The First Time in History

V. The Story of Russian Oil

IN the great Oil Duel going on in the world today, making and unmaking boundary lines and empires, Russia holds the balance of power. She intends to develop her reserves for the benefit of her own people and not for the pleasure or prestige of any foreign nation. Foreign nations intend otherwise.

That is the story of Russian Oil,--a story of struggle, beginning six years ago and destined to continue for a generation,--a day by day struggle for control. This struggle was the big economic fact behind Genoa, behind Tile Hague, behind British, French and Italian intrigue in the Near East. It is even the story behind the Turkish conflicts. Kemal Pasha explains the reason for the struggle for the Dardanelles,--"This control is important because of Russian Oil."

One technical invention after another has brought Oil to a commanding position in the world to-day. The nation controlling Oil controls the seas and commerce of the world. The United States is today producing the greater part of the world's oil. But she produces wastefully, exhausting her reserves; within twenty years, at this rate, she will have none left. The pleasure automobiles of America may have exploded into the air the oil on which control of the seas depends.

England has been more far-sighted. She saw that without reserves of oil, the British Empire was doomed. By financial power and political intrigue, by conferences and by armies, she has secured control of a large part of the oil reserves in the world. And now,--on the horizon appears Soviet Russia, who has more oil than anyone else.

The fields of Baku alone, in the part already worked and known, have a greater reserve than all the United States. Seven to eight billions of barrels is the lowest calculation of the oil still obtainable here. There is perhaps as much again in the peninsula around Baku, untouched and unworked.

North of Baku lies Grozny, a smaller field, but producing the best benzine in the world. It has oil so heavy in paraffin that the wells have been closed down to wait for adequate refineries. In Pennsylvania they call it paraffin oil if it has two per cent. paraffin; but Grozny paraffin oil has six to eight per cent. It is so stiff that they cannot pipe it, except in the midst of midsummer. It is so rich that they cannot use it.

In the great mountainous desert beyond the Caspian lies another oil district, the Ural Emba, discovered shortly before the war and little prospected. Fifty separate oil fields are known to exist in that 80,000 square kilometres of waste country, inhabited by nomad tribes and belonging without contest to the Russian government. Only two of these fields have yet been opened, but already a billion barrels of oil are known to exist in Emba. In the end it is expected to prove even richer than Baku; and Baku is richer than the whole United States.

That's Russian Oil! No wonder England supported Denikin's army when she thought he had a chance to secure this prize. No wonder she abandoned him when he lost Baku. No wonder Standard Oil and Shell watch each other like hawks in their moves with Russia, so that the reported deal of Krassin with Shell was the bomb that wrecked the Genoa conference. The press of England still takes disproportionate interest in the little Soviet Republic of Georgia. Georgia is important as the port through which the oil of Baku reaches the outside world.

There are two stories of Russian Oil. The story of stocks and bonds and paper control, which goes on in Paris and London with occasional episodes at San Remo, Genoa and The Hague; and the story of workers and engineers in Baku, who never saw a stock or a bond. They are stories of two different worlds, and to each of them the other world is unreal and unknown.

Outside Russia, the great ones of earth have played with the paper control of the oil fields. England and France have signed treaties agreeing on what they would do with Russian Oil. English representatives have visited America, to agree on a joint programme between Shell and Standard Oil, and thus avoid friction between two great nations. "They are fighting over the hide of the Bear, and the Bear is not yet killed," remark the Russian newspapers with cheerful cynicism.

The repeated, bitter demand from America and England for the recognition of "private property" in Russia has much to do with Russian Oil. Private property is quite secure to-day in Russia; and even regarding the foreign property damaged in the past, Russia offered at Genoa to discuss compensation for all foreigners who had actually lost money by her revolution. The foreign diplomats refused this basis of settlement; they demanded, not "compensation for losses," but complete return of properties.

What was the difference in meaning between these two phrases, which seem the same to the average citizen? This,--that after the revolution had seized the properties, their Russian owners, escaping to Paris, sold the stocks and bonds for a song.* Standard Oil and Shell are assumed to have bought large blocks. If the fields are restored, they get cheaply properties worth billions. If Russia gives only "compensation for losses," they will get nothing for these securities which they bought, in speculation, after the Revolution had declared them valueless.

The engineers and oil workers of Baku have never laid eyes on these paper shares that claim to own them. When I ask them if it is Shell or Standard that now claims title, they answer: "How do we know? We live in Baku."

