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From: Sandy Lubkin
Date: Wed, 3 Dec 1997 22:21:50 +0000
Subject: Moscow Transport (part 2 of 2)

During the 850th Anniversary of Moscow Celebrations (September 1997), public transportation must have been working at 150% of design capacity. We took the Metro to Teatralnya (Theatre) Station - in the center of Moscow, but several blocks from Red Square and Manezhna Ploschad where the main events were scheduled. When we got out of the Metro building, the 6- and 8-lane roads were wall-to-wall people. There was a militsia (policeman) outside our station turning people away. "Only incoming trains here today. Go to Kuznetski Most or Lubyanka to catch a train." Those stations are about, oh, I don't know, and my map is packed. Maybe 1-2 kilometers (a mile) away.

(Picture) Crowds attending 850th Anniversary celebrations at Manezhna Ploschad. Krasnaya Ploschad (Red Square) is just beyond the Resurrection Gates (topped by the towers). The gates were closed that day.

Hours later when we left the festival to go home, we walked over to Kuznetski Most. There was another militsia telling everyone to go to Kitai-Gorod (literally "China Town", one of the oldest sections of Moscow. Perhaps it was named during the Mongol occupation?). We joined the throng heading across town (another 1-2 kilometers, maybe) and finally found ourselves at the Metro station. Too many people were trying to get in at once. The wide hallways leading to that station were filled with people, all trying to squeeze through the entrance doors. It hurt. I had visions of being crushed to death before I managed to get myself arranged so I was only being pushed through one door not two.

(Picture) People walking to Kitai-Gorod Metro Station. The streets in central Moscow were closed to traffic during the celebrations.

The trains were running with a very quick turnover - probably a train every 30 seconds on average. Still, they were filled almost immediately. I was glad to see a small child sitting on someone's shoulders. I wished I could have been, too. As it was, I had room to breathe, if I didn't try to breathe deeply. When we reached our station (4 stops later), the train was still packed, even though people got off. We had managed to manouever ourselves close enough to the door that we would be able to exit the train (in fact, would be forced to exit because of all the other people getting off there). OK, we got off - but I couldn't get my hand out - it was trapped tightly between some people and a railing. I did finally manage to get it out, and it didn't really take very long, except subjectively. (I don't like being in a crowd anyway. That made it worse.)

We left the platform, and noticed that they had all three escalators taking people upstairs. Our station had become an exit-only one as well. The number of people exiting surprised us. Leninski Prospect station is always briskly busy, but it seemed ridiculous. We followed the wall-to- wall (street-filling) people from the Metro station to Gagarin Square (a nearby monument to the cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin).

Thousands of people were all heading in the same direction. We watched several hundred people stop at the crosswalk to wait for the GAI (traffic policeman) to stop traffic. Then they'd all cross in a huge wave. Then the GAI would let motor traffic flow for a while. Immediately, several hundred people would pile up at the crosswalk. Some people didn't want to wait, so they tried to cross right through the traffic in front of the GAI. He had to shout and gesture at people several times.

(Picture) Crowd waits to cross street. Brown booth is GAI control station.
(Picture) Crowd surges across street.
(Picture) GAI officer supervises crosswalk as crowd heads up the street.

We watched trolleybuses go past, heading in the same direction as the pedestrians. They were as full as our train had been, with people sitting on top (they're not designed for passengers up top). We watched for a long time, and never saw the flow let up. We finally figured out that these were people going to see the Jean Michel Jarre extravaganza at Moscow State University. We decided not to try to go to that. :)

(Picture) People ride by on top of a very full trolleybus.

Sandy (Cannady) Lubkin
Currently in Watford, England

All text and pictures copyright 1997 Sandy and Bela Lubkin, all rights reserved.