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Castles of Russia: II

Updated on June 27, 2011

Russian Castles and their history

A tunnel leading to the cellar beneath the bedchamber of a lover, a fortress tower named after an imprisoned witch, and a Kremlin known for it's 15 cathedral bells, this and more can be found in Russia's castle history.

This is the second page of the journey through the country of Russia. Come along as we discover the history of more of this country's beautiful castles (kremlins) and palaces. If you haven't already, visit the first page of the Castles of Russia, and check out Castles of Russia: III, then Castles of Russia: IV.

The kremlins and palaces covered in this section are: Gatchina Palace, Grand Kremlin Palace, Korela Fortress, Stroganov Palace, Kolomna Fortress, Rostov Kremlin, and Zaraysk Kremlin.

Gatchina Palace

Gatchina Palace
Gatchina Palace

Located in the town of Gatchina, Russia, above Lake Serebryannoe, the Gatchina Palace was built by order of Count Grigori Grigoryevich Orlov, and work began on the palace by Antonio Rinaldi in 1766. The palace became a favorite royal residence. The count was a favorite of Catherine the Great, and a secret underground tunnel led from the lake to a cellar beneath Count Orlov's bedchamber.

In 1783, Count Orlov died and the palace was purchased by Catherine the Great and given to her son, Paul. Before Paul became emperor, he expanded the palace and added many treasures to the interior. He also improved the palace grounds, adding many structures such as bridges and pavilions. When his mother died and he became emperor, he gave Gatchina Palace imperial status, and it became the official residence of the Russian Rulers.

After the death of Paul I, his wife owned the property until their son, Tsar Nicholas I took up residence. The new emperor expanded the large palace even further, building the Arsenal Hall, which he used as a summer residence. Nicholas made the greatest contribution to the palace grounds.

Alexander II and Alexander III both resided at Gatchina Palace. The former building a hunting lodge and retreat from the stresses of royal life, the latter retreating to the palace after the assassination of his father. The last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, spent his childhood at Gatchina Palace.

During WWII, Gatchina Palace was bombed and burnt by Nazi Germany, but restoration began on the palace, and still continues to this day. The palace is home to a grand museum and attracts visitors world-wide.

Large photo of Gatchina Palace above courtesy of Hiedas.

Grand Kremlin Palace

Grand Kremlin Palace
Grand Kremlin Palace

Located at the Moscow, the Grand Kremlin Palace is located in Moscow, Russia. Building began on this palace in 1837 by Konstantin Thon, and was built as a residence for the Russian Tsars.

The Grand Kremlin Palace seen today replaced the palace of Empress Elizabeth, which replaced the palace of Ivan III, and parts of the surviving older palaces have been incorporated into the Grand Kremlin Palace. The palace interior consists of over 700 chambers which include five ceremonial halls, the long Red Staircase, the royal apartments, servants quarters, and numerous other grand rooms. The Grand Kremlin is now home to the president of Russia.

The five grand halls of the palace were named after orders of the Russian Empire, the halls are Georgievsky, Vladimirsky, Aleksandrovsky, Andreyevsky, and Ekaterinsky. The Georgievsky Hall is the largest room in the palace, and the medal of St. George is the highest honor that was bestowed by the tsar. The columns of the hall represent the knights of the order, and the room contains six large chandeliers which use 3,000 light bulbs collectively. This hall is used for ceremonies and state functions.

The Vladimirsky Hall holds a two-ton chandelier that is adorned with medallions representing the Order of St. Vladimir. The mosaic on the floor is of several types of highly polished wood. It also contains a high dome which helps to light the interior. International treaties are signed in this hall, such as the INF Treaty ratification signed by Gorbachev and Reagan in 1988.

The extremely ornate Andreyevsky Hall is outfitted with a grand dome decorated with the coat of arms and symbols representing the orders, and is the throne room of the palace.

Large photo of the Grand Kremlin Palace courtesy of Alan Cordova.

