Azerbaijan International

Summer 2001 (9.2)
Page 11

Reader's Forum
World War II Map

Photo: Britain's Royal Air Force map to bomb Baku during World War II.

If Hitler had taken Baku in his quest for oil supplies during World War II, the Allies had plans to bomb the oil fields to thrawt his expansion efforts. Specific targets included: (1) Black Town where most of the oil wells were located; (2) White Town; (6) power station; (10) airport; (11) military stores and depot; (12) oil storage (18) Shollar Waterworks receiving tanks; and (19) main railway sidings and marshalling yards.

History buffs will appreciate this World War II bombing map of Baku that I came across at the Map Library of the National Library of Scotland in Edinburgh. My job as an Environmental Geologist often involves running environmental projects where there is a requirement for "desk-based research". This includes reviewing published current and historical maps that are held at the Map Library for all of Scotland, the UK and a vast number of current and historical maps from overseas.

In the summer of 1997 I spent a number of days researching historical maps and mentioned to the librarians that I was going to work in Baku. They said "Where?" So we got out an atlas and I showed them where Azerbaijan is. Over the past few years when I have been back in the library, they always ask, "Colin, so how is Azerbaijan these days? Where did you go this time? What is it like?" I even tried teaching them a few greetings and phrases in Azeri.

Last year I asked if they had ever come across historical maps of Azerbaijan, the Caspian Sea or even the Caucasus region. I arrived at the library one day to be asked questions like, "Why is the 'Black City' called the 'Black City'?" Apparently, they had searched through some archived maps and come across a Royal Air Force (RAF) map. I had heard that during World War II, the Allies had drawn up plans to attack Baku's oilfields and installations if the German Army ever took them. There it was! The evidence was right before my eyes in great detail! The RAF appears to have done its research rather well, pinpointing various targets, while attempting to avoid attacks on populated centers in the city itself.

I was fascinated with the map, even though it is quite unnerving to think about its original purpose. I would love to say that I spent hour upon hour searching through dust-covered papers, manuscripts and the like, but in truth, it was simply handed to me to assuage my curiosity. It's a fascinating map, which thankfully was never put to its original use.

Colin Mackay
Glasgow, Scotland

From Azerbaijan International (9.2) Summer 2001.
© Azerbaijan International 2001. All rights reserved.

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