The Moscow and St. Petersburg Metro was one of the most extravagant projects undertaken by the USSR, starting in 1935. Stalin directed his architects to bring a “bright future” to life through their designs. The finished stations are lined with polished marble and chandeliers, meant to mimic an artificial underground sun.

russia, moscow, st petersburg, metro, subway systems, ussr, soviet design, historic design, propaganda

Of course, Stalin’s goal here was pure propaganda — a reminder to the citizens of Russia that their sacrifices had been rewarded by the regime. Even today, many of the stations feature busts of Lenin and other Soviet leaders, along with murals championing the USSR.

russia, moscow, st petersburg, metro, subway systems, ussr, soviet design, historic design, propaganda

While other photographers have tried to capture the stations before, it can be hard during the day when they’re packed with commuters. In his new photo series, Burdeny was able to secure after-hours access to the stations in order to shoot freely. It wasn’t an easy task — in some cases he was only able to shoot for 20 minutes at 2 am before being ushered back out.

Related: Nikolay Polissky’s Selpo Pavilion envelops a dilapidated Soviet building with wood scraps

russia, moscow, st petersburg, metro, subway systems, ussr, soviet design, historic design, propaganda

The series recently appeared in October and November 2015 in Vancouver, British Columbia at the Jennifer Kostuik Gallery. Though the exhibition is closed, more information and prints of the show are still available through the gallery’s website.

Via Bored Panda

Images via Jennifer Kostuik Gallery