The Moscow MetroRussian: Moskovskiy metropoliten or Московский метрополитен is considered to be one of the most beautiful transit systems in the world. Architecturally, it is a true underground museum which can be accessed for the price of one ride. Each of its 222 stations is unique, with many of those built in the Soviet era being recognised as masterpieces of architecture. You will find elements of the Empire style, Art Deco, gothic architecture and, naturally, Russian national motifs. The Moscow Metro is an integral part of any guided tour of Moscow intended for those interested in architecture and history.
The Moscow Metro is the only underground system in the world where every station has a unique design. This tradition was observed from when the metro opened in 1935 and the first section from Park KulturyRussian: Парк Культуры to SokolnikiRussian: Сокольники was constructed. The reason for such a focus on design probably lies in the desire of Soviet leaders to communicate the power of the union to citizens and foreign visitors in every possible way. It is no coincidence that the most exquisite stations are designed in Stalin’s Empire style, a nod to the era of Napoleonic wars and the reign of Alexander Ireigned as Emperor of Russia from 1801 to 1825 — the great empires of yesterday.
Two more lines were opened before the outbreak of World War II. Construction continued during wartime, but most of the construction of the metro took place in the postwar period. The interior design of the stations was dependent on the station layout and even on the tunnel depth to some extent. Stations were designed in various ways to make it easier for commuters to find their way around the underground; people recognise where they are based on the familiar features of a station seen from train windows. The overall Soviet approach to architecture changed somewhat in the 1960s, as planned construction based on pre-developed design came to the fore. The standard designs of metro stations became more elaborate, but they have always been subject to minor modifications and style customisations in order to continue the long-established tradition of uniqueness. More than 20 stations are decorated with real fossils discovered during tunnel excavation.
Of course, there is no official list of the best and most beautiful metro stations. Nonetheless, some of them are truly remarkable. Not only do they illustrate the evolution of architectural styles but they also refer to specific ideological aspects or historical events, glorifying the life of the country and its individual nations and heroes.
This station, on the green line, is remarkable for a number of reasons. The first deep column station in the world, it won the international Grand Prix for Architecture in Paris in 1937 and in New York in 1939. It is often named as the most beautiful station in the Moscow Metro. The decorations of MayakovskayaRussian: Маяковская were designed by a large team of architects, artists and sculptors, including Alexey Dushkin, who designed the station and one of its halls, and Alexander Deinekaa Soviet Russian painter, graphic artist and sculptor, who drew the sketches for the semidome mosaic. The station is recognised as a masterpiece of Art Deco, which was the dominant style of that time. Although the platform is narrower than other similar stations, Mayakovskaya is incredibly light and elegant. Its three-aisled column hall is virtually translucent. The widely-spaced columns dressed in stainless steel and red granite flow into the white domed ceiling with inlaid mosaics. Deineka’s One Day of the Soviet SkyRussian: Sutki sovetskogo neba or Сутки советского неба creates the impression of a real sky above the heads of commuters.
KOMSOMOLSKAYA (KOLTSEVAYA LINE)
KomsomolskayaRussian: Комсомольская metro station, on the red line, (SokolnicheskayaRussian: Сокольническая) has an interesting architectural design, but its neighbour Komsomolskaya on the Koltsevaya LineRussian: Koltsevaya liniya or Кольцевая линия is rightfully considered as one of the most beautiful stations in the system. While Myakovskaya has a majestic, yet restrained appearance, Komsomolskaya Koltsevaya creates an atmosphere of celebration and festivity. The station designed by Dmitry Chechulin and A. Tarkhov opened in 1935. It was named after the young communists (Komsomola political youth organization in the Soviet Union members) involved in the construction. This is the crux of Stalin’s Empire stylearchitecture of the Soviet Union under the leadership of Joseph Stalin, between 1933 and 1955, the glorification of the Soviet ‘happy present’. The ceiling features mosaic panels made of cobalt glass and semiprecious stones, which tell the story of the Russian people struggling for its independence from Ancient Rus’ to the revolutionary early 20th century.
Ploshchad RevolyutsiiRussian: Площадь Революции; means Revolution Square station is a masterpiece by Alexander Dushkin and Matvey Manizer, a popular Soviet sculptor. It is on the blue Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya LineRussian: Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya liniya or Арбатско-Покровская линия, and it opened in 1938. Its interior design was originally intended partially for entertainment, as a large cinema was going to be built nearby. However, plans changed during the course of construction, and it was decided to dedicate the station to the heroes of the Soviet revolution of 1917. In the end, therefore, the station became a gallery of heroic revolutionary characters. 80 bronze sculptures decorate the four corners of each of the 20 pillars. The sculptures are so massive that they seem to hardly fit into the areas allocated to them. Nevertheless, this quirk of design adds some spice to the overall impression of the station. Also, rubbing the nose of the frontier guard’s bronze dog is believed to guarantee exam success for students, while rubbing the leg of the female student is believed to heal broken hearts. The inventor’s pencil and the sailor’s revolver are especially popular items with thieves; they are stolen with unfailing regularity, so present-day sculptors have to recast them over and over again to hoist them back where they are supposed to be.
