The first public Park to be created in Moscow, Alexandrovsky Gardens lies along the Kremlin's western wall. The Gardens' colourful flower beds, spectacular views of the Kremlin, quirky sculptures - and the general buzz of the place - have made this a favourite strolling spot and meeting place for Muscovites and tourists alike. In short, Alexandrovsky Gardens is the perfect place for an afternoon of people watching.
Newlyweds, VIPs and dignitaries visit the Gardens' monuments to lay flowers to the memory of fallen war heroes. The far side of the garden contains sculptures, fountains and mosaics based on popular fairytales such as the prince and the frog and the fox and the stork, and the park's walkways also link to an entrance to an underground shopping mall which spans beneath the Manezhnaya ploshchad.
Moscow's first public park, Alexandrovsky Garden, was founded by architect Osip Bove in 1821. The site of the gardens had previously been obstructed by the Neglinnaya River - complete with mills and dams - yet this was diverted via an underground pipe in the early nineteenth century, leaving an open space ripe for development along the Kremlin's western wall.
The imposing cast iron gate at the garden's northern end was designed to commemorate the Russians' victories over Napoleon. In fact, many of the rocks used in the garden were taken from rubble of buildings destroyed during the French occupation of Moscow.
The faux ruined grotto area in the middle section of the Alexandrovsky Garden was actually included in Bove's original plans for the park in the 1820s, yet this was not actually constructed until 1841. Paths in the southern area of the garden lead to the white Kuftaya Tower. This structure is the last surviving example of the several outlying bastions erected to protect the bridges leading to the Kremlin compound. The decorative parapet of this building was added in the seventeenth century.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier - a monument to those fallen during the Great Patriotic War (WW2) 1941-45 - is permanently guarded and illuminated by an eternal flame. Close by stand urns containing earth from 11 "hero cities" of the former Soviet Union. A more recent addition - formally dedicated in May 2010 - is an obelisk in red granite which lists 33 "Cities of Military Glory".
Another obelisk stands further south from the tomb of the unknown soldier. This monument illustrates the complete sea-change in political thought and public consciousness in Russia following the Soviet revolution of 1918. The great obelisk was originally erected to commemorate the House of the Romanovs - the Tsars of Imperial Russia - yet was dramatically and emphatically re-branded with the arrival of Communist rule as the "Monument to Revolutionary Thinkers", to honour those responsible for the spread of Soviet ideology.
The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier commemorates the fallen soldiers killed in the Great Patriotic War, and contains remains exhumed and transported from an original mass grave at Zelenograd: the scene of the Battle of Moscow in 1941. This Battle took place at the 41st kilometre of the Leningrad highway leading to Moscow, and marks the closest point of the Nazi forces' advance in their siege upon the city, and the monument's construction marked the 25th anniversary of the conflict.
The inscription on the tomb reads "Your name is unknown, your deeds immortal", and an eternal flame burns in front of the monument, emanating from a five-pointed star. The site is a popular stop for newlyweds, who will stop to lay flowers as part of their post-ceremony tour of Moscow. VIPs also attend the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier on Victory Day and other special occasions to formally pay their respects.
An accurate reflection of the Russians' reverence for their military heroes and the past in general, Honour sentinels stand on guard next to Tomb of the Unknown Soldie, showing an incredible display of discipline and solemnity.
The spot marks "Point No.1" - the central Moscow post - from which other military distances are measured. These guards used to be stationed outside Lenin's Mausoleum, but were moved to this location in 1997, pursuant to a law titled "On Immortalizing the Soviet People's Victory in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-1945&". The changing of the guard occurs hourly year-round, and half-hourly during winter.
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