Armenian business in Baku

The Armenians in Baku were involved in expanded economic, trade and constructional activities. They were especially notable in oil industry. The outstanding contractors of Baku in 1850-54 were Kuyumjian, Babanasian, General Ter-Ghukasian and later Hovhannes Mirzoian, merchants living in Tbilisi. The first industrial oil-well in Baku was drilled in 1869 and it belonged to H. Mirzoian. 

According to official information of 1846 the trade between Transcaucasia and Russia was in the hands of the Armenians and totaled 5.534.600 rubles. The representatives of the Armenian capital were always included in new business spheres. 

After the auction announced by the government in 1872 the owners of oil-wells became 12 Russians, 11 Armenian businessmen (H.Mirzoian, G. Lianosian, etc.) and an Armenian company called “Souchastniki”, the founders of which were Bogdan Dolukhanian and Minas Kachkachian. 

In 1878 the habitants of Shushi Samvel Baghdasarian and Harutyun Madatian uniting with Bruno de Buri founded “The Caspian Company”, oil industrial and trade company, which passed to Ghukasian brothers and Hovhannes Ter-Markosian. 

One of the well-known Baku businessmen was Alexander Mantashian, who enjoyed authority in oil industry. In February, 1894 an agreement was signed between Armenian Mantashian group and “The Union of Baku Kerosene Factory Owners”, due to which the Armenian businessmen got chance to enter the world market. 

By 1902, 136 enterprises operating in Baku and adjacent regions extracted 636.528.852 pounds of oil, and the leading 24 firms – 521 million pounds. The 13 of those 24 firms were Armenian; they extracted 203 million pounds of oil or the 39% of total amount.

By 1907 54, 4% of produced 448 million pounds of oil and the 53% of extracted 368 million pounds of oil were extracted by the Armenian companies.   

At the end of the 19th century a series of Armenian companies was founded. The Armenian businessmen gained authority due to their skills and diligence and played a significant role in the development of economy of the whole region. “Mirzoian and Brothers”, “Mantashian and Friends”, “Aragats”, “Araks”, “Ghukasov Brothers”, “Liasonov and Firends”, “Aramazd”, “Ararat”, “Masis”, “Astghik”, “Syuniq”, “Aralo-Caspian” and other tens of companies belonging to Armenians were mainly engaged in oil industry, had their own means of conveyance including marine transport. Altogether in 1912 there were 66 ship owners and ship-owner companies, 14 of them were Armenians and owned 24 ships. Hakob and Hovhannes Avetians /“Menastan”/, H. Adamian /“Vahan”/, “The Armenian Steamer Company” /“Ashot Yerkat”, “Amasia”/, “Volga Company” /“Artsiv Vaspurakani”/, “Transcaspian Industrial Trade Company” /“Vaspurakan”/, etc. Even some Azerbaijanis gave Armenian names to their ships. For example, the ship of Ashurbekov and Navarov was called “Avetik”, the ship of Babashiev – “Masis”, of Kuliev – “Arshak”, of Mamedov – “Ararat”.     

The Armenian businessman G. Lianozian was considered to be the most outstanding producer of fish and seafood in the region. At the eve of WWI their fishing factories were equipped with the best technologies. The Venecovs’ family also had its significant role in the development of fish industry. In the sphere of trade and industry, where Armenians had their great input and registered progress, there was notable the peculiarity of Armenian business management. Relatives were engaged in each business; therefore the nature of business was national. 

It is important to mention that Armenians were active not only in economic sphere but also created the scientific basis for its progress. In 1911 oil boring machines, tools, and pipelines were produced by 41 mechanical factories and companies, the 19 of which were Armenian. There were 194 various mechanical workshops in oilfields, of which the owners of 95 were Armenians. 

In 1904 there were 2 tobacco factories in Baku: one of them belonged to Mirzabekian brothers, the other to Sargis Karagozian and Avet Arakeliants. In 1914 there were 7 tobacco factories in nowadays territory of Azerbaijan; all of them belonged to Armenians. 

In 1891 Piliposiants brothers founded the first chocolate factory in Baku, the only one in Caucasus. The first mirror factory in Caucasus was founded by A. Khajarian in Baku, the same year. The natural juice and mineral water fabric of S. Melik-Ghulambariants was the only one in Transcaucasia.    

To solve the problem of drinking water in Baku an Armenian merchant M. Sakanyan built reservoirs at outfall, laid on water supply pipes, even rented a port and supplied the city with water by ships. 

In 1990s the indisputable leader in manufacture trade was “Transcaspian Industrial Trade Company” /chairmen – S. Ter-Ohanian, members of the administration – M. Sarukhanian, H. Tumanian, J. Ter-Israyelian, H. Shkhiants/. The Armenian were notable also in silk manufacturing, cotton-growing branches. In 1907, 89 of 154 companies operating in the city were Armenian. One of the largest shops in the city belonged to Tumanian brothers...

Armenians played a significant role also in the financial sphere of Baku. In 1875 the directors of “Mutual Credit Company” were A. Tavrizian, M. Mamikonian, and later Ayvazian brothers. In 1902 another financial institute was founded in Baku, the “City Credit Company”. The chairman of the board was a Russian, and the directors were A. Ayvzaian, Aram Khan-Aghian. On the money of Baku authorities Armenian legends could be found.

Thus, at the end of 19th century and at the beginning of 20th the Armenians of Baku lived a full live and played the leading roles in oil industry, trade and other industrial branches, as well as in financial sphere.