Korela Fortress

Korela Fortress
Korela Fortress

Located in the town of Priozersk on an island near Lake Ladoga, Korela Fortress was mentioned in texts in 1143, and again in Swedish texts in 1294. The fortress belonged to the Novgorod Republic and later to the Moscovy Republic better known as the Grand Duchy of Moscow. The original fortress was of wood, but was rebuilt of stone by the Novgorod Republic after a fire destroyed the original.

The Korela Fortress was a center for the Karelians, who were a Baltic-Finnic ethnic group living in the area. In 1578, the fortress was captured by the Swedes, regained by the Russians, and taken again by the Swedes. Under Swedish Rule, the fortress was renamed Kexholm, but the area was once again attacked by the Russians under Peter the Great, who held the area for a long period of time, although Russian forces were constantly called to defend the town and this fighting was taking its toll on the area.

In 1851, the Grand Duchy of Finland was formed, and Korela Fortress fell within its rule. In 1939, the Soviets invaded Finland in the Winter War (Soviet-Finnish War), and regained control of Korela Fortress and town, called Käkisalmi by the Finnish. Finland got it back in the Continuation War, but lost it again at the end of WWII. All the Finnish Karelians were given the chance to evacuate to Finland according to the Moscow Peace Treaty, and this evacuation actually began at the end of the Winter War. In 1948, the town of Käkisalmi was renamed Priozersk, and what is left of the fortress is sometimes called Priozersk Fortress.

Large photo of Korela Fortress above courtesy of Evakonpoika.

Stroganov Palace

Stroganov Palace
Stroganov Palace

Located in St. Petersburg, Russia on the Moika River, Stroganov Palace was built in 1753 for Count Sergei Grigoriyevich Stroganov, replacing an earlier wooden home belonging to the family that had been completely lost to a fire.

The Stroganov family was the richest family in Russia, and they wanted the best to build their new home. They hired architect Bartolomeo Rastrelli who was currently expanding the Catherine Palace. The Stroganov Palace was built relatively quickly, yet beautifully. When Sergei Stroganov died in 1757, his son took over palace decoration, which he did well. He also became the President of the Imperial Academy of Arts.

The Stroganov Palace remained a home to the family until 1918, when they emigrated out of Russia, and the palace became property of the state. Russia declared the palace a museum, later moving many of its treasures to the Hermitage and giving the palace to a botanical institute. This incredible palace slowly began to decay from misuse and lack of funds. In 1988, the palace became part of the Russian Museum and restoration began. Great care was taken to restore the Stroganov Palace to its original state, and in keeping with Rastrelli's Baroque style. The palace became an exhibition hall of the Russian Museum and houses great art work and ornate décor.

Large photo above courtesy of Dezidor.

Kolomna Fortress

Kolomna Fortress
Kolomna Fortress

Located in the city of Kolomna, the wooden Kolomna Fortress was built for Tsar Vasily III in 1525,and reconstructed of stone in 1531. Upon the fortress grounds sits several beautiful churches and a monastery.

One of the towers of the Kolomna Fortress is called the Marinkina Tower because of the imprisonment of Marina Mnishek, also called Marinka the Witch. She married Dimitri I, an impostor who claimed to be the son of Ivan the Terrible. Dimitri I was shot, put on display, and cremated, but somehow, Marina "recognized" him again as Dimitri II, who also claimed to be the son of Ivan the Terrible. This Dimitri admitted under torture that he was Ivan's son, and gained the support of thousands of Cossacks, Poles, and Muscovites. In the end, however, he was also considered an impostor. Two other men later also claimed to be the son of Ivan the Terrible. After the death of her second husband, she had a tryst with Ivan Zarutsky, and a son who she claimed was heir to the Russian throne. The people had enough of her antics, and executed Zarutsky and their son, and imprisoned Marina until she died.

