Alexander Mantashiants – The Great Armenian Oil Magnate

The time has come to turn to the figure of a great Armenian, a man without whom forming an idea of either the Baku or the global oil industry would not be possible. A person without whom, getting an idea of the essence of an Armenian, his enterprise and industriousness would not be possible. Without whom, the history of the Armenian people would be incomplete.

We are talking about Alexander Mantashiants (1842-1911), one of the closest associates of the Armenian “oil king” Arakel Sarukhan, who in 1921 managed to escape from Bolshevik Baku, move to Vienna, meet the Mekhitarists, engage in Armenian studies, and create a number of valuable works. One of them is his 1931 book, in which he expressed his unlimited love and respect for Mantashiants.

As it seems to us, A. Sarukhan wrote the book with caution and deliberately made some inaccuracies and dropped a lot with vague hints since many of the persons mentioned in his memoirs were at the time alive and had influence in the global oil business. However, it was an honest, sincere, and truthful book.

A. Sarukhan began his memoirs with the following lines: “I write ‘Mantashiants’ (with a ‘ts’ in the end) because the deceased used to sign ‘Mantashiants’ in Armenian. In Russian, according to the usual custom, he signed Mantacheff.

At first, he used the Mantachoff form. His old contacts from Manchester until the end wrote and pronounced his surname in the English manner ‘Mentechoff.’”

We consider it inappropriate that today, almost everyone uses the variant “Mantashov” in Armenian (perhaps unknowingly). Therefore, observing the will of the owner of the surname, we will henceforth use “Mantashiants.”

In fact, the life and activity of one of the greatest figures of the centuries-old Armenian business Al. Mantashiants deserves a serious and thorough monograph. But he cannot be perceived without Baku oil. That is why, based on the nature and scope of our book, we will touch upon only on his role in the oil industry.

At the beginning of 1889, a native of Shusha Mikael Aramiants, who together with his Karabakh compatriots A. Tsaturian, G. Arafelian, and G. Tumaian co-owned the oil company “A. Tsaturov and others”, arrived in Tiflis and asked Al. Mantashiants, the vice-chairman (since 1890 – chairman for life) and the largest shareholder in the Caucasus Commercial Bank, for a loan for the purchase of cistern cars.

This request was not accidental: Aramiants and Mantashiants had known each other from a young age when they had been engaged in trade in Tabriz. Aramiants had been an assistant to the merchant Tarumian, while Mantashiants had been assistant to his father.

Al. Mantashiants, who had long noticed the promise of oil, offered M. Aramiants his own funds (50 thousand rubles), but on the condition that he would become a partner in their company. So they agreed, and Al. Mantashiants joined the Baku oil industry under the banner of the company “Trading House of A.I. Mantashev.”

Already on November 27 of the same year, on behalf of the Fifth Congress of the Oil Producers, Mantashiants submitted a report to the Department of Treasury of the Ministry of Finance, in which he presented a serious economic analysis comparing the Russian and American oil industry and suggested a number of measures with which Baku oil could dominate the global market.

In particular, he noted: “I myself am involved in a business that exports more than 32 thousand tons of kerosene per year to England and owns two liquid bulk ships that sail between Batum and London and are sent to America.”

This report was a kind of a “calling card” for Mantashiants. A large-scale personality appeared in the Baku oil industry, gathering around itself all the small and large Armenian oil owners who became its leader, partner, helper, and bulwark, forming the concept that we define as “Armenian oil.”

A new player appeared in the arena who was supposed to negate all attempts of the Nobels and the Rothschilds to monopolize the oil industry, and he had to achieve this solely by economic competition. A person appeared, without whose opinion it was impossible to resolve a single issue.

According to the data of September 1889, the Rothschild Caspian-Black Sea Society was a monopolist of exports from Batumi. On a contractual basis, it received 2,280 tanks (out of the total 4,195) of kerosene from 50 oil industry firms and sold it in foreign markets. Al. Mantashiants built a dam for the production of metal boxes in Batumi and in 1898 alone exported 51 thousand tons of oil in them.

We should add that in 1896, 13 companies were exporting oil and oil products from Batumi, 4 of which belonged to Armenians (brothers Tsovianians, Khachatriants, Shahbazian), and Al. Mantashiants himself was second only to the Rothschilds and Nobels.

An excerpt from the book of Khachatur Dadayan “Armenians of Baku”
Read also: “Armenians and Baku” by Khachatur DadayanThe Term “Azerbaijani” Did Not Exist Before 1918Armenians in the Period of the Russian Expansion in TranscaucasiaThe Role of Armenians in the Development of the Baku Oil IndustryArmenian Oilmen During the Governmental Lease Program of Oil Fields in Baku – 1872Baku Oil Industry Development from the Late 19th to the Early 20th Centuries, Armenians in The Management of The “Congresses of Baku Oil Owners” – 1884

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