“raise your heads, citizens, and you will see the sky.”
mayakovsky was himself a brilliant poet and also a man to be admired - and, like most russian, the word in itself is beautiful to say. but whenever i see ‘mayakovsky,’ whether it be a frank o’hara title or not, i still immediately think of the station named after him, and the moscow metro.
do you know about the moscow metrow? i’m obsessed with public transport in general, and the history of the mechanization of our bodies, and the moving map they build of the city. but moscow’s is special.
moscow’s metro is art - art to travel through, art for the people. it was built by an entirely soviet workforce, including some of the most highly regarded artists in the country. when it opened in 1934, people lined up all night just to be among the first to ride it. henri cartier-bresson photographed it, and called the stations “palaces for the proletariat.”
that was the point, of course: not only was the moscow metro built to transport the people, it was meant to give them access to art and beauty as well. much of it propagandist in nature, of course, but still: this was soviet socialism at a high point. not the drudgery and workaday narrative we are constantly sold, but something much more striving. something about roses being for everyone, too.
unsurprisingly, it’s creators had high hopes. “[the moscow metro] goes far beyond … the typical understanding of a technological construction. our metropolitan is a symbol of the new socialist society being built.” said lazar kaganovich, and certainly it embodied the ideal.
my favourite station of the metro is mayakovsky station.
considered to be one of the most beautiful metro stations in the world (and i think you can see why), mayakovskaya opened in 1938. upon its completion, aleksandr deyneka, the artist who created its distinctive ceiling mosaics, said of the station, “raise your heads, citizens, and you will see the sky.”
in each of the cupolas along the ceiling of mayokovskaya, there are mosaics by deyneka himself, with the theme of ‘24 hour soviet sky’. almost all of the mosaics display some sort of soviet scientific or technological achievement, mostly to do with aeronautics. it’s celebratory propaganda, and it is beautiful, and it works in a fascinating way:
to see the mosaics best, one must stand under them and look up. thus, the metro writes upon the viewer’s body the ideal posture of a citizen of the very kind of soviet nation it is attempting to portray: feet planted, shoulders back, looking up. looking towards progress.