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Kolomna Fortress was no longer needed to defend the town, and it was allowed to crumble. Immense areas of the fortress walls are in ruins, and several towers fell and were stripped of their masonry. While it may sound as if the fortress is a blemish upon the land, it is really quite beautiful, and one can feel the history in these old stones.

Today, one can visit the museum in Kolomna Fortress, the cathedrals, and see the monument to Cyrill and Methodius, the inventors and first promoters of Cyrillic alphabet for the Slavic people.

Rostov Kremlin

Rostov Kremlin
Rostov Kremlin

Located in the town of Rostov, as called Rostov Veliky, on the Nero Lake, Rostov Kremlin was built by Iona Sysoevich in the early 17th century. The Rostov Kremlin is considered one of the finest outside Moscow.

Many of the churches inside the Kremlin walls were also built by order of Sysoevich, and are beautifully painted. His residence also carries the fairy tale qualities seen in the churches. The churches throughout the town of Rostov were built with the same theme of those associated with Rostov Kremlin, and there is a rumor that Ivan the Terrible had the architect of his church, St Isidore the Blessed executed because it was too small. This is the oldest church in the city. On each side of the kremlin is a monastery, the Abraham Monastery was built by order of Ivan the Terrible.

The Rostov Kremlin is now host to several museums, one of which is a museum showcasing the enamel the city of Rostov-Veliky is famous for. There is also an archaeological museum, since the town is one of the oldest in Russia. The Rostov Assumption Cathedral is one of the most famous in Russia. It was founded in 991, and rebuilt four times, with the current cathedral being over 500 years old. The cathedral is also famous for its bell-tower and its 15 bells. The largest bell weighs well over 70,000 pounds!

Zaraysk Kremlin

Zaraysk Kremlin
Zaraysk Kremlin

Located in the town of Zaraysk in the Moscow Oblast, Zaraysk Kremlin was built in 1531 to replace a former wooden one. The Zaraysk Kremlin was part of the Great Abatis Border along with several other structures such as Kolomna Fortress. The Great Abatis Border was a border of kremlin walls, ditches, watch towers, natural features such as swamps and lakes, and barricades. This border was built to protect Russia from the Crimean Tartars.

The Zaraysk Kremlin was built strongly, and the Tartars tried at least three times to take the citadel and each time they were unsuccessful. The only people who was able to seize the kremlin were the mercenary troops who called themselves Lisowczycy, having fashioned their name after their commander, Aleksander Józef Lisowski. They were opportunists who saw the potential profits they could gain by supporting False Dimitri II. They only held the kremlin for a short time, however.

Today, the walls and churches of the kremlin are still in good condition. The Zaraysk Kremlin is rather small when compared to other kremlins of Russia, and contains within its walls five churches and a monument to Prince Dmitry Pozharsky, who defended the kremlin in 1611. Prince Pozharsky is known as the Savior fo the Motherland, since he was instrumental in bringing about an end to Russia's Time of Troubles, which was a series of wars, skirmishes, uprisings, and the Russian famine from 1601-1603.

For your travels in Russia

Lonely Planet Russia (Country Travel Guide)
Lonely Planet Russia (Country Travel Guide)

There are many places in Russia that can be missed if one doesn't know where to look. This book will guide you towards some of Russia's most beautiful sites, and provide you with loads of much needed info.

 

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    • profile image

      Leo 2 years ago

      Kris & Izzybelle ..woke up praying for you but, now you are palbrboy getting ready for bed anxious to hear how the day with the kids went .pouring rain & cold love it! Are you bringing any kids home???? Love you

    • profile image

      Akash 2 years ago

      Yes, that is a good one. It is like the joke about a person in a dtaictorship who is standing on a street corner collecting their thoughts when they are arrested for illegal assembly!Unfortunately you are right about Russia, Snoopy. Under the reign of Vladimir I, Czar of all the Russians, the country is heading full speed backwards to authortarianism.

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      julieannbrady 8 years ago

      Wow! The Grand Kremlin Palace is really quite grand -- remarkable!