USSR and CIS underground tokens
This section of World of Tokens is dedicated to Anton Kozhara and designed to let his legacy live on.
The first underground in the Soviet Union was that of Moscow. It was opened to the public on 15 May 1935 at 07:00 am. The opening was celebrated as a political achievement and a step on the way to the worker's paradise, the ultimate goal of communism. As such, it was also treated as evidence of the superiority of communism. The opening was flanked by festivities, ranging from street parties to a special performances in the Bolshoi theatre.
Characteristic of the Moscow underground were the large capacity, sumptuous decoration and the depth of the stations. As Joseph Stalin was succeeded by Nikita Khrushchev, the heavily decorated stations were considered wasteful. New stations were of utter simplicity. Moscow's Park Pobedy is one of the deepest in the world (84 meters). Meanwhile, other underground systems were constructed in the largest cities of the Soviet Union with the Moscow underground serving as a model. Several boast stations in Stalinist style and Kyiv's Arsenal station is the deepest metro station in the world (105.5 meters). By contrast, Moscow's network is of the spoke-and-hub type, while the most popular model in other cities in the former Soviet Union is three lines, forming a triangle in the centre. When the communist regime ended, there were 14 cities with a Metropoliten (commonly called Metro), of which six were in Russia.
The Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) was founded on 8 December 1991 by the Byelorussia SSR, the Russian SFSR, and the Ukraine SSR. On 21 December 1991, the leaders of eight additional former Soviet Republics – Armenia, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan became members thus bringing the number of participating countries to 11. Georgia joined two years later, on 3 December 1993. There were underground systems in seven CIS members. Though Georgia left the CIS on 18 August 2009, it is covered by this listing. Likewise, Ukraine is an associated member of CIS only, but it is covered here.
Only the Moscow and Leningrad systems used early tokens, possibly because British engineers and know-how was used in the first years of the construction of the Moscow underground. In the communist system, there was no inflation in a "capitalist" sense, so the price of a fare remained at 5 kopecks until the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Rapid inflation and consequent price increases made the introduction of tokens a necessity.
The first underground tokens were metallic, designed to operate turnstiles using size, gravity and possibly magnetism. They were eventually replaced by coloured translucent plastic tokens. These tokens change a white beam of light in the turnstile into a coloured beam, that activates the access mechanism. Plastic tokens listed are translucent, unless they are described as opaque. In some cities, tokens are being replaced by paper tickets or contactless cards. It is likely that other cities will also phase out the tokens in the near future.
Souvenir tokens are mentioned in the introduction and listed where possible. Fantasy tokens are mentioned but not listed.
List of token issuing cities
- Tbilisi, formerly Tiflis
- Almaty, formerly Alma-Ata
- Toshkent, known as Tashkent in Russian
Kozhara, Anton Жетоны Метрополитена Cтран СНГ / Metro Tokens of CIS Countries, 3rd edition, St. Petersburg 2013