Not only is Moscow’s Metro the finest subway system in the world; it is perhaps the only such system that was not necessitated by a public transit crunch. The 1930s, when the first line of the Moscow Metro was built, were the years of massive construction under Stalin. An empire was being built in Moscow, and it was built to last. There was simply not enough space on the ground to display all the grandeur, but there was plenty of space underground. And so a whole subterranean city was built, invested with the riches from all parts of the country, and decorated by the best artists there were.
The historic train, tugging Moscow's first ever Metro car with passengers, pulled out of Sokolniki on May 15, 1935. The design of this station, created by architects Nadezhda Bykova and Ivan Taranov, won the Grand Prix at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris. Sokolniki Station also crowned one of the earliest victories, scored by the Soviet Metro builders over nature. The Rybinka River, traversing the future Metro line, had to be clothed in concrete, and water had to be pumped out of the quicksand, which constantly threatened deluge.
In their humorous sketch M, published by Pravda on the occasion of the Metro opening, Ilf and Petrov, not without their trademark irony, gave a pretty accurate picture of how Muscovites felt about the Metro. They were blown away:
"Station" is perhaps too modest a word to use here. These are railway palaces. Thirteen palaces clad in marble, granite, copper and multicoloured tiles. You enter the railway palace at the top, and from on high, like a viaduct, passengers take the broad staircases, left and right, to descend onto the platform. We use the word "platform" only to describe the purpose of that place where people board the train. It does not look like a platform at all. It is more akin to a hall in some palace. It is lofty, it is clean, the pillars are of a gentle gray hue, or light pink with darker "veins," the sombre chandeliers give off unblinking milky light, and the walls are polished."
Now that we can compare Sokolniki with the more pompous Metrostroy masterpieces, the station looks like a hymn to understatement with no excesses at all in the finishing, and with the demure blue-gray marble of its rectangular pillars. The station's finishing has remained largely unchanged since 1935, with the exception of one significant element: the lighting. According to the architects' concept, the station was to be illuminated by large spherical lights hanging in between the pillars, plus smaller fixtures right above the tracks, in the caissons of the spans of the lateral naves. All these fixtures provided gentle, diffused illumination, like a swarm of hovering fireflies. Today the station is illuminated with fluorescent lights. It surely looks more "modern" in their bright light, but some of its original charm is gone.
This was the first Metro masterpiece of its architect, Boris Vilensky. Unlike most of the other stations built in the 1930s, this one has only one row of pillars, not two. The pillars are faced with biyuk-yanka, the yellowish-brown marble-like limestone from the Crimea, matching the yellow and red tiling of the walls. The semi-spherical lights in the caissons above the tracks on either side of the pillars, completed the composition. Even though those fixtures were removed, and a row of fluorescent lights has been installed instead along the pillar axis, the station remains dimly illuminated, and the twilight underscores the beauty of the stone finishing. Krasnoselskaya is on the proven cultural heritage list.
The original northern lobby of Komsomolskaya was a building faced with light marble and granite, with a central plafond by Vladimir Favorsky and the monumental Onward to New Victories! mural, which no one entering the station could miss. What meets the eye nowadays is an even grander edifice, designed by the great Alexey Shchusev. This was Shchusev's last project, for which the architect was awarded a Stalin Prize – posthumously. The lobbies of the first Metro stations were supposed to look like wondrous palaces, gateways to the nether lands. Komsomolskaya's role was even more important compared to the other stations, as it was the first Metro station that people arriving at three of Moscow's railway stations would enter. It had to look particularly impressive. It still does.
The architectural "thing" about Komsomolskaya are the balconies above the tracks around the underground lobby, with bridges and stairs in between. Those balconies were not a whim, but a necessity. The station was originally designed for huge passenger flows, so the balconies and additional stairs were meant as safe havens and escape routes to avoid stampede. The columns of the balconies are faced with prokhoro-balandin marble, while the pillars of the station are finished with golden-pink Crimean Chorgun marble. The golden Komsomol (Union of Communist Youth) emblems on the bronze caps are a reminder of the hard work of the Komsomol members who built this station. The majolica mural Metro Builders by Yevgeny Lansere, in the entrance area of the northern lobby, is also in their honour. This was the first artwork on a Metro wall but, as we will see, it was not nearly the last.
