Authors: Viktor Georgievich Martynov, Nikita Nikolaevich Golunov
Political leaders of the participating countries should honor the memory of those who died in this war, which became a major ordeal for humanity in the 20th century. Instead, more and more voices are frequently raised abroad to belittle the decisive contribution of the Soviet Union to victory and even to rewrite the history.
Following the Anschluss of Austria with Germany in March 1938, the leaders of Great Britain and France made an attempt to “appease” the imperial ambitions of Germany that experienced national humiliation after signing the Treaty of Versailles at the end of World War I (although European countries are very reluctant to mention it, in accordance with the plan for reparations annexed to this treaty, Germany would have made the last payments in 1988). British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier, on the one part, and German Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler and Italian Prime Minister Benito Mussolini, on the other part, signed:
· the Munich Agreement (30 September 1938, Munich), signatories: Great Britain, France, Germany and Italy;
· the Anglo-German Declaration (30 September 1938, Munich);
· the Franco-German Declaration (6 December 1938, Paris).
In addition, a number of other countries signed non-aggression pacts or cooperation agreements with Germany: Poland (26 January 1934, Pilsudski–Hitler Pact), Lithuania (22 March 1939, Urbsys–Ribbentrop Pact), Romania (23 March 1939, an unprofitable agreement for Romania, which actually subordinated its economy to the German army), Denmark (31 May 1939), Estonia (7 June 1939, Selter–Ribbentrop Pact) and Latvia (7 June 1939, Muntes–Ribbentrop Pact). It should be noted that all these pacts were signed by the countries in Berlin, where the invited diplomats arrived in a predetermined role to “accept” all the terms and conditions.
Only a year after the Munich Agreement, and after signing similar “peace” treaties by eight other European countries, the relevant document – known as the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, the non-aggression pact between Germany and the Soviet Union, – was signed in Moscow on 23 August 1939. The opinion of those “experts” who are trying to convince us that these were the secret protocols of the Pact which served as a “trigger for the war” should be considered hypocritical.
Firstly, all Western countries that signed such pacts pursued their own goals – at least, to “postpone” the war, and at most, to redirect eventually the military aggression of Germany against the Soviet Union. As judged by the extraordinarily rapid occupation of the territories of the European countries by Germany, and in view of the fact that the military budget of Germany between 1933 and 1939 exceeded similar budgets of the United States, Great Britain and France combined, none of the country leaders doubted the imminent outbreak of war .
Secondly, moving borders 200-300 km west of Kiev, Leningrad and Moscow (Figure 1) was of paramount importance for the Soviet Union, which became clear from the very beginning of the war, and made it possible to mobilize resources and stop the German army on the approaches to Moscow – 15-20 km away. If this had not been done, the Soviet government could not have been strong enough to mobilize military resources and evacuate the industry to the Urals and the eastern regions of the country . Among all Western leaders, this understanding was openly defined by British Prime Minister Winston Churchill: “... It should be said in favor of the Soviets that it was vital for the Soviet Union to move the initial positions of the German armies as far west as possible... “
Figure 1. Moving borders of the Soviet Union according to the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact 
It is a well-known fact that the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact contained a secret protocol that provided for the partition of Poland; however, it should be recalled that in 1920 Poland itself, under the guise of the civil war in Russia, occupied the territories of western Belarus and Ukraine. These events led to the Soviet-Polish War (named unofficially the “Polish Front"), which ended in the Treaty of Riga 1921, disadvantageous for our country. A less known fact is that an economic agreement was signed for a period of 10 years in addition to the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact. This agreement had its own “oil footprint”.
Great Britain, France and the United States refused to supply the latest equipment and machinery to the Soviet Union, while Germany agreed. Before the war it had exported to our country about 2.5 thousand high-precision metal-cutting and metal-working machines that we did not have . Without these machines, it was virtually impossible to organize technological processes for metal working in order to manufacture aircraft parts, tanks and to produce shells. In addition to purchasing machinery, our designers, engineers and specialists were sent to Germany for “accelerated professional development”, as a result of which 336 equipment items were listed on 27 pages for the acquisition. This allowed our country to make a technological breakthrough in the industry development, integrate innovative (for that time) equipment and provide military plants with the essential machinery .
For its part, the USSR supplied Germany with raw materials – ores, metals, grain, timber and furs. In addition, the Soviet Union "paid off" with oil and oil products, which led to the situation that at the start of the war our country was among top three (after the United States and Romania) by volume of hydrocarbons supply to Germany.
Unfortunately, all these signed agreements and pacts eventually did not result in the desired peace, but, on the contrary, went to the bloodiest war in human history. But this, as they say, is a very different story that many representatives of the European countries would like to forget or rewrite... Another less known story is the contribution of the USSR oil and gas industry to the victory in the Great Patriotic War, including the issues of fuel supplies to the Red Army. Let us try to tell about some, the most significant events.
Before the War
In 1919, Henry Berenger, Commissioner General for Gasoline and Combustibles of France, wrote in his book “La politique du pétrole” (Petroleum Policy): “He who owns the oil will own the world, for he will rule the sea by means of the heavy oils, the air by means of the ultra refined oils, and the land by means of petrol and illuminating oils. And in addition to these he will rule his fellow men in an economic sense, by reason of the fantastic wealth he will derive from oil – the wonderful substance which is more sought after and more precious today than gold itself.“ The words of Joseph Stalin, who said in 1927, are also known: “You cannot make a war without oil, and the one who has the advantage in oil business has a chance to win the future war.” These quotes perfectly explain the role of oil and oil products for the countries participating in the Second World War.
Thus, at the beginning of 1941, Germany produced 1.3 million tons of oil, while about 5.7 million tons were provided by export supplies from the USA – 2.0 million tons, Romania – 1.5 million tons, the Soviet Union (for reasons outlined above) – 0.7 million tons and a number of other countries. In addition, Germany produced Fischer–Tropsch synthetic fuel – when for the production of 1 ton of synthetic fuel, 4 tons of hard coal or 8-10 tons of brown coal were needed (at high pressure of 350-700 atmospheres) [3-5]. In total, from 1940 to 1945, 20 million tons of such fuel were received for military needs from eight coal hydrogenation plants in Germany .
