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Posts Tagged ‘Nikolai Baibakov’

More than a year ago, we talked about Nikolai Baibakov and his work in keeping Russia’s vast oil supplies from falling into the hands of the Germans during the Second World War.  His incentive, according to his boss Joseph Stalin, was simple.  Save the oil, save your life.  Lose the oil…well, you can probably figure it out.

By early 1942, Leningrad (in the far north) had already been under seige for months and getting supplies into that desperate city, particularly fuel, was difficult.  But in April, the Russian Defense Committee came up with the idea of an oil pipeline under Lake Ladoga, situated to the west and north of the city.

And with a stern directive from Stalin coupled with the knowledge of the “award” for failure, work began at a feverish pace.  In less than 2 months, on June 18, 1942, a tremendous technological achievement was completed and the pipeline became operational.  Nearly 300 tons of fuel per day were pumped through the underwater lifeline…not nearly enough for every need, but enough to keep Leningrad alive.

The idea caught on and, by September, the Volkhov power station was using an underwater cable to send electricity to the city.  And in August 1944, after the Allies invaded Normandy, Operation PLUTO (PipeLine Under The Ocean) was launched.  A pipeline was laid under the English Channel, pumping (as you might guess) about 300 tons of fuel per day.  Of course, more capacity would be added, increasing daily flows ten-fold.  But that was a couple of years down the road and, right now, the fuel to power essential services and the defenses of Leningrad was mighty welcome.

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

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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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