Little known facts about the St. Petersburg Metro

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Open since 1955, St Petersburg subway sets many records. First of all, it is the deepest one in the world (if you consider the average depth of all the stations). St Petersburgers claim that it is also the most beautiful one, though it is debatable with Moscow subway. For the beauty and splendor, check out Avtovo, the first station opened in the city, and all central stations on red line above it.

Among recently opened stations, several are quite stunning like Admiralteyskaya, Spasskaya, Obvodny Canal, Mezhdunarodnaya.


There are many more little known facts that the city’s main metro. We tried to dig for the most curious of them.

Why it happened to be the deepest subway on the planet?

Due to the geographical and climatic conditions, subway station of our city had to be constructed to greater depth. St. Petersburg is built on swampy soil. In these conditions it was impossible to build a subway like those in any other city of the world. In 1938, at the very beginning of the metro lines development, this fact was taken into account by digging deep under the swamps.  Now we have to take long escalators to go all the way down. This resulted in the average depth of St Petersburg metro being the deepest one in the world. While Admiralteyskaya station is record breaking among all metro stations in Russia, it is 86 meters deep, the deepest one in Russia and the 8th deepest one on the world.  

Blasted churches and cathedrals for the sake of progress?

During construction of the subway there were many churches destroyed such as the Church of Our Lady of the Sign (now Ploschad Vosstania station), Saviour on  Church (Sennaya Ploschad station) and Church of Cosma and Damian (now Chernyshevskaya station). USSR regime stood for total atheism and was not delicate with churches and even did not stop from destroying their architectural and cultural value. Especially easy and quick the destinies of the churches were settled when there was a solid reason for demolishing them. Well, who knows whether the end justified the means?

Can an elevator be horizontal?

Many of the St. Petersburg subway stations were built using a unique door opening system called “Horizontal lift”. “Horizontal lift” is a station where the exit to the subway tunnels is blocked by sliding doors like in elevators. The station platform is isolated from the train tracks by heavy sliding doors. When the train arrives at the station, the a special device synchronizes the opening of the doors on the station with the doors on the train cars. The construction of these types of stations were adopted to provide a significantly greater level of safety for passengers as trains. Additionally, the “Horizontal Lift” design is 25% cheaper than alternative ones.  Among disadvantages are mechanical door maintenance, and longer times between the trains since the train engineer has to be very precise to align the train cars with the station doors. That is why these kind of stations are no longer built. There are 10 stations of the “horizontal lift” type in the Petersburg Metro, including Mayakovskaya (remarkable as well for its station design), Ploschad Alexandra Nevskogo and Park Pobedy.  

Do ghost stations have some inhabitants?

Dachnoe is the only abandoned station in the city. It was the first station above the ground. It received its name from the depot located nearby.  Due to the harsh weather conditions in the St. Petersburg winters, the authorities decided to close the station. Rains and dampness made good maintenance of open stations very costly. Dachnoe is located on Tramvayniy Prospect, 18a. Currently there is a police office occupying the former vestibule at the station. But nobody there knows what is happening in the tunnels.

Stalin’s portraits in the city of Lenin?

St Petersburg subway is formerly known as the V.I. Lenin Order of Lenin Leningrad Metropoliten. No surprise for a subway in a city renamed Leningrad, after a great leader. But the launch of the St. Petersburg Metro took place in the midst of the Khrushchev thaw in 1955. Joseph Stalin died two years earlier, and the revelation of Stalin’s cult of personality was still unknown. After notorious XXth Congress of the CPSU took place, frantic abolishment of these leader’s images began throughout the subway. But one image is still there. You can see it at Ploschad Vosstaniya station. A large base-relief of Stalin modestly standing behind Lenin’s back.  

What Pushkin has to do with the subway?

Numerous revolts and political coups in Russia can not demolish people’s love tot our most well known Russian poet, Pushkin. The St Petersburg Metro contains two Pushkin’s monuments. As you would expect, the first one is installed at Pushkinskaya station, the other is at Chyornaya Rechka station, where he was mortally wounded during the duel.
On the poet’s birthdays the city authorities organize special events at the station’s vestibule, including poems, citation or music, in the evening. So if you are in the city either on the 29th of May or on the 6th of June, don’t miss an opportunity to listen to live recitations of poems and violins in the underground palaces of St Petersburg subway.

More blog posts:

Industrial Heritage of St Petersburg: tourist guide of city’s lofts & plants

Curious Facts & Notes About Venice of the North

The belly of the city: St Petersburg markets worth visiting for a tourist

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