In Baku was a story of battle and devastation. Turkish and Armenian massacres. Revolution and counter-revolution. And through it all, the heroic struggle of hungry, half-clad engineers and workmen against floods that rose to overwhelm them, and fires that burned great gushers, and spying and sabotage of managers, and against the slow attrition of war and blockade and famine. They have seen the wells go down in production until it was feared they would be lost to the world under the waters of the Caspian. They have seen the tide turn and production climb upward, slowly, very slowly, but according to definite engineering plan. With the first coming of peace the change came. Now, after two years, they feel secure of the future.

I have spent two weeks in Baku. It is desolate, and as fascinating, as hell.

Three and a half days southward from Moscow, across the fertile fields of the Ukraine and beyond the Caucasus, just over the borders of Asia it lies, on the hot blue waters of the Caspian. An ancient Tartar town, with a thousand years of history behind it; the ruins of the old Khan's castle and mosque still stand on Baku hill. Up the narrow streets in the Tartar City the Mussulman women toil, drawing their veils across their faces with one hand and balancing heavy water-buckets with the other. At their feet lies a city brilliant with electric lights, full of giant refineries where a hundred streams of machine-oils pour constantly, day and night, winter and summer. Here is a modern power plant larger than any in Europe, sending current out to operate the distant fields. Here is modern industrialism on a foundation of primitive Asia; workers whose dialects have hardly been reduced to writing, operating rotary oil-drills fresh from America.

As far as eye can see from the hills of Baku there are oilfields. I drove through them day after day. Oil fields on every horizon, forests of black shining derricks against blue skies or blue water, or in the smoky hollows of the hills. There is no green thing, for the mocking blue of the Caspian is salt; the only fresh water in Baku is brought from a hundred miles away, and is barely enough for drinking. So there are no trees in this desert country, except in one central spot, the beautiful Villa Petrolla, built for the high officials of the Nobel Oil Company to live in, and now occupied by four children's homes.

Under my feet I could hear the rumbling of a gusher, expected hourly in Bibi Eibat oil field, announcing its coming half a mile below the earth. Not far away is another famous gusher, which has delivered oil continuously for seven years, at a million barrels a year. From other derricks sounds the rattle of chains, as the rotary oil-drill, newly brought from America, whirls its way through sand and gravel hundreds of feet below. And down through the greasy dust of the fields creep little rivers of oil, olive-black with a green lustre, flowing towards the great reservoirs.

All the oil comes at last to the city of Baku, to the great refineries on the Bay. Here are pipelines leading to docks, and ships loading and unloading. Here is the largest refinery in Russia, once owned by Nobel, handling over a million barrels a month and turning out eighty different kinds of oil products, benzines, kerosenes, machine oils, paraffins. The diamond white of twenty different weights of benzine pouring, pouring; the many-toned machine oils from golden to deep brown; the great vats of soapy oil, milky green in colour, followed by vats of "washed" oil, of a dead, dull slate; the black olive in pools and reservoirs of sluggish mazut, refuse still useful for fuel.

An industrial oil city, modern, mechanical, ruthless. In it live children orphaned by famine, and veiled women of the East, and men, Russians and Tartars and Persians and Armenians and the tribes of Central Asia who have not yet learned to read and write but who can produce oil for rebuilding a nation.

In the centre of Baku are the offices of Aznepth, the government oil trust, operating all the fields. The oil king of the district is Serebrovsky; it is he who has brought order out of chaos. He works twenty hours daily; he lives in two rooms up an iron stairway from a back court, a harder, bleaker life than tenement workers live in New York or London. His wife is dying of tuberculosis; it was lack of milk and eggs that slowly starved her. Only one little part of the price of rebuilding Baku.

There were 150 oil companies operating in Baku under the reign of the czar. The chief of them all was Nobel, a Swedish-Russian company, in which, even before the war, it was rumored that Standard Oil had bought control. Nobel had shares in many minor companies; he put forth fingers of trade all over Russia in depots for the selling of oil, controlling the machinery of distribution.

When the Revolution came, Gustave Nobel called together his upper employees in Petrograd and gave them instructions before his departure. They were to remain in Russia and keep close to oil, sending out secret reports through Finland to Paris. In the wars of intervention they acted as economic spies. Using their knowledge of oil, and a show of friendliness, they secured high posts with the Soviet government, which was making use of any experts not openly hostile. One of them became manager of oil for the Petrograd district; another was in the college of technical management for all Russian oil.

