Adonis Diaries

“Oil and blood in the Orient”

Posted on: July 13, 2010

Tom Reiss investigates the identity of an author who wrote in German “Blood and oil in the Orient”, “Ali and Nino”, and “The daughter of the Golden Horn” and signed under Kurban Said.  Kurban Said was known in Germany of the 1920’s as Essad Bey who was the first to describe Stalin in details and accounted for the tormenting period of Baku (Capital of Azerbaijan on the Black Sea and “Zarathustra” land).

It turned out that Essad Bey was Liova Nussimbaum, nicknamed Lev (1905-1942).  Lev is a Jew born in Baku of a rich oil baron from Baku (Abraham) and a mother (Berta Sluzk).  The Sluzk were Jewish serfs working for Prince Sluzki in Ukraine and many converted to Christianity to improve their living conditions.

Berta had left Zürich, headquarters of Russia revolutionaries, and ended up in a Baku.  Lev’s father noticed Berta who was serving a prison sentence at the Baku prison and arranged for her to be set free and married her. Berta resumed her “revolutionary” activities and extended money to the revolutionary groups (that will later be called Bolshevik) between 1905 and 1912. Joseph Stalin, under the code name of Koba, was 28 years old and was leading the Bolshevik groups that asked ransoms in order to provide protection for minority ethnic groups.

Berta committed suicide by poison after she was found out of communicating with the revolutionary gangs and then, she became an embarrassment to her family.  Lev was then 9 years old.  Berta bequeathed her library to Lev and Abraham respected his wife’s will and allowed Lev to occupying the library and reading all day long.

Lev was mostly forced to be secluded in his home and library because of the dangerous conditions outside.  In the rare outings, Lev was surrounded with body guards and a nurse: He was considered of fragile health.

Lev and his father fled Baku in 1917 during the First World War: the armies of Tsar Nicholas II were defeated by Germany and Baku was becoming a hotbed for instability and chaos.  They crossed Turkmenistan and then Iran and had many adventures.  Lev gave accurate description of locations, dates, customs, and fashion of the regions they travelled, but his accounts were mostly fantasies that he dreamt of during his seclusion in Baku.

Father and son returned to Baku as the Turks and Germans occupied it briefly before the English returned.  Azerbaijan experienced independence for less than a year before the Bolshevik returned in 1920 and Azerbaijan became part of the Soviet Union. Father and son managed to flee Baku, separately, in order to avoid close surveillance. Lev reached the second city of Gandja (ancient capital) walking.  The citizens in Gandja chased out the few Russian soldiers for a few days before the Bolshevik army encircled the city and entered it with the accompanying massacres.

Lev managed to get out of Gandja and stumbled on a German colony-village (Helenendorf) by the borders with Georgia.  This colony was established in 1813 after the Napoleonic wars and Tsar Alexander I encouraged many Germans to populate the Caucasus region.  As Germany invaded Russia in 1940, Stalin made sure to transfer all the Germans in 1941 to Siberia; very few Germans returned to Germany in 1991.

Lev spent some time in Tibilissi (Capital of Georgia) and then, boarded an Italian boat with his father in 1921 to Constantinople.  The French, English, Italian, and Japanese troops had headquarters in different quarters of Constantinople.

Apparently, Nazi Germany studied extensively the procedures and tactics of the Bolshevik Tcheka (secret services) and added its refinements.  Lev and his father settled in Berlin of the 1920’s and wrote his books that were translated and appreciated in the USA.  Lev converted to Islam in 1923 at the Turkish Embassy.  He died in Northern Italy at the age of 35 but looked seventy.  Lev was the first to publish Stalin biography since the Pockennarbige (smallpox face)or Iossif Djougachvili knew Lev’s mother and he stayed in their home in 1920.

I might publish another post on Lev Nussimbaum as I finish reading the book.  You may read my account on Baku https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/bakou-1905/

3 Responses to "“Oil and blood in the Orient”"

[…] “The Orientalist” by Tom Reiss […]

[…] Lev was attending university courses on the orient history, geography and literature while finishing his high school in a Russian school in Berlin.  Berlin was nicknamed the second Russian Capital because most Russian refugees ended up in that city after Lenin and Bolsheviks took over power. Willy Haas of the famous magazine “Literarische Welt” hired Lev as an expert of the Oriental matters at the age of 24.  Lev also published articles in the dailies and magazines of  ”Deutsche Allgemeine”, “Prager Tageblatt”, “Asia”, “The living age”, and “Saturday Review of literature”.  Lev wrote about most monarchs and princes who visited Germany between the two wars, and the history , geography, and literature of the Oriental countries.  He wrote articles about Resa Shah (father of Shah of Iran), Ibn Saud and the Wahhabi sect, on Egypt, on Afghanistan, and mostly on Russia and the Caucasus region. You may have more details on Lev’s life in my post: https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/%e2%80%9cthe-orientalist%e2%80%9d-by-tom-reiss/ […]

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