Access granted: How the Kremlin opened to the public

July 16
Social sector

The Kremlin had been off-limits to the public until the middle of the 1950s, when the first New Year Party was held there for children on 1 January 1954, almost a year after Stalin’s death. After the party, the children were taken on a tour of the Kremlin landmarks, which included the Armoury and the Dormition and Assumption cathedrals. However, the general public still had no access to the oldest part of Moscow.

On 14 July 1955, the Presidium of the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee decided to open the Kremlin to the public. The organisation of such visits was entrusted to the Moscow City Communist Party Committee, the Executive Committee of the Moscow City Soviet and the Kremlin Commandant.

At 9 am on 20 July 1955, the first groups of workers, engineers and other personnel of Moscow plants and establishments, as well as farmers and foreign guests, entered the once off-limits area through the Borovitskaya Tower gate.

The newspaper Vechernyaya Moskva reported that hundreds of groups comprising tens of thousands of people, including a delegation of Finnish lumbermen who were in Moscow at the time, had visited the Kremlin by 2 pm on 20 July.

A general meeting of the party organisation of the Separate Officer Battalion of the Office of the Kremlin Commandant was held in August 1955. The minutes of that meeting are kept at the Main Archive Department of Moscow. The participants noted that “opening up the Kremlin to the general public was an act of huge political importance.  It has put an end to the bourgeois slander about the Iron Curtain and has given the country’s workers and farmers an opportunity to admire the historical landmarks of the Kremlin, a major repository of the arts and crafts created by many generations of people in our beloved Motherland.”

One more archival document, a memo signed by First Secretary of the Moscow City Party Committee Vladimir Ustinov, Chair of the Moscow City Soviet Executive Committee Nikolai Bobrovnikov and Kremlin Commandant Lieutenant General Andrei Vedenin, reads that between 20 July 1955 and mid-April 1958 entrance to the Kremlin was by ticket, issued free of charge. As many as 20,000-22,000 people visited the Kremlin every day in summer and 8,000-10,000 in winter. However, they had to buy tickets to visit the Kremlin’s museums. A ticket to the Armoury and the Kremlin cathedrals cost 3 roubles (denominated to 30 kopecks in January 1961).


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