Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Petroleum Policy and the Future of Artsakh

The Petroleum Policy and the Future of Artsakh

Sometime in late 1990s, on a KLM flight from Amsterdam to Tehran, I noticed that the majority of the passengers were westerners. The plane had a stop in Baku, pretty weird lengthening of destination, and lo, behold: all of the westerners left the plane in a hurry… The whole scene had a sinister effect on me. In those westerners I saw hungry wolves that would slay their own whelps for a few drops of oil in Gray Wolf land… And this partly explains the blatantly hypocritical and unjust attitude of the West toward the fate of the Armenians and all the monstrosities that befell them in the course of the Artsakh conflict. But is oil the only reason? Is there so much oil in “Azerbaijan” as it was initially propagated?

Looking back to analyze history and understand the intentions of players at the time leads to deductions that are not so obvious, to say the least. The most unlikely conclusions seem not so improbable on a second thought. Of diverse observations in relation to motives and purposes of the Armenian Genocide one theory maintains that the extermination of the Armenians served the emerging oil business in the West.

Armenians, the successful pioneers of Baku oil industry

Although by the 19th century Baku had become a majority Tatar city, Armenians had the upper hand in its industrial development. Like in all areas, recent “Azeri” histortion has entirely wiped any mention of the Armenian role in Baku oil industry where possible. In cases of personalities hard to ignore, for instance, the founder of the first Baku oil refinery in 1863 Melikoff (Melikian), they have given him the Muslim first name Javad (or Djavad).

In a research paper by Theodore Karasik sent to a certain online “Turkistan-Newsletter”, the editor of this proud first time publisher of the work admonishes the Armenians to behave like their forefathers who had an important share in Baku oil in the old days. Unwilling or unable to grasp that fake “Azerbaijan” did not exist back then, the self-righteous Turk thinks himself shrewd enough to give advice to Armenians to “return” Artsakh to the sore “Azeri” losers and perpetrators of genocide and war in return for empty wolfish promises of allowing them to become players in the game, whereas interestingly enough Karasik bares the treachery of stealing the industry from the Armenian pioneers introduced to the reader.

To avoid accusations of out of context quoting, though not all of the points discussed are directly related to our subject, a comprehensive picture of the paper and other articles introduced in this section will be given.

Karasik’s research tries to dig into the not so well known story of the gradual involvement of Imperial Russia in industrialization and Baku oil business, the major players including scientists and intelligentsia, the competition on ministerial level to attain the edge over the rest and the impact on the local businessmen: “This battle was fought between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of War”. Minister of Finance “Reutern was the first to see the potential of petroleum [who] with the assistance in some cases from the scientist D.M. Mendeleev …wanted to implement several programs based on Baku's oil potential...[and] develop the Bakinskaia guberniia's refining capacities.... S. Goulishambarov, an Armenian with the Ministry of Finance, led a group of St. Petersburg chemists to work on resolving waste in the Baku oil industry.”

The author then names several Russians, among who Doubinin, Voskoboinikov, Kokorev and Witte, who tried their hand at the oil production as early as the region’s passing under Russian rule, but with primitive methods; en passant, quotes a certain John Mitzakis alleging that “[D.] Melikov, an Armenian workman, who started work on his own operation, stole his knowledge from Witte” the latter being the “father of the future Minister of Finance and later Prime Minister”, who got it from mainly Medeleev. “More importantly, however, was the race over acquiring the knowledge for petroleum industrialization in Bakinskaia guberniia in the upper reaches of the government between the Ministry of Finance and the Ministry of War”.

Since the “Crimean War had exposed the weak and backwards state of military equipment, the overall lack of command, and poor training and morale”, Minister of War D. Miliutin wished to master the technology to cover the expenses of modernizing the Russian army. But St. Petersburg gave the preference to Reutern which “left the Ministry of Finance with uninterrupted influence in Baku's oil industry”.

He uncovers the anxiety of the Russians who attempted to kick the successful Armenians out of the business, “Kokorev had contacted Mendeleev about traveling to Baku to help him figure out new methods in oil extraction against the Mirzoev oil family”, but Mendeleev “perhaps one of the world's greatest scientists” refused to grant him his wish under the pretext that “Baku did not have the capability to produce kerosene at that time”. Karasik believes, “The truth may be that Mendeleev did not want to be part of Kokorev's plan against the Mirzoev's family”.

The article touches the main changes regarding the way land was allotted to the locals, “From 1821 to 1873, Russia employed the lease system ...The government, which made the exploitation of petroleum deposits a state monopoly, leased the oil fields to individual entrepreneurs....This [system] made large-scale operation impossible because the parcels were too small to permit the orderly recovery and production of petroleum ...Consequently, for Imperial Russia, the results from the Baku oil fields were poor due to weak technological advances”.

