The Moscow Metro

The Moscow Metro is renowned for being if not the most beautiful, one of this most beautiful, metros in the world.  The construction of the metro began during an extremely tumultuous period of the Soviet Union; a time when the country as a whole was going through rapid collectivization and industrialization.

The first stage of the Moscow Metro opened in May of 1935.  Although, the project was rolled out in four stages, with the final stage starting after the conclusion of World War II.  During the initial planning phase, the designers consulted with employees of the London Underground.  In fact, much of the engineering design work that was done for the Moscow Metro, was done by British Engineers.  When it first opened, the Moscow Metro was hailed as being better than Western capitalists’ metros due to its speed and beauty.

The metro system is known not only for its beauty, but also for its use as a bomb shelter both during and after World War II.  World War I was the first major war were aerial bombing was utilized.  Later, during the Spanish Civil War, Hitler had given Franco bombers to utilize in his campaign against the Spanish government.  With these events in mind, where cities had been attacked from the air, the Moscow Metro planners had designed the system deep enough to act as bomb shelters.  This proved to be a very smart decision, as the metro system was used for exactly this purpose during WWII.  Following the war, during the beginning of the Cold War, stations were designed and built deep enough to be used as nuclear bomb shelters.

Image result for moscow metro WW2

In contemporary times, the Moscow Metro is known for its elegant murals and Soviet era architecture.  Tourists to the city frequently make the metro a destination in and of itself.  The murals and mosaics displayed in the metro commonly depict socialist themes; including those of workers and other national achievements.

moscow-metro-stations-9

When studied in-depth, one can conclude that the Moscow Metro is used for both artistic and practical purposes.  Relatively few other metros in the world have this unique combination.

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15 thoughts on “The Moscow Metro

  1. Hey Mark! I really enjoyed reading your post. I like how you documented the different uses of the metro throughout the years. It truly is versatile. It’s crazy how such a beautiful place was used as a bomb shelter.

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  2. Hi Mark! The images you’ve included in this post are really striking, especially that bottom mural. Great job connecting how aspects of the industrialist boom under Stalin ended up being vital to their victory in WWII – this is a big contributor to Stalin’s complicated legacy.

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    1. I definitely agree. In terms of macro industrial/economic output, things were going well for the Soviet Union. However, with regards to human rights, things were absolutely abysmal.

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  3. Mark,
    I enjoyed reading your post. It’s very interesting that not only was the metro designed after the London Underground, but that many of the engineers working on the project were British! One of the sources you used from the Moscow Mayor website is really neat, too!

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    1. You’re right! It is really interesting to think about the role that the British played in everything. I assume it’s because most of the Russian engineers of the time either left the country or were purged.

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  4. Mark, first of all these pictures are gorgeous. The progression of the civil engineering marvel is super interesting. I had no idea that it was also used as a bomb shelter during WWII. I wonder what kind of US public spaces would be comparable to the fusion of art and practicality of the Moscow Metro station. I wish more spots were like this.

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    1. Agree! I had to temper my outspoken enthusiasm for the Moscow Metro because people here thought I was a bit odd. Still when I ride the underground in DC or New York, or London, for that matter (London Subway was also a bomb shelter during the Blitz), I can’t help but think about how “superior” the Metro is. Who knew?

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      1. I absolutely agree. I ride the D.C. metro all the time when I’m home, and I think they could have made it so much nicer than it is.

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  5. Thanks! Ryan raises an interesting take on the history of the design of the Moscow Metro. I had no idea that they were looking at places like Chicago to draw inspiration from.

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    1. I actually didn’t mean for it to come off that they were getting ideas from Chicago. Maybe they were, but from the articles I found, it was mostly London as you stated. I just used Chicago to compare the earliest American metro in perspective. Maybe they did, but none of the articles I found stated so.

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  6. The Moscow Metro has really beautiful architecture and since its inception has set the bar for how clean and functional metro systems should be. I think that the Soviet attitude of doing everything in the best interest of society lead to a very functional and impressive metro system as compared to western nations which did not have such a collectivist attitude. Also, it makes sense that the stations doubled as bomb shelters. If I remember correctly, some stations for the DC Metro were also built with that secondary purpose in mind.

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  7. Hey Mark!

    The first thing I enjoyed about this post is the beautiful imagery attached to it. Something we have been discussing throughout the duration of this class has been industrialization within the Russian society. I think this post really highlight the developments made in regard to design and approaches in things like building the Metro. As well as other parts of infrastructure in soviet society.

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  8. Hi mark! I had actually never heard of how impressive the art in the moscow metro is until this class and this post really does a great job of illustrating this as well as giving background of the versatility of the system.

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