During Soviet times, if a city’s population topped one million, it would become eligible for its own metro. Planners wanted to brighten the lives of everyday Soviet citizens, and saw the metros, with their tens of thousands of daily passengers, as a singular opportunity to do so.
In 1977, Tashkent, the capital of Uzbekistan, became the seventh Soviet city to have a metro built. Grand themes celebrating the history of Uzbekistan and the Soviet Union were brought to life, as art was commissioned and designers set to work. The stations reflected different themes, some with domed ceilings and painted tiles reminiscent of Uzbekistan's Silk Road mosques, while others were decorated with chandeliers and marble to give the appearance of European ballrooms. The result has been described by Lonely Planet as one of the most beautiful Soviet metro systems in the world.
Silk Road history
Alisher Navoi station, named after the celebrated Uzbek writer and artist, is one of Tashkent Metro’s most famous stops. Inside, the arched domes and blue tilework remind passengers of Uzbekistan’s storied Silk Road history with its ancient mosques and madrassas. The station is one of Tashkent’s busiest, filled not only with bustling commuters but also tourists and locals taking photos – a practice that was forbidden until recently.
When the Tashkent Metro was built, photography was banned in its stations because of its ancillary role as a nuclear bomb shelter. During Soviet times, fears of spying and a tight control on information meant photography was largely distrusted, especially around sensitive military infrastructure, including bomb shelters.
After the fall of the USSR in 1991, Uzbekistan’s former Soviet party leader, Islam Karimov, took power and continued the policy. Karimov’s successor, Shavkat Mirziyoyev, however, began undertaking reforms, seeking to open up the country’s economy and attract investors and tourists. Perhaps realising the metro’s potential as a tourist draw, the government removed its classification as a military installation in mid-2018 and lifted this 41-year ban on photography.
1991年苏联解体后，乌兹别克斯坦前苏联时代的领导人卡里莫夫（Islam Karimov）上台，延续了这一政策。然而，米尔济约耶夫（Shavkat Mirziyoyev）继任后，开始改革开放，吸引投资者和游客。2018年年中，政府意识到地铁的旅游业潜力，取消了其军事设施的分类，并解除了长达41年的拍照禁令。
Inside the Tashkent Metro, stations are all uniquely designed and decorated in marble, granite, glass, ceramics and alabaster. Many of the motifs centre around a specific theme, often described in the station’s name. For example, Kosmonavtlar Station (pictured) on the O’zbekiston Line references Soviet cosmonauts and celebrates the Soviet Space Program, while Pushkin Station, which honours the life of the famous Russian author and poet, sits a few stops away on the Chilonzor Line.
在塔什干的地铁里，车站都有独特的设计和装饰，有大理石、花岗岩、玻璃、陶瓷和雪花石膏。许多设计围绕一个特定的主题，通常以车站的名字来描述。例如，奥茨贝克斯顿线（O'zbekiston Line）的克斯莫纳夫塔站（Kosmonavtlar Station），围绕着苏联宇航员和苏联太空计划的成就；而在几站之遥的奇龙佐线（Chilonzor Line）上普希金站（Pushkin Station），则为了纪念这位著名的俄罗斯作家和诗人。
The Space Race
A portrait of Yuri Gagarin, the first person in space, adorns the wall of the Kosmonavtlar Station. Gagarin, and other early cosmonauts, were some of the USSR’s most important heroes, symbolising Soviet power and supremacy during the Space Race and widely depicted in Russian propaganda. Around him, the walls are lined with surreal portraits of famous cosmonauts floating through space amid a futuristic design of blues and blacks – similar to the colours astronauts would see as they left Earth’s atmosphere.
In true Soviet fashion, the work of the proletariat is also celebrated. In Pakhtakor Station (which translates to “Cotton Picker”), stylised images of cotton are depicted in huge mosaics across the metro walls. The Soviets envisioned Uzbekistan as a vast cotton-producing nation, reworking the agricultural economy and diverting waterways until the country produced 70% of the USSR’s cotton needs. This famously led to environmental disaster when the Aral Sea – once the world’s fourth-largest freshwater lake – began drying up, leaving fishing fleets and port towns rusting in newly created deserts.
车站艺术也以苏联方式赞扬了无产阶级的工作。在帕克塔克车站（Pakhtakor Station，翻译过来就是“采棉花工人”)，巨大的棉花时尚设计镶嵌在地铁墙上。苏联人把乌兹别克斯坦设想成巨大的棉花生产国，对其农业结构进行改造，改造水系，直到生产出苏联所需的70%棉花。但此举也造成巨大的环境灾难——世界第四大淡水湖咸海（Aral Sea）开始干涸，曾经的渔业和港口城镇在新形成的沙漠中衰落与枯竭。
Underneath this veneer of opulence, the metro has a very Soviet, utilitarian feel at times. Many of the trains still operating today are of a well-known class, 81-717/714 cars, which were designed in the mid-1970s and are common throughout post-Soviet metros. There are four carriages per train, serving the stations’ 100m-long platforms. As of 2013, 168 of these distinctive blue-painted, Soviet era trains still operated, but they are being slowly replaced by newer models.
Cheap and popular
A trip on the metro costs 1,200 Uzbek soms (around £0.10). The price ensures that Uzbek residents, whose minimum wage is just 527,000 som per month (£43.50), can manage to travel around the city. The metro is also growing: a second line was opened in 1984, and a third line, which opened in 2001, is still expanding, with plans to eventually connect the northern districts to the airport in the south.