Newsagents: then and now

Here’s a traditional newsstand on the Kiev Metro.

Entrance to Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Майдан Незалежності) station

And the modern equivalent in Moscow – a bank of newspaper vending machines.

Newspaper and magazine vending machines on the Moscow Metro

Given how the internet has decimated traditional print media, how long until even the vending machines disappear?

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Dynamic next station displays on the Moscow Metro

Dynamic next station displays are beginning to become common onboard trains, as they clearly indicate to passengers where they are and where they are headed. I found this example onboard a Koltsevaya Line (line 5) train that encircles central Moscow.

LED next station display onboard a Koltsevaya Line train

So far these screen are only seen onboard the type 81-740/741 Rusich (Русич) trains, constructed from 2002 onbards.

Modern rolling stock of the Moscow Metro

Waiting for a train on the Moscow Metro

Type 81-740/741 Rusich (Русич) trains are also used on other Moscow Metro lines, such as the above ground Filyovskaya Line (line 4), but without the dynamic next station displays.

Train arrives into the above ground station at Студенческая (Studencheskaya)

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Диггерство – the urban explorers of Russia

In the English speaking world the practice of exploring tunnels, drains and abandoned buildings is known as urban exploration. Russian speakers have their own term – Диггерство – which translates to ‘digger’.

Inside a trashed office

Russian Wikipedia has this to say on the origins of the term.

According to one theory, the idea of using the word “digger” as the definition of passion belongs to Vadim Mikhailov. According to Vadim, in the evening, after one of his first descent into the earth, he and his comrades sought in the glossary of terms, which could be described this fascination.

The choice stopped on the word “digger” denoting the social and political movement that emerged in the middle of the 17th century in England. But, as he explains Vadim Mikhailov, the choice is not due to the fact that the English Diggers are historical forerunners of modern diggers and meaning of the word «to dig» – dig, that is to dive into the depths of the earth, in underground structures.

While some diggers disputed authorship Vadim Mikhailov on the term “digger” as the definition of the modern hobby, considering this idea of appropriation use in conventional circles diggers designation of its activities.

As for the 17th century “Diggers” in England, again via Wikipedia.

The Diggers were a group of Protestant radicals, sometimes seen as forerunners of modern anarchism, and also associated with agrarian socialism and Georgism.

Quite the origin story!

Open door into an abandoned warehouse

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Danger onboard a Russian train, or just free electricity?

In the hallway of a Russian sleeping train I found this ominous looking sign beside the electrical outlet. Am I allowed to touch it? Is it just for electric shavers? And will it blow up my phone charger if I plug it in?

Power point onboard our Russian sleeping carriage - the ominous looking notice pretty much reads "DEAR PASSENGERS - FREE TO USE!"

However for someone who actually understands Russian, the message is very different – here it is translated into English.


To recharge the mobile phone, you can use sockets, placed in the car, free of charge.

Permission to connect no more than one charger per outlet. Please note that the power outlet was designed for for electric shavers, ie: mobile phone may be damaged. Connection of foreign devices to the outlet (notebook, DVD, etc.) is prohibited.

TU of JSC “Russian Railways» No “292 of 23.06.09.

The train crew take no responsibility for the safety and serviceability of any device.


Here is a closer look at the sign.

And the Russian text itself.


Для подзарядки мобильных телефонов вы можете воспользоваться розетками, размещёнными в вагоне, БЕСПЛАТНО.

Разрешается подключение зарядного устройства не более одного к Одной розетке. Обращаем ваше внимание, что проектная документация электросети предусматривает её использование для электробритв, то есть ПОДКЛЮЧЕНИЕ МОБИЛЬНОГО ТЕЛЕФОНА, МОЖЕТ ПРИВЕСТИ К ЕГО ПОВРЕЖДЕНИЮ. ЗАПРЕЩЕНО ПОДКЛЮЧЕНИЕ К ЭЛЕКТРОСЕТИ ВАГОНА ПОСТОРОННИХ ЭЛЕКТРОПОТРЕБИТЕЛЕЙ (НОУТБУКИ, DVD и т.д.)

ТУ из ОАО «РЖД» No “292 от 23.06.09 г. Поездная бригада ответственности за сохранность и исправность телефона не несёт.

Feel free to correct my translation – my Russian language knowledge only extends as far as Google Translate.

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Want a career on the Moscow Metro?

If you have ever wanted to work on the Moscow Metro, going out applying is easy – there are posters scattered all over the network.

Ornately decorated central passage of the platform, with chandeliers above

This poster onboard a train is recruiting «машинист электропоезда» – train drivers.

Who wants to be a «машинист электропоезда»?

But there is another Moscow Metro department that is really looking for staff – the «Управление внутренних дел на Московском метрополитене»

Want to be a police officer on the Moscow Metro?

They are the internal police force for the Moscow Metro.

Recruiting poster for the Moscow Metro's police force

I even found police officer recruitment flyers with tear off tabs!

