Kremlin Watch

Kremlin Watch may seem like an ominous title for a feature but the idea was sparked early in the month with Moscow City Days, primarily as a place of shelter from heavy rains.

At times one might feel some guilt for being able to peer into a place that so often has been off limits to ordinary Russians. Feel no guilt, because unlike during Soviet days when the Kremlin was the seat of government, there are days when the place is fairly quiet. Prime Minister Medvedev has his official office in the Russian White House, and there is an expansive administrative wing at his official residence. President Putin’s official “residence” is the Kremlin, but his real residence, also listed as one of his so-called “official” residences, is the presidential home at Novo-Ogaryovo (Ново-Огарёво), a Moscow suburb.

Sometimes business is conducted at the Kremlin. The Emergency Command Centre is there, and naturally the Grand Kremlin Palace is a showplace for diplomatic meetings. This week’s visit by Turkish president Erdogan was held at the Kremlin, for the formality and grand atmosphere. However when the leader of Palestine arrived, Mahmoud Abbas, the meetings took place at Novo-Ogaryovo. There was a symbolism and protocol in the choice of those two meeting places which heralded the opening of the Grand Cathedral Mosque in Moscow. Helipads at both locations allow President Putin, and/or Prime Minister Medvedev, to move at ease.

Moscow Day 2015 b
Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin addresses a crowd on Moscow City Day, 5 September 2015. The Senate dome with flag raised is in the background.

During Soviet times and then into the first Putin presidency, there was a tradition of the state flag flown over the Senate dome in the Kremlin when the leader was there. Late in Putin’s second term, and throughout the Medvedev presidency, their official home offices gained in importance and the Kremlin gradually assumed a more symbolic, albeit grand, showplace for the Russian state. In the Medvedev years the flag over the Senate dome indicated that the president was inside the country, but in more recent years it simply flies there most of the time.

Still, the Moscow Kremlin remains fixed in the minds of the world as being the seat of government in Russia. It is interesting that the single most recognizable worldwide symbol of the Kremlin, and of Russia as a whole, is the so-called Saint Basil’s Cathedral (officially it is the Cathedral of the Intercession of the Most Holy Theotokos on the Moat), a symbol that is not a part of the Kremlin territory.

St Basils Moscow 1274

Readers of this page may enjoy some Kremlin trivia from time to time, and Mendeleyev Journal staff spouses enjoy it as well. Recently one wife launched into a trivia challenge and your almost all-knowing executive editor just missed passing with a 100% score when she played “gotcha” with this one: which Kremlin tower is the largest? Hint: it probably isn’t the first tower that comes to mind. More on that later…

For now, we’ll start Kremlin watching.

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Medvedev birthday 2015

Happy 50th birthday to Dmitry Medvedev, prime minister of Russia. He and his lovely wife, Svetlana (far right), celebrated the event over the 13-14th of September with family in the Ivanovo region.

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