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Moscow Metro Tour

Central Moscow Tour- in four parts with map:
Part 1 Stops 1 through 13. Marriott Royal/Hotel Budapest to Manezh Ploshchad
Part 2 Stops 14 though 22. Around Manezh Ploshchad
Part 3 Stops 23 though 44. Along Tverskaya Street to the area around Pushkin Square
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Moscow Metro History and Tour

Page Contents
Other Stations
Online Maps and websites
Guided Tours
Metro Museum


Long before the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922, transportation and traffic in Moscow was an issue. In the 19th century the first mass transit solution was horse-drawn tramlines that began in 1872. As other cities were building underground system, it was considered as well in Moscow but nothing happened. By the turn of the century some form of light rail was thought to be the answer to the traffic so in 1898 a resolution was passed to plan routes and station locations. Construction for the Inner Ring railroad began in 1902 about the same time that the tram system was electrified. This rail line would relieve some of the freight transport issues into and within the city, but it did not address the issue of commuter movement.

At the same time that the ring railroad was being constructed, there were two different proposals for an underground transport system to connect to the surface lines. One idea consisted of three rail lines, one circular route and two linear routes that crossed the circle.

The circular path would travel along the Kamer-Kollezhskiy Rampart, the 1742 city boundaries established by Tsarina Elizaveta Petrovna (1709-1762). This border received its name from the reason for its construction. Its purpose, unlike previous walls, was not protection of the people or property, but rather the protection of monetary interests. It was built to restrict smuggling, mainly of vodka, and to insure the proper payment of duties for importation and exportation. The embankment got its name from the state organization that took charge of collecting these taxes, the Kamer Kollezhsky or Chamber Board.

The linear paths would tentatively were called the Sokolnichesko-Arbatskaya line (from Preobrazhenskaya Zastava to the Novodevichy Monastery) and the Zamoskvoretskaya-Tverskaya line (from Serpukhovskaya Zastava to Petrovsky Park). Unfortunately, the railway engineer designers of this plan were unable to get the government interested in considering their plans.

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The other proposal included a feasibility study, a multi stage plan for construction that would require a combination of underground and above ground rail, 16 kilometers of tunnels and a three story Central Terminal whose construction alone would have cost more than twice that of the other 74 stations contemplated. The developers heavily promoted the plan, and the city Duma seriously considered the project, but in 1903 they completely rejected the idea.

Less than eight years later the Duma spent its money on the development of other proposals, and by 1911 the Moscow City Government had its own proposal under serious consideration for an initial system of three lines to intersect in the center of Moscow followed by a second stage with a circle line under the Garden Ring Road. Several other designs were considered, but in the end none were built because of the onset of the First World War.

Further consideration of transportation issues had to wait until the end of the Russian Civil War and the establishment of the Soviet Union in 1922. At that point, the issue of transportation again was placed on the city's agenda. Within a year, the Moscow City Council formed the Underground Railway Design Office of the Moscow Board of Urban Railways. This group carried out preliminary studies and by 1928 had developed a project for the first route from Sokolniki to the city center. After some further research, it was apparent that all projects that were under consideration would be completely inadequate to meet the city's growing needs.

In June 1931, at a time when the situation had become critical, the Central Committee of the Communist Party decreed: "The preparatory work for the construction of the Moscow Metro is to begin immediately; the Metro is to be the primary solution to the need for rapid and inexpensive mass transit. The actual construction is to be started in 1932. "The whole country will build the metro," declared the Communist Party and workers were drafted from all over the nation. Red Army soldiers assisted in the construction efforts along with over 13,000 students of the Komsomol (Communist Youth League) who volunteered their time. The Metro work force reached seventy-five thousand people by 1934.

Thus the Moscow Metro, also know as the Underground Palace, or the Palace for the People became one of Stalin's shining achievements. Building the Metro was seen as a way to showcase the ideals of socialism and the achievements of the workers and peasants. Two prominent young Communists, Lazar Moiseyevich Kaganovich (1893-1991) and Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev (1894-1971), were entrusted with the task. Both were talented managers and tireless organizers. In fact, the Metro was named after Kaganovich until the end of the Stalin era when it was renamed in memory of Lenin.