Flyers advertising careers on the Moscow Metro

Who are the Moscow Metro police?

The Moscow Metro website has more details on the «Управление внутренних дел на Московском метрополитене» (‘Department of Internal Affairs on the Moscow Metro’).

Department of Internal Affairs on the Moscow Metro was created for a few days before the opening of the Moscow Metro – May 11, 1935. Metro has always been considered high-risk transport company. No wonder the passengers are requested to be alert, and all suspicious immediately inform the police, who are on duty at each station. Given that the daily use the subway more than 9 million passengers recorded offences often. Basically this hooliganism, vandalism, theft and robbery. Combat and concern to the Office of Internal Affairs of the Moscow metro.

The Moscow Metro is a complex transport object city. Operation Metro provides a complex engineering structures. Under these conditions, the implementation of the security problems in the underground and counter-terrorism is a priority for the Department of Internal Affairs of the Moscow metro. ATC staff in the Moscow metro is not only patrol the subway, but also carry out covert surveillance of public order at stations and on trains.

Its structure is present today the largest patrol – more than 5 thousand people. Nowhere in Russia is no longer such a large patrol division. In the underground has its own police investigation department, department – Criminal Investigation, inquiry, to combat economic crime office, its duty part of the department to ensure the holding of mass events and the department for combating organised crime. A few years ago, there was created a special unit, which works to prevent vagrancy and begging on the Moscow metro. The governance structure also operates a specialised department on work with minors, including street children.

In the North-Eastern District of Moscow has opened a modern centre of service dog. The Metro employs several dozen dogs trained to detect explosives and drugs.

«Охрана правопорядка» is Russian for ‘policing’.

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Clearing icicles from the streets of Moscow

Growing up in Australia, icicles are something I’ve never had to deal with. But over in Russia they are deadly serious for anyone standing below when they fall.

Deadly looking icicles hang from the eaves

Getting up high to clear the ice away is a difficult job in the snow.

Some deadly looking icicles hang from the eaves

In Moscow I spotted a boom lift setup outside a six story high apartment building.

Clearing deadly icicles from the eaves of a Moscow apartment block

With a man at work in the bucket, smashing the ice away from the building eaves.

Clearing deadly icicles from the eaves of a Moscow apartment block


Deaths from falling ice are not uncommon – in the winter of 2001 at least 74 people were struck by plummeting ice in Moscow, with at least one fatality.

During one week of 2010 in Saint Petersburg, 300 people were injured as they slipped on an icy sidewalk or were hurt by a falling icicles.

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Traffic lights and Russian trams

Where trams and road vehicles co-exist on public roads, special traffic lights are often provided to give them priority at intersections, and Russian cities are no different.

ЛМ-99 tram number 3304 waits at a set of traffic lights

I found this example of a tram only traffic signal in Saint Petersburg.

Russian tram signal showing a 'proceed' aspect

And Wikipedia features this example from Moscow.

Traffic signal in Moscow indicating 'STOP'
Photo by Achp_ru via Wikimedia Commons

So what do these signals mean to tram drivers? The Пра́вила доро́жного движе́ния (ПДД) (“rules of the road”) for the Russian Federation have this to say.

Section 6.8

To control the movement of trams as well as other public transport vehicles in a dedicated lane, single colour signal lights can be used, featuring four lunar white lamps arranged in a ‘T’.

The movement is permitted only when the both the lower signal and one or more of the upper, the left of which allows movement to the left, the middle – straight, right – to the right.

If only the top three signal are included, then movement is prohibited.

An simple design that doesn’t distract motorists, and the trio of ‘stop’ lamps make it virtually failsafe against a single failed globe.

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Australian souvenirs in Russia at «Kangaroo»

Russia may be a crazy country, but there is one thing I never expected to see in a St Petersburg shopping mall – a shop selling Australian themed souvenirs called «Kangaroo».

'Kangaroo' - an Australian themed store in Saint Petersburg

I spotted an Australian flag hanging up on the back wall.

Inside 'Kangaroo' - an Australian themed store in Saint Petersburg

But the bulk of their stock appeared to be tacky tie-dyed t-shirts combined with dot painting.

Inside 'Kangaroo' - an Australian themed store in Saint Petersburg

The full extent of their tacky wares can be found on their online store, They sell clothes.

Clothes from Kangaroo - an Australian themed store in Russia




Jewellery from Kangaroo - an Australian themed store in Russia


Hats from Kangaroo - an Australian themed store in Russia

And even souvenirs.

Souvenirs from Kangaroo - an Australian themed store in Russia

All accompanied by clichéd photos of Indigenous Australians.

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Sapsan – the train more like a plane

The premier high speed train of the Russian Railways fleet is the «Сапсан» (Sapsan). Linking Moscow to Saint Petersburg, the Sapsan has a top service speed of 250 km/h, and a level of onboard service more like an aircraft than than train.

