Baku F1 Race: Global Media is ~169 Years Late

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/21/2016 12:30:00 AM
To paraphrase Jenson Button, it's "Baku baby, yeah."
As a commentator on third world goings-on first and foremost, it behooves me that last Sunday's European Grand Prix on the streets of Baku, Azerbaijan has been portrayed as a coming out party for that particular country on the world scene. So Azerbaijan is seldom mentioned in the Western media outside of the context of human rights abuses--surprise, surprise--but its economic and strategic importance in geopolitics seems to be glossed over by these accounts. It is treated as some kind of Johnny-come-lately when its energy industry has been at the global forefront from the very start.

There are, in addition, squabbles remaining over historical grievances in this part of the world:
If it were only a matter of the outward beauty of the location and the circuit’s extraordinary features, the view before the race would be one of a major success in the making. But there is controversy, given Azerbaijan’s poor human rights record and the fact that its disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh — also claimed by Armenia — is a war zone.

Azerbaijan, a country of more than nine million at the crossroads of Europe and Asia that shares borders with Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Iran and a small sliver of Turkey, sees itself as a part of Europe. For that reason the country bid for the race, and requested the title of European Grand Prix — rather than Azerbaijan Grand Prix. The name had been free since the last race in Valencia, Spain, in 2012, according to Arif Rahimov, the chief executive of Baku City Circuit Operations Company, the promoter of the event.
Azerbaijan proudly linking itself with all things European runs into difficulty with the EU's current emphasis on human rights and such. For all that, do consider things in broad historical sweep: it has been synonymous with energy in the region for decades and decades. Well before the Americans drilled their oil well, the Azeris were already, ah, well into the game:
Azerbaijan has been linked with oil for centuries, even for millennia. Medieval travelers to the region remarked on its abundant supply of oil, noting that this resource was an integral part of daily life there. By the 19th century, Azerbaijan was by far the frontrunner in the world's oil and gas industry. In 1846 - more than a decade before the Americans made their famous discovery of oil in Pennsylvania - Azerbaijan drilled its first oil well in Bibi-Heybat. By the beginning of the 20th century, Azerbaijan was producing more than half of the world's supply of oil. 
Also consider:
The first stage started with the mechanical production of oil from the dug wells in 1847 and continued up to 1920. The years of 1847-1848 were characterized by the first production of industrial oil from the dug wells in Bibieybat and later Balakhany fields and the development of oil industry of Azerbaijan started from that moment.

The early 19th century was characterized by the first production of oil from the manual well dug at Bibieybat 30 meters away from the seashore. The first oil refinery was constructed in Baku in 1859. The kerosene plant was built by Djavad Melikov in Baku 1863 and fridges were used in the oil refining for the first time in the world. 15 oil refineries operated in 1867.

The development of well drilling technologies led to the discovery of a number of oil wells (Binegedi, Pirallahi, Surakhany and others), the increase in the production of oil, the development of oil infrastructure and oil refining and the creation of hundreds of companies engaged in oil production, refining and sales. The national bourgeoisie formed in Azerbaijan and Baku turned into one of the industrial centers of the world.

The industrial method of oil production was first used in the Balakhany-Sabunchun-Romany oil field in the Absheron peninsula in 1871. Two laws "On the excise tax on oil wells and oil products" and "Sales of oil lands held by leaseholders to individuals were adopted for the improvement of the relations in the oil industry in 1872. 15 regions of Balakhany and 2 regions in Bibiehbat were first to put on auction on December 31, 1872. 
In many way it's apt that a sport literally fueled by the stuff Azerbaijan is famous for is finally held there. In history, the country's prominence in oil production predates even that of the United States. 169 years later, Azerbaijan is finally receiving some global media attention. Fancy that.