For centuries the Kremlin has been a symbol of power. In my lifetime it has been THE SYMBOL of power in Russia. I imagined it as a glorified Pentagon–dreary central offices of Soviet and now Russian bureaucrats, military and oligarchs. Instead it is a glorious site of a sumptuous complex of churches, buildings and parks walled in by the kreml(fortress) which was begun in 12th century. The Kremlin is also the workweek home of the Russian President as well as the seat of his administration. As a consequence, many of the administration buildings are not open to the public. The Armoury, Patriarchs Palace and the churches in cathedral square are a compelling attraction. In imperial times these were the settings for great state occasions like coronations, baptisms and burials.
At the end of the 15th century, Ivan III ordered houses in front of the Kremlin cleared to make way for what is now known as Red Square. Originally it was a market filled with wooden stalls called the torg. The stalls burned down so frequently that for about tow hundred years it was known as Fire Square. The current name dates from the 17th century and is unrelated to Communism. Before the revolution, Red Square was the site for religious processions and celebrations revolving around the church calendar for example the Patriarch would ride an ass from Savior’s gate to St. Basils. Under the Communist Era military parades were staged here on May Day and on the anniversary of the Revolution. Today the square is used for concerts, fire works displays and other public occassions.
UUglich is a popular tourist destination and important river cruise port of call, our last before Moscow. It is an historic town located along the banks of the Volga River. Most sources suggest that 937 is the likely date of first settlement, though the first written records that mention the town appear in 1148. Regardless, Uglich played an important role in Russian history, first as a small princedom before being annexed to Moscow in the 14th century. Prince Dmitry attempting to flee the bloody reign of his father Ivan the Terrible used Uglich as a hiding place by.
Prince Dmitry attempted escape was unsuccessful. Found lying in a town square with his throat cut, his death made Uglich famous but more importantly signaled the beginning of an increasingly turbulent period in Russia’s history, While Russian subjects grappled with the idea that Dmitry was dead, many refused to believe the news. This refusal provided openings for several “False Dmirty’s”; opportunists’ intent on claiming the Muscovite throne.
Church of St. Dmitri-on-the-Blood
Peter the Great ordered this 17th century church built on the spot where Dmitri was killed. The construction was started in 1692. The rich interior includes the litter on which the relics of Dmitri were taken to Moscow.
Palace of Tsarevich Dmitri
This palace dates back to 1480 and was built under prince Andrei the Big of Uglich, son of Vasily the Blind. It is one of the few medieval Russian palaces that have survived. Dmitri, who lived here from 1584 until 1591, was the last son of Ivan the Terrible. He was killed on 15th May 1591. Today the palace is a small museum well worth visiting.
Walk About Town
A rainy mid-morning obscured a riverside landmark, the flooded Krokhino church at the upper Sheksna river, a 19th century building officially called the Nativity Church. It is the only surviving structure once part of a complex, all others lost to neglect and flooding when the hydroelectric plan was built. This complex included a church and a thriving monastary built in the 15th century. The village of Krokhino founded close by 1673 flourished as a important White Lake port.
Once the largest monastery in northern Russia, the Kirillo-Belozersk Monastary today has only four monks. The vast walled area of the monastery encloses two separate priories with eleven churches, most of them dating to the 16th century. Erected by Rostov masters in 1497, it was the largest monastery church built in Russia up to that date. Its 17th-century iconostasis features many ancient icons, arranged in five tiers above a silver heaven gate endowed by Tsar Alexis in 1645. Many of of the valuable objects kept in the sacristy are personal gifts of the czars who visited the monastery.
The monastery walls, 732 meters long and 7 meters thick, were constructed in 1654-80. They incorporate parts of the earlier citadel, which helped to withstand the Polish siege in 1612. The walls feature numerous towers, each built to a particular design.
After the Bolsheviks secularized the monastery and turned into museum in 1924, a wooden shrine from 1485 and several traditional timber structures were relocated here and put on exhibit on the grounds. During Soviet restoration works, superb 16th-century frescoes were discovered in the gate church of St. Sergius dating from 1560–94.
There is also Lace museum featuring a locally famous style of lace.
The Yusupovs were a Russian noble family descended from the mogul monarchs of the Nogai Horde who, by the 18th and 19th centuries, were renowned in Russia for their immense wealth which rivaled the Romanovs. They carefully competed with the royal family in their philanthropy and art collections. Prince Felix Yusupov II was famous for his involvement in the murder of Rasputin.
The Yusupov Palace is fascinating because, up until the revolution it was lived in by powerful members of the Yusupov family. The “palace” or mansion had gone through periodic updates or remodeling which reflected changing periods and fashion and is historically informative. The publicly accessible rooms are completely furnished which for me makes them far more interesting than the royal Romanov castles and estates. The “bonus rooms” are those in the basement depicting murder of Rasputin told flamboyantly by every guide.
Historically, Khan Yusuf allied himself with Tsar Ivan the Terrible. However these former allies eventually fell out. Khan Yusuf’s daughter Sumbecca was Queen of Kazan, and when Kazan was razed by Ivan, Khan Yusuf’s daughter was taken as prisoner to Moscow.
After Khan Yusuf died, another period of hostility between his descendants and the ruling families of Russia followed until the 17th century. Finally when Abdul Mirza, yet another descendant, converted from Islam to Orthodox Christianity changing his name to Dmitry the family was accepted into mainstream society. After the conversion, Tsar Feodor I bestowed upon Dmitry the title of Prince Yusupov .
The last Yusupov Prince was Prince Felix Yusupov II, Count Sumarokov-Elston, the younger son of Zinaida and Felix Sumarokov-Elston, who is famous for his involvement in the murder of Gregory Rasputin. Felix Yusupov II married Princess Irina, niece of the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II. After the murder of Rasputin he was exiled to Crimea, but returned to St. Petersburg in 1917
In April 1919, he left Russia for good for Paris taking his most precious paintings by Rembrandt as week as family jewels. He was the last Yusupov prince. His daughter, Irina, married Count Sheremetev’s descendant. They moved to Greece with their children, although recently they were granted Russian citizenship by the Russian President and Irina consults with St. Petersburg Museums about her family’s history and estates. She has no property rights in Russia today.