The Moscow subway is, indeed, extremely beautiful. Many stations are real works of art.
Stalin put one of the scariest people of his regime in charge of building the subway. His name was Lazar Kaganovich, and he was one scary dude. Just a couple of years later he’ll be one of the main engineers of Stalinist purges. He’ll end up being one of the very few party bosses who would survive Stalin.
The subway was going to be a crucial resource in the world war Stalin was preparing in the early 1930s. It was supposed to be located deep enough to be out of reach to aerial bombings. In order to build this expensive project in Moscow, Stalin starved half of Ukraine to death. Kaganovich was the chief organizer of the Holodomor on Stalin’s orders.
Kaganovich was obsessed with getting the subway built fast enough to please Stalin. The workers who were building it lived in subhuman conditions, working for up to 33 hours straight with no breaks. Many of them died of infection, exhaustion, and dangerous working conditions. Many of the workers were executed for not working fast enough.
When the subway was finally built, Soviet propaganda whipped up massive enthusiasm for it that was supposed to mask the great purge Stalin was starting in preparation for the world war.
Kaganovich died in 1991. He never had to suffer any consequences for being one of the chief organizers of the Ukrainian Holodomor or for any of his genocidal services to Stalin. The USSR outlived Kaganovich only by 5 months.
It’s a really pretty subway, though. And the chandeliers are very cute.