Saturday 4 May 2013

Siberian Gold

"For help was coming from an unexpected dimension. In 1961, the first oilfield had been discovered in western Siberia, and by 1969 geologists - many working out of Akademgorodok - had identified almost sixty of them, brimming with saleable crude. The were just about all on-line and pumping in time for the 1973 oil shock, when the world price for petroleum rose by 400%. Suddenly, instead of being a giant autarchy, trying to bootstrap its way to prosperity, the Soviet Union was a producer for the world market, and it was awash with petrodollars. Suddenly, it was possible for the Soviet leadership to buy its way out of some of the deficiencies of the economy. If the collective farms still couldn't feed the country, then food could be quietly imported. If the people wanted consumer goods, you could buy the technology to produce them, like the complete Fiat car plant assembled on the banks of the Volga. The Brezhnev regime managed to make some everday luxuries available. There were thirty million TV sets in Soviet homes in 1968, and ninety million at the end of the 1970s; by which time, too, most Soviet families owned a fridge and majority had a washing machine. Vacations to the sunny beaches of the Black Sea became ordinary. Cigarettes and vodka and chocolate and perfume were usually on the shelves, even when milk and meat were not."

Francis Spufford, Red Plenty: Inside the Fifites' Soviet Dream

More oil, here, and an interesting peak oil talk between Simon Reynolds and Justin Buckley here.

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