Moscow’s Underground Art Exhibits
Many cities across the world have adopted the metro as the preferred method of public transportation, but few have gone to the same extent as Russia has to beautify their metro stations and turn them into an unofficial historical and national art museum of sorts. Built at the height of Joseph Stalin’s rule, the Moscow metro was intended to be a truly world-class production to showcase the power and technological might of the Soviet Union, as well as beauty of proletarian values. To this end, many of the stations have been adorned with Soviet or other Russian national symbols or artwork depicting critical scenes.
In my opinion, one of the most beautiful stations in the world is Moscow’s Komsomolskaya (Комсомольская) station, located directly beneath the Leningrad Train Station. The pillars of marble and limestone and the bronze brass reliefs depicting the Komsomol insignia give way to a beautifully detailed ceiling. The entire station is lit in a golden hue, and everything from the detailing on the walls to the lighting fixtures suggests a uniquely Soviet version of art deco not quite like anything in the Western world. The station was so impressive that the Soviet Union displayed a model of it at the 1937 Paris World’s Fair, the same year the famous Worker and Kolkhoz Woman (Рабочий и Kолхозница) statue made its debut directly across from and in direct opposition to the Nazi exhibition of that year. In addition to being stunningly beautiful, the metro station was also historically significant, as the first train to ever run the Moscow metro system left from this depot on 1934.
A close runner up for most beautiful metro station in Moscow has to be Mayakovskaya (Маяковская), the station named for famed Soviet poet and futurist Vladimir Mayakovsky. The station is almost pure white, apart from gold and white detailing following the gentle arches that meet to form a beautifully and delicately vaulted ceiling. Apart from the white walls and ceiling, the station is adorned with no less than 34 mosaics depicting visions of the future of the Soviet Union, many of which did not of course come to fruition, but retain their beauty none-the-less. Like Komsomolskaya, this station is not famed for its beauty alone, but at 33 meters below the surface, the station was one of the first and most prominent to be used as a bomb shelter during the second World War.
Although these are just two examples, the Moscow metro is filled with beautiful stations which ensure that wherever you go in the city, you will go surrounded by beauty and staggeringly impressive architecture. Indeed, the Moscow metro is as much a tool for navigating the city as it is an art museum of great beauty and historical significance.