Wednesday, August 3, 2011


While I've seen some beautiful and interesting metro stations before, I wouldn't exactly think of a subway as a tourist destination. Then we visited Moscow.

The Moscow Metro is the second most heavily used mass transit system in the world, right behind the Tokyo subway.  Six or seven MILLION people ride on it every day.
As you can see, it wasn't very crowded during the mid-morning time we were there.
 The metro was begun in 1931, and it opened in 1935 with 13 stations.  There are 12 lines and 182 stations. New track and stations are added each year, but the most spectacular stations were built in the 1930s and 1950s during the height of Josef Stalin's power.

Stalin wanted the Metro to reflect the USSR's power and the pride of her people, and so the stations are very grandiose, with high-reaching ceilings, marble floors and columns, and beautiful artwork that focuses not on the Soviet Union's beautiful scenery, but on its citizens.

Our guide took us to several of her favorite stations.  By the way, this is NOT a tourist destination we would dare to attempt on our own.  There is no English on the signs, making it difficult for a foreigner to navigate:

There is, however, a lot of familiar Soviet symbology throughout:

 I wish I had the names of the stations so I could have done some additional research, but since I couldn't read the writing, I had a hard time understanding and remembering the complicated names, which all seemed to have six or seven syllables.  A few of the stations required a descent on very steep, very long escalators.  Stalin had the metro built at great depths during the 1950s, thinking it might need to be used as a bomb shelter.  I expected dark and dingy subway platforms at the bottom of those escalators, but this is what we found:
1: The Art Deco station

Okay, so THIS was a little creepy. Would you dare do this if Stalin were still in charge?  I don't think so.

2: The "Let's Have Fun" Station
Each of the stations we saw had a particular art style and/or theme. The next station we visited had wonderful mosaics on the ceiling. I think the theme of this one was "play" (not something I associate with the former USSR):

3: The "Peasants Are Rich People Too" Station
 This one could be a palace or a very, very expensive shopping  mall:

Which is why it was odd that each of the murals depicted a scene of idyllic peasant life.  Note the native costumes:

4: The Stained Glass Window Station

Mural at the end of the platform.  That's a pretty glorious hammer and sickle behind the Communist-style nativity scene of mother and child.

5: The "We Love to Work Hard" Station
Again, I loved the juxtaposition of the extremely ornate architecture and the subject of the art. The Communists mean it when they say work is noble:
Detail of cornice

6: The "Glory of War" Station

Hey! I saw this guy in his mausoleum!

I had to keep reminding myself that I was not in an art museum, but in a metro station.  I wonder how many artists were involved in making these superb mosaics, and how long each one took to make?  They were quite spectacular, and the events and emotions expressed were often very moving:
Close-up of one of the murals.  Note the details on the soldier's uniform--the medals and epaulets--and the woman's braided hair.
Okay, I know I included a lot of pictures in this post, but they represent just a fraction of  the hundreds of pictures Bob and I took.  By the way, I did not see one scrap of litter nor one line of graffiti.  The marble floors were polished to a high gleam, the light fixtures were all aglow, and every piece of art was very well maintained.  I can't imagine that the non-tourist stops are all like this, but we were definitely impressed by what we saw.

Our guide told us that Muscovites are very proud of their metro.  They should be.


  1. What a beautiful display of public art and a wonderful example of how the public will take pride in things when they are beautiful.
    Thank you for sharing your photos with us. They are amazing.

  2. Wow, you must have been in Moscow for six months. Did you go anywhere else on your trip? Or did you just really like it there?

  3. These pictures really are beautiful and inspiring. I have all kinds of source material for our next remodel!

  4. WOW! Mexico City's Metro system is pretty cool, but nothing like this!!

  5. How beautiful. I do remember Mom talking about the spectacular Russian Metro stations. I did recognize one Russian word: MIR (= "peace") above the mother & child stained glass. Interesting. Thank you for posting these!

  6. I, too, like Metro stations, but this seems to be the most art-filled one I've seen.