With the largest country in the world among its 15 member states, the Soviet Union needed significant transport infrastructure in and between its various republics. Municipal transport was a major focus for development too. The first Soviet metro system was built in Moscow. Opened in 1935 and with over 140 stations by 1991, it was an enormous achievement in construction terms as a whole and also in design terms for the interiors. It was celebrated as an underground palace for the proletariat.

The luxurious decoration of the Moscow underground stations, though, was not a standard design feature for Soviet transport. Transport enabled work and industry, and its design was usually correspondingly straightforward. What mattered was movement, not style

The Soviets had much to be proud of in their transport achievements, but the jewel in the crown was aeronautical design. By putting the first artificial satellite and then the first man in space, the Soviet Union proved itself a worthy opponent in an increasingly symbolic race between capitalism and Communism.


Detail from ‘How many millions are starving? Ten!’ by Vladimir Maiakovskii, in The Russian Revolutionary poster. CCA.54.27

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