The Legendary Moscow Metro!

Moscow metro...there is so much to tell! This place is a one big victory monument, a symbol of Soviet People achievement in the post-War era. Can you imagine that some of its richest and deepest stations were built shortly after the end of the War, when the entire country was lying in shambles?

Can you imagine that this huge underground installation was built mainly by volunteers who weren’t payed a dime for crawling around the dirty tunnels, risking their lives nearly every moment? And that they were extremely happy and proud to actually get that job?

If you can – well, good for you, because even I find it hard to believe. Sure, I always knew Russian people were capable of commitment when times got harsh, but to merely think that all of that was built not by a bunch of godlike titans but by regular folks like you and me, well – it’s hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t want to cast shadow on other countries. Sure, London’s tube was the first one around, and New-York subway is significantly bigger, but they both were built at a peaceful time by people who were paid for their job. Moscow’s subway, however, was launched when the country was still recovering from German invasion, and its builders were sometimes even starving!

Arbatskaya Moscow metro station. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Gorgeous Arbatskaya station.

I don’t know why Russian people always achieve their biggest goals at times like those. I guess it’s a part of Russian mentality – we don’t feel mobilized enough when everything’s more or less fine, when need some good cause to start acting, but when we do – God help our enemies!

Oh my, the mysteries of Russian soul again… :)

Alright, enough with philosophy.If you came looking for a Moscow metro map - visit this page. You'll find the most up-to-date graphic and interactive maps of Moscow subway, although I can’t promise they reflect all the recent changes.

Elektrozavodskaya Moscow metro station. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.


Yep, Moscow subway is constantly expanding. Just recently a bunch of stations were added to “Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya” line (“Slavianskiy Bulvar”,”Kuntsevskaya”,”Molodezhnaya”, “Krylatskoe” and “Strogino”), and there’s a whole lot of more. Recently I’ve seen a blog post about the upcoming “Dostoyevskaya” station. I liked the photos a lot, so I’m planning to dedicate an article to it in the future. Stay tuned!

Some facts

Leaving already? Thought I told you everything you wanted to know? Well, think again, because we’ve merely touched the tip of the iceberg! :)

Indeed, the metro is surrounded by astonishing facts, mysteries and urban legends. Every year I hear more intriguing stories that are often hard to believe – and yet later on they turn out to be true. “Metro 2”, ghosts, treasures, aliens, secret passageways that lead to God knows where – and more, much more!

Most of these stories are complete nonsense, of course, but be careful with judging. For example, if I told you there’s a whole system of secret railways that span as far as Moscow region, you wouldn’t believe it, right? And yet, such system exists. Called “Metro 2”, it was built in Stalin years to safely transport the Soviet leadership out of Moscow in case of World War 3.

A democratic country would consider it a waste of money, of course, but keep in mind we’re talking Soviet Union here – a country that was literally built like a one big army. The command has to be evacuated at all costs, and money was not of big importance back then.

Trubnaya Moscow metro station. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Recently opened Trubnaya station

I also found it hard to believe such project could be completed in secrecy, but facts are facts, and new ones pop-up all the time. “Metro 2” exists, so as I said – don’t be in a rush to judge! Who knows, there just might be that alien base hidden somewhere under Kremlin! :)

However, even if you take the official facts about Moscow metro– they’re still astonishing. Built in 1935, it's the second most heavily used transit system in the world! Tokyo is the first one, if the memory serves, but bear in mind it’s got bigger population.

Nevertheless, almost 9 million Muscovites use the metro every day! Can you imagine this figure? Nine million, every day! I don’t even want to think about what would happen to Moscow if metro wouldn’t be there, since current road infrastructure can additionally transport around 10 percent of that amount. In short, we would have a complete, total transport collapse in our city – Moscow would basically not be able to sustain itself!

...and some history

As I said before, during the earlier years, Moscow metro was built mainly by Komsomol volunteers. Those young, hard-working people were able to achieve the impossible, and give the city a new transit system that made it prosper.

Thanks to their passion and determination, the project was a success. However, digging tunnels did not only require a lot of work, but also a lot of skills that no one actually had.

You see, Soviet Union missed both knowledge and experience in the field. In fact, many foreign specialists said it was impossible to accomplish the task, because it was extremely expensive and demanded a whole new generation of professionals to appear. And yet – the metro was built. Once again, Russians achieved the impossible. Eat that, you capitalists! 😀

However, we didn’t just dig tunnels with rails – we wanted it to look good! Well, what can I say – we succeeded in that as well! Many stations are a work of art as some of the country’s best architects designed them! Many of those who designed the stations were later awarded with prestigious Stalin award, and to be honest – they well deserved it!

