For decades, a photography ban was enforced across the Uzbek capital’s metro network.

Kosmonavtlar Station – dedicated to the Soviet Union’s cosmonauts. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Central Asia’s oldest subway system fulfilled a secondary role as a nuclear fallout shelter, meaning the authorities considered it a military installation.

See also: The magnificent mosques, mausoleums and minarets of Uzbekistan

Alisher Navoi Station features mosque-like decor. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

But on June 1, the ban was lifted revealing 29 uniquely decorated stations built by some of the country’s leading artists and architects.

Yunus Rajabiy Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The Tashkent network consists of 192 soviet Metrovagonmash cars running across three lines.

Chorsu Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Guards many every station. Passengers go through two manual bag checks as they enter the system. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Construction of the system began in 1973, and it opened four years later.

Tashkent Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Alisher Navoi Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Alisher Navoi Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Each ornate station has a theme, with decor created from engraved metal, glass, granite, marble or ceramics.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Alisher Navoi Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Alisher Navoi Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Alisher Navoi Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Unlike other metro systems across the former soviet union, Tashkent’s stations are relatively shallow in depth as the region is prone to earthquakes.

Gafur Qulom Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Amir Temur Hiyoboni Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Kosmonavtlar Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

The system now employs over 3,120 people, including security staff, ticket salespeople and escalator attendants.

Valentina Tereshkova – the first woman in space – featured at Kosmonavtlar Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
The entrance to Mustakillik Maydoni Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Minor Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

It is one of the world’s cheapest metro systems, with tickets costing a flat fee of 1,200 Uzbek som, or HK$1.20.

Tickets cost a flat fee of 1,200 Uzbek som, or HK$1.20. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Tashkent Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
An interchange passageway. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Uzbekiston Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Thick metal doors were built into the design to afford some protection in the event of a nuclear strike.

Thick metal doors were built into the design to afford some protection in the event of a nuclear strike. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Yunus Rajabiy Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Yunus Rajabiy Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Following the country’s independence in 1991, some of the communist symbols were removed or covered up, and several stations were renamed.

Artwork marking 2,200 years since Tashkent was founded. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Tashkent Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Tashkent Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Pakhtakor Station is dedicated to the cotton industry. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Another soviet-era design at Pakhtakor Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Pakhtakor Station is dedicated to the cotton industry. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Novza Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.
Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Under President Shavcat Mirziyoyev, Uzbeckistan is opening up – economically, and to tourists.

Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

And for visitors to the capital, exploring Tashkent’s metro system is a highlight in itself.

Mustakillik Maydoni Station. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

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Tom Grundy

Tom is the editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hong Kong Free Press. He has a BA in Communications & New Media from Leeds University and an MA in Journalism from the University of Hong Kong. He has contributed to the BBC, Euronews, Quartz, Global Post and others.