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Ensemble of the Astrakhan Kremlin

Date of Submission: 28/04/2008
Criteria: (ii)(iii)(iv)
Category: Cultural
Submitted by:
Commission of the Russian Federation for UNESCO
State, Province or Region:
Astrakhan Region
Coordinates: N46 20 50 E48 02 00
Ref.: 5368

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The Astrakhan Kremlin is a markworthy monument of military and engineering art of building of the second half of XVI century and of the orthodox church architecture of XVII-XVIII centuries.

In 1558 a wooden Kremlin was built. Construction of stone fortification of Astrakhan Kremlin started during the reign of Ivan the Terrible and it was completed during reign of Fedor Ioanovich with participation of Boris Godunov. Walls and eight towers were erected in the period of 1582 - 1589. The project of the stone Kremlin was approved in Moscow and Moscow specialists Mikhail Velyaminov, Grigoriy Ovzin and government official Dey Gubasty headed reconstruction of the Kremlin. The configuration of the Kremlin was dictated by a local natural landscape. The Kremlin planform is a right-angled triangle with walls of 3-3,5 m thickness and 7-1 1,3 m height. The whole length of walls is 1554 m, total area of the Kremlin is 11 hectares and these parameters are kept up to our days.

Initially the Kremlin walls had 8 towers and 7 of them are preserved to our days. Three towers have passages and four other are blind: Red Gate, Nikolskay Gate, Prechistenskie Gate, Ordnance tower (or "Torture"), Arkhireyskaya, Zhitnaya, Krymskaya (Crimean). The real embellishments of the Kremlin are unique orthodox temples: the Cathedral of the Assumption, Trinity Cathedral (1 568) with adjoined Refectory Camber of former Trinity monastery (lost), Kirill's Chapel (1 677), Over-the-gate Nikolskaya Church (1738) and the Cathedral bell tower (80 m height, 1910).

The Assumption Cathedral of the Astrakhan Kremlin is considered by right as one of the best pieces of the Russian church architecture of the early XVIII century. During his visit to Astrakhan in 1722 Emperor Peter the Great expressed admiration for the exquisitely decorated five-domed Assumption Cathedral: "In the whole of my empire,- Peter said, - there is not a single cathedral as beautiful as this one".

Just after construction of the Kremlin walls a military garrison, the building of Administrative Chamber, Voevode's mansion had been placed there. In XVIII century the Govemor Palace, Metropolitan's Chambers, the Govemor Chancery and 131 dwelling houses were built in the Kremlin. In early 1720 all these dwelling houses were taken out from the Kremlin and during the period of 1806 - 1813 only officer houses, barracks and other buildings for Astrakhan garrison were constructed there.

In the middle of XX century the military garrison was withdrew from the territory of Astrakhan Kremlin and the garrison service buildings adjacent to the wall were pulled down, but the house of officership front rooms preserved, in general, its primary appearance up to date. The guard- house erected in 1808 in the center of the Kremlin exists now and in spite of some inside re- planning it keeps the historical value as an object of original construction of the stone Kremlin.

At present all existing buildings on the Kremlin territory are under protection of the State.

The Astrakhan Kremlin is bounded up with significant historical events in Russia:

  • In 1556, the Astrakhan Khanate was conquered by Ivan the Terrible, who had a new fortress built on a steep hill overlooking the Volga. In 1569, Astrakhan was besieged by the Ottoman army, which had to retreat in disarray. A year later, the Sultan renounced his claims to Astrakhan, thus opening the entire Volga River to Russian traffic. In the 17th century, the city was developed as a Russian gate to the Orient. Many merchants from Armenia, Persia, India and Khiva settled in the downtown, giving it a multinational and variegated character.
  • In 1614 inhabitants of Astrakhan took by storm the Kremlin and expelled Marina Mnishek (she would like to seize the Russian Throne) and her protector ataman (Cossack chieftain) Zarutskiy.
  • For seventeen months in 1670-1671 Astrakhan was held by Stenka Razin and his Cossacks. 
  • The city rebelled against the tsar once again in 1705, when it was held by the Cossacks under Kondraty Bulavin. A Kalinuck khan laid an abortive siege to the kremlin several years prior to that. In 171 1, it was made a capital of a gubemiya, whose first governors included Artemy Petrovich Volynsky and Vasily Nikitich Tatishchev. Six years later, Astrakhan served as a base for the first Russian venture into Central Asia.
  • In 1942, during the World War II Astrakhan stood the siege and the Astrakhan Kremlin played again a role of the main defence of the Astrakhan City which has not been occupied.

