Today, Neft Daslari is a crumbling dystopia, a vast series of oil platforms slowly being eaten by the waves of the Caspian Sea. But like all good dystopias, it was once an industrial marvel—"Stalin’s Atlantis," a veritable floating oil city, home to 5,000 workers, a movie theater, hotel, library, and a sprawling network of roads. And, yes, the world’s first offshore oil platform, which was built off the coast of Baku in the wake of the second World War.
Der Spiegel explains:
After the war, Soviet engineers took a closer look at a reef that mariners called the “Black Rock.” They built a shed on the tiny island and conducted test drilling. During the night of Nov. 7, 1949, they struck top-quality oil at a depth of 1,100 meters below the seabed and shortly thereafter, the world’s first offshore oil platform was built at the spot, now renamed Neft Dashlari, or “oily rock.” “Platform” is a hopelessly inadequate word for the many-armed monster of steel and timber that gradually spread across the waves of the sea …
Seriously. The structure was built on giant sunk ships, huge mounds of dirt, and landfill. Eventually, Azerbaijan was pumping 3/4th of the USSR’s oil, and Neft Daslari was a boomtown. Good pay, the novelty of living on a proto-Waterworld set, and prostitutes wonder it was known a “Stalinist utopia for the working class.”
It even earned a commemorative stamp.
But the thing about oil is, it dries up. So while there are still people employed on Dashlari today, they’re a mere fraction of the workforce that once made the place a wonder.
As less money flows out, less flows in—it’s rusting away now, the hotels abandoned, the roads disintegrating. Like working on a perpetually sinking ship. Now it’s a curiosity. We set action films on it. It would be too expensive to tear most of it down; best to just let the sea take it.
Hat tip to Philip Bump, and see Der Spiegel for a nice long slideshow with more images of Stalin’s sinking Atlantis here