Memories and Reflections
The Underground System
Note: This is the next in a new series of articles.Some of them will deal with personal experiences. In this new series to the Tribune, Dr. Howard commits to tell the events exactly as they happened, no exaggeratiion or fabrication.
One of the most pleasant experiences one has when they visit Moscow is the ability to go from one place to another easily and economically. This is due to the extensive rail underground system that reaches to all parts of the city. If you have ever been in New York City or London for example you’ve already experienced the underground system. Although the systems are efficient and will take you anywhere you want to go, the one in Russia is best of all I think. When you are trying to catch a car, if you miss it there’s no need to worry because another will be along within 45 seconds. They are clean and people are polite or a bit withdrawn as you usually find them in big cities. I was astounded once when riding the subway when a 16-year-old beautiful blonde girl and offered me her seat. Russians also have respect for old age.
A map of the underground system is posted on the roof of the cars and you can see very clearly where you’re going and where you’ve been. Looking closely you will see that a large number if not most of the terminal points are at Red Square. Within a quick walk of Lenin’s tomb you can be on a subway that will take you to any part of the city.
One of the unique things about the subway system is to watch what people carry on them. Sometimes they use them as a moving van to move their furniture with. I guess they have to take it a little bit of the time because you never see them with more than a couple of pieces and they usually have someone with them to help carry. Another interesting thing is to see them, particularly on Sunday afternoon or Sunday night coming in from their dachas rolling a little cart with a product of their efforts to grow food on their dachas. Under the communist regime every head of household was permitted at 1/6 of an acre of land that he could farm on his own time. This was designed to keep the population from starving and it, sadly, did just that. People would build little shanties out on their property, but there and spend the weekend working on their garden and then head home with their little cart and a bunch of potatoes, apples or whatever they could grow. The dachas became locations for much nicer houses after the USSR broke up in 1991.
But one of the most attractive aspects of the underground system is that of the artwork that was placed there by the government. Under the previous system art was used to try to inspire the people. Remember they had no religion other than dedication to the state and to the party. It is now part of the history that that did not work and mentioning it to them causes a bit of embarrassment. As to religion, where you could be sent to prison for years for owning a Bible, for a time one could stand on street corner and preach after the change in regimes they are beginning to tighten up some but I don’t think they’ll ever go back to where they were.
If you go to Moscow please don’t plan on getting an automobile. First of all you can’t read the signs and second their rules about where you can turn and how you can turn onto streets is quite different.
Take the subway. It’s a wonderful experience and easy to learn how to get around. It is a good idea to have a multiuse pass are to at least have some of the tokens that will get you a seat.
Dr. Ken Howard is a current Bowie County resident that has spent his life teaching management and economics at the university level. He has traveled to 45 countries in various capacities, including the military. He is the patriarch of a large family of four daughters and 15 grandchildren.