The most and least populous cities in Russia

The most and least populous city in Russia are to find at the same place, atop each other. Moscow is a sprawling giant where everyone wants to move one day. Beneath is a secret city when no one lives: this is where many are going to move from the surface in the case of war.

Our most populated city is, predictably, Moscow. “Everyone” in the country dreams of moving here one day. It became the most populous city of Europe in the 20th century, and there’s no way it’s going to lose this position any time soon.

Underreported figures

Moscow is now home to somewhere between 13-15 million people. In addition to all officially registered as Moscow residents, there’s one to two million who for different reasons live here below the radar. The system for official registration inherited from the Soviet era is too restrictive and cumbersome.

Turks claim that they have more people in Istanbul. But a lot of these live on the Asian side of the Straits. If they are going to insist on challenging Moscow’s top position, we have millions of Russians ready to immediately move to Moscow to make sure it stays in the lead.

Least populated city

The least populated city in Russia is the underground city beneath Moscow. This one is vast in its sprawl, is fully functional, but likely has zero permanent population.

Its construction was ordered by Stalin in the 1920s, and continued under the following Soviet rulers. The famous Moscow subway “Metro” came about as a side project to this.

City under the city

Stalin needed a safe communication route for himself and his staff in case of a coup. Later, with the onset of strategic air forces, it all was upgraded as bombproof facilities. After WWII, Stalin was rumored to expand it on an epic scale after he learned of all the details of the siege of Berlin in 1945 and how Hitler was trapped and isolated in his bunker.

Its modern purpose is to ensure not only the survival of the Russian leadership. Also, it shall facilitate the full functioning of the government for months and possibly years after a direct nuclear attack on the Kremlin. It’s kind of a Russian version of the US Air Force One arrangement.

Long-term arrangement

The underground city shall provide the entire infrastructure for thousands of people who are needed for the daily management of a country at war—complete with several bomb-proof exits for cars, trucks, lorries, helicopters and railway trains. For obvious reasons, its plans are the utmost secret, entrances are sealed and very few people ever walk in there. If some evil force suddenly puts you there, chances are your friends and family will never see you again.

Below, a huge territory south of the Moscow University campus, covered with garages. This is one of the few visible markings of the secret underground city. Ever since the Stalinist era, some huge classified facility has been hidden here from prying eyes. This prevented building anything on the surface that required heavy foundations. The mercantile spirit of the Putinist era could not stomach such a big morsel of valuable property to be lying idle. Now, it seems that the object is partly or fully decommissioned—and several heavyweights close to the Kremlin are locking horns around development rights.

Moscow-2 secret underground complex south of Moscow State University
Garages atop a secret underground complex from the 1950s in the south-western part of Moscow.

The construction of the “Stalin’s skyscrapers” (on the map below) around the city was believed to camouflage the digging of deep underground objects for the secret city. The building of these high structures provided a “civil” cover for the large-scale ground works beneath, or around the spiky buildings. Moscow University is the one in the south-western corner (no 1). The no 6 east of the Kremlin and the Palace of Soviets with a giant statue of Lenin (no 5) have never been built. No 5 is where the Cathedral of Christ the Savior stands rebuilt now.

Stalin skyscrapers atop secret underground structures around Moscow
Stalin’s skyscrapers atop secret underground structures around Moscow, built in the late 1940s, early 1950s.

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