OK, so I lied a little to get you to come here. These aren’t necessarily secrets about Moscow’s metro system because lets face it, keeping a secret from up to 9 million passengers every day is a tough ask. So these are more like little known facts and one conspiracy theory that should be quite interesting. Ever since I moved to Moscow, the metro system has intrigued me. The contrast between the old baroque stations of the circle line and the utilitarian stations of the late Soviet era, the organised chaos and the strange yet effective etiquette are enough to keep my brain occupied as I speed around the city.
My interest in the metro system invariably led me to look further into the history of it and buried in the depths of the internet are some real interesting, strange and even funny facts about Moscow’s sprawling metro system. So, lets get started.
1. Russian Cultural Heritage
I thought we would start off with one ‘secret’ you may have been able to guess. Moscow’s metro stations are particularly grand and 44 of them have been recognised as important sites of Russian cultural heritage. So you are buying entry to a train station and a museum… bargain!
2. ‘Songs of the Joyous Metro Conquerors’
For the grand opening of the metro back in May 1935, the Bolshoi Theatre hosted a choir made up of 2200 metro staff and song booklets titled ‘Songs of the Joyous Metro Conquerors’ were distributed to the excited crowds. Those Soviets sure knew their stuff when it came to propaganda.
3. Only Cockroaches and Metro Users will Survive
During the Cold War, Moscow’s metro stations served a dual purpose – speedy mass transit and nuclear fallout bunker. As you may know, during the Cold War lots of people were pointing nuclear weapons at each other and Moscow was a prime target. Luckily, if you were a metro user you could commute in comfort knowing that you would survive long enough to battle armed gangs ‘Mad Max’ style in the post apocalyptic ruins of Moscow.
4. Surviving Mutants in the Metro
Of course there aren’t really mutants in the metro, but Ukrainian video game developers ‘4A Games’ thought it would be cool if there was. Their popular game Metro 2033 is set in a post apocalyptic world, where survivors battle mutants to survive in Moscow’s sprawling metro system. They did a seriously good job modelling the game on the real metro and if you are a regular user, you should get a kick out of exploring popular stations in game.
5. Follow the Voice
You may have already noticed this one if you are observant. On trains outbound from the city, a female voice makes the announcements and on inbound trains a male voice. For the circle line, trains travelling clockwise use the male voice, while those travelling counter clockwise the female voice. Unfortunately, no matter which way you travel you wont hear an English announcement, although it looks like they might be giving it a go sometime soon!
UPDATE: I actually heard one of the English language announcements the other day, it was quite a shock!
6. Metro Fossils
No, I don’t mean the old babushkas, there are real fossils on the metro! Embedded in the various types of stone used to build the metro are ancient fossils. The stone comes from all over Russia, so you get a snapshot of Russia’s mineral diversity while hunting for fossilised critters. A very interesting (but very Russian) site documents many – if not all – of the fossils that can be seen in the metros public areas. Check it out at: http://paleometro.ru/
7. That’s a lot of Trains
One of the first things I wanted to know after using the metro for the first time was how many trains were necessary to make it all tick and now I can tell you: 5250. However, only a touch over 3000 are in use on a daily basis. The same train design is used in other former Soviet metros and notably in Tehran, Iran, but as you may have noticed there are new trains creeping in (looking at you circle line).
8. Moscow’s Metro Maniac
One bored, or potentially insane fellow, decided to try and see every single one of Moscow’s 170 (at the time) metro stations in a day. He managed it in just under 12 hours, but I doubt there was much fanfare or a cheering crowd. He probably just shuffled off to down a bottle of vodka and regain his hearing.
9. Sardines in a Tin Can
The average number of passengers in a metro car is 47.2. I for one would really like to have just .2 of a person in the seat next to me. Who am I kidding, I never get a seat anyway!
Now it is time for that conspiracy theory I promised you. It is said that Stalin, being rather paranoid, ordered second, deeper metro line to be constructed. This secret metro supposedly links a number of important government facilities in Moscow and can be used to evacuate all important political and military figures if necessary. Does it sound plausible? Yes. Are we ever likely to find out for sure? No. If you do stumble across it, I dare say you wont get the chance to speak about it afterwards.
There are so many more interesting facts about the metro and so little time, so if you want to add anything to the above, feel free to post a comment below.