Transport in Russia and the Soviet Union

Urban transit planning in the Soviet and post-Soviet sphere may seem an odd and esoteric topic, but it is, in a way, emblematic of the shifts in power, ideology, and status which have occurred in Russia in the past one hundred years. And yet, at the same time, the same basic themes seem to recur, regardless of whether the government is autocratic or democratic, left-wing or right-wing, and popular or unpopular. In that sense, urban transit seems to symbolize something deeply Russian: the permanence of a people (or perhaps of many peoples) subjected to different political regimes and yet never entirely transformed by their will.

This is a project completed for the REES 241 course at Lafayette College, taught by Professors Joshua Sanborn and Ida Sinkevic; it is based on both research and my (Daniel Faulkenberry) personal experience in Russia (primarily Moscow and St. Petersburg). This experience, being limited as it is, serves primarily to color my understanding of the literature, and less to provide a factual basis for this website. Some general notes:

Much of the literature I have used has been older, as there seem to have been few studies of Soviet transport after the fact, especially of urban transit. This, combined with a certain amount of ambiguity within the sources, makes it difficult to discern clear differences in transport policies and practices between different political eras within the Soviet Union. I would certainly expect such differences to exist, but I have been mostly unsuccessful in finding this reflected in the English-language literature, and I do not think I have produced any additional insight on this issue. A more detailed study of Russian-language literature, particularly of official Soviet planning documents, is needed in order to better understand the nature of the evolution of Soviet policy.

However, what can be more clearly ascertained is the outcome of Soviet policy: the contemporary transport systems of (particularly) Russia (and also other former Soviet states) is directly a result of Soviet transport planning policies, both in terms of its shortcomings and in terms of its successes. Indeed, the Soviet model might provide a useful counterpoint to the current (relatively) private-dominated Russian urban transit establishment, providing both a source of suggestions for alternate methods of planning, as well as providing many examples of previous poor choices.

The photos appearing in this website are either ones I have taken, or are used under the Creative Commons licenses which were permitted by their creators; clicking any image will take you to a full-sized version, including to the original page for those used under CC licenses.

The feedback given to me by Professors Joshua Sanborn and Valeria Sajez has been gratefully incoporated into this project.