Sara G. Brinegar’s book is the first to show how the politics of oil intersected with the establishment of Soviet power in the Caucasus; it reveals how the Soviets cooperated and negotiated with the local elite, rather than merely subsuming them. More broadly, Power and the Politics of Oil in the Soviet South Caucasus demonstrates not only how the Bolsheviks understood and exploited oil, but how the needs of the industry shaped Bolshevik policy.
Brinegar reflects on the huge geopolitical importance of oil at the end of World War I and the Russian Civil War. She discusses how the reserves sitting idle in the oil fields of Baku, the capital of the newly independent Azerbaijan Democratic Republic, and the center of the fallen empire’s oil reserves were no exception to this. With the Soviet leadership in Moscow intent on capturing the fields in the first few months of 1920, this book examines the Soviet project to rebuild Baku’s oil industry in the aftermath of these wars and the political significance of oil in the formation of the Soviet Union.