Krasnye Vorota Metro station (an apparent cultural heritage landmark, Grand Prix of the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris) is an engineering masterpiece, as well as an architectural one, especially the aboveground lobbies. One, designed to look like a seashell, is the most amazing work extant of a great architect, Nikolai Ladovsky. By the time in the 1930s when Metro construction commenced, the architectural style we know today as Stalin's Empire reigned supreme in Moscow. For many avant-garde artists, Metro construction was a chance to sing their "swan song." It was for Nikolai Ladovsky, who spearheaded the avant-garde trend known as "rationalism." His new architectural ideas had been in vogue in the 1920s, and the Association of New Architects (Asnova) once was an influential group. In the 1930s, however, Ladovsky came under an avalanche of criticism for what was branded his "formalism." His last works were two Metro stations in Moscow: Krasnye Vorota and Dzerzhinskaya (now Lubyanka). The latter was a genuine avant-garde masterpiece, where the platform seemed to be the tunnel continued. The lighting, the finishing, the pilasters which spread in semicircles across the entire tunnel vault, the contrast of pitch-black and dazzlingly white elements – everything seemed to spell "movement," "dynamic." No wonder Ladovsky's station, of all Metro stations, did not survive the 1970s reconstruction. But even the only surviving work of Ladovsky's tells us a lot about how avant-garde artists felt about the Metro, envisioning it as a miraculous, mysterious "other" world. Accordingly, the entrance to it was seen as an invitation to a rabbit hole or Neptune's Kingdom.
Another entrance, this time in the basement of a high-rise tower, was added to the one designed by Ladovsky in the 1950s. The 138-storey tower was built concurrently with the second lobby of Krasnye Vorota. The only way to build a high-rise on a soil of soft clay and quicksand was to freeze the soil and cut it like ice. If the ground were allowed to melt, it would inevitably shift, and the building would tilt. The engineers' idea was to construct the building pre-tilted, so that when the ground melted, it would straighten out.
Although an architectural masterpiece, the station, which is 32.8 metres (108 feet) deep and was the first station with three, not two, vaults to be built at such depth, was not so elaborately thought-out for the future. Despite the misgivings of the American engineer named Morgan, who advised the Metro builders, the station skeleton (designed by the great Ivan Fomin) proved able to withstand the enormous soil pressure, but not its finishing of fine Georgian red marble, which has been slowly disintegrating. And yet the architectural fact is, this is one of Moscow's finest Metro stations with its fabulous arching portal, bearing the tunnel vault, its chessboard pattern floor, matched by the marble of the pylons, and its original spherical lights.
Art historian Igor Grabar believed Krasnye Vorota was one of the greatest works of architecture of its time: "Already in the design, one is astounded by the sublime simplicity of the creator's concept, the searched and found brevity of his architectural expression, classical in its inherent meaning and logical rationale, yet modernized, brought close to present day. Fomin managed to lose all the pillars, which overcrowd the majority of our underground stations. He used the mighty low granite pylons to stress the subterranean quality of the space. Tastefully, he made them look elegant with the aid of aptly and cunningly applied mouldings and niches. The tribute to classicism he paid with the caissons of the vault makes perfect sense as a counterbalance to the bulky base. Fomin's station is, hands down, the best of all the underground stations in the first echelon."