Meanwhile, the Soviet Union had no fluid catalytic cracking units for the production of high-octane gasoline, which caused a catastrophic situation with the fuel supply to the army, particularly in aviation. The octane number of our aviation gasoline was 70-74 (up to 78 with additives), while German Messerschmitt and Junkers had 87. The available aviation gasoline was not enough even for training young lieutenants, which resulted in low total flight time – they often had no more than 12 hours at the time of graduation from flight schools. Compared to 78, the use of aviation gasoline with octane rating of 100 (like American Airacobra) allows aircrafts to achieve better technical characteristics: to reduce the takeoff roll by 20%, to strengthen the bomb-carrying capacity by 30% and to increase the climb rate by 40%.
The overall fuel shortage in the Red Army near the western borders of the Soviet Union before the war amounted to 137 thousand tons, while the total volume of all oil products sent for military needs a year earlier was 1.1 million tons [5-6]. At the same time, by some accounts [6-7], in the first months of the war the Wehrmacht forces, which had 7-8 million tons of fuel reserves, used exactly the same amount of fuel (about 1 million tons) monthly. The need for such amount of fuel is explained by a significant quantity of equipment in Germany and its allies – about 6,700 tanks and self-propelled units, more than 13,600 combat aircrafts, over 450 warships of all categories . Under these unequal conditions of providing forces with fuel, our Army did not have sufficient capacity to confront on equal footing the German forces that crossed the borders of the Soviet Union on 22 June 1941 being massively escorted by tanks and Luftwaffe aircrafts.
The First Months of the War
At the very beginning of the war, Germany deployed 207 military divisions against the Soviet Union, and its allies – Romania, Finland, Italy and Hungary – another 50 divisions. In comparison, for the entire period of the First World War, Russia was opposed by 127 divisions of Germany, Austria-Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey combined together, i.e. twice less . The distinction of the army formations in 1941 was the availability of infantry and heavy mechanized units in their structure, which required significant amounts of fuel, on the one hand, but provided a powerful quick strike, on the other hand. In the first weeks of the war, the Wehrmacht’s attack on the Soviet Union was so swift and powerful that by 10 July 1941 41% of artillery warehouses, 42% of food supplies, 53% of fuel were lost. By the end of July, the share of the lost fuel storage units reached 60%, which posed a significant threat to the provision of military equipment with fuel .
From the first months of the war, the State Defense Committee launched activities aimed to evacuate industrial plants from the western regions of the Soviet Union to the Urals and beyond, and the scale of this work is astonishing. These were the conditions, when six months after the outbreak of the war, about 1/3 of the USSR population was under the threat of occupation, more than 10 million people were transported and over 1.5 thousand large plants were moved to the east, of which about 30% were placed in the Urals, and the rest in Western Siberia, Kazakhstan and Central Asia . The military-industrial complex enterprises, of which 83% were evacuated, of course, were of crucial importance. Until August 1942, some equipment from the Absheron Peninsula oil fields was also dismantled, loaded into 600 railway cars and transported beyond the Urals .
Such an active work on the evacuation of the industry, which was called the “second industrialization” (in comparison: during ten years of the "first industrialization" from 1930 to 1940, about 9 thousand plants were built, and during four years of the war, 11 thousand plants were built), as well as the transfer of forces from east to west, led to a shortage of railway cars and total workload of routes. From summer to December 1941, only for the transfer of military units, more than 2.4 thousand railway cars were needed, which led to the situation that by the end of 1941, 573 thousand tons of oil and 1,613 thousand tons of oil products were not transferred from Baku. And this fuel, the delivery time of which could be up to 45 days, was needed at the front [6, 10]. On 30 September 1941, the newspaper Pravda articulated the role of oil very clear: “The current war is the war of engines – unimaginable without oil, without gasoline, without oils. Fuel oil enables to power aircrafts. Oil is the bread of the current war of mechanized armies” .
Such an accumulation of oil on the Absheron Peninsula was also explained by the labor shortage –simultaneously with the compulsory mobilization of the Soviet citizens, volunteers left for the front. In the first six months of the war, almost 680,000 people went to the front from Azerbaijan, with its total population of 3.4 million. The People's Commissariat of the Oil Industry lost about 20% of the total personnel, including 45% of drillers and 60% of assistant drillers. If we consider the first year and a half of the war, an important factor in the "loss" of personnel was also the transfer of qualified specialists from the Absheron Peninsula to the Urals and the eastern regions of the country – about 3,600 people were transferred to these production fields. To compensate for human losses, women, adolescents and children came to the fields and pipelines – a total of up to 260 thousand people [10-11], who worked for 12-14 hours without days off and holidays with mandatory overtime in accordance with the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR of 26 June 1941 “On working hours...”. If at the beginning of 1941 women accounted for one third of all workers and employees, by the middle of 1943 the numbers totaled more than 50%. The same situation was observed in those regions where factories and industries were evacuated: in the Bashkir Autonomous SSR about 47% of all workers were women . These factors could not but lead to a decrease in oil production in the Azerbaijan SSR and in the Soviet Union as a whole. Table 1 demonstrates data on oil production in 1940-1945.
Table 1. Oil production data in Azerbaijan and the Soviet Union as a whole
During the war years, the Soviet oil workers of Sakhalin produced more than 3 million tons of oil, and the increase in this production occurred exactly in wartime: in 1929 – 75 thousand tons, in 1940 – 505 thousand tons, in 1945 – 752 thousand tons .
In the fall of 1941, the construction of the Okha – Tsimmermanovka (Sofiysk) oil pipeline was started to transfer oil from the north of Sakhalin to the Komsomolsk-on-Amur oil refinery plant. The pipeline with a diameter of 325 mm and a length of 374 km (196 km along the Sakhalin Island, 9 km through the Tatar Strait, 169 km along the rest of the mainland) was completed on 11 June 1942 and ensured transfer of about 1.3 million tons of oil until the end of 1945. 10 thousand people were involved in the construction, including exiles and prisoners. Digging trenches, cutting ice and laying pipes from ice by free immersion were carried out manually in harsh climatic conditions. In 1946, this pipeline was extended to Komsomolsk-on-Amur, and its length increased to 655 km [5, 12].
