While the Soviet press did acknowledge to some degree the significance of Baku oil in World War II, they did not mention at all that Baku oil was the backbone of military construction in the USSR.
Describing the importance of oil for the Soviet Union, Belgian journalist Michael Cologne wrote, "In the period of its existence, the USSR ranked first in the world in terms of oil and natural gas production. Most of the oil and gas deposits were located in the Caspian basin and the production volume exceeded the total volume of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and the USA.
"Profits from the sale of the oil and gas on the world market allowed the large-scale purchase of technology and foodstuffs.
"The proceeds from Caspian oil sales played an immense part in the development of the Soviet Union, both of the Russian Federation, and the other 14 republics. In 60 years, those states that were feudal and poor back as in 1917, became the second most developed power in the world."
This is also true, but not the whole truth , for as always where Azerbaijan is concerned Western political analysts and journalists do not tell the whole truth and often do not know it.
THE TRUTH IS THAT FROM THE BEGINNING OF OIL PRODUCTION IN RUSSIA AND LATER IN THE USSR UP TO 1947, I.E. IN CRUCIAL YEARS FOR THE USSR, 74% OF OIL IN RUSSIA AND THE USSR WAS PRODUCED IN AZERBAIJAN!
In the pre-war years, the Azerbaijan oil production, refining and fishing industries were amongst the few in the USSR:
1. that supplied the whole country with their output
2. whose output was exported
3. that brought in convertible currency
a) equipment was purchased abroad for the further development of the industry - that is the industry adapted at the expense of its own production
b) the country's defensive capacity was reinforced first of all
c) the Soviet intelligence network was established virtually throughout the world
d) international Communist movements were set up
Apart from the cost of acquiring equipment, which was met entirely from proceeds from the export of their own production, about half of the income in convertible currency from sales of Baku oil and petroleum products was spent on establishing the Soviet intelligence network and international Communist movements.
Today about 60% of the high technology market belongs to the USA, while 6% belongs to Singapore and 0.6% to Russia (mainly weapons sales).
As we can see, it is not much for Russia even today, while in those years the USSR was not in this market at all. It would sell oil and petroleum products, Caspian caviar, Ukrainian grain, timber, fur, pictures by famous artists etc. They even wanted to sell the well-known cast-iron railings in Saint Petersburg but Lenin intervened at the last moment. "We ourselves need good things," he said.
Caspian caviar brought a substantial amount of currency to the USSR. It was exported to Germany, Britain, France and other countries. At that time, there were over 20 fishing enterprises on the Azerbaijan coast of the Caspian.
Baku oil and petroleum products facilitated the economic boom in Russia in 1913, the formation and consolidation of the USSR, and something that is written nowhere, directly boosted the organization of the USSR's defence capacity.
The USSR supplied Europe and other countries with oil and petroleum products, first of all Italy, the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Egypt, India, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, Belgium and Holland. Annual exports to Italy were 800,000 tonnes and to Turkey 108,000 tonnes. Major purchases, mainly for military construction, were made in Germany. The USSR often traded with Germany by barter at international prices: Germany supplied machinery and dual purpose, civilian and military, equipment to the USSR in return for petroleum products.
Germany was in no way in the USSR's debt for the petroleum products and wheat, since it supplied the USSR with essential equipment. German tank drivers "cursed" Hitler throughout whole war for having supplied high-pressure machines which were used to make armoured turrets for Soviet tanks.
Stalin personally took part in trade talks with Germany; he insisted on supplies of arms and up-to-date machine-tools. It is a little-known fact that on 31 December 1939, five hours before New Year's Day, Stalin, together with Mikoyan, Tevosyan and the USSR's trade representative to Germany, Babarin, was conducting trade negotiations with Germany to supply petroleum in exchange for military technology.
All or almost all of Baku's oil refining was based on foreign equipment purchased for convertible currency.
In the pre-war years, the semi-portable machine-tools Franks, Portable and Wirt, a Ping pipe still, a Fischer unit, a six cubic metre battery, pipe still for acid tar distillation, a Wilke pipe still, a Grever pipe still, Wilke run-down boxes for pipe stills, Ping and Wilke pipe systems, Boger pipe stills, Foster pipe stills, two Alko high-vacuum units, two Winkler-Koch cracking units and much else were bought for convertible currency. The aforementioned is just a small part of all the equipment purchased abroad.
According to Western sources (Soviet and Russian sources have yet to publish these figures), at least 40% of the total American exported industrial equipment, 80% of which comprised oil producing and refining equipment, was sent to the USSR in 1931!
Proceeds from oil export were used in the 1930s to build the Japaridze plant in Baku which produced aviation oils from Surakhany oil. There were no such plants in Europe at that time and European countries imported these oils from the USA. The significance of this plant in World War II is hard to overestimate, for it supplied all Soviet aircraft.
Oil refineries in Batumi and Tuapse were fully equipped using income from the sale of Azerbaijani oil and petroleum oil products.
Convertible currency from oil helped the USSR maintain an extensive spy network throughout the world; all the USSR trade organizations abroad were actually branches of the KGB.
This practice continued after the war was over. Oleg Gordievsky and Christopher Andrew wrote, "Except for a modest expansion of the mission in the Pacific region and in several new consulates, the KGB did not increase its presence abroad anymore in the beginning of the Gorbachev era. Though it was planned to organize residencies in Israel, South Korea, Chile and South Africa after the resumption or establishment of diplomatic relations with them, but the drop in the oil price and worsening of the economic crisis in the USSR reduced the inflow of currency needed to continue the constant expansion of the KGB that had been under way for the last quarter century."
Had economists after the collapse of the USSR calculated accurately and skillfully who owed whom, then the successor to the USSR would have had an unpayable debt to Azerbaijan, while Armenia and Georgia would have been in debt to practically all the former USSR republics.
In those years, A. Mikoyan headed USSR foreign trade. When purchasing equipment for Baku plants with Azerbaijani money, Mikoyan did not "forget" Azerbaijan where he had spent his youth as a revolutionary.
Equipment used for the different processes in oil refining could be bought piece by piece. As a rule, the pieces that served ecological purposes were not purchased in order to cut costs. Cleaning units without which oil refining crippled the environment were not purchased either.
A. Mikoyan is known to have sold pictures from the Hermitage through American businessman Gulbikyan. And in Baku the 27th Baku commissar, Mikoyan, who survived in some mysterious way and Stalin, at the start of the century expropriated the property of Baku oilmen in favour of the Bolsheviks.
However, he never forgot about himself. The Russian press repeatedly published articles about the history of the rare diamonds in the Mikoyan family. Stalin was well aware of the fact that Mikoyan was on the "fiddle".
According to Chuyev, in Vladimir hall, Stalin told Mikoyan, "I know, you old Armenian, that you made concessions to the Americans, you are selling us to America! You made some commercial deal then."
As has already been stated, Mikoyan made a mess of the fuel distribution system in the early days of the war, which was not surprising, for fuel distribution in wartime in a rapidly changing situation both in the rear and the theatre of war is not the same as selling the USSR's wealth for a song for the sake of one's own interests.
In comparison with Azerbaijan, a small volume of Armenian cognac and some Georgian manganese ore were at that time exported for convertible currency.
An emigrant from the USSR was selling electric motors in the USA under the name of REMA, the Russian (?!) Electric Motor of Arutunov. The only "benefit" for the USSR was that the motor was called "Russian".
Azerbaijan used its own scientific and technical potential and natural resources and organized itself to stand on its own feet and prepare for hardships ahead. At the same time it made an enormous contribution to the organization of the USSR's defence capacity through the convertible currency received for oil and petroleum products, which the USSR used to purchase dual purpose equipment and machine-tools. That was before the war.
Although of course the main base of the Red Army's fuel supplies during the war, Azerbaijan contributed in many other ways to the Victory over fascism like all the USSR republics. Azerbaijan lived and worked not only for oil and petroleum products in those decisive years for the Motherland, as some "friends" try to present it to the world.
Chief of General Staff Shtemenko describes a flight from Baku to Tbilisi, "…we were flying to Tbilisi via Central Asia. The direct route there was cut off by the Germans. We landed in Krasnovodsk in the evening and when it became completely dark, we headed for Baku and Tbilisi across the Caspian.
"We landed in Tbilisi almost at midnight and made our way to the General Staff of the front right from the airfield. The city was not yet asleep. Many streets were brightly lit and full of people." It was very different in Baku: people were working three shifts, the streets were blacked out and just a few passers-by could be seen. "In Baku", Stalin's interpreter V.M. Berezhkov remembers, "we arrived late in the evening. It was warm there. At the airfield, we were met by the diplomatic agent of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Azerbaijan and the representatives of the local authorities. We went to the city in an old dark-blue Chevrolet belonging to the diplomatic agent. The narrow highway ran through a forest of derricks, a warm and rather comfortable smell of crude oil was in the air. It created a sense of tranquillity, contentment and even serenity. But everyone knew the Bakuvians were working intensely day and night to provide fuel for the country, which was so necessary for the Victory. They were coping with their task honourably. In the hardest days of the war, when the Hitlerites reached the Volga and the foothills of the Caucasus, Baku oil uninterruptedly satisfied the needs of the front and the rear."
Doctor of Medicine, Professor, Academician of the US Medicine and Psychiatric Academy, a member of the International Psychiatrists' Association Executive Committee and an Academician of the Russian Natural Sciences Academy, then a young man, Marks Gonopolsky remembers Baku's hard work in the war years, "Baku was a very kind, international city. When the war began, we were moved out of the newest school in the city, which was immediately turned into a hospital. My sister's husband was killed in the Brest fortress. Meanwhile, we stuffed huge aviation bombs, missile shells for Katyushas, with trotyl at plant-601. I became the Komsomol organizer, in charge of quality control. But then the draft began. And I became a naval stoker. My paddle steamer was called Demosthenes. We sailed to Persia on the Caspian - Pakhlavi, Bender-Shakh… American supplies arrived there under the lend-lease agreement. We hooked up barges and towed them to Baku; there were weapons, foodstuffs, disassembled aircraft, Studebakers. Two stokers and a mechanic fed fuel oil into the furnace and watched the burner. But it was sea water and the limescale hampered our work. We stokers were wrapped in a sheet, doused in water and shoved into the furnace for a minute or two. When you have scraped off the scale, you are taken out… Can you imagine? While I was going to Persia in this way, Mother took my school diploma to the Medical Institute in Baku."
