Efim Pivovar, Mikhail Mukhin: "Baku should get the status of a hero city"
The 75th anniversary of the Victory in the Great Patriotic War is approaching. This year, the pandemic made adjustments to the celebration of May 9, in particular, the parade on the occasion of Victory Day was postponed. Nevertheless, the current situation does not prevent us from talking about the Victory, remembering the feat of grandfathers and great-grandfathers. Visiting the Bulletin of the Caucasus, a member of the board of the Russian Historical Society, president of the Russian State Humanitarian University, chairman of the board of the Russian Society of Historian Archivists, member of the board of the Russian Union of Rectors Efim Pivovar and lead researcher at the Institute of Russian History of the Russian Academy of Sciences, author of Fuel of Victory: Azerbaijan during the Great World War II "Mikhail Mukhin.
- Efim Iosifovich, being a guest of the Vestnik Kavkaza in early March, you announced the creation of a program dedicated to the history of post-Soviet countries. Today we will talk about the upcoming holiday, including with emphasis on Azerbaijan. In the modern bilateral agenda of relations between Russia and Azerbaijan, what role does the memory of a common Victory play?
Yefim Pivovar: The common history of Russia and Azerbaijan is one of the fundamental, fundamental foundations of our relations both today, and, I hope, in the future. The educational system of Azerbaijan continues to rely on our common achievements. It is, in particular, about teaching in Russian for Azerbaijanis and for all nations and nationalities. In this regard, we have a huge field of interaction.
A centuries-old common history remains the basis for us, and in this history one of the brightest pages was the factor of common struggle, common suffering and common victory in World War II in general and in the Great Patriotic War of our people in particular. All nations suffered huge losses. We cannot but remember the losses of the Azerbaijani people: about 800 thousand people were mobilized to the front, including units that were in Northern Azerbaijan and participated in the battles of World War II and World War II. About 800 thousand were mobilized, and about 400 thousand people died. This is a huge loss for the peoples of Azerbaijan.
Moreover, the Second World War was not only a war of armies, but also a war of economies. And the Soviet people won in this struggle. The economy of Azerbaijan, and above all, oil, played a huge role here. Many cities of the rear, in which military operations were not conducted, were the heroes of the rear. I think the capital of Azerbaijan deserves the title of a hero city. But since Baku is now the capital of an independent state, the Russian Federation cannot assign it this title. I hope that an initiative will be put forward to recognize the contribution to the common victory of the capitals of the CIS countries, which played a huge role in this: Baku, Tashkent and others.
- Mikhail Yuryevich, how do you feel about the initiative to assign Baku this highest degree of distinction?
Mikhail Mukhin: I once drew attention to the fact that the statute on hero cities indicates that such a degree of difference can be assigned to a city whose residents made an outstanding contribution to the Victory. It does not say that it should be a military or labor contribution. Therefore, from the point of view of jurisprudence, I do not see any problems here. But Yefim Iosifovich is absolutely right: Baku is the capital of an independent state, and if the Russian Federation begins to appropriate such degrees of difference to foreign cities, this will not be entirely correct. Now this question should be addressed directly to Baku.
Yefim Pivovar: There may be some kind of joint initiative within the CIS. It is possible.
Mikhail Mukhin: I would like to draw attention to one more point. Of course, oil is extremely important as fuel - tanks drive it, planes fly. However, during the war years in the USSR, oil was also the main source of raw materials for the production of explosives. TNT is produced using toluene, and in the USSR the lion's share of toluene was obtained by splitting by heating kerosene. And in 1941-1943, 90-95% of all Soviet oil was produced in Absheron. That is, without Baku oil there would be not only gasoline and kerosene, but also explosives for bombs. Therefore, it is impossible to underestimate the role of the economy of Azerbaijan in the Soviet economy during the war.
- Mikhail Yuryevich, in your book "Fuel of Victory" you focus on the first period of the war. Why did you focus on it?
Mikhail Mukhin: From the point of view of military science, the Nazis had only one chance to defeat the Soviet Union - to collapse and crush. The Soviet command understood this and from the very beginning relied on the strategy of starvation: we will withstand the first blows, and then in an economic competition we will crush the enemy with explosives, steel, and ammunition. To do this, it was necessary to withstand the first blow. Therefore, it is the first period of the war that is of key importance. If we could not withstand those first blows, then everything else would not matter. It was important for me to see how they stood, due to what, by what efforts.
I emphasize once again that in 1941-1943 almost all Soviet oil was from Azerbaijan. Only in 1944, significant oil production began in the "second Baku" - in the Volga region. Baku carried the entire first period of the war with its oil on its shoulders, moreover, oil was needed more and more, the economy was rebuilt on a war footing. Baku oil workers worked until you drop. There were no drill pipes, so old bypass pipes were cut from abandoned mines and used as drill pipes. There was no asbestos for heat-resistant gaskets, so they were made of fabric impregnated with a special varnish. There were no metal wheels that were supposed to drag the cables, so they were cut out of wood. Of course, such wheels fell apart in a week. And a week later they sharpened a new wheel, because it was necessary to extract oil. Due to hard work and willingness to solve problems, based on the resources that they had, Baku oil workers provided the Red Army with fuel.
In 1941, during the evacuation, a significant part of the qualified Baku oil workers were transferred to the Volga region to search for oil there. Historians still argue whether this was the best solution. Maybe it would be better to leave them on the Absheron Peninsula so that they work on already explored sites. But one way or another, a significant part of the qualified oil industry workers went to the Volga region. It was in 1943 that they reached this oil-bearing horizon. When the men left for the front and in the Volga region, women worked at the oil fields of Baku.
Yefim Pivovar: Our achievements in the field of the oil industry are almost always associated with the Baku oil industry. This is the "second Baku", and Western Siberia, where the great oil workers, geologists from Azerbaijan worked. Without them, they could not have opened a “second Baku” at all. In addition, other enterprises worked in Azerbaijan during the war years for the needs of the front. Baku is also a port, it is also a repair of ships, including Volga ships. All this deserves further study. This heroic page must be opened for the younger generation.