The Underground of Moscow.
Moscow is a city, an ancient capital that keeps secrets that hide a huge world from us: the Underground of Moscow.
Among the most famous of the capital’s dungeons most often called Metro-2, the library of Tsar Ivan IV and the Neglinka clad in stone banks. But among them one can safely include the underground communications of the lodging house on Solyanka. How are they arranged?
Such a view meets everyone who has been there. But first, a little about the past.
In the XVI century, at the intersection of “the street from the Varvarsky Gate to the Ivanovsky Monastery” and “Great Street to the Yauza Gate” the prosperous merchant Nikitnikov built a salt warehouse. At that place they sold and stored both ordinary salt and its variety – potash (potassium carbonate). Salted fish was also sold there. The architectural complex was based on a large courtyard, which was surrounded by benches and granaries. Two gates led inside – main and small. The latter were marked by a tower with a guardhouse. There were no street windows on the first floor, but there were separate entrances to the stores to prevent theft. The storehouses had vaults supported by massive pillars. We may assume that there was a cellar floor, which was almost the same size as the ground floor.
Only a while later neighboring streets received their names – Bolshoi Ivanovsky lane (since 1961 – Zabelina street) and Solyanka. In 1912 the dilapidated commercial premises were gradually dismantled for the purpose of erecting a commercial building. During the excavation of the foundation pit the treasure was found. In the found jugs rested about half a million coins, weighing about two centners (13 poods). All of them belong to the second half of the XVI – the beginning of the XVII centuries, when Ivan the Terrible, his son Feodor Ioannovich and Boris Godunov ruled.
The valuable find most likely turned out to be the proceeds of the Salt Court, safely hidden and forgotten during the years of the Troubles. This money did not make its owners happy. While the treasure was being split up, one of the contractors was injured. The policeman who arrived at the scene seized only a small fraction of the treasure – only 7 kg of coins (about 9 thousand pieces), which after examination by the Archeological Commission were sent back.
To ensure the possibility of construction, the Moscow Merchant Company has acquired from many owners of the irregularly shaped lot and organized a competition for the best design. As a result, several architects became the winners – Sherwood, Sergeyev and Hermann. Their work fully met the needs of builders – the building increased in size, and the lot was used to the maximum. The neoclassical building began to be decorated with stucco moldings, though unsuccessfully overlooking the closed courtyard-wells, and chic rooms appeared inside.
But its main feature is inaccessible to the public. We are talking about a wide basement with lots of rooms, high vaults and spacious corridors, where two cars can easily pass each other. At one time the Modelmix group made a wonderful 1:100 scale model of one of the buildings together with the basement rooms. It is not known who ordered the model and where it is kept at the moment, but the available photographs allow you to imagine the enormous size of the basement part of the house.
I spent a long time looking at the layout photo and still couldn’t understand – what were these huge underground labyrinths built for and how did they manage to do it? Considering that the basement is not very deep, most likely, first a pit was dug and then a brick structure was erected. After that, the ceiling was installed, and then it was buried back, removing the excess soil. But could this happen in the 16th century, if even in modern times, the scale of construction is impressive.
Here is what I think about it. There used to be an elevated part of the city. There were probably other floors above these structures, which were destroyed by a powerful flood, the consequences of which were depicted by Giovanni Piranesi. The part of the buildings that was left untouched turned out to be a good foundation for new constructions. And these floors were turned into a dungeon. After a while, they were cleared out of junk and started to be used as warehouses.
The underground part resembled medieval quarters, with dwellings and narrow streets:
It is likely that the legendary library of John Vasilievich also disappeared because of the flood. It lies in a hidden place, waiting in the wreckage. I put forward my version – it is quite possible to assume that in the capital there may be similar large-scale dungeons. How else to explain appearance of such a grandiose construction.
Let’s continue our excursion through the dungeon.
This is the location of the basement in relation to the landscape above it. As we can see, it occupies the whole area under the whole architectural ensemble, including the buildings, the courtyard and the passage:
During the Soviet era, the house was under the command of the People’s Commissariat of Railways. During the Brezhnev stagnation (1970s – early 1980s) in the basement there was a garage for police cars, but nothing good came out of that idea, because due to the high humidity the equipment often broke down. In the perestroika years the garages were given to local residents, and in the wild 90s, criminals who stole stolen cars and rewrote license plates found a home there. In 2002 two diggers made an approximate scheme of underground premises. Comparing it with the plan above, you can see that they managed to describe only a small fraction of basement areas, but the enthusiasm of the young people is commendable.
Note how the dungeon looks these days:
The arches are made of the very same brick. They knew how to build in the past, after all!
At the beginning of the last century, in some places the ceiling was reinforced with reinforced concrete structures.
