“There is a city beneath the streets”
―  Robert E. Sullivan Jr.

Alexey has no time to waste. He knows he must be there on time because those people do not want to wait and he doesn’t want to risk to lose them and their information.  As an investigative journalist, he is aware of the fact that all start and end up with how you know and who will guarantee for you. Especially in Moscow, the awaken beauty of oligarchy and powerful system that doesn’t allows mistakes. While he is trying to find a parking place, the The Cherkizovsky Market located in  Izmaylovo District of Moscow is confessing  another story, full of vibrant colors and memories. That is the destiny of Moscow, each corner is a kiss of history, every resident has something to tell you what you have never heard before and if harsh winter doesn’t kill you, the truth of Moscow will be cruel to anyone who is not ready to handle unspoken and unseen world of Russian jewel.


If you imagine Moscow as the old communist lady with no perspective you will be definitely wrong because nowadays, Moscow is everything but not poor and forgotten city  in the communist manifesto. It is shining through the successful combination of ancient and modern and according to a PricewaterhouseCoopers rating in 2016:” Moscow has become one of the world’s fast-developing metropolises, overtaking Beijing for the first time.” The city authorities try to turn the place into the green, comfortable city where anyone will find some pleasure and business development of Moscow will enable that residents of Russia’s capital could enjoy the variety of architectural styles and city’s offer for leisure. The city is radiating the new energy of global opening and economical growth and in last 10 years, the financial injection from old russian capital restored by  the high-tech hands of top managers  have portrayed the Moscow’s face that we will never set aside.


The Vogue Cafe in Kuznetskiy Most  Street is an ideal place for Alexey Smirnov to meet Ruslan who is an illegal immigrant from Uzbekistan and Sukhrab, poor worker from Kazakhstan. They have something to share with our 42-year-old independent writer who is always searching for a truth. Alexey is sure that Moscow is full of undiscovered secrets and he believes that one day maybe his book will be the NYC best-selling  number one, exactly about the Moscow that we  didn’t know. Everyone knows about the charismatic President Vladimir Putin but no one knows about the underground city of Moscow and about the sad facts that homeless people during the cruel winter find shelters in Moscow’s sewers. Ruslan was one of them. He came into Russia from legendary Samarkand, hoping he will earn enough to help his family. Unfortunately, Ruslan turned  himself very fast into young homeless.  Moscow has a lot of problems with available housing as all others big cities worldwide. If you are poor, there is no possibility you will survive in the city that never sleeps and eats money. The giant city has also the giant crisis with the homeless population and the needs to organize the estimated population of  100,000 who are sleeping on the streets.Sometimes, Christian charity called Miloserdiye makes the warm sheltering houses for the homeless and give them warm clothes and food but as Ruslan claims:”It is all about the priority. The illegal  Uzbeks is last on the list.” In one moment, Ruslan had to survive the sadist Russian winter and the sewer hole was the only escape from death. At the end of the day, huge heating pipes had kept the white death away.



One late afternoon in frozen December some years ago, Ruslan has been  found hungry and weak by two twin brothers, Sukhrab and Alikhan. They came into Russia from Kazakhstan, city of Taraz. Sukhrab’s wife and 3 children were located in one relative’s apartment outside the Moscow, but after he couldn’t have managed to find a job and help a household, he and his family has been thrown away, on the streets without mercy. His twin brother, Alikhan told him to come to the city beneath the city, under  the Cherkizovsky Market. Back in 2012, Alikhan has found himself there a bit of paradise in Moscow’s hell of oligarchy and her majesty Rubles. For Sukhrab and his family, the promising underground city was the only solution but that was the only option for many other poor illegal immigrants, from all over the ex-Soviet republics. The underground universe of clothing sewing factories, cafes, cinema, casino, food locals and cheap flats for living. Alikhan and Sukhrab had found possibility to work, to earn and to be out of Russian police attention and immigrant inspektion. They were sewing brand-name clothes, having poker in local underground Turkish cafe and dreaming about the day when they will be above the darkness. Then, one day Alikhan warned brother that they must leave the underground Moscow because he heard that police is going to make raid and send all undocumented immigrants out of Russia. Alikhan graduated as an engineer and he never ever really given up on searching for a real job, regarding his education. He speaks Russian perfectly and he wanted to find normal apartment and normal daily life. Just one month before the police raid was made, Alikhan took all of them out in new rented apartment, close to the down town. Alikhan has found a real job, the job he was searching for. It was a trial period of work but he had roof over head and he could take care of Sukhrab and his family as well. That was something. For Moscow rules, it was everything one poor illegal immigrant could hope for.



In 2013, the Moscow police had made the big raid and discovered the hidden town of Moscow, beneath the Cherkizovsky Market and about more than 200 undocumented immigrants, 181 Vietnamese and 88 Central Asians :”When police raided the ‘city’ hidden beneath a market in the capital, they discovered a vast garment complex with 122 sewing machines.According to some estimates, Moscow is home to 10 migrants working without a registration for everyone working legally. The Federal Migration Service believes that as many as 3 million undocumented migrants may currently reside in Russia.”


The raids are very typical for Russia’s capital because of black work and black market which is endangering the fluctuations of tax money. The growing number of illegals makes problems not only for the state budget but only for the rate of crime. The battle is almost a war because the Russia is having an international credibility and the presence in the current war zones. The current political administration hold on strong power and activism in international conflicts but that also increases the security risks and challenges, particularly the threat of terrorism . The illegals who come and stay in Moscow can also be the linked islamic oriented terrorists who will seek a revenge for killed ISIS brothers in Syria.

