Alex on Camel, Egypt
Butchers in Moshi, Tanzania
Remarkable Rocks, Kangaroo Island
Summer Palace, China
Dorota on Brighton Beach

Moscow’s Metro – Underground Railway

Moscow’s Metro – Underground Railway - feature photo

Moscow’s metro was opened in 1935, it contains outstanding examples of socialist realist art. In my opinion the metro is a really good reason itself to visit the Russian capital.

Maybe it’s a bit overcrowded, maybe a bit old, but whenever I’m there I have a feeling it gives me the summary of the whole massive city. I wouldn’t say Russia, as Moscow is almost a country on its own!

The first plans for a rapid transit system in Moscow date back in the times of the Russian Empire, however were postponed by the I World War, October Revolution and the Russian Civil War. The construction started in June 1931 and the Central Committee of the USSR Communist Party had taken advice from the London Underground, the world’s oldest metro system. By the end of the II World War lots of stations were completed and Moscow’s metro was functional.

There is an interesting urban legend about the origin of the ring line. A group of engineers approached Stalin with plans for the Metro, to inform him of current progress and of what was being done at that moment. As he looked at the drawings, Stalin poured himself some coffee and spilt a small amount over the edge of the cup. When he was asked whether or not he liked the project so far, he put his cup down on the centre of the Metro blueprints and left in silence. The bottom of the cup left a brown circle on the drawings. The planners looked at it and realised that it was exactly what they had been missing. Taking it as a sign of Stalin’s genius, they gave orders for the building of the ring line, which on the plans was always printed in brown. This legend, of course, may be attributed to Stalin’s cult of personality. In fact the line was never shown as a circle on the Metro map until 1980, long after Stalin’s death. Prior to this time, the line was depicted much closer to the shape of the actual route.

In 1950s – 1970s some architects decided to build new stations in a more spartan decoration scheme. A typical layout was developed for all new stations, and the stations were built to look almost identical, differing from each other only in colours of the marble and ceramic tiles. Most of these stations were built with simplified, cheaper technologies which were not always quite suitable and resulted in extremely utilitarian design. For example, walls paved with cheap and simplistic ceramic tiles proved to be susceptible to vibrations caused by trains, with some tiles eventually falling off. It was not always possible to replace the missing tiles with the ones of the same colour, which eventually led to infamous “variegated” parts of the paving.

Anyway, the Moscow metro is really deep (84m), really busy (max 9,555,000 passengers a day), really long (292.9km) and REALLY beautiful! AND very punctual 99.96% on time.

I’ve visited Moscow twice, spending there about 3 months in total. I have my best friend living there, great memories and lots of reasons to go back.

Photo of Novoslobodskaya Metro Station thanks to Andrew