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Considered the most important State construction project of the time, construction of the metro began in earnest in 1932. It was supplied with material, cement, steel, transportation, and accorded the "highest priority in all respects, as befits a project with an all-state significance." Supplies came from all over the country, rails from the steel works in Kuznetsk, quartzite from Karelia, limestone from Crimea, black marble from the Ural mountains, Armenia and Georgia, white marble from the Urals, Altai, Asia Minor and the Caucasus, deep red marble from Georgia, pink marble from the Lake Baikal region in the far east, gray marble from the Urals. In fact, natural materials cover three-quarters of the walls and more than half the floor space.

Several of Russia's finest artisans were enlisted to design and decorate the stations. Two won important awards for their station designs at the New York World's Fair in 1938, Aleksei Dushkin for the Mayakovskaya station and Aleksei Shchusev for the Komsomolskaya ring station that opened in 1952. The only restriction placed on designers was to work within the ideals of Socialist Realism, although they were encouraged to deal with themes such as the 1917 Revolution, national defense and the "Soviet way of life." Many of the plans depicted a way of life that the government wanted the people to believe Soviet life was like.

Numerous obstacles presented themselves from the beginning. An underground tunnel that was started in 1931 to test the ground and other evaluations of the subsurface found unfavorable sub soil conditions suggesting that the tunneling would be problematic. There were sands saturated with water, layers of different clays some of which were water bearing, levels of limestone, old waterways, and quicksand. In the end, a combination of tunnels and open pits were used. During the exploration and building many underground rivers were discovered including four separate waterways that had to be crossed in the construction of the tunnel between Sokolniki and Okhotny Ryad.

Despite the many impediments, after months of test runs, the inaugural thirteen stations opened to the public at 7 AM on May 15, 1935. On that day alone the Moscow Metro carried 325,000 passengers. From Soloniki to Park Kultury, the first section was 11.6 kilometers long and had one transfer point at Okhotny Ryad to the Smolenskaya station. Within two years, additional stations were completed. These stations marked the first phase of metro construction. Their architecture reflects a degree of modernism, and they are excellent examples of Soviet avant-garde. By 1939, there were twenty-two stops serving over a million passengers. Then began the second phase of construction. The stations opened during this period demonstrate philosophical changes in their styles of art, sculpture and architecture. The new trend toward the monumental revealed Stalin's complete control of the ideological goals of the state including architectural design.

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Despite the war, twenty-nine stops on three different lines were operating by 1944. This marked the end of the third phase of construction. These original stations, built before the end of World War II, are considered the most architecturally interesting. Two have been proposed as UNESCO unique architectural monuments, Mayakovskaya, opened in 1938 and Novokuznetskaya, opened in 1943, both on the green line.

The fourth phase of the metro was Ring or Koltsevaya Line, which originally was planned to run under the Garden Ring, the boulevard that follows the borders of the Zemlyanoi Gorod, or earthen embankment of the 16th century. The first part of the line opened in 1950 from Oktyabrskaya to Kurskaya, and included six stops that were built along this path. The subsequent stations, along the northern section, were moved one to two kilometers outside the ring so that seven of the city's nine railways stations would be connected to the metro system. The entire ring was completed by 1954, a year after Stalin's death, at which time forty stations were in operation. Artistically, the stations of this period are the most ideological.

Many of the stations built in the second, third and fourth phases were constructed quite deep below the surface. They were intended to serve as bomb shelters during the "Great Patriotic War" as World War II is commonly called in Russia. Headquarters for the Anti Aircraft Defense Forces were located near the Mayakovskaya metro. In its central hall, Stalin addressed the party leaders before the Red Army marched off to the front. Ten stories below the surface, near the Chistye Prudy station, were the secret headquarters of the General Staff. Today this network of tunnels are flooded and abandoned. In a few older stations, cold war era enclosures housing giant "nuclear-resistant" doors are visible. Eventually it became apparent that the metro could not serve as protection for the masses against a nuclear attack, and stations were no longer built as far underground.

Metro construction continues today. In the summer of 2001 there were 160 stations on eleven lines covering 269 kilometers, including the ring line, which is twenty kilometers and connects all the other lines. Line 4, the Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya line is the longest continuous metro tunnel in the world extending 38.1 kilometers. According to the annual report of 2004, the Metro had 171 stations on 12 lines covering 278.3 kilometers. The Moscow Metro website indicates that every day in 2007, 9915 trains run over 12 lines of the system which covers 282.5 kilometers and includes 173 stations.

