Photo Gallery A Stalinist Utopia on the Caspian Sea

In the 1950s, Soviet engineers built a massive city in the Caspian Sea off the coast of Azerbaijan. It was a network of oil platforms linked by hundreds of kilometers of roads and housing 5,000 workers, with a cinema, a park and apartment blocks. Gradually disintegrating but still closely guarded, this astonishing place inspired a fiery scene in a James Bond movie.
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An oil field near Baku. In 1941, Azerbaijan, then part of the Soviet Union, was already supplying 175 million barrels of crude oil a year -- 75 percent of the country's entire oil production. That's why German forces fought so hard to try to seize the city and the surrounding Absheron Peninsula, a feat they failed to achieve.

Foto: SERGEY PONOMAREV/ ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Stalin's Atlantis was a proud secret of the Soviet Union. The foundation of the main settlement consists of seven sunken ships including "Zoroaster," the world's first oil tanker, built in Sweden. Eight-story apartment blocks were built for the 5,000 workers who sometimes spent weeks on Neft Dashlari. The island had its own beverage factory, soccer pitch, library, bakery, laundry, 300-seat cinema, bathhouse, vegetable garden and even a tree-lined park for which the soil was brought from the mainland.

Foto: Reza/ Reza / Webistan
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This hotel still stands on Neft Dashlari. Dismantling the vast steel and concrete island would probably be more expensive than to simply keep it going.

Foto: PD
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The reef on which Neft Dashlari was built was originally called "Black Rock." But after Soviet engineers discovered oil reserves here, it was renamed "Oily Rock" -- Neft Dashlari in Azerbaijani.

Foto: SHAKH AIVAZOV/ ASSOCIATED PRESS
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Hokhsbat Yusifzadeh, vice president of Socar, the state-owned Azerbaijan oil company, worked on Neft Dashlari in the early days. "We were pioneers in those days, and the oil flowed in huge quantities, he says. He has fond memories of the time. "Don't forget there were many women on Neft Dashlari, and the evenings were long at sea."

Foto: SHAKH AIVAZOV/ ASSOCIATED PRESS
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On February 18, 1951, the first fully-laden oil tanker left Neft Dashlari for the mainland in a grand ceremony. In the 1960s, the installation's output peaked at 21 million tons a year.

Foto: SHAKH AIVAZOV/ ASSOCIATED PRESS