The tale of Moscow’s subway

Once upon a time, in the year of 1902, in a far-away land, there lived two brave men, Pyotr Balinski and Evgeny Knorre. Pyotr and Evgeny were two young, skillful engineers. One day, these two enthusiastic engineers told the fairy tale of a path to the world beneath daylight through an “underground metro” to the highly ranked people of Moscow: the Moscow City Duma. The Duma consisted of very wealthy rich men. They have never had to experience the traffic of their busy city and never had problems going anywhere. And, of course, they did not approve of the two young men’s foolish idea; Nevertheless, Pyotr and Evgeny did not back down. They persisted, and after five proposals, the Duma finally approved. Eventually, in the year 1935, the first metro opened.

That is, however, not even near the end of the tale of Russian underground life. When the doors of the subway first opened, it was like a gate into the most readily available and accessible transportation for the city’s population. Anyone trying to get to work and from school, in any weather and at any time, would now be enjoying their trips in a “luxurious palace for the people” instead of dirty buses and trolleys. The vivid images of Stalin, portrayed as mosaics and tile panels, covered the ceilings and walls of this new level of the Moscow city which was meant to be an ideological move to eulogize the young Soviet country.

The same artists that designed and created the original interior of this new underground world were the same ones to invent the mosaic icons for the St. Petersburg Church of the Savior of Blood.

Stalin's portrait as a mosaic in Moscow's metro

Stalin portrayed in mosaic form in one of Moscow’s metro stations


Bronze sculptures of workers, soldiers, and other every-day Soviet people are portrayed in 76 bronze sculptures throughout different stations. Any average person who will now be using the newly invented transportation will now have these wonderful works of art to relate to while they travel. There are even some small good luck charms incorporated into these sculptures for the superstitious travelers and other believers.

lucky dog in Moscow's metro

Rub the dog’s nose and have good luck!


The architecture took quite a few twists and turns throughout history ever since the first trains welcomed some daring passengers. This diverse history is exactly what makes Moscow’s subway as unique, abstract, and amazing as it is. With Stalin’s death in 1953, all of his art depictions were completely removed, the metro was renamed after Lenin and the images of Lenin completely replaced everything from the years past. In 1955, the metro went from its grand baroque style of the Stalinist era to the complete elimination of extravagance in design and construction, which was decreed by the Communist party: this ensured that everything built in that period, both above and below ground, was bland and boring. In 2002, the 30s and 40s architecture was reintroduced along with portrayals of book characters and scenes from popular authors such as Dostoyevsky.

Metro station

metro station

metro station
another view of an original metro station

The metro went from being merely an idea, a fairy tale, to 11km underground with 13 stations, to 300km with 12 lines and 182 stations, to monorail tracks, and now plans of over 120 more kilometers to be built.

The expanding underground world is also looking to become safer. The Moscow underground railways have been repeatedly bombed and attacked in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2001, numerous times in 2004, and 2010; along with smaller crimes and attacks happening monthly. The statistics are shocking. In hopes of alleviating such threats,  authorities are attempting to adopt new security technology. Just recently, news about VibraImage 7.5, a “new smart video surveillance system which automatically identifies potential threats, such as aggravated and distressed passengers” were reported on The Voice of Russia; this will hopefully help the city authorities prevent crime and terrorist acts which have been  killing thousands and scaring millions of people of this world.

Not only does the safety of the metro have a promising future, but designs of the new stations, additions, and renovations are making even me want to go back and re-visit. Some twitters link to the future of Moscow’s metro:



And, indeed, new designs of some of the new stations are quite “pretty” and do contain “badass hipsters”:

Farganskaya station project B

Ferganskaya station project B

Uhtomskaya poject B

Uhtomskaya project B

Okskaya project B

Okskaya project B

This isn’t the end of the story, either, and there’s always room for improvement, but for now, I’m going to leave it at that. And as the Russian folk tales usually end…

“They lived happily ever after

And that is my faithful tale’s end, while he who listened is my own true friend…”

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