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The metro opens at 5:30 a.m. and closes at 1:00 a.m., although after about 12:30 a.m. it is not possible to transfer between some lines. Rush hour should be avoided as many Muscovites use the metro to go to work and back home. In fact, daily more people use the Moscow Metro than the New York Subway and the London Underground combined. Avoid the morning rush hour between 7:30 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. and the evening one between 4:00 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Also note that some stops near train stations or markets may be crowded throughout the day. On a normal weekday it carries 10.05 million passengers, but traffic on the weekends is considerably lower making the average daily traffic on the order of 7.1 million passengers (2004 annual report.)

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Station Names 

Station names can be confusing. Some have the same name for all lines that cross (Komsomolskaya or Park Kultury) while others have different names for each station (Okhotny Ryad, Teatralnaya, Ploshchad Revolutsii). There are two Arbatskaya stations, one on the light blue line, which is not a transfer station, and one on the dark blue line which is. And there are two Smolenskaya stations, one on the dark blue line and one on the light blue line. When following directions that indicate a specific station as the exit to be taken, it is important to go to that exact station to depart. In many instances, exits for the different lines are located blocks apart from one another. Metro platforms are a common place to arrange to meet people, but it is important to know which station, which line, in what direction and at which end of the platform. There are even a few stations that have benches, some in the central hall and others closer to the tracks.

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Start at the Ploshchad Revolutsii - Opened in 1938, this was one of the first dark blue line stations to open. Aleksei Dushkin who designed several other stations designed the station, and Matvei Manizer cast the sculptures. Its passageway arches are supported by life sized bronze sculptures of everyday heroes who helped construct the Soviet state. Themes heading towards the escalator are force to carry out and protect the Revolution (Red Army Guard,) industry (worker,) agriculture (farmer,) hunting, education (young Pioneer,) sport (discus thrower and others,) and child rearing (a mother and child).

Transfer stations to Teatralnaya on the green line. Teatralnaya Station was originally called Ploshchad Sverdlovaya when it opened in 1938. The delicate creamed colored ceramic panels in the ceiling here celebrate the arts of the former Soviet Republics.

Take the green line train towards Rechnoy Vokzal. Pass the Tverskaya metro station, which opened in 1979, and get off at the next stop.

The Mayakovskaya stop is considered by many to be the most outstanding of all the stations and an excellent example of Soviet Realism. It was one of the first green line stations to open in 1938. This project by Aleksei Dushkin won the Grande Prix in architecture at the New York World's Fair that year. Stainless steel and red rodonite columns support the central ceiling. The theme of the ceiling decorations is "One Day of Soviet Skies." Recesses in the ceilings are filled with 33 mosaics of planes and sports scenes executed from drawings by Aleksei Deineka, a well-known Soviet artist who died in the siege of Leningrad. A bronze bust of Soviet poet and writer Vladimir Mayakovsky sits on a pedestal in a niche. As a youth, he was a great supporter of the Communist Revolution, but he became disillusioned later in life and committed suicide. This station served as a refuge for women and children during World War II.

Get back on the green line train in the same direction and disembark at the next station, Belarusskaya. Switch to the brown or ring line station at the same stop.

The Belarusskaya station was one of the later ring line stations and was built near the train station of the same name. Mosaic decorations in this station reflect wished for Soviet ideals of fat happy peasants celebrating agricultural abundance. The floor is tiled in the style of a traditional Belarussian rug. Note the interesting lighting fixtures.

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Travel in the direction of Krasnopreskaya Station. Pass this station, which is located near the American Embassy and the Moscow Zoo. Get off at the next station.

Kievskaya was another of the ring stops built near a train station. There are three stops here and it is worthwhile to spend some time looking at all three.

The last of the Kievskaya metro stations, the circle or brown line station which was also part of the fourth phase, opened less than a year later on March 14, 1954. Its design was chosen through a competition of Kiev architects. The central hall has a graceful bright white arched ceiling that is connected to passageways and other stations by parabolic archways bordered with molded decorative braid that is characteristic of seventeenth century Ukrainian architecture. On the arched supports, ornate plasterwork frames surround eighteen panels designed by the artist A. V. Mizin. The theme of these mosaics set with semiprecious and other stones is the unity of Russia and Ukraine. Marble benches grace some of these supports. Magnificent golden round chandeliers hang in the central hall. On the end wall is a marble bas-relief that originally contained portraits of Lenin and Stalin. Today only the mosaic bas-relief of Lenin remains.

