Biblioteka imeni Lenina

Nikolai Galkin/TASS
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."