There are plenty such recollections about Baku at that time.
Some examples follow that show Baku's contribution to the common Victory, as much information has been lost, much has been destroyed, and much has deliberately not been published as it remains classified. However, even the information below tells much and provides evidence of the variety of work done in Baku during the war years.
In 1941, 186,704 people joined the home guard. Eighty-seven fighter battalions and 1,124 separate self-defence groups were formed. Assistance groups for fighter battalions and anti-aircraft defence squads were organized, involving over 15,000 people. In total, Azerbaijan sent to the front more than 600,000 people, over half of whom were killed on the battlefield; this is nearly as many as the total number of Americans killed in World War II.
The population of Azerbaijan was 2,800,000 people at that time, including the elderly, women and children. Over 170,000 Azerbaijani citizens were awarded orders and medals for their heroism; many of them were given the title of Hero of the Soviet Union. Gen Hazi Aslanov was awarded twice. The title of the Hero of the Soviet Union was also given to Israfil Mamedov, Mehdi Huseynzade, Adile Guliyeva, Ziya Bunyadov, Tarlana Aliyarbekova, Melik Magerramov, Hadjibaba Zeynalov and others.
For the valour and courage displayed in the fighting for Poland, seven Azerbaijanis became Heroes of the Soviet Union and thousands of our compatriots were singled out for orders and medals.
In the battles for Kustrin, the soldiers of the 416th Azerbaijani division killed more than 1,000 German soldiers and officers, smashed seven artilleries, 185 mortar battery combat points, 150 firing points located in houses, captured 78 cannon, four armament depots and took prisoner 265 Germans. As a result, the 1054th artillery regiment of the 416th Azerbaijani division was singled out for the Red Banner Order, the 1374th rifle regiment for the Order of Bogdan Khmelnitsky, second class, the 1368th rifle regiment for the Order of Suvorov, third class, and the 444th artillery division for the Order of Aleksandr Nevskiy.
Still, many Azerbaijanis remained unknown heroes and did not receive an award! It is well known that, unlike some other republics, Azerbaijan had no patrons in the USSR Ministry of Defence! Hazi Aslanov's second star of Hero of the Soviet Union "was lost" in the USSR Ministry of Defence and it took decades before it was found. On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the Victory, Russian Defence Minister Sergey Ivanov said that over a million high awards of World War II had not still found their addressees. Doubtless, many Azerbaijanis are among those addressees.
"We revere the courage and heroism of the 600,000 Azerbaijanis who fought selflessly at the fronts of the Great Patriotic War, forging our common victory," Vladimir Putin said, recalling that 42 Azerbaijanis had become Heroes of the Soviet Union and 12 full knights of the Order of Glory. It should be said that those were the first such words addressed to Azerbaijan for many years and they came from a Russian leader!.
When men went to the front, their workplaces were taken by their wives and children. Women who had were not strong enough to work with pipes drove tractors. All the tractor drivers in the oilfields were women.
Large oilfields in those years were led by women who had begun their working lives as oilfield operators, such as Medina Vezirova, Sugra Gayibova, Antonina Bakunina, Sakina Guliyeva and Anna Pleshko.
Cultural centres, schools and health centres were turned into military hospitals. In late 1941 and early 1942 over 70 military hospitals were operating in Azerbaijan, in which 470,000 wounded received comprehensive aid. Even half of Tusi University was made into a military hospital. Thanks to the selfless work of the medical staff of the republic and to the care of the working people, 70% of the wounded recovered and returned to the front. The republic allotted foodstuffs to the hospitals from its scanty reserves. Donor blood was flowing from Azerbaijan in an endless stream. I remember my mother lying on the couch all day, weak after giving blood.
In 1941-42 the working people of the republic gathered and sent to the defenders of Motherland hundreds of thousands of articles of clothing, dozens of railway carriages with warm linen. They gave 15 kg of gold, 952 kg of silver and 390 million roubles to the defence fund. Over 230 million roubles were given to the fund for tank columns and aircraft squadrons; this was hard-earned income which the citizens had put by for a rainy day. When the day came, they believed in giving all of their savings.
Pravda newspaper wrote on 19 November, 1941, "...In terms of the volume of contributions (an absolute calculation! - Author) to the Fund for the Defence of the Motherland, Moscow ranks first, followed by Khabarovsk Territory, Kazakh SSR, Uzbek SSR, Azerbaijan SSR..." Our neighbours could have distinguished themselves in this action, but did not.
In December 1944, 250,000 pairs of shoes, 25 thousand complete sets of warm linen, 5,000 overcoats and 15 railway wagons of food were sent to the Donbass.
Even before the end of the war, Azerbaijan helped the restoration of the USSR's ruined cities. Azerbaijani builders made an enormous contribution to the reconstruction of ruined settlements in the Kharkov area in early 1945.
In those toughest days for the state, when Baku was sharing its last crust, the Kremlin rulers did not forget themselves; tonnes of fish, caviar and other delicacies produced in special workshops were by special flights from Baku to Moscow. At the same time, if any of the factory workers took away so much as 50 grams of these delicacies, they were guaranteed 10 years of imprisonment. The worst position at a fish factory in those years was the job of production manager; no-one agreed to take this position. The production manager had to sign and date the products sent to the Kremlin. And if anyone there happened to get the runs, the first reason was always declared to poor fish products and the execution of the production manager was guaranteed! Stalin himself was not fond of fish products, according to eyewitnesses, but he liked to see them on the table when he organized functions and to give delicacies to his important visitors. Hardly had Roosevelt praised sturgeon in Tehran, than Stalin immediately presented him with a big sturgeon brought from Baku on a special flight. Participants in the conference said that Stalin held abundant feasts in Tehran. When Vlasek was executed, one of the accusations against him was that he had allowed costs to overrun when organizing banquets in Tehran and Potsdam. All Stalin's finances were managed by the chief of Stalin's guard, State Security General N. Vlasek. "To be at the spring and to have a drink!"
Such care by the USSR leaders for their dear selves was not an exception but a rule.
Albert Speer writes in his memoirs, "In the middle of November 1940, Molotov arrived in Berlin. Together with his table-companions, Hitler enjoyed the story of his physician, Dr Brandt, that the retinue of the Soviet premier and minister of foreign affairs, fearing infection, ordered that all plates and cutlery be boiled before use."
These comrades took care of themselves in any, even the most unbelievable, situations, but did not the same for the ordinary, even talented, citizens of their country. "I was summoned to Smolniy and it was suggested that I write a book," Academician Dmitriy Likhachev remembers about the days of the blockade. "I had to get to Smolniy in a biting frost on foot, in paralyzed Leningrad, for half a day. When I entered Smolniy, the first thing that struck me was the smell of food everywhere and that well-fed people were walking around. I hardly got back home, on foot again; they did not even offer me a plate of soup in Smolniy!"
Dmitriy Volkogonov writes that when Leningrad was fighting, almost convulsing, in the deadly blockade, a few especially secret orders from Moscow were issued and carried out by Zhdanov, "On special supplies of foodstuffs to leading party and Soviet employees"; these included delicacies from Baku.
In those dreadful days, when the resolution was issued "On special supplies of foodstuffs to leading party and Soviet employees" and the whole of Smolniy smelled of food, the leading article in Leningradskaya Pravda, prepared on the instructions of the regional committee buro, said of the forthcoming fifth reduction in food rations, "Bolsheviks never hide anything from the people. They always tell the truth, no matter how cruel it may be. While the blockade lasts, it is impossible to count on an improvement in the food supply. We are forced to reduce the size of rations until the enemy has been repulsed and the blockade has been broken. Is it hard? Yes, it is, but we have no other way out…" Not all the truth was told by the Bolsheviks!
There were special distribution centres for high-ranking party and Soviet employees in Baku in those terrible years. So that the neighbours did not to see what the wives of the party chiefs had purchased in the special distribution centres, they were under strict instructions to carry all they bought in closed bags, for hungry people could take it away! A few General Electric refrigerators, a technological wonder for the USSR at that time, received from the USA for military hospitals, somehow appeared in the houses of some members of the Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Azerbaijani SSR.
Soviet chiefs, and it was a rule at all times, always thought of themselves in any situation and distinguished their beloved selves from the common people. It is clear from the accounts of former partisans, even of commanders and commissars in the partisan movement, where there should have been a common pot, had their own distribution centres which included delicacies sent from Moscow. In higher army circles, CFW (camp field wives) were not uncommon.
The hardships of wartime, then, were not the first thing that concerned those comrades!
I would like to mention especially that representatives of many nationalities worked selflessly alongside Azerbaijanis in Azerbaijan in those difficult years and it is useless to single out any ethnic group, for they all were giving the Motherland all their strength and all their abilities. However, in respect to the position of Russia in the recent past, I would like to say a few words about the Russian residents of Baku. In those tough years and also in the subsequent ones, Russians worked at the most difficult production sites and left for the front from there.
Whoever has seen the film The Meeting Place Cannot be Changed is bound to remember the episode when Sharapov appears large as life at the Victory Day celebration, with a chestful of medals, inspiring admiration from his comrades who were unaware of his achievements in battle. I came across a similar incident in somewhat different circumstances. In the Oil Scientific Research Institute where she worked, a modest Russian woman had been working as a draftsman for many years; she helped graduate students as far as she could to prepare dissertations. On Victory Day she was congratulated as a war veteran, and she humbly thanked everyone. When she was buried, in accordance with her will, her wartime portrait was carried in front of her coffin - she was weighed down with medals. Russia, as the successor of the USSR, forgot during Yeltsin's rule about the services of these Russians, their children and grandchildren who live and work in Baku. Visiting Armenia, Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin brought with him 500,000 dollars "for the needs of the Russians residing in Armenia", though there was not a single trace of them, as they had long since been driven out of Armenia, together with the Russian language. Meanwhile, 200,000 Russians residing in Baku who shared both the grief and joy of Azerbaijanis and share them to the present day appear to be the wrong kind of Russians for Russia. They usually remember about Russians when they need to organize some provocation against Baku, as the Soviet Army and democrat Sobchak did so skillfully on 20 January, 1990.
