While the subway train is generally perceived as a means of public transportation, you might be surprised to learn that in a particular part of the world, more precisely in Moscow, the metro is also a tourist attraction.
This occurs due to the impressive architecture of the construction and the works of art that decorate the metro stations: such as paintings, sculptures, mosaics, marble domes and even chandeliers. This is definitely not your average subway station where a damp and desolate atmosphere prevails due to the poor lighting, crowdedness, and lack of décor (the design is mainly created having practicality in mind, not for the purpose of pleasing the eye).
The Moscow Metro is used on a daily basis by more than 9 million people (tourists or locals). Just to understand the massive agglomeration of the metro, you should know that the New York metro is used at half of the capacity of the one based in Moscow. This later one consists of 12 lines and more than 170 stations, each more beautiful than the next.
The architectural design is specific for the Soviet style, but it is impressive nonetheless. While we are generally reluctant to regard any accomplishments of the former dictator Joseph Stalin as glorious in itself, we do have to bow ourselves to him when it comes to the beautiful construction he developed in his time.
It is precisely the design that has transformed the Moscow Metro into a cultural emblem of Russia and into a tourist attraction which draws visitors from all over the world to Moscow.
The metro lines were constructed over an extended period of time, but dedication was definitely not lacking. When it came to this project, Stalin was adamant in his decision to continue the work even if the Soviet Union was traversing a difficult time. Thus, neither World War II, nor the Cold War was an impediment in the construction of the Moscow Metro. In fact, some of the stations were constructed as shelters against nuclear attacks.
According to a popular legend, when the developers of the project presented themselves in front of Stalin to show their plans, the dictator was drinking coffee and spilled a drop on the mug. Displeased with what he saw, the dictator said nothing, but his actions were enough to express his opinion: he placed the mug right in the center of the plans, thus leaving a ring circle.
It seems that it was this circle that gave the planners the idea to incorporate a ring line into the design of the metro lines which would connect all of them. Whether or not this happened in reality, it cannot be said, but it does make an interesting story.
There is another aspect that attracts the attention of visitors: the Metro II line which was initially kept secret as it served communist purposes of transportation for the political leaders. However, there is no actual evidence that this line is or has been part of the Moscow Metro as the authorities have made no declarations in this regard, keeping the whole matter shrouded in mystery.
The impressive architecture is explained in an easy manner: the Soviet leaders envisaged an ideal urban society which would be guided by the communist principles. And it is precisely this ideal that it is represented in the decorative elements encountered all over the Metro: the grand staircases, the frescoes, the murals, the beautiful paintings and sculptures (located both at the interior and at the exterior).
Just to give an example, the Mayakovskaya train stop presents the “happy worker”, thus making propaganda for the good life experienced under the communist government. There is a series of values presented in the paintings illustrated here, but the tour de force of the station is the ceiling which is reminiscent of the Sistine Chapel, the difference lies in the socialist values depicted.
So if you are ever in Moscow, you should definitely check out the Metro because, leaving aside its practical function, it is a true work of art, representative for the socialist era.