One year on


A year ago, commuting to work by metro and heading towards Park Kultury’s circle line station, I was not immediately aware of the terrorist attack at the connected radial line platform.

In a stark contrast with London’s reaction to the 7/7 bombing, the public transport system remained, as far as possible, fully operational in the aftermath of the twin blasts.

Catching a train at Krasnopresnenskaya, the only hint that anything might be amiss was a garbled and barely audible announcement about station closures on the red line, right through the city centre from Komsomolskaya to Sportivnaya.

Commuters struggled to make sense of the information as it echoed around the marble halls of the station, then shrugged, grumbled at the inconvenience and travelled on.

A friend phoned to warn me of the news, but among the hubbub and the clanging of wheel on track, that signal was lost in the din.

So arriving at Park Kultury to find a full-blown emergency was something of a shock. On the platforms, police were urging the crowds to move out as quickly as possible and there was a palpable urgency in place of the usual shuffle towards the escalators.

But even then, it wasn’t clear to most of us exactly what had happened.

At street level, the crowds were larger and more confused; the emergency services more active with ambulances and fire crews slipping through the cordon around the second entrance to the station.

With cops stopping us from using the underpass and preventing anyone from crossing Zubovsky Bulvar on foot, pedestrians surged onto the bridge connecting Ostozhenka and Komsomolsky Prospekt.

Snippets overheard from other people’s phone calls began to tell the story: an explosion, no two … maybe a third somewhere else.

And amid the uncertainty and anxiety the city, by and large, carried on as best it could.

Later other stories emerged: the opportunistic cabbies charging outrageous fares to bewildered passengers, assaults on Central Asians and Caucasians blamed for the attacks.

But what was striking was the relatively calm way Moscow seemed to shrug off another attack and get on with day-to-day life – particularly compared with the reaction to similar outrages in the UK.

Whether this shows a commendably level-headed approach, or a dangerous desensitisation, is a whole other question, of course.


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