The high intellectual and technical potential of multi-ethnic Baku, the diligence and hospitality of its people, their willingness to give their utmost for the sake of Victory allowed the rapid reorganization of industry for military needs.
Production was organized of trotyl, ammonia, activated pyrolusite for the radio industry, air inhibitors, detonating compounds, chromous chromyl of nitric acid, sodium sulphate, battery acid, foaming agents, chlorine hydride, chlorosulphuric acid, sodium carbonate, medical gypsum, medical Vaseline, resin-free naphthalene, industrial white oil, oxidized petrolatum and ceresin.
Trotyl, chlorosulphuric acid and vanadium catalyst were used in the production of ammunition, detonating compounds, explosives and other substances which were manufactured in large quantities in Baku.
After Leningrad, the People's Commissariat of Local Industry and Azpromsovet organized the production of Molotov cocktails in Baku. By 8 November, 1941, 35,000 Molotov cocktails and 14,000 spare cartridges had been manufucatured and packed in boxes. Production capacity was increased to 10,000 bottles per day.
By the end of 1941, up to 130 types of armaments, ammunition and military equipment and materials had been produced in Azerbaijan.
In 1942-44 over 11 million units of ammunition were sent to the front. In July 1942, plant No 160 was built in Baku in record time for the production of mortar-guns popularly known as Katyushas, which were sent to Stalingrad. This is confirmed by a message from T. Pronin, the chief of the 2nd section of the 4th department of the Mortar Units Armament Main Administration at the Supreme Command. The comprehensive The Work of Soviet Scientists for the Sake of the Victory over Fascism in the Great Patriotic War says, "The task of beginning serial production of Katyushas was given to Kirov, Penza, Sverdlovsk, Nizhniy Tagil, Kazan, Chelyabinsk and Baku."
Production of warheads for torpedo boats, unique at that time, was set up in record time in Azerbaijan. These warheads for torpedo boats considerably increased their combat capacity.
The high-capacity press bought with Baku "oil gold" in Germany in 1911 did a good job during the war. It was installed at the Lt Schmidt plant and during the war was used in the manufacture of many products required for different types of armaments. The ardent revolutionary and equally ardent heartbreaker S. Kirov repeatedly tried to take the press away to Leningrad. Oil and petroleum products were not enough for him!
Assembly of the combat UTI-4 15B-type aeroplance, based on the UTI-4, began in Baku once the technology had been rapidly mastered. Its weaponry consisted of two BS wing-mounted machine guns, six RS-82s and two 50-kg bombs. The second cockpit was closed with a duralumin hood. It was developed at plant No 458, which had been evacuated to Baku in 1941.
The UTI-4 training aircraft was adapted for use as a combat aircraft; two BS wing-mounted machine guns were placed under the fuselage and three guide paths for PS-82 or pylons under the wings which allowed the suspension of aviation bombs weighing up to 50 kg. A PBP-1 bombing sight was set in the cockpit, allowing targeted bombing and fire at air targets. The combat version passed tests at the airfield of the 480th air regiment in Kasli and at the airfield of the 26th air regiment, deployed 60 km from Baku.
After a while assembly of Yak-3 fighters began in Baku. The organization of aircraft production is described by Azad Sharif and Mais Bagirov.
"Meanwhile, the local authorities were actively preparing for aircraft production, but important production was delayed by the sluggishness of the People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry which did not supply the plant with engines, screws, distillation stills, accumulators, tyres and inner tubes on time, despite numerous reminders from the Azerbaijani authorities. Therefore, Mirjafar Bagirov sent a telegram to Beria who was in charge of the evacuation of industrial facilities to the east at that time. 'At plant No 458, work on the Yak-3 production is at the limits of local capacity. The People's Commissariat of the Aviation Industry, in spite of repeated promises, has not sent technical sketches and material specifications. I ask you to compel the factory director to send rapidly everything necessary for the production of the new Yak-3.' Literally the next day, 14 January Beria sent a telegram to Bagirov, 'A transport with materials has been sent from Moscow for plant No 458 and is to arrive in Baku today. I ask you to report immediately all cases of interruption in supply of the plant in future, so that you can be given the necessary help.'"
Production of the smooth, silent UTI-4, known as the U-2 in films and literature, had already been set up in Baku. They were comfortable for reconnaissance, could fly low at nighttime, approach unnoticed and shower the enemy with small bombs and series of fragmentation and fire bombs. As a rule, they were flown by young women, and the Germans dubbed them "witches of the night".
In January 1942, the Baku plant issued 20 UTI-4s and doubled output in February. But in connection with the new objective of the State Defence Committee, on 7 February, 1942, Bagirov asked Beria to transfer production of these aircraft to another plant in order to use the freed capacity for the mass production of Yak-3 fighters.
Here is another telegram from Bagirov to the secretary of Communist Party Central Committee Secretary Malenkov dated 5 March, 1942: "The government of Azerbaijan raised the issue with the Soviet government of allotting 235 metal-cutting machine-tools, electric cable products and electrical equipment located at evacuation bases in Baku to plant No 458. Many of these machine-tools have been repaired, adjusted and are functioning at our plant. Some of the evacuated facilities have already left Baku for their destination. Others are being shipped and require the return of machine-tools. Without a decision of the Soviet government on the reservation of this equipment for plant No 458, we will be forced to return these machine-tools. If a resolution of the government does not follow in the next few days, the equipment will be withdrawn and sent away together with the plant. I ask for the issue to be resolved immediately."
By spring 1942, Yak-3 fighters born in Baku began flying to the front. Few people know that in those years, a high-capacity centre was established in Baku for the repair of air force planes, mastery of new equipment received through the lend-lease scheme and the preparation and retraining of military pilots. In Baku the production of spare parts for the Р-39 Air Cobra fighters began with the assistance of the Americans. A.I. Pokryshkin, a future Soviet flying ace who shot down 59 German aircraft, three times Hero of the Soviet Union, took an active part in the work of this centre. He wrote about the work in Baku in those years, "…I won't have to. The order has been received to give the aircraft to Dzusov's regiment and go to Baku for retraining and for the receipt of new materiel. Pilots and technicians were lined up at the command position. The commander read off the order on handing over the aircraft and the arrangements for moving to Baku. Our unit was deployed in the small town of the reserve air regiment near Baku. On surveying the situation, we understood that all our plans about the rapid receipt of aircraft and return to the front had crumbled. The prospect was far from cheery, as we were to wait for the military equipment. There were some other 'horseless' regiments ahead of us, which had come here before us. They were retraining one-by-one from I-16 and 'gulls' to the Yak-1. In training flights, I focused on aircraft piloting in abnormal conditions. Using the mountainous coastal area, I would take young pilots on Yak-7 training aircraft to develop the skills of flying in mountain gorges; we mastered grass-cutting over the Caspian Sea; I taught them to pilot an aircraft confidently at a low altitude. Then we were redeployed to the reserve regiment to the west of Baku. We were to rearm for the American Р-39 Air Cobra fighters received on lend-lease through Iran. After arrival in the third reserve regiment and accommodating the squadron in a dormitory, I headed for the airfield to have a look at the new materiel. I saw Lt-Col Dzusov near the aircraft.
"'What, you've come to look at the American equipment?'
"'Yes, Comrade Regiment Commander! We were ordered to be retrained for Air Cobras.'
"'Well, that's to replace us. We have already completed rearmaments and are flying away to Kuban tomorrow.'
"'How good are the Air Cobras, are they worthwhile fighters?' I asked Dzusov.
"'Good aircraft. They are not inferior to the Messerschmitts in speed and have heavy weapons. Fighting is quite possible,' Ibragim Magometovich gladdened me. 'Get to my aircraft and have a look.'
"I liked the shape of the Air Cobra and, most important, its lethal weaponry. There was indeed something to shoot down enemy aircraft with - one 37-mm cannon, two large-calibre rapid-fire machine guns and four normal gauge machine guns, 1,000 shots per minute each." (It is appropriate here to note that a total of 7,146 Air Cobras and King Cobras were delivered to the Soviet Union, and many of them, together with the crew, passed through Baku - Soviet pilots got to grips with them here. Pilots successfully used these aircraft as strike fighters. Three times Hero of the Soviet Union A.I. Pokryshkin destroyed more than 30 German aircraft on this fighter and even shot down four Messerschmitts in one air battle over Kuban in spring 1943. - Author.)
"Training flights from the early morning to late evening, permanent contacts with flight enginners distracted us from difficult flashbacks... In a short space of time, pilots had studied the materiel. Then we set about flights. Retraining for the Air Cobra did not cause particular troubles for me as I had flown on tough aircraft such as the I-16 and MIG-3..Energetic flying, flights in difficult meteorological conditions became obligatory in flying training. I taught them the things necessary in combat conditions. A strict, cast-iron sequence with graded levels of difficulty ensured that the retraining was done without air accidents. Soon we were fully prepared for battle. Pilots from the subunit brought the aircraft for the regiment from Iran. A new stage began in the regiment's battle activity. The crew was well prepared morally and psychologically. Boundless patriotism and willingness to defend the socialist Fatherland were combined with mastery of the combat aircraft and skill in using all its flying and combat capabilities to the limit…
"At this time, I often recalled the difficult weeks at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. In 1941, we did not have time to be retrained on the MIG-3. We mastered it in the course of fighting. And we paid for it in blood. Many comrades-in-arms perished in cruel fights. Things were different now. Confident mastery of battle aircraft was complemented with the knowledge of perfect fighter tactics. Pilots mastered modern fight techniques developed through the experience of previous battles. The crew rested physically, improved in strength and was ready for battles in the sky."
Even these terse lines, typical of a military man, show what major work was done in those years in Baku to reinforce the USSR's battle aircraft. Combat aircraft were repaired, new models of domestic aircraft were produced, flight officers were retrained on the new types of aircraft, foreign aircraft received on lend-lease were mastered, air force pilots took rehabilitation courses after tough battles. And, mainly, as Pokryshkin writes, the confident mastery of combat aircraft was complemented with excellent tactical knowledge.
