Nikolai Baibakov


Dedicated to the 100th anniversary of Nikolai Baibakov, a legendary statesman, founding father of the country’s oil and gas industries, Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the USSR and Chairman of the State Planning Committee (Gosplan).

Nikolai Baibakov was born on March 6, 1911 in Sabunchi settlement later incorporated in Baku city, into a family of a Baku oilfield worker.

In 1932, Nikolai Baibakov graduated from Azerbaijan Oil Institute as an oilfield mining engineer. He started working as an engineer at Baku oilfields in January 1932. There he proposed a new process for feeding cement into water formations under high pressure, which subsequently got the name of the Baibakov method.

In 1935–1937, he served in the Red Army in the Far East.

In 1937, Nikolai Baibakov joined the Leninneft trust in Baku as an engineer (January) and was promoted to Chief Engineer (July) and then Head of the trust (March 1938). In August 1938, Nikolai Baibakov was appointed Director of the Vostokneftedobycha association in Kuibyshev.

In 1939, he was appointed to Lead the Central East Oil Production Department with the People’s Commissariat of the Fuel Industry of the USSR. In 1940, after the People’s Commissariat of the Oil Industry was separated out of the Fuel Industry Commissariat, Baibakov became Deputy People’s Commissar of the Oil Industry.

In 1942, Nikolai Baibakov led a team responsible for destroying oil wells and oil-processing installations in the Caucasian region. The mission was assigned personally by Joseph Stalin, who reportedly said: “Comrade Baibakov, Hitler is rushing to the Caucasus. He has announced that if he fails to capture Caucasian oil, he will lose this war. Do whatever you need to make sure no single drop of oil falls into German hands. Keep in mind that if you leave even one ton of oil to Germans, we will shoot you.” After a short pause, Stalin added: “If you destroy the oilfields, but Hitler fails to reach them and we are left without fuel, we will shoot you again.” “You leave me no choice, Comrade Stalin,” was the only thing that Baibakov could utter. “The choice is here,” Stalin muttered and tapped lightly on his head temple.

Battle of Caucasus, 1942-1943
Battle of Caucasus, 1942-1943

Battle of Caucasus, 1942-1943

Nikolai Baibakov set up a team of experienced oil engineers and explosives professionals. It was decided to dismantle and evacuate valuable equipment and plug stripped wells when the enemy would approach. Wells particularly rich in oil should keep working as long as possible and be demolished at the last minute.

In November 1944, Nikolai Baibakov was appointed People’s Commissar of the Oil Industry of the USSR. In March 1946, he became Minister of the Oil Industry of the Southern and Western Regions of the USSR.

Nikolai Baibakov occupied the post of the Minister of the Oil Industry of the USSR from December 1948 through May 1955. During that period, oil production in the USSR saw a rapid growth due to development of the largest deposits in the Urals-Volga region (first of all the Romashkino oil field in Tatarstan). Under Baibakov new advanced solutions were introduced resulting in enhanced oil recovery.

In May 1955, Nikolai Baibakov was appointed Chairman of the State Commission of the Council of Ministers of the USSR for Advance Planning of the People’s Economy.

In May 1957, he became Chairman of the Gosplan (State Planning Committee) of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR) and Deputy Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the RSFSR.

However, Nikolai Baibakov could not pull together with First Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union Nikita Khrushchev. He opposed Khrushchev’s initiative to transform ministries into Councils of National Economy. The result was that Nikolai Baibakov was demoted and appointed to lead the Council of National Economy in Krasnodar Krai. He managed to display his talent even far from the capital city – it was through his effort that Sheskharis Oil Terminal was launched in time, becoming Europe’s largest oil terminal that had a strategic importance for the development of the Soviet oil industry and for the USSR to enter the world market. During the three decades from 1964 to 1996, Sheskharis became the country’s largest export platform transshipping more than 50 million tons of crude oil and refined products to 23 world countries.

Sheskharis oil depot, 1964
Sheskharis oil depot, 1964

Sheskharis oil depot, 1964

In 1963, Nikolai Baibakov was appointed Head of the Northern Caucasian Council of National Economy.

From 1963 to 1965, he worked as Chairman of the State Committee on Chemical and Oil Industry with the Gosplan of the USSR, a minister of the USSR.

In 1964, the October Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union relieved Nikita Khrushchev of all of his state and party duties. His successor Leonid Brezhnev in 1965 re-appointed Nikolai Baibakov Chairman of the Gosplan. He led the State Planning Committee for two decades.

Nikolai Baibakov made enormous contribution to the development of the oil and gas sectors of the USSR; he was considered the foremost authority on contemporary and highly efficient oil production and refining processes. Nikolai Baibakov was actively engaged in justifying the new processes for the development of the unique deposits of Western Siberia, Central Asia, the Republic of Komi, the Orenburg Oblast and other regions, as well as for long-haul gas transmission.

Nikolai Baibakov (center) during a visit to Zhanazhol oil, gas and condensate field in Akhtyubinsk Oblast of Kazakhstan in 1983. Photo courtesy of (source: A.A. Mamyrbaev’s private collection)
Nikolai Baibakov (center) during a visit to Zhanazhol oil, gas and condensate field in Akhtyubinsk Oblast of Kazakhstan in 1983. Photo courtesy of (source: A.A. Mamyrbaev’s private collection)

Nikolai Baibakov (center) during a visit to Zhanazhol oil, gas and condensate field in Akhtyubinsk Oblast of Kazakhstan in 1983. Photo courtesy of (source: A.A. Mamyrbaev’s private collection)

Nikolai Baibakov retired in 1985, but worked for three more years as a state councilor in the Presidium of the Council of Ministers of the USSR. After that, he headed the oil and gas section of the Academic Board of the Oil and Gas Institute with the Russian Academy of Sciences. Nikolai Baibakov is the author of about 200 research papers and publications.

He passed away on March 31, 2008.

Nikolai Baibakov made history as a prominent statesman, founder of the domestic oil and gas industries, leading specialist and facilitator of the development of oil and gas fields.

Honors and awards

  • Hero of Socialist Labor;
  • Order of Merit for the Fatherland, Class 2;
  • Six Orders of Lenin;
  • Order of the October Revolution;
  • Order of the Red Banner of Labor, twice;
  • Orders and medals of foreign countries;
  • Lenin Prize – for the discovery and development of gas-condensate fields;
  • Doctor of Engineering;
  • Honorary Member of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences;
  • Academician of the Tsiolkovsky Academy of Cosmonautics;
  • Laureate of the Russian National Olympus prize.

In 1995, the Krasnoye Sormovo shipyard completed construction of the Nikolai Baibakov motor boat. In 1997, the International Fuel and Power Association and the Association of Power Engineers established Baibakov Interregional Public Foundation for Sustainable Oil and Gas Development.