Stalin’s Abandoned Metro of Kiev

photography by: Нечволод Дмитро/ Wikimedia Commons

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The capital and largest city in Ukraine, Kiev boasts an extensive metro system with almost 1.5 million daily passengers that make up roughly half of the city's total public transportation rides. It might come as a surprise, yet alongside its 67 kilometers of railways and 52 subway stations, Kiev's Metro has another segment that was never completed. Known as the Stalinsʹke Metro, this forgotten vestige of Soviet infrastructure is now the crown jewel among local thrill seekers.

Interestingly, plans for a modern metro system in Kiev date back to as far as 1884, when a proposal to connect the city’s Poshtova square and Bessarabka was first discussed. However, it would take no less than 76 years until Kiev subway system was formally inaugurated in 1960.

 

While officially the metro’s construction works started only in the late 1940’s, a decade earlier, the local authorities under the direction of the then USSR leader, Joseph Stalin, executed an ambitious and secret plan to connect Kiev’s western and eastern banks of the Dnieper River by an underground tunnel.

A pathway on the top of Stalin's Metro tunnel

photography by: Kiyanka/ Wikimedia Commons


On the eve of World War II, as tensions between the Soviet Union and other world powers intensified, Kiev was regarded the third most important city in the USSR. In spite of its strategic significance, the city was considered difficult to defend as its railway bridges over the Dnieper River were vulnerable to airstrikes.

 

Akin to overcome Kiev’s weakest point, Stalin commissioned the construction of two underground tunnels that would serve as a safe alternative to the bridges. Dubbed as Stalinsʹke Metro (Сталінське метро), the two lines were to connect the city’s east and west sides of the river, one at north, from Petrivka to Troieschyna, and a second one in the south, from Vita-Litovska to Bortnychi.

An exposed part of the tunnel astride the Vita Riva

photography by: Дяченко Татьяна/ Wikimedia Commons


Due to its indispensable military role, the project was classified as a top state secret by the Soviet authorities, which concealed its true purpose and function by naming it with an ambiguous title, Construction № 1 NKSHS (Будівництво № 1 НКШС).

 

According to the original plan, each tunnel was designed so tanks and other armored vehicles could cross it at an event of a war, further emphasizing how these metro lines were far more a military asset than a mass transit system, with little to no civic merits.

Littered with dead leaves, the concrete tunnel of Stalin's Metro during the autumn

photography by: Kiyanka/ Wikimedia Commons


Works began in 1938, and soon faced a host of problems, of which a lack of fundings and the surrounding wet soil being the biggest hurdle. As World War II erupted and Nazi forces advanced towards the city in September 1941, construction was immediately suspended while parts of the metro tunnels were eventually occupied by the Germans and later utilized as a stronghold.

 

With no workers and supervisors, the tunnel soon succumbed to their wet surroundings and were almost entirely flooded.

The tunnel covered in snow during wintertime

photography by: tuyddatygl/ Flickr


Following the end of the war and the subsequent Soviet victory, several attempts to reconstruct the tunnels were made, yet none of which were ever fruitful. As Nazi forces were no longer posing a real threat to city’s vital infrastructure, the project was formally deemed inexpedient and thus its fate was ultimately sealed a few years later. According to some unverified claims, parts of the concrete slabs of the tunnels were reincorporated in the construction of Kiev metro system during the 1950’s.

The flooded tunnel entrance as of today, with the nearby swampy waters covered with a green carpet of aquatic plants

photography by: Kiyanka/ Wikimedia Commons


As of today, merely a few remnants of this mysterious metro project have survived decades of dilapidation, most notably a 700-meter-long tunnel in Zhukov Island and a caisson in Obolon.

 

The flooded tunnel across the Vita River in Zhukov Island recently became a hot spot among extreme and dark tourism enthusiasts who occasionally venture out with a kayak, exploring its dark premises. The tunnel’s moldering walls are now partly covered with creepy murals and graffitied slogans, with steel rods still protruding, frozen in time. Alternatively, you can access the top of the tunnel by foot through a deep-forest pathway. However, since the concrete structure is entirely surrounded by water, the only way to reach its roof is by cautiously climbing on fallen tree trunks that serve as a makeshift bridge.

A group of intrepid explorers who visit the tunnel by boat

photography by: Нечволод Дмитро/ Wikimedia Commons


Nestled along the Dnieper River, in North Kiev’s Obolon neighborhood, the Caisson is another extant part of the Stalin’s Metro. Originally built as a sophisticated mean to provide a safe water-free environment for the workers, this concrete monolith might be reminiscent of a bunker in first glance. When the nearby Natalka Park was created, the structure was supposed to be renovated and turned into a technology museum, yet as your eyes can see, it never came into fruition.

The derelict caisson of Obolon

photography by: KubikRubikGames/ Wikimedia Commons