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Moscow metro – a piece of art hidden underground

Published time: February 18, 2010 22:34
Edited time: April 21, 2011 22:59

Get ready to go deep – this time RT will guide you though the secret maze shrouded in darkness, a museum and icon that puts the Russian capital head and shoulders above any other city in the world… the Moscow metro.

Marble, mosaic, sculptures and trains roaring past. With 180 stations and around 7 million passengers on a typical weekday, Moscow metro is one of the world’s busiest undergrounds and reputedly the most beautiful. Opened during Stalin’s rule, in 1935, it displayed the best in Soviet architecture and was meant to impress.

Plans for its construction were drawn up in Tsarist times, but the outbreak of World War I and then the revolution put them on hold. In the 1930s, the Communist party took the project to heart, even asking the London Underground for advice.

From the outset, the metro became the place of countless urban legends. Take the Ring Line. People say nobody planned to build it in the beginning, but when a group of engineers was reporting to Stalin on the progress of construction, he put his coffee cup on the drawings, leaving a brown circle. Taking it as a sign of Stalin’s genius, the engineers ordered the construction of the Ring Line. And indeed, it is always printed in brown on metro maps!

One of the oldest and most crowded central stations is Ploshchad Revolutsii, or Revolution Square. Opened in 1938, it is lined with 76 figures of soldiers, workers and farmers, who, old-timers say, come alive at night!

There are quite a lot of legends connected with this station. Touching the foot of the bronze student is thought to cure a broken heart. Meanwhile, real students believe that rubbing the noses of the border guards’ dogs is a guaranteed way to pass an exam, and everyone else does it to have good luck. No wonder they are so well-polished!

Another fine example of Stalinist architecture is Mayakovskaya station, named after the poet of the Russian Revolution, Vladimir Mayakovsky. Don’t forget to look up to enjoy the ceiling mosaics depicting a bright day under the Soviet sky!

However, if anyone tells you that the fine metal strips lining the station’s columns were once intended for the frame of the world’s biggest Soviet airship, don’t believe it, it’s just another legend.

At 33 meters deep, during World War II, Mayakovskaya station served as an air raid shelter. In 1941, it hosted a ceremony to mark the 24th anniversary of the revolution, with Stalin himself making a speech.

Several years ago, the station had a new exit added. In line with the celebrated Soviet-era design, its ceiling is decorated with a mosaic and some of Mayakovsky’s poetry.

One of the most ornate stations of Moscow metro is Novoslobodskaya. Opened in 1952, it is decorated with marble from the Urals and stunning stained-glass windows.

One of the station’s art works caused much controversy, though. The baby on one of the mosaics called “Peace throughout the world” used to look at none other than Stalin. During the rule of Nikita Khrushchev and his de-Stalinisation campaign, Uncle Joe had to go.

Khrushchev was also apparently outraged by the barefoot woman. “Don’t we have enough shoes for everyone in the USSR?” he was said to scream. So he ordered to remove the mosaic altogether.

Luckily, the station’s architects managed to save it – covering the picture with a fake wall. Only after Khrushchev’s fall from power in 1964 was it restored.

So by all means do take a ride – you are sure to enjoy the views.