In its first draft, Biblioteka imeni Lenina was to be a humongous memorial in honour of the late leader with scenes from his life on the walls. Curiously, the station's only decoration, a mosaic portrait of Lenin, would not be added until the 1970s. The only decorative element in the 1930s was the parquet floor, in contrast with the asphalt paving of the other stations. It did not last though, and was soon replaced with a chessboard pattern of red and dark granite. Every other aspect of the station has remained unchanged. For example, the spherical chandeliers, which had illuminated all the earliest Metro stations but have since been replaced almost everywhere, are still in place at Biblioteka imeni Lenina. For all the no-frills look of this station, the austerity of its pillars of gray Moscow-area marble at entrance and the borders of spotty yellow Crimean marble should not be wholly trusted. Immured in the marble finishing are prehistoric creatures, corals and molluscs from the Carbonic Period, which had inhabited the seas millions of years before the terra firma of the Crimea appeared. The most recent of these petrified creatures are 70 million years old. Some of them cannot be found anywhere outside the Moscow Metro. For example, one gastropod mollusc "living" at Biblioteka imeni Lenina is 300 million years old!
In his book Mineralogy for Everyone Alexander Fersman passionately describes the subterranean marble wealth of the Moscow's Metro, extolling it as one of the capital's chief attractions. "The bright electric light illuminates a whole collection of marble, granite and limestone," Fersman writes. "This is the place to study all the strains of decorative and constructional stones existing in our country, from the sub-Arctic reaches of Karelia to the Crimean shores (…). We head underground at Biblioteka imeni Lenina. The entrance is decorated with Crimean spotty yellow marble. Then we see the huge octagonal columns of gray Moscow marble with lime-spar veins. Plates of black glass frame the bottom ledges. On the staircase leading to the platform, we see embedded in reddish Crimean marble petrified snails and shells, the remnants of life from some primeval southern seas, which had covered the entire Crimea and Caucasus many millions of years ago. The Metro train is too fast. We hardly get enough time to inspect the different kinds of marble during the stops. At Okhotny Riad and at the stations named after Dzerzhinsky and Kirov, we admire the huge slabs of striped gray marble from Ufaley in the Urals. Krasnye Vorota welcomes us with red tagil marble from the mid-Urals, while the panel is framed with the same familiar Volyn labradorite with "eyes" of sparkling blue. And again the Crimean and Caucasian marbles in the warm hues of our southern limestone, and again the gray and white marbles of the cold Urals, and again the grayish yellow limestone of suburban Moscow. We forget the unfathomably long history of our planet, which had slowly and gradually evolved from a red star to our tiny Earth, an insignificant world lost amid millions of stars, suns and nebulae."
This was the first subterranean creation of the great Aleksey Dushkin, the architect who gets the most credit for the modern look of Moscow's Metro, and for its finest stations. This project won the Grand Prix at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris and 1958 World Exhibition in Brussels. In 1941 its creators were awarded a collective Stalin Prize for architecture and construction. Illumination meant a lot to Dushkin in subterranean construction. Later on, we will see how artfully he had hidden the lights behind the stained glass panels at Novoslobodskaya. But his solution for Kropotkinskaya was no less, and in some ways even more elegant. The lights, concealed at the top of the pillars, were shaped like five-point stars, blending into the light-coloured ceiling. Dushkin's idea was not only an exquisite way to make the Ural marble of the finishing play with different hues. The principal task of the architects of the first Metro stations was to make sure the enclosed space of the underground stations did not feel too oppressive. At Kropotkinskaya, the ceiling seems to "soar" high above the passengers.
The rumour had spread that Aleksey Dushkin had been inspired by the ancient Egyptian Temple of Amun at Karnak, where the columns were shaped like lotus flowers. When Lazar Kaganovich, who was in charge of Metro construction, asked Dushkin point-blank if that was the case, the architect had the presence of mind to explain that whereas in ancient Egypt temples had been built for the Pharaohs, in the Soviet Union temples were for the people. The station had to look extra impressive as it would be the gateway to the new Palace of the Soviets, a grandiose building that was to replace the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour, which had been blown up. However, the steel carcass of the House of the Soviets would be dismantled for antitank "hedgehogs" and bridges during the war. And after the war there were too many things to do to think of building palaces. However, the elegant lobby of the station on Gogolevsky Bulvar (Gogolevsky Boulevard), designed by Samuil Kravets, still reminds us of the unfinished building. It seems to be intentionally "lost" in the shadow of some ghostly looming structure, which is not there.
