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Stalin's subway: the tunnels under the Dnipro not for everyone

Plans, goals and archival photographs of Stalin's subway construction. Photo: Kyivmetrobud

Plans, goals and archival photographs of Stalin's subway construction. Photo: Kyivmetrobud

If you want peace, prepare for war. On June 22, 1941, the construction of crossings under the right and left banks of the Dnipro was halted. Alongside global industrialization, the Soviet Union was considering plans for the world expansion of the communist system. This means that it should have been able to stand up for itself—even in the mid-20s, there was a threat of external attacks on the USSR.

In order not to be caught unaware, a network of "fortified areas" was created in the border areas. For example, the construction of the Kyiv Special Military District was completed by 1937-1938. There was only one vulnerable point—the railway bridges linking the two banks of the Dnipro. There were only two of them and both, due to their length, were considered an easy target for enemy aircraft. In March 1938, J.V. Stalin signed a decree on the construction of the South and North tunnel crossings under the Dnipro—to ensure a hidden transport connection. Of course, exclusively military—for the transfer of military equipment.



of the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR and the Central Committee of the Communist Party (of Bolsheviks) of Ukraine

October 11, 1938


"On Construction No. 1"

The Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR and the Central Committee of the CP (b) U resolves:

1. To adopt for guidance and execution the decision of the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR and the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks) of September 21, 1938.

2. To take under advisement the statement of comrade Murza, the People's Commissar of Agriculture of the Ukrainian SSR, and comrade Gusev, the Secretary of the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR, that the land plots for Construction No. 1 were allocated and the documents were submitted for approval to the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR on October 4 of this year.

3. To oblige comrade Chornovol, the People's Commissar of the Communal Economy of the Ukrainian SSR:

a) to provide by October 13 of this year premises for the workers' dormitory for 200 people who will work on Construction No. 1;

b) to complete drafting of a technical design for the extension of the Kiev CHPP by November of this year.

4. To oblige comrade Shevtsov, the Chairman of the Kiev City Council, by October 15 of this year to provide premises for the Construction No. 1 workers' dormitory for 800 people.

5. To oblige the Chairmen of: Kiev and Vinnitsa Regional Executive Committees and Poltava Regional Organizational Committees to provide an organizational manpower recruitment for the Construction No. 1:

Kiev region—1200 people in the areas: Volodarsky, Babansky, Novo-Shepelichsky, Tarashchansky, Kaganovichsky, and Zlatopolsky;

Vinnitsa region—700 people, in the districts: Dzhulinsky, Lipovetsky, and Bershadsky;

Poltava region—600 people, in the districts: Zolotonoshsky, Irklivsky, and Chernobayevsky.

Chairman of the Council of People's Commissars of the Ukrainian SSR

[signature] (D. Korotchenko)

Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party (b) of Ukraine

[signature] (N. Khrushchev)


The first tunnel named Yuzhny (Southern) duplicated the Kyiv-Moscow railway bridge. In the drawings, it ran from the village of Chapaievka through Vodnikov Island towards Bortnychi. The Severny (Northern) tunnel stretched from the railway station Petrovka to the southwest towards Troieshchyna. The engineering audacity of such a plan knew no limits—no one was building anything like that at that time.

It was not so easy, because the first subway stations in the USSR (N.S. Khrushchev managed its commission) had started operating only three years earlier. It was the subway construction workers who became the hard core of these Dnipro tunnels construction. Their main problem, as during the construction of the Moscow subway, was bottomless quicksand—soils saturated with water. Because of them, Construction No. 1 constantly lagged behind schedule—especially after the accident in 1941 that caused the flooding of the People's Commissariat for Lines of Communications.

Soon June 22 came, Kyiv was bombed and the construction was mothballed. The strength of the concrete walls was tested in the fall of 1943, when retreating German troops holed up in the tunnel—the railroad battery was used at that time. The resumption of construction began in 1944, but five years later it was permanently frozen. Firstly, both the strategy and tactics of wars have changed a lot. Secondly, the political situation has become different. Thirdly, in the context of the country's recovery, such construction was too costly.

Parts of the structure of the People's Commissariat for Lines of Communications in the post-war years were used to build the tunnels of the capital’s subway. In particular, between the stations Vokzalna and Universitet.


Of course, in between times, attempts were made to use the already erected 600-meter fragment for economic needs. But all the same difficult geological conditions related to flooding and coarse-grained water-saturated sands constantly thwarted the plans. And after the launch of the Kanev hydroelectric power station in 1974, the water level in the Dnipro rose so much that most of the tunnels sinked under water.

Today, it is possible to estimate the scope of the tunnel construction on Zhukov Island only in winter, when water freezes in the structure gradually sinking under the Dnipro riverbed. It is much safer to get acquainted with other jigsaw puzzles of Construction No. 1. For example, with a caisson in Obolonskyi District (Natalka park) or with an above-ground tunnel and a mine shaft in a dacha village near Nyzhni sady, located in Osokorky.


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