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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

One of several children of Russian immigrant parents, Armand Hammer, born in 1898, earned a degree in medicine from Columbia University while at the same time making a fortune by expanding his father’s pharmaceutical firm. In 1921, while waiting to begin his internship, Hammer’s life was changed when he decided to journey to the newly created Soviet Union to bring medical aid to a population suffering from privation and a typhus epidemic. He soon realized that the Soviet Union’s main need was for food and entered into an agreement with the Communist government to import American food in exchange for Soviet goods that could be marketed in the United States, thus beginning a unique personal association with the Soviet government that has lasted to the present. At this time he met Lenin, for whom he developed a deep and lasting admiration and against whom Hammer was to measure all future world figures with whom he became acquainted. Hammer’s import-export business was immensely successful. As a result, he obtained the first concession awarded by the Soviet government, an asbestos mine in the Urals. He soon gained a concession to own and operate the first pencil factory in the Soviet Union, and in addition served as a representative for numerous American companies in the Soviet Union, including Ford, Allis-Chalmers, U.S. Rubber, and Underwood Typewriter. Before his return to the United States in 1930, Hammer acquired vast stores of czarist art treasures, which served as the foundation of his own collection and also spearheaded his entrance into the art business.

Since the end of the Stalinist era, Hammer has maintained close personal and business contacts with the Soviet Union and has personally known...

(The entire section is 417 words.)