This column was built relatively recently, to prevent it from collapsing.
The massive walls of the dungeon are a meter thick. Between them in different places thin partitions of brick were built, thanks to which numerous small rooms and nooks, now cluttered with accumulated garbage, appeared in the dungeon.
The basement rooms are up to five meters high and have a two-level or sometimes a three-level structure. There are wide corridors, where two cars can easily pass each other.
A huge corridor resembles a street with a roadway.
There is another interesting fact:
In the early 1970s, during excavations on both sides of the Mausoleum near the Kremlin wall, the western wall of the Alevizov ditch was found. As Soviet archaeologists wrote, the upper part of the wall is only 50 cm from the surface. It was not possible to get to the bottom of the ditch when it reached the target point of the excavation. Its inner wall is very similar to the Kremlin wall. One of the facades, facing the Kremlin, was vertical and made of arches. The other façade, facing inward, was smooth. It turned out to be inclined towards the Kremlin by 1.1 meters for 10 meters height. The walls of the Kremlin were also made. At ten meters deep, the arch is 11.5 meters wide and 1.6 meters deep, they are 5 meters apart. The wall is about 4 m thick. The western wall is made of brick and is on a base of white stone.
These excavations at the Kremlin wall can also be cited as an example:
Secrets of the Underground Moscow
No Muscovite has ever seen the way in which the leaders of the country got to the Mausoleum tribunes during parades and demonstrations. And this is not surprising. After all, the way there is through a comfortable tunnel that connects the Kremlin with Lenin’s tomb and many other city objects. In fact, underground Moscow is like a “holey” Dutch cheese – all riddled with hidden passages.
Historical reference: Moscow underground began to be explored even by the grandmother of Ivan the Terrible, the famous Byzantine princess Sophia Paleologue. On marrying the Russian tsar, she brought with her as dowry the double-headed eagle – the emblem of Byzantium, which has since become the state emblem of Russia, and her own personal library. In order to save the priceless scrolls, she brought from Europe Aristotle Fioravanti, a major specialist in underground buildings, and ordered him to build a three-tiered white-stone “safe” under Moscow.
Ivan the Terrible, just like his grandmother, became a great admirer of underground romance. He already had a whole army of diggers working. From the Kremlin stretched a web of passages in the direction of the future Zemlyanoy Val, in a remote forest thicket – now the Red Gate, to the future Myasnitskaya Street.
Later, the whole network of branches led from this gallery under the Menshikov Tower, under the “Masonic Houses”, under the whole scattering of buildings in the triangle of Khokhlovka-Solyanka-Vorontsovo Pole, under the former house of Duke Pozharsky, and under the former house of the Secret Chancellery.
One of the exits of the underground labyrinth of Ivan the Terrible times still exists today, in the basement of the house on the corner of Herzen Street and Vosstaniya Square.
Our first encounter with the problem of existence of Moscow underground kingdom happened quite by accident.
In a lake in one of the capital’s parks all fish suddenly died. The management of the park indignantly informed us: “The underground factory, located under the park, is hooliganizing again. Not only fish, but soon half of Moscow will die from its emergency emissions. “
A second similar facility also popped up unexpectedly. When asked why in the acute shortage of space for housing a huge vacant lot built up with metal garages, the architects explained: “You can not build anything massive there – will fail in the underground shop. “
And then a natural task arose: to find out what lies beneath the capital’s sidewalks, besides the world-famous Moscow Metro? In search of information, we met the stalkers-a group of young treasure hunters who comb Moscow’s underground at their own risk in the hope of finding ancient coins, icons, and books.
It is from them that we learned many interesting facts about the secret womb of Moscow.
These very young guys consider themselves followers of the little-known in Russia historian and archaeologist Stelletsky and use his developments in their searches. For more than forty years of his life, Ignatiy Yakovlevich Stelletsky devoted his search to the “library of Sophia Palaeologus,” or, as it is more commonly called, “the library of Ivan the Terrible.”
Back at the beginning of the century, he surveyed many of the Kremlin’s underground passages. And after the revolution, he applied to the GPU for permission to search for new dungeons. This permission was given to him, but on the condition that he would never publicize the results of his research without special permission. Stelletsky agreed to this bondage agreement.
He worked with the builders of the subway, studying all the underground corridors that came across the path of the subway tracks. And all of his notes and diaries were invariably put in the safe of the state security service. During the Soviet period, the underground kingdom of Ivan the Terrible was taken under the guardianship of the Bunker Department of the KGB.
Grabbing information about the old secret passages the stalkers collected bit by bit. Along the way they also learned about the so-called “new buildings. Employees of the Bolshoi Theater told them about a wide tunnel leading to the Kremlin.
