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Letter from Ruth

What was life like for a young Swedish woman in Baku at the turn of the last century? We can find out much about family life in Nobel’s Villa Petrolea from Ruth Grapengiesser’s frequent correspondence with her mother and sister at home in Sweden.

Wilhelm Hagelin comes to Baku as a stowaway

The Swedish engineer, Wilhelm Hagelin, was born in Russia and came to Baku at the end of the 1870s as a stowaway on the river boat. Barely 20 years of age, he started as a filer at Robert Nobel's paraffin factory and ended up responsible for managing Branobel during the troubled years that heralded the Russian revolution. The new Soviet regime offered him the opportunity to manage the technical operations of the entire oil industry in Baku – but he declined.

The geologists break new ground

Robert Nobel employs geologists at an early stage to search for oil and gas deposits around the Caspian Sea. The first Swedish geologists who come to Baku travel far and wide around the area and extend their field of knowledge. Leaving the university environment was not always looked on with approval.

Branobel: Blue Collar Workers

At the beginning of the century, the Baku oil field workers presented, as contemporaries put it, “a mixture of tribes and nations”. That “black mineral oil army” consisted of many culturally distinct groups, within which there were also personal differences, as revealed in the workers’ personnel records .

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