They were the heads of a conspiracy that reached all over Russia, sending out weekly reports to Wrangel's Paris office, and receiving money from abroad. They held themselves ready, when the time came, to paralyse the oil industry and thus destroy Russia, burning up oil fields and oil reserves if necessary. This was the type of sabotage that Russia faced in every important industry. These oil spies were caught in the end by the Extraordinary Commission and condemned to be shot; but they were not shot, for they were foreigners.

While conspiracies like this raged through Russia, and while in Paris was a riot of speculation--widows and orphans and demi-mondaines staking the cost of bread or the price of lust for shares of Russian oil--the Baku oil workers themselves were cut off from Russia by a ring of steel. Armed force after armed force seized the wells and the country round them; for four long years there was no settled life or peace.

The workers of Baku had always been revolutionary, since the uprising of 1905. It was in Baku that Krassin built an underground printing plant, the largest producer of illegal literature in Russia. When the revolution came in 1917 the Baku workers took over the local government and declared the oil the property of the nation. There was very little conflict. The owners of Baku were thousands of miles away. Ninety per cent. of the lands belonged to the czar, and he was gone for months. The next owners were foreigners who had leased the lands; and they were abroad. Most of the local managers remained in the fields; they were engineers, chiefly Russian; they kept on with their work.

The first change made by the new control in Baku was a reorganisation of the fields. The 150 little companies, each with dozens of little claims scattered through many fields, were wasting the oil. They were competing with each other, trying to shift the floods to their neighbours, trying to bore their little claims all round the edges to drain their neighbour's oil. The engineers and workers knew that such competition was criminal; since there was now only one owner, the government, they organised the wells into eight great districts, under one central management in Baku. The lesser engineers remained in the districts; the higher engineers. managed from Baku. The Oil Workers Union had its representatives in the management, in charge of supplies and personnel.

Immediately war struck them. The Germans and Turks came down from the north and established themselves in Tiflis, centre of the Caucasus. The English troops came up from Persia. The great ones of earth were bent on a race for Russian Oil. The old Russian army was breaking into wandering bands and going home; it was an army of tired, hungry peasants, to whom the revolution meant only a chance to rest and eat on their own home soil.

Race and religious feeling ran high in the oil fields, stimulated by so many opposing armies. The Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries declared the Soviet regime pro-German and set up a counterrevolution with the aid of two Cossack bandits, calling the British to help them. Under the encouragement of British advance, the Armenians massacred 25,000 Mohammedans in the town and fields of Baku. The English came in, took possession, and led forth from jail twenty-seven Communists who had previously governed Baku. They took them across the Caspian as prisoners and shot them down in the desert. Thus blood and iron ruled in Baku.

Swiftly the Turks retaliated for the massacres begun by the Armenians. Within two months they swept down into Baku from the north, while the English retired towards Persia. The Turks then massacred 30,000 Armenians. A month or so later came the armistice of the great war, and England told Turkey to clear out of Baku, as part of the price of defeat. All these shifts of power took place in a single year, and oil production dropped from 60,000,000 barrels in 1916 to 24,000,000 in 1918, the year of conflict.

For a year and a half the British held Baku, sharing control for a time with some Italian troops, as the Versailles treaty and the Supreme Council juggled with spheres of control in the Near East, but regaining exclusive control again. There was a fiction of an independent Azerbaijan government, which existed mainly for the purpose of being corrupted. No accounts indicate that it was very popular or had much independence.

When I visited the Caucasus, I found strong anti-British feeling. Engineers who were by no means fond of the Soviet government, said to me: "But at least the Bolsheviks freed us from the British." The officers of the Russian czarist fleet which had helped the British, began to grumble at the regulation which demanded of them a British visa to enter Baku. "Have we fought with our Russian brothers who went to school with us in the naval academies," they said, "in order that British should give us leave to enter a Russian port?"

The oil fields were declared private property again. There was a year and a half of relative peace. But oil production continued low, at 28,000,000 barrels. There were strikes, suppressed by tanks and armed force. The Russian market, to which most of the oil must go--since the pipeline to Batum and the outside world carries only kerosene--the Russian market was cut off by a ring of steel, and behind that ring Russia was fighting for her existence. The oil tanks of Baku filled to overflowing, and in the earth storage reservoirs the oil spoiled from long contact with the soil. Oil clogged the sands and ran into the sea. And the floods in the unworked areas crept onward.

