Skip Navigation

Underground History: Splendor and Misery of the Moscow Metro

A public lecture by GABOR RITTERSPORN, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, Centre d'Etudes des Mondes Russe, Caucasien et Centre-Europeen

The Moscow metro is a rare achievement of the Soviet regime continuing to receive virtually unanimous acclaim from post-Soviet citizens. Even those who decry it as a product of Stalinism recognize qualities of the subway's sumptuous architecture and decoration at least by taking it for spectacular kitsch.

The metro is expected to impress the world. It was intended to convey a clear message at the beginning. For fifty-five years the architecture and decoration had been meant to manifest a will to represent and celebrate the Soviet project, which was supposedly the construction of a radically new world of abundance, justice and happiness. The post-Soviet metro is also grappling with the task of representing values, those of the New Regime's architects.

One can make sense of Soviet and post-Soviet imageries of the best of possible worlds through interpreting the decoration of the underground and putting it in historical perspective. The exercise may reveal meanings contemporaries have been unlikely to grasp. It can also open eyes on trends historians are not necessarily aware of.

To print this page, select "Print" from the File menu of your browser.