The building of the underground lines started in the early 30-ies. The forced industrialization of the young Soviet power had led to a rapid growth of the cities, most of all Moscow, and in order to secure the availability of this huge workforce, still growing at this time, the infrastructure of Moscow had to be re-thought and re-modelled. One part of this modernization was the Underground.
The planning and building of the Moscow Underground is
linked to the personality of Lazar Kaganovich (1893-1991), whose name
it bore for the first 20 years of its existence. Later it was renamed
the "Moscow Lenin-Underground".
Kaganovich was then when the underground was planned and construction started the head of the City Soviet of Moscow, in 1935 he became the Peoples Commissioner for Transport. From 1930 on he was the man responsible for the reconstruction of Moscow.
He also ordered the destruction of the Church of Christ
the Saviour in the place of which the Palace of the Soviets should be
built which never came into existence as it turned out that the
underground was rather instable. The new Church that has been built in
the place of the destroyed one, mostly from concrete and very quick
in order to be ready for Moscows 850th anniversary is probably
going to face serious problems one day.
The first Soviet Underground system should not only be
functional, that is, it should not only be able to transport the members
of the young Soviet proletariate smoothly to their respectable workplaces,
but it should also as the rebuilding of Moscow in general
be a proof that the first proletarian state could outdo the Capitalist
West, and even surpass it. The Moscow Underground was to be better, more
effective and more beautiful than any underground system existing so far.
The speed in which the underground lines had to be constructed
led to many mortal casualties among the workers about which official figures
never have been made public. The majority of the workers employed were
young people, members of the Komsomol, and many of them came from the
countryside. There are rumours that not all of the people working in the
underground construction did this voluntarily.
By 1946 three more lines had been added to the original ones. The ring line was built between 1950 and 1954.
The Moscow Underground is still growing. As far as functionality and maintenance are concerned it is in far a better shape than the London or New York Underground. After the collapse of Soviet Union and in the course of the economic crisis following it the Underground has become a shelter for homeless. And, as public transport worldwide, it has turned into a target for terrorists.
The Sokolnicheskaya Line
in the place of the Cathedral of the Saviour. Some of the marble used in this station allegedly was taken from the demolished cathedral. A model from this underground station was presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1937 and won a prize there.
As the Palace was never built the station was renamed, remembering Pyotr Kropotkin.
Kropotkin was a Russian anarchist whose activities took place before the October Revolution. He was forced into exile by persecution of the Tsarist authorities, and spent most of his life in Switzerland, France and England. He wrote some books on how Revolution should be made and how Socialism should be organized. It is doubtful whether the Soviet leaders have read these books, at least they followed another concept than Kropotkin.
Now there are rumours that the station should be called "Station of the Saviour". First, this would be quite a change to the name it now bears. Second, it would sound strange as the next station is the Lenin-Library.
With the opening of the Sokolnicheskaya Line also the first escalators to the underground were inaugurated. The trains had 4 wagons each, and the daily average transport capacity was 177.000 passengers.
One station on this line was below the Lyubyanka, the center of the Secret Service. It obviously was very important to connect this place with the Kremlin and the outskirts ...
Looks quite gloomy, doesnt it? Still it must be stated that this station underwent thorough reconstruction in the 70-ies and I didnt manage to find a picture showing its original appearance.
The Zamoskvarechkaya Line
This was the second line to be built. In the beginning one of the main aims was to unite the center, that is the Kremlin, with the numerous Moscow train stations. While the first underground lines Komsomolskaya Station is situated below the "place of the 3 train stations", the Leningrad, Kazan and Jaroslawl stations, the Zamoskvarechkaya Line leads to the Paveletski (southward direction) and Belorussian stations (northward direction).
The name of the line means: "the line that leads across the river Moskva".
In 1938, though, only the northward bound part was opened, till the station "Sokol." The line was then called "Gorkovsko-Zamoskvarechkaya". For a while after his death in 1936 Maxim Gorkii was very popular and a lot of buildings and institutions were named after him, but later he fell from favour and his name was removed from most public places.
The Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line
This line was built, used, then replaced by a parallel line, and later again used, as part of a much longer line leading northeast from the center. What is now called Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya is the later and deeper one, the original became part of the Filichevskaya Line.
The reason for this strange parallelism is that during World War II a bomb fell on the original line, making a big hole in the tunnel, and showed that this line was too near the surface to withstand aviation attacks. As this line was supposed to lead to Stalins dacha later it was decided to build a deeper line which was not in danger to be destroyed by airplane bombs.
Arbatskaya Station is named of the main shopping and recreation street, now a pedestrian zone, in Central Moscow. Smolyenskaya is named after a Russian city, not far from the border with Belarus: Perhaps in former times there was a city gate with that name, or a road named this way, leading west, towards Smolensk.
While the lines introduced so far were all built during Stalins reign, the Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya Line came into existence lateron.
The Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya Line
I have no information which materials are common in nowadays underground construction, as the lines are still expanded and new stations added.
The use of marble and granite somehow ceased by the beginning of the 60-ies, but was used in most stations built before that time. Up to then the stations displayed also other very elaborate materials: Most of the mosaics are made from small pieces of coloured melted glass on ceramic, a technique called smalte; in some places there were tiles from porcelain, or a special kind of base plates named after a German town where they were invented and first produced on a large scale: Mettlach-plates.