The following fact confirms the wisdom and foresight of the training specialist Pokryshkin in Baku. Thirty pilots who participated in the first fights under his guidance became Heroes of the Soviet Union and six of them were twice awarded the Gold Star. During the war, they alone destroyed 500 German aircraft.
Pokryshkin did not forget to mention the lyrical side of his stay in Baku; he writes that in Baku he met his first love, a girl named Maria. I met the lady, who was rather hard of hearing, in the 1970s when she lived on Engels Street in Baku, near a friend of mine. The dearest things in her house, she said, were a few faded war-time photographs of her together with the young pilot Pokryshkin.
Pilots who had undergone flying training in Baku gave the German pilots a real fight in the skies above Kuban.
The book From Barbarossa to Terminal: Looking from the West (Publishing House of Political Literature, Moscow, 1998) describes these fights as follows: "By spring 1943, the centre of gravity of air operations moved to Kuban, where the Germans made a desperate attempt to regain domination in the air lost which they lost during the battle for Stalingrad. Large-scale fierce battles over Kuban involving many hundreds of aircraft, which lasted for seven weeks, indeed appeared to be the turning point of the air war but not in favour of the Germans. During these fights there Aleksandr Pokryshkin, whose fighter regiment was included in the 4th Air Army, received the first of his three Gold Stars of Hero of the Soviet Union, and it was that the air combat tactics he developed helped Soviet fighter gain domination in the air.,His victory formula was 'Height - speed - manoeuvre - fire!'"
The German side also emphasized the importance of the air battles over Kuban, "In spring 1943, major air battles in the sky above Kuban began. Both belligerents used their best fighter units. From the German side, these were JG 3, JG 51 and JG 52. At the end of May, up to 40 group air duels passed daily above the Kuban bridgehead, 50-80 Soviet and German aircraft taking part in each of them."
It was in Kuban that German tanks felt the full force of the Soviet air force; ,attacks by Soviet fighters cut their tanks open like sardine cans.
Not many people know that for the skillful use of the American Р-39 Air Cobra fighters in combat above Kuban, the Americans rewarded Soviet pilots. Pokryshkin was among the recipients of awards as well. Many of the recipients trained for air combat in Baku.
French pilots from the Normandy-Neman wing also passed through Baku; they were formed here, got to know their fighter aircraft and, after flying training and adaptation to Soviet life, flew in the combat area Pravda reported on 1 December, 1942, "A group of pilots from fighting France, who expressed a desire to fight side by side with Soviet pilots against the common hated enemy, came to the USSR." Yuriy Rykov, the former engineer of the Normandy-Neman wing, talked about their commander, a Frenchman Pierre Pouyade. The first group of volunteer pilots, consisting of Marseille Lefevre, Marseille Albert, Albert Litolier, Roland de la Poype, Pierre Pouyade and others, led by Major Jean-Louis Tulasne, took the route Lebanon- Iraq-Iran and onwards on Li-2 aircraft via Tehran, Baku and Stalingrad, aglow from the giant battle... And, finally, Ivanovo, near Moscow." F. de Joffre wrote in the memoirs Normandy-Neman, "One December day in 1943, we sit in a huge Soviet aircraft and, following the route of the Normandy pioneers, we are on our way to Russia, Baku. Here is our first Russian dinner: chops, potatoes, pancakes which we wash down with tea and milk." Then F. de Joffre describes flight training in Baku.
The Frunze all-service school was evacuated from Leningrad to Baku with the instructors and their families. It operated in Baku until almost the end of the war. During that time, many future Heroes of the war graduated from this school. Many graduates of the school were sent to the decisive battle for Stalingrad.
A vast amount of work was done by the engineering technical services in Baku, which rapidly adapted industry for military needs.
Vessels for oil and petroleum products transportation stopped arriving in Baku. However, Baku found a solution to this problem as well, getting along with internal reserves and suggesting an unusual engineering solution. A shipyard was built in record time in one of the Caspian bays for the construction of marine vessels from reinforced concrete.
Cement, gravel, sand and reinforced metal were the basic building material for the construction of a huge oil tank barge with a displacement of 2,500 tonnes. Oil was transported to Astrakhan and Krasnovodsk by these barges.
In the besieged Hero City of Odessa, an ordinary tractor was "dressed" in armour, with a cannon on top, and seven or 10 were produced; this has been included in many novels and films and was even shown in the American documentary series Unknown War.
Similar inventions occurred regularly in Baku but no-one knows anything about them.
Azerbaijani's transport workers worked efficiently. During the war an enormous amount of the equipment evacuated from the industrial enterprises of Rostov, Taganrog and other cities passed through Baku. For example, 2,600 wagons carrying equipment from the Rostselmash plant were sent to Tashkent via Baku.
Oil and petroleum tank barges were adapted to transport locomotives from the modern high-powered Sergo Ordzhonikidze, Joseph Stalin and Felix Dzerzhinsky series on their decks. In this way 135 steam engines with tenders, 50 four-axle loaded cars and 50 tanker wagons were transported.
From 1942, weapons supplies, tanks, explosive and chemical substances, ferrous and non-ferrous metals, foodstuffs and many other goods supplied by the USA on lend-lease began to come through the Persian Gulf to the ports of Iran. Caspian sailors from Caspflot and Casptanker fulfilled this important state task with honour.
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The stream of cargo through Baku increased when the Germans began sinking the Allied convoys heading for the only ice-free port in the north of Russia, Murmansk, which was also exposed to cruel air raids. The Baku route became the lifeline for the lend-lease cargoes.
There was a third route, through Vladivostok. Yet it was almost impossible to "roll" the cargo through the whole Far East and Siberia to the front. This route was closed when Japan entered the war against the USA.
The Americans and the British originally counted on maximum use of the North Sea route. For about four or five months after the USSR signed the lend-lease agreement, supplies from Great Britain and the USA to the USSR went via Murmansk and Arkhangelsk. Usually, convoys of commercial ships were formed in Iceland or nearby. This all changed after the defeat of the PQ-17 convoy.
Of 188,000 tonnes of military cargo, Soviet ports received only 65,000 tonnes from the PQ-17 ships; 123,000 tonnes of cargo and hundreds of people, 210 bombers, 430 tanks, 3,550 motorcars and locomotives and many other things were lost.
German naval surface forces were concentrated in Nordkap (Iceland), including the Tirpitz, Admiral Scheer and Lutzov (former Deutschland) battleships, the Admiral Chipner heavy battle-cruiser, Cologne battle-cruiser, torpedo-boat destroyers and submarine boats. The Nazis' air base was established near Nordkap with a large amount of aircraft. The route to Murmansk was actually closed for the Allies.
Polish maritime historian Ezhi Lipinsky wrote, "Such financial losses can be compared only to the losses in a major battle on land..."
Britain's foreign secretary, Anthony Eden, shot from the hip at a meeting with the USSR ambassador to the UK, I.M. Mayskiy, "And do you not find, Mr Ambassador, that the incident with the PQ-17 is very illustrative and convincing? What is the use to you Russians. if we send you convoys which will be dumped by the Germans in the Barents Sea?" After those events, the southern route became the main one.
Honoured Professor of the Academy of Foreign Intelligence, Lt-Gen (retired) Vadim Kirpichenko reflected on the importance of the Iranian route: "Among other things, Iran was a place with a lot of German secret service agents. German advisers of all stripes felt free there. Therefore, the introduction of troops there was fully justified, not only in the military respect but also in the political, economic and intelligence one. By the way, for some reason it is rarely mentioned that American troops were there; they guarded seaports, as supplies of military equipment to the Red Army from both the USA and UK went via Iran. The presence of our troops was needed also to ensure this passage. Although we have had a tendency to underestimate the value of this help for many years, it was quite substantial. Strictly speaking, I personally did not see any of our half a ton and five-ton trucks at the front, but saw foreign models, Chevrolets, Studebakers etc."
Here is an assessment from the other side. F. Kochwasser wrote of the route, "Persia, with its ports, new roads and railway lines became a powerful artery through which American military materials were transported from the south to the north, allowing the Soviet Union to rebuff Germany.".
As we can see, the assessments of both sides coincide!
One witness remembers the intensity of the shipments, "We were in the North Caucasus then, in the Stavropol area. I was the gun-commander. Suddenly, we were placed in heated wagons and taken to Baku and from there on foot to the south. We crossed the Iranian border, tanks were going ahead, passing straight through Iranian border posts. We were going on foot to Tehran. At night there was a blaze over Tehran - the Iranians were burning oil refineries. We approached Tehran, and suddenly the order comes to clear the road! We moved to the verges and could hear rumbling and see clouds of exhaust. Without stopping. Studebakers, American trucks with aid were going to Baku - the Allies had landed in the south."
According to American official data, 14,450 aircraft and about 7,000 tanks were sent from the USA to the USSR during the entire war period; 3,384 aircraft and 4,292 tanks were delivered by the UK from the beginning of the Great Patriotic War to 30 April, 1944; 1,188 tanks were received from Canada in the same period. Many of these cargoes passed through Baku.
Another factor came into play over the supply of armaments. The Americans sent about 7,000 tanks to the USSR on lend-lease and the UK about 2,100 tanks. However, as a number of researchers specify correctly, clarification is required. It would be more correct to talk about how much of the weaponry actually arrived. This approach shows that from July 1941 to June 1943, the USSR received only 2,400 tanks from the USA and the others were destroyed by the Germans en route. The correlation in aircraft and other types of supplies is approximately the same. If the different routes for transporting cargo to the USSR in those years are compared on an integral index, including speed, cost and mainly safety, the route via Baku was much more effective than the others.
Caspflot and Casptanker were active in landing operations on the Iranian coast in 1941. About 30 vessels, including the Dagestan, Baksovet, Ossetia, Spartacus and, Kuybishev motor vessels, scow 9, and the Comintern tanker landed people, horses, armaments, ammunition and other cargoes.
When the fascists were approaching Groznyy, the Baku oil tanker fleet received the urgent task of evacuating Groznyy's petroleum products, first of all petrol, from Makhachkala.
As quickly as possible, the oil fleet transported 392,000 tonnes of petroleum products, including 135,000 tonnes of petrol from Baku to the Astrakhan roadstead and Krasnovodsk in vessels not adapted for transporting petrol.