As is known, Stalin liked to hold party conferences at the Bolshoi Theater. During these events all the props (stands, slogans, etc.) were delivered to the theater by truck through the underground passage. The stalkers tried to get into this tunnel from the communication tunnels by figuring out where this route should run approximately. But they failed, because they were stopped by the tightly barred metal doors.
But it was easy to get into the underground garage of the former CMEA building. A “little trick” helped: you squeeze the contact roller of the alarm, fix it with something – and go through any door. In principle, anyone who is not afraid to go down into the “underworld” can get into the basement of almost any building in Moscow by sewer, cable and other passages.
But it must be said that this is not very safe. Stalkers tell us:
“The womb of Moscow is quite densely populated. First, the homeless take a fancy to it. Secondly, Mafia groups like to set up warehouses for illegal products. And God forbid, to be caught by them! Thirdly, the tunnels are inhabited by feral dogs, who prey on rats, each other, and in general, on everything alive that crosses their path. And fourth, if you inadvertently get into the “closed zone” of the underground, there is a risk to run into a guard’s bullet. After all, there’s plenty of ‘secret objects’ underground.
. An inconspicuous hatch at the bottom of the fountain, right behind the monument in the center of the capital, hides one of the country’s biggest secrets. Surprisingly, no one guards this entrance. Probably because not everyone dares to descend into the pitch black of the thirty-storey abyss over the slimy and rusty metal brackets of the narrow staircase.
And yet such people were found. They said that there is hidden entrance to the mysterious system of “Metro-2”, which lines are not marked on any map. Where and where the trains with dimmed lights go – one can only guess.
Vladimir Gonik, who worked for six years as a doctor in the Defense Ministry system, claims that these lines serve a grandiose government bunker built in case of nuclear war.
How did he know about it? The point is that his patients were people who had been on special assignments, who were undergoing increased physical and mental stress – pilots, submariners, illegal immigrants working abroad.
From time to time he received people with remarkably pale skin, as if they had not seen the sun for years. Little by little he gathered information from their individual phrases and short answers, which eventually formed a fairly coherent picture.
According to Tonic, there is a cyclopean structure buried deep underground in the south of the capital, capable of sheltering ten thousand people for years to come. Special guards and maintenance personnel keep the underground “streets,” “houses,” movie theaters, and gyms with swimming pools in perfect order there.
A Moscow newspaper wrote that Boris Yeltsin was simply shocked when he visited some underground city located under a huge vacant lot near Vernadsky Prospekt. This story coincides surprisingly not only with the information Tonik, but also with a map published in the annual publication of the U.S. Defense Department, “Soviet Armed Forces. 1991.”
It shows three special subway lines linking the underground point beneath the Kremlin with suburban and urban bunkers. The southwest underground line passes by Vernadsky Prospekt and leads to the government airfield Vnukovo (27 kilometers from Moscow), the southern line ends 60 kilometers from the city in a shelter of the General Staff and the country’s leadership, the eastern subway stretches for 25 kilometers to the complex air defense command.
And the American compilation Soviet Armed Forces in 1988 even provides a diagram of the floors and rooms of the underground bunker for the Soviet leadership.
But the bunker department of state security carefully keeps the secrets of the underground from their compatriots. And here is proof of that. After the failed coup, Prokofyev, former first secretary of the Moscow city party committee, escaped from the CPSU Central Committee building through one of these secret passages, and he could not be detained, as even those who were entrusted to him did not know the secrets of the Bunker Administration.
Recently, however, the veil of secrecy that hid the Moscow underground began to open under the winds of change. According to data leaked to the press, it can already be estimated that in Moscow today are at least fifteen large underground plants, interconnected by many kilometers of tunnels.
Journalists have already been allowed into the bunker of the fire department headquarters under Smolenskaya Square, the underground building of ITAR-TASS under one of the railway stations and the bunker of the civil defense headquarters under Tverskaya Street.
The heavy door leafs of Type “A” buildings were thrown open with reluctance. Huge anti-nuclear shelters for civilians began to appear relatively recently – since 1984. Today there are about a hundred of them, and naturally they do not stand idle awaiting an unknown war but serve the business community.
“Some of them have underground parking lots, says V. Lukshin, head of the engineering department of Moscow Civil Defense Headquarters. Not a single square meter has been left without work. And there is even a queue for using objects which are still under construction.
There is no hiding the underground life – everything is in full view. But the “underground city for the government” is still a secret behind closed doors. And it is clear: if the underground realm exists, it may serve ten thousand “chosen ones” only if millions of “ordinary” people do not know about it!
Irina Tsareva, from “The Unknowable, Rejected or Hidden”