th century, with the arrival of the Norman Prince Rurik and his retinue in Russia. He became a Russian tsar. One of his brothers Truvor founded his settlement in Izborsk (20 km from Pskov). Now it is called Truvorovo settlement.

Written references to the Pskov Kremlin in the annals date back to 903. In Pskov, the Kremlin is called - Krom. It is located at the place where the Pskov river flows into the Velikaya river. The fortress walls and towers of the Pskov Kremlin were among the most powerful of all the Russian Kremlins, since Pskov is located in the North-West of Russia. From here in the Middle ages came the greatest threat to the country.

The architectural ensemble of the Pskov Kremlin, which has survived to this day, is quite modest. Inside the Kremlin is the Trinity Cathedral. This is the main temple of Pskov. Since 957, four Trinity cathedrals have been built on the same site, successively replacing each other. The Cathedral, which has survived to this day, was built in 1699.

At the foot of the Pskov Kremlin is Dovmont Settlement. Here, on a site of 1.5 hectares, in the period of 12-16 centuries, 18 small churches were built. They represented various districts of Pskov. Representatives of the administration of these districts met in the churches. When the self-government of the Pskov Republic was abolished, the need for these churches disappeared. They were all destroyed. Only ruins have survived to this day.

Read more about the Pskov Kremlin 

The Kazan Kremlin

The Kazan Kremlin is one of the most beautiful in Russia. This is the main attraction of the city of Kazan, the capital of the Republic of Tatarstan. The Kazan Kremlin is located on the high bank of the Kazanka river, at the point where it flows into the Volga.

In the Middle ages, this place was a settlement of Bulgarians, who were the ancestors of the current Tatars nation. The Tatars, as a people, were formed later, when these lands were conquered by the mongols of Batu Khan. Until the 13th century, the state of Volga Bulgaria was located on these lands, and then they became part of the Golden Horde. After its collapse, the Kazan khanate was formed here. Its capital was located in Kazan, and the Kremlin was surrounded by wooden walls. In 1554, the Kazan khanate was conquered by the Russian Tsar Ivan the Terrible, and it became part of Russia.

The Kazan Kremlin has not preserved buildings from the time of the Kazan khanate. In the center of the Kremlin was the Kul-Sharif mosque, but it was destroyed during the storming of the town in 1554. How the Kul-Sharif mosque looked like in the 16th century is unknown. In 2005, the Kul-Sharif mosque was restored according to the project of Tatar architects. The mosque has become a symbol of Kazan. It is deservedly called one of the most beautiful in Russia.

Next to the mosque in the Kazan Kremlin is the Orthodox Annunciation Cathedral. The white stone Church was founded in 1554, immediately after the conquest of Kazan. It was built by craftsmen from Pskov. The Annunciation Cathedral is the oldest stone building in Kazan. At first, the Church was smaller, but later a large refectory was added to it.

The seven-tiered Soyembika tower is a very interesting attraction of the Kazan Kremlin. The earliest mention of this tower dates back to the 17th century, however, it is associated with the legend of Queen Soyembika, who ruled Kazan before the conquest of the city by Ivan the Terrible. The Soyembika tower is a "leaning tower". The slope of its spire reaches almost 2 meters. In Russia, there is another leaning tower – the Nevyanskaya Tower. The Soyembika tower, like the Kul-Sharif Mosque, is a symbol of Kazan.

Read more about the Kazan Kremlin

The Astrakhan Kremlin

The Astrakhan Kremlin is the southernmost Kremlin in Russia. It is located in the city of Astrakhan, on the Bank of the Volga river, near the place of its confluence with the Caspian sea. Immediately after the conquest of the Kazan Khanate in 1554, Tsar Ivan the terrible decided to conquer the Astrakhan khanate.