After the Germans cut off the Baku-Rostov railway, the sea routes of the Caspian became the basic line for oil supplies line and a key communication link for the Trans-Caucasus front and the entire country.
By summer 1942, the Germans reached the Volga and cut off direct waterways and supplies of Baku oil to the front and industrial centres; supplies had to go through Central Asia. Shipping oil across the Caspian was difficult. The port of Krasnovodsk was not geared-up to receive a large volume of oil while the Baku-Batumi oil pipeline was inactive. From July 1942, the transportation of Caucasusian petroleum products via the Rostov-on-Don railway was halted, as was transport on the Salsk-Stalingrad route. In April 1942, 505,500 tonnes of petroleum products were taken across the Caspian, including 436,000 tonnes to Astrakhan.
By autumn 1942, for the first time in the history of maritime freight transportation, fuel tanks were floated over the Caspian Sea. Rail tanker wagons of oil were taken from Baku to Krasnovodsk and oil tanks with a 5,000 tonne capacity, assembled in Baku, were taken from Makhachkala to Krasnovodsk.
Moving this volume of fuel from the Caucasus to the upper reaches of the Volga and the Kama played a decisive part in supplying the Red Army with fuel, when the battles for Mozdok and Stalingrad began.
Admiral S.G. Gorshkov writes in his bible for all naval officers, The Sea Power of the State (Military Publishing House of the USSR Ministry of Defence, Moscow, 1976), "Sailors on Caspian transport vessels also fulfilled their objectives with honour during the war. They ensured an uninterrupted supply of oil from the main source, Baku, to the army and the country. They carried out the very difficult task of shipping military and national economy goods across the Caspian Sea, including imported cargoes that came via Iran from the Persian Gulf. The enemy constantly attempted to cut our communications, especially in the most vulnerable links, on the Astrakhan roadstead, the Volga-Caspian Canal and in the Makhachkala area. However, escort and transport ships bravely engaged in combat with the enemy. In the second half of 1942, when the enemy succeeded temporarily in severing our land communications with the Caucasus, the main burden of supplying of the troop operation there lay on the Navy and the Caspian Naval Flotilla. The scale of the sailors' work is illustrated by the fact that in August-September 1942 alone they transported two rifle and one cavalry corps with armaments from Astrakhan and Krasnovodsk to Makhachkala without losses. This played a substantial role in the battle for the Caucasus."
It is hard to give a better description of the contribution of Caspian sailors to the Victory over fascism than the Admiral's!
The naval seamen of the Caspian Flotilla, based in Baku, also made their contribution to the victory.
Hundreds of naval seamen of the Caspian Flotilla went away to fight in different fleets and at different fronts. Many of them did not return.
In the pre-war years Baku made an immense contribution to the formation of the Caspian Flotilla. The flotilla received all its supplies from Baku, from food to fuel. Sponsored collective farms and state farms supplied the Caspian Flotilla with vegetables and fruit. One of the most beautiful parts of Baku, Bailovo, was given to accommodate the servicemen of the Caspian Flotilla and their families. In the first days of the war, pier No 18 was erected for submarines in Baku bay. Repair workshops were built for submarines, where top local specialists worked alongside the mobilized staff. The high state commission for the inspection of submarines that had undergone major repairs operated here. In a word, the Caspian Flotilla was part of working Baku.
Baku was chosen as the base for the Caspian Flotilla, as no other place on the Caspian coast at that time had the economic, technical and other parameters of Baku. Yet here I have to address a few words to the Red Banner Caspian Flotilla - "A word dropped from a song makes it all wrong!" I deeply regret that I have to say that when the known events began in Azerbaijan many years later and Azerbaijan badly needed the assistance of friends, with whom it had shared both bread and salt in difficult times, the personnel of the Caspian Flotilla, especially the employees of its special department, acted negatively towards Baku. And, as has often happened before from the side of Moscow, brothers "thanked" Baku in their own way for the bread and salt, the warm hospitality that they often and, we guess, sincerely talked about before. To be fair, it has to be said that they were not the only ones to have this attitude towards Azerbaijan.
A small but necessary diversion.
Viktor Petrovich Gladkikh was an honoured senior member of the Arctic secret political department, Oleg Khimanych wrote. "Among the numerous episodes of his life described by Viktor Petrovich one kindled a particular interest in me. The question was ferrying Gorkiy submarines built at Red Sormovo the on inland waterways during wartime. It is not a secret now (it never was, just known forces in the USSR did not want to speak about it. - Author) that in the period of the Great Patriotic War, S and M series submarines reached the Northern Fleet from Gorkiy and from Baku. The Northern Fleet, as is generally known, was the most important strategically at that time, for it brought lend-lease cargoes to the Soviet side.
"First we were all sent straight to re-equip workshops as the plant was to produce tanks as well. In a month tank production began and we were transferred to Order 271 to prepare a submarine for transport to Baku to pass official tests. We were not the first, as two submarines had already left for the Caspian before the 271st... We were on the Volga being pulled by a a tug boat. Not far from Stalingrad, at Kamyshin, we were held up. The Germans dropped floating mines from the air into the Volga and it took time to sweep the channel free. Other mines were not deactivated by the mine-sweepers but simply shot from cannon and machine guns. We passed Stalingrad in the daytime. Nominally it was daytime. The city was on fire. There were a lot of oil storage tanks in the suburbs of Stalingrad and they were set on fire by the Germans. There was so much smoke that you could not see daylight. We passed the city quickly and then delays began to occur one by one: tug boats would leave us sometimes. We were told that this was because the Volga was soon expected to freeze over and the State Defence Committee had ordered that all forces be used to bring oil tanker barges from the Caspian oilfields up the river so there was a lack of tug boats.
"We arrived in Baku at dawn, remained in the roads until lunch and then moored at pier No 18. Then we finally prepared Order 271 for delivery. I was assigned to the naval port's storage-battery workshop. Here we 'treated' our battery, as it had been left without the necessary recharging for a long time and was not plugged in. This is how we worked until May 1942…"
It was difficult to find information about other submarines based in Baku and sent to the Northern Fleet, but here is the list.
1. S-14 (from 18 June, 1943 Heroic Sevastopol, from 20 June, 1956 PZS-26, from 17 August, 1956 UTS-4). Laid down on 29 September, 1938, assembled by workers, launched on 25 April, 1939, went into service on 21 April, 1942 and was included in the Caspian Flotilla on 3 June, 1942. On 14 April 1943 she left Baku by the inland waterways and was included in the Northern Fleet on arrival in Arkhangelsk on 25 May, 9143.
2. S-15 (from 18 January, 1956 - PZS-27) Laid down on 10 August, 1939, launched on 24 April, 1940, went into service on 20 December, 1942 and was included in the Caspian Flotilla on 21 January, 1943. In some sources she is registered under the name Kolkhoznitsa. On 14 April, 1943 she left Baku by the inland waterways and and was included in the Northern Fleet on arrival in Arkhangelsk on 25 May, 1943.
3. S-16 (from 24 April, 1944 Hero of the Soviet Union Nurseyitov, from 18 January, 1956 PZS-28, from 27 December, 1956 ZAS-Z). Laid down on 10 August, 1939, assembled by workers, launched on 24 April, 1940, went into service on 10 February, 1943 and was included in the Caspian Flotilla on 22 April 1943. On 15 March, 1944 she left Baku by the inland waterways and and was included in the Northern Fleet on arrival in Arkhangelsk on 20 May, 1944.
4. Laid down on 1 August, 1939, launched on 25 April, 1940, put into commission on 20 June, 1945 and on 10 July, 1945 was included in the Caspian Flotilla. On 10 July, 1945 left Baku via the inland waterways and on 31 August, 1945 on arrival in Leningrad she was included in the Red Banner Baltic Fleet.
5. S-19 Laid down on 30 September, 1939, launched on 14 March, 1941, put into commission on 21 February, 1944 and on 23 February, 1944 was included in the Caspian Flotilla. On 15 March, 1944 she left Baku by the inland waterways and on 18 May, 1944 on arrival in Arkhangelsk was included in the Northern Fleet..
6. S-21 (from 17 April, 1957 ZAS-13) Laid down on 31 December, 1939 (according to other data, on 1 December, 1939), launched on 25 April, 1941, put into commission on 28 March, 1946 and on 3 April, 1946 was included in the Caspian Flotilla. In summer 1946 she was transferred by the inland waterways from Baku to Polyarniy and on 18 July, 1946 transferred to the Northern Fleet.
7. S-22 (from 19 June, 1955 PZS-54, from 12 January, 1957 ZAS-7, from 15 October, 1966 PZS-14) Laid down on 25 June, 1940, launched on 2 May, 1941, put into commission on 25 May, 1946 and on 28 May, 1946 was included in the Caspian Flotilla. On 13 October, 1946 she arrived in Polyarniy by the inland waterways from Baku and on 2 November, 1946 was included in the Northern Fleet.
8. S-103 Laid down on 13 September, 1938, launched on 25 April, 1939, put into commission on 30 June, 1942 and on 9 July, 1942 was included in the Caspian Flotilla. On 15 April, 1943 she left Baku for Arkhangelsk by the inland waterways and on 28 May, 1943 was included in the Northern Fleet.
Once, I attended a veteran shipbuilder's anniversary party and was amazed by the stories told by him and his friends about the number of submarines they repaired during the war. The veterans said that the overwhelming majority of repairmen were local. This classified piece of information has been hidden from the public throughout the post-war years. After the war, all of them worked at the shipyards in Baku.
It is hard to overestimate the value of Baku's repair workshops for submarines, as the repair bases on the Baltic and Black Sea were in the hands of the Germans.
It is impossible to say today how many submarines were repaired in Baku during the war, for when the Red Banner Caspian Flotilla was relocated from Baku to Astrakhan all the archives were taken with it. This is understandable, but it is difficult to understand why nothing of this archive has been published in spite of the fact that 60 years have passed!
Azerbaijani scientists made a considerable contribution to the victory. Soviet and German scientists and designers were constantly competing to find top altitudes, speeds and maneuverability for combat aircraft. The quality of aviation fuel played an important part in this. Azerbaijani scientist Y.G. Mamedaliyev was awarded a State Prize in 1945 for his improvements to aviation fuel production.
