PROFESSOR OF SLAVONIC LANGUAGES AND AUTHOR
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For two years the Russia expert and author Bengt Jangfeldt has been immersing himself in the life and concerns of the Nobel family in Russia during Tsarist times. Now the result has been set out in a new book. Here the author gives a taste of the enthralling contents for readers of Industrial History.
When Ludvig Nobel visits his older brother Robert in Baku in 1876, he is carried along by the oil rush, and he becomes involved in the expansion of the operation. Together with his other brother Alfred, Ludvig founds the company Branobel against Robert’s will. Ludvig takes over the running of the company with his sons Emanuel and Carl.
Emanuel Nobel is 28 when his father Ludvig dies and Emanuel takes over the running of the oil company Branobel. His uncle Alfred was initially doubtful of Emanuel’s leadership ability, but his nephew developed as a business leader and made Nobel’s company flourish. With the Russian Revolution and the nationalisation of all private property, however, everything is lost and Emanuel is forced to flee the country in 1918.
At the end of the 1880s, Ludvig Nobel's health is faltering. He is suffering from angina pectoris and has trouble with his windpipe. In the spring of 1888, he is at death's door in Cannes on the French Riviera and his older brother, Robert Nobel, appeals to the younger brother, Alfred, to visit Ludvig and make up with him, which he does just a few days before Ludvig dies.
During the Russian revolution, the entire Nobel family’s huge company conglomerate was confiscated, and all the Westerners fled the country. But in Baku, history lives long in the memory. Following the fall of communism and Azerbaijan’s independence, contact was re-established with the descendants of the Nobel brothers.
Alfred finds himself in Paris and needs to get back the money he has lent for his brothers' Ludvig and Robert's investment in oil extraction in Baku. Alfred is critical of how their joint company, Branobel, is being managed and there is intensive correspondence between Alfred and Ludvig. The are, however, reconciled at Ludvig's deathbed in Cannes in 1888.
The father of the Nobel brothers, Immanuel, was an important inventor whose work interested him more than financial gain. When he was on the edge of bankruptcy, he sought a new future in St Petersburg where his fortunes were reversed. Among other things, he received the Tsar's imperial gold medal before he once again ended up in financial difficulties and was forced to return to Sweden in 1859.
Robert Nobel was the first Nobel brother with the sense to invest in oil extraction in Baku, but he was against forming a limited company. Despite this, his brothers Ludvig and Alfred went through with forming Branobel in 1879. Robert felt that he had been outmanoeuvred by his brothers and left Baku in 1880. He took a grand farewell with fireworks he had made himself...
Carl Nobel, Ludvig’s second son, was born in St Petersburg in 1862. At the age of 25, he took over responsibility for Ludvig’s machine-building factory and became a well-liked and successful manager of the factory, which also meant that his father’s debt to Alfred Nobel could be paid back.