On the right track: The Moscow Metro

Ivan Shagin: The First Passengers on the Metro (1935) Source: Grigori Chudakov, Olga Suslova, and Lilya Ukhtomskaya, eds.: Pioneers of Soviet photography. New York: Thames and Hudson. 1983.

Ivan Shagin: The First Passengers on the Metro (1935)
Source: Grigori Chudakov, Olga Suslova, and Lilya Ukhtomskaya, eds.: Pioneers of Soviet photography. New York: Thames and Hudson. 1983.

While Stalin called for a “passion for construction” in the First Five-Year Plan, he wanted a “passion for mastering technology” to come out of the Second Five-Year Plan. The construction of the Moscow Metro combined both of these passions, in what became the most marveled mass-transit project of the twentieth century.

Poster for the Moscow Metro. Source: soviethistory.mcalester.edu

Poster for the Moscow Metro. Source: soviethistory.mcalester.edu

Dating back to 1923, plans for a metro in Russia’s most innovative city had been present; it was not until 1933, however that the Soviet government approved the plan. A trolley system was first built (as it is an easier system to construct), but after the success of this line, Stalin wanted something bigger: a full-scale metro. The designs were based on those of similar German projects, calling for an “open-pit” method, which would require large portions of the city to be shut down. In time, they moved to a completely underground method, where construction would occur seemingly unnoticed.

Detail from Kiev Station, Moscow Source: Artemii Lebedev: Moscow Metro. 1996.

Detail from Kiev Station, Moscow
Source: Artemii Lebedev: Moscow Metro. 1996.

What is perhaps the most notable aspect of these metro stations, is their sheer grandiose. “The Moscow Metro, a massive engineering project that ‘mocked utility with its stations clad in semi-precious stone’, became an object of not only Muscovite but national pride” (Freeze 361). The decor of the Metro symbolizes the prevalence of Stalinism in not only the city of Moscow, but Russia as a whole. The Moscow Metro is still used today (by millions daily), and made life for the Russians, as Stalin put it, “more joyous.”

(Video featuring the modern Moscow Metro)

References:

Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997. Print.

By, H.D. (1935, June 16). MOSCOW FINDS SYMBOLS IN ITS SUBWAY. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from http://ezproxy.lib.vt.edu:8080/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/101479904?accountid=14826

“Moscow Metro.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 29 Sept. 2014. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Moscow_Metro>.

Von Geldern, James. “1934: The Moscow Metro.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History. Web. 10 Oct. 2014. <http://soviethistory.mcalester.edu/index.php?page=subject&SubjectID=1934metro&Year=1934&navi=byYear>.

 

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3 Responses to On the right track: The Moscow Metro

  1. The video you posted was really interesting and showed the full scale of the Moscow metro. It also shows how much propaganda is in it as well. It strikes me as contradictory that Stalin would implement such a grandoise project while at the same time persecute the pre-Soviet old Elite. The Metro with its semi-precious stones strikes me as something akin to the vanity of the old elite.

  2. Wonderful sources in this post — The NYT article from 1935 combined with the more contemporary video about the centrality of the Metro to Moscow’s cultural and economic life really brings this amazing transportation system alive. Here’s a clip about the subway dogs (starts about 55″ in): http://youtu.be/YxJf2L2B5fY

    gracehemmingson says:

    I thought that the reconstruction of Moscow was fascinating. It seems strange to me that they can both rebuild the theatre in the imperial style and have decorations with nostalgic for the soviet era. Great video!

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