The construction of the pipeline was dictated by the need to process oil in order to obtain primarily aviation gasoline, which was essential to provide fuel for the Alaska–Siberia air route (from Fairbanks to Krasnoyarsk). Via this route, aircrafts were ferried from the USA to the Soviet Union within the framework of the Lend-Lease program, including Airacobra aircrafts, which were significantly superior in their characteristics to the German Messerschmitt and Junkers, and to our Il aircrafts. During the war years, slightly less than 8 thousand aircrafts, including about 5 thousand Airacobras, were delivered along this route, the total length of which from the aircraft factories in the USA to the European part of the Soviet Union was about 14 thousand km [3, 4].
The almost unknown fact is the Soviet-Japanese concession in the north of Sakhalin for joint oil production, which continued from 1929 to early 1944. During this time, Japan produced 2 million tons of oil, which probably did not satisfy its needs, but prevented from entering the war on the side of Germany, whose ally it was.
After signing the Soviet-Japanese Neutrality Pact on 13 April 1941, the USSR managed to avoid a two-front war, but at the same time, the Japanese oil production on the island decreased consistently: 200 thousand tons in 1931, 118 thousand tons in 1938, 44 thousand tons in 1940, 5 thousand tons in 1941, and 17 thousand tons in 1942.
Even after the Japanese attack on the American military base at Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941, under the conditions of the Neutrality Pact, almost half of the total volume of American Lend-Lease cargoes passed in close proximity to Japan. For these purposes, 53 commercial crafts and 6 tankers owned by the USA were registered in the Soviet Union, which successfully carried cargo until the very end of the war. The Japanese government “turned a blind eye” to these supply routes, since it did not want the premature intervention of the Soviet Union in the military operations in the Asia and Pacific , and in addition, it needed Sakhalin oil. After the Tehran Conference in 1943, the Soviet Union pledged to pay Japan almost 1 million US dollars for the termination of the concession and to supply 50 thousand tons of oil annually for 5 years. This pledge was not carried out on our part.
“Artery of Life” in Besieged Leningrad
From the beginning of September 1941, Leningrad – the second capital of the Soviet Union, which had enormous ideological, cultural, historical and industrial significance – was under siege. The Operation Barbarossa envisioned the complete destruction of the city. At that moment, the Soviet army had to accomplish simultaneously two very important goals – not to allow the destruction of Leningrad and at the same time not to let the German forces into Moscow. Since in the event of the capture of Moscow, the outcome of the war would have been practically determined, Leningrad had to go through hard time. On the eve of the cold winter, the city of 3.2 million people was in a blockade – the consumption of electricity, which was needed for the operation of factories, was limited (one should not forget also about blackouts during German air raids and bombings), the heating and water supply was turned off, the sewage system did not work; people received bread according to ration cards.
After the victory in the Battle of Moscow and at the cost of superhuman effort to defend Leningrad, in spring 1942 the issue of providing the city with fuel came up. To solve this problem, parallel to the “Road of Life”, it was proposed to lay a pipeline on the bottom of Lake Ladoga called "Special Construction Facility No. 6 of the USSR People's Commissariat for Construction" (OS-6). Aleksey Nikolayevich Kosygin, Commissioner for the Evacuation of the USSR State Defense Committee, curator of the “Road of Life” and the future Soviet Prime Minister (1964 – 1980) was appointed responsible for the implementation of the project.
This was the first pipeline in the Soviet Union through which oil products were pumped by the method of direct contact that was scientifically grounded by Vsevolod Sergeevich Yablonsky, Professor of Moscow Oil Institute. The chief engineer of the project for laying a pipeline on the bottom of Lake Ladoga was David Yakovlevich Shinberg, who graduated from the Field and Mechanical Faculty of Moscow Oil Institute in 1931 with a degree in Oil Transport and Storage, Chief Engineer of the Nefteprovodproekt Institute (later renamed as Giprotruboprovod). Nina Vasilievna Sokolova, Chief Engineer of the 27th detachment of the Special Underwater Expedition, by the end of the war Engineer Colonel of the USSR Navy, was in charge of welding works, including the underwater part.
First, the fuel was delivered by railway to a storage unit made of railway tanks and hidden on the shore of the lake, and after that it was pumped into underground tanks. Later under pressure of 12-15 atmospheres created by 2 pumps, oil products were transported through the pipeline with a total length of 35 km (water section – 27 km), after reaching the shore, they were sent to a receiving storage, which included small tanks (with capacity of 800 cubic meters) and a loading rack that filled simultaneously 10 railway tanks or 20 cars (Figure 2).
The pipeline itself consisted of seamless steel pipes with an inner diameter of 4 inches (101 mm) and a wall thickness of 7-8 mm, a length of 5-7 meters, designed for high pressure fluid pumping. The pipeline provided almost 350-400 tons of fuel per day, over the entire period of its operation, 50 thousand tons of oil products were transported.
The onshore section of the pipeline was constructed on the shore. Along the line of the future route, pipes were unloaded from vehicles and welded in sections of 40-50 meters long. Welding was carried out using mobile welding units powered by a vehicle engine with the help of the so-called “rotary" method, i.e. welder assistants turned the pipes during the welding process. Before laying in a trench below the depth of soil freezing, pipes and welded joints were insulated with bitumen. After that, the pipes were laid in a trench and hydraulic testing was conducted with water under pressure of 25 atmospheres.
Figure 2. Diagram of the pipeline route along the bottom of Lake Ladoga: 1 – loading rack, 2 – fuel storage, 3 – fuel receiving station, 4 – pump station, 5 – platform for pipe strings, 6 – underwater part of the pipeline, 7 – pump station for supplying fuel to the pipeline, 8 – receiving fuel storage, 9 – constructed section of the railway, 10 – front lines in spring 1942 
The underwater part of the pipeline was also built initially on the shore: the pipes were welded in sections of 200 meters long and stacked on a wooden rack. During hydraulic testing, the pipes were put under pressure of 35 atmospheres with kerosene. Since the weight of pipes was too large (1 meter of a pipe weighed 18 kg) and it was impossible to “drag” them along the bottom, the pipe sections were laid on a track of rotating rolls (Figure 3), and the end of the section was tied to logs to ensure buoyancy. Later the section was pulled out by a tractor and placed on a barge, where welding was carried out and pipes were laid under their own weight to the bottom of the lake. To prevent surfacing, cast-iron weights of 50 kg were installed every 50 m in the underwater part. The quality of welding work was so high that only one welded joint was recognized defective out of almost 6 thousand. Welding was used for the first time instead of muff joint. The pace of welding of 500-600 meters per day made it possible to complete all works in 43 days. The construction work was carried out at night using disguise, so the Germans found out about the existence of the pipeline only after the end of the war [6, 14-19].
