Born in a Russian village in 1831, Pyotr Smirnov relied on vodka to turn a life of scarcity and anonymity into one of immense wealth and international recognition. Starting from the back rooms and side streets of 19th-century Moscow, Smirnov exploited brilliant grassroots marketing strategies to popularize his products and ensconce his brand in the thirsts and imaginations of drinkers around the world. His vodka would be gulped in the taverns of Russia and Europe, be praised with accolades at World's Fairs, and become a staple on the tables of tsars. But his improbable ascent would be halted by the chaos of the Bolshevik Revolution, and only a bizarre set of coincidences, including an incredible prison escape by one of Smirnov's sons in 1919, would prevent Smirnov's legacy from fading into obscurity.
Set against a backdrop of political and ideological currents that would determine the course of global events, The King of Vodka is much more than a biography of a humble serf who rose to create one of the most celebrated business empires the world has ever known. It is a work of sweeping narrative history on an epic scale.
"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." (Publishers Weekly)
"Himelstein’s storytelling success distills diligent research into something appealing to popular tastes for family and Russian history alike." (Booklist)
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