As the release date of Metro: Last Light approaches, I find it difficult to contain my excitement. As though it were fate, one of my classes this semester is taking a rather deep look at Russia through the Tsarist era to the fall of the Soviet Union. With what I'm learning, I'm finding it easy to make connections to the Metro universe, and I've noticed some recurring themes. I've tried to impart my historical findings to the GI community before, and I hope having the backdrop of Metro: Last Light can allow a certain relevance to this topic.

               To understand history, we have to go back farther and farther, and research in the subject frequently brings you back farther than you ever wanted to go. In an attempt to keep this information relevant, I'm going to walk through some Russian history as briefly as possible.

               In late 1800’s - early 1900s’ the Russian government was dominated by monarchal rulers called Tsars (Pronounced ZARS, the T is silent). At this point, Russia was just gaining its footing in terms of science. Progressive Tsars such as Tsar Nicholas and Alexander allowed scholars from Western Europe into the country to impart their wisdom. With their help, the first Russian universities were established. For a good 20 years, the Russians were playing catch-up with the west, slowly transforming from serfdom with stark contrast between rulers and peasants into a country with intellectuals and a middle class. As Western Europe began to industrialize, so did Russia, which is where ideas of Marxism and central planning took hold.

               The Russians had a very different type of industrial revolution than the west. If you’re wondering exactly what “communism” meant for Russia’s technology, you’re about to find out. Starting in the 1920’s, Russia’s planning for the next 50 years began. By using strong central planning (meaning the government planned out and constructed ALL infrastructure), Russia was able to catch up, and even surpass the Western countries within a matter of years. In fact, the pace at which they were able to industrialize both inspired and struck fear into Western countries. Along the way however, around the 1930’s, there was a breakdown within the country as to the direction this central planning should go. One party (The Industrial Party) believed that this industrialization should be localized, and plans should be altered based on location. The other believed in a “one size fits all” plan that allowed less planning time, and more building time.

               At this time, Russia had recently gone through a revolution in which a party called the Bolsheviks had seized power, and put these industrialized plans into the action. For simplicity’s sake, the Bolsheviks represented the communist party. This is where ideology clashed with reason. It would make more sense to spend some extra time planning to make industry more efficient, but Communist ideology pushed the “one size fits all” mentality to the point where the opposition was tried and executed under Stalin in the Industrial Party Trial. By the end of the 1930’s, the Russians no longer believed they needed any collaboration with the West and slowly began to isolate themselves under one ideology. The “Iron Curtain” did not go up instantaneously after World War II, the decisions made here affected the Soviet Union for the next 50 years.

               So before I go on, I want you to know that I haven’t forgotten about Metro: Last Light. In one of the earlier gameplay trailer’s, Artyom makes a reference to the “mistakes of our fathers”. While he may be referencing the nuclear war that devastated the world of Metro, it is important to note that the mistakes of Communist Ideology have been recognized by the Russian leadership, and it’s interesting to see the resurgence of these ideologies in the setting of Metro. I want to make one thing clear: I am attempting to be as unbiased as possible, and historically speaking, the practical application of Communism was a brutal success… at first.

               Under Stalin and a communist government, Russia flourished. Through rapid industrialization, Russia quickly established that they were a world superpower after the Second World War. During their industrialization, the Soviets built massive mines and massive factories to build massive amounts of weapons and other industrial goods. Unfortunately, production was always done on a large scale, meaning that small factories and workshops simply weren’t funded by the government. Consumer goods didn’t meet the goals of the Communist government, and weren’t supported or maintained in any fashion by the state. This style of production worked at first, but was incredibly inefficient. In order to change production, it required long transition periods of replacing factory equipment to change what was being produced, and production could only begin and end with the government’s say so.

               The result of this style of production was a HUGE economic boom in the short run. Russia rapidly industrialized in a very short period of time, and managed to advance their technology through the 1980’s, and put an artificial probe in space before the U.S., and they were the first to put a man in orbit. By the 1990’s, the United States had quite literally out-spent the Soviet Union, because they had simply used their resources poorly. In economic terms, Russia did all of their planning on a Macro-economic scale, with almost no attention to specialized areas of research and production. The U.S. had a balance of Micro and Macro planning, which allowed them to harness the big and small picture. Before it looks like I am being all patriotic, there is an important distinction to make. During the Industrial Party Trial, those that proposed the same balance of Micro and Macro planning were executed because their ideas were contrary to “communist” ideology. I put communist in quotes, because the ideology had been twisted to serve the needs of those in power. If the Industrial Party had succeeded in convincing those in power to adopt both policies, the Soviet Union could have easily surpassed the United States during the cold war considering their amazing momentum.

               So, while watching trailers for Metro Last Light, I am noticing these themes, that ideology is a dangerous weapon. While the economic implications may not be present in Metro, the themes of communist and Nazi ideology are painted as being counter-productive to the survival of man, and the Metro universe DOES follow the traditional Russian history. Hopefully, this brief overview of Russian history can give you a backdrop of which to play Metro with. The Russian people struggle with different ideological roadblocks than western countries. More directly, the rapid industrialization and central planning also lead to the MASSIVE project of building the Moscow Metro, one of the deepest, most intricate nuclear bomb shelters ever created. The massive underground military base in Metro 2033 is based on a true location, kept from the public until the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990’s, a mere 20 years ago. So I hope you can see how the decisions in Russia’s past have shaped the future I enjoy exploring so much in the Metro universe, and I hope the timeframe is adequate at showing the physical and ideological backdrop that is such an interesting setting for Metro: Last Light.


If you have any other knowledge that you'd like to share, or any topics that require further explanation or analysis, please let me know in the comments below. Personally, I find Russian history fascinating, and I hope this brief look can give some background to the struggles that the Metro games bring to light. I love intelligent conversation and critical feedback, let me know what you think!