The end of the first Metro line in 1935, Park Kultury was created by Nikolai Ladovsky's favourite student Georgy Krutikov. Krutikov had made a big splash in the 1920s with his concept of "flying cities": factories and residential houses would hover in the air, while the space on the ground would be reserved for recreation. Ironically, his most distinguished creation was to be a subterranean building. It was extra heavily decorated in a way that befitted the pronounced classicistic slant in Stalin-era architecture. The pillars, faced with Crimean Kadykovka marble, are crowned with moulded caps, echoed by the dark-pink mosaic pilasters on the walls. Above the platform stretch little bridges with a floor of red metlakh tiles and walls of white Koelga marble from the Urals. Functionality meets beauty at this station. The elegant northern rotunda pavilion, designed by Nikolai Kolli, bearing a mosaic portrait of Maxim Gorky, is the last symbol of the earliest phase of the Metro, where the decorations were minimal, and the finishing understated.
The ring line of Moscow's Metro was built after the war, in the 1950s. Stalin's Empire thrived, and elegant engineering alone was no longer enough. The architects had to think of bas-reliefs, mosaics and other decorations. It was not enough for Metro stations to look impressive, they had to tell the story of an epoch, too. All this did not last too long, ending with Khrushchev's 1955 decree "On Eliminating Excesses in Design and Construction," which effectively outlawed all things beautiful in architecture and decoration. But nevertheless, many elegant building from that period still exist. Practically, all of Moscow's Koltsevaya (circle) Line was built in those years, of which Park Kultury is especially notable.
The architect, Igor Rozhin, placed the station on massive pylons, cutting them through with arches. The visual effect is that each vault rests on four columns. He decorated the inside of the arches with bas-reliefs by Saul Rabinovich, representing the pastimes of "cultured" Soviet people: chess, plane modelling, ballet, music, dancing, and football. The ceilings of the vaults are decorated with moulds, the floor is titled with marble, and the pillars are finished with gray lopota marble. Some critics argue that gray marble gives the station an "earthen" look, and the architect would have achieved better "airiness" with lighter colours. The station, which is on the proven cultural heritage list, is doubtlessly a remarkable late Stalin's Empire masterpiece: no longer a palace, but a museum, in which every detail deserves to be appreciated.
The last work of the great Dushkin, Novoslobodskaya, once again, pleases with an elegant lighting solution. For a deep station like Novoslobodskaya, which sits 40 meters (131 feet) underground, pillars would not provide sufficient support for the vaults: massive, wide pylons had to be built. In order to make the space feel less oppressive, Dushkin had colourful stained-glass panels embedded in the pylons, faced with light-coloured Ural marble, and hid some of the lights behind them. The result was something similar to a grotto with a heap of semiprecious stones, as if straight from a Pavel Bazhov story. These days the station is illuminated much more brightly than it was in Dushkin's version, but the stained-glass artwork does not look any the worse for that. The stained-glass panels, manufactured in Riga using stained glass from the stockpile of the city's cathedral church, depict a tangle of fanciful flowers, plants and stars. Above some of the panels there are medallions showing intellectual and creative occupations: architect, geographer, artist, power engineer, musician, and agriculturist. At the far end of the station, there is the smalt mural Peace in the World: a mother with child. Novoslobodskaya's theme is an ode to peaceful life and work. Its massive Romanesque lobby with a portico and columns is on the cultural heritage list.
