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Russia, November 3, 1997

Sleduchi Stancia Komsomolskaya

Want to see a master work? Check out the Moscow Metro!

The Beauty of Soviet Planning
Damn nice art down there
check out the cool M sign!
See all the business!
guess how many trips this is good for...

One turn on the big M

oh so beautiful!
Ain't it Pretty!
This past Friday I was bored. No, I mean really bored, so bored that my friend Ann and I rode the Moscow metro for two hours looking at all the Ring Line metro stations. Now it wasn't a complete waste of time because the metros are beautiful, even breathtaking, but still we were pretty bored.

The Ring Line is the metro line that circles the center of Moscow, and it has some of the most beautiful stations, especially when they were built during the hard post-WWII years of 1945-1955. We also determined that is takes 35 minutes to make a circumference of the city on the line (I said we were bored!).

Each metro station inside the Ring Line is its own work of art. My favorite is Mayakovskaya with the aluminum arches, red marble columns, and ceiling mosaics. Komsomolsaya is another favorite, with the over-the-top silver and gold ceiling mosaics. On the Yellow Line, I was surprised to see futuristic stations, complete with new (1995) metro cars!

During the day the metro handles about 6 million people every day, or about half the population of Moscow. This is an obscenely high percentage in the West, but here, where cars are very expensive to own, the metro is the only way to go. So many people use the metro that markets thrive at every metro exit, some becoming destinations in themselves. Sportivnia, Fili Park, and Ismioloski Park being the more famous metro markets. Sportivnia is a huge clothing market around the Lenin stadium, Fili Park is a pirate CD market with a larger selection than Tower Records, and Ismioloski Park is the Russian kitch capital, with more matroska dolls than you could shake a stick at.

Overall it is an amazing system. I think that train routing would be one of the few export technologies Russia has, since the trains run about one minute apart here, while at about five minutes apart in Washington DC.

Check out the Moscow Metropolitan Web Site (in Russian) for more photos.

13 January, 1999, Moscow Times

Metro Tokens Fall to the March of Time

Reuters & AP

The Soviet Union is gone. The names of the city's streets have changed. And now history's march through Moscow has claimed its latest victim. The translucent green tokens that bought a ride on the legendarily efficient marble-lined subway system Friday became a relic of the past.

Effective Jan. 15, metro tokens have been replaced by magnetic cards and will no longer be sold in stations, a spokeswoman said. Tokens previously purchased will still be accepted until Feb. 1. The tokens - Which vary in color from fluorescent yellowish green to pale greenish yellow - were a minor symbol of Russia's decade-long political and economic upheaval. '

For generations during the Soviet period, turnstiles accepted a 5-kopek coin. The plastic tokens were introduced after runaway inflation in the early 1990's made kopecks worthless.

In another sign of the times, prices were hiked Jan 1 with the 60-journey card rising 30 rubies to 120 rubies ($5.50). Today's 4 rubies for a single trip represents an increase of 8 million percent over the price 10 years ago. But with the ruble once again falling, a trip for about 18 cents is still one of the cheapest in Europe

The demise of the tokens has brought about one other significant cultural transformation. Since passengers began tossing used cards on the floor, the city has now begun placing garbage cans in stations, which previously had none.

Literaturnaya Gazeta 9 December 1998

'The Secret Metro: Metro Chief Gayev Would Be Quite Surprised If It Did Not Exist'

By Irina Vorobyeva

[Vorobyeva] Dmitriy Vladimirovich, what are your plans? How far will we be able to travel in the next five years?

[Gayev] See for yourself. The Dubrovka Metro Station will open up at the end of 1999. Trains will leave the Prazhskaya Station headed for Rossoshanskaya. From there, in three years, they will head for Severnoye Butovo to the Kachalovo Station. Then we will build the segment from Kiyevskaya to Park Pobedy. A year later, the Lyublinskaya Line will extend to Trubnaya, in 2004--to Marinaya Roshcha, and perhaps prior to the year 2005 will extend from Park Pobedy to Stroginskiy Bulvar. It is a highly ambitious program: to complete the Stroginskaya Line; to go from Marino to Krasnogvardeyskaya, and then to Brateyevo; to go from Krylatskiy to Mitino.

