First references to oil detection in the Volga-Urals region

The long-run studies, which are still going on, have established that the origin of the Tatar oil dates back to the Devonian geological period (330-286 mln years ago), characterized by active geological processes that took place in the depths of sedimentary rocks that lead to formation of oil and other oil products – gases, bitumens, asphalts, ozocerites. Later on, the internal factors (in-depth tectonism) and the external impacts (washing-out of rocks and erosion) resulted in partial migration of oil and gas to the earth’s surface, the surface of water pools in the form of tarry spots or gas bubbles that had formed, in the course of time, the deposits of bitumen and even entire oil lakes. It was owing to surface seepages that mankind learned about oil existence.

Even in ancient times people used to collect and apply oil in folk medicine. Academician Pyotr Pallas noted, as early as in the 18th century, when traveling across Russia for scientific purposes that in the Trans-Kama region «… the Chuvashes and the Tatars inhabiting this area use this tarry water not only for gargling and drinking if suffering from thrush in the mouth and furuncles in the throat, but also zealously collect the oil itself and use it as a home-made medicine in many events».

Bitumens and oil had a great significance in the military field. As early as in the antique times they were used for making different combustible mixtures applied for defense or siege of the enemy towns. The best known of them was a so called «Greek fire»: a viscous inflammable liquid that was actively used by the Byzantines. The Greek fire struck terror into enemies, especially during naval battles, since it could not be extinguished by water, and the fire could run on the surface of the sea burning enemy ships completely. Its composition was kept in the strictest secrecy, but to all appearances it included oil. It is obvious that oil was extracted for these purposes at the Apsheron Peninsular.

Undoubtedly, the territory of the present day Tatarstan, in which there are several Pre-Volga regions where the oil and bitumens rise to the surface: in the vicinity of villages of Syukeyevo and Vasilyevo, and in the Eastern trans-Kama region: in the vicinity of villages of Sarabikulovo, Shugurovo, Sugushly and Petropavlovka), was one of the regions of the most ancient development of mineral resources. We do not have any reliable information about it yet. However, a large number of spheroconical vessels used for transportation of medicines and valuable liquid materials (for instance, quick silver or perfumes) found in the territory of the medieval state of the Volga Boulgars among other archaeological finds, as well as projectiles filled up with fire mixtures are a vivid testimony that oil and its products, including the ones of local origin, could have been used there.

The first record of the «Kazan oil» dates back to 1637. It preserved among the papers of the Pushkarskiy Prikaz (Department for production and distribution of cannons, also responsible for the state of fortresses) that was in charge of the military arsenal, including the oil reserves.

So, where did that Kazan oil come from? Most probably, the source of its extraction and preliminary distillation was in the Eastern Trans-Kama region: the banks of the rivers Sheshma, Sok, Zai, and Ik. This is ponderously testified by the report in the Russian newspaper, «Vedomosti» of January 2, 1703. It ran: «They write from Kazan. A lot of oil and copper ore were found on the Sok River…»