The theme of Komsomolskaya, one of the most lavishly decorated Metro stations, is Soviet victory in the Great Patriotic War. Its creators, most notably the great architect Alexey Shchusev and artist Pavel Korin, received a Stalin Prize for their work. Komsomolskaya's decorations are impressive: rows of columns, joined by arches, bear the lofty ceiling with moulds, bas-reliefs and mosaics, illuminated by gorgeous chandeliers. The key decorations are eight ceiling panels of smalt mosaic, encrusted with semiprecious stones, crafted by Pavel Korin. The mosaic panels tell the history of Russia's war victories, from Alexander Nevsky and Dmitry Donskoy to the taking of the Reichstag in Berlin. The two panels featuring Stalin had to be redone following the exposure of the personality cult, but fortunately, Pavel Korin did this personally, so the artistic value of the artworks remained undiminished. The Russian Arms themed bas-reliefs that used to decorate the vault abutments have been replaced with golden mosaic ornaments. The columns and walls of the station are faced with Uzbek Gazgan marble, the floors are red granite from Kuznechnoe. Overall, this station exemplifies the kind of Metro that, in Stalin's vision, the victorious nation deserved.
The chief decoration at Taganskaya, opened in 1950, are the majolica murals in the niches of the pylons, depicting the theme of Soviet Armed Forces: the Navy, tanks, artillery, silhouettes of Red Army soldiers, and military insignia. These murals, coupled with the marble finishing of the pylons and the exquisite "cluster" chandeliers crafted by Abram Damsky, make the station look grand despite the relative scarcity of decorations.
Paveletskaya of the Koltsevaya (circle) Line is one of the best works of Nikolai Kolli. The station looks pleasantly classicistic with its Corinthian columns of solid marble at the corners of the pylons, and its brown marble ornaments embedded in light-coloured Koelga marble. The ornaments were taken from traditional embroidery of the Volga people. The theme of the station is the Volga and the lands along the Volga. The Worker and Kolkhoz Woman mosaic mural is another work of Pavel Korin. Through the tunnel, one of the longest in Moscow, we transfer to Zamoskvoretskaya Line, but before we continue, let us go upstairs to the lobby and admire the "drum" dome with a mosaic frieze, and the decorative Red Square mosaic above the escalator arch.
Construction had begun on Paveletskaya before the war. Although it is still one of the finest Metro stations in Moscow, we will never see it in its full grandeur as conceived by the architects. The Vesnin brothers, the former constructivist leaders who had fallen into disgrace, won the architectural tender for Paveletskaya in 1938. Their theme for the station was Donbass. The central decorations of the platform hall with the columns were to be mosaic panels on the vaulted ceiling under the general title Donbass, the Union's Stokehold, for which Aleksandr Deyneka did the sketches. The artist Vladimir Frolov put the panels together on his own in besieged Leningrad. He finished the work, but died of starvation in February 1942. In 1943, the mosaics were evacuated to Moscow on the Road of Life. But as the finished metal structures for the station were stuck in Dnepropetrovsk, then under Nazi occupation, it was decided to alter the initial design. Eight of the 14 mosaics now decorate Novokuznetskaya station. One of the architects hurriedly completing Paveletskaya was Alexey Dushkin. His concealed lighting fixtures, built into the arches, softly illuminating the vaults, are today the key decoration at Paveletskaya.
Avtozavodskaya (formerly Zavod imeni Stalina) was built during the Great Patriotic War. Alexey Dushkin won the design tender in 1940. In her book of memoirs, his wife recalls that Dushkin had a Bach fugue playing while working on the project. It is easy to believe that the sublime simplicity of the stations architecture could have been inspired by something equally sublime. Similarly to Kropotkinskaya Metro station, the rows of columns support a white undecorated vault, but the columns, decorated with oroktoi marble from Altai, are thinner and taller than usual, making the whole structure look a little ethereal. Dushkin would write later: "I love this station because it was created sort of in the same breath. Clearly defined are both its constructive essence and, as is the case with Russian churches, the purity of form at work."
