July 01, 2005

Travel Notes

Moscow Metro Turns 70

“We want the Metro to cheer people up and make their life easier, to please people and relax them,” said Lazar Kaganovich, one of Josef Stalin’s henchmen and supervisor of the system’s construction. Certainly, Moscow’s Metro does make life easier for the city’s residents, and the architectural wonders of its underground stations are rather pleasing sights to behold (Ploshchad Revolyutsii Station, for example, has walls and columns of red, black and gold marble, along with 76 sculptures). But relax? Not during rush hour, surely.

The Moscow Metro’s first line was completed in May 1935, just four years after a June 15, 1931 Communist Party decision to build it. The line had 12 stations, stretching from Sokolniki to Park Kultury. On May 15, 1935, thousands of Muscovites spent the night waiting in lines outside, hoping to be among the first to ride the subterranean rails. Today, up to 9 million passengers per day ride the capital’s metro, which spans 176 kilometers of rail lines and has 170 stations. The system was designed for a daily capacity of just 6.5 million passengers.

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