Viktor Deni: We have a Metro! (1935) Long live our great Stalin. There is no fortress that Bolsheviks cannot take – Stalin. Source: Lebedev, Artemii: Moscow Metro. 1996.
The Moscow Metro system began construction in 1932 after a massive publicity campaign around it and Stalin which caused the project to have priority on all the resources it needed. Many prominent people had their reputations tied to this project including Stalin’s successor, Khrushchev. It was built as one of the crowning achievements of the pre-WWII era and drew thousands of tourists from across the Soviet Union to marvel at the capital’s Metro system. The decision to construct and underground Metro instead of relying on the above ground trolley system would prove invaluable as it would serve as bomb shelters during the German bombardments of the city in WWII.
When construction started, the Soviets used German Metro construction techniques of open pit construction that both made construction easier, but faster as well. However, the downsides were that the Metro lines had to run along existing infrastructure instead of going straight from point A to B and that it massively disrupted the daily lives of Moscow’s citizenry. Eventually, the Soviets adopted British techniques that allowed them to work deep underground without disrupting the lives of the people which I am sure they appreciated it as much we appreciate not having to go around construction. The British method required them to move construction deeper underground which forced the builders to scratch the elevators and install a new escalator system to move the massive amounts of foot traffic. The construction of the Metro system was plagued by a shortage of skilled workers, but those who did work were highly revered for decades to come. The manner of the construction of the Metro system allowed it to be easily expandable in the next decades that allowed it to reach the edges of the ever growing Moscow.
The first line opening in May 1935 to hundreds of thousands of passengers. The amount of passengers increased dramatically in its first months, increasing from 159,000 daily passengers in January to 261,000 daily passengers in February 1936. Over the course of the first year, the Metro system would average 360-400,000 passengers a day, surpassing the volume of the Paris Metro. It would carry an annual total of 110.7 million passengers for its first year and would continue to grow.
One fascinating part of the history is that different aspects related to it develop independently from the government. The Metro would be regarded as a palace to ordinary people would had never seen such marvels before that were buried deep underground. Underground children began to be picked up in the middle of tunnels during the nights and ferried across the city. The people of 20th Century Moscow faced the same problems we do like one man would tried to catch a train, but got his head stuck in the doors and was nearly killed when the train began to set off. Eventually, the Moscow Metro would serve as a meeting spot for young people to meet and fall in love.
Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: A History. 3rd ed. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1997.