Monday, December 17, 2012

Stalin's Atlantis

Der Spiegel has a fascinating article about a Soviet oil exploration project in the post-World-War-II era called Neft Dashlari.

It apparently "consisted of 2,000 drilling platforms connected by countless bridges that stretched over 300 kilometers [186 miles]".  The article provides very interesting background information about it. One of the most interesting facts, from my history-geek perspective, is that one of the very first oil tankers, the Zoroaster, built by Alfred Nobel, was sunk there to form part of the foundation of the oil project.

To make things even more interesting, while searching for an image of the Zoroaster, I came across a forum article on the foundation and development of the northern Russian city of Archangel, a critical port during World War II and the Cold War.  Fascinating stuff!  Here's an excerpt.

Three English ships set out to find the Northeast passage to China in 1553; two disappeared, and one ended up in the White Sea, eventually coming across Arkhangelsk. Ivan the Terrible found out about this, and brokered a trade agreement with the ship's captain Richard Chancellor. It led to the establishment of the first diplomatic relations between Russia and England. Trade privileges were officially granted to English merchants in 1555, leading to the founding of the "Company of Merchant Adventurers", which began sending ships annually into the estuary of the Northern Dvina. Dutch merchants also started bringing their ships into the White Sea from the 1560s. Scottish and English merchants also traded in the 16th century; however, by the 17th century it was mainly the Dutch that sailed to the White Sea area. In 1584, Ivan the Terrible ordered to found town of New Kholmogory (on August 1, 1613 it was officially renamed into Arkhangelsk after the nearby Archangel Michael Monastery). At the time access to the Baltic Sea was still mostly controlled by Sweden, so while Arkhangelsk was icebound in winter, it remained Moscow's almost sole link to the sea-trade. Since late-1580s, Arkhangelsk become centre of Russian foreign trade, which brought 60% of profit into state treasury. Local inhabitants, called Pomors, were the first to explore trade routes to Northern Siberia as far as the trans-Urals city of Mangazeya and beyond.

There's much more at the link.

Both articles are highly recommended for all who, like me, love the quirky and offbeat.


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