The architect's idea was to have the station illuminated by flat fixtures arranged along the central vault. Those fixtures have since been replaced with standard fluorescent lights, which make the ceiling look flat. But the original geometrical black and gray granite ornament of the floor is still there. This was the first Metro station ever where granite flooring was used. The asphalt paving of the other stations of the first echelon would also be replaced with granite later. The decorations must not be overlooked, most notably, the mosaic panel series Soviet People in the Years of the Great Patriotic War by Vladimir Frolov, who used the sketches of contemporary artists, and the four bas-reliefs sculpted by Ivan Efimov: People of the North, People of the Caucasus, Pilots and Engineers, Metal Workers and Engineers. It also makes sense to go upstairs to the ground lobby to see the huge mosaic panel on marble, depicting a parade in Red Square, where tanks and folk epic warriors take part side by side.
Like all the stations built during the war, Novokuznetskaya, which opened in 1943, is dedicated to the holy war of the Soviet people against Nazism. The theme is carried by the station's decor: the metal panels with flags, and the gypsum sculpted frieze stretching the entire length of the central hall above the pylons, depicting Red Army soldiers: tank crews, pilots and communications men. But even more notable are the mosaic panels based on Deyneka's sketches, which were initially meant for Paveletskaya. Seven of them had fit into the central vault: Gardeners, Steel Founders, Machine Builders, Construction Workers, Aviators, Skiers, and Miners (removed later). One more mosaic – Physical Culturists' Parade – is on the ceiling above the escalator. The station is finished with prokhoro-balandin marble with darker geometrical inserts of gray karkodin marble from the Urals and black khorviran marble from Armenia. This is one of the few stations that have retained their central row of floor lights, which are necessary to illuminate the mosaics of the vault.
The architecture of this station, which was the last work of Ivan Fomin (we have seen his Krasnye Vorota before), is perfectly beautiful. Fomin's main idea was that the station's decor should reflect its life above-ground. Teatralnaya (theatrical) is built like a theatre house with columns for the wings. Fomin wrote that the station "would serve as the anteroom for Teatralnaya Ploschad (Teatralnaya Square), expressing the cumulative joy of the liberated creative impulse of all the peoples of our country." The station even has its own actors: the porcelain figurines in the rhomboid caissons of the central vault represent exponents of Soviet ethnic groups, dancing and playing musical instruments.
One of the finest and most technologically advanced Metro stations in Moscow, Mayakovskaya was hailed as Alexey Dushkin's best subterranean creation, and won the Grand Prix at the 1939 World Exhibition in New York. The station has nothing to do with Vladimir Mayakovsky, its name notwithstanding. Its main theme is Soviet aircraft engineering. A hall with columns would have been almost impossible to build at this depth (34 metre (112 feet)) as the columns would not have withstood the pressure of the vault, but the architect found an ingenious solution, asking aircraft engineers for help. In a project supervised by Alexander Putilin, the Dirizhablestroy blimp factory near Moscow manufactured vaulted frames of stainless steel with extra large spans. To give an impression of extra lightness, mosaics on the theme of 24 Hours of Soviet Skies were placed inside the vault domes, based on sketches by Aleksandr Deyneka. This is the only station this deep where the ceiling seems to soar high above the ground. Looking up, you see the sky and some airplanes flying.
This sprawling station with twin lobbies is dedicated to Soviet sports and the eponymous arena next to the station. The station's mighty pylons are faced with Tagil marble from the Urals, which is so rich in patterns and hues that further decorations would seem redundant. Only proper lighting is needed. In the marble-like limestone of the wall finishing we can catch a glimpse of petrified creatures from the Cretaceous Period, such as corals and molluscs. Built into the pylons of the central hall are wooden benches. Their backrests are encrusted with ornaments of marble and onyx, a band of Agamzalin onyx running across, lit from inside. Above the benches are porcelain medallions depicting the 21 sports featured in the Spartakiad of Peoples of the USSR. The prototypes of many of these images were real athletes, for example, ski racer Maria Isakova and football player Grigory Fedotov.