Figure 3. Laying the underwater part of the pipeline in besieged Leningrad on rotating rolls 
Baku to the Front
At the end of October 1941, when at the very beginning of the Battle of Moscow it became clear that the German strategy of “lightning war” (Blitzkrieg) failed, the German leadership began to pay much more attention to supplying the Wehrmacht with oil. The situation was aggravated by the deterioration in oil supplies from Romania.
Firstly, our aviation from the airfields of the Crimea in the first year of the war carried out systematic bombing strikes on the oil fields and sea terminals of Romania, which sent to Germany almost the total volume of oil produced. The Soviet bombing of Romania from the Crimean bridgehead was so effective that Hitler called Crimea "... a Soviet aircraft carrier for attacking Romanian fields". Before and during the first period of the war, the oil fields of Romania could be called the "oil pearl" of the Wehrmacht. Occupied by Germany in summer 1940, Romania, which at that time had 2% of the world's proven oil reserves – about 60 million tons (in comparison, the reserves of the Soviet Union were 883 million tons), ranked 4th in the world and 1st in Europe in production. There were 17 oil refinery plants located around Ploiesti, the main oil production region. From 1940 to 1944, about 62% of all oil products (about 10.3 million tons) were sent from the Romanian refineries to Germany, but that was not enough for the Wehrmacht [3, 4, 12].
Secondly, after the final defeat near Moscow in April 1942, Hitler attributed great importance to the seizure of Caucasian oil, since the German army, which had the overwhelming mechanized might of tanks and aircrafts, experienced the shortage of fuel. By order of Hitler, the Reich Chancellery made changes to the Operation Barbarossa; the new plan was named Blau (Blue). Its initial goal was to seize the oil fields of the Caucasus with further access to the fields of Iran and Iraq, and then to India. In the event of quick victory at Stalingrad, the Wehrmacht could have taken a powerful ideological advantage as well as completely cut off the possibility of delivering oil from the Caucasus to the central part of the country (Figure 4) .
Figure 4. Directions of the attacks of the Wehrmacht during offensive operations of the Blau plan 
Thirdly, after the occupation of Crimea and Sevastopol (03 July 1942), the next direction for the attack of the German forces was Stalingrad. In late 1941 – early 1942, protracted fighting near Moscow and the Soviet general counterattack did not allow the German army to quickly reach the Volga, thereby deprived Germany of “oil refilling”. Receiving a cake with cream decorations in the shape of Baku oil rigs as a gift, Hitler said: "My main idea is to occupy the Caucasus region, possibly by crushing the Russian forces... If I do not get oil from Maykop and Grozny, I will have to end the war..." This idea was confirmed in 1945 by Albert Speer, ex-Minister of Armaments and War Production of Germany, convicted at the Nuremberg Tribunal, who stated that “... the need for oil was undoubtedly the main motive...” when deciding to start the war.
Since the leadership of the German Reich was completely confident of victory, in summer 1942, the joint-stock company "German Oil in the Caucasus" was established in Germany. At the same time specialized brigades of oil workers from Romania and Germany moved towards Grozny and Baku, and were supposed to ensure the continuity of the operation of oil fields after the seizure by German soldiers. For this purpose, downhole tubulars and tools for fields and various pipelines were delivered.
The importance of the Caucasian oil region was extraordinary. Before the war, 95% of all oil in the Soviet Union was extracted here, including more than 70% in the Baku oil region, and about 25% in Grozny and Maykop. During 1941, 23.5 million tons of oil were produced in the fields of the Absheron Peninsula in the Baku region, which was about 2/3 of the total production volume in the Soviet Union. In addition, via the Lend-Lease Trans-Iranian route, oil was delivered from the Abadan oil refinery plant in Iran to the port of Baku. This oil was mixed with American additives to make high-octane aviation gasoline for our aircrafts: 75.5 thousand tons in 1941, 75.9 thousand tons in 1942, and 386 thousand tons in 1943 [6, 10].
After the Germans reached the Caucasus Mountain Range, the Headquarters of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief of the USSR took urgent measures to save the oil industry, and the scheme for delivering oil from Baku to the central part of the country was fundamentally changed. From July 1942, navigation along the Volga was discontinued, and the oil delivery stopped. At the same time, the delivery of oil products from Baku, Grozny and Tuapse along the Tikhoretskaya-Rostov railway line was discontinued. Due to interruptions in the transportation of oil to the central part of the country by rail, huge oil stocks were accumulated in the Baku region – all open oil-storage pits, Lake Zykhskoye and even the lowlands were filled with oil .
A unique unprecedented decision was taken for the transportation of oil: making caravans from railway tanks with subsequent towing across the Caspian Sea to Krasnovodsk and Guryev (now Atyrau), and from there by rail through Ashgabat and Tashkent to the central part of the country, primarily to Saratov. Because of the war, the route of oil transportation from Baku to Stalingrad, which previously was about 1,200 km, grew to 5,000 km, of which about 300 km were by water (Figure 5). To prevent railway tanks from sinking, they were filled with oil by about 2/3 and connected in a line of 15-20, then put into water and attached to a barge (Figure 6) [5-6]. While the average speed of loading tanks totaled 2 hours, female workers of the Caspian Oil Terminal “filled” the tanks in 45 minutes. With a high level of responsibility and the quality of such work, O. Magalova, a female worker in filling oil into tanks, described her job as follows: “I fill oil products carefully, like perfume. I won’t spill a drop” .
