Muscovites are very proud of their underground rail network, with stations more like people’s palaces underground. It carries between seven and nine million passengers daily, one of the world’s busiest. Trains are frequent and on time, and tickets are affordable. It has kept the capital humming since Soviet times. Far from the dingy functional networks found in many other cities, there is an abundance of marble, crystal chandeliers, and Soviet realism artworks extolling the virtues of the Bolshevik revolution.
It stretches for 300 kilometres linking every point around Moscow, carrying passengers along 12 lines with 180 stations, and grows bigger every year as it goes into the suburbs.
Building the mammoth network began in the 1930s when Stalin insisted it be a flagship project, while also bearing in mind that great fear of the interwar period, the mass bombing of urban centres. The people’s palaces would also protect the people. Inaugurated in 1935, just 6 years later Muscovites, like the Londoners in the Blitz, sought refuge there from Nazi bombs.
In the cold war 1950s certain stations, among the deepest in the world, were built with a nuclear shelter dual-use in mind.
Yet the network’s strengths are also its weakness, as it has proved vulnerable to terrorist attack.
In June 1996, a few days before presidential elections, four people died when a bomb exploded between Tulskaya and Nagatinskaya station.
Then in 2000 the pedestrian underpass leading into Tverskaya station was hit; 13 people died and 118 were wounded.
The most recent attack was in February 2004. A bomb killed 40 people and injured 100 on the packed Zamoskvorestkaya line that links Moscow’s two main airports.