Land auction was the major modification that greatly influenced how things were done: “In 1872-1873, the Ministry of Finance ended the practice of granting oil concessions on state lands ...Local, Russian and foreign investors were now able to compete for purchasing oil tracts to the highest bidder”. Here he agrees with Villari that, “in terms of the competition between locals for the Baku oilfields, the Armenians won, by a large margin, over the Muslims after the land auction. ...the position of the Armenian families --the Aramiants, Lianozovs, Mailovs, Melikovs, Mirzoevs, Mantashians and the Tatevosyans-- expanded over the years. Part of the reason for this success can be attributed to the role Armenians played in Baku since they dominated many of the political and administrative functions in Bakinskaia guberniia.”

Yet this did not mean Muslims were left out: “the Asadullayevs, Maghiyevs, Mukhtarovs, Sultanovs, and the Taghiyevs” were successful in the business but on a much lower scale.

The Armenian Mirzoevs and the Tatar Taghiyevs are the ones about who enough data exists to draw a comparison. “From 1821 to 1825, [Mirzoev] paid the Russian government to export his petroleum. ...By 1863, he had expanded into the refinery business by building a factory near the Surakhany temple. ...In 1865 he made sure to adapt the emerging technologies from German scientists concerning photogens [giving] him the leading edge in Baku's petroleum refining at that time the turn of the decade, Mirzoev had expanded his drilling operations to such a degree that the Russian government felt compelled to intervene through the oil auctions ...oil men such as Kokorev went into the competition determined to outbid Mirzoev and deprive him of his holdings” however, “Mirzoev succeeded in defending himself from these attacks.”

“Muslims did succeed in buying land during the auctions. But the Muslim funds invested in the leases did not exceed five percent of the total, while the share taken by the Armenians was ten times larger” Zeynal 'Abdin Taghiyev was an exception who “multiplied his fortune by investments in kerosene refining and branched out into extensive land and stock market speculations”.

Villari reminds us the reason for the lack of Tatar success and before Turks throw mud at him notice that he does not put the entire blame on them, “The Tartars are extraordinary backward in their development, and as ignorant and barbarous as any race in Asia; for this the Russian Government is largely to blame, as it has hitherto discouraged education among them, while they themselves seldom troubled to provide schools of their own”. Yet he admits that the Tatars “have taken no part in liberal and revolutionary agitations, strikes, and similar movements, because they are incapable of understanding the meaning of “progressive” theories, and cannot read the literature on the subject”.

From the distance of time we see a truth Villari could not entirely have observed. After all, the Young Turk movement too was initially welcomed by subjugated nations of the Ottomans including the Armenians: “Within the last few years a movement has been growing up among a small group of influential Tartar “intellectuals” to educate the people and create a national political spirit among them. M. Taghieff, the Baku millionaire, perhaps the richest Mohammedan in the world, Agaieff and Hussein Zadé, and Ismail Beg Gasparinsky”. The latter is one of the masterminds of pan-Turkism, the diabolical ideology exported mainly from the Caucasus to Ottoman Turkey. It seems this “intellectual” movement did not really serve to civilize the Turks but gave them the required dogma to wipe entire Christian nations from Armenia, Asia Minor and southeast Caucasus.

Perhaps unintentionally, Karasik commits a fallacy when he states that Taghiyev’s “financing of [the periodical] Kaspii …served as an outlet for Azerbaijani national aspirations as printed material became available on a regular basis in Baku”.

The author seems to hold an unbiased view yet reading between the lines it is obvious that he applies some auto censorship and erroneous anachronism, probably to make the article palatable to Turks in case he is knowledgeable of history. He regularly cites several sources from a period where no “Azerbaijan” existed north of the Arax River among them Villari’s “Fire and Sword in the Caucasus”, James Dodds Henry’s “Baku, an Eventful History” etc., where the Tatar savageries against Armenians have been described and the aggressors have always been referred to as Tartars. Yet as seen in the passages above, for instance, regarding the periodical Kaspii financed by Taghiyev we notice while Villari is talking about “a small group of influential Tartar “intellectuals” …propagated their ideas …in a Baku paper called the Kaspii” the article refers to it as “an outlet for Azerbaijani national aspirations”.

It is impossible to forcefully pass fabricated history. Karasik, under the heading “Clan System Influence” clearly states, “For Muslims, life in Bakinskaia guberniia was based on a clan system of khanates...The Muslims were described as follows:

Their natural instincts are in favour of absolutism, and they acquiesce willingly in their old feudal and tribal system.” The last sentence is from Villari; further: “Consequently, based on the clan structure, the Muslim owners assembled an impressive collection of police and security forces” These were given free hand, they were “armed to the teeth, …belonged to one and the same clan, and looked quite sinister and brutal. These people were the most pampered children of the oil industry; everything was granted to them: furlough, money, presents --even women, for it was owing to this guard that a certain degree of peace reigned on the oil fields and in the works.”

