Neft daşları and soviet modernity

The Neft daşları project, in this video, indicates something of the heroic nature of this oilfield town built in the middle of a sea.  Somehow, socialist modernism, the invention of new urban forms in strange places such as the Azeri oilfields or Siberia, was always heroic, something that all through the Cold War we, on this side, were taught to ridicule – a legacy that still holds.

Consider the Alberta oil sands – a project of capitalist modernity – which is always grooming its image, not pushing the workers to the fore as in soviet propaganda, but foregrounding economic benefits and, belatedly, environmental reclamation.  During the oil boom of the late 1970s, they were officially called the Tar Sands.  Athabascan canoes had been caulked with tar for centuries, not oil, but even the name of the product has been smoothly and cleanly re-branded.  What is real here?

Oil sands workers live in camps, fly in from all over the country for two and three week shifts, either send their money home, a real third world economic practice, or blow it out through the narco-economy.  The workers are not even foregrounded for propaganda purposes.