Figure 5. Oil transportation routes from Baku to the central part of the country in 1942-1943 (compiled by the authors based on )
Figure 6. “Caravans” from railway tanks for the transportation of oil from Baku along the Caspian Sea 
In the midst of the Battle of Stalingrad, the average daily fuel consumption was 1,000 tons. Therefore, the oil coming from Baku was sent to Saratov for processing. In 1942, the Saratov Oil Refinery named after S.M. Kirov (now Saratov Oil Refinery PJSC) with a processing capacity of up to 5 thousand tons per day was the largest refinery in Europe. It produced 3 million tons of fuel during the war, which amounted to more than a quarter of the total volume of oil products produced in the Soviet Union during the war years. After processing, some oil products were transported by road of about 380-400 km, that was called during the war years the “road of death” (similar to the “road of life” led to Leningrad) because it was continuously bombed by Luftwaffe aircrafts. Some were sent along the railway that was built (among other things, from the dismantled rails of the Baikal–Amur Mainline) for several months and put into operation in August 1942, and along which over 300 thousand railway cars with troops and supplies passed .
After the victory in Stalingrad, in 5 months (from April to November 1943) a 655 km Astrakhan–Saratov pipeline equipped with 8 pump stations using pipes from the previously dismantled Baku–Batumi pipeline (built in 1928-1930 under the leadership of the outstanding engineer V.G. Shukhov), part of the Grozny– Tuapse oil pipeline and the 60-kilometer section of Kosh–Armavir were built to deliver oil products. During the construction of this pipeline, electric arc welding was used to connect 10-inch pipes. The daily rate of 2 cubic meters of land was also established during the construction of the pipeline, which was built in 5 months and remained in operation for 20 years [7, 12].
In November 1942, all German attempts to break through to Baku were finally repulsed. Germany never received oil from the Absheron Peninsula, thereby deprived itself of much-needed fuel. At the cost of the lives of many Soviet soldiers, such coveted deposits of the Azerbaijan SSR became inaccessible to the Wehrmacht. In addition, this defeat of the Germans contributed to the fact that Turkey refused to act on the side of Germany in the direction of the Caucasus and Iran. Otherwise, this scenario could have jeopardized oil supplies along the Trans-Iranian Lend-Lease route. From the end of 1942 until the end of the war, despite all attempts to increase the production of synthetic fuels using the Fischer–Tropsch method, the German economy experienced systematic difficulties in the fuel supply.
Beginning of the Gas Industry and the First Gas Pipelines
After the discovery of the Yelshanka gas field in 1942, the USSR State Defense Committee made a decision to build a 300-mm-diameter gas pipeline “Yelshanka–Saratov State District Power Plant”. Gas was needed for the operation of the Saratov Oil Refinery, as mentioned above, the largest in Europe at that time, which supplied oil products to Stalingrad, as well as for the arms factories evacuated from the western regions of the country.
As the Germans marched on Moscow, the issue of the security of the Soviet Government came up, in connection with which it was decided to evacuate to Kuibyshev (Samara) that received the status of an “alternative capital”. Government officials, 22 diplomatic missions (including the USA and Japan), cultural organizations (for example, the Bolshoi Theater troupe) were evacuated here. For some time, the premises of the All-Union Radio, which carried the voice of Yuri Levitan to all citizens of our country, were also located here. In addition, there was a plant in Kuibyshev that produced our Il-2 aircrafts, called the “black death” by the German forces. During the war years, 75% of all Il-2 aircrafts (i.e. 27 thousand out of 36 thousand) were built in Kuibyshev.
All of these facilities required energy for operation. In 1942-1943, this issue was solved. In a short time, the 23-km-long Yelshanka–Saratov gas pipeline (in 35 days from 18 September to 28 October 1942) and the 180-km-long Buguruslan–Pokhvistnevo–Kuibyshev gas pipeline (in 225 days from 3 January to 15 September 1943) were built, which supplied gas to refineries, power and heating plants, defense plants and the civilians (Figure 7).
Figure 7. Gas pipeline routes: 1 − Yelshanka–Saratov (1942, 23 km), 2 − Buguruslan–Pokhvistnevo–Kuibyshev (1943, 180 km), 3 − Saratov–Moscow (1944-1946, 843 km) (compiled by the authors)
The Order of the State Defense Committee No. 1563ss “On the construction of the Buguruslan–Pokhvistnevo–Kuibyshev gas pipeline” was signed on 7 April 1942. In the remaining time before the start of the construction, the infrastructure of the fields was developed, equipment and people were mobilized. The construction involved 3,000 prisoners and the local residents, including women and children; very strict daily requirements were set for all of them: 3 cubic meters when digging trenches and 1.25 km when laying pipes in a trench; unauthorized leaving of the workplace was considered desertion and was punishable by a prison term of up to 8 years. The construction was carried out in the strictest confidence; those who knew about it were forbidden to mention the word “gas pipeline”. There were regular disruptions in supply of pipes, as a result, the trenches were destroyed and had to be dug again. When the pipes were finally finished, it was decided by the Decree of the State Defense Committee of 12 June 1943 for the first time in world practice to use asbestos-cement pipes (about 20 km of the gas pipeline were built using them), and when they were finished, the old mortar tubes (this is based on a legend; in fact, mortar grenade launchers) were used. The equipment was imperfect, the electric arc welding machines did not arrive on time, and as a result, a lot of work was done manually by exhausted, hungry people. During construction, 1.8 million cubic meters of soil were manually dug, 20 thousand joints were welded on pipes, 8 rivers and rivulets were crossed on the way…
These harsh working conditions and a tough deadline for putting the gas pipeline into operation were explained by its importance. During the period from the Battle of Stalingrad to the Battle of Kursk, the country mobilized people at an accelerated pace, produced military equipment. All these required energy resources in limited conditions – Baku oil was transported over 5 thousand kilometers; the Donetsk Coal Basin was captured by the enemy. The problem of the energy shortage could be solved at the expense of the Kuzbass Coal Basin. However, firstly, it was located far away (over 2.7 thousand km) and secondly, the amount of coal needed was enormous. If sending the required volume of coal from Kuzbass, there would not have been enough railway cars, and those that were available, would have simply paralyzed the USSR railway system, which was already struggling to cope with the transportation of equipment and people. Natural gas from the Ural–Volga Oil and Gas Province became a solution. The volume of gas transferred through the Buguruslan–Pokhvistnevo–Kuibyshev gas pipeline from September 1943 to June 1945 amounted to 260 million cubic meters, which replaced 370 thousand tons of coal, and would require 20 thousand railway cars, i.e. 500 trains [5, 23-25].
