Why the metro in North Korea is so similar to the one in Moscow

Photographs by Elliot Davis of Pyongyang’s metro stations, which recently became more accessible to tourists, have fascinated people all over the world. However, many Russians were also quite surprised by what they saw. It turns out that North Korea’s stations have an incredible resemblance to stops on the Moscow metro. The RBTH team decided to compare the underground “architecture” in Pyongyang and Moscow.

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Tourists that have visited the underground systems of Moscow and St. Petersburg immediately notice a certain resemblance to the Pyongyang metro, at least when it comes to the main stations.

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This is no accident. The Pyongyang Metro was largely copied from the most grandiose stations found in Moscow and Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) after World War II.

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The metro system in North Korea appeared a year earlier than in South Korea. The first underground train left the station in Pyongyang on September 6, 1973.

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There are tours for foreigners around the central part of the Moscow Metro that highlight its colorful decorations and such tours are also could be possible at a number of underground stations in Pyongyang.

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Like in Moscow, the trains in the Pyongyang's metro arrive every few minutes during rush hour. In both Pyongyang and Moscow the walls and columns are decorated with mosaics and stucco in the style of socialist realism. 

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On mosaics in Pyongyang scenes of the working life of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea people dominate, as do images of its leaders. You can also find mosaics depicting some of the most beautiful places in this country, which prides itself on its self-reliance. 

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In terms of grandiosity the North Koreans went further than their Soviet counterparts when it came to designing their central stations. From the beginning mosaics were placed on the walls of the track along the platform in Pyongyang. 

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Both in Pyongyang and in Moscow marble, bas-reliefs and sculptures are used for decoration. 

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Not so long ago foreigners could visit only a few of the more central areas of the metro in Pyongyang, but now most stations are open to tourists.


This text is based on an article by Oleg Kiryanov, a special correspondent at Rossiyskaya Gazeta. Read the full version in Russian here.

All rights reserved by Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

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