THIS WEEK IN ARMENIAN HISTORY
(Prepared by the Armenian National Education Committee)
Birth of Stepan Lianozov
(August 9, 1872)
John Reed, the American Communist militant who witnessed the October Revolution that would give birth to the Union Soviet, called Stepan Lianozov the “Russian Rockefeller.” Both Lianozov and Rockefeller competed for the oil of Baku in the early twentieth century, at the time when Armenians like Lianozov had an important share in its production and exploitation.
Stepan Lianozov (Lianosian) was born on August 9, 1872 in Moscow. His father, Gevorg Lianozov (1835-1906), descended from an Armenian family that had been deported from Eastern Armenia by Iranian Shah Abbas III at the beginning of the seventeenth century. He was a dominant name in the production of caviar from the Caspian Sea, and would inherit the interests in the oil of Baku that his brother, also called Stepan, had built since 1872.
Gevorg Lianozov’s son Stepan graduated from high school and in 1894 entered the School of Natural Sciences of the University of Moscow. He changed his career and graduated from the School of Law four years later. He worked for two years as an assistant to a magistrate in the court chamber of Moscow.
In 1901 Stepan left to his brothers Martin and Levon the caviar business and entered the growing and lucrative field of oil to assist his father.
After the death of his father, Stepan Lianozov founded the oil company G. M. Lianozov and Sons in St. Petersburg (1907), with a statutory capital of 2 million rubles. He transformed the family business into a corporative activity, attracting big investors, and engaging the biggest players in Baku: the Nobels, the Rothschilds, and the Shell Company. Between 1907 and 1910, G. M. Lianozov and Sons multiplied its production almost nine times.
The company owned oil fields, as well as subsidiaries in Baku that produced kerosene and refined petroleum, a pipeline in the Caspian shore, and others. Lianozov was elected member of the Baku City Council and the Baku Stock Exchange council.
On July 28, 1912 the Russian Main Oil Union, also called Oil, was founded in London. It united three Armenian and one Russian oil companies, several big Russian banks and representatives of British business, with a founding capital of 2.5 million sterling pounds. Stepan Lianozov became director-manager of the new company, which soon bought twelve big oil companies (including Mantashov and Co., Mirzoyev Brothers and Co., A. S. Melikov and Co., and Aramazd), and became the third biggest oil company in the world, after Standard Oil and Royal Dutch Shell.
G. M. Lianozov and Sons paid 18% to its shareholders in 1913. It had representative companies in Great Britain (British Lianosoff Wite Oil Company), France (La Lianosoff Français), and Germany (Deutsche Lianozoff Mineralöl Import Act.Ges).
In the spring of 1914 Lianozov and the Mantashov brothers (sons of the late Armenian oil magnate Alexander Mantashov or Mantashiants) made a big investment in the movie company Biochrome, founded by Sergei Prokudin-Gorski. The headquarters of the company were in Moscow, in one of the houses of the Lianozovs, which would become the offices of the Ministry of Cinematography after the Russian Revolution. The company filmed several movies until 1918, when the movie sets were burned by a fire: “No Exit,” “The God of Revenge,” “The Eternal Tale of Life.”
Lianozov’s business activities continued successfully after the beginning of World War I, but the Russian Revolution ruined the oil magnates of Baku. Unlike many other businessmen, Stepan Lianozov actively entered politics and participated in the civil war that followed. After migrating to Finland, in May 1919 he participated in a meeting organized by the counterrevolutionary forces (the Whites), which decided to create the Northwest Republic with center on the north of current Estonia. Lianozov was designated head of government, and took the positions of Prime Minister, Minister of Finances, and Minister of Foreign Affairs. General Nikolai Yudenich, who had been one of the main Russian commanders in the Caucasian front, and was one of the military leaders of the counterrevolutionary movement, together with Generals Kolchak and Denikin, took the position of Minister of War and commander in chief of the Northwest Army.
One of the first measures by Lianozov was to recognize the independence of Estonia on August 11, 1919, followed by the recognition of Latvia (September 3) and Finlandia (September 23). He also issued rubles of the Northwest Republic, signed by Yudenich and himself.
In October 1919 Yudenich headed an attack against St. Petersburg. However, the White offensive failed to occupy the capital of Soviet Russia, and, as a result, the Northwest Republic self-dissolved on December 5, 1919 and Lianozov moved to Paris.
In 1920 Stepan Lianozov founded TorgProm (Russian Trade-Industrial and Financial Union), together with the brothers Poghos and Abraham Ghukasian, and some Russian emigré businessmen, to protect the interests of Russian businessmen in Francia. He worked as a film producer in 1925, which became his main source of income for several years. Meanwhile, in 1926 he was the representative for France of the Russian Congress Abroad. This organization published its own newspaper from 1925 to 1940, called Renaissance.
Stepan Lianozov passed away on August 10, 1951 in Paris and was buried in the cemetery of Passy. He left one son, called Nikolai.