A guest post from Matthias Schwartz, Freie University Berlin (Germany)
The Metro is probably an even more important symbol of Moscow than Red Square or the Kremlin – planned as the quintessence of communist promises, its purpose was to turn the way to work into a road to paradise. Moreover, it served as a refuge from hell – during World War II, Moscow’s underground lines gained central military importance and saved the lives of millions, the Germans fought unsuccessfully to occupy Moscow. Today, Stalin’s chthonian palaces have lost their utopian resonance; every day they rescue Russia’s booming capital from total infrastructural collapse. At the same time, since construction began in the 1930s, legends and conspiracy theories have grown around the Metro, where paradise and hell seem to be inseparably linked. But only a hundred years after Hitler’s rise to power, these apocalyptic notions have found a fitting literary form – in Dmitrii Glukhovsky’s first novel “Metro 2033” (2005) which describes the Moscow underground system as a last exile for humans to survive after overground life has been exterminated by an atomic Word War III. But beneath the earth’s surface, nothing is good and everyone is dangerous. First published online in 2002 under the title “metro”, the substantially enlarged and revised book version soon turned into a national bestseller with hundreds of thousands of copies. Subsequently a sequel called “Metro 2034” (2009) and a whole book series on the “Universe of Metro 2033” (2009 onwards) followed, written by different authors who claim to have encountered hidden, secret places all over Russia where humans could have survived. Now this dystopian post-histoire has also reached the United Kingdom, and in view of the staggering economies, collapsing dictatorships, and climatic irregularities all over the world Britain probably won’t be the last country going underground. Matthias Schwartz
The first British contribution to the Universe of Metro project, Grant McMaster’s Britannia 2033, is already available in Russian and will appear in English next year! The Daily Telegraph ran this article about the project recently.