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Inside, confidential and off the record




The Unknown Baku Nobel prize



Ludwig and Robert Nobel, Alfred Nobel's brothers, built the largest oil company the world had seen.


Emanuel Nobel’s prizes were intended to be presented
annually for the best works or inventions in the field of the oil business.


On November of 1904, the Rothschild’s “Mazut” company paid a capital in the amount of 10 thousand rubles and founded under the Baku Branch (BB) of the IRTS a new prize was named after Emanuel Nobel (son of Ludwig Nobel) worthy successor of his grandfather’s and father’s work in Russia (the BB of the IRTS was established on March 24 th , 1879 in Baku).

Having become the head of the “Nobel bro.” company after the death of his father Emanuel Nobel, in every possible way, promoted the development of its power and simultaneously engaged in the proliferation of Rudolf Dizel’s engines in Russia. Characteristic data: Nobel’s St.-Petersburg factory produced 7 diesel engines in 1900, but in 1904 the number was 50.

And we can add, that first in the world in St.-Petersburg (in 1899) under the leadership of Emanuel Nobel it was organized the industrial manufacture of motors constructed by Rudolf Diesel.

Emanuel Ludwig Nobel (1859-1932) - was born in S.-Petersburg, he went to the school of St Anna, and worked at a mechanical factory. Under his management wide social programs were carried out in S.-Petersburg. Residential areas, schools for workers and employees of the mechanical factory “Ludwig Nobel” were constructed; and free-of-charge health services for factory workers etc. were organized. In 1889, Emmanuel Nobel accepted Russian citizenship; by his initiative in Baku town, schools, libraries were created and evening courses on technical education for workers were organized. He donated huge funds for the establishment of the Institute of experimental medicine during the cholera epidemic (1892). In the future, he would repeatedly donate large sums for the needs of this establishment and in general for medical purposes. In 1890, he became the treasurer of the Society of Moral, Intellectual and Physical Development of Young People. Here it is worth to note, that when many (including the king of Sweden Oscar II) tried to protest the testament of his uncle Alfred Nobel, Emmanuel insisted on the execution of the testament and provided its execution. The Swedish king, the grandson of Napoleonic Marshal Bernadott, was decisively against the establishment of prizes with A. Nobel’s funds (especially against the prize for the strengthening of the peace). Having invited Emmanuel to his palace he tried to convince him to prevent the execution of the testament, by saying: “These fanatics of the world affected your uncle, especially – this Austrian woman!” He meant Berta Kinski who was married to Fon Zutner). The nephew was not afraid of objecting to the king: “Sir, I would not like to defy my duty before my descendants and to refuse a science funds which, belong to it and nobody else”. In 1897, on the demand of E. Nobel all of Alfred’s contributions were withdrawn from industrial production for the establishment of a special Nobel fund (at that time it made about 2 million pounds sterling) which became the financial basis of the Nobel Prize. In 1909, on the 10 th  of June, on the 50 th  anniversary of the date of birth, the Russian emperor Nikolay II granted him the grade of Actual councilor of state for exclusive donations for the benefit of science and national education. Also, he was rewarded with orders of St Anna and St Vladimir.

Emanuel Nobel while making a speech to the board of the “Nobel bro.” company explained his enthusiasm for diesel engines: “We guessed that the diesel engine-motor will appear most suitable for Russia where not so large enterprises prevail. We took into account, that fuel for diesel engine-motors (oil) is naturally rich here. So demand for new production will be continuous and will grow with acceleration”.

It is characteristic that although under the direction of Ludwig the first oil tanker steamship in the world “Zoroastr” (1877), opened a new era in the oil business, with a capacity of 15 thousand poods was constructed. Under the direction of his son – Emanuel the first oil tanker motor vessels “Vandal” (1903) and “Sarmat” (1904), both had a capacity of 50 thousand poods were constructed, which opened a new page in the history of the Russian fleet. The three axis motor vessel “Vandal”, which was constructed at a factory in Sormovo and on which irreversible three-cylinder diesel engines, put in action by generators of a constant current were installed, had been sailing in the waters of the Caspian Sea since 1903.

Emanuel Nobel’s mass production of diesel engines for a fleet of oil tankers was organized in Russia, and Russia became the first “diesel” power in the world. For example, on October 2 nd , 1908 in Nizhni Novgorod under the order of the “Nobel bro.” company the huge tanker-motor vessel “Kirghiz” was constructed, which was able to transport up to 600 thousand poods of liquid cargo. And in two years time there were 4 tanker motor vessels wandering in the Caspian Sea, 3 tankers belonged to the “Nobel bro.” - “Emmanuel Nobel”, “Robert Nobel”, “Carl Hagelin” companies and 1 to Merkuriev brothers (“Delo”) which made up to 4000 voyages in a year.

In 1913, the total number of motor vessels in the world was 80, out of which 70 belonged to Russia. This was undoubtedly to the merit of Emmanuel Ludwig Nobel. The following was started in the magazine “Teplokhod” [# 5, 1915, p.187]: “The development of motorship business is tightly connected with the development of the oil industry. And, in this respect, being the general manager of Nobel Brothers Partnership, Em. L. did the motor shipping a considerable favour by regulating the home market, caring about drawing the product closer to the population, making special sorts of fuel and lubricating oils, exploring new oilfields. He, also, contributed to the regulation of Russian oil market gaining a hard victory in foreign markets and succeeding in getting and saving independence of the Partnership which was a big Russian enterprise”.