Ivan the Terrible personally led the army that stormed Kazan, but to Astrakhan the Tsar sent an army led by Prince Pronsky. Immediately after the conquest of the Astrakhan khanate, the construction of the wooden Astrakhan Kremlin began here, however, strained relations with Turkey forced Ivan the Terrible to change plans and start building a stone Astrakhan Kremlin here. These walls and 7 powerful towers have survived to this day.

Two cathedrals were built on the territory of the Astrakhan Kremlin. Trinity Cathedral was built in 1603. It is the oldest stone building in Astrakhan, except for the walls and towers of the Kremlin. In 1711, the Assumption Cathedral was built in the Astrakhan Kremlin. It reaches a height of 75 meters. It is the main attraction of the Astrakhan Kremlin and one of the most beautiful churches in Russia, built in the style of the Moscow Baroque.

On the territory of the Astrakhan Kremlin there are three museums: One of them is located to the right of the Prechistenskaya bell tower in the Artillery (Torture) tower and the Zeelny cellar. In the Red Gate tower, there is the Museum of the Astrakhan Garrison. In the building of the guardhouse there is a Museum "Guardhouse of the Astrakhan garrison of the 19th century".

Ream more about the Astrakhan Kremlin

Tobolsk Kremlin

The Tobolsk Kremlin is the only stone Kremlin in Russia that was built in Siberia and has survived to this day. This is the most remote from the European part of the Kremlin of Russia. From here, the Royal governors in the 17th and 18th centuries ruled the Siberian lands.

The Siberian khanate was conquered during the campaign of the warlord Ermak in 1582. 5 years later, the first Tobolsk Kremlin was built on the Alafeyevskaya mountain in Tobolsk. The first years of the fortress was wooden, which led to frequent fires.

In 1684, St. Sophia Cathedral was built in the Tobolsk Kremlin. It was the first stone building in Siberia. It has survived to this day. The fortress walls of the Tobolsk Kremlin began to be built in 1699 under the supervision of the Russian cartographer and architect Semyon Remezov.

In the period up to 1706, the Order Chamber and Gostiny Yard were built here. In 1714, a building of Renteria was built between the steep slopes of two hills. It is the most beautiful and most fortified building of the Tobolsk Kremlin. Here was kept the Treasury of the Siberian province, as well as fur yasak - the main wealth of Siberia. Yasak is a valuable fur that was collected from the Siberian lands as a tax. So Tobolsk became not only the administrative, but also the commercial center of Siberia.

Tobolsk reached its peak during the reign of Catherine II. In 1782, she approved the institution of Governorship. The Palace of the Governor was built on the site of the Order Chamber. Tobolsk became the capital of the vast Siberian lands. Tsar Catherine II even sent the Imperial throne to Tobolsk as a symbol of Tobolsk's power over vast territories in Siberia. There were only three such thrones in Russia – in the Winter Palace of St. Petersburg, in the Moscow Kremlin and in the Tobolsk Kremlin.

The Governor's Palace now houses a historical Museum, where you can get acquainted with all the stages of the conquest of Siberia and the history of Tobolsk. Previously, there was also an exhibition dedicated to Emperor Nicholas II Romanov and his family. After his abdication in 1917, he lived in exile in Tobolsk. In 2019, this Museum was moved to the Governor's House in Lower Town, directly to where Tsar Nicholas lived. In the Gostiny Dvor of the Tobolsk Kremlin there is an interesting Museum "History of Siberian entrepreneurship".

Read more about the Tobolsk Kremlin

Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin

Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin is located in a large industrial city of the Volga region. The city was founded in 1221 by Prince Yuri Vsevolodovich at the confluence of two large Russian rivers, the Volga and the Oka.

The Dyatlovy mountains rise above the confluence of the rivers. They are hills with very steep slopes - an ideal place for the construction of the Kremlin. Nizhny Novgorod was a key stronghold in the East of the country for centuries, during the struggle of the Russian principalities against the Golden Horde, and then against the Kazan khanate.

