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

By Linda Himelstein

“A operatic tour-de-force.” —Tilar J. Mazzeo, writer of The Widow Clicquot

“An awesome feat of analysis, instructed speedily and enthusiastically.” —San Francisco Chronicle

From Vanderbilt and Rockefeller to invoice Gates and Steve Jobs, America’s captains of are paragons of entrepreneurial luck, and books approximately enterprise historical past, from The First wealthy person to The giant Short, express exemplars of capitalistic crafty and tenacity…but simply as American cocktail connoisseurs can mistake Absolut, Skyy, gray Goose, or Ketel One for the essential transparent spirit, so too has America’s imaginative and prescient of industrial background remained naïve to a fact lengthy well-known in jap Europe: because the time of Tsar Nicholas, either vodka and commercial good fortune have been synonymous in Russia with one name—Smirnoff. Linda Himelstein’s severely acclaimed biography of Russian vodka scion Pyotr Smirnov—a finalist for the James Beard Award, winner of the IACP and Saroyan Awards, and a BusinessWeek top enterprise ebook of 2009—is the sweeping tale of entrepreneurship, empire, and epicurean triumph not like whatever the area has ever obvious earlier than.

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Nikitina. He spends even more than I do. He obtained her homes at huge rate. He doesn’t believe embarrassed approximately giving presents to her or to different ladies which are of no much less worth than my presents for Trukhanova” (ibid. , 23–24). For Nikolay, the conflict used to be uphill. He was once no longer healthy to rule his personal future, and his brothers, with the aid of cousins, borrowers, the police, and an uncooperative Trukhanova, have been cause on proving it. In a letter to Moscow’s general-governor, Vladimir and Pyotr wrote in their brother, “He is usually drunk…. His final interval of tough consuming lasted for 4 months. He has gotten concerned with courtesans and he spends large quantities of cash on them. on the grounds that he now not has any cash, he supplies out promissory notes that experience no relation to his real monetary place” (ibid. , eight [letter from Vladimir and Pyotr Smirnov to Moscow’s general-governor, June 1903]). The accusations fastened. Pyotr assigned blame for the matter mostly on alcoholism and Trukhanova. He expressed his challenge that if Nikolay weren't reined in, he could lose every thing, together with the 500,000-ruble inheritance he used to be entitled to whilst he became thirty-five. Pyotr famous that Nikolay, then thirty, had already publish as collateral opposed to his money owed his percentage in the home via the forged Iron Bridge in addition to a few racehorses he owned. Then Pyotr and Dmitriy Venediktovich Smirnov, considered one of Smirnov’s closest cousins, scrolled down a listing of extravagances made on behalf of Trukhanova, together with 7,000 rubles at a trendy costume store, 30,000 rubles with an specific jeweler, and indulgent furniture for her flat (ibid. , 18). Nikolay had even ordered an ornate chamber pot for her, which Dmitriy Venediktovich guessed was once made from gold and value upward of 8,000 rubles; the pot used to be, actually, made up of silver and value simply two hundred rubles (ibid. 20, 22). nonetheless, Smirnov’s cousin argued, those weren't the acts of a rational individual. “Under the impact of Trukhanova, Nikolay Petrovich drank a lot that he turned insane,” Dmitriy Venediktovich testified (ibid. , 20). The facts for the madness declare made by means of Nikolay’s kinfolk got here from an announcement made to police by means of Trukhanova herself. She acknowledged a weird and wonderful episode during which she was once referred to as to Nikolay’s residence by means of his butler, Grigoriy. He instructed her that Nikolay deliberate to dedicate suicide through striking himself. She rushed to his domestic to discover that he had no longer hanged himself yet had slashed his personal penis in its place. “He advised me that he had bring to a halt his penis. I despatched for a doctor…who got here and sewed up the wound. in keeping with how the wound regarded, I concluded that he, Smirnov, did it whereas he was once drunk,” she recalled (ibid. , 35 [Trukhanova’s affidavit of Oct. 21, 1903]). Trukhanova attempted to reduce the results of Nikolay’s deceptions and self-inflicted damage. She defined that the message approximately committing suicide used to be an easy ploy to get her consciousness and that the reduce was once not anything severe or life-threatening. She additionally downplayed the price of the presents she bought, arguing that they weren't as pricey as Nikolay’s brothers sought after every person to think.

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