The Kievskaya metro station for the dark blue station on the Arbatskaya Pokroskaya line, part of the fourth stage of construction, opened twenty-six years later on April 5, 1953. It has gray granite floors and wide white Ural marble supports with black marble decoration. The vaulted ceiling eaves of the supports of the central hall are decorated with ornate ceramic medallions inset with twenty-four frescoes representing "happy Ukrainian workers" in socialist realism style. The ceiling eaves on the platform side of the supports are covered with frescoes with floral designs. At the end of the station hall is a bright mosaic panel depicting the happy celebration in 1954 of the 300th anniversary of the union of Ukraine and Russia. The walls are covered by grey and white marble while the floor is composed of grey granite slabs.

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The first Keivskaya Metro Station, part of the first stage of construction, was the light blue station, designed by Dmitri N. Chechulin (1901-1981) and opened on March 20, 1937. Armenian onyx initially covered the station hall columns, but in the first 10 years after the station opened, the surface started to deteriorate. The columns were refaced in a light marble with blue and yellowish tones. The capitals of the columns are designed in the form of sheaves of wheat. The pink and grey granite floor is laid out in a traditional Ukrainian decorative pattern. The upper part of the side walls are covered by glazed ceramic tiles, while the lower sections are pink granite. On the ceiling are large round openings for three part lighting fixtures.

Return to the ring line station and continue in the same direction. Exit at the next station.

Park Kultury was built across the Moscow River from Gorky Park and the Central Hall of Artists along the Garden Ring at Krimsky Val. Transfer here to the red station, which was one of those that opened in 1935. Alcoves in the central hall hold white marble bas-reliefs showing people engaged in sports and recreation activities.

Take the red line in the direction of Yugo Zapadnaya.

Vorobyovy Gory metro station originally was at the southern end of a bridge across the Moscow River and opened in January 1959 as Lenin's Hills metro station. Completed in less than nineteen months, the original and now the current Luzhniki metro bridge commonly is called the Metromost.

The original bridge had a number of major design problems. It was supposed to be of steel, but reportedly Khrushchev wanted it made of reinforced concrete mistakenly believing that this would reduce the amount of metal required and thus cost less and that this would decrease the construction time. To further speed the construction, which took place through winter, the builders used salt to accelerate the process of curing the concrete. Unfortunately, the concrete froze before setting and eventually the protective concrete layer started breaking off revealing the armature, exposing the surfaces to water and resulting in more rapid corrosion of the rebar and tension cables.

Then because of poor waterproofing, during the first spring thaw, water rushed through the station. Six months after opening, in July 1959, rainwater came pouring through the station roof, flooding the tracks, and stopping service temporarily. Subsequently heavy rains regularly hampered service. Less than a year later in June 1960 one of the ceiling cornices in a lobby corridor collapsed. Over the next several years, other elements of the interior of the station hall started to deteriorate.

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Structural assessments in 1963 revealed imminent danger but the decision was made to keep the bridge open and the metro station operational. By 1983 it was determined that the bridge had lost 60 percent of its structural load capacity forcing the metro track level and the station to close in October 1983. Beginning in 1986-1987, the metro trains were rerouted to temporary steel girder bridges that stood alongside the current bridge. Over the next several years, political reorganization and subsequent economic concerns delayed the reconstruction of the bridge and metro station.

Retrace your steps and take the red line in the direction of Ulitsa Podbel'skovo.

Visit the next station.

Kropotkinskaya has elegant columns on the platform and upper galleries that were also designed by Aleksei Dushkin during the initial phase of metro construction. Originally this station was named for the Palace of Soviets that Stalin intended to be built nearby. When that project was abandoned, the stop was renamed for Prince Pyotr Kropotkin, a late 19th- early 20th century anarchist and political theorist who lived nearby.

Continue past the next station, which was named for the Lenin Library located above it. This station and the one following it were among the first opened in 1935. For a brief time Okhotny Ryad was named in honor of Lazar Kaganovich. Continue past the Lubyanka station, which was initially named Dzerzhinskaya, a prominent revolutionary leader and the founder of the CHEKA (the All Russian Commission for Combating Counter-Revolution, Sabotage and Speculation). Next is Chistye Prudy, or clean pond, named for the nearby little body of water. Its name derives from 1703 when the pond was drained and cleaned. Until recently this stop was named for Sergei (Kostrikov) Kirov, a member of the Moscow Central Committee and a rival to Stalin, whose 1934 murder set off Stalin's purges. Pass the next station, Krasney Vorota, or Red Gate whose name derives from the Red Gate, a triumphal arch erected in Moscow for the coronation of Tsarina Elizabeth Petrovna in 1742 which stood along the Boulevard Ring until the early 20th century.

