1. The legend of its foundation from The Kremlin
The story of the Kremlin begins with this legend from an ancient Russian anthology:
‘It was a dark, stormy night when the boyar Stephen, son of Ivan Kuchka, came upon a thicket near the River Yauza, a tributary of the Moskva. The boyar and his followers spent the night in a hunting-lodge. The following morning, when the sun was beginning to gild the tops of the birches and the firtrees, Kuchka had his horns sound the boar-hunt. The huge, savage boar suddenly appeared. The hunters were about to flee, when they saw a bird come out of the sky and swoop down upon the beast. It was a bird of prey of strange shape, having apparently two heads. Its claws and its two beaks reminded one of a fork. The boyar and his men became more afraid of this monster than of the boar. They immediately called off the hunt. The bird pounced upon the boar, seized it in its powerful claws and set it down on the hill, which overlooks the Moskva and its tributary the Neglinnaya. Followed by his men, Stephen Kuchka went up to the top of the hill and there found the mangled remains of the boar.
`Very much impressed by this occurrence, the boyar decided to build a hunting-village on this hill and call it Kuchkovo.’
It was this village of Kuchkovo or Kutzkovo that was to become the town of Moscow. On top of the hill where the two-headed bird, the ancestor of the Russo-Byzantine double eagle,* had left the mangled boar, the Kremlint was later erected.
Whether eagle, falcon or hawk, the bird of the legend had chosen a good spot to appear. Indeed, the place where the boyar Kuchka saw it for the first time is almost in the exact geographical centre of European Russia. It was surrounded on all sides by forests and peat bogs, being thus provided with effective protection against enemies from outside. The Moskva, which wound its way through the settlement, could be used from the beginning of the first ‘Muscovite era’ as a link between the Volga and the Oh, both these great rivers rising near it.
The boyar Kuchka had no idea of the consequences of his historical action when he went after the boar and the double-headed bird.
The legend continues:
`When evening came, the bag was so impressive that his servants found it very difficult to set out the slaughtered animals. The forest teemed with nocturnal birds and rats with handsome reddish fur, now extinct. There were also at that time foxes in great number, more plentiful than dogs (if an old twelfth-centur• Russian manuscript can be believed) and bears, wolves, lynxes, civet cats, all lying in wait for their prey.
`Stephen Kuchka gave orders for a sort of trench to be dug quite close to the Neglinnaya and disguised with leafy branches and tree-trunks. The trench was dug and trees were cut down. In the middle of a patch of grass* a temporary wooden but was built.
`So, Stephen Kuchka, happy at having laid the foundations of the future Kuchkovo, went to sleep on the hill, after drinking many glasses of bragat with his friends.
‘A strong wind was blowing over the hill that night. The smell of the dismembered boar mingled with the scent of the berries and the fir-trees. Kuchka’s sleep was disturbed by a troublesome nightmare, in which he saw a huge town built on the site of the settlement; a magnificent fortress with white battlements stretched away as far as the Neglinnaya. This fortress had a strange appearance; its roofs resembled those to be seen in the lands of the Bassurmans.*
`Many tents and wonderful gold-domed churches stretched down to the Moskva. Thousands of human creatures were being brought in chains to the white walls and while the church bells were sounding the tocsin, their decapitated bodies were flung into the pits. Men, bound hand and foot, crawling along on their knees and wailing in front of a huge gallows, were begging mercy of a tall, gaunt skeleton of a man. The sun was already well up when the boyar awoke. He summoned his friends and servants to him and urged them to continue with the hunting, which he desired to be a joyful occasion. But he could not manage to regain his customary calm; there was sadness in his heart.’