Moscow is pitted with reinforced holes in the ground; a trend that exploded (with no pun intended) throughout the Cold War when the two global superpowers not only strove to out-bomb each other, but out-survive each other too.
Supposedly there is enough underground space to shelter the city’s entire population of over 12 million souls – but there are caveats. Survivor beware?
The details of various protective structures provide devils of their own to contend with. Depending on where you stand in the survival hierarchy, you may win big – with a deeply-seated modern structure- or have to wait out your fate in the relative shallows: that is: Moscow’s glorious and much lauded Metro.
Then, now and later
Yes, it’s not just robust, deep, grand and expansive for bragging rights alone: it’s the first tier of protection should the unthinkable occur. Well, that was part of the rationale during the era of relatively modest, “Kiloton” weapons (such as those used against Japan at the end of the Second World War) – now dwarfed by the sheer scale of modern horrors, not to mention the potential of those to come.
Little Boy, dropped on Hiroshima (1945) was a 15 Kiloton weapon (blast equivalent to 15,000 tons of TNT), whilst the largest “Tsar Bomba” (yes: a Russian weapon, 1961) delivered a 50 Megaton blast (equivalent to 50,000,000 tons of TNT) on test. That’s an increase of over 3300 Little Boys in a single explosion, achieved in a mere 16 years -and with relatively archaic technology too.
It doesn’t Matter
A “small” antimatter-triggered fusion device -which currently only exists in calculations and nightmares- has a theoretical yield exceeding 21,000 Megatons; that’s over 400 Tsar Bombas in terms of yield. The Metro will not save you. In the meantime, dedicated bunker busters, accuracy improving Super Fuze technology and ‘routine’ ICBMs with half the punch of a Tsar’ have already rendered most of the Cold War’s precautionary measures ‘optimistic’ at best and irrelevant at worst.
Parallel to the showy statistics of nuclear Jenga, the glamourless side of the Cold War dug reinforced, self-contained holes deeper and stronger in a bid to outrun the likely Megatons spilling in from above. In it’s reverse archaeology: older is discarded closer to the surface and modernity lies below, temporarily (perhaps) out of harm’s way.
In a disturbing – though not surprising – sign of the times: Moscow’s relatively vulnerable Metro level protection (and the even lighter “Basement” variety) has seen some refurbishment since 2015 in the hope that it will protect against something, somehow. It would follow that the higher grade facilities would also receive a comparative upgrade (otherwise, what’s the point?) but these locations are -unsurprisingly- shrouded in secrecy, so: “probably” is the best guess.
The military and governmental contingent has long since abandoned such “civil defence” structures of course and burrowed deeper and/or stronger still.
“Metro 2” and “Sphere” defenses are reserved for military command and Russia’s elite. The former being a relatively secretive and secure addition to the surface infrastructure that sits deeper and swiftly connects sensitive city locations to underground security.
“Sphere” – as the name implies – features a shaped outer defensive layer – usually outfitted with extra shock absorption to deflect incoming blast waves.
Other styles of shaped encapsulation are also rumoured to exist; a methodology that also improves the effectiveness of shallower (and therefore cheaper) bunker designs. It’s a veritable rabbit warren down there.