This is an extract from the Reading Materials in English that are available in the English and Education section of the website of the Liberal Party of  Sri Lanka,

The entire text of Historic Buildings by Goolbai Gunasekara, covering twelve famous constructions, is now available on that website.

Kremlin - Saint Basil's Cathedral

Whenever we think of the Kremlin we think of Russia. It is in the very heart of Moscow. The Kremlin buildings have grown along with the Russian State and they are indissolubly linked with the history of the country.

The Kremlin is situated on the Moskva river on the high left bank. The first time the Kremlin was mentioned was around 1475 when the architect Aristotele Fioravanti was invited by Czar Ivan III to plan the overall architecture of its walls and towers.

But this does not mean that the Kremlin was being built for the first time. There had been an earlier Kremlin built of white stone in the shape of a triangle. The triangle of the new walls repeated the old triangle. The old buildings and the new ones eventually became a distinctive architectural ensemble.

Kremlin and Red Square, Moscow - a UNESCO World Heritage Site

The Kremlin consists of many buildings, both secular and religious. There are lovely churches like the Cathedral of Archangel Michael. There was also the old Patriarchal Palace which is now a museum. What many see as the central building of the Kremlin, the Great Palace, was built in 1838 under the direction of Konstantin Thon. To build this magnificent edifice old Kremlin buildings were torn down. The old palaces of the Czar gave way to the new one.

The Kremlin is huge. It is not possible to describe every section of it. It is enough though to say that it is of exceptional historical and engineering interest. It is also most artistic.

A 17th-century hall in the Terem Palace, as painted in the 1840s.

There are about 700 rooms in the palace alone. Electricity was installed in 1886. Before that it took 20,000 candles and 5000 kerosene oil lamps to light the Kremlin at night.

After Czar Nicholas II lost his throne in 1917, the Kremlin became the center of Government of the new Communist State. Most of us have seen pictures of Russian leaders, and before that leaders of the former Soviet Union, taking the National Day Salute in front of this imposing building.

Grand Kremlin Palace

The Kremlin has always made an unforgettable impression on foreigners. It was quite different to other European Castles and fortifications. It was something more than all these. It is a historical monument and seems to embody the soul of Russia. It is associated with some of the most dramatic and stirring pages of Russia’s long history and for many Russians, of whatever political persuasion, the Kremlin represents both the present and past glory of that great country.


Grammar and Vocabulary

  1. Give in your own words the meaning, as used in the passage, of the words or phrases that are highlighted.
  2. To what do the pronouns or other words in italics refer?
  3. Divide the proper nouns in this passage into those that name people, those that name places, and those that describe a special type of place or person. Which proper nouns are used as adjectives? Are there any proper nouns that name things?
  4. Find adjectives that correspond to the underlined nouns and use them in sentences to bring out their meaning.
  5. Replace three sentences beginning with ‘It is ….’ or ‘There are ….” (where it is not a pronoun with an antecedent) with sentences that have a similar meaning.

Comprehension and Further Activities

  1. Mark Moscow on your map, and also two other cities that have also been capital cities of Russia.
  2. What is meant by ‘the former Soviet Union’? Find out when Russia became the Soviet Union, and how the Soviet Union broke up.
  3. Mark on a map at least ten countries of the former Soviet Union. How many of them have now joined the European Union?
  4. Write down briefly in your own words the main point of each of the paragraphs in this passage. Which paragraphs deal with the buildings of the Kremlin, and which with its history?
  5. Discuss in groups the possibility of a building embodying the soul of a country.
  6. Debate in pairs the importance of secular and of religious elements in developing a sense of national commitment.
  7. What is the main religion in Russia, and what relationship does it have now to the state? Was the situation the same when Russia was part of the Soviet Union?