Kievskaya metro station. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

An exit from Kievskaya station.

When you get off the train, don't be surprised to see beautiful statues, mosaics and carvings. Each station has its own story to tell. Some are dedicated to revolution, others to Communism, and of course lots of works are dedicated to victory over Nazism.

Later on, during Khruschev years, the stations were built with simpler, cheaper design. Recently, however, the tradition returned, when Moscow successfully finished “Park Pobedy”. It won’t be an exaggeration to say that “Park Pobedy” is probably one of the most beautiful metro stations in Moscow – and yet, it’s sooo young!

Hopefully the tradition will live on, because even though there are lots of things to see in Moscow metro, many stations lack good design and are too simplistic. Sure, you can say that subway is not a museum, but I think that we should finish what we started. In addition, I don't think a good design costs that much – it should be a mere fraction of the total sum spent on all the construction works!

Komsomolskaya Moscow metro station. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Luxurious Komsomolskaya station.

If you want to actually see what's so beautiful about Moscow metro, here is a short list of stations you should visit:

  • Kurskaya – the one that lies right underneath "Kurskiy" train station, one of metro's veterans
  • Ploschad Revolutsii
  • Arbatskaya
  • Smolenskaya
  • Kievskaya – sits right across the ring line from "Kurskaya", serving "Kievskiy" train station
  • Park Pobedy – dedicated to victory over Nazism, with excellent decor and Victory Park right above.
  • Izmailovskiy park
  • Semionovskaya
  • Dobryninskaya
  • Dostoevskaya - that new station is all about Fyodor Dostoevsky and his works. Definitely a must-see!
  • Komsomolskaya - one of the perfect examples of the old-school Moscow metro stations.
  • Tsvetnoy Boulevard – where the famous Yuri Nikulin's circus is.
  • Vorobyovy Gory - situated on the bridge near Sparrow Hills with an excellent view on Moscow.
  • Mayakovskaya - a unique station dedicated to famous Russian poet Vladimir Mayakovsky.
  • Novokuznetskaya - decorated with stunning mosaic panels, a work of the great artist Frolov.

And more, much more. I will be updating this list with more details, but trust me – you can pick nearly every station that's not too far from the city center – and chances are it will be one of those beauties I'm talking about.

It may be hard to understand why we were decorating the stations when USSR had so much economic problems, but I guess the reason is purely psychological – people were so tired of the post-War ruins that they badly wanted to see something beautiful around.

Now, which place should be decorated in that case? Right, the one that people see the most every day! And so, the metro was turned into a living proof of our victory over death and decay brought by the World War 2.

Look at those stations. Don't you just love their grim, "Metropolis" kind of style? Every time I look at them, I always think of giant zeppelins, kitchen robots and rocket cars. Oh, and I forgot talking computers of course! :)

Yep, that was the era of the Communist dreams. We believed the stars were only a step away, and that soon we'll all be living in magnificent cities that science fiction writers were telling us about.

We believed that Capitalism will soon fall, and human kind will unite under a wise rule of Soviet leaders. We believed we'll be growing apple trees on Mars, as one popular song went.

Three railways Partizanskaya Moscow metro station. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Partizanskaya station with 3 railways.

I can't say I identify with the ideals of Communism, especially the one built in USSR, but still – the magnificence of Moscow metro hits some hidden chords in my soul. Sure, I don't miss the death camps, the arrests of opposition, and many other attributes of Stalin rule, but I miss the Dream.

Our world is too cold and rational these days, everything has its price. We have to be reasonable, of course, but I think we wouldn't build such metro today, when only the money counts. And of course, there lots of other things we have to forget about these days, like going to Mars in the nearest future. A dream will only remain a dream, because these things are not very well aligned with the free market.

Well, I guess that money does make the world go round...

Si vis pacem, para bellum

But, in addition to being the display of Soviet achievements, Moscow metro has another, darker side. You ever though why all of the older stations lie so deep below? Very deep? That's because comrade Stalin wanted them to be giant shelters in case the Bomb fell.

Back then, when nuclear weapons have only been invented, there was a temptation to use it against our eternal enemies – the United States of America. In fact, recent historic evidence suggests that Stalin planned to continue the World War 2 by invading Europe right after Germany was defeated.

No one knows for sure what stopped him, but historians suggest he didn't want to cause an uproar amongst Soviet soldiers who would have to fight against their former allies. Well, he made a good decision at least once in his life!

