The Soviet Union is known as the government who destroyed the historical buildings of the Kremlin complex and all over Russia to make room for modern structures and other plans, but it was actually the imperial Russia and Nicholas I who demolished the first historical structures of Kremlin in the middle of the 19th century to make room for the new modern building which we know today as the Grand Kremlin Palace. Emperor Nicholas the First commissioned the Russian architect Konstantin Thon who led a team of artists to build him a new palace. There were two historic buildings on the new palace construction site which were the Francesco Rastrelli’s Baroque-style palace and the Church of Saint John the Baptist which was the design of Aloisio that both of them are needed to be demolished before the new palace could build. Unlike the public beliefs, it was the Imperial court who have begun to destroy the historical parts of the Kremlin complex, long before the Soviet Union.
Konstantin Thon was familiar with the imperial family taste and the atmosphere and architecture of the city, he also designed and built the Kremlin’s Armory and the Cathedral of Chris the Savior because of the same reason. Thon connected several structures from the previous eras such as Tsarina Golden Chamber, Terem Palace, the palace churches, the Palace of the Facets to the Grand Kremlin Palace in his design to make it grander. He also connected his Kremlin’s Armory to the palace with an underground tunnel once its construction finished.
The rectangular-shaped Grand Kremlin Palace had an inner courtyard and around 700 rooms. This massive structure at the heart of the city of Moscow is 125-meter-long, 47-meter-high, and occupies almost 25000 m2 of the Kremlin complex area. The Grand Kremlin Palace seems to have three floors from outside, but it’s a two-story building since Thon used an old technic and attached two sets of windows for the second floor to trick the onlookers from the outside.
The construction of the Grand Kremlin Palace lasted for ten years and finished in 1849. Thon led a team of great artists and architects consists of Vladimir Bakarev, Feodor Solntsev, Nikolai Chichagov to complete the assignment. The Grand Kremlin Palace belonged to Nicholas I, so he did pick the site of construction, architects, and the architecture style as well. He admired the Russo-Byzantine architecture so ordered Konstantin Thon to design the palace following that style of architecture. Thon’s simplistic and without significant decorations of the exterior did not impress his contemporary colleagues, but he did manage to surprise them with the interior design.
The Grand Kremlin Palace has around 700 rooms and several grand halls, so it isn’t unusual to use several different architecture styles from the Italian Renaissance to the Russ-Byzantine to design the interior, and because of this reason, many consider the Grand Kremlin Palace as a museum of Russian palatial interiors. The palace has several magnificent halls with different interior designs which attract the attention of the visitors. Between these halls, five particular halls are dedicated to the most honorable orders of the Russian military, which each of them had different purposes and styles.
Those five halls were the hall of Georgievsky, Andreyevsky, Aleksandrovsky, Vladimirsky, and Ekaterininsky which each of them named after the orders of St. George, Andrew, Alexander, Vladimir, and Catherine.
One can feel the greatness and glory of the Russian Empire once they step in the entrance hall and its great staircase that all are made out of bright marble, and adorned with rich granite columns. A large-scale painting named “Who comes to us with a sword shall perish by the sword” was installed in the entrance hall in 1983, which is determined to be one of the notable attractions of this hall.
The most ancient hall of the palace is the Palace of the Facets which connected to the palace during the construction. The Italian Renaissance interior design of this hall with the golden shine of the light inside the room has one of the most cherished interior designs of the entire palace.
The walk-through round hall of the palace is the hall of Vladimirsky which dedicated to the Holy Great Prince Vladimir of Russia. The Pantheon-shaped hall locates precisely at the center of the palace. The Aleksandrovsky hall which was dedicated to the Grand Prince Alexander Nevsky located next to the Andreyevsky hall. The Andreyevsky hall at first was originally designed to be the main hall of the palace. It was where the imperial crown was installed as well. These two halls were combined during the Soviet era but divided into their original plans in the 1990s.
The hall of Georgievsky was dedicated to the highest honorable orders of the Russian military, the Orders of the Saint George the conquerer. Whoever got that medal, their names can be found written on the marble walls of this hall. The hall of Ekaterininsky dedicated the most important female of the Orders of the Catherine, this hall was also where the royal crown was installed. Unfortunately, It's prohibited for visitors to enter the hall of Ekaterininsky.
The Grand Kremlin Palace was the principal Moscow residence of the Russian tsars and emperors. Following the October 1917, the Grand Kremlin Palace became the USSR central meeting place, and various of the Soviet officials had their room inside the palace. The palace is the place where the government holds its official ceremonies and meetings. It’s also the official residence of the president of Russia but it rarely used for that purpose.
The rectangular shape and size of the palace make it possible for the people inside to observe most of the tourist attractions of the Kremlin complex and Red Square including the Cathedral Square, the Palace Square, the Saint Basil’s Cathedral, the Kremlin Arsenal, the Kremlin Armory, and many others from inside the palace.
Unfortunately, since the palace is the principal residence of the President of Russia, and the government hold their official meetings inside it, most of the palace isn’t accessible for the visitors, and the tiny part of the palace that is permitted for the public to visit is only available for private tours that got permission from the palace administration previously. So if you were in luck and had the opportunity to visit the palace in your trip to Moscow, don’t let that chance slide from your hands, because many tourists don’t get the chance to tour around the Grand Kremlin Palace in their trip to Russia.