«Sapsan» train on the Moscow — Saint Petersburg route (photo by Sergey Korovkin, via Wikimedia Commons)

Pphoto by Sergey Korovkin, via Wikimedia Commons

In every seat pocket is a copy of ‘Sapsan’ magazine – “The official journal of the Sapsan high speed train”.

'Sapsan' magazine, provided by the Russian Railways to passengers of the 'Sapsan' train

The back of every seat also contains an emergency instruction card.

Emergency instruction card for the Russian Railways Sapsan train

With directions from each carriage to the nearest exit.

Emergency instruction card for the Russian Railways Sapsan train

Railway staff are there to deliver drinks to your seat.

Food and drink trolleys onboard the Sapsan train

Their trolleys identical to those used onboard aircraft.

Aircraft food trolleys in use aboard the Russian Sapsan train

Right down to the “stow and latch trolley in galley during taxi, take-off, turbulence and landing” warning!

Aircraft food trolleys in use aboard the Russian Sapsan train


I also spotted a few odd sights onboard the Sapsan – read about them here.

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Repair work at Lenin’s Mausoleum in 2013

In 2013 I visited Moscow and did visited all of the usual tourist trams, but there was one I couldn’t for the life of me find – Lenin’s Mausoleum in Red Square.

Lenin's Mausoleum covered with a plastic dome during repair work

I did a lap of Red Square.

Grey day on Moscow's Red Square

I found Saint Basil’s Cathedral.

Saint Basil's Cathedral and the Spasskaya Tower on Red Square

The State Historical Museum of Russia.

State Historical Museum (Государственный исторический музей) on Red Square

GUM department store.

Looking across Red Square to the GUM department store

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in the Alexander Garden

And the line to visit the Kremlin.

Long queue of schoolchildren to visit the Kremlin

But no mausoleum!

Turns out I chose the wrong time to visit Moscow – in late 2012 Lenin’s Mausoleum closed for renovations, and was hidden beneath a giant inflatable plastic dome.

Lenin's Mausoleum covered with a plastic dome during repair work

From Rossiyskaya Gazeta January 8, 2013.

For four months, visitors to Moscow will be unable to see the mausoleum containing the body of the leader of the world’s proletariat. A giant inflatable dome has been erected over Lenin’s tomb and will act as a shield to protect the mausoleum from the large-scale renovation of the building’s damaged rear wall.

The dome is scheduled to be removed on April 30, 2013 – just in time for the May 1 celebrations.

Lenin’s body will remain in place during the work, as usual, enclosed in its normal sarcophagus.

“No action will be taken regarding Lenin’s body,” said Sergei Devyatov, advisor to the Federal Security Service.

The Federal Security Service says that Lenin’s body is currently in a “more than satisfactory” condition, while the state of his tomb is deteriorating continuously.

The foundations of the mausoleum – originally built in 1930 by architect Alexei Shchusev – are cracked. The flaws in the foundation are not the fault of the architect, but rather a consequence of Moscow’s topography. Until the 18th century, the Kremlin was actually located on an island.

It was separated from what is now Red Square by the Aleviz Moat – a massive fortification.

When Napoleon’s army retreated from Moscow, they blew up and burned down the Kremlin’s towers and palaces. Afterward, to rebuild the Kremlin faster, the moat was filled in. However, it was enormous: 98 feet deep and up to 95 feet wide.

There was not enough stone and soil to fill the whole thing in, so workers used whatever was on hand – including the debris and wreckage of the burned-down structures.

The result is often termed “heterogeneity of soils,” in modern language. The mausoleum was built directly on top of where the medieval moat had been.

The ATECS department of the Federal Security Service, which is responsible for the construction and maintenance of buildings of federal significance, undertook an analysis of the building and came to the conclusion that the urgent resolution of two problems is required: to repair the mausoleum’s foundations and to staunch the flow of water beneath them.

Stanislav Kuner, deputy director of ATECS, says that the flow of water already poses a critical threat – particularly to the rear wall of the mausoleum, where it has caused flaking stone and damage to the supporting structures.

According to Chief Architect Olga Galanicheva, the main task at present is to halt the sinking. Due to the shifting soil beneath it, the mausoleum has dropped through the foundations and is standing on one corner – in some places where water is flowing through, the walls are seeping water, and this threatens the integrity of the interior.

The builders are adamant that the mausoleum is not being rebuilt – only refurbished. However, Kuner says that one annex section of the mausoleum will disappear in the refurbishment: In 1983, an inconspicuous building was built on the Kremlin walls to conceal the escalator Soviet leaders used to ascend to the viewing platform atop the mausoleum during official parades.

Even though almost all of the Kremlin is under UNESCO protection, international experts are not opposed to the demolition of this remade extension. As Anna Zhukova, assistant project manager at the mausoleum explained, neither the viewing platform nor the escalator is used any longer.

It was finally reopened on April 30, 2013 in time for the May 1 celebrations.

Night view of Lenin's Mausoleum in Red Square (photo by Andrew Shiva, via Wikimedia Commons)
Photo by Andrew Shiva, via Wikimedia Commons

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