Kropotkinskaya

Nikolai Galkin/TASS
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.