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Armand Hammer: American who made fortune in Russia

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Armand HammerArmand Hammer is one of the mysterious and conflicting figures among the American businessmen of the previous century. And the point is not the fact that during his live he gained profit of millions and after his death he left debts of millions, and there are many cases in the history of capitalism. Armand Hammer is one of American businessmen who proceeded to collaborate with the Soviet Russia. This is too curious and worth considering especially when it was the period known for the harsh ideological conflict between USSR-USA, so-called cold war.

Armand Hammer was born on May 21, 1898 in Manhattan, New York to the family of Russian immigrants Julius and Rose Hammer. His father was brought to the United StatesOdessa in 1875, and settled in The Bronx, where he ran a general medical practice and five drugstores. from

Hammer attended Morris High School, Columbia College and then medical school at Columbia. When his father was sentenced to prison he and his brothers took the family business, Allied Drug, to the new level reselling equipment they had bought at depressed prices at the end of World War I. In 1921 Hammer went to the Soviet Union for a trip that ended up lasting until late 1930. Although his career in medicine was cut short, he relished being referred to as "Dr. Hammer".

His father, Julius Hammer, a gynecologist by occupation, was the down-the-line supporter of socialist ideas and soon he became one of founders of the American socialist party. Thus, Armand Hammer had everything to set contacts with Russia after the year 1917. The first visit to Russia was not good, though, and related to some unpleasant circumstances. He was assigned to pick up around one hundred fifty thousand USD from the Russian debtors who failed to pay back to the pharmaceutical company owned by his father. By that time, 1921, Julius Hammer was in prison accused of doing illegal abortion resulted in death of the pregnant woman. There is a version till our days that Armand was the one who did the operation (he was then the medical student and in 1921 he acquired the degree of Doctor of Medicine, though he never practiced.

Whatever happened, Armand Hammer appeared in Soviet Russia in 1921. He met the Head of the Soviet Government, Vladimir Lenin. The subject of discussion is unknown in details to the public between the young man and one of the influential statesmen, though Hammer supposedly appealed with facts that his ancestries were from Russia, and his father was the Bolshevik, though American. The meeting resulted in that Hammer appeared to act as the intermediate person between the Soviet Government and those American companies concerned in dealing with big fishes in Russia. Hammer dealt with such companies as Ford Motor and Underwood Typewriter that paid some interest for transactions with the Soviets. He never forgot about his business and on October 21, 1921 the Allied Drug Chemical Corporation owned by Hammer signed the contract with the People’s Commissariat of Foreign Trading of the Russia on supply of whet from America to change for the jewelry from the State Establishment of the Government Fund of precious metals and stones of the Russian Federation, black caviar and fur skins. Soon Hammer totally moved to USSR to trade from there. He moved to Moscow and lived there till early 30s. That was the time recognized for plenty of commercial transactions between America and Russia when he was the intermediate partner. He participated in establishment of the largest plant on ammonia production, lately known as Togliatti Azot and in first pen concession lately reorganized to the Moscow Plant of Stationary. In Russia Armand married to Olga Vadina, a singer who introduced herself as a daughter to the White Guard General Von Ruth. The wedding was held in 1927 and two years later the couple was given a child. However, Hammer doubted in his in paternity for that child.

In the end of 1920 Hammer realized clearly that the activity he held in USSR so beneficialfor him came to its end. The new economical policy which characterized in the intensive activity of market segments and wide collaboration with the capitalist West countries came to the level when the liquidation was required. The time of collectivization and industrialization came and Armand Hammer failed to find favorable conditions to live the life he accustomed to. He was commercial activist enough to make his departure profitable. When leaving, he bought up plenty of articles of Russian art and lots of jewelry which were then successfully sold in the west for fortune.

Armand Hammer lived quite a long life to 1990 and till the end he was recognized as the Russian Millionaire in the mind of many Americans, as the person closely related to the communist policy. Armand never concealed his sympathy and good attitude to USSR. After Stalin died, Hammer met with the Heads of Government on a regular base in very warm and comfortable conditions. The collaboration with USSR did not bring him sufficient assets to become the billionaire.

After returning to the U.S., he initiated diverse arrays of business, art and humanitarian endeavors, including establishing of oil company, Occidental Petroleum.

The Occidental Petroleum which was found in the rating of the top 20 largest industrial companies in America to the end of 80s. However, Hammer did not manage to lay the foundation for the real empire he tended to own. His adventurous temper and habitual ability to work in conditions of totalitarian government were of no use for him. As a result, after Armand Hammer dies in December 1990, all his debts for the total amount of over half a billion US dollars were revealed against his wealth to be of forty million only.

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