The city beneath the city

more than a year ago

Published in the guide "Moscow In Your Pocket" №45, October - November 2016

Almost all visitors to Russia’s capital will have heard of the amazing beauty that is Moscow’s metro. It is widely regarded as the capital’s cheapest and largest museum that also happens to transport up to 9 million passengers daily. Volumes and volumes have been written about the metro’s history and its architectural splendor but few have heard about Moscow’s other underground sites, such as “Metro 2”, a centuries-old tunnel under the Kremlin or even a secret city for illegal immigrants.

Kremlin Tunnels
Back in the summer of 1933, two young men discovered an entrance to a centuries-old underground tunnel within sight of the red Kremlin walls. Lighting their way with a lantern as they crept through the tunnel, the men firmly believed that they were on their way to discovering Ivan the Terrible's legendary library of gold-covered books. Instead they found 5 skeletons, a passageway big enough for the men to squeeze through only one at a time and a rusted steel door they were unable to open.
Unfortunately, the men would have to wait 55 years before they could tell even their family of this amazing discovery because this a story Joseph Stalin, the Soviet leader of the time, wanted no one to know as he reportedly feared a coup attempt literally from below. Only after Mikhail Gorbachev came to power could one of the young men who was still alive, retired engineer Apollos Ivanov, tell his story.
Many of the tunnels are believed to have been built in the time of Prince Dmitry Donskoy, who ruled Moscow for 30 years beginning in 1359 and managed briefly to overthrow the Tatars. The underground pathways served as a link to the outside (and were later designated by the Soviet authorities as an escape route if the Kremlin were besieged). As time passed, Russian Orthodox patriarchs also dug tunnels and connected them with the Donskoy tunnels so that the patriarchs could flee to the walled fortress of the Kremlin in case of invasion.
Historians also believe that Ivan the Terrible hid an arsenal of weapons in the tunnels. Some of the guns were discovered in 1978 when Soviet workers were expanding a subway station. In addition to this, many of these historians also claim that the 16th century ruler hid his famous library of gold-covered books underground. Although the existence of the library is first mentioned in documents from the period of Peter the Great's rule (which began in 1682), the library itself has reportedly never been found.


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