The word metro or metropolitan came into Russian either the English name of the London underground railway built in 1863 by the firm 'Metropolitan', or as a borrowing from the French, which literally means 'capital'.
There were plans for the construction of a Moscow underground railway before the revolution. At the beginning of XX century the trams could not cope with the volume of passengers in Moscow's expanding population. It was necessary to find a new means of transport to link the centre and the suburbs.
The first project for the construction of a Moscow underground was put forward in 1902 by the engineer P.Balinsky. His idea was to build a railway partly underground and partly on viaducts. The main radial line would have gone from Petrovsky-Razumovskoe to Zamoskvorechye via Red Square, where a central passenger station would be built. Two circle lines would run along the Boulevard and the Garden Rings. The total length of track would have been 100 km (60 miles).
However, this project was rejected because it was felt that it would be unacceptable to deface the city with railway lines, and threaten the stability of old buildings.
In 1912 the City Council returned once again to the question of an underground. The engineer Knorre suggested plan for underground lines from the suburbs to the centre, and also within the centre with a main passenger station in Lubyanka Square. This project was approved, but the outbreak of WWI, and later the revolution, delayed a start on the metro for many years.
The metro was turned into an underground kingdom of socialism. No expence was too much in terms of materials or manpower. The stations became luxurious palaces of the new socialist order, and they are breathtaking in the originality of their architecture, sculptures, mosaics and moulding.
Up to 1955 the Moscow underground was named after Lazar Kaganovich, but in that year it was renamed the V.I.Lenin Moscow Metropolitan Railway.
The first line, the Sokolnicheskaya, was open 15 May 1935. It had 13 stations from Sokolniki to Park of Culture, with a branch line from Komintern station (today Alexandrovsky sad) to Smolenskaya on the modern Filyovskaya line. The main sight on this line was Kropotkinskaja station (until 1957 as Palace of Soviets), designed by A.Dushkin.
It is laid out in truly sumptuous fashion, for it was actually built for visitors to the proposed Palace of Soviets. In an ironic twist of fate, its columns and walls were faced with marble taken from the demolished Cathedral of Christ the Savior. The ends of the columns were made as five pointed stars, and they support the vault of this underground palace.
Ploshchad Revolutsii, opened on 13 March 1938, is designed with great symbolism. In niches in the broad columns there are 76 bronze figures made by the sculptor M.Manizer. They show creators of the new socialist world - soldiers, workers and collective farm workers. At the top of the escalator there are sculptures of soldier and sailors who defend the young Soviet order. It is as if they are protecting everyone - the women feeding the poultry, the children and the athlets whose images are arranged in the centre and end of the hall.
The next line to be opened was Gorkovsko-Zamoskvoreckaya line. Majakovskaja is the architectural masterpiece of this line? and was also designed by Dushkin. The ceiling of the hall is decorated with mosaic panels made from the opaque squares of coloured glass, designed by A.Deineka on a theme "Day in the Land of Socialism". The idea and its execution are unique: coming from the escalator at the very beginning of the hall passengers can see a composition in light tones - sketches of the morning on a working day in the land of Soviets. Further down the hall daylight colours fade, and the lampshades are bathed in hues a peaceful and joyful evening, and then the sun rises once more.
During Great Patriotic War the metro was used as an airaid shelter. On 6 November 1941 a podium with a bust of Lenin surrounded by banners appeared in the huge hall of Mayakovskaya and an honour guard was stationed before it. Trains were stopped at the platforms, and were arranged within them. Seats were disposed around the hall, and in the upper hall there was a cloakroom. This was a ceremonial meeting for the 24th anniversary of the October Revolution. Mayakovskaya was chosen for this event because it was the command post for the municipal anti-aircraft batteries, and it was in communication with all the city's regions, and with the front. It was also one of the biggest stations on the metro.
In the war years Chistiye Prudy (formerly Kirovskaya) was used as the nerve-centre for Supreme Command HQ, and the Soviet Army General Staff.
Novokuznetskaya station was opened during the war on 20 November 1943, and was designed by I.Baranov and N.Bykova. For the Soviet people this was a sign that life was going on as normal, and so very patriotic themes were used in its design, and for the first time they included subjects from Russia's history. There were bas-reliefs of great Russian military commanders: Alexander Nevsky and Dmitry Donskoy, Minin and Pozharsky, Suvorov and Kutuzov. The mosaics to designs by Deineka were made in Leningrad during the siege by Frolov, and after his death the panels were brought to Moscow by sailor in the Ladozhskaya flotilla. The station superb marble benches were brought from the Cathedral of Christ the Savior.
In the 1950s the Circle Line was opened, and this contains what is probably the most luxurious of all the Moscow stations - Komsomolskaya. Its underground pavilion is based on the Petersburg (in Soviet times - Leningradsky) Railway Station, which it serves. This building, with a tall steeple, is crowned with a five-pointed star, and was designed by the architect A.Shchusev. He was also chosen to design Komsomolskaya. The ceiling of this veritable palace is decorated with mosaic panels designed by P.Korin. For the first time in Moscow the mosaics were made using the techniques of antiquity and the Byzantine masters. Not only were squares of coloured glass used, but also squaresof marble and granite.
They depicted military victories of the Russian people, with further mosaics of the Russian heroes Alexander Nevsky, Dmitry Donskoy, Kuzma Minin and Dmitry Pozharsky, Alexander Suvorov and Mikhail Kutuzov.
One day some vigilant charwoman informed the party authorities that the artists were making icons for the metro. She was referring to the pictures of old Russian banners with Christ's face. Korin was summoned before the municipal party authorities, and the outcome could have been very serious but for the fact that the mosaics in question had made a profound impression on E.Furtseva, who was to become the Soviet Minister of Culture. She rallied to the artist's defence, and showed the panel to N.Khrushchev. He advised that banner should be depicted with some small folds, so that it would be immediately apparent that it was not an icon.
Three panels show the feats of the Soviet people in the Great Patriotic War: 'The Marsh of Soviet Troops on 7 November 1941 on Red Square', 'The Taking of the Reichstag' and 'Victory'.
In June 1952 Stalin, Kaganovich and Beria came to have a look at the station. Stalin looked upwards to examine the nearest mosaic - 'Victory Parad' - and was indignant that the mausoleum with the leaders on the podium was in the centre of the station, while Alexander Nevsky was at the end. 'We have waited four years for this victory!' exclaimed the architect O.Velikoretsky. Stalin smiled and made no more objections.
There was another panel in the centre of the station: 'Handing over the Guard's Banner'. Stalin can be holding the banner, while a kneeling officer kissed it. After 20th Party Congress (in which Khrushchev denounced Stalin) this mosaic had to be remade, and old mosaic was replaced by 'Lenin's Speech to the Red Guards before Their Journey to the Front'.
Novoslobodskaya was opened in January 1952, designed by the architects Dushkin and Strelkov. It is perhaps the brightest and most decorative station in Moscow's underground city. The hall sparkles with different coloured fires from the excellent stained glass windows made by master craftsmen from Riga. At the end of the station there is a mosaic panel which Korin designed, entitled 'Peace Throughout the World'.
The Moscow metro is constantly being expanded, with its branch lines extending further into Moscow's outskirts. In 1995 the Lyublinskaya line was opened , and its main sight is Rimskaya Station, which is adorned with magnificent Italian sculptures and marble facings.