A Small Dictionary of the Moscow Metro
Moscow’s metro is truly unlike any other! Spend any time in the city, and you’ll certainly be travelling on its underground – our handy dictionary will introduce you to the essential terms you need to get on and get around.
1. Автомат (Ticket Machine)
Автоматы are the machines you’ll see at the entrance to each metro station – where you can buy your tickets and top up your travel card. If you prefer to speak to a human, head to the касса. Timing when to buy your tickets is advisable, unless you fancy delaying your journey with a fifteen minute queue, be sure to avoid topping up during no. 7 – час пик!
2. Витраж (Stained Glass)
Whilst in other cities, the metro is merely a means of travelling from A to B, in Moscow it was conceived of as an art museum for the workers. The glitz and glamour of the stations was intended to give tired workers a morale boost during their commutes. Art works are found at almost all the stations, such as the stunning stained glass windows at Novoslobodskaya.
3. Кондуктор (Conductor)
Something of a false friend – although a direct phonetic transliteration of an English equivalent, кондуктор does not mean train-driver in this case. It’s the ticket-collector. You won’t see them often, but naturally, you don’t want to be caught out there. Buy your tickets – they’re only 35 roubles with a тройка!
4. Мрамор (Marble)
The gleaming marble pillars and coloured floors of many of the metro stations really reflects the intention that the metro be a ‘palace for the workers’. At stations such as Mayakovskaya (above) the humble underground station is created with the same materials the Tsar’s used for their stately homes.
5. Мозаика (Mosaic)
As in so much Soviet propaganda, there is a religious dimension to the metro decoration. The glittering mosaics you see at stations such as Mayakovskaya – with its glittering coloured stones – is reminiscent of the interior of the Cathedral of Spilt Blood. It may seem paradoxical for an anti-religious regime to re-appropriate Christian imagery, but it happened continuously throughout Soviet culture. The idea was that public art could connect Soviet spectators to communist utopia in the same way that religious imagery connected worshippers with the divine. The first mosaics appeared at Mayakovskaya station, installed in 35 ceiling domes, each designed by famous Soviet realist painter, Alexander Deineka. Deineka deliberately chose to paint images of the sky to give the passengers the impression that, when they raised their heads, they could see the heavens open above them.
6. Тройка (Travel Card)
Originally тройка referred to another means of transport – in Imperial Russia, it was a cart drawn by three horses. We still see this earlier form of transport on the design for the travel card system used throughout Moscow. It’s super-cheap and simple to use – simply top up at the aвтомат.
7. Час пик (Peak Time)
The most dreaded word in this dictionary! Coincide with the morning or evening commute and you’ll surely notice it. To be fair, the час пик on the metro isn’t nearly as bad as on the roads – so you’re still better off underground rather than in a taxi at this time. Just be prepared to be a bit, ahem, squished..
This blog was brought to you by Kamila, currently studying Russian at Liden & Denz