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Swedish diplomatic representation in Georgia

The Georgian Embassy to Sweden has begun to look for and define facts on Swedish-Georgian diplomatic relations, which were unknown to the public till now, from very early days of establishment of the Georgian diplomatic representation in Stockholm (November 2006). With assistance of the National Archive of Sweden and the Alfred Nobel Museum the Embassy discovered many documents disclosing the history of Swedish diplomatic representation in Georgia.

The ground for establishment of a Swedish diplomatic mission in Georgia

As the primary archive documents reveal, the existence of a Swedish diplomatic representation in Georgia (till 1918 it was a Tiflis Gubernia of the Russian Empire) begins in 80s of the XIX century. In the second half of the XIX century fast development of industry, labor force and means of communication in Europe, as well as growing demand on products and commodities and especially raw materials for industrial production. Just then, in the Eastern Azerbaijan, the newly found oil reserves were appealing for European producers. The exploration, extraction, processing and transportation of the crude oil required significant financial resources. In Europe, some of the greatest financiers and patrons (English line of the Rothschild family and the Nobel family from Sweden), got interested in the exploitation of the Azerbaijanian oil, and its transportation to Europe. Ludvig and Robert Nobels took their interest in the Caucasus to invest in the oil business. Many Swedes became employees of the Nobel joint stock company, which had operated both in Baku and Batumi. Successful business required legal assistance from the Swedish government and due to the initiative of the Nobel family in 1888 Swedish Foreign Ministry decided to set up a Swedish Consulate in Batumi.

Structural subordination and administration of the Consulate in Batumi 

Initially, the official documents of the Swedish archives refer to the Batumi vice-consulate, which was subordinated to the Swedish Consulate in Odessa. Later, as the Transcaucasian region became of special importance for Sweden, from 1914 until 1921, the Batumi vice-consulate was subordinated to the Swedish Consulate in Baku. Hereafter, the Caucasus region was covered by two extremely located cities: one at the Black Sea –Batumi and another – at the Caspian Sea – Baku. The correspondence between Batumi and the Swedish capital was principally in Swedish, German and French. The Batumi vice-consulate was established on September 27th, 1888 at the following address: Dondukovo-Korsakovski № 1. At the same time, Göran Olson was named vice-consul, who at the same time carried out the functions of vice-consul in Sevastopol. This fact is proved by the letter № 563 of Robert Wilkins, the Swedish consul in Odessa addressed to the Embassy of Sweden in St. Petersburg, which was written in French and dated September 27th 1888. The Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden tried to recruit those persons for diplomatic positions in Batumi who had working experience in the South Caucasus. These were mainly Swedish citizens and, as it is clear from archive sources, most of them were connected with the Nobels’ oil company. This indirectly indicates that the names of the leaders of the Baku and Batumi diplomatic missions were recommended by the Nobel family. Hence, from the sources we found the following persons worked as vice-consuls in Batumi: Göran Olson (1888-1894), Per Sjöwall (1894-1897), Gustav August Haager (1897-1906), and Feodor Martinowsky (1907-1920).

An appeal for the necessity of further functioning of the Batumi Consulate

In 1894, because for of unsatisfactory health conditions, vice-consul Göran Olson left his post. The future of the Consulate was under the question due to financial restrains and other circumstances. As keeping the Batumi vice-consulate was necessary for the Swedish government the Swedish citizen, engineer Per Sjöwall, who was living in Batumi at that time and was the most reliable candidate for that post, named as a vice-consul. Per Sjöwall worked from 1880 until 1893 at the Nobel joint-stock company in Baku and Batumi. As from September 17th 1894, with the consent of the Russian government Mr Sjöwall was appointed vice-consul in Batumi.

In the National Swedish archives were also discovered documents in which the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Norway asks for the preservation of the Batumi vice-consulate and nomination of Per Sjöwall as temporary consul. The presence of Swedish consulate in Batumi was supported by Mr. Robert Wilkins, consul in Odessa. He argues that it is in the interests of both Sweden and Norway to have a consulate in Batumi. He writes that Batumi was earlier unknown to the international community, but after returning in 1877 of this territory to Russia as a result of the war with Turkey, this town has got certain significance for the international trade. Batumi port was the sea gate of the Caucasus, especially from the point of view of transportation and transit of crude oil from Baku. The Rothschilds and the Nobel brothers invested a lot for the development of the oil industry and transportation in the region, which provided a greater importance for Batumi as a port.

