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.
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.
The history of the foundation of the Vologda Kremlin is closely connected with the events that took place during the reign of Tsar Ivan IV the Terrible. In 1558, he began the Livonian War for access to the Baltic Sea. The initial stage of the war was quite successful, but already in the early 1560s Ivan the Terrible faced a powerful coalition of enemies and with the first defeats in battles. This made the tsar fear a conspiracy and overthrow.
To cope with this situation, Ivan the Terrible turned to actual terror at the state level, calling this policy Oprichnina. He proclaimed that he was allocating himself an "Oprichny lot" and began to rule without the Boyar Duma (Parliament) and other institutions of power. During the personal reign of the tsar, mass executions were carried out.
Fearing a boyar conspiracy, Ivan the Terrible initially moved to Alexandrovskaya Sloboda in the Moscow region. But then it seemed to him not safe enough, and in 1565 he proclaimed Vologda the capital of his oprichnina state. He chose it because Vologda was located on the North Dvina trade route, which allowed, if necessary, to escape to England through Arkhangelsk.
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.
The main reason was insufficient funding, due to the large state expenditures on the Livonian War. Another reason was the events of 1571. This year, the Crimean khan Devlet-Giray burned Moscow, and an epidemic of pestilence occurred in the Vologda province. The population of Veliky Ustyug has almost completely died out. In 1572 Ivan the Terrible canceled the Oprichnina and the construction of the huge Vologda Kremlin was stopped.
The heir of Ivan the Terrible, Tsar Fyodor, completed the construction of the stone St. Sophia Cathedral in 1587, and the wooden Vologda Kremlin could be completed only in 1607, at the height of the Great Pole Invasion. In 1612 Vologda was captured by the Poles and burned.
In 1622, the Vologda Kremlin was restored, because after the Time of Troubles, the Romanovs, according to the experience of Ivan the Terrible, wanted to have a "spare" capital in case of popular unrest. However, the fires of 1636 and 1441 completely destroyed the wooden Vologda Kremlin.
After these fires, the Vologda Kremlin was no longer restored, and the stone foundations of the fortress towers were used as foundations for houses. Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich decided to build a powerful fortress in the Kirillo-Belozersky Monastery in case of popular unrest. All the remains of the old Vologda Kremlin were finally dismantled in 1820. City blocks, Kremlin Square and Kremlin Park appeared in their place.
The stone Vologda Kremlin, which we see today, was built in the 18th century for the Vologda Bishop. Then it was called the Bishop`s Court. It was built with powerful walls, but they performed a decorative function more. In this, the Vologda Kremlin is similar to the Rostov Kremlin, which was also built as the residence of the Bishop of Rostov.
On the side of St. Sophia Cathedral and Kremlin Square in the Vologda Kremlin, stone buildings of the 17th and 18th centuries have been preserved. The Economsky building was built in 1650. It contained the treasury and the archive. The archbishop`s private chambers were located in the Simonovsky building with the Nativity Church. It also houses the Cross Chamber, where events were held. The Garvilovsky Building also housed the living rooms and cells of the monks. Nowadays, the collections of the Historical Museum of the Vologda Museum-Reserve are housed in the Garvilovsky and Simonovsky buildings.
The Iosifovsky building in the center of the Vologda Kremlin was built in 1796. It has preserved 19th-century interiors and tiled stoves. In the Tower of the Southern Wall, there is an Art Museum where you can see an interesting collection of ancient icons and religious paintings. The Museum of Modern Art is located in the largest Southwest tower of the Vologda Kremlin. In the center of the Vologda Kremlin, there is also a small wooden house, which is called the Summer House of the Bishop. Now it houses the directorate of the Vologda Museum-Reserve.