Emanuel Nobel’s prizes were intended to be presented annually for the best works or inventions in the field of the oil business. The amount of the prize annually established by the BB of the IRTS was representing capital in the amount of 1000 rubles [“Transactions of BB IRTS”, 1904, # 6, p.33-55 and 1910, # 3-4, p.10-11; “Oil Business”, 1910, # 13, p.35]. In 1906, the famous Baku engineer, colonel Nikolay Avgustovich fon der Nonne (1832-1908) was included in the staff of Commision on the awarding of Baku Nobel Prize named after E.L. Nobel.

Substantive provisions:

- Candidates for prizes can be both Russian and foreign citizens (it means it was International prize).

- Candidates should present their works in Russian no later than three months prior to the awarding of the prizes, that is, not later than February 25 th , of the given year.

- The day of the public announcement is appointed to May 25 th , that is, the day when the “Nobel bro.” company was established.

- The works presented for candidacy, should be supplied by mottos, and the name of the author should be written in a closed and sealed envelope, enclosed work, would be known only after the termination of the awarding of the prize.

- Results of the competition are declared both to the “Nobel bro.” company, and to the companies taking part in the formation of the present fund.

 E.L.Nobel’s prize was awarded four times in Baku, in 1909, 1910, 1911 and 1914.

The first Baku Emanuel’s prize “laureate” became a Baku oil-chemist V.F. Herr (1875-1942), who was awarded the prize in 1909 for his work “acquiring of the dibasic acids (adipinic, glutaric, acetic and amber) with oxidation of narrow oil fractions by nitric acid” [“Transactions of BB IRTS”, 1909, # 5-6].  

Herr Victor Fyodorovich (1875-1942) – the famous oil chemist, Professor of Chemistry. The first winner of the Baku Nobel Prize named after Emmanuel Nobel in 1909. On III International oil congress in Bucharest (on September 8-13th, 1907) he, together with A.T. Predit, has given the report on a chemical composition of Baku oils  which has caused a great interest in delegates. Herr has isolated from water of Boyuk Shor’s lake (in which oil-rig waters of Balakhani  area in Baku were  gathered) the naphthenic  acids with density above 1. He was the manager of laboratory BD IRTS and the editor-in-chief of the oldest oil magazine «Works of BD IRTS » (magazine was based in Baku in 1886). In a Soviet period, V.F. Herr was a manager of the chair of organic chemistry in Azerbaijan teacher’s training college and closely co-operated with Yusif Mamedaliyev.

In 1926, the muffle ceramic furnaces designed by Herr and G.P. Ulyanov (with capacity of 1 cubic metre), in which subjected to coking the heavy still bottoms received by kerosene’s pyrolysis in unproductive retort ovens of  Pickering and in gas-plants,  were put into operation. During the Stalin’s mass repressions, he  has been arrested  in 1940, charged  in undercover work for the use of Germany.

The second Baku Emanuel’s prize was awarded to a mining engineer Konstantine Moiseyevich Ilghisonis in 1910 for his work on “The design of apparatus for drilling of the holes and at the same time for overlowing of the oil wells“ [“Transactions of BB IRTS”, 1910, # 5-9].

The thirth Baku Emanuel’s prize was awarded to a Professor of Moscow University A.M. Nastyukov and to his assistant K.L. Malyarov in 1911 for their work on “Acquiring the properties of liquid products condensation of nonsaturated hydrocarbons of oil with formalin “[“Transactions of BB IRTS”, 1911, # 7].

The fourth and last Baku Emanuel’s prize was awarded in 1914, to a Baku mining engineer, candidate of natural sciences Saak Grigoryevich Isaakov for his work on “A tartan drum, operated exclusively by hand and connected to a spoon on a tartan pulley to prevent dragging” [“Transactions of BB IRTS”, 1914, #  2-3].

After Bolshevik’s revolution in 1917 in Russia this price was canceled.

An interesting fact: Thomas Tuden, the Head of Nobel’s Family Association and Ludwig Nobel’s great grandson visited Baku on October, 26 th  in 2008. “Many of our relatives have grown up on the stories and reminiscences about Azerbaijan and Russia. There are many good books stated the activity of our family, but I personally realized the importance of oil activity of Nobel Brothers only after my first visit to Azerbaijan in 2002. I have been three times in Azerbaijan and have been impressed with fantastical growth of economy and the range of construction works in the Republic” – he said in his interview to journalists.


•  Mir-Babayev Mir-Yusif, The role of Azerbaijan in the world’s oil industry: Oil-Industry History, (USA),  12 (1), 2011, pp.109-123.

•  Mir-Babayev Mir-Yusif. Concise history of Azerbaijany oil. – Baku, Asuca Publishing House, 2015, 368 p.


Mir-Yusif  Mir-Babayev, Doctor of Chemical Sciences, Professor of Azerbaijan Technical University/ May 10, 2020

PW ISSUES.... 05/11/2020

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