Somewhere, in the secret places of London and New York, there are people who know why the British government gave large credits to Nobel, based on future expectations, but allowed the smaller companies to go to the wall. The rumours in Baku said that the Anglo-Persian Company, controlled by the British government, had bought up shares of Nobel as the price for its aid, and was cornering the oil for England. The little companies were aligned; they were selling out cheap. Somewhere in London and New York it is known who bought them. When Litvinoff, in The Hague conference, asked for a list of the "creditors" to whom Russia must "restore property," it was this that he meant. The French newspapers denounced him for his impertinent curiosity.

Meantime, while Britain sat secure (more or less) in Baku, the armies of Denikin, financed by British gold and helped by the American Red Cross, drove northward, threatening the very centre of Russia during that darkest year of 1919. They captured the Grozny oil fields, where nine great gushers burned as the result of civil war. The gushers burned on for a year and a half, consuming wealth enough to pay one-fourth the annual state budget during the extravagant days of czarist Russia. This was one of the minor losses of civil strife.

Then, in the fall of the year, the Red Army gathered strength, slowly organised out of broken, starving bands into one united control. Month by month through the winter Denikin was hammered back and when another spring came, the oil workers of Baku knew that the red soldiers were near on the borders of Azerbaijan. Promptly they revolted again, calling on Soviet Russia for aid.

It took less than an hour for the government to change hands. The red troops came down the railroad, took possession of the oil fields, declared them national property, and have held them ever since, from the 20th of April, 1920.

Some day the writers of historic romances will tell the tale fitly, how the half-fed, half-clad workers of Russia brought a fleet of cruisers and destroyers a thousand miles overland through the heart of Russia, to take possession of the Caspian Sea. From Petrograd up the Neva, through a chain of lakes and canals to the upper Volga, and down the great channel of Russia to the Caspian--that was the unheard of path they followed. It was an impossible feat--only one of many impossible feats done in that year of exhaustion by the besieged Russians. The British forces around the Caspian were completely routed. Their army in northern Persia was scattered and fled southward, expecting from week to week the announcement of a Soviet Persia. But Russia preferred Persia as a friendly buffer state; she drew her armies back, holding only the Caspian.

The oil fields were again in the hands of the Baku workers--what there was left of them.

The thirsty Russian market drank the oil reserves with speed. The storage tanks opened northward and the tank steamers on the Caspian, spurred on by extra food for the workers, made record deliveries. But oil production sank still farther. Drills were lacking, and machinery, and ropes and clothes and shoes and food. Exhausted Russia, struggling now against the combined attacks of Wrangel and Poland, could absorb the Baku oil with joy, but could give nothing back to the Baku workers. The floods crept onward; it seemed that the oil fields would be lost altogether to the world.

"We are at the lowest point yet reached," cried the Fuel Administration in warning. "In January we had 1,779 wells, only half the normal number. By September we had only 845. The floods take now the nature of a tempest. Over ninety per cent. of the liquid got out is water. There are 40,000,000 to 50,000,000 tons excess water in the district. The whole Baku fields, richest in the world, are threatened with ruin."

And then--came peace. But with the peace, the greatest famine the world has known. Yet famine was less disorganising than war. The blockade was broken; the most necessary material could be bought abroad. Even during the year of the great drought, Russia's industries began to improve.

The engineers of oil drew up a plan, a month by month programme for reconstructing the fields. It was a plan to rebuild the oil district out of its own resources. Gradually, slowly, repairing machinery in old wells, digging new ones, buying equipment piece by piece as there was money.

It takes a long time and much capital to build an oil district. Wells must be dug, hundreds of wells, for months before returns come in. The average life of a well is five years; most of the Baku wells wore out in war-time. Wells not steadily worked fill slowly with water, requiring long, wasteful labour to bail them free again. During that first year of peace, Russia was eager to grant concessions in oil fields. She doubted the strength of her oil workers to reconstruct them again.

But step by step for two years and a half the programme has been fulfilled. Baku has produced 122 per cent, of the programme demanded, Grozny 103 per cent., and Emba 115 per cent. The oil workers are doing better than the engineers had expected. Millions of dollars worth of oil and oil products have been sold abroad already, and the proceeds put into new wells and new equipment. One hundred and fifty-seven new wells were being dug when I was in Baku. By 1925 they will reach normal production and will then go forward to surpass pre-war.

