Petrostate: Putin, Power, and the New Russia

By Marshall I. Goldman | Go to book overview

2
World War II to 1987:
Russia Looks Inward and Outward

To Hitler, Russia stood for wheat and petroleum, but Hitler’s information was at least partially dated. Once under Soviet control Russia’s grain surpluses diminished rapidly. Whereas pre-revolutionary Russia had exported 9 million tons of wheat in 1913, the most the Soviets could muster prior to the Second World War was 5 million tons in 1931, and to do that they had to starve their own people.1

But if the breadbasket of Europe was not as full as it once was, the oil wells were pumping and as attractive as ever. One of Hitler’s highest priorities was to capture the Baku fields. Although German troops did not quite reach Baku, they did capture the Grozny fields in Chechnia in the north Caucasus. Even there, however, by the time the Soviet troops were forced to retreat, the oil fields were so badly damaged that Hitler was unable to derive much benefit from them. But in the process, Hitler did manage to deny their use to the Soviets. Moreover, the Germans disrupted supply routes from Baku to the north so that the Soviets had a hard time maintaining their fuel supply. The USSR was helped to some extent by Lend-Lease oil shipments of 2.7 million tons of petroleum from the United States. Nevertheless, by the time the war ended, many Soviet oil fields had been badly damaged, so that in 1946 Soviet oil production had fallen to 22 million tons, down 30 percent from the 1940 peak of 31 million tons.2

-33-

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