Moscow Metro: Construction

Figure 1.--Here are some of children involved in the construction of the Moscow Metro. We are not sure when this photograph was taken, but it would have been during the 1930s.

The Moscow Metro project was finally begun during the Stalinist era (1932) The first stage was the Sokolnicheskaya Line. The Moscow Metero because of its palatial stations filled with art work became a proud symbol of the Soviet wirker's paradise. Ironically, the constructin of parts of the Metro used the readily available slave labor from Stalin's growing Gulag. Some reports mention the use of convicts, we suspect this was a trm to sanitize the use of slave labor. While there were criminals in the Gulag, the larger number were people charged with "political" crimes. Some reports indicate that German POWs were used in the phases during and after World War II. Some sources suggest that the early stages were built mostly with slave labor, but I have not yet found a definitive study on this. Youth brigades were also involved. School boys were organized by youth groups and then to the Metro where they were given a range of assignments. One report suggess that 30,000 children were the Metro’s junior labour force. I do not know if girls were also involved in the work. All this was reportedly voluntary work which the children did willingly. We are not sure just how volunary anything was in the Stalinist era. It is true, however, that there was a great deal of idealism about building the Socialist paradise and it is probably true that many of these children willingly participated. We do not know just how the slave labor was used. We suspect that the youth brigades and slave labor was not used together, but have been unable to find details on just how this was organized. One book about subwys included a letter written from a prisoner forced to work on the Metro. Interestingly, he was proud that he was to give his broken body to the glory of the Soviet state. [Bobrick] Officials awarded badges to the senior engineers, administrators and communist party bosses that supervised the construction. The NKVD officers who guarded the slave laborers also received badges. Stalin suggested that Komsomol be awarded the Order of Lenin for its in the construction of the first Metro stage. The award was of course duly made (May 14, 1935). The original first stage stations were all quite similar.


Bobrick, Benson. Labyrinths of Iron: Subways in History, Myth, Art, Technology, and War.


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Created: 9:25 PM 2/27/2009
Last updated: 9:25 PM 2/27/2009