"Within the next five years," says Krassin, chief of foreign trade in Russia, and himself an engineer of prominence trained in the Baku district, "our export of oil will without doubt exceed the prewar export."

The difficult, conflicting demands of the year of transition to the new economic policy in oil, are shown picturesquely in the letters of complaint sent by Serebrovsky to the newspapers of Moscow. Under the regime of "war communism" Russia took the oil without payment, supplying the workers, as far as she was able, with food and clothing. Under the new policy, industries were to be self-supporting, but the division line between industries was not yet worked out. For a year and a half, during the transition period, many great government departments wished to finance themselves from Russian Oil.

The oil industry itself possessed at first no legal right to sell oil, but was forced to turn its product over to the All-Russian Co-operatives, or the Department of Food Supply, or the Department of Foreign Trade. These organisations, struggling under severe emergencies, sold the oil and used the proceeds, not to re-equip the oil fields, but for other pressing needs.

Bitterly caustic was the appeal sent by Serebrovsky on behalf of the oil workers of Baku, printed early in 1922 in the Moscow Isvestia. "Who doesn't want to trade with our oil, anyway? Only the dead ones. But nobody wants to remember that we who produce it need food, shoes, clothes, everything. We must beg for the right to exchange a couple of poods of oil for poods of flour. We shiver at the very mention of the Department of Foreign Trade.

"Then they begin to tell us how much better a concessionaire could manage the oil fields. At this we really grow wild. Of course the concessionaire is great and we are pitiful. He can sell his oil and from us they merely take it away. He can clothe his workers, and we have to persuade them that they are clothed. He can bring from abroad everything that he requires, while to us they promise now for the third year reservoirs, generators and electrical equipment. He has money and credit, while we haven't a dead cent except rusty kerosene cans.

"But--the impudent thought--suppose the Congress should make us equal in rights with the concessionaire. And should tell the Department of Finance not to take away the little money we have, and the Food Commissariat not to take our oil for nothing (for money we'll give it gladly) and the Department of Foreign Trade to let us sell oil abroad--for ourselves and not for the benefit of the Department of Foreign Trade. ... Then our trading department would put forth fingers in the same way that Nobel had it. Part of our production we'll give to the State--we also are loyal state people--but we'll keep enough to buy what we need for the industry.

"Give us the rights of the concessionaire and you will need no other concessionaire than the Baku workers."

Out of these conflicting claims in the industries of Russia a coherent plan was gradually built. The oil industry is now organised as an independent unit. Under the Department of National Industries comes the Fuel Administration; under the Fuel Administration comes the oil management, appointing the chief engineers for the three different oil districts. These engineers have absolute control of production, subject to the labour agreement which they make with the Oil Workers Union. That is the simple organisation for the production of oil.

The sale of oil is equally simple in form. Each of the three great districts selects directors in an oil syndicate, which controls the marketing of oil in Russia. The Fuel Administration in Moscow appoints the chairman. They have branches all over Russia for the sale of oil. Thirty per cent. royalty goes to the central treasury of the State; the rest returns to the oil industry. But the oil industry itself is an organ of the State, an independent self-sustaining organ whose profits in the future shall be used as the people of Russia determine. For the present those profits are to rebuild the industry and to improve the life of the Baku oil workers.

Wages in Baku are still low in money. When I visited that city in April, 1922, they ranged from $6 a month for apprentices to $40 a month for the highest engineers. Now they are doubtless much higher; for all over Russia wages have been going up rapidly. The low money wage marked the time of transition from rations to money; Russia had as yet little money to pay with. At the time of my visit there were no more free rations, but a worker with family secured his basic food supply through the oil workers' co-operatives for about $3 a month. The buying was done on a large scale by the oil company, which helped finance the cooperatives as they struggled to their feet.

In addition to wages, the union contract called also for free lodging, free fuel, free water and electric light. Hundreds of new houses were going up in Baku to relieve the over-crowding. In individual standard of living, the secretary of the union told me, in such things as clothes and furniture and housing--they had not yet reached prewar. But in social opportunity, in chances for culture and education and fellowship and hospital care in illness, they were already infinitely better off than before.

Education, health, the entire social life of the workers was also temporarily financed by Aznepth, the government oil company. The first demands of the unions were not for higher wages, but for large funds set aside for joint social progress and protection. Aznepth was required by union agreement to put an amount equal to thirty-two per cent. of its wage scale into hospital, school and other social funds. The schools for the oil workers' children had grown from twenty-two to sixty-two; there were fourteen kindergartens where none had existed before; a dozen day nurseries and fifteen homes for famine orphans. Eventually, these would be taken over by the school authorities of Baku; but until those authorities were strong, the oil company organised and financed them.

