Event Title

The Underground Soviet: Shaping Soviet Culture in the Leningrad Metro

Presenter Information

Ian Gilchrist, Oberlin CollegeFollow

Location

King Building 325

Start Date

4-28-2017 4:30 PM

End Date

4-28-2017 5:50 PM

Abtract

This thesis examines the first line of the Leningrad metro System, opened in 1955, and its representation of the Soviet state in the wake of the Second World War. Like its older sibling in Moscow, built in the 1930s, the Leningrad metro served both symbolic as well as pragmatic purposes. Its stations offered passengers a palatial splendor formerly reserved for royalty; marbled floors, artwork, and chandeliers adorned high-ceilinged stations, exemplifying the state’s benevolence. These stations crafted a narrative of Soviet history, while simultaneously stating the country’s progress on its path towards communism. In this paper, I examine the Leningrad metro as part of a larger project of post-war reconstruction, striving to rebuild both the physical and ideological landscape of the war-ravaged Soviet Union. Leningrad experienced a dramatic surge in migration, bringing new residents to the city, unskilled and uneducated in urban socialist life. Simultaneously, party policy shifted, at least outwardly, towards greater material welfare for citizens, resulting in increasingly private forms of living. I argue that within this project of reconstruction, the metro operated as an agent of integration between state and citizen, inserting state narratives into the everyday lives of passengers, while also directing the ways in which they moved through the city. The metro ritualized the transition between public and private spheres, guiding passengers through reflective spaces that honored culture, history, and industry. By travelling through their everyday lives, citizens rehearsed and cemented a state-sanctioned narrative of living, behaving, and remembering as proper Soviet citizens.

Keywords:

Soviet history, urban planning, public works

Notes

Session III, Panel 19 - Russian | Narratives
Moderator: Arlene Forman, Chair and Associate Professor of Russian & East European Studies

Major

History; Russian & East European Studies

Award

Artz Honors Research Grant; Jerome Davis Research Award

Advisor(s)

Annemarie Sammartino, History
Arlene Forman, Russian & East European Studies

Project Mentor(s)

Annemarie Sammartino, History
Christopher Stolarski, History
Leonard Smith, History

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Apr 28th, 4:30 PM Apr 28th, 5:50 PM

The Underground Soviet: Shaping Soviet Culture in the Leningrad Metro

King Building 325

This thesis examines the first line of the Leningrad metro System, opened in 1955, and its representation of the Soviet state in the wake of the Second World War. Like its older sibling in Moscow, built in the 1930s, the Leningrad metro served both symbolic as well as pragmatic purposes. Its stations offered passengers a palatial splendor formerly reserved for royalty; marbled floors, artwork, and chandeliers adorned high-ceilinged stations, exemplifying the state’s benevolence. These stations crafted a narrative of Soviet history, while simultaneously stating the country’s progress on its path towards communism. In this paper, I examine the Leningrad metro as part of a larger project of post-war reconstruction, striving to rebuild both the physical and ideological landscape of the war-ravaged Soviet Union. Leningrad experienced a dramatic surge in migration, bringing new residents to the city, unskilled and uneducated in urban socialist life. Simultaneously, party policy shifted, at least outwardly, towards greater material welfare for citizens, resulting in increasingly private forms of living. I argue that within this project of reconstruction, the metro operated as an agent of integration between state and citizen, inserting state narratives into the everyday lives of passengers, while also directing the ways in which they moved through the city. The metro ritualized the transition between public and private spheres, guiding passengers through reflective spaces that honored culture, history, and industry. By travelling through their everyday lives, citizens rehearsed and cemented a state-sanctioned narrative of living, behaving, and remembering as proper Soviet citizens.