If you think that Moscow is perfectly observed from the window of a taxi car or a tourist bus, you are absolutely right. But this way you will never discover a gigantic subterranean city under dusty Moscow highways and its cozy lanes, a city with its own streets, its own architecture and its own history - the Moscow Metro.
The story started in the beginning of the 20th century. The first and very unusual project of the Underground was offered by engineer Peter Balinsky in 1902. According to his plan trains were supposed to pass across the Red Square over the heads of the astonished people in horse-carriages. But this project was rejected with "help" of angry owners of horse-powered and electric trams. Several other attempts were made to bring this modern transport facility to Moscow but they all failed.
Only in 1931 the dream of many architects and progress adherents came true and the construction began. The reason was simple - Stalin, the Great Dictator himself approved of this idea.
On May 15th 1935 the first line covering the distance from Sokolniki to Gorky Park was opened for public use. Impatient passengers waited behind the doors all night long desperately willing to become the first passengers of the Moscow Underground. The lucky owner of the ticket #1 presented this precious piece of paper to Museum of Moscow Metro.
The Moscow Metro grows rapidly. Today it has 11 lines and more than 150 stations. It is the fastest, the most popular but also the stuffiest and the most crowded transport. It is also the busiest subway in the world carrying more than 9 million passengers every day.
In one way the Moscow Metro is definitely different from all other Underground railways in the world: it was planned not only as a comfortable and easily accessible transport but also as powerful means of propaganda. The idea was to immortalize the greatness of socialism; as a result Moscow Underground became one of the most grandiose phenomena of the Stalin era. Its pompous architecture and sumptuous designs allow Moscow Metro to remain one of the most popular tourist attractions.
Each station has its own unique style. For example Teatralnaya station is decorated with majolica bas-reliefs picturing folk dances. In the niches of Ploschad' Revolutsii there are 76 bronze statues imaging the creators of the Communism. Kievskaya and Byelorusskaya are adorned with national ornaments of Ukraine and Byelorussia.
Among other sumptuous Metro stations Mayakovskaya is a true pearl of Underground architecture. It is included in the UNESCO List of World Cultural and Natural Heritage. Silvery steel columns match beautifully with red and pink shades of rhodonite. The ceiling has 36 mosaic panels made of colored glass. The mosaic composition "One Day of the Soviet Sky" was created by very famous Soviet artist Alexander Deineka.
The Moscow Underground truly deserves a museum status: there is no geological museum in the world that would have such a rich collection of stones and minerals. Almost half of the wall area is decorated with more than 20 kinds of marble. Black marble from the Ural Mountains and Armenia covers the walls of Byelorusskaya, Ploshchad Revolutsii and Elektrozavodskaya stations. Pink marble from Russia's Far East was used to adorn Aeroport station. Krasnye Vorota station is embellished with red marble. Semi-precious stones such as pink rhodonite and marble onyx are important details of the Dinamo and Kievskaya stations design. And if you look carefully at some walls then you will see fossils of ancient molluscs immured in the marble panels.
The Moscow Underground is a "strategically important object": try to take pictures with your camera and an angry policeman will show you that it is not a joke. But there are even more exciting secrets in this subterranean world: e. g. a secret underground system, so called Metro-2. A large amount of mysterious restricted objects was constructed under the ground in Soviet era: government motor tunnels, secret towns, military bases, shelters and even underground plants. There were many reasons for this: interests of state security were enhanced by morbid suspiciousness of Soviet leaders, especially Stalin, and constant expectation of the nuclear conflict during the Cold War.
According to the information that comes out very seldom (see www.metro.ru) the length of the secret tunnels even exceeds the length of the "official" part of the Metro. Metro-2 (in the KGB documents named "D-6") is believed to have 4 lines connecting Kremlin with an underground town in Ramenki, FSB (former KGB), government airport Vnukovo-2, the residence of the first and the last president of the Soviet Union and some other places of state importance. But the real size of the secret communication system still remains a mystery.
Some Facts about the Stations
Mayakovskaya station opened in 1938 and used to house the headquarters of the municipal anti-aircraft defense during the World War II. Being one of the deepest stations it also served as a bomb shelter during Fascist air-raids. And no wonder that the ceremonial meeting dedicated to the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution took place here.
Kropotkinskaya station is the main sight of the Sokolnicheskaya line. Architect Dushkin succeeded in creating solemn and mystical atmosphere without using almost any ornaments at all. The design of the station is defined by splendid combination of illumination and columns reveted with light marble. The marble was taken from the demolished Cathedral of Christ the Saviour which was blown up in the 1931 and rebuilt 60 years later. This vandal tradition of using material from destroyed churches was applied in construction of other stations. This was the way Novokuznetskaya station got its benches: they were also taken from the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Novokuznetskaya station was opened in 1943 during the Great Patriotic War and therefore patriotic themes were used in its design. There are bas-reliefs of outstanding Russian commanders from different historical periods: Alexander Nevsky and Dmitry Donskoy, Minin and Pozharsky, Suvorov and Kutuzov. The mosaics were created by V. Frolov in Leningrad during the legendary siege. After author's death mosaics were brought to Moscow by so called "road of life": a way across the frozen Ladoga Lake was the only connection of the starving city with the rest of Russia.
Komsomolskaya-Koltsevaya station was named after Komsomol, the organization of young Soviet people willing to join the Communist party. Its members were involved in the construction of the station. Komsomolskaya-Koltsevaya is an excellent sample of Soviet baroque style (cartouches, floral ornamentations, mosaic frames). The designs depicting episodes of the Great Patriotic War were created to laud the victorious Soviet army.