Ploschad Revolyutsii, which opened in 1938, started a strategic new Metro line leading to what is now Izmaylovsky Park, but was then Central Park of Culture and Recreation Named after Stalin. The plan was to build a humongous stadium there. Stalin's bunker had been hidden underneath the stadium pit since before the war. The whole Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line stretched as if at attention in front of that unfinished construction site. The Metro builders had mastered sculptures, bas-reliefs and other elements of decor by then. The stations of the Arbatsko-Pokrovskaya Line were to tell the Empire's story, as well as glorify it.
In that sense, the first station on the line, Ploshchad Revolyutsii, was more representative than the others. The station was mainly built according to the design of Alexey Dushkin, whose idea was to cut the heavy vault though with arches, and decorate the arch corners with bas-reliefs. With the right illumination, the figures of the bas-reliefs would seem to thrust forward, emerging from the stone. But the Metro management scrapped the bas-relief idea and decided to install some bulky sculptures instead. Dushkin thought the decision had killed the station architecturally. But today those sculptures have become a meaningful part of Moscow's urban folklore. It is believed that the nose of the dog on the Border Guard with Dog sculpture brings good luck if you rub it. People have all but rubbed out holes in some of the sculptures.
Boris Iofan, probably the most influential architect in Moscow, the creator of the House on the Embankment, the unfinished House of Soviets, and the Soviet pavilions at World Exhibitions, one of which currently serves as pedestal for the Worker and Kolkhoz Woman sculpture, built only one Metro station in the capital, and that is Baumanskaya. Its original name was Spartakovskaya, and Iofan had planned to decorate it in the classic Roman style, with gladiator statues in the pylon niches. But because the station was built during the war, Soviet war heroes – guerrillas, Red Army soldiers, and workers of the rear – took the place of the gladiators. The pylons are faced with white Uzbek Gazgan marble, and the niches, with red porphyry. The passengers seem to be taking a stroll here under the watchful eye of the ever vigilant statues.
Of all Stalin-era Metro stations, Elektrozavodskaya is arguably the most "classical." Its heavy white-marble pylons are crowned with Doric entablatures and adorned with sculptures on the theme of Work in Times of War by Georgy Motovilov. But the main attraction of Elektrozavodskaya is its vault with more than 300 lights built into its spherical caissons. This was the station's excuse for being located next to, and named after, an electrical appliances factory, Elektrozavod. The red Georgian Salieti marble used in the wall finishing of the train tunnel is worthy of note, containing the shells of prehistoric molluscs, which millions of years ago had inhabited what today is the Caucasus. Elektrozavodskaya, rightfully considered one of Moscow's finest Metro stations, won a Stalin Prize in 1946.
The width of today's Partizanskaya somehow jars with the habitual tranquillity of the Izmaylovsky Park neighbourhood. But the gigantic size of Russia's only Metro station with three platforms has an explanation: the Metro was being built faster of the city. According to the general construction plan for Moscow, this neighbourhood was supposed to become the new heart of the city. A huge stadium was to be built here for sporting events and military parades. The stadium was never built. At first the war had interfered with the plans, and then the soil conditions were judged inadequate. The station, designed by Boris Vilensky, was decorated with large guerrilla statues, dedicated to the guerrilla movement during the Great Patriotic War. The Metro was supposed to end at Partizanskaya, and so our excursion will also end here.
Kiyevskaya, the last station to be completed for the Koltsevaya (circle) Line, was finished under Khrushchev, not Stalin. Khrushchev wanted Moscow Metro stations to glorify Ukrainians alongside athletes, revolutionaries and Metro builders. Of all the projects he was shown, Khrushchev picked the one by Ukrainian architects, featuring moulded golden sheaves of wheat and smalt mosaic compositions on the theme of Russian-Ukrainian friendship. Kiyevskaya Station on the Koltsevaya Line was the only station where this extravagant "kolkhoz" style was allowed. Later on, Khrushchev himself would forbid to "waste people's money" on expensive Metro decorations.