The Soviet Union that Hammer built
The U.S. government was the last one to recognize the Bolsheviks in 1933. But the relations between the bastion of capitalism and the state of workers and peasants had been uninterrupted since the October Revolution. One of those who acted as an intermediary between Washington and Moscow during the Civil War and the New Economic Policy was an industrialist Armand Hammer, a confidant of Lenin.
The industrialist Armand Hammer, the "red millionaire", as he was known in the West, started his controversial work with Vladimir Lenin and completed it in the years of Gorbachev's perestroika.
For the first time Armand Hammer, a descendant of Jewish immigrants from Russia and doctor by training, was brought to the land of his ancestors in 1921, in the midst of famine in the Volga region that killed nearly 5 million people. He then led a small pharmaceutical company Allied Drug and Chemical, and believed that Russia ravaged by two wars - World War I and Civil War - was a promising field for his business activity. When travelling Russia by train on a tour around the country organized by the Supreme Economic Council, Hammer was so impressed with the extent of social disaster, rampant cholera, typhoid fever and childhood diseases he saw traveling from Samara to Yekaterinburg that he decided to bring into Russia millions of bushels of American wheat. Because of the rich harvest, farmers in the United States did not know what to do with their corn, and were simply burning it to prevent the fall in prices. The Soviets paid with Siberian furs, caviar, and valuables seized from the "former exploiting classes".
Armand Hammer's business acumen has helped to implement this vital for the Bolshevik regime deal despite the political and economic blockade imposed by Western countries. While he personally did not put any money into it, his commission amounted to 100 thousand dollars. He became a confidant of the head of People's Commissars, Vladimir Ulyanov-Lenin. Then he realized that it was easier and more profitable to deal with the Bolshevik leaders who had no support in the world than with his Western colleagues, because his attempt to sell the valuables obtained in Russia turned into a string of lawsuits from former owners and their relatives who accused Hammer of buying stolen goods. He became an agent of Soviet influence in the capitalist countries and fell under scrutiny of the FBI and later the CIA.
In 1926, Hammer opened the first Soviet Union's pencil factory in Moscow. By the end of the 1920's Armand Hammer has become the most influential American in Russia, representing 37 leading U.S. companies, including Henry Ford's group. Just at that time a wave of sales of the exhibits stored in Russian museum began. The Soviet government desperately needed currency for industrialization, and took every opportunity to make money.
Commissar for Trade Anastas Mikoyan was appointed responsible for squandering of the national wealth. His main customer who used his influence in the circles of the Soviet elite was the "red millionaire" Armand Hammer. He acquired the entire collection of paintings and sculptures from the Hermitage in Leningrad at bargain prices. It was he who brought to the West the famous series of Faberge eggs that Viktor Vekselberg brought back home for $90 million a few years ago. This time the enterprising crook was not afraid of getting sued because of buying stolen goods since the former owners - the imperial family - were destroyed during the Civil War.
Since the beginning of the industrialization Hammer decided to leave Russia where he resided for eight years. Apparently, Stalin's methods of management made him anxious. In addition, the government in 1932 decided to nationalize his pencil business. In recognition of his services to the Soviets, he received a small payment. Hammer's efforts played an important role in the fact that the Bolshevik regime in Russia was finally recognized by the United States. After his departure from Moscow, the resourceful doctor repeatedly returned to the country that made him rich. Later, with his participation the Soviet Union's largest plant for the production of ammonia was built in Togliatti, as well as SovInCenter in Moscow, and the current World Trade Center at Krasnaya Presnya. He was friends with all the Soviet leaders except Stalin, and the last of them, Mikhail Gorbachev, loved to hear about his experiences with Vladimir Lenin.
However, the main field of the "red millionaire's" activity is now located in the West. After the abolition of Prohibition in the United States, his company became the largest producer of alcohol in the country. In the late 1950's he purchased a small oil company Occidental Petroleum that, thanks to the huge bribes to the court of the Libyan King Idris, became a virtual monopoly on the newly discovered oil fields in the African country. By the early 1980s Hammer's income reached half a billion dollars a year.
He presented his beloved Soviet Union with a picture of Goya that still remains the only one in Russia. Many experts believe that it is a fake since it was purchased by Hammer for miserly 60 thousand dollars. In return, he was given an original of Kazimir Malevich that the businessman immediately sold for $750,000. Even after his death the "red millionaire" managed to fool everyone. He used Occidental Petroleum as his own pig-piggy bank, and promised mountains of gold to many charitable organizations and museums. But as the largest oilman, he managed to squander all his millions. His successors were left nothing but debts.