In July 14th 1894 Mr. Wilkins wrote a letter to the Swedish Foreign Ministry. In the letter the consul argued about the necessity of retaining of the vice-consulate in Batumi and provided with statistical data on transportation of crude oil in 1889-1893. The quantity of the fuel transported from Batumi was growing dynamically during these five years. Mr. Wilkins asked the Swedish Foreign Ministry to keep the Swedish vice-consulate in Batumi as Sweden had its interests in the region based on the need for raw materials aiming at development of Swedish industry. Robert Wilkins, who eagerly asked for keeping of the Batumi vice-consulate, was the descendant of an English family of diplomats. He well understood the importance of the Baku-Batumi communication network and he thought that in the future this way could be explored further. This letter has convinced the Swedish Foreign Ministry to maintain Swedish consulate in Batumi.

Assassination of the Swedish vice-consul in Batumi

On March 22nd 1897 Per Sjöwall left his post. A new candidate, German citizen Gustav August Haager who lived in Batumi and worked at the Nobel joint-stock company, was named his successor, and on April 28th 1897 Gustav August Haager assumed his duties as vice-consul in Batumi. In the morning of October 3rd 1906 Mr. Gustav August Haager was killed by two locals in the centre of Batumi nearby the consulate office. The killing had a peculiar resonance in the Russian-Swedish Foreign relations. The Swedish Foreign Ministry gave instructions to its diplomatic representations in St. Petersburg, Odessa and Batumi to make pressure on Russian authorities aiming at investigation of a murder as soon as possible and punish killers with all severity of the law (telegrams received by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Sweden and the letter of condolences of Mr. Trolle, Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs). From the archive documents is becoming clear that the persons who committed this crime left the place of murder at once and were not identified by the Russian gendarmerie and the assassination was not investigated in due course.

On October 8th 1906 a letter concerning the murder of Haagen was sent from St. Petersburg to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Brandström – Swedish Ambassador to Russia - was an author of that letter. Brandström wrote to the Swedish Minister of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm, that he made inquires about the murder of Haagen during his visit to the Russian Foreign Office and meeting with political director Mr. Iswolsky and that the investigation had not yet yielded in the identification and detention of  suspects.

From Mr. Brandström´s letter one can learn that the murderers could have been employees at the Batumi Nobel company, who had been fired from their job consequent to Mr. Haagen´s orders. He points out, that it is possible, that the culprits got angry with Haagen and that they had killed him in revenge. Brandström also says that there is no doubt about the fact, that Haager was killed because of his previous professional activity.

Russian citizen Katlap replaced the late vice-consul and was temporarily appointed on the position. In fact, he was often Charge d’Affaires ad interim when Haagen was head of the mission and the latter was out of Batumi.

Further operation of the Swedish consulate in Batumi and termination of its activities

From 1906 the name of the joint Swedish and Norwegian consulate in Batumi was changed and it became a vice-consulate of Sweden. The change is the result of the fact, that in 1905 the United Kingdom of Sweden and Norway, which existed in 1816-1905, was dissolved.

On June 12th 1907 the Swedish General Consulate in Petersburg presented to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Stockholm a new candidature for the position of vice-consul in Batumi. This was Feodor Martinovsky, who worked from 1889 at the Nobel brother’s joint-stock company. From January 1907 Mr. Martinovsky was a manager of the Batumi branch. According to the instructions given by the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs Martinovsky was appointed as a vice-consul in Batumi.

From November 17th 1914 in accordance with the request of the Russian government and consent of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs the coordination of the Batumi vice-consulate was transferred from Odessa to Baku.

According to the diplomatic reference book of the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, in 1917-1920, activities of Baku Consulate included "Baku and near provinces”, where the regions of Batumi and Tbilisi are mentioned. At the same time as it is indicated in the archive documents, the vice-consulate in Batumi is still functioning with Feodor Martinovsky performing duties of vice-consul. In February 1921, after the Bolshevik Russia has conquered Georgia and the Soviet regime was established in Georgia, the Batumi vice-consulate ceased its activity and disappeared from the diplomatic reference book of the Swedish Foreign Ministry.


Thus, from 1888 till 1921, the Swedish diplomatic representation functioned as vice-consulate in Batumi and, for a short time, in Tbilisi. From the studied materials we can conclude that Swedish vice-consulate in Batumi did not receive any financial help from the Swedish government – the only source of income was fees collected for performing relevant consular services. It must be mentioned that Batumi Consulate covered an important region for Sweden. It included Black Sea region of the South of Russia, which had a great importance for the shipping business, maritime trade and transport and transit communications in general.

The Batumi Consulate played very significant role in the development of bilateral relations: gave legal assistance to Swedish citizens and entrepreneurs, contributed to the development of communication and commercial relations between Russia (later, the independent Georgia) and Sweden. The activity of the above mentioned diplomatic mission was not only legal and economic; it worked as cultural, educative and informative center, which disseminated the culture of the Scandinavian people. Notwithstanding that the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Sweden spread objective information about the events that occurred both in Batumi and Tbilisi, Georgia, thus playing the fundamental role for the favorable attitude of Sweden towards Georgia, which in 1918-1921 resulted in de facto recognition of the newly emerged Democratic Republic of Georgia.  

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