It is interesting to mention that Moscow is full of secret and unveiled places. The underground bunker nr. 42  near Taganskaya metro station has been always a pure mystery.  The bunker has 7,000 square meters and is divided into four blocks of tunnels and it is stated in the case of nuclear attack, it will be a good shelter with underground temperature of 16° Celsius.Then, there is Stalin’s Bunker is located near the Izmailovskaya metro station which has been always connected to the Kremlin by a 17-kilometer underground tunnel. The both bunkers have been turned into museums but their mystification has never been gone as well as  The Neglinnaya River, so called underground river. People claim they see ghosts when they try to walk down the tunnels and river but the real underground web of tunnels is  long 90 km and it is known as  Syani mines. The Syani mines is a part of popular subculture of Moscow new spirit and place for gathering the regular visitors, urban explorers and revitalized hippy movement with russian colors “sistemshchiki”.



If you don’t find Neglinnaya River’s ghosts you will find lost souls, mole people of Moscow and those who run away from demons of Russian dangerous winter. Maybe, if you are so lucky like Alexey, you will meet some of illegals immigrants who have chapter of life directly written beneath the Moscow streets, in some of smoky, polluted and dirty garages where life goes on when everywhere else is frozen. You will talk with them in some de lux cafe and they will tell you how they transformed themselves from the forgotten underground people into the good paid residents of shining and glorious Moscow. That was a long journey and many had given up at the beginning. Some have never been ready to see the light, some still breathe in the darkness of Moscow. All of them have the story, scars, pain, memory. Moscow has everything and nothing. Moscow is everything and nothing but Moscow has  lived for hundred of years and will live through the all of its people, lost or found, remembered or forgotten. That is the life.







  1. Thank you, Sarah, for yet another mesmerizing story! As usual, I was riveted to the story, on the screen of my smartphone, from beginning to end!

    You have this uncanny knack of hypnotizing the reader and taking him/her through your journey! It’s fascinating and that’s an understatement!

    As soon as the first few paragraphs unfolded, I instantly started seeing the parallelism among three of your articles, namely, the one about the underground world in New York City, the other one about the City of the Dead in Cairo, and this article about Moscow!

    The parallelism among these three articles is striking, as all three cities face the same problem which is one of overcrowded cities with very little space left for living. This makes housing unaffordable in those cities, and the people, despite their best intentions of working and making enough money, cannot ultimately pay for rent, as is very well illustrated, herein.

    One of the interesting and intriguing parts of this parallelism is that it reveals that the problem is the same in all three cities irrespective of the language, the culture, and the political doctrine of each country where those cities are!

    After all, living in the “underground ” whether it be in New York City, or The City of the Dead in Cairo, or yet in Moscow’s hidden underground, may not be as “dark” as the struggle that those people would have to undergo in order to live “above” the ground!

    Sarah, you have fasniated me with the depth of your articles and with the connection between them! Thank you!


  2. Sarah’s imperative and relative article reminds me of an article in National Geographic magazine I perused, many years ago: it concerned the street urchins of Mongolia, after the dissolution of the former Soviet Union. Since ancient times, there have been worlds within worlds, in humanity. A reminder of the inability of the species to live life on Earth through logic and common sense. Children suffer most of all…

    The causes of this phenomenon are varied, but are often related to domestic, economic or social disruption; including, but not limited to, poverty, breakdown of homes and or families, political unrest, acculturation, sexual abuse, physical or emotional abuse, domestic violence, lured away by pimps, Internet predators, or begging syndicates, mental health problems, substance abuse and sexual orientation or gender identity issues.

    Children may end up on the streets due to cultural factors. For example, some children in parts of The Congo and Uganda are made to leave their family, because they are suspected to be witches who bring bad luck upon their families. In Afghanistan, young girls who perform ‘honor crimes’ that shame their family and or cultural practices (e.g. adultery, which may include rape or sexual abuse, or who refuse an arranged marriage) may be forced to leave their homes.

    Children may also end up on the streets due to religious factors. For example, some children in the far-northern parts of Nigeria (referred to as the almajiris) are forced to leave their homes to indenture them under a mallam (Islamic religious teacher), for them to understand the teachings of the Holy Quran. During the period of indenture, these children are forced to beg in the streets for alms as their daily livelihood. In most circumstances, they are compelled to make returns from their daily proceeds to the mallam; failure to do which means severe punishment.

    The number of homeless children in The United States of America grew from 1.2 million in 2007 to 2.2 million in 2016. This is a reflection of the failure of the US-Constitution to protect the concept of The Family.

    Non-government organizations (NGOs) employ a wide variety of strategies to address the needs and rights of street children. One example of NGO effort is ‘The Street Children‘s Day’; launched by Jugend Eine Welt in 2009 to highlight the situation of street children.

    If life is precious and if children are precious, why are there street urchins in the 21st century? Why are the novels of Charles Dickens still relative to modern society?


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About Sarahowlgirl1982

I am a master of Political Sciences, with special focus on Security Studies, Islamic Counter Terrorism and Weapons of Mass Destruction. I enjoy discovering and commenting things which are " in the air" but still not spoken.I also do like science writing and planing to move myself into the pure science journalism !