In three days time eighty three years ago – from 24 October to 27 October in 1935, the first five-pointed stars were installed on four towers of the Moscow Kremlin. Before that there were two-headed eagles there. At first they wanted to put flags there instead of the eagles but later they choose the stars in particular in the end.
At first they tried to replace the eagles (symbols of the Tsar) with Red Stars right after the October Revolution, however the economic situation of the new country didn’t allow them to carry out this plan at that time.
Later, they didn’t even know which symbol to put on the Kremlin towers to replace the Eagles. Trotsky was proposing a five-pointed star as the most powerful esoteric pentagram. Another option was a Swastika that was widely used in olden day Russia and was even used on old Russian bank notes. However, a Red Star won and they proved to show their power over time.
Stalin personally reviewed the proposed Red Stars projects and offered a few corrections to the original design. Then they made a working model, illuminated with lights, and showed the model to Party Officials including Stalin and they approved it.
Hundreds of people of different professions participated in this project. The first Stars were made out of Red Copper and Stainless Steel. They were gold plated and had jewels from th Ural mines in the middle of each one. In total there were 7,000 jewels used from 20 to 200 carats each. The total weight of all four stars was 5600kg (5.6 ton).
Each of the four Stars had a different design. The size from point to point was 4.5 meters (over 14 feet). The steel frame weighed more than one ton. They were made to withstand the strong storm winds – they are mounted on ball bearings and can rotate wherever way the wind blows.
A first Red Star for the Nikolskaia Tower of the Kremlin.
Because the stars were heavy they had to rebuild the roofs of the towers to make strong enough to install them there.
Before installing the stars on the Kremlin towers they were put on display in Moscow park. Projector lights were illuminating the shining jewels on the hammer and sickles to amuse the people gathering to check out the newly made stars.
The Star from the Trotsky Tower of the Kremlin. 1935.
In the same park, the old Eagles were put on display with the slogan: “Old and New: Future and Past”. Stars with their shining jewels looked much nicer, especially in the projector lights.
On October 24, 1935 they installed the first star. It wasn’t a very easy task as Russia at that time had no cranes able to lift such a heavy thing to over 70 meters in height.
Over one hundred people gathered on the Red Square to watch the operation.
After the Star was finally installed they all applauded.
On the next day they installed a star on the Troitskaia tower. It took just 1.5 hours to install a star on a tower.
However these first stars didn’t last too long.
After the first two winters they stopped looking shiny, and began to look dull under the influence of the wind, snow and rain. Even the jewels looked dull.
Also they looked too big on the towers. There was no visual harmony between them and the Kremlin towers. So just one year later, in 1936, a new order was issued to start building models of the new stars. So in May 1937, Stalin signed an order to install new Ruby-glass stars with internal lights on the now five towers of the Kremlin.
Those ruby glowing Stars became the true symbol of the propaganda era – they are still on the towers until this day.
The Ruby glass was made to order by a special recipe. Those new stars could also rotate according to where the wind blows. They are not affected by weather because of the stainless steel frame and ruby glass.
However there was one new problem – if you looked on the Stars with the Sun behind them they seemed to appear.. black. To solve this they installed special prism refractors inside the stars to help the light get into the star and dissipate inside in a more even manner.
And one of the old 1935 Stars was later installed on the spire of the Moscow River Boat Station.
Each five years the stars are washed by a special team of climbers.
The new Ruby Stars were not only rotating but were also illuminated from inside. To prevent overheating, 600 cubic meters of air is circulated through each star every hour. They have a reserve power supply so if the Kremlin gets blacked out stars will still be shining. The lamps are a whopping 5,000 and 3,7000 (depending on the tower) watt bulbs! They have two bulbs inside each bulb so if one goes down the star will still be shining. And you don’t need to climb to the star to change the bulb – it can be lowered down through a special tunnel inside the star and it takes just 30 min to replace the bulb in one of the Kremlin stars.
In the whole history of the USSR and new Russia the ruby stars stopped shining only two times: the first time was during World War 2, they were shut down deliberately to prevent Nazi airplanes from being guided by the shining stars like by a searchlight. They also were covered with rags so that they could’t be seen from far away. When the rags were removed they discovered that some panels of glass were shattered, mostly as a result of Moscow anti air artillery shooting their own stars trying to hit German planes.
And the second time was when the Russian Oscar winning director Mikhalkov was making a movie about pre-Communist Russia and the Kremlin. He got permission to turn off the stars so that Kremlin could look like it had a long time ago.
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