Starting already in the 80-ies there was a group of young Muscovites who undertook explorations of the underground system on their own account, just because of curiosity, and longing for adventures. They found many interconnections between underground tunnels and storage places of various public and private institutions.
They state that there are 6 levels below Moscow , at some places even up to 12.
This vast underground system is connected with houses' basements, with service tunnels for the Underground, with bomb shelters and storage places of the military and the civil defense authorities.
The above mentioned group who call themselves "diggers" (even in Russian: diggeri) have been exploring the Moscow Underground for about two decades. According to them Moscow has a vast subterranean population: Refugees from former Soviet Republics and released prisoners who could not obtain the permit to live in Moscow that was required until some years ago; evicted families, gypsies and all classes of homeless; alcoholics and drug-addicts ...
The Diggers have repeatedly found corpses on their tours, sometimes of drug-addicts or alcoholics who died from an overdose, but more frequently of people who had been murdered, their remains being hidden somewhere in the vast underground system – sometimes entirely, sometimes only in parts ...
As a lot of the maintenance system of the underground and the city as a whole broke down in the 90-ies – for lack of funding, and in the wake of the general negligence and corruption that prevails in Russia ever since the end of Soviet Union – the Diggers started to fulfill tasks which, though utterly necessary, are not being taken care of by the official authorities. They report corpses or suspicious persons to the police, which to a certain extent is cooperating with them.
Already in the mid 90-ies the Diggers warned that there might be terrorist or sabotage actions from below and inside the Underground as the city of Moscow is extremely vulnerable from below, for lack of supervision. They even reported suspicious groups of people in military clothing (which is quite frequent in use also by civilians, as being cheap and durable,) evidently exploring and/or preparing underground tunnels - for what?
Mysteries under Moscow
The underworld is not all rubbish, rats, and dampness. Some accommodations are well equipped - with radio, television, and heat. People cook food and bring up children. In the morning, breadwinners leave their homes through manholes to make a living.
Some underground residents seem to enjoy the way of life. The Diggers remember one professor who for some unknown reason lived with tramps and enjoyed a good reputation among them.
But underground communities are also a potential source of disease and a cradle of crime. In summer and winter, the usual seasons of migration into and out of the tunnels, alcoholics, drug addicts, and prostitutes flourish in the "reverse world."
More recently, say the Diggers, the city government has begun paying more attention to the underground system. The police have reinforced their control over basements, and they now detain disheveled people - suspected of being tunnel-dwellers - while they check their registration documents. But this has not solved the problem.
Beneath the city are passageways, chambers of torture, and about 150 underground riverbeds lined with bricks and white stone. Studying the masonry and brickwork, the researchers found marks left by old stonemasons; they could even date, approximately, some of the drains.
Gruesome finds have also been made. While studying an old Moscow river, the Neglinka, the Diggers often came across human skulls. Similar findings were described by the Russian writer Vladimir Gilyarovsky, a pre-revolutionary explorer of Moscow. He wrote that long ago an owner of a criminal den built a tunnel leading to the underground waters. Inside the den was a pipe through which criminals threw out the corpses of those they had robbed and murdered. The Diggers made their way into one such tunnel and found among broken skulls a silver ring and a kisten, an ancient weapon similar to a large metal mace.
The Diggers thinks there may be evidence of Stalin-era executions in some passages under the city. Under Solyanka Street, for example, there is a large inaccessible network of tunnels that may conceal a mass burial site. But who would take responsibility for discovering it? Even in post-Soviet Russia, such a find would become a political issue.
Other Soviet secrets lie under Moscow , including a second ring of Metro lines built by Stalin on the outskirts of the city, but never used by the public. Muscovites speculate that the ring was employed by the military to shuttle bombs around the capital.
Under Bolshaya Pirogovskaya Street the Diggers discovered a deserted laboratory with an old telephone, chemical-protection suits hanging on the walls, and old-fashioned respiration masks. The room appeared to have been abandoned in a hurry. In adjacent rooms there were huge flasks, and the floor was covered with crystals.
A 3,000-seat bunker located under the Cathedral of Christ the Savior is another unsolved mystery. (The cathedral was demolished by the Bolsheviks in the 1930s; it is now being rebuilt.) "We were not allowed to go there, although the cathedral dean asked us to take out a sealed container with communist slogans on it," says Vadim Mikhailov, the leader of Moscow Diggers. The dean called it the "anti-capsule," in the same tone he would use to speak of the anti-Christ. Mikhailov would have liked to explore, but "officers from the Kremlin guard said that nothing under the church threatened the safety of the building, and so they did not allow us to go down."
Under the Skliffasovsky clinic the Diggers encountered people dressed in monk's robes, carrying torches around a strange-looking altar made of stone. They were performing some sort of service and singing. When they saw the Diggers, they hurriedly disappeared.
The hidden library
Lately the Diggers have decided to search for the underground's greatest prize: the lost medieval library of Tsar Ivan the Terrible.
In 1472, Ivan III married Princess Sofia Paleolog, a niece of the last Byzantine emperor. The bride brought a splendid dowry of invaluable books and scrolls from Byzantium.
To preserve her treasures from raids and fire, Sofia employed a famous Italian architect, Aristotle Fiorovanti, to build a library under the Kremlin. Today, the location of the library is covered by a veil of mystery and legend. Sofia's grandson, Ivan the Terrible, was said to have found the treasure. If so, he took the secret of its location to his grave. Napoleon; a Polish king, Sigizmund; and thousands of lesser-known people have since searched for the library.
One Russian academic wrote that the ancient manuscripts might be located somewhere on the second or third level beneath the Kremlin. The last attempt to find the library was made by a Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev.
The Diggers also want to search for the library. "We believe that the library is still beneath Moscow, most likely in a chamber built in Egyptian style, and that it may be possible to find it as well as all the treasures the Terrible took at the Kazan seizure. The tsar hid those underground as well and they are waiting for their time to be discovered."