If the Russian history is a subject of your interest and you want to know, for example, what is the oldest church in Moscow, what are the famous monasteries around Moscow, which style of architecture Moscow you can see only in this town, you can read about it on our website pages “Kremlin and Red square” and “History and Architecture”.
TAGANSKAYA (KOLTSEVAYA LINE)
TaganskayaRussian: Таганская station of the Koltsevaya Line, designed with a somewhat Gothic architecture in mind, opened in 1950. The semicircular vaults are wedged in by sharp triangles of the Majolica panels, which evolve into identical triangular patterns on the ceiling. The very delicate, refined decorations look extremely dignified. Three colours dominate the panels: white, cream, and light blue. However, putting aside the Gothic motifs, a purely Russian pattern of richly decorated triangular kokoshniksOld Russian hair-pieces can also be traced in those panels. The vitrified Majolica panels represent white reliefs with lace-like ornamentation on a pastel blue background. The central role in these exquisite panels is played by the bas-reliefs of servicemen of various forces. Each of the portraits have a description beneath.
Another station on the Koltsevaya Line, opened in 1952, was NovoslobodskayaRussian: Новослободская station designed by architects Alexey Dushkin (his last metro project) and Alexander Strelkov. It was decorated by Pavel Korin. Circular shapes dominate the interior design: round vaults, conical chandeliers and semicircular niches at the end of the platform, rounded arches and stained glass panels between them. Even the pylons themselves do not stand upright but lean inwards visibly, like trees in a gust of wind. The magnificent stained-glass panels on each of the 32 pylons were manufactured in Latvia using glass which had originally been intended for the Nativity of Christ Cathedral in Riga. Each panel is edged with brass moulding, which look as if they are descended from the pages of Pavel Bazhov’s The Stone FlowerRussian: Kamennyi tsvetok or Каменный цветок fantasy book.
The ArbatskayaRussian: Арбатская station on the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line opened in 1953. It was designed by a team of architects led by Leonid Polyakov. Its three passages (the central one plus two platforms for commuters) are separated by large pylons. Like Novoslobodskaya station, the interior of Arbatskaya is full of round shapes. However, the main tunnel is rather elliptical in cross-section – the pylons seem to lean towards one another from both sides, echoing the pointed arches typical of Gothic architecture. The decorations incorporate elements of the Baroque style. The colours are very restrained, yet the detail within the work is exquisite, and astoundingly sophisticated. In contrast to the lightweight and luminous upper part with mouldings, the lower part of the pylons is faced with red marble.
The KrasnopresnenskayaRussian: Краснопресненская station on the Koltsevaya Line opened in 1954. This is yet another station dedicated to the revolutions of 1905 and 1917, although it is not as impressive or eye-catching as Ploshchad Revolyutsii. It is named after Krasnaya PresnyaRussian: Красная Пресня Street, the main artery of the PresnyaRussian: Пресня District which was the centre of the violent uprising of Moscow workers in 1905against the Imperial Government for better socio-democratic conditions. The white vaults evolve smoothly into the pylons richly decorated with ornaments and bas-reliefs depicting the events of the revolution. The pylons themselves represent massive red granite pedestals with white marble cornices.
KIYEVSKAYA (KOLTSEVAYA LINE)
KiyevskayaRussian: Киевская station opened in 1954 to celebrate 300 years of Russo-Ukrainian unity. Designed by Yevgeny Katonin, Vadim Skugarev and Georgy Golubev, the station was constructed after the death of Joseph Stalin, when Nikita Khrushchev had come to power in the Soviet Union. The new leader wanted to eternalise his home republic in bright and festive motifs, and the project designers did their best to fulfill his desire. The pylon feet and the vaults are white, making a perfect background to 18 large mosaics with unique plots, mostly representing the friendship between the Russian and Ukrainian peoples and their unity within the Soviet Union. There is an interesting story about this station – one of the mosaics allegedly reveal a man from the future, a guerilla warrior who is talking on the phone and holding a box on his knees. The device in his hands thought to be a cell phone and the box to be a laptop, which caused a little stir. However, a closer analysis has shown that the telephone is a famous field model used in wartime and the box is just the telephone system cover.
There are also some remarkable stations among those which have only recently been built. DostoyevskayaRussian: Достоевская station on the Lyublinsko-Dmitrovskaya LineRussian: Lyublinsko-Dmitrovskaya liniya or Люблинско-Дмитровская линия, opened in 2010, is decorated with panels depicting scenes from various works by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. His memorial apartment is located nearby, in the house where the great writer was born and raised. The station walls are decorated with black-and-white Florentine mosaics. Many found the station too gloomy and depressing when it was opened, predicting that it would become a popular suicide spot because of the scenes of death in the illustrations from Idiot and Crime and Punishment – there were even demands for the station to be redesigned.
The Soviet underground is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful underground systems in the world. Limited budgets do not allow modern architects to compete with the stations of the 1930s and 1950s, when every new station was built with the intent to make it a majestic underground palace. However, today’s architects carry on the tradition established by their Soviet predecessors by designing every new station in a unique way. RumyantsevoRussian: Румянцево station on the red Sokolnicheskaya Line is one of the recently built stations that deserve special mention. The decoration of Rumyantsevo, opened in 2016, revolves around fantasies inspired by the works of Piet Mondrian, a famous Dutch abstract painter.© 2016-2018 moscovery.com