Branobel got off to a flying start and continued to develop throughout its operation. The technical and organisational competence that was built up made the company a leading actor on the world market.

A born merchant from Moscow heads Branobel’s Moscow office

The Nobel Brothers’ Branobel had storage depots in virtually all the major cities of the Russian empire. The local offices had several important duties, mainly to keep the company management in St. Petersburg informed of all outgoing and incoming production through reports and other documents. The regional office in Moscow played a key role and was successfully managed by Knut Stepanovich Littorin.

Efficient organisation distinguished Branobel as a company

Entering the Azerbaijani market in 1879, Branobel quickly occupied a key position in the local oil industry. By all significant measures, it left its adversaries behind. Branobel represented oil production independent of imperial holdings. It included supply to industries, the processing of oil at local factories, and the marketing of oil products. It also distinguished itself by a highly organized work force, high wages and a sophisticated administration.

The oil companies merge

By the end of the 19th century, the European oil companies had been resisting the American Standard Oil's attempts to gain a foothold in Europe and Russia for more than 30 years. But they had also been fighting among themselves, which made them vulnerable. Now they tried to merge.

A great deal at stake over the sale of Branobel

The battle for the oil markets continued despite the outbreak of the First World War in 1914. The stakes for power over the Russian oil market were high and extremely uncertain, particularly as a result of the threat from the Bolsheviks of coming nationalism. There will be many turns in the game before Branobel's plants in the still independent Baku are finally sold to the American Standard Oil in 1920.

How everything started

On a journey to Baku in 1874, Robert Nobel buys a small refinery and a parcel of land from the master of the river boat he is travelling with. Just a year later, he finds oil on the island of Cheleken in the Caspian Sea. This is the start of the oil industry that was to dominate the Russian oil market a long time into the future.

Rockefeller’s Standard Oil gets competition from Nobel

At the beginning of the 1870s, the European oil market was dominated by John D Rockefeller's company, Standard Oil. But the Americans would soon have tough competition from the Nobel brothers' newly-started oil company, Branobel. The new-found oil in Robert Nobel's oil plant in Baku flowed and, with the help of the Russian government in the form of increased export duties, Branobel grew at a rapid rate despite the, initially, backward technical level.

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