The King of Vodka: The Story of Pyotr Smirnov and the Upheaval of an Empire

Linda Himelstein, Author
Linda Himelstein, Author . Collins $29.99 (416p) ISBN 978-0-06-085589-5
Reviewed on: 03/30/2009
Release date: 05/01/2009
Paperback - 384 pages - 978-0-06-085591-8
Downloadable Audio - 978-0-06-213610-7
Open Ebook - 448 pages - 978-0-06-187614-1
Peanut Press/Palm Reader - 448 pages - 978-0-06-187620-2
Ebook - 448 pages - 978-0-06-187616-5
Ebook - 448 pages - 978-0-06-187622-6
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Journalist Himelstein recaptures Russia's golden age through the eyes of the former serf-turned vodka entrepreneur, Pyotr Arsenievich Smirnov (1831–1898). From his early days as a “small-time liquor peddler” to one of Russia's richest men, Smirnov was the nemesis of teetotaling Tolstoy—who blamed the country's late 19th-century woes on his countrymen's thirst for alcohol. As the first Russian brand architect and seller of high-quality, low-cost liquor, Smirnov makes for a fascinating subject in his trajectory and outsize ambition. He applied for the title of Purveyor to the Imperial Court, but “the tsar's refusal, rather than deflating Smirnov's outsized ambition, emboldened it. It aroused something deep inside the man, a creative spark that transformed Smirnov from a competent businessman into one of the most ingenious marketers of his time.” While the dozens of obstacles, including the closure of the Imperial Archives and a dearth of information about Smirnov's years of serfdom, might have deterred lesser researchers, Himelstein has triumphed with a timeless book that entertains, informs and inspires any would-be entrepreneur to chase his dreams. (May)

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