The Moscow Kremlin Museums' collection of arms and armour comprises around 8000 items dating from the 11th to the 20th century. It is based on two historically formed complexes — the Great Royal Armoury, viz the Arsenal of the Russian tsars of the 16th and 17th centuries, and the Imperial Rustkammer, viz the collection of arms of the 18th and early 19th century.

Russian rulers and noblemen used the arms and armour from both complexes in war, hunting, ceremonies and parades. Some of the ceremonial arms and armour belonging to Russian tsars can be considered as military state regalia. Among them, there is the famous helmet of Tsar Mikhail Feodorovich made in 1621 by the best Royal Armoury craftsman Nikita Davydov, and a saadak (a bowcase and a quiver) that was created in 1627-1628 by a team of court jewellers of the Silversmithing Prikaz (administrative office).

Artistically and technically, of particular interest are the examples of firearms created in the 17th century by Russian and foreign masters of the Armoury – Pervusha Isaev, Ivan and Timofey Luchaninov, Grigory and Afanasy Vyatkin, Philipp Timofeev, and in the18th century – the court armourers Pyotr Lebedev, Ivan and Gavrila Permyakov, Iogann Grekke and other eminent masters of that time. Both the collection of the Armoury Chamber and the Imperial Rustkammer included works by West-European and Eastern masters, brought as ambassadorial gifts or specially purchased abroad for the needs of the court.

Among the most luxurious items is the jewelled saadak of the Grand Attire of Tsar Alexey Mikhailovich, which was made in Istanbul in 1656. Examples of firearms by West-European masters, such as Dutch Barent Pentermann, French Claude Chasteau, Englishman John Howkins and many other famous armourers, are really splendid in their artistic decoration and high technical qualities.

Archive records of the 17th-19th centuries help dating an armoury piece, to find out the place of its production and how it appeared in the Arsenal of Russian Tsars and Emperors. All this make the artefacts of the Moscow Kremlin a kind of models, the comparison with which can help in attributing monuments from other museum collections.

In the early 19th century, on the order of Emperor Alexander I, the both complexes were integrated in the just established museum - the Moscow Armoury Chamber. Later the collection was filled with detached artefacts and whole groups of armoury items from the collections of M.P. Pogodin, P.F. Korobanov, and from the armoury chamber of the Trinity-Sergius Monastery.

In the early 20th century, the artillery collection of the Moscow Kremlin was registered as a museum one. This collection, including the illustrious Tsar Cannon, is one of the world hugest collections. In the second part of the 20th century, the works by old masters were added by the creations of the best modern armourers.

The works by Russian, West-European and Eastern masters presented in the collection allow us to trace the development of world armoury culture through the ages.

Explore the collection of the Moscow Kremlin Museums online