USSR Metros – A journey along the red line

Going underground in the former USSR countries is a mind blowing experience. A world of crystal chandeliers, shining marble, and perfect symmetry. Take the escalator down to a place where time stood still and the Cold War prevail. A dark and mysterious place where you never know what to expect at the next station.

1 Yekaterinburg, Russia. The metro in Yekaterinburg was the last one to open before the Soviet fall in 1991. Formerly called Sverdlovsk, the industrial city is known as the “Capital of the Urals”. The metro, which only has one line, is characterized by a futuristic design and large illuminated objects. Highlights: Botanicheskaya, Chkalovskaya, and Prospekt Kosmonavtov.

2 Nizhny Novgorod, Russia. Formerly known as Gorky Metro, the underground of Nizhny Novgorod is the third largest in Russia. Opened as late as 1985, several stations have a modernistic look with clean shapes and linear fluorescent lighting. Only the first line was constructed during the Soviet era. There is also a ghost station, Yarmarka, that never was completed. Highlights: Kanavinskaya, Burnakovskaya, and Leninskaya.

3 Tashkent, Uzbekistan. Opened in 1977, the Tashkent metro was the seventh one to be built in the former USSR. The station themes reflect the Cold War’s space race, but also oriental influences from Central Asia and Uzbekistan. Since 1 July 2018, it’s no longer prohibited to photograph inside the metro system. Highlights: Alisher Navoi, Kosmonavtlar, and Mustaqilliq Maydoni.

4 Moscow, Russia. The metro in Moscow was the first to be built within the USSR and opened as early as 1935. With its symmetric vaults, crystal chandeliers, and fresco paintings, the stations express a more classical aesthetic, especially on the the older lines. Highlights: Mayakovskaya, Kiyevskaya, and Komsomolskaya.

5 Samara, Russia. Samara’s important role in Soviet history is reflected in the city’s metro system. As a traditional Bolshevik city, Samara was meant to be the alternative capital if Moscow would fall during WWII. After the war, the city became the center for the Soviet defense industry, something reflected in many of the nationalistic themes. Highlights: Alabinskaya, Pobeda, and Gagarinskaya.

6 Minsk, Belarus. With an original number of only eight stations, the Minsk metro opened in 1984. The simple Brutalistic architecture focus on classic socialist themes and Belarusian national motifs. Minsk also holds one of few metro systems outside of Russia that still encapsulate the Hammer and Sickle as well as the Soviet abbreviation CCCP. Highlights: Kastrychnitskaya, Instytut Kultury, and Akademiya Navuk.

7 Kazan, Russia. Although the metro in Kazan opened long after the fall of the Soviet Union, it was planned and engineered long before. Being the capital of Tatarstan, many stations are influenced by the large Muslim population. Others have a light and futuristic theme. Highlights: Kremlyovskaya, Gorki, and Dubravnaya.

Written by Erik Ekberger. Photography: Erik Ekberger

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