The Moscow Kremlin, sometimes referred to as simply The Kremlin, is a historic fortified complex at the heart of Moscow, overlooking the Moskva River (to the south), Saint Basil's Cathedral and Red Square (to the east) and the Alexander Garden (to the west). It is the best known of kremlins (Russian citadels) and includes four palaces, four cathedrals and the enclosing Kremlin Wall with Kremlin towers. The complex serves as the official residence of the President of the Russian Federation.
The name The Kremlin is often used as a metonym to refer to the government of the Soviet Union (1922-1991) and its highest members (such as general secretaries, premiers, presidents, ministers, and commissars), in the same way that the metonym Elysee Palace refers to the President of the French Republic, the White House refers to the Executive Office of the President of the United States and Number 10 Downing Street (or simply Number 10) refers to the Office of Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. It is still used in reference to the government of the Russian Federation and even the Russian President's official website is Kremlin.Ru. "Kremlinology" refers to the study of Soviet and Russian policies.
The existing Kremlin walls and towers were built by Italian masters over the years 1485 to 1495. The irregular triangle of the Kremlin wall encloses an area of 275,000 square metres (68 acres). Its overall length is 2235 metres (2444 yards), but the height ranges from 5 to 19 metres, depending on the terrain. The wall's thickness is between 3.5 and 6.5 metres.
Originally there were eighteen Kremlin towers, but their number increased to twenty in the 17th century. All but three of the towers are square in plan. The highest tower is the Troizkaya, which was built up to its present height of 73,9 metres in 1495. Most towers were originally crowned with wooden tents; the extant brick tents with strips of colored tiles go back to the 1680s.
Cathedral Square is the heart of the Kremlin. It is surrounded by six buildings, including three cathedrals. The Cathedral of the Dormition was completed in 1479 to be the main church of Moscow and where all the Tsars were crowned. The massive limestone facade, capped with its five golden cupolas was the design of Aristotele Fioravanti. Several important metropolitans and patriarchs are buried there, including Peter and Makarii. The gilded, three-domed Cathedral of the Annunciation was completed next in 1489, only to be reconstructed to a nine-domed design a century later. On the south-east of the square is the much larger Cathedral of the Archangel Michael (1508), where almost all the Muscovite monarchs from Ivan Kalita to Alexis I of Russia are interred. (Boris Godunov was originally buried there, but was moved to the Trinity Monastery.)