Under his guidance, methods of synthesis of chlorinated derivatives of methane and ethane, which were of great significance for the defence industry, were developed and introduced. Mamedaliyev discovered the method of making high-octane components for aviation fuel on the basis of oil gases. This was a scientific revolution.
Special attention was paid to the problem of motor fuel, to increasing its quality and high-octane component (Professor Y.G. Mamedaliyev, Professor Sh. Aliyev, Doctor M. Nagiyev, Doctor V. Gutyrya, Markin and Gorelik). Considerable results that fully satisfied the demands of the aviation industry were achieved here.
They considerably strengthened the position of the Soviet army in the "engines war". Daniel Yergin writes about the importance of this research at that time for success in air battles, "Perhaps, the most intricate problem from the technical point of view for all the time that the Allied fuel supply system functioned was the production of aviation fuel with an octane number 100. The fuel produced in the first half of the 1930s in the laboratories of the Shell company in the Netherlands and USA allowed an improvement in the performance capability of aircraft: higher speed, higher capacity, reduction of takeoff time, increase of flying range and maneuverability. But in the pre-war years, there was no serious market for this very expensive fuel.
"The war showed suddenly showed that there was a market, moreover, a very important one. The advantage of gasoline-100 was confirmed in the Battle for Britain in 1940 when Spitfires flying on it performed better than Messerschmitt-109s, which were filled with gasoline-87."
Here is another example showing the importance of the quality of different sorts of fuel.
Loye-petrol, which more than half the German tanks used, froze in the Russian winter, and the fuel captured from the Soviet troops was unfit for the Germans, because Soviet tanks worked on diesel. This miscalculation by the German scientists cost the German tank troops a great deal.
It is interesting that following the experience of Germany, Tukhachevskiy suggested producing petrol engines for Soviet tanks. Stalin did not do it, as petrol-fuelled tanks caught fire easily. Stalin turned out to be right about something else, too. However, he could not have expected that he would give over half of the USSR to the Germans and they would capture a considerable amount of diesel fuel intended for Soviet tanks, which was unfit for German tanks!
While in the secret laboratories of the USA, Britain, Germany and in other countries, scientists conducted research to improve the quality of aviation fuel in up-to-date laboratories, Mamedaliyev and his team had to make all their research equipment themselves; they were both chemists and engineers.
Azerbaijan scientists were up against German scientists, such as the brilliant Franz Fischer, one of the major German petrochemists. He was charged by Emperor Wilhelm in 1913 with providing Germany with liquid fuel as the country did not have its own oil.
Fischer and his colleague Tropsch learned to produce high-quality petroleum from black and brown coal in 1934. Hitler awarded him the Iron Cross. After the defeat of the Reich, it was a black mark against Fischer and he was dismissed from the Coal Research Institute that he had headed for 30 years.
Newspapers wrote in those years, "We can see in the list of people awarded the State Prize, next to the names of the creators of combat vehicles and engines, Ilyushin, Yakovlev, Lavochkin, Mikulin, the name of oilman Professor Y.G. Mamedaliyev. Yakovlev, Mikulin, Mamedaliyev - they all did the same thing, they helped to bring about the highest and farthest flights of all."
When the Scientific and Technical Council was established at the USSR Ministry of the Oil Industry in May 1946, Y.G. Mamedaliyev was appointed its chairman. This council coordinated all the work related to oil production and oil refining.
Finally, UNESCO declared 2005 the year of Yusif Mamedaliyev and Albert Einstein.
All the research of Azerbaijani scientists was used for the needs of the front.
Not deliberately but owing to a set of circumstances, Baku became the strategic and economic centre of the whole USSR south in the toughest years of the war, 1941-42, and Baku's capacities were used to resolve all the complicated problems of this region and beyond. After the Germans captured the North Caucasus, Crimea and Rostov, a key city in the south of Russia, Baku became the main unit in the general strategic planning of the war. As the Germans seized large cities in the European part of the USSR, Moscow and Baku became the most important cities of the USSR.
The living legend of the heroism of the Soviet people in the war years is related to Baku. The song about it was sung at all fronts. Does anyone who is interested in the heroes of World War II not remember the song Katyusha?
The writer Sergey Sergeyevich Smirnov wrote in his book Stories about Unknown Heroes (Moscow, 1964) that the military biography of one heroic woman would suffice for 10 biographies of soldiers of the Great Patriotic War.
But nobody knew in the USSR that the heroic story of Yekaterina Illarionovna Mikhaylova Katyusha from the marines, was closely associated with hospitable Baku, and in all her late recollections, she always remembered Baku with warmth. (Her married name was Demina, the very same Demina whom Russian President Putin seated next to him during the Moscow Victory celebrations at the Alabino training ground, and talked to her all the time, in spite of the presence of numerous honoured guests.) Vladimir Zaborskiy writes that books and newspaper articles have been written about Katyusha, a documentary Katyusha was shot in 1964 (screenplay by S. Smirnov, director V. Lisakovich). She herself remembers, "Near Gzhatsk I was wounded in the leg, a knee-cap injury. Hospitals... I was sent to the Urals. My was treated for a long time; it bent poorly at the knee.
"In December 1941, I was sent to the warm regions, to the rehabilitation hospital in Baku... Once I went into the city and saw the sign Military Enlistment Office. Some sailors were going in and out. You see, I am from Leningrad, and I liked sailors very much, they were so united, bold, brave. So I went to the military commissar, I had all the documents with me. 'I want', I said, 'to fight with the sailors.' He immediately enlisted me as a nurse on the Red Moskva ambulance ship. My naval service began. We transported the wounded from Stalingrad to Baku and Krasnovodsk. Under bombs and fire. We both burned and sank. After Paulus's group was surrounded and wiped out, our damaged ship was sent for repairs to Baku."
Yekaterina Mikhaylova was awarded two Combat Red Banner orders, two Patriotic War orders and the medals For Courage, For the Defence of the Caucasus, For the Liberation of Odessa, For the Taking of Belgrade, For the Taking of Budapest, For the Taking of Vienna and, For the Victory over Germany. Wounded three times, she was awarded the rank of Hero of the Soviet Union in 1990 for the 45th anniversary of the Victory and was presented with the Order of Lenin and Hero's Gold Star. As Zaborskiy writes, this is the kind of woman the poet Nekrasov described in his poems, "they can stop a galloping horse, they can enter a burning hut".
Top workers in culture and the arts used to come to hospitable Baku. In the most worrying days of 1942, the great Grigory Aleksandrov, Lyubov Orlova (Stalin used to say about her, "We have only one Orlova") and Kara Karayev made the feature film One Family which tells the story of hospitable Baku and its citizens of different nationalities, always willing to give their last. Orlova said afterwards, "we worked to exhaustion but all felt the warmth of this city". However, after the film was finished, it was not allowed to be shown. It never appeared on-screen. Many years later, a document was found in the archives in accordance with which this film was not released. "The Great Patriotic War is insufficiently reflected in it." You could not invent greater foolishness and ignorance, even at that time! But this was not a chance incident, as became clear later.
In those years, Grigoriy Aleksandrov, the production director of such great films as Merry Guys, Volga-Volga, Circus and others, was the director and artistic leader of the Baku film studio.
In hospitable Baku, the Baku film studio shot the films Moscow Sky, starring Petr Aleynikov, Six o'Clock in the Evening after War, with the unforgettable Marina Ladynina, Т-9 Submarine with the deep Oleg Zhakov and others. Azerbaijani film workers of that time were also involved in the making of these films. The films were of an enormous propaganda value, as this was the most powerful means of propaganda at that time. During the war Lenin's famous words about the cinema came true completely.
From Baku, Lyubov Orlova used to go to Iran where she performed for the Red Army soldiers.
In 1943, Klavdiya Shulzhenko with her jazz band toured and rested in Baku. After her tour in the brief minutes of night-time relaxation, her song Blue Kerchief could be heard in many apartments.
AFTER THE WAR, USSR CITIES WERE ASSESSED IN TERMS OF THEIR CONTRIBUTION TO THE COMMON VICTORY. Many cities of the USSR received high governmental awards. Novels were written, verses were composed, songs were sung about those cities. The impression was created that the Victory was won first of all owing to these cities. This was the Soviet period but the position has not changed more recently either.
Baku was not among these cities; Baku was not honoured with any high awards for its feat of labour and arms. A few years after the war, thanks to the good graces of known comrades, who were not friends of Baku, the expression appeared at the Victory Day celebrations, "the contribution of the Soviet Trans-Caucasus to the common war chest". There is no need to explain what this approach meant! Baku's achievements were forgotten in the USSR, Russia and abroad.
As a natural continuation of what has been set down, we should give an assessment of Baku's contribution to the common Victory over fascism.
The USSR called the organizational role of the Communist Party and the heroism of the Soviet people the main factor in the Victory in World War II; the new Russia, not forgetting Stalin's tragic blunders, talks about the courage of the USSR peoples and of the Russian people above all, which is surely the truth but not the whole truth. Objectivity never clouds the real achievements of anyone of any nationality, commander or soldier.
The significance of Baku in World War II was repeatedly stressed by all the leaders of the main warring countries on both sides, Stalin, Roosevelt, Churchill, De Gaulle, Eden, Hitler, Ribbentrop, Goebbels, Mussolini and many others of lower rank. The main hero of the war, Marshal Georgiy Zhukov, said afterwards, "The oil workers of Baku gave the front and the country as much fuel as was needed for the defence of our Motherland, for the victory over the enemy."
Visiting Baku, his daughter said in an interview for local newspapers that her father had always highly appreciated in conversation at home the contribution of Baku oil to the Victory. Of all people, Zhukuv understood well the importance of oil in war but he did not write it clearly in his memoirs.