Further development of the gas pipeline system is related to the construction of the Saratov–Moscow main pipeline, which was started in accordance with the Decree of the State Defense Committee of 3 September 1944. The pipeline was designed to transfer gas from the Yelshanka Field to Moscow as a source of energy for industry and power and heating plants, and had major ideological significance – the beginning of the recovery of the country and the return to peaceful life of the ordinary people. That is why Lavrenty Beria, Head of NKVD (People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs), was appointed the curator of the construction.
The pipeline had the length of 843 km, the diameter of 325 mm, and the working pressure of 5.5 MPa. The gas pipeline route crossed 80 large and small rivers, 125 km of forests and swamps, highways and railways. Under the Lend-Lease program, thin-walled seamless pipes, gas pumping units and other processing equipment were delivered from the United States for the construction of the gas pipeline. The actual time of the construction of the gas pipeline was 225 days. Similar to the construction of the Buguruslan–Pokhvistnevo–Kuibyshev gas pipeline, prisoners (their share was about 80%) and civilians were involved, for whom the same requirements were set; there was also a shortage of welding units; thus, more than 100 thousand pipe joints were made manually, and only 2.5 thousand using a field conveyor for electric welding . To protect pipes from corrosion, bitumen coating was used, often in an emergency mode, since the time for hydro testing was approaching, which had to be completed before the fall of 1945. The pipeline was opened in 1946, and natural gas came to Moscow. These events can be considered the beginning of the gas industry in the Soviet Union.
Battle of Kursk
From 5 July to 23 August 1943, the Battle of Kursk was fought, known as “the largest tank battle in history”. The Battle of Kursk itself is divided into defensive (5-23 July) and offensive (12 July – 23 August) periods, characterized not only by the courage and dedication of our soldiers, but also by the fundamentally important role of the fuel supply service. This battle together with lessons learnt from the previous war period became the starting point for the systematic organized work aimed to provide our forces with fuel.
In preparation for the battle, the Red Army soldiers dug 9,200 km of trenches and communication trenches (similar to the distance from Moscow to Vladivostok), set up strongpoints with dug-in tanks and adjusted firing positions. All these activities required a lot of fuel. Since the beginning of the military operation, thanks to the support services, about 1,500 vehicles delivered daily fuel for tanks and aircrafts. During the counteroffensive from 3 to 23 August 1943, the Soviet aviation made 18 thousand air sorties, i.e. 860 air sorties per day (!), which is 7.7 times more than during the defensive period . In total, 156 thousand tons of fuel were consumed in 50 days of the battles, i.e. 2 trains per day!
Table 2 and 3 provide information on the technical characteristics of some types of tanks and aircrafts, which took part both in the Battle of Kursk and in the war in general. From the data presented, it can be seen that the basic parameters of the fuel system and the quality of the fuel used have a significant impact on the technical characteristics of tanks and aircrafts, making them more maneuverable.
Table 2. Data on the technical characteristics of the main tanks used by the Soviet Union and Germany that took part in the Battle of Kursk
Table 3. Data on the technical characteristics of the main aircrafts used by the Soviet Union and Germany that took part in the Battle of Kursk
F – fighter, G – ground attack aircraft, B – bomber
During the battles at the Kursk Salient, the average daily fuel consumption in the Red Army was 1,367 tons, including – by type, t (% of refueling):
· 602 (44%) – motor gasoline (for all types of vehicles, including fuel tankers)
· 406 (30%) – high-octane aviation gasoline (for the Airacobra and Il-2 fighters, which bombed from above the German Tiger and Panther tanks, and the Ferdinand self-propelled guns, because our tanks could penetrate their frontal armor from a limited distance)
· 134 (10%) – tractor fuel (for tractors, auxiliary machinery)
· 125 (9%) – B-70 gasoline (for tanks)
· 100 (7%) – diesel fuel (for tanks)
Battle of Berlin and the Outcome of the War
During the Berlin offensive operation, our troops brought together a powerful strike force, including 2.3 million soldiers, 6,200 tanks, 8,400 aircrafts . In order to take the city faster than the allies, who were also conducting separate negotiations with the German generals, and with minimum loss, it was important for our army to complete the operation very quickly without getting involved in local battles. This required a very large amount of fuel that was provided by our supply service. Fuel consumption by all types of the Soviet forces during the Berlin operation amounted to 150 thousand tons, or an average 8.8 thousand tons per day. Thus, in 3 weeks of the Berlin operation, the same amount of fuel was consumed as in 50 days of the Kursk operation or six months of the battles of Stalingrad. The share of motor gasoline in total fuel consumption was 58%.
Table 4, based on , provides the data on fuel consumption by the Soviet forces in some military operations during the war years. It can be noted that after the Battle of Moscow, when our forces were defeated, people and equipment were lost, and oil products were wasted, all operations until the end of the war were characterized by an increase in daily fuel consumption, which indicates the quality of the Red Army's fuel service. And this is impossible without the synchronized, well-coordinated work of geologists, drillers, oil and gas workers, processors, pipeline operators, railway workers, metallurgists and many others.
Table 4. Fuel consumption by the Soviet forces during the war
Before the war, there was no experience in the Soviet Union in the use of long-distance (dismountable) pipelines. During the war years, all the equipment for dismountable pipelines was developed and introduced – pipe-assembly machines, automobile pumping stations, motor-pumping units, fuel tankers, mobile tanks, etc. This also made a valuable and important contribution to the victory.
In total, over the years of the Great Patriotic War, the Soviet forces consumed more than 16.6 million tons of oil products:
· 13.4 million tons – by the ground and air forces
· 3.2 million tons – by the navy
The Second World War showed that the “time of motors” had come – during the same 4 years of the First World War, all the forces of the Russian army consumed about 450 thousand tons of fuel , i.e. in the Second World War – 37 times more: instead of cavalry, tanks and aircrafts came to the forefront of battles.
“Forgotten” Innovations of the Second Baku During the War
The current information era has made such a concept as “innovation” well-known; probably the same way as the concepts of “hydraulic fracturing”, “directional drilling”, “methods of enhanced oil recovery”. Surprisingly, what many consider an innovative breakthrough today, was successfully introduced by the oil workers of the Soviet Union during the war years.
