• Vodka Politics

  • Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State
  • By: Mark Lawrence Schrad
  • Narrated by: Noah Michael Levine
  • Length: 18 hrs and 38 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 04-15-14
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.2 (55 ratings)

Regular price: $26.60

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Publisher's Summary

Russia is famous for its vodka, and its culture of extreme intoxication. But just as vodka is central to the lives of many Russians, it is also central to understanding Russian history and politics.
In Vodka Politics, Mark Lawrence Schrad argues that debilitating societal alcoholism is not hard-wired into Russians' genetic code, but rather their autocratic political system, which has long wielded vodka as a tool of statecraft. Through a series of historical investigations stretching from Ivan the Terrible through Vladimir Putin, Vodka Politics presents the secret history of the Russian state itself - a history that is drenched in liquor. Scrutinizing (rather than dismissing) the role of alcohol in Russian politics yields a more nuanced understanding of Russian history itself: from palace intrigues under the tsars to the drunken antics of Soviet and post-Soviet leadership, vodka is there in abundance.
Beyond vivid anecdotes, Schrad scours original documents and archival evidence to answer provocative historical questions. How have Russia's rulers used alcohol to solidify their autocratic rule? What role did alcohol play in tsarist coups? Was Nicholas II's ill-fated prohibition a catalyst for the Bolshevik Revolution? Could the Soviet Union have become a world power without liquor? How did vodka politics contribute to the collapse of both communism and public health in the 1990s? How can the Kremlin overcome vodka's hurdles to produce greater social well-being, prosperity, and democracy into the future?
Viewing Russian history through the bottom of the vodka bottle helps us to understand why the "liquor question" remains important to Russian high politics even today - almost a century after the issue had been put to bed in most every other modern state. Indeed, recognizing and confronting vodka's devastating political legacies may be the greatest political challenge for this generation of Russia's leadership, as well as the next.
©2014 Oxford University Press (P)2014 Audible, Inc.
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By The Crunge on 09-07-16

Look Natasha! Moose and Squirrel are drunk!

What did you love best about Vodka Politics?

Mark Schrad's book tells the story of Russia's crippling dependency on vodka and the cynical manipulation of that dependency by Russia's leaders: imperial, soviet and modern. It is truly heartbreaking to hear Schrad's description of vodka's role in Russia's disintegrating social fabric. It is a thoughtful and serious work which is marred by the reader Noah Levine's performance.
Although nominally a good narrator Mr Levine completely compromises the integrity of this work by reading every Russian quote in an inane Boris Badonov accent. I presume this was done to give a more `authentic' feel to the narration but it just sounds ridiculous. Levine even gifts this accent to well known Slavs like Katherine the Great (Sophie von Anhalt-Zerbst-Dornburg) and Peter III (Karl von Holstein-Gottorp). Levine doesn't stop there; French, German, Swedish and English accents are included as well as cringe worthy recreations of Churchill, Nixon and Clinton.
In defense of Mr. Levine he may have been submitting to the audio book producer's insistence. Sadly this is an actual Audible production!

What was one of the most memorable moments of Vodka Politics?

The declining (current) Russian health statistics, due in part to vodka consumption, are startling.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Noah Michael Levine?

Just about anybody (including Mr. Levine himself) as long as they had the nerve to say "No. I won't read parts in accents because it's stupid."

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It certainly made me cry (with frustration) at many points.

Any additional comments?

Multiple voices in audio books is certainly valid. They can really enhance a production in the right place. But this was not the right place. The producers owe Mr. Schrad (and me) an apology.

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By Sylla on 02-21-15

A repetitive mediocrity

What could have made this a 4 or 5-star listening experience for you?

Another narrator without a fake Russian accent that makes it at time impossible to hear as he mumbles

What could Mark Lawrence Schrad have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Stop repeating the same anecdotes again and again

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Noah Michael Levine?


You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

A promising topic a thoroughly tedious and amateurish execution.

Any additional comments?

I really want y money back!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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