The history of Moscow's Kremlin can be seen for the first time outside Russia in an exhibition in Bonn dubbed "The Kremlin: Glory of God and Splendor of the Czars."
The Kremlin in the early 19th century
It is almost inconceivable that the center of a world power would one day emerge from this modest wooden fortress. The inhabitants of the little settlement that developed at the confluence of the Moskva and the Neglinnaya rivers ccould hardly have imagined that today, 850 years later, tourists from all over the world would be walking along the streets of their town.
Over the centuries, the small town paved with wooden streets -- first reference of which dates back to 1147 -- developed into the nucleus of the Kremlin, the seat of the Russian head of state. That's also the starting point of a computer-animated film on the architectural history of the Kremlin. Shown at the Federal Art Gallery in Bonn, the work is part of a comprehensive exhibition dubbed "The Kremlin: Glory of God and Splendour of the Czars" on display until the end of May.
The 25-minute film is based on some 4,000 documents, including many current unpublished research papers, from which scientists and students produced the reconstruction of the wooden Kremlin, the White and later the Red Kremlin.
Manfred Koob, Professor of Architecture at the Technical University of Darmstadt, headed the project in which his university cooperated closely with the Russian State University of the Arts in Moscow. For him, the film became a piece of German-Russian friendship that developed between the staff members of the two universities. "You need the cultural contact to get into the soul of the building," Koob said, and added that understanding how people think in the country is just as much part of the myth of the Kremlin as the splendor that can be seen with the naked eye.
New discoveries in the cultural exchange
On the Russian side, too, there is great enthusiasm about the result of the film cooperation. Elena Gagarina, General Director of the State Museum at the Kremlin said "merely reading about it is one thing, but it's a different matter to be able to see everything in pictures." She said Russians involved in the project learned a lot of new things about the Kremlin not only in the film reconstruction but also by organizing the exhibition.
Most works on display at the exhibit in Bonn -- from silver chains from the Kremlin treasures to the icon paintings and the coronation cloak of the Russian monarchs -- originate from the Kremlin Museum in Moscow. It is the first time so many items have been displayed outside Russia and has awakened a great deal of interest both in Germany and in Russia.
"For us it's a step forward because we can now see the Kremlin with different eyes," said Alexey Levykin, the Museum's Deputy Director.
One room, for instance, contains books and maps depicting 16th and 17th century European views of Russia. The exhibition also focuses on how people in the 21st century regard cultural exchange.
In 2006, the 200th anniversary of the Kremlin museum, the exhibition will also go on show in Moscow.