Back in 1941, for the first time in the Soviet Union, a borehole with deviation was drilled by the turbine method for a power plant on the outskirts of Baku; its maximum deviation was 22º. And in 1943 directional drilling was widely used in the fields in Krasnokamsk, Severokamsk, Polazna and under the Kama River Bed. The deviation of wells in the fields of the Second Baku was already 32-34º at depths of 1,000 m and deeper (with a horizontal deviation of the bottom hole up to 400 m).
During the war years, to increase oil recovery, the number of chemical treatments of the bottom hole zone of wells was also intensified. For the first time such technology was applied in the Soviet Union in 1934 at the Verkhnechusovskie Gorodki deposit, and in 1936 at the Ishimbaysk deposit. In 1943, 450 hydrochloric acid treatment activities of carbonate reservoirs were carried out in the fields of the Volga-Ural Province, which gave an additional 105 thousand tons of oil (i.e., the efficiency of one treatment is ~ 230 tons of oil) .
In the most difficult time, namely during the war years, the region of the Second Baku was developed in the Volga–Ural Oil and Gas Province. Only the confidence and persistence of Academician I.M. Gubkin in the need for prospecting of this region at the turn of the 20-30s largely determined the direction of the development of the oil industry, and served as a “starting point” for the formation of the gas industry. In the shortest time (there were no examples of such achievements either before or after), a new region was opened in this province, which made a significant contribution to the energy of the victory, and determined the direction of the Third Baku – the fields of Western Siberia. All these provinces, discovered and equipped by the hands of the Soviet citizens, made it possible to make a single “technological map” of the oil and gas industry of the Soviet Union and Russia, the resource potential of which determined the development of our country for many years. It remains to be believed that the guess of Academician I.M. Gubkin on the resource potential of the Arctic (just right to call it the Fourth Baku), the development of which we see today, will also lead to success.
The Role of Lend-Lease
There have been no such controversial, politicized and contradictory issue as the role of the Lend-Lease program, i.e. supply of the Soviet Union with equipment, weapons, food by the United States, either in the period immediately after the end of the war or during the Cold War or even today, 75 years after the end of all battles.
The authors are not professional historians in this subject, and therefore, leave further comparative economic assessments in the field of expertise to respective specialists. At the same time, we would like to note a number of significant and major issues, including those related to various myths, which have become widespread despite the fact that a considerable number of sources are open and can be used to conduct an in-depth and comprehensive analysis.
The state Lend-Lease program provided aid from the United States to its foreign allies under special payment conditions [4, 27]. The Lend-Lease Act was not passed unanimously in the US Congress in March 1941 (260 votes for and 165 votes against), but received a symbolic number – 1776, which demonstrated the importance of this policy for the national security [ 28]. It was explained quite easy. The initial “clients” of the Lend-Lease program were the United Kingdom and British India. According to the American military, including General J. Marshall (the future author of the Marshall Plan – a plan of financial and economic aid to Europe after the war), the position of Great Britain was considered hopeless, which could lead to the need for peace with Germany. As a result, there was a danger of a Japanese attack on the Panama Canal, which could seriously call into question the security issue of the United States itself. To prevent such a situation (that is, when they would have to fight on their own territory), the Roosevelt government decided to send aid to Great Britain [13, 27].
The inclusion of the Soviet Union in this aid program was accompanied by scandals in the US Congress, the unwillingness of American industrialists to help the Soviet Union. For example, Harry Truman, the future President of the United States, who served as a senator in 1941, in an interview for the New York Times said: “If we see that Germany wins, we should help Russia, and if Russia wins, we should help Germany, and let them just kill each other as much as possible." The position of F.D. Roosevelt, President of the United States, was not so cynical, but similar to some extent: “Helping Russians is money well spent” .
At the same time, the Lend-Lease program was not a program of grant aid, as you often hear even now. Under the Reverse Lend-Lease program, the Soviet Union supplied gold, metals and other raw materials, and expended resources for these purposes, which could have been used directly during the war. It is relevant to recall that in spring 1942, not far from Murmansk, a German submarine attacked and sunk the British cruiser Edinburgh, which returned to Great Britain with the Soviet gold weighing about 5.5 tons as partial payment for supplies. Since the pragmatic British, even during the war, insured their cargo, part of the gold raised in 1981 during the joint Soviet–British operation went to the representatives of the Foggy Albion: ~ 2.5 tons to the company that raised the gold, ~ 0.75 tons to Great Britain (13%), and ~ 2.25 tons to the Soviet Union .
The four Lend-Lease supply protocols signed between the USA and the USSR were carried out extremely uneven: for example, under the first protocol (June – October 1941), during the most intense period of the war, only 0.5% of the requested volume was supplied, and arms deliveries were excluded. For a year and a half of the war (until the end of 1942), the execution of deliveries from the United States at the request of the Soviet Union was also extremely insignificant – about 7%. Only after the surrender of Paulus's army at Stalingrad in early 1943, Lend-Lease supplies began to increase. At the same time, until the middle of 1944, the United States continued to do business with the Fascist Germany and its allies through neutral countries: Standard Oil Company supplied oil products, Spanish tankers refueled German submarines with American diesel fuel, the companies of G. Ford supplied synthetic rubbers, tungsten and up to 30% of all tires produced at their factories .
In fact, throughout the Second World War, the US government solved its own problems in the economy, which had arisen since the Great Depression back in 1929, by increasing its own production capacity. After the end of the war, Truman added: “The money spent on Lend-Lease certainly saved many American lives. Every Russian, English or Australian soldier, who received equipment under Lend-Lease and went into battle proportionally reduced the military danger to our own youth“.
Table 5 demonstrates basic information about the Lend-Lease routes along which equipment and materials were delivered to the Soviet Union. It can be seen that the routes varied greatly both in length and in directions: the most significant in terms of the supply of military equipment, industrial and other goods were the Pacific and Trans-Iranian Routes; the most famous are the Arctic caravans, the history of which is reflected in books and films; aircrafts were transported to our country via the Alaska-Siberia Air Route; the least significant and lengthy was the Black Sea Route.
