Bengt Jangfeld

PROFESSOR OF SLAVONIC LANGUAGES AND AUTHOR

has just brought out the book Immanuel Nobel & sons – Swedish geniuses in Tsarist Russia, published by Albert Bonniers Förlag in collaboration with the Centre for Industrial History.

HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN WORKING ON THE BOOK?

- The research and the writing have taken fully two years, but I was well prepared. The first time I came into contact with the Nobel family’s Russian activities was in the 1990s when I led a research project about the historic links between Sweden and St. Petersburg. That generated a number of seminars and publications, among others, my book Swedish Roads to St. Petersburg, which includes a chapter about the Nobel family in Russia. Ever since then I have felt a desire to immerse myself in the family’s Russian history.

WHAT SOURCES HAVE YOU USED?

- For the most part the enormous correspondence between Ludvig, Robert, Emanuel and Alfred. The letters are preserved in the provincial archives in Lund, the National Archives of Sweden and the Nobel Foundation. Other relevant archival material is in the Swedish National Museum of Science and Technology and the Centre for Industrial History. Some material has been sourced from Russian and Azerbaijani archives. In addition, of course, I have availed myself of printed sources, especially regarding the oil and weapons industries.

WHAT HAS BEEN MOST EXCITING?

- Actually reading the letters. The vast majority have not been seen by anyone before me, which is not so strange as no research has been carried out before on the Nobel family in Russia. There are thousands of letters. Here, the growth of the Nobel oil industry is depicted week by week. To follow that dynamic, as well as the relationships between the brothers, has been incredibly exciting.

HAVE YOU DISCOVERED ANYTHING UNEXPECTED OR ANYTHING THAT WAS PREVIOUSLY UNKNOWN ABOUT THE NOBEL FAMILY?

- A lot! Among other things, Robert’s role emerges as much more central than anyone knew before. Another important discovery is the close solidarity within the family, within and between generations. Almost nothing was known earlier about the family’s fortunes during and after the 1917 revolution, so here we can say that most of what I have unearthed is new.

WHO DO YOU HOPE WILL READ THE BOOK?

- Anyone interested in industrial history, in Russia and in biographies. The book is a combined business and family chronicle and my hope is that it will be not only appreciated for all the new facts but that it will be readable.