Archive for April 25th, 2009

Nikolai Baibakov lived to be 98 years old.  That’s a pretty uncommon occurance and, without any additional embellishment, would probably stand on its own merits.  But Baibakov lived in the Soviet Union, was an important oil minister, and served under Joseph Stalin.  Living to be 98 and having Stalin for a boss meant he was either really good, really lucky, or really really lucky.

During the Second World War, Nikolai was a deputy oil commisar.  In 1942, with the Germans taking off for the oil fields of the Caucasus Mountains, Stalin summoned him for a meeting.  Placing two fingers to Baibakov’s temple, the paranoid dictator said, “If you fail to stop the Germans getting our oil you will be shot. And when we have thrown the invader out, if we cannot restart production, we will shoot you again.” Joseph Stalin knew how to get his point across.

Nikolai made sure the Germans didn’t get the oil.  But he didn’t just prevent the enemy from getting Soviet oil…he made sure the Soviets, Leningrad in particular, got oil.

If you recall, Leningrad had been almost completely surrounded by the Germans in September of 1941.  Facing starvation, the Russians had turned to a frozen Lake Ladoga as a way to transport supplies into to the beleaguered city.

On April 25, 1942, the Russian Defense Committee decided to use Lake Ladoga again…for transporting oil to Leningrad.  But they wouldn’t truck the oil over the ice road.  Instead, it was determined that an oil pipeline run under the lake was the safest, most efficient way of delivering crude.  Baibakov was tasked with the effort.

One can almost imagine the Defense Committee, Nikolai, and Stalin sitting around a table in a big room.  The Committee looks at Baibakov, Baibakov looks at Stalin at the head of the table, and Stalin smiles back, two fingers placed at his temple.  Nothing like incentive to get the job done.

Of course, our man (with the help of others) would succeed, running more than 17 miles of oil pipeline, yet another lifeline into Leningrad.

Recommended Reading: Absolute War – Soviet Russia in the Second World War

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