An article by Marshal F.I. Tolbukhin, All Honour to the Azerbaijani People!, dated 28 April, 1945, includes the lines. "…This war is a war of engines, of equipment and technology applied in huge quantities unknown in military history. Oil and petroleum products are of exceptional importance to ensure the uninterrupted operation of engines. Azerbaijan hides in its depths inexhaustible supplies of oil and, therefore alongside the industrial Urals, occupies the decisive place in ensuring the victory of the Red Army over the troops of fascist Germany. Many Red Army victories are due to the Azerbaijani people, to the heroic oil workers of Baku who gave fine fuel to the advancing units in due time. In cruel fighting with the enemy near Stalingrad, on the Don and in the Donbass, on the Dnepr and near the Dnestr, at Belgrade, Budapest and Vienna, soldiers of our front, pilots, drivers of tanks, self-propelled guns and motorcars remembered the oil workers of Azerbaijan with gratitude, glorifying their heroic labour."
The commander of the 2nd Ukrainian front, Marshal of the Soviet Union R. Malinovskiy wrote to the workers of Baku, "On behalf of the soldiers, officers and generals of the 2nd Ukrainian front I congratulate the heroic people of Azerbaijan on the holiday of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Soviet power... The soldiers of the 2nd Ukrainian front know well and appreciate the revolutionary services of the Baku oil workers and all the working people of Azerbaijan. The glory of Baku, the city of oil, one of the centers of the revolutionary movement in the Trans-Caucasus, is multiplied by the heroic labour exploits of the Azerbaijani people in the days of the Great Patriotic War of the Soviet Union.
"Your labour merit is increased by the immortal exploits of the Red Army soldiers who have driven the fascist cannibals out of our holy land. The war has been transferred to the territory of fascist Germany. The Soviet people and Red Army smashed Hitler's army in a battle unprecedented in history. The hour of our full victory is near but the enemy is resisting fiercely. We know that there are heavy battles ahead, that all forces will need to strain for the final victory. The soldiers of the Red Army will carry their historical march to the west, till the complete defeat of Hitler Germany. Help the front, our valorous Red Army, which is to fulfill a great and just mission, with might and main.
"Death to the German invaders! We will execute this sentence of our people!"
"Soviet Baku continuously provided the front and national economy of the USSR with petroleum products and set in motion hundreds thousands of engines in air and on land," Nikolay Voznesenskiy, one of the smartest Soviet economists, chairman of the USSR State Planning Committee, member of the Politburo of Communist Party Central Committee, later executed by Stalin, wrote in 1948 in his book Military Economy of the USSR.
Veteran writer Leonid Sobolev, well-known in the USSR, wrote, "Our tanks burst into in Prussia on Baku fuel, hero pilots seized the skies on Baku petrol, hydroplanes of the Dnepr Flotilla landed troops across the River Spree to the suburbs of Berlin on Baku fuel. Our thanks to the Baku oil workers who met the expectations of heroes!"
Visiting Baku after war when he was in charge of horses, Marshal of the USSR Budenniy told journalists at the race-track, "Without your oil, we would not gallop far on horses!"
Apparently, he remembered well the nonsense of his Civil War brother-in-arms, Voroshilov. K.Y. Voroshilov declared at the 13th party congress, "It is necessary above all, once and for all to do away with the destructive 'theories' about the replacement of the horse by machines, that horses will die off." He later expressed the opinion that a tank corps was a vain idea and should be abandoned.
These fine words are reminiscent of toasts by guests who are well "fed" with oil, for no real business followed them. A thorough, comprehensive analysis of World War II with regard to the oil component and the contribution of Baku has still to be conducted and was not seen to be necessary.
In their memoirs, Soviet military leaders describe mainly the battles they participated in and if they ever write about errors, they do not remember their own! Actually, they avoid the subject of fuels, armaments and ammunition. They mention it only in cases when THEY THEMSELVES but not the Germans lacked this and generally avoid the subject when possible.
In his two-volume memoirs Memorable, where he reviews his many years in foreign affairs, A. Gromyko, then the USSR ambassador to the USA, gives an assessment of wartime events. It is commonly known that it was Washington and London that expressed grave concern about the fate of Baku and its oilfields. This is traced well in the correspondence of Roosevelt and Churchill with Stalin. However, in the memoirs of the high-ranking diplomat Gromyko, Stalin's faithful comrade-in-arms, who was in the thick of things, there is not a single word about Baku's contribution to the common Victory. He does mention the capital of Azerbaijan once, but in quite a different aspect, "In Europe, the war was still going on, although the fascist beast was resisting at his last gasp. We flew with stops on the route Casablanca - Tunis - Tripoli - Benghazi - Cairo - Khabania - Tehran - Baku (here, at the airfield, Azerbaijani comrades treated us to pressed caviar that I had not tasted for a long time; it was produced in our region (?! - Author) of the Caspian, and the export trade with the USA had certainly been stopped at that time." He remembered Baku because of his stomach, with not a word about Baku's key role at that time!
The memoirs of the USSR ambassador to the UK in the war years, Mayskiy, show that many discussions with high-ranking British officials repeatedly concerned oil. At the same time, in his memoirs Mayskiy does not talk clearly and unambiguously about the contribution of Baku to the common Victory; he prefers to reflect on the major oil regions in general!
You will not find any word about Baku in the Soviet classic epics devoted to World War II, by Erenburg, Sholokhov, Leonov, Chakovskiy and others.
In the post-war years, dozens of works and films were devoted to the establishment of production of aircraft, tanks and Katyushas, to the redeployment of industry across the Urals in the toughest war years, etc. Meanwhile, there are no works or films about the achievements of the Baku oil workers and refiners or about Baku's contribution to the victory.
The chief "assessor" Stalin did "assess" the contribution of Baku to the Victory, though peculiarly, in his own way. All the subsequent assessments have proceeded from his.
It is known that in the first difficult year of the war, betraying his principles, Stalin began to turn to Orthodoxy in his public appearances, remembering not heroes of the Civil War, but warlords of Russia from the remote past, addressing not "comrades" but "brothers and sisters" and so on. This change in Stalin's behaviour, which was temporary as became clear later, affected Azerbaijan, too.
Stalin, who had never especially appreciated Baku oil workers, began heaping high awards upon them in the first years of the war. He did not often remember Georgia and Armenia in those years; he restored the status quo after the war.
DECREE OF PRESIDIUM
OF THE USSR SUPREME SOVIET
6 February, 1942
For the exemplary mastering and production of a new type of ammunition and overfulfilment of the plan on defence orders, to award the Baku Lieutenant Schmidt Plant of the People's Commissariat of Oil the Order of Lenin.
Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Secretary of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Moscow, Kremlin, 6 February, 1942
Pravda, 7 February, 1942
DECREE OF PRESIDIUM
OF THE USSR SUPREME SOVIET
6 February, 1942
For the exemplary fulfillment of government objectives to increase the output of defence petroleum products, to award the Stalin Oil Refinery in Baku the Order of Lenin.
Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Secretary of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Moscow, Kremlin, 6 February, 1942
Pravda, 7 February, 1942
DECREE OF PRESIDIUM
OF THE USSR SUPREME SOVIET
6 February, 1942
For the exemplary fulfillment of the government objective on oil production, to award oilfield N 11 of the Baku Leninneft trust the Order of Lenin.
Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Secretary of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Moscow, Kremlin, 6 February, 1942
Pravda, 7 February, 1942
DECREE OF PRESIDIUM
OF THE USSR SUPREME SOVIET
6 February, 1942
For the exemplary fulfillment of the government objective on oil production, to award oilfield N 4 of the Baku Stalinneft oil producing trust the Order of Lenin.
Chairman of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Secretary of the Presidium of the USSR Supreme Soviet
Moscow, Kremlin, 6 February, 1942
Pravda, 7 February, 1942
The status of Hero of Socialist Labour in those years was granted to Kurban Abasov, Yusif Farzaliyev and Mamed Gambarov. They spent day and night in the oilfields, overfulfilling the plan several times.
By decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, in February 1942, over 500 workers of the oil industry of Azerbaijan were awarded orders and medals for their exemplary implementation of government objectives.
Pravda wrote in those years, "Oil Baku has never known such high upsurge in labour as in these tough days. Engineers, geologists, technicians, Stakhanovites did not leave their laboratories, derricks, compressors, workshops, plants for days in a row. An incessant stream of first-class petrol, naptha, oil... is flowing to the front. It is the result of persistent labour.".
An enormous number of orders, medals and diplomas went to Baku! No, I am not criticizing this as all the recipients deserved their awards.
This shower of awards at the beginning of the war did not mark a change in attitude towards working Baku; Stalin did not change his own attitude towards Baku at all, but he realized that without Baku oil and petroleum products the USSR would suffocate and he pretended to praise the labour of oil workers and refiners! Later, when the situation at the fronts stabilized, everything would fall back into place!
Stalin's attitude towards Baku at that time is recalled in a fragment from his speech on 7 November, 1941 in Red Square when he suddenly began his address with words that were unusual for him,
"Brothers and sisters!
"Soldiers of our army and fleet!
"I am speaking to you, my friends!"
and remembered Minin and Pozharskiy, though he had not remembered them before and did not remember them again.
It is well known that Stalin remembered Baku when he needed something from it. At different times, depending on the situation, he did this by force or by pretending to pay Baku attention.
Letter from J.V. Stalin about the course of the struggle for the southeast.
Tsaritsyn, 31 August, 1918
Dear Comrade Lenin!
The fight is going on for the south and the Caspian. To take this entire region (for it can be taken), we need a few light-class destroyers and two submarines (!? Author) (ask Artyom for details). I beg you to break all barriers and thereby facilitate the delivery of the required items. Baku, Turkestan, the North Caucasus will (certainly!) be ours if the demands are met immediately.
Our affairs at the front are fine. I do not doubt that they will be even better, the Cossacks are in the process of final decay.
I shake the hand of my dear Ilyich.
In 1941-42 these awards appeared to be an aborted operation! When the time came to sum up the contribution of Baku to the Victory, taking into account all the awards received, the usual result would have been to award Baku the rank of Hero City, BUT IT DID NOT HAPPEN! That was what Stalin planned - THE USUAL PROCESS WAS INTERRUPTED AT THE MAIN STAGE!
"When one is much obliged to another, he does not feel gratitude at all but the desire to take revenge," Friedrich Nietzsche said and this is the principle that Stalin adhered to in relation to Baku in the post-war era.
