I recently searched for any pipelines that might have existed in the Soviet Union before WW2. I did not find any. I also looked into the 5-year plans starting in 1928 and did not find any mention of a pipeline for hydrocarbon fuels.

The Soviets were known for their scorched earth policy and I've read much about destroying railroads and hydroelectric dams, but I've never heard of a pipeline. So I'm starting to wonder if any such pipeline existed before WW2.

What was the first fossil fuel pipeline in the Soviet Union? It could be crude oil, natural gas, or even some product like a gasoline pipeline. What was its route and when was it built?

2 Answers 2


Strictly speaking, first fossil fuel pipeline in USSR territory would be the the Balakhanu-Black City pipeline, built in 1878 by Vladimir Shukhov, renowned for his innovations in oil industry and in industrial architecture in general, for The Petroleum Production Company Nobel Brothers, Limited in Baku - one of the first pipeline transport systems in history. That was just a local 10 km long well-to-refinery pipeline, and for a long time all Russian pipelines were confined to this small scale. First major Russian pipeline, Grozny - Port Petrovsky (now called Mahachkala), was launched only in July of 1914. Thus, USSR inherited from Russian Empire this one major pipeline and several networks of local pipelines, amounting to ~1300 km of pipelines.

The first major pipeline built in USSR was the Baku-Batumi pipeline, which was launched in 1930. By 1941 there were 4100 km of pipelines, transporting 7.9m tons of oil annually.

As for why you did not read about Russians destroying pipelines when retreating - as far as I know by that point there were little to no pipelines to the west of Moscow. German forces never reached any major pipelines, thus there were no need to destroy any of them.


1) Шаммазов А.М., Мастобаев Б.Н., Сощенко А.Е. Трубопроводный транспорт России(1860-1917 гг.) // Трубопроводный транспорт нефти, 2000, №6;

2) Шаммазов A.M., Мастобаев Б.Н., Бахтизин Р.Н., Сощенко А.Е. Трубопроводный транспорт России (1917-1945) // Транспорт и хранение нефти, 2000, №9.


Good answer by Smirnov, but to answer the unasked question "why was it difficult to find that information?" answers a lot more questions. Baku in on the Caspian Sea, below sea level, and the oil flows up out of the ground. It produced half the world's oil prior to WWII and continues to be important. Besides the oil fields in Arab countries, control of the region also meant containing Baku pipelines. What's the deal with the war in Syria? Pipelines from Baku. Turkey has been very important to limiting the amount of "Soviet" oil available as well by controlling access to the Mediterranean. Ukraine is the northern route to Europe and may, just may, have something to do with instability there and keen US involvement.

So the energy wars have been going on for a long time and are the source of current US military action. Not just to control sources but to control routes for delivery (pipelines). Except it is sold to the American people as "human rights abuses" and to stop madmen gassing their own people (with gas we and the Russians gave them just for that), rather than the pipeline wars it really is. Just look at the timing of plans to sell US controlled/produced LNG and oil to Europe compared with "tensions" in Ukraine. So real people die, trillions spent on weapons and the fuel to run the military. 500% fuel cost increases to DOD during Bush.
History during the Oil Age is highly conflated by commercial interests while citizens are given (and children taught) "noble" reasons. Soviet Revolution, who cares if the peasants took power from a ruling monarchy (the story we tell of ourselves) but without the Baku oil fields there would have been less reason to brand Communism a crime against nation, God, decency (still have the problem of organized labor that the manufacturing industry couldn't abide). But North and South, East and West United States industry and finance (don't minimize Wall St's role in wanting to control market of energy) could unite to tell a story about the Evil Reds. While Saudi Arabia and Iraq much mentioned in common person's understanding of oil supply, Baku (remember, half the supply) was not talked about, treated as if it didn't exist. US funding of early attempts at Azerbaijan independence is unknown but we can track US involvement with Turkmenistan (other side of the lake) and it's Most Favored Trade Status with us since military investment in the dictatorship began in 2001. They have pipelines too, that can go West or to China (beyond US control). Ongoing Myanmar tragedy is concurrent with Chinese pipelines to the Indian Ocean that pass through and require major building in the homeland of the Rohingya people in Rakhine state. Yeah, current news is that millions have been evicted.

Blah blah blah.

Point is we hear the "human tragedy" part and not the pipeline part. Baku, Azerbaijan has been a major player with almost all information about it expunged in the USA, covered over with other propaganda, while pipeline access is controlled.

And Germany was really into wood gas to run its trains, securing timber land rather than natural gas supply. Only other resource in Ukraine mentioned is farmland.

  • 1
    Welcome to History:SE. Your answer would be greatly improved if you add further sources to support your assertions. Oct 21, 2017 at 0:28
  • 2
    I won't bother replying to the political commentary, but about It produced half the world's oil prior to WWII, I have a source that contradicts this. digital.library.northwestern.edu/league/stat.html The League of Nations statistics, for example the 1940-1941 report, material and industrial production, page 128, Canada and USA produce 184 Million tons, while USSR and Iran produced about 40 Million tons. That covers the whole Caspian Sea area. World total is listed as 294 Million tons. So actually, the USA produced well over half the world's supply of oil right before WW2.
    – DrZ214
    Oct 21, 2017 at 0:47
  • Source for Baku oil export/production: R.Hrair Dekmejian, Hovann H. Simonian (2003). Troubled Waters: The Geopolitics of the Caspian Region. I.B. Tauris. p. 16.
    – Hebekiah
    Oct 26, 2017 at 20:41
  • Also (in Troubled Waters book) there is reference to a very early pipeline built 1897-1905 but very high tariffs discouraged use.
    – Hebekiah
    Oct 26, 2017 at 20:47
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    And I read through digital.library.northwestern.edu/league/le0280ah.pdf and it gives figures for international market sources, not total production (used domestically). 1940-41 the US was supplying both sides of the war, Soviets sold 9.5 million tons to Germany (Ericson, Edward E. (1999), Feeding the German Eagle: Soviet Economic Aid to Nazi Germany, 1933-1941). Wikipedia (Azerbaijan entry): During World War II, Azerbaijan played a crucial role in the strategic energy policy of the Soviet Union, with 80 percent of the Soviet Union's oil on the Eastern Front being supplied by Baku.
    – Hebekiah
    Oct 26, 2017 at 21:12

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