If anything, the Kremlin’s isolation increased in the final years of Stalin’s life. ‘It was not so much an administrative complex,’ wrote a witness, ‘as a vast and oppressive wasteland. It was forbidden to walk in its territory.’ The decade after the war was a bleak time for all Russians. Millions went homeless, millions slaved. There was no choice but to rebuild the factories and transport links that had been destroyed, but in their private hardship and long nights of grief, many found it difficult to remember that infrastructure and production were meant to come before the consolation of the individual. The question of lost heritage was even more awkward. Resources – labour and supplies – were so scarce that it was hard to justify the rebuilding of a palace or a stretch of wall when so many people still needed homes. But pride in the old symbols also mattered, and there was constant pressure to reconstruct the best-loved landmarks in places like Leningrad, Pskov and Novgorod. The issue became critical in Moscow as early as 1944, when it was pointed out (with official prompting) that 1947 would mark the city’s eight-hundredth anniversary. A writer at the time called on his fellow citizens to ‘listen more attentively to the voice of the past . . . We must bind ourselves to the roots of our nation.
– Red Fortress History and Illusion in the Kremlin by Catherine Merridal