Kurskaya Metro Station

Kurskaya metro station is one of the oldest ones around. Built in 1938, it’s been one of the “pillars” upon which the foundation of Moscow metro rests. Its design represents the essence of Stalin epoch – rich, sometimes even pompous design, communist slogans everywhere, and loads of mosaics and artwork that symbolize the victory of Soviet people over poverty and starvation.

Sometimes I like to fantasize about how Moscow would look like if the architects would take the early metro style and apply it to the entire city. In fact, there are several buildings that look exactly like this, we call them “the Seven Sisters”. If you want to check it out – get to Arbat, and have a look at Ministry of Foreign Affairs building.

This is how Moscow was supposed to be built if Stalin lived a little longer. Remember all those old movies about the future? Well, Moscow would look like that exactly. Huge buildings, railways that connect them – add to that a couple of zeppelins, and you’ll get the picture.

In short, you can call this style "imperial" – kind of like the one you'd see in London. All those buildings have one main purpose – to make you feel small and insignificant and to underline the importance of the State over a regular man.

After all, USSR planned to become an empire – there are no doubts about that. In fact, Russia has always been an empire, and Stalin only wanted to restore that status. I think this man truly believed that USSR will rule over the world one day, and that Moscow will be a global capital of victorious Communism.

According to that plan, Moscow metro was to become the first milestone in the transformation. Its magnificent stations would remind Muscovites that they are living in the most powerful and richest country in the world. Since nearly all of Moscow population uses metro, people would undergo this little propaganda session for at least couple of times daily.

Some say that Russians are still suffering from post-Imperial syndrome, trying to act as if the USSR is still there. There are lots of explanations to that, but I think they should literally "dig deeper", and seek the answers to our strange behavior in the architecture of Moscow metro stations.

Even today, when USSR is long gone, people continue to be bombarded with the symbols of the Soviet past. I believe that all the artwork people see in subway actually implants the idea that they're still living in an empire that spans for 1/6 of the world's landmass. Sounds reasonable, I think.

New Kurskaya metro station design.

Restoring the old looks...(by SergeyRod)

If my theory is right, Kurskaya is one of the focal points of that system. It was one of the first Moscow metro stations around, and the designers did all they could to make the people feel proud for their country. Huge spaces, artworks and mosaics, quotes from Stalin – even if you're a 100% anti-communist like me, you can't help feeling proud for the Soviet achievements!

Kurskaya metro station was supposed to be a part of a larger ring line. Back then, the architects planned to build two of those. One was actually finished, and that's the good old "Kolcevaya" you well know, while another, smaller line that would connect the stations under Moscow boulevard ring remained only on paper. It's hard to say why the construction works were never started, but I guess the main reason was the War.

It's really a pity, because even though the central stations are well interconnected, I feel that the smaller ring would help us save quite a lot of time every day. Well, as they say – tough luck!

It's always easy to speculate, but I guess that if the War had not started, our metro would be much bigger, with nearly all of its stations built in early-Soviet style. But – since we can't change the history, we'll enjoy whatever there is.

Just look at the pictures. With all the ornaments and pictures on the ceiling, Kurskaya looks more like a palace than a metro station!

Once you get off the train, you'll be amazed by what the station has got to offer. Indeed, if Moscow metro was supposed to be a nuclear shelter one day, then people would at least live in beautiful surroundings. Can't say I would be really happy, but still, still...

By the way, did you know that entire Moscow metro was supposed to be a giant nuclear shelter? All of the older stations lie deep enough to sustain a nuclear blast, so you're pretty safe when you're riding those trains :)

However, even if you don't consider World War 3, it's still much better to go to work every day seeing all those paintings than to look at faceless, grey walls and passages!

Unfortunately, lots of newer subway stations have virtually no design at all – thanks to budget cuts after Stalin death. Their mere purpose is to absorb people waiting for trains, and to let out those who has arrived. Period.

You may not get it now, but trust me, once you've traveled from Kurskaya to, say, "Vodniy Stadion" – the difference will strike you! After all, there aren't that many things to see when you're underground, and that's why I'm a strong proponent of the old approach – but only in station design, of course!

Stalin's hymn on Kurskaya metro station

A quote from Soviet hymn that made so much noise...
(by SergeyRod)

Psychology means an awful lot down there, by the way. When you’re walking at the broad daylight, you don’t care that much about how the street looks or what signs are written around. However, when underground, you begin to care a lot about the most insignificant details!

For example, a research conducted by psychologists discovered that “No exit” signs can actually cause depression among Moscow metro passengers. People see them a lot, and their subconscious actually accepts that as a default psychological “modus operandi”. So, in order to minimize that impact, it was decided to put all kinds of posters that would improve people’s mood.

You will see many of them around – they mostly consist of pictures of flowers and life-asserting quotes. However, if look careful enough, you will see a poster with a smiling young woman in metro uniform, saying “There is an exit!”

I don’t know if there’s any real value to that, but one thing is for certain – it does improve *my* mood very well! :)

By the way, Kurskaya was renewed recently. Yes, no matter how beautiful the station is, the truth is it was slightly neglected due to lack of budget at Perestroika period. The colors slightly dimmed, the mosaics weren’t in a very good shape…in short, there had to be a major cleanup. And finally – it came!

In fact, the renewal was so thorough it brought up a scandal. You see, the architects wanted to restore the looks of the 1938 design to the finest detail, and that included quotes from old Soviet hymn that praised Stalin.

So, the quote was put in place, but that caused a major uproar among famous human rights defenders. They claimed that praising Stalin in a country that suffered so much from the Stalinist regime is like praising Hitler in Germany. Can’t say I disagree with that!

Finally, the quote was removed and the things got much calmer. People can now enjoy the old décor without seeing too much resemblance with the Soviet past, and I must that if you put Stalin’s name aside –the renewed design is well worth seeing…

By the way, don’t just go to Kurskaya to take pictures of the station itself! There’s a great place above where you can easily spend the entire day – and have a lot of fun. I’m talking about “Atrium” shopping mall, with loads of fast-food restaurants, cafés, shops and even a very decent cinema! This place rocks, and if you have a couple of free hours – why don’t you spend them there?

After all, travelling in Moscow metro can be quite exhausting, so if you feel you need a rest – “Atrium” is open 24x7! You can even buy supplies there, in “Sed’moy Continent” supermarket that’s located at the ground floor, and if you have a couple of dollars to spend – there’s a casino as well. In short, “Atrium” is definitely worth visiting, so you’d better allocate some time to it as well.

See you on Kurskaya!

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