Depart at the next station.

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The Komsomolskaya metro stations, which have the same name for both the Red line and the Ring Line station, were named in honor of the Komsomol or Communist Youth League members who helped to construct the metro. The Red line station is decorated with scenes of young workers. The circle line is richly decorated with bronze and crystal chandeliers, florid stucco moldings that were designed by Aleksei Shchusev. The gold mosaics showing military parades and figures from Russian history are the work of artist Pavel Korin whose religious beliefs are evident. Noteworthy is the Red Square parade mosaic that has been altered several times to remove figures as Stalin, Beria and Khrushchev when their presence was seen as politically incorrect.

Continue along the ring line to Taganskaya, whose blue and white ceramic decorations honor the heroes of the 1917 Revolution.

Take the ring line to the Paveletskaya metro and switch to the green line headed towards Rechnoy Vokzal.

Stop at the Novokuznetskaya metro station, along whose central hall runs a bas-relief frieze of Russian military heroes from Minin and Pozharsky to Field Marshal Kutuzov. The ceiling mosaics have athletic motifs and the marble benches come from the original Church of Christ the Savior.

From this point it is easy to return to the Teatralnaya station that is connected to Okhotny Ryad and Ploshchad Revolutsii. From here it is easy to get to any other station on the metro with one, at the most two changes.

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Other Stations 

Other interesting stations include:

  • Novoslobodskaya, on the circle line with its stained glass ornaments and mosaics also designed by Pavel Korin,
  • Chekhovskaya, one of the set of three newer stations which is a transfer point on the green, gray and purple lines and has marble mosaics depicting scenes from Chekhov stories and
  • Nagatinskaya, another newer station on the gray line outside the southern side of the ring.

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Online Maps and Websites 

The official Moscow Metro website and map can be found here: MosMetro

Also check out this privately maintained metro webpage: Metro Map 2008. For a transliterated version but older map, try the map at the bottom of this page: Metro Map 2005

For a decent transliterated map, check out Transliterated Metro Map

For photos of the Moscow Metro stops check out this website: Walking through the Moscow Metro

A Dutch artist named Bee Flowers has taken numerous photos of the Moscow Metro which are collected online of his website, old site and newer site.

To celebrate the 70th anniversary of the Moscow Metro, the Moscow Times newspaper published an article entitled, "Tunnel Vision" which can be found online. Tunnel Vision

Another online self guided tour. This one is from Russia Travel by Ray Nayler: Moscow Metro Tour

According to an article in the Moscow Times from 11 July 2008, a Moscow Metro Tour Guidebook is being sold in English and Russian for 100 rubles for 160 page. It is available at news kiosks IN the Metro.

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Guided Tours 


Firebird Travel

Patriarshy Dom offers this tour regularly. It costs 510 rubles + admission and usually begins at 9:45 am. Free coffee at StarliteDiner is included. Your can check their schedule online or contact them. If you know when you are going to be in Moscow, it is worthwhile writing them to try to schedule the tours you want during your stay. They have been very accommodating in the past.
In Russia:
Telephone/Fax: (501 095) 795-0927
Adresss: Vspolny per., No. 6, inside the brick building of Moscow school No. 1239
Hours: Monday - Friday: 9:00 am - 6:00 pm, Saturday: 11:00 am - 5:00 pm

In the United States:
Telephone/Fax: 1-650-678-7076

Metro Museum 

The People's Museum of the Moscow Metropolitan is located in the southern vestibule of Sportivnaya metro station. The museum which was conceived by Metro workers, charts the history and development of the capitol's metro system and features some rather interesting hardware. Visitors can sit in a full-scale driver's cab and play with some of the equipment used to control the system and monitor the position of trains on the tracks. Black and white photos showing the construction of the first lines of the metro system highlight the role played by Komsomol volunteers, but plays down the involvement of the hundreds of slave-laborers forced to dig alongside them. The museum houses hundreds of other artifacts, including various construction designs and photos of some of the system's more ornate stations.

Address: Khamovnichesky Val Street, 36
Telephone: 222 7309 or 222 7309
Hours of Operation: Monday 11am - 6 pm, Tuesday - Friday 11 am - 4 pm. Visits by appointment only
Website: (in Russian)

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last revised 9 November 2008 © 2003-2011 Ruth E. Imershein
The information contained on these pages is intended to assist in making travel plans but things change, mistakes can be made.
Please do not depend entirely on this information when making your decisions.

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