At the present time towers, walls and monuments of the Astrakhan Kremlin are under restoration for its 450 anniversary in 2008. The works on preparation of Kremlin properties as museum pieces are also in progress.

In the center of Kremlin, in the building of former Administration of Military Commander it is presented museum exposition "Culture and Mode of Life of Peoples of Astrakhan Region". In the exposition there are unique artefacts of Russians, Tatars, Kazakhs, Kalmyks and some other peoples of the Lower Volga. Now it is supposed to place the Residence of Astrakhan Governor and his Chancellery in the building of former military store.

On the first tier of the Red Gate Tower it is placed an exhibition "the History of Astrakhan Gamson" and on the third tier at a height 14,7 m there is a vista point for tourists.

Justification of Outstanding Universal Value

(ii) During the formation of the Russian State in 1558 the first defence settlement with   the military garrison was constructed at the place of Astrakhan Kremlin. From the middle of XVI century that kind of defense settlement was mainly determined by walls, towers, military and religious buildings, houses and natural landscape environment. The Astrakhan Kremlin was a typical settlement during formation of the Russian State with a specific architecture and it was placed taken into account the natural landscape, which was also the barrier for enemy military invasion.

(iii) The Astrakhan Kremlin is a unique testimony of cultural traditions of peoples of the Russian State. The Assumption Cathedral of the Kremlin became a burial-vault of Astrakhan church hierarchs (Feodosiy died in1 606, Metropolite Joseph died in 167 1 and others) and two Georgian tsars Vakhtang V1 (1737) and Teimuraz (1762) are also buried there.

Since 1974 religious constructions and all territory of the Kremlin are the museum-reserve with different exhibitions including above mentioned in the Description "Culture and Mode of Life of Peoples of Astrakhan Region". So the Astrakhan Kremlin is bounded up with multinational traditions and events of formation of the Russian state and its relations with trans-frontier countries.

(iv) The Astrakhan Kremlin is an obvious example of military engineering art of XVI century. The Kremlin founded in the Lower Volga, along which the cultural frontier between Europe and Asia passed. At that time the city of Astrakhan played its role as a large commercial centre on the Grate Silk Road.

The walls and the towers of the Astrakhan Kremlin are crowned with two-horned merlons so-called "swallow tail". For the first time this kind of merlons appeared on the Moscow Kremlin's walls and towers and since than it is an integral part of overwhelming majority of Russian fortresses.

So the Astrakhan Kremlin completely corresponds to the Criterion (iv) as "an outstanding example of a type of building", example of the Russian defence construction of  XVI century in the Russian State.

Statements of authenticity and/or integrity

Since the time of completion of walls and towers construction Kremlin boundries, the length of walls, their thickness and appearance are conserved in their primary state. At present seven towers from eight initial ones are well preserved. They were restored with application of bricks not only of primary size and color, but with observance of original chemical composition of brick and lime mortar. The restoration works at the Astrakhan Kremlin started in1959 and all restored monuments including the Assumption Cathedral, the Trinity Cathedral and the Kremlin territory itself were passed to the Astrakhan museum-reserve.

It is necessary to note that religious constructions of the Astrakhan Kremlin preserved their authenticity, but some military constructions were destroyed and the initial predestination of the Kremlin has only historical significance.

Comparison with other similar properties

The Astrakhan Kremlin as the other similar defence constructions in Russia of that time has some constructive elements similar to kremlins of the central part of the Russian State (See nominations: "Kremlin and Red Square", Moscow (c 545, 1990); "Historical Monuments of Novgorod and Surroundings" (c 604,1992); Historic and Architectural Complex of the Kazan Kremlin (c 980,2000).

The similar concept of defence construction (walls, towers, facilities for accommodation and service of military garrison along with churches and other religious buildings) was implemented at the end XVI century under construction of the fortress of Solovetskiy Monastery, which is one of objects of "Cultural and Historic Ensemble of the Solovetsky Islands" (inscribed on the World Heritage List (c 632,1992)).

In Europe of XVI-XVIII centuries the erection of fortification constructions on boundaries of states was a common occurrence and as examples for comparison it could be mentioned "Historic Fortified City of Carcassonne" (France, c 345, 1997) and "Fortress of Suomenlinna" (Finland, c 583).