Already engaged in research, the former leaders of the republic, E. Alikhanov and М. Iskenderov, told me that Azerbaijani leader Mirjafar Bagirov had repeatedly tried to redress the injustice in relation to Baku but all his attempts had been unsuccessful. He had always received a clear response, "Baku was not a frontline city, and not a single German bomb fell on its territory." In accordance with this idiotic formulation, the rank of Hero City was to be given only in the cases mentioned in the popular wartime song:
Kiev was bombed,
We were told
That war had begun
It was hard to explain to those comrades, or probably they did not want to understand, that had bombs fallen on Baku, there would have been neither Hero Cities in the USSR, nor many of them on Earth! Certainly, this idiotic formulation was just a formality, the essence of the problem was different. The status of Hero was conferred on the large cities by the Master who was no fool to be the author of such a formality; it was done by his toadies who knew the strategy of the Master perfectly well. His main strategy was his desire to make Tbilisi the informal political and economic capital of the Trans-Caucasus and the presence of a Hero City in the region would not fit this model. This also suited the projects of the Armenian lobby in Moscow that was quite influential at that time. Stalin's approach to Baku was a continuation of his general Trans-Caucasus policy. Georgia's budget in the Stalin period and through inertia after him was always larger than the budget of Azerbaijan, in spite of the fact that Azerbaijan contributed much more than Georgia to the All-Union Fund, at world prices and even more so at the ridiculous Soviet prices. A Hero City Baku did not fit into Stalin's strategy in this respect either. Above all else, it allowed Tbilisi to be the actual political and economic centre of the Trans-Caucasus throughout the Soviet period, and when the Staff of Trans-Caucasus Military District was deployed in Tbilisi, immense funds allocated annually for military purposes in this region began to be managed from Tbilisi; in Georgia, the military built wonderful houses and in Azerbaijan miserable military communities. At the same time, petroleum products from Baku oil refineries went to the Trans-Caucasus Military District in marked and sealed wagons at ridiculous Soviet prices, as well as in the war years. By the way, as soon as the USSR safely collapsed, in spite of the Armenian aggression, in just a few months Baku became the economic centre of the South Caucasus, not due to anyone's will but due to the laws of the market.
There was another reason why they did not want to give Baku the status of Hero City. In the first year after the war, the party and government adopted a secret resolution, according to which Hero Cities were to be restored first of all and their plants and factories to be equipped with modern machinery. Equipping the Baku oilfields, ruined by the enormous workload, out-of-date oil refineries, machine-building plants and others would have required billions of roubles. This did not suit Stalin's plans, for he was already looking to the Second Baku, which can be seen in numerous documents.
Nor did Stalin want to distinguish the capital of a Muslim republic with two neighbouring Christian republics in the Trans-Caucasus.
As for a "frontline city", Baku became one many years later thanks to Gorbachev, when on 20 January, 1990, he introduced troops into Baku who killed civilians more brutally than the fascists. Gorbachev managed what the fascists did not! In terms of its real contribution to the common Victory over fascism, not in terms of Communist criteria, Baku was certainly among the first five regions or possibly even among the first three USSR cities. From 1941 to 1945, 75 million tonnes of oil were produced in Azerbaijan. At wartime prices, this oil was worth over 8 billion dollars and, taking into account refining, was worth 11 billion dollars. Taking into account the situation in Europe at that time, it was priceless! The first Hero City, according to the most important and sacred criterion, the heroism of the habitants of the city first of all, was undoubtedly Leningrad. Leningrad is a symbol of the courage and determination of the Soviet people in World War II!
More people died in the blockade of Leningrad than Americans in World War II. The death rate in besieged Leningrad in 1942 was 12 times higher than in 1940.
Professor Olga Freidenberg, who survived the blockade, wrote at the time in her diary, "In severe frost, people stand hoping for a delivery of terrible bread, raw and wet, 10 hours in the biting frost. The electricity was turned off long ago, streetcars do not move, apartments, drugstores, establishments, all are covered in darkness. People come into shops, touch the last person in the queue in complete darkness or follow the voices. Shop assistants work in the light of stinking pitch lamps. Under the shelter of darkness, people dying of hunger are robbed. There are no matches in the city; no water pipes and public toilets have not functioned for a long time. No fuel and no power. Daily, continuous bombing, bombing for days in a row with small interruptions. People are going mad under the round-the-clock bombing."
Thousands of starving people died on the streets every day.
"People would pop round for half an hour, sit down and die. They would go into a shop and die. They would go out on an errand and die on the way. Thousands of people, sitting on the ground, could not get up and froze. Their ration cards were immediately stolen by the militia." Dreadful lines!
On 12 October Hitler ordered, "Do not accept the surrender of Moscow, surround the Soviet capital and expose it to devastating artillery bombardment and air raids." They did not manage to do it in relation to Moscow, but Hitler fully realized his plans in relation to Leningrad, adding the terrible blockade, but did not wait for the surrender!
"All of us, Leningraders, are one family, baptized by the monstrous blockade," a woman survivor of the blockade said.
By its heroic defence, Leningrad gave considerable assistance to the whole of thte USSR, including Baku. Had Leningrad fallen, the forces released, as it was suggested by German generals, would have been directed to the Southern Front.
Bakuvians did not ignore the optimistic tragedy of Leningrad. Baku oil was supplied to besieged Leningrad. In 1942, a 28 km long petrol pipeline was conducted on the bottom of Lake Ladoga with a throughput capacity of 400 tonnes per day. Leningrad and the Leningrad front were supplied with this fuel for two and a half years.
Workers in the oilfields, factories and establishments of Baku wrote in a letter to the heroic defenders of Leningrad in August 1941, "... In these days, when the instant danger of invasion by the bloody Hitler bands hangs over the city of Lenin, we increase our efforts tenfold... Aircraft, Red Army tanks, Baltic ships guarding the approaches to Leningrad will never suffer a shortage of high-quality fuel and first-class oils. We pledge you herein our firm Bolshevik word... A mighty stream of oil will expand day by day until the complete defeat of the beastly fascists."
In their letter of reply, Leningrad workers wrote in September 1941, "...Our dear friends from Baku, your letter supports and inspires us... Our entire mighty boundless country rises together with us. It gives us new force, confidence, resolution... Comrade Bakuvians, we have a common slogan, a common purpose, a common aspiration - to win... We will not take a single step back! We will walk only ahead, only towards victory!"
Both sides met obligations with honour!
French write Andre Wurmser gave an intellectual assessment of the heroism of the Leningraders, "A city worthy of the name of Lenin... Culture, art, beauty... Leningrad protected not only them, covering them with sacks of sand... Masterpieces of French painting - Renoir, Matisse, Monet, Picasso... You, children of Leningrad, have much more right to possess these masterpieces than all collectors and art critics taken together..."
The criteria by which other cities received the status of Hero City remained secret (for it is impossible to consider Baku's brush-off seriously). For example, without denigrating Ukraine's contribution to the victory, I would like to know why Kiev received the rank of Hero City. At the beginning of the war, the Germans bombed and then seized Kiev without particular problem; Bagramyan, letting over 200,000 people be killed near Kiev, reported to Moscow that the advancing Germans had been stopped, thereby condemning Kiev. When the Soviet troops took the victorious offensive at all fronts, they liberated Kiev. A report of our British Ally, dated 9 November 1943, said, "The Red Army liberated Kiev with a swift blow." The soldiers of the Red Amry showed heroism, as well as at all fronts. Moscow received its title of Hero because it was not abandoned by the heroic Stalin and because it was protected against the fascists by troops gathered from the entire country, including Siberia.
As for the frontline city of Rostov, it should be twice a Hero City, according to the aforementioned "logic", as it was passed from hand to hand, surrendered and then heroically liberated several times.
The Hero City of Brest was guarded by a garrison, in which soldiers and officers served from different parts of the country, including Baku. All of them showed wonders of heroism, from soldiers to officers, even fascists talked about it. But what has Brest to do with it? The heroism of every defender of Brest should have been honoured and not mass heroism in one name. During the battle for Stalingrad, the command and the city authorities made the humane decision to evacuate the city's population. Stalin did not allow it. The question immediately arises, if the evacuation had succeeded, would Stalingrad, which more than deserved its title of Hero, have been the city of deserters?
SUMMARIZING ALL THE ABOVE, IT SHOULD BE SAID POINT THAT IT IS DIFFICULT TO FIND IN THE USSR IN WORLD WAR II A SECOND CITY LIKE BAKU THAT PROVIDED 80% OF FUEL FOR ALL FRONTS, CONTRIBUTED TO VIRTUALLY ALL THE SPHERES OF INDUSTRIAL MANUFACTURING, FROM THE PRODUCTION AND REPAIR OF KATYUSHAS, MIGS AND SUBMARINES TO THE TRANSPORT OF STRATEGIC CARGOES! AT THE SAME TIME, IT SHARED THE WARMTH OF ITS SOUL; IT GAVE ITS LAST CRUMBS IN HOSPITALITY. AND CERTAINLY, THE BEST SONS OF AZERBAIJAN, AS WELL AS OF THE ENTIRE COUNTRY, ENTERED THE RANKS OF DEFENDERS OF THE MOTHERLAND!
WHAT STALIN DID IN 1941-42, WHEN HE SHOWERED AZERBAIJAN WITH GOVERNMENT AWARDS IN THE TOUGHEST SITUATION FOR THE COUNTRY, WAS NOT TAKEN TO ITS LOGICAL CONCLUSION AFTER THE WAR; STALIN DELIBERATELY DID NOT AWARD BAKU THE STATUS OF HERO OF THE USSR, THEREBY SCORING OUT ALL ITS ACHIEVEMENTS IN WORLD WAR II!
WESTERN POLITICIANS EITHER DO NOT UNDERSTAND OR DO NOT KNOW THE SIGNIFICANCE OF BAKU FOR THE COMMON VICTORY. ANYWAY, THEY ARE STILL NOT SAYING ANYTHING ABOUT BAKU'S CONTRIBUTION.
The place where ...
The corpses of Mussolini ...
The convicted military ...
The hour of retribution...
Photographs of the executed ...
The Big Three ...
Stalin, Roosevelt ...
German prisoners ...
British and American ...
Representatives of the Supreme ...
Marshal Zhukov ...
The representative of Japan...
The Victory Parade ...
The Victory Parade ...
The Victory Parade ...