Azerbaijan's Oil Industry under the Soviets

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In 1917 the Russian Revolution brought oil production to a standstill, a situation exacerbated when the Communist Party nationalized the oil industry in 1920. Following this, most Western companies sold their holdings in the region and pulled out of their financial support.

The Soviets raised production levels up to pre-Revolution output by 1923, however extraction efforts under the Soviet Union focussed more on short term oil recovery than long term, fields were over-produced to meet production quotas, reservoirs were managed improperly, too many wells drilled and too much water injected into the ground. This eventually led to major declines in production during the 1970s and 1980s.[1]

Second World War

Azerbaijan's oil industry also played a key role in the development of the Second World War in the Soviet Union, as Adolf Hitler had set his mind on capturing Baku's oil fields, even setting the date of 25 September 1942 for the attack. Baku, as the cradle of the Soviet oil industry, was also the main source for Soviet fuel supply. In 1940 72% of all the oil extracted across the USSR came from Baku. In 1942 the commitment of more than 500 employees of the oil industry were honoured with orders and medals of the USSR. And a week after fighting broke out, the oil workers took the initiative to extend their work to 12-hour shifts with no days off or holidays until the end of the war.

As many engineers and oil workers left Baku to fight on the front lines during the war, their positions were frequently filled by women, meaning that by 1942 more than 25,000 women were working long shifts in the oil industry, accounting for 33% of all participation. At refineries and chemical plants, the percentage of women was yet higher at 38%, and by 1944 female participation had grown to 60%.[1]

The Eve of Independence

In 1991, the year Azerbaijan regained independence, the 23.5 million tons of oil extracted in Azerbaijan accounted for 71.4% of the USSR's total output for that year.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 The Caspian Oil ReservesStanford University, winter 1993.
  2. World War II and AzerbaijanAzerbaijan International, summer 1995.