However, USSR was not the only country planning nuclear offensive. If you're interested, check out the details of "Operation Dropshot" – a plan by American military to attack and destroy 85% of USSR industrial potential in a single strike.

Each side had its reasons, but I guess they weren't aware of the possible consequences. In any case, even though those campaigns were never executed, Moscow metro is still well-prepared for nuclear blasts.

In many places, especially the passages, there are built-in steel sections. Many people pass them by completely unaware of their existence. What they don't know is that those sections actually cover blast doors that would quickly seal off the station from the outside world in case of emergency.

Just imagine that picture for a moment. It's a nice Summer day, you're rushing home to your family and friends, when all of a sudden – BOOM, a siren goes off. People are screaming around, everyone is trying to get to the exit, but all the hallways are blocked with giant steel shunts.

You feel the earth shaking a couple of times and you suddenly understand there's nowhere left to go. This station is all you'll see for the rest of your life – or at least for a couple of decades, as the surface above was evaporated in a series of nuclear explosions. Your life has vanished, leaving you with nothing but memories...

That's a terrible picture – I nearly got depressed myself by writing those paragraphs. These days, the threat of confrontation is gone, but during USSR times we could get locked underground nearly any given day.

Stained-glass window at Novoslobodskay station. By Moscow Russia Insider's Guide.

Now isn't that beautiful!

However, older stations are not the only ones suited for fallout survival. For example, in Savelovskaya , there's a built-in decontamination cell right by the entrance! I suppose it was built to let the survivors scavenge the remnants of Moscow, and then get back without bringing in all the radiation. I must say that when I first saw this thing, I immediately recalled all those apocalyptic pictures from the movies – and I'm so glad they remained only pictures...

To be honest, I doubt that thing still works, but it's a gloomy reminder of the fear we lived in during Communist times, sort of a memorial of the war that never, ever should happen!

The Cold War myths and facts

OK, now it's time for some urban legends – and as I said, Moscow metro's got plenty of those!

I won't speak about obvious nonsense, such as ghosts and giant rats (but who knows!) However, one mystery is worth exploring in a little more detail.

It's the so-called "Metro-2". As I said before, the story goes that Moscow metro contains a secret tunnel network. It connects the Kremlin, Ministry of Defense, bunkers, command posts and other strategic objects in and outside of Moscow.

These tunnels span for dozens of miles(far away to Moscow region), and they allow quick evacuation of Russian leadership in case of potential conflict. And of course, they were built much deeper than the usual metro lines.

It seems hard to believe, but facts point out that such network does exist and is still very functional. Of course, you should not wait for the official confirmation, as there never will be any...

By the way, here is another fact. "Metro-2" is not the only secret object in Moscow!

In fact, there's a whole underground city built by the military during the Cold War. It's hard to estimate the amount of money invested in creating this colossal hideout – but as you know, money was not that important for the Soviet leaders when their security was at stake.

Still don't believe me? That's alright, I came prepared!

How about this one - right now, at this very moment, you can order an excursion to a secret military bunker under Taganskaya square.

Moscow Metro secret bunker

The bunker
(by [email protected]!)

It's got secret exits to the Moscow metro, Taganskiy train station, and even some of the nearby houses! The thing is basically hooked into everything around, so that its personnel would be able to get in and out unnoticed before,during and after the War.

Doesn't it just give you the chills?

Finally,a piece of advice

Here are some tips about using Moscow metro that might jsut come in handy!

1) Try to have a local guide by your side. Not all Muscovites speak English. If you have a problem like getting around - the guide will help you out. Keep in mind that *all* signs in the subway are written in Russian, so you'd better have some knowledge if you plan to go all alone.

2) Watch your belongings closely. Even better - hide them beneath yor clothes. Sure, it doesn't look that good, but at least you will be safe. Pickpockets are a pain these days, especially during peak times, which brings us to number 3:

3) Avoid rush hours. Try to use the metro between 12 and 2 PM, otherwise you risk getting stuck and squeezed in a crowd.No fun!

4) Learn your route well. The signs are in Russian, so make sure you know the number of stations you have to go, all of the turns and passages, etc. Also, see paragraph 1.

5) Get ready for noise. The trains are quite old and loud, so prepare to tolerate some acoustic disturbance. It's best to put on the headphones and enjoy the music you like, especially if the ride will take time.

Moscow metro is a major cultural and historical landmark. It will greatly enrich your travel experience, so definitely try to visit it. Seriously, if you plan to see all of Moscow's important sights - you can't pass the metro by, because the subway is literally a part of our city's history.

Oh, and there's a nice metro museum you can visit to learn even more. I bet you'll enjoy it!

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