[Vorobyeva] What is needed in order to accomplish this?

[Gayev] A certain amount of funding--R1.5 billion [rubles] a year. At present, however, no financing at all is envisaged for Russian metro construction next year! In this regard, you must take into account the fact that the lines that have already been begun cannot be discarded. They must either be completed or preserved in temporary shut-down. Water must be pumped and the lower recesses ventilated. Money is required in any case. In St. Petersburg alone, 70 kilometers of underground excavation work has been 'frozen.' Sixty kilometers here. It will be cheaper to complete construction on the stations I enumerated. First Deputy Premier Gustov has directed the Ministry of Construction and other ministries and departments to determine the minimal level of outlays the federal budget will be able to finance. We will see...

[Vorobyeva] Will the Moscow Government assist you?

[Gayev] Our metro system--which is, as you know, the largest in Russia, is supposed to be financed 80 percent by the federal budget, only 20 percent by the Moscow budget. In 1998 the plan called for the allocation of R1.4 billion, but only R120 million was in fact allocated. Moscow provided an amount four times greater. But there remain debts to contractor organizations which, in turn, must be paid to suppliers and workers. But when the debt exceeds the amount of annual upkeep, there is no funding for construction.

In this regard, the state itself has placed the metro on the verge of bankruptcy. Prior to the 1990s, there were no free passes. Suddenly 53 percent of the populace began to travel at no charge. In 1998 alone the metro system came up R2.8 billion short by virtue of reduced-fare tokens. Then there are taxes, outlays for equipment, materials, and energy resources. You can see for yourself.[Passages omitted]

[Vorobyeva] Dmitriy Vladimirovich, in a conversation with the chief of the metro system, I cannot help but ask about secret Moscow subways. I am referring to the legends concerning a military metro, government metro, and military facilities underground that 'diggers' say no one keeps track of. Soon the entire capital city will fall into the earth.

[Gayev] First of all, who are the 'diggers'? They are more than hooligans--they are downright criminals. People die because of them. Do we catch young lads carrying lanterns down in the tunnels? Yes, we do. Some of them we apprehend, others crawl underneath a train and escape. As I have said, the metro is a dangerous place.

Secondly, as far as government and military underground systems are concerned, I would be amazed if they did not exist.

[Vorobyeva] It is said that during construction of the Park Pobedy Station, a siding was used that led to Stalin's nearby dacha...

[Gayev] I do not know. I was not there. I will not lie to you. In building the Stroginskaya Line, we intend to use a segment of the existing tunnel from Kuntsevskaya Station to Molodezhnaya Station. I have not heard about other tunnels.

[Vorobyeva] Who would be able to corroborate information concerning the secret metro?[Gayev] Probably the entity that owns it.

[Vorobyeva] The government?

[Gayev] In all likelihood.

[Vorobyeva] Let me formulate the question somewhat differently. How would you comment on published newspaper materials on this topic?

[Gayev] Do you remember 'A Song About Rumors' by Vysotskiy? That is how I relate to this. I have nothing to do with any secret metro and can only surmise about it. Let me say again that I would be quite surprised if it did not exist--and not only here, but in Paris, New York, and Washington, as well.

Moscow Tribune February 5, 1999

The Secrets That Lurk Beneath Moscow

By Lyuba Pronina

Much has been said about it. Books have been written and 'maps' drawn. Constructors keep bumping into it every now and then when developing Mayor Luzhkov's projects, and Muscovites blame occasional street collapses on it. However, officials still feel uneasy when asked about Moscow's underground city and the special 'governmental metro system' or 'Metro-2,' choosing to deny its existence.

Diggers of the Underground Planet, headed by Vadim Mikhailov, self-pronounced king of the subterranean world, claim it's a vast network, some of which they have been lucky to see, and say it should be used for the good of the city. Even in Soviet times, when much was closed to the average citizen by the heavy veil of state secrecy, there were rumors of an underground system and tales of the almost palatial beauty of the hidden bunkers.