The whole description of these tribal hordes living according to a clan system and using fear tactics to maintain peace is in stark contrast with earlier claims of “national aspirations”, therefore, every attempt to conceal the stink of a concocted history is rendered futile.

The convenient interchange of terms: “Azeri”, “Azerbaijani”, Turk, Muslim, etc. whenever the need arises is also a cunning technique of camouflage by these fakers yet the well informed reader will easily work out the sham. The purpose of our exposé is exactly the debunking of the “Azeri” myth of an ancient “Azerbaijan” empire stretching from one end of the universe to the other, existing quadrillions of eons before the Big Bang, hence, the emphasis on this sort of deceptively unimportant details.

The very lack of a civilized identity is the cause that these primitive Tatars could not shake off their ancestral habits. This is brought to light by Karasik under the heading “Technology Adaptation and Crime”: “An example of thievery during this period involved tapping existing oil pipelines. …Essey-bey tells an interesting story of how small Muslim producers acted against each other and the larger firms during this period”. The story reveals the cunning of oh no, not some lowly, poor rascals, but the most “civilized” of these Tatars, “the well-known captain of industry, Riza, a worthy gentleman who sought culture most assiduously, traveled abroad every year, and was considered the upholder of the European civilization” who stole everyone’s oil by connecting the pipes from the common reservoir near the refinery where the oil was sent to proper reservoirs of each company to his pipeline “so that their oil simply flowed into his line, to be booked as a product of his oil-derricks when it entered the reservoir”.

Karasik’s essay goes on to relate the sad story of the raid of oil sniffing rapacious predators: Nobels and later Rothschilds, “that resulted in many local firms going bankrupt”. The locals failed for their lack of mastering the new technologies, though they tried to reproduce the Nobel technology by putting up a network of “jerry-built, leaking, and ill-fitting pipes that often were the target of midnight raids where Muslims would switch oil from another producer’s pipe into their own, diverted lines into their own storage tanks, or simply let the oil run out into the sand.” Civilized Europeans and uncouth Tatars, like always, worked hand in hand to destroy Armenians and their interests; however, it did not mean that Turks were always happy with their lot.

The transport of oil was done by mule driven carts (arabas) providing thousands of Tatars their livelihood working as drivers. The Nobel pipeline transfer put them out of work which inflamed their craving for revenge “the drivers attacked Nobel facilities. eventually, the Nobels had to protect their property by appointing their own security and constructing sentry boxes every few hundred yards since “infuriated [Muslims], whose lucrative business they had destroyed, did damage to their lines.””, no acts of vengeance coming from Armenians though, whose entire business evaporated in due course despite initial attempts to join the Nobels.

Karasik concludes by summing up his essay into three points where he incidentally remarks, “by 1882-1883, locals accused foreign investors of trying to monopolize the industry and they looked increasingly towards the state for protection--but with no help forthcoming. …As production grew, the gulf between foreign companies, the government, oil producers, and the workers grew and turned towards violence by the turn of the century”.

The most notable Armenian in Baku oil business was Alexander Mantashian (Mantashev, Mantasheff 1849-1911), son of a merchant, Hovhannes, born in Tabriz later settled in Tbilisi, who entered big oil business in late 19th century. He was also the major shareholder of the Tbilisi Commercial Bank. His own “A. Mantashiants and Co. Trading House” had a 30 million ruble capital in 1914. His business had branches in several cities of Russia, Poland, Turkey, Romania, Britain, France, Egypt, Iran and India; he owned steam ships, real estate and houses making him the richest man of the Russian Empire.

He built diverse petroleum plants and refineries and held shares in many other oil companies as well including the Nobels. He was a magnanimous giver too and donated funds or built several establishments, schools, churches, theaters, etc. He also funded the Baku-Batum, the world's longest pipeline of the day, which was launched in 1907, a century before the BTC. His company was only second to those of the Nobels and the Rothschilds.

After his death, his sons transferred the company from Baku to Petersburg in 1913 and had the misfortune to be contemporary of that half Tatar mongrel agitator Lenin’s “revolution” that plundered them, stole their riches and put an end to Mantashian’s business. Even his memory was unwelcome to the Bolshevik robbers and the mass-murdering Georgian ogre Stalin’s right hand psychopathic rapist, the Georgian executioner Beria destroyed the cemetery where Alexander Mantashev was buried.


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