For the older workers there were 121 classes for reading and writing, and twenty-five libraries. There were eight factory schools where apprentices work four hours and study four. There was a technical university where a simple Tartar oil worker, studying his way upward from the first course in reading, might finish at last as a qualified engineer. There were thirty workers' clubs, each with its stage, dance hall and entertainments. During my visit they were giving entertainments to raise money for the German workers on the Ruhr. They didn't think of themselves as paupers; they had built already a nourishing social life.

They have control of their lives in certain ways unknown even to American workers. The problem arose, about the time of my visit, of cutting down an office staff which was too large for the oil industry. Ever since the Revolution, Aznepth had been carrying the weight of all the office workers of the old oil companies; they were not needed in the new reorganisation, but neither could they be fired without serious suffering. Now the time had come when the union agreed that they should be dropped. The question which workers should be dismissed was handled by a committee of three--the manager, the secretary of the union, and the president of the city government. The manager's task was to save the most efficient workmen; the union secretary protected the heads of families; the president of the city council planned, as far as possible, for transfer of these workers to jobs in public services. There was no reckless slashing of the payroll, without regard to the human lives involved.

Thus, step by step, the oil workers and engineers of Baku are rebuilding the oil industry, and making it the foundation for a wholesome community life, and for a reserve of power for Russia. Under this new form of organisation, what chance has foreign capital in Russian oil? Many chances for making money; no chance for controlling politics.

I have been present at many discussions of concessions. They may take many forms. Over in Ural Emba are new fields waiting development; the concession I heard planned for Ural Emba required a capital of $39,000,000 for wells and storage and pipe-lines, before any returns would come in. Within ten years the profits would be tens of millions, and the contract might run for thirty years.

In a new field like this, a foreign company would be allowed independent rights of development. But only a big company could handle a field like this. "We will not allow the methods that have wrecked American oil fields," said the chairman of the concessions committee to me. "We will not permit a host of little companies, competing with each other, and wasting the oil. We demand that a concessionaire shall have enough capital to develop the district properly, with all the pipes and transport necessary. This, in the Ural Emba, is $30,000,000 for first investment....In fields where great gushers are to be expected, we demand that the concessionaire provide adequate storage tanks, that the oil may not be wasted. He must provide protection against fires and floods. He must have a plan for working the whole field rationally. Sound oil companies, wishing to develop an industry, can make big money from Russian oil. But wildcat companies, interested in quick returns on a little capital, to make a showing and sell out to the public--for these our leases offer no inducements."

Smaller companies, unable to develop a whole field from their own capital, can take other forms of concessions in Russian oil. The Barnsdell International Corporation, at present working in Baku, is an example of a contract much favoured by Russia. The American company brings in machinery and administrative ability and digs wells on a contract with Aznepth, receiving for its work a percentage of the oil. The members of the company whom I met in Baku told me they had been received with tremendous enthusiasm.

When foreigners go to Baku or to other concessions in Russia, these are the conditions that they meet: government managers, over-worked, wearing themselves out in building a new Russia; workers who are still on low wages but who are politically independent, economically well organised, full of the purpose that industry shall increase in wealth and raise the general standard of living as it increases.

These managers hail with joy a capitalist who comes as partner to make industry more efficient. These workers greet happily the thought of American methods and American standards. But neither managers nor workers want men who dabble in politics, or attempt to make of them a subject nation, as has been done throughout history with the peoples of undeveloped lands.

Meantime the owners of stocks and bonds in the old Russian oil companies, speculate with their paper control in Paris and London, and demand that the wells be given back to them. They do not realise that most of the wells they owned have long since died under the floods of the Caspian. And that to resurrect those companies again would be as impossible as unscrambling an omelet.

For the great forces of life, that sweep forward by months or by ages, wiping out cities and civilisations and building new ones, have carried the workers of Baku into a different world. They have seen a half dozen armies of occupation. They have seen massacres of tens of thousands. They have fought back floods and fires. Half-starved and with bare hands in place of equipment, they have begun the rebuilding of a wrecked industry. And now, when there is again hope in Baku, and peace, and increasing production, wrought through the agony of body and brain--they have not the faintest idea of returning the wells to the nations whose armies helped wreck them. They are building for the future in Baku and not on the past.