12 August, 2009

The Russia Diaries: 12 August - The Moscow Metro

Soviet resolution to build The Metro
We take the glorious Metro! The people's Palace of underground delights. 

The Moscow Metro (Моско́вский метрополите́н) serves the city as well as the neighboring Moscow Oblast towns of Krasnogorsk and Reutov. This first underground railway system in the Soviet Union was opened in 1935 with a single 11-kilometer (6.8 mi) line and 13 stations (it will soon have 188 stations and be over 313km). [Also! The beginning of the Cold War led to the construction of a deep section of the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line. The stations on this line were planned as shelters in the event of nuclear war...holy crow... 

There was an intense governmental glorification of The Metro, for it was not only one of the Soviet Union’s most extravagant architectural projects (with reflective marble walls, high ceilings and grandiose chandeliers, many Moscow Metro stations have been likened to an "artificial underground sun," in fact, the vertical design emphasis encouraged citizens to look upward as if looking up at the sun, and to boot, the Metro's chandeliers were one of the most technologically advanced aspects of the entire project). Stalin ordered the metro’s artists and architects to design a structure that embodied svet (radiance or brilliance) and svetloe budushchee (a radiant future)This underground communist paradise reminded its riders that Stalin and his party had not only delivered something substantial to the people in return for their sacrifices, but the monument was in their honor and glorified the people themselves. Most important of all: proletarian labor produced this svetloe budushchee.

... I mean... where else in the world is the rumble of trains accompanied by the tinkle of chandeliers? I marvel that taking the Metro is a rather solemn, official experience. Everyone is entirely silent, the announcements deliberate, officious and almost reverent. The hum of the electric lights combined with that of the churning escalators lull the upright people who look straight ahead and stand very still.  "This is as close as the city would get to a church, I suppose," I whisper to Kit as we make our way down the stairs. He just turns around to me and nods, taking the social cue that THEY DON'T REALLY TALK IN THE METRO AT ALL, and perhaps lightly suggesting that I take the hint as well.

All of this as we prepare for the sleeper train to St. Petersburg tonight. 


1 comment:

  1. I was in Russia last year and fell in love with this place. Reading your post hurts a bit because you make me miss it even more, altough the metro was the only think I did not like about it.

    You have to visit the Catherine Park near St. Petersburg, it is wonderful!



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