A love for cars among today’s middle-aged Muscovites surely traces back to this song from their teen years.

Welcome to the latest installation of “Public Access,” where CityLab shares its favorite videoss—old and new, serious and nutty—that tell a story about place.

When CityLab recently interviewed architectural historian Nikolai Vassiliev about the Moscow Metro system, he mentioned how car culture has become so ingrained in the Russian capital that “it seems impossible to get the generation that is now between 40 and 55 years old to switch to public transportation.”

Now we know why: We’ve found a late-1980s music video that middle-aged Muscovites must have bobbed their heads to blissfully as teenagers.

Olga Voskognyan’s 1989 synthpop track “Cars” is a wistful tribute to the private automobiles that were just beginning to become attainable to ordinary citizens in the Gorchachev era, with a pinch of shade thrown at the old, constrained trolley added in:

Having gone grey with time and dust,

Automobiles race across the land

On old and new paths

Through corrosive heat, cold and rains.

And sometimes it happens: having worn out,

The automobiles stand sadly,

Having punctured a rubber foot,

Cursing the difficult road.

But, remembering a far-off city,

It is unlikely that they envy the trams,

Whose path, whether through sleet or blizzard,

Is prescribed strictly by parallels.

After strutting through Moscow traffic and pointing approvingly at  frumpy Ladas and Volgas parked nearby, Olga takes off with an unknown man inside the admittedly badass Pangolina—the Soviet Union’s answer to the DeLorean and Lamborghini. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a coincidence that tram line length in the city has been cut by over 200 miles since this video was first released.

Song translation courtesy Jenny Holm

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. Equity

    Elizabeth Warren’s Ambitious Fix for America’s Housing Crisis

    The Massachusetts Democrat introduced legislation that takes aim at segregation, redlining, restrictive zoning, and the loss of equity by low-income homeowners.

  2. Transportation

    Like Uber, but for Cartographers

    Streetcred, a blockchain-powered open-source mapping startup, will pay you to map. (And then give the data away for free.)

  3. Transportation

    Why Did America Give Up on Mass Transit? (Don't Blame Cars.)

    Streetcar, bus, and metro systems have been ignoring one lesson for 100 years: Service drives demand.

  4. Passengers wait in a German subway station
    Transportation

    The Global Mass Transit Revolution

    A new report confirms that the U.S. lags behind the rest of the world in mass transit.

  5. An iceberg-like museum building on a city waterfront.
    Design

    Scotland Tries for the Bilbao Effect at the New V&A Dundee

    A sparkling new museum on the waterfront opens with high hopes of putting an underexposed city on the map. Will it succeed?