Oil Resources in Eastern Europe and the Caucasus, 1885-1978

ISBN:  (13) 9781840973150   First published: 2012
Extent:  6000 pages in 9 volumes, with maps  Editor:  A.L.P. Burdett
Paper: Printed on acid free paper  
Binding: Library bindings with gilt finish  
See sample pages: not available


The greatest currently anticipated source of petroleum is said to be in the Caspian Sea off Baku, but the Caucasus region has been exploited for oil for centuries, as have other smaller, but key fields in Roumania. Now that so many former Soviet satellite states, Azerbaijan and Roumania included, are independent territories, there is global involvement and interest in their development. Through these documents the history of the industry and business itself is depicted, but the involvement of European and overseas companies and governments in this field will serve also as a lens through which to focus on political relations with Russia, her successor state the USSR, and annexed territories.


These nine volumes depict the sustained interest, efforts and effectiveness of Great Britain in acquiring, and then defending, petroleum resources in a geo-political realm where it had neither legal standing nor political presence in the late 19th and early 20th century. Thereafter, they address its fight to obtain redress for those oil interests following the seizure by the USSR of numerous concessions and equipment after World War I, notably those in Roumania, and again after Allied oil denial policy during World War II, and the impact upon relations and trade in petrochemicals between eastern and western Europe. During the Cold War era and beyond, issues and shifts in international relations are depicted through the western European acquisition of Russian oil: Great Britain defied the USA in the late 1950s to end an embargo on Russian oil imports, and gradually began to resume trade with the USSR, thus marking the beginning of the end of the Cold War, and by the end of the 1970s perhaps even foreshadowing Perestroika.


All material has been drawn from the archives of British government departments deposited at the National Archives, particularly those of the Board of Trade, Cabinet, Ministry of Defence, Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Ministry of Fuel and Power. The Board of Trade collection consists of privately generated records of wound-up companies, mainly the Articles of Association, terms of reference, and lists of shareholders or fiscal and practical problems encountered. The military material in War Office and Air classes of relevance relates to the strategic significance, and defence of oil-producing regions by Britain, during both WWI and WWII, frequently involving the evaluation of the scope of these oil fields through detailed surveying work undertaken by the army and air force, or passing on intercepted enemy reports. Within the FO/FCO papers and particularly in POWE files there is sustained and regular correspondence with several of the British oil companies as well as with foreign governments, and occasional representation of the views and policies of international forums, such as NATO.


  • Volume 1: 1885–1919
  • Volume 1 provides background information on the region, and illuminates the earliest period of British investment in oil concessions in the Trans-Caucasus and Roumania from 1894, relating typical commercial procedures, methods of arranging early concessions, and offers insights into the involvement and legal position of local land owners, and the set-back to the industry brought about by the Russian Revolution of 1905. These, generally short-lived, companies formed part of a Western-led oil rush enabled by changes to mining and property laws, especially in Roumania (1896) and by the creation of the major companies, such as Steaua Romana (1895.)
  • Volume 2: 1920–1922 and Volume 3: 1922–1938
    This period was dominated by the development of the industry under new political regimes, and their refinement of trade and ownership regulations. The end of the European phase of World War I did not mark the completion of the Russian Revolution, and the struggle between the White Army and the Bolsheviks impacted hugely in Trans-Caucasia, the Caspian Sea, Baku, Batoum and other ports. The three regions which briefly constituted the republic of Trans-Caucasia were occupied and contested variously by the Allies, by General Deniken and the White Russians, by Turkey, and ultimately by the Bolsheviks.
  • Volume 4: 1939–1945
    The main emphasis of Volume 4 is on the defence of Russian and east European supplies and plans to prevent these resources falling into belligerent hands, or commentary on Axis plans to acquire and maintain these fields.
  • Volume 5: 1946–1948
    Post-war the focus was on Russian demands for Roumanian oil as war reparations. Meetings of the Anglo-Soviet Oil commission took place to determine reparations and whether concessions and materials seized by Soviets in Roumanian oil fields were German-owned, from April 1945– February 1946. The Soviets refuted that ‘foreigners’ had any rights in companies bought or operated before the war.
  • Volume 7: 1960–1966
    An impasse in petroleum relations had been reached between the British Government and British oil companies on the one hand, and Soviet and eastern European oil exporters on the other: it was believed eastern European petroleum imports could flood the market, and were thus a perceived as a threat to Western oil concerns, and would have a negative effect on the balance of payments position. At the same time the UK government had a negotiated trade agreement with the USSR in force and was aiming for more relaxed and positive relations.
  • Volume 8: 1967–1978
    Volume 8 traces events and developments during the period of the relaxation of trade sanctions on oil with eastern European countries and with Russia, brought about by the resolution of the dispute over claims arising from World War II, and from the conclusion that Russian oil imports would not diminish other UK energy industries.
  • Volume 9 is the Map box - see below.


MAP 1. ‘Sketch Map Showing the Administrative Divisions of Caucasia’. From Précis of information concerning Trans-Caucasia, War Office, Military Intelligence, 1885.

MAP 2. ‘Baku’, undated city plan, in German. Accompanies Report from British Embassy, St Petersburg, 8 June 1914.

MAP 3. ‘Map of the Mineral Deposits in the Caucasia’, 1922. Ordnance Survey, Southampton, 1908.

MAP 4. ‘Geological Map of South Eastern Europe’. Compiled by Dr Keleterborn, The Hague, 1934.

MAP 5. Die-line map of railways, pipelines of Caucasus, c. 1939.

MAP 6. ‘Baku: Plan of Port and Town’, undated, c. 1939–40.

MAP 7. ‘Batum’, Plan of Batum, undated, c. 1939–40.

MAP 8. ‘Caucasia and neighbouring territories’, Royal Engineers, June 1942. From Guidebook and Gazetteer, mid-Asiatic Bureau of GHQ, MEF, Dec 1941.

MAP 9. ‘Caucasus Region, Oil Fields in the Northern Cauasus’, 1942–43.

MAP 10. ‘Die Erdölvorkommen Sowjet-Russlands’, (Oil Fields in Soviet Russia). Reichsstelle für Bodenforschung, Berlin, May 1941.

MAP 11. ‘Karte des Grosny-Gebietes’, (Map of Grosny area). Reichsstelle für Bodenforschung, Berlin, No. 147, 5/7/41.

MAP 12. ‘Plan Showing Territory of Proposed Soviet–Iranian Oil Company’. From the Persian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, attached to minute by W.L.F. Nuttall, 9 June 1947.

MAP 13. ‘Oil Pipelines in the Soviet Union’, Appendix C, 1956. Joint Intelligence Bureau.

MAP 14. ‘USSR Oil industry’, July 1960.

MAP 15. ‘Progress of Friendship Pipeline’, 1968.

MAP 16. ‘U.S.S.R. Crude Oil Pipelines and Main Oilfields’, 1975. Part of group Embassy Report, Moscow, 2 April 1974, The Oil Industry of the Soviet Union.

MAP 17. ‘Map 2: Croissance du Potentiel d’Energie Electrique de L’URSS 1971/1975/1976/1980; Au Dela De 1980, (Soviet Energy Potential to 1971–1980)’. Annex to AC127 WP479.