2. Risky Business - Oil in the Russian Empire 2.1 ROTHSCHILD AND THE RUSSIAN NOBELITY Among the most promising markets for the ‘new light’ (kerosene) was the vast Russian empire, which was beginning to industrialise, and for which artificial light had a special importance. The capital city, St. Petersburg, was so far north that, in the winter, it had barely six hours of daylight. As early as 1862, American kerosene reached Russia, and in St. Petersburg, it quickly won acceptance, with kerosene lamps swiftly replacing the tallow on which the populace had almost entirely depended. The United States consul at St. Petersburg reported happily in December 1863 that it was ‘safe to calculate upon a large annual increase of the demand from the United States for several years to come.’ But his calculations could not take into account future developments in a distant and inaccessible part of the empire, which would not only foreclose the Russian market to American oil but would also spell the undoing of Rockefeller’s global plans. * The Russian crude oil industry had its modest beginning near the remote, and nearly inaccessible city of Baku,the territory of an independent duchy that had been annexed to the Russian Empire in the first years of the nineteenth century. Legends of the abundance of oil to be found on the Aspheron Peninsula - the landmass between the Caucasus Mountains and the Caspian Sea - date back to the end of the fourth Islamic century (the tenth century AD). Perpetual...
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