Stalin in the Moscow Metro: Manifestations of a Dictator, Apparitions of a Ghost, and Elusive Futures in Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia


Location: DeBartolo Hall, Room 117

Gábor Tamás Rittersporn, director for research and senior research fellow, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (Paris)

The Moscow Metro is far more than a vulgar means of public transport. People who conceived, built, and decorated it wanted to astonish the world—and were quite successful. The architecture and decoration of the Metro continue to impress post-Soviet citizens and foreign visitors alike. Stations constructed between the mid-1930s and the mid-1950s are closely associated with Iosif V. Stalin, if for nothing else then because the era is designated by the dictator’s name. Many passengers know that his effigies used to adorn subway stops, but hardly anyone can tell where and by what they were replaced in the 1960s when the authorities believed they could exorcise Stalin’s ghost through simply removing his omnipresent portraits from public sight. Sculptures, mosaics, and reliefs at underground stops with the figure of the dictator already suggested unintended messages when Stalin was still alive. Their substitutes are doing the same. The messages are about the Soviet project, but one may wonder if they do not tell something about post-Soviet Russia.

Sponsored by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies, the program in Russian and East European Studies, the College of Arts and Letters, and the Department of History