Moscow old-timers speak of Josef Stalin's special metro, which could take him into any part of the city. The rumors stemmed from his ability to appear in different places within very short intervals of time. For a long time there have been whispers of a direct line connecting the Kremlin with the government airport, Vnukovo-2.

Residents of Prospekt Vernadskovo have always wondered about the idle plot of land spanning the way to Yugo-Zapadnaya station, an obvious place to be built on which has never been used. Commuters from the Moscow region district of Mytischi, which houses a metro wagon construction plant, have long asked for a metro line, confident there was one anyway as no one had ever seen wagons transported by land.

As construction of the metro began in 1930s, drills and crowbars delved a long way down to provide not only transportation but also shelter in case of bombing, which came in use during WWII. Kirovskaya station (now Chistiye Prudy) was closed off to house the military's headquarters. This was supplemented by a huge network of bunkers of various sizes and functions -- of which the Diggers have counted over 1 million, including 64 main outlets -- the largest being under Myasnitskaya ulitsa (Chistiye Prudy), housing the army command headquarters, and the Ramenki underground city in the southwest of Moscow.

Construction of the bunker system with its connecting channels was kicked off in 1929 under Stalin's orders, along with the public metro, and was later branded by people as 'Metro-2.' According to Mikhailov, the clandestine lines are not only hooked onto the main metro, but also have access to nearly every ministry, research institute or plant of strategic importance. There are large bunkers under the Rossiya Hotel, the White House and the Christ the Savior cathedral.

Mikhailov, who says he was invited by the Defense Ministry to inspect some of the levels of the underground system, says the web is 'very dense and covers most of the city,' with bunkers and channels located from 30 to 120 meters down with '30 percent more efficiency than the bunker system in New York.'

The system was built to serve a variety of functions, from simple storage rooms to grand halls and studies -- with an ever present statuette of Stalin -- to provide shelter for the party elite in the case of nuclear attack. Mikhailov remembers how during one such venture he found a door leading to a huge dining hall, 'obviously for people who worked there.' Mikhailov says the system was serviced by as many as 3,000-4,000 people daily.

'Just imagine, they somehow had to get there, so there must have been transportation, there were enormous food store-rooms, concert halls and even experimental greenhouses...' Mikhailov tells with excitement.

The officialdom tend to deny the story. However, a special body has been created to oversee the system -- the 15th Section of the Chief Directorate of Special Presidential Programs. A spokesperson for the Moscow metro said: 'We do not know anything about underground cities or this )Metro-2.' Maybe it exists, maybe not, but it has no relation to the public system.'

Mikhailov says that with information about the underground tunnels available to only a few, the ministries 'very often themselves do not know what is in their cellars.' He remembers that during excavation works for the shopping mall on Manezhnaya square, workers came across a wall, behind which was a furnished bunker. A moment later, a high ranking serviceman came from a side passage to tell them off in the best language he could. Within half an hour the bunker was immured and all trace of it vanished.

Russian journalists, foreign correspondents and other adventurous types have descended into the depths of Moscow's innards, often to find only locked doors and blocked passages. With the secret construction slowed down by the 1970s, many tunnels and bunkers have not been used for lack of money and have decayed, filling with water and rubbish, and threatening to collapse -- raising the potential of more accidents such as last year's collapse on Bolshaya Dmitrovka.

Mikhailov has a plan to turn the murky underground into a smart-looking city, with museums and walking tours and underground highways -- plans perhaps worthy of Mayor Yury Luzhkov's imagination. 'I have come up with the idea more than once, but as I see it, the situation has to change first,' says Mikhailov, who seriously believes that, if he can find his way through the maze of city government politics, one day, all of Moscow will be able to utilize this underground city.

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1 Comment

The guy who wrote 'Pattern Recognition' should've read this page. He has his heroine buying Metro tokens, instead of cards, in 2002. Tokens were phased out in 1999 as I posted here, then.

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