In the period 1508-1515, the Moscow Prince Vasily III built a powerful 2-kilometer fortress wall with 13 towers around the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin. It has remained to this day.

After the victory over the Kazan khanate in 1554, there were no enemies left in the East of the country that could threaten Russia. Therefore, the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin has completely lost its defensive functions. However, the powerful fortress walls were not dismantled. Unfortunately, there are practically no historical buildings inside the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin. They were dismantled for the construction of modern administrative buildings.

During a visit to the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin, you should definitely take a walk along the fortress wall. You can also visit the Art Museum. In the center of the Kremlin there is a small Mikhailo-Archangel Cathedral, built in the 16th century.

Read more about the Nizhny Novgorod Kremlin

Verkhotursky Kremlin

The Verkhotursky Kremlin is located in the Urals, 300 kilometers North of Yekaterinburg. The Verkhotursky Kremlin was founded in 1598 on the site of a settlement of the Mansi tribe. For more than a hundred years, it was made of wood. The white-stone fortress on top of a rocky cliff that rises 26 meters above the Tura river was built in 1703, by order of Peter I the Great.

Nowadays Verkhoturye is a small town, absolutely remote from all transit transport roads. However, in the 17th century, Verkhoturye that the only way that connected European regions with Siberia. Merchants first sailed up the Kama river to Solikamsk. Here in Verkhoturye, between the ridge of the Ural mountains, there was the most convenient land crossing to the Tura river. Further, it was possible to float downstream on the rivers Tura, Tobol and Irtysh rivers.

In 1703-1709 year in Verkhoturie was erected a stone Kremlin. It housed a garrison of archers who guarded the trade route. Taxes were also collected here. Trinity Cathedral, the main temple of the Verkhotursky Kremlin, was consecrated in April 1709.

The city of Yekaterinburg was founded only in 1723. Over time, the main road through the Ural mountains passed through it, and Verkhoturye lost all significance. Nowadays, in the Verkhotursky Kremlin, you can visit the Museum of History and Architecture.

Read more about the Verkhotursky Kremlin.

Rostov Kremlin

The Rostov Kremlin was built in the ancient city of Rostov, in the middle of the 17th century. It was the residence of the Rostov Archbishop. Powerful fortress walls have a decorative function, as they are built without loopholes and other important elements of fortification inherent in any fortress.

In the 17th century, fortress walls were not important for defense against an enemy army. The Archbishop of Rostov was close to Patriarch Nikon and Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich. Thus, he wanted to emphasize his status, as well as the wealth of his metropolis.

The historical and cultural value of the Rostov Kremlin is more important than many other Russian Kremlins that were laid at the Foundation of the city. Historical buildings in many Kremlins were demolished to build modern administrative buildings.

In the Rostov Kremlin, the entire historical architectural ensemble of churches and palaces is completely preserved. Therefore, from the side of lake Nero, the Rostov Kremlin looks so beautiful. Next to the Kremlin is Cathedral’s square, where the Assumption Cathedral, the main temple of Rostov, is located.

During a visit to the Rostov Kremlin, you should definitely take a walk along the fortress walls. During this walk you will be able to see the paintings of the gate churches. Interesting museums are located in the Samuel building and in the adjacent White Chamber. You should also visit the exhibition "gold and azure shines" in the Church of Odigitria.

Read more about the Rostov Kremlin

The Solovetsky Kremlin

Solovetsky Kremlin, in fact, is a monastery, but its power is so impressive that it is called the word «Kremlin». The monastery on the Solovetsky Islands in the White sea was founded in 1430.

In the 16th century, the Solovetsky monastery was surrounded by powerful walls with watchtowers made of giant blocks of stone. According to the occupied territory, the Solovetsky Kremlin belongs to the largest monasteries in Russia, and is second only to the Kirillo-Belozersky monastery.

