Particularly in larger, older cities such as Moscow and St. Pete, it can seem like manhole covers are everywhere - and often very poorly maintained.

Why So Many Manholes in Moscow?

Published: October 27, 2013

The Village is a Russian-language publication in Moscow, St. Petersburg, and Kiev that seeks to inform locals about their various cities, their upcoming events, changes, and history. The following is one interesting entry from a series of short articles geared to answer the “strangest questions about city life” in the cities covered by the publication. This article on the abundance of manholes particularly in Moscow has been translated into English for the first time by SRAS Home and Abroad Scholar Caroline Barrow.



Potholes, patches in the roads, and traffic aren’t the only things wrong with roads – there’s also the manholes. Every driver runs into the problem of broken suspension or spilled coffee, especially if he or she drives along the riverfront, where manholes are simply everywhere. The Village posed the question, “Where did they all come from and what is their purpose?” For the answer, we consulted Vladimir Nosov, a specialist in the construction industry who works with roads.


Question: Why are there so many manholes? Read the original Russian here.


A not-uncommon example of a collection of manholes in Moscow
A not-uncommon example of a collection of manholes in Moscow

Vladimir Nosov, Moscow State Automobile and Road Technical University, Head of the Road Construction and Maintenance Department

In old cities, utilities typically appeared gradually: first, generally speaking, were the sewers, and then gas tubes, and later heating and telephone lines.

All types of utilities must be serviced; to do this, a manhole is built. It appears that each new service built their manholes without coordinating with the others, just haphazardly. For this reason, in the old parts of the city, they’re not rationally located. I think that this is more or less a problem in all older cities. The later utilities are constructed, the more logical the placement, with companies trying to place them outside heavy traffic areas.

If you look at new highways and regions, manholes are placed in lawns beside the road, where they won’t inconvenience anyone, neither cars nor pedestrians. Moreover, when new streets are constructed, manifolds are created along electric cables and telephone wires, with everything in the same place.

I do not know how many unused and unnecessary manholes there are in the city—utilities services should have this information, if it exists anywhere at all. But in any case, reconstructing networks costs huge amounts of money, so the city has to put up with the manholes.

About the author

Caroline Barrow

Caroline Barrow is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in International Studies and Russian. She loves traveling and hearing people’s stories. Out of the places she’s been able to visit, her favorite was Kiev, Ukraine for its beauty, history, and friendly people. She received a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship and, at the time she wrote for this site, was spending year teaching English in Kostanay, Kazakhstan. Additionally, she was been named SRAS’s Home and Abroad Translation Scholar for the 2013-2014 cycle. Her contributions included mostly translations of articles and blog posts that will be of interest to students.

Program attended: Home and Abroad Scholar

View all posts by: Caroline Barrow