Table 5. Data on the main supply routes under Lend-Lease
It should be recalled that the main recipient of the Lend-Lease was Great Britain, which accounted for about 60% of all American supplies (the share of the Soviet Union was about 1/3 of the British). In total, during the war years, the United States provided aid to 42 countries. Table 6 demonstrates comparative data on the relative amount of weapons and oil products produced in the Soviet Union, as well as the relevant supplies under Lend-Lease . Table 6 shows that the total share of Lend-Lease in the total supply of oil products for the needs of the Red Army was about 14% (domestic production – 84%, captured fuel – 2%).
Table 6. Data on the amount of weapons and oil products produced in the Soviet Union, as well as the relevant supplies under Lend-Lease
One of the crucial fuels (primarily for front-line fighters) was aviation gasoline with an octane rating of over 99 – Its share in the total gasoline supply exceeded 97%. Objectively, aviation gasoline should be recognized as one of the most important items in the supply of all petroleum products – American gasoline exceeded the domestic one 1.4 times . From the total volume of oil products estimated at 2.9 million tons, high-octane aviation gasoline accounted for 1.2 million tons (46%), including the one from the USA – 629 thousand tons, Great Britain and Canada – 573 thousand tons. In comparison, 242 thousand tons of motor gasoline were supplied, which was just over 2% of the relevant production in the Soviet Union (10.9 million tons). It is also necessary to add that from the total actually delivered volume of fuel (2.6 million tons), about 40% were delivered in 1945, when the Soviet Union was close to victory in the war without the support of its allies [3-4].
Overall, the financial attitude of the US government towards “helping” the allies and the general pragmatic approach were summed up by Terkel Studs, the American writer who became the 1985 Pulitzer Prize Winner for his book “The Good War”: An Oral History of World War II”. The total US public and private investment in the economy, just to ensure the launch of the Lend-Lease program, amounted to about $ 900 million, which at current values is about $ 9.5 billion . The Lend-Lease program was beneficial to large American companies. Thus, according to N.A. Voznesensky , the author of the program for the evacuation of the Soviet Union industry in 1941, the head of the USSR State Planning Committee, about 75% of all military supplies accounted for the 100 largest American companies, which earned about $ 87 billion in 4 years of the war (at current values slightly less than $ 1 trillion).
Despite the fact that the amount of Lend-Lease deliveries from the United States, Great Britain and Canada, according to estimates by various experts, is very different, we will fix its size at $ 13.2 billion at 1945 values (which is about $ 162 billion at 2008 values). In comparison: N.A. Voznesensky  gives the following numbers for the value of financial damage to the Soviet Union during the war years (at 1945 values): total losses – 485 billion dollars, including property losses – 128 billion dollars, direct military expenditures and losses of the national economy of the Soviet Union – 357 billion dollars. It means the value of Lend-Lease supplies is less than 2.7% of the total financial damage of the war, although in negotiations with the United States on Lend-Lease payment, 4% was usually mentioned, which many contemporary historians consider to be underestimated for ideological reasons. At present, the value of the contribution of Lend-Lease is estimated at 7% [4, 27], which seems to be a more adequate value, “free” from ideological differences.
It should be added that the opinion voiced sometimes that the Soviet Union compensated for its losses through reparations from the Nazi Germany after its unconditional surrender is very surprising and unrealistic – the entire value of the property exported from Germany to the Soviet Union is estimated at $ 1 billion (!) only, i.e. 0.2% of all losses during the war years .
It can be concluded that the supplies of the US government under the Lend-Lease program played a major (especially regarding oil products) and very significant (regarding some categories of goods) role for the Soviet Union, but not decisive. The main contribution was made by the mobilization economy of the Soviet Union and its people who united against external aggression, the threat of disappearance of the country.
In our country, you can sometimes hear a capacious summing up of the Second World War: the Soviet Union won the war, and the United States benefited from the war. It is fair to say that the Lend-Lease program did not play a decisive role in our Great Victory over the Nazi Germany. By the way, the Russian Federation, as the successor to the Soviet Union, made the last payment under the Lend-Lease in 2008. Great Britain, as the main recipient, paid for the Lend-Lease in 2006 (at values of that period almost $ 385 billion). That’s the “grant” aid.
Probably, the most equitable assessment of the Lend-Lease was given by its administrator and US Secretary of State Edward Stetenius in a report to the US Congress in 1943: “This aid cannot be measured in numbers. There are no standard estimates by which, for example, one could compare a thousand dead Russian soldiers and a thousand fighters. All who died on battlefields in Great Britain, China, Russia, Africa and Asia defending their homeland. But these peoples have fought and are fighting against our common enemy. Their sacrifice saves the lives of Americans” .
Going back to the beginning of the article, we note that since the end of the war, it is the US leadership (not the ordinary citizens) who has been trying in every possible way to downplay the role of the Soviet Union in the victory. This issue is especially relevant now in the conditions of instability of world markets, political confrontations, oil wars and other cataclysms. All these “behind-the-scenes” games urge its participants to have strong nerves and remain psychologically stable, capable to “take a punch”, as well as call for national pride and a feeling of patriotism.
In total, over 110 million people were mobilized in the armies of all participating countries during the Second World War, more than 55 million people died. The losses of the Soviet Union are the largest during the war – 27 million people died (of which military losses are about 10 million people and the rest of the losses are civilians), 25% of the national wealth was destroyed, 1,700 cities, 70,000 villages, 32,000 different factories were completely ruined.
We remember and know for sure that the eastern (for the Nazi Germany) front, where 607 out of 714 German divisions were defeated by the forces of the Red Army, was the main one in the war. That is exactly where all the decisive battles were fought, which made it possible to safeguard the independence of our country in the war with virtually all of Europe, and to raise our flag first over the Reichstag.
On the western (for Germany) front, which the United States and the allies opened only on 6 June 1944, about 200 thousand American and British soldiers died (the total losses in the Second World War of the United States – 420 thousand people, Great Britain – 300 thousand people). Until the end of the war, the party bosses and the leadership of the German Wehrmacht and the United States conducted separate peace negotiations. And only the steadfastness and courage of the Soviet soldier, the double capacity of the home front workers, the fortitude of our people allowed us to win. We are sure that the merits of the Soviet oil and gas workers, men and women, adolescents and children, who worked at all oil and gas facilities also contributed to this victory, by producing and directing the energy of victory to engines!
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