On average, the weight of the stone blocks that make up the walls of the Solovetsky Kremlin is 5-8 tons. At the base of some of the towers of the Solovetsky Kremlin are blocks of 20 tons. Simultaneously with the walls in the Kremlin, the construction of stone cathedrals, churches and chambers began. The height of the main Spaso-Preobrazhensky Cathedral reaches 40 meters. A tour of the churches and outbuildings of the monastery is of great interest. Here you can see how the monks arranged their life to survive in the harsh conditions of the North.

In the 20th century, very tragic events took place in the Solovetsky monastery. The monks were expelled from the monastery, and the Solovetsky monastery was turned into a prison camp in 1937. It held tens of thousands of prisoners, many of whom were killed.

Read more about the Solovetsky Kremlin

The Tula Kremlin

The Tula Kremlin is located in the center of Tula, 200 kilometers from Moscow. Tula was founded in the 12th century, but for several centuries remained a small city in the possession of the Ryazan princes. As soon as Tula came into the possession of the Moscow Prince Vasily III, he immediately began to build a stone Kremlin here.

The main Kremlin that defended Moscow from the South was the Kolomna Kremlin. The Tula Kremlin was built to strengthen the defense of the southern borders. In the 16th century, it was no longer necessary to build the Kremlin on rocky hills. A more important role was played by protection from artillery. Therefore, the Tula Kremlin was built in the form of a quadrangle in a swampy area. In 1552, the Tula Kremlin was besieged by the army of the Crimean Khan Devlet-Giray, and in the 16th century, the Polish troops of False Dmitry I were in Tula.

Nowadays, the Assumption Cathedral is located in the center of the Tula Kremlin. Nearby is the Epiphany Cathedral, which houses an exhibition of weapons. You can also visit the Historical Museum. Near the walls of the Kremlin is the Museum of Tula samovars.

Read more about the Tula Kremlin

Kolomna Kremlin

The Kolomna Kremlin is located in the city of Kolomna, 100 kilometers south of Moscow. As soon as the construction of the fortress walls of the Moscow Kremlin was completed in 1515, the construction of the Kolomna Kremlin began 10 years later. Kolomna was a key fortress for protecting Moscow from the raids of the Crimean Khan and steppe nomads from the South.

The construction of the fortress wall of the Kremlin in Kolomna was led by the Italian architect Aleviz Novy. He also built the Moscow Kremlin. The territory surrounded by the fortress walls was 24 hectares. The length of the wall with 16 towers was more than 2 kilometers. The height of the Kremlin walls reached 20 meters, and the thickness of 4.5 meters. In size and power, the Kolomna Kremlin was exactly the same as the Moscow Kremlin.

During the Polish invasion in 17th century, the walls of the Kolomna Kremlin were occupied by the Polish troops of False Dmitry and Marina Mnishek, who besieged Moscow. After the inclusion of the lands of the left-Bank Ukraine into Russia, the threat of raids from the South completely disappeared. Residents of Kolomna began to dismantle the Kremlin's walls for construction materials. Only a small section of the fortress wall between the Marinkina, Granovitaya and Trinity towers, as well as 7 of the 16 towers, has remained to this day.

Read more about the Kolomna Kremlin

Suzdal Kremlin

The Suzdal Kremlin is located in a bend of the Kamenka river, where the town of Suzdal was founded in the 11th century. In the Middle Ages, it was the capital of the powerful Vladimir-Suzdal Principality. Like all other Russian Kremlins, the walls of the Suzdal Kremlin in those years were made of wood.

The town of Suzdal was located in the center of the native Russian lands, so the Suzdal Kremlin did not have the functions of protection from external enemies. Therefore, stone walls were not built in the Suzdal Kremlin. The wooden walls of the Kremlin by the 18th century were very dilapidated and after regular fire it was decided not to restore them. To this day, only the earthen ramparts where the walls were located have survived. Two buildings have been preserved inside the Suzdal Kremlin: Cathedral of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin and Bishop’s chambers.

Cathedral of the Nativity of the Holy Virgin was founded in the 12th century. However, the first Cathedral was small, and already in the 13th century it was dismantled and founded a large and beautiful Cathedral. In the following centuries, it was rebuilt. Some architectural structures of the 13th century have survived to this day. In general, the Cathedral that we now see was built and painted in the 16th century. Not far from the Nativity Cathedral is a beautiful wooden St. Nicholas Church, brought to Suzdal from the village of Glotovo.

Next to the Cathedral is a beautiful white building called the Bishop’s Chambers. They used to house the court of the Bishop, Metropolitan of Suzdal. Now the Bishop’s chambers house a Museum. It has many interesting exhibits. The Cross Chamber, which served as a place for official receptions of the Bishop of Suzdal is really impressive. It has an area of almost 340 m2, which is very unusual for Church buildings of that period.

Read more about Suzdal Kremlin

Ryazan Kremlin

The Ryazan Kremlin is located on the high bank of the Trubezh River. The town of Ryazan was the capital of the Ryazan Principality. It was the southernmost of all the Russian principalities, so Ryazan primarily suffered from the raids of steppe nomads in the Middle ages.

Ryazan was founded in the 12th century on the high Bank of the Oka river. It was surrounded by powerful wooden walls, but they could not protect it during the Mongol-Tatar invasion of Batu Khan. In 1236, Ryazan was taken by storm and completely burned, all the inhabitants were killed.

A few decades later, the residents of the Ryazan Principality decided not to revive the town in its former place. The small town of Pereslavl-Ryazansky was renamed Ryazan, and it became the capital of the Ryazan Principality. Subsequently, Ryazan became a small provincial city in Russia.

The Ryazan Kremlin became a Museum in 1884 by the decision of the Provincial Commission. This is one of the oldest museums in Russia. The monuments and cathedrals of the Kremlin are very well preserved. In the Ryazan Kremlin, a small Archangel Cathedral of the 15th century has been preserved. Next to it in 1693 was built a huge Assumption Cathedral.
On the edge of the hill is the Holy Cross Cathedral. It was founded in the 15th century, but in the 19th century it was completely rebuilt. In the altar part of the Cathedral, the white stone masonry of the early 15th century has been preserved. Previously, the Cathedral served as the tomb of the Ryazan princes.

In the Ryazan Kremlin there are two museums: the Palace of Oleg and the Singing Camber. Oleg's Palace was built in the 17th century and now houses the extensive collections of the Ryazan Historical and Architectural Museum. In the Singing Chamber there is an interesting exposition of the Ethnographic Museum.

Read more about the Ryazan Kremlin

Vologda Kremlin

The Vologda Kremlin is the main attraction of Vologda. It was founded in the time of Ivan the Terrible, when in 1565 he proclaimed Vologda the capital of his Oprichnina state. St. Sophia Cathedral, founded in 1568, has been preserved next to the Kremlin. There are three museums inside the Vologda Kremlin, as well as a Bell Tower. You definitely need to climb it to see a wonderful view of the historical center of Vologda. 

In 1565, the construction of the Vologda Kremlin began, which surpassed in size all existing Kremlins in Russia: both the Moscow Kremlin and the Novgorod Kremlin. It occupied 6 city blocks. The tsar personally monitored the progress of its construction, coming to Vologda every year. The Kremlin was built of wood, but the construction was not finished.  

By its size, the Vologda Kremlin, founded under Ivan the Terrible as a fortress, significantly exceeded the territory of the Moscow Kremlin. This wooden fortress was 10 times larger than the territory of the present stone Vologda Kremlin. In the 18th century, this part of the stone Kremlin was called the Bishop`s Court. It was the residence of the Bishop of Vologda, fortified with powerful walls. The wooden Vologda Kremlin of the time of Ivan the Terrible has not survived to this day; it was completely dismantled in 1820.  

Read more about Vologda Kremlin