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 striking feat of study, instructed quickly and enthusiastically.” —San Francisco Chronicle

From Vanderbilt and Rockefeller to invoice Gates and Steve Jobs, America’s captains of are paragons of entrepreneurial good fortune, and books approximately company heritage, from The First mogul to The titanic Short, convey exemplars of capitalistic crafty and tenacity…but simply as American cocktail connoisseurs can mistake Absolut, Skyy, gray Goose, or Ketel One for the critical transparent spirit, so too has America’s imaginative and prescient of commercial historical past remained naïve to a fact lengthy famous in jap Europe: because the time of Tsar Nicholas, either vodka and commercial luck have been synonymous in Russia with one name—Smirnoff. Linda Himelstein’s seriously 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 most sensible company booklet of 2009—is the sweeping tale of entrepreneurship, empire, and epicurean triumph in contrast to whatever the area has ever visible earlier than.

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Then, as a member of the Society, he obtained dividends of approximately 400,000 rubles ahead of the monopoly used to be verified. He has spent all that cash” (ibid. , 17 [evidence by way of V. Smirnov re: guardianship of N. P. Smirnov]). firstly, Pyotr and Vladimir tolerated their brother’s erratic and irresponsible behavior. but if Trukhanova entered his lifestyles, their endurance evaporated. They went to courtroom jointly to have him declared incompetent to regulate his personal monetary affairs. It was once a tough and embarrassing venture that concerned submitting a petition with the Moscow general-governor, full of proof in their brother’s development of untamed, scandalous habit. Police reviews have been filed, too, sparked via the multitudes of people that swindled Nikolay out of cash or estate. The court docket accumulated various affidavits testifying to Nikolay’s antics and questionable mind set. at the start Nikolay agreed to the guardianship his brothers hunted for him, petitioning the courtroom for help on his personal behalf. yet he quick replaced his brain, maybe at Trukhanova’s urging, as soon as he discovered how hampered his way of life will be with out keep an eye on of his personal affairs. “I hadn’t understood the entire results of a guardianship,” Nikolay defined in a rfile inquiring for the court docket to rescind his earlier petition. He argued that Vladimir was once no larger than he while it got here to morality or over the top spending. “My brother Vladimir…also spends cash on a lady he lives with, Ms. Nikitina. He spends even more than I do. He acquired her homes at massive rate. He doesn’t think embarrassed approximately giving presents to her or to different girls which are of no much less worth than my presents for Trukhanova” (ibid. , 23–24). For Nikolay, the conflict used to be uphill. He used to be 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 motive on proving it. In a letter to Moscow’s general-governor, Vladimir and Pyotr wrote in their brother, “He is often drunk…. His final interval of challenging ingesting lasted for 4 months. He has gotten concerned with courtesans and he spends large quantities of cash on them. in view 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 fixed. Pyotr assigned blame for the matter principally on alcoholism and Trukhanova. He expressed his drawback that if Nikolay weren't reined in, he might lose every little thing, together with the 500,000-ruble inheritance he was once entitled to whilst he became thirty-five. Pyotr famous that Nikolay, then thirty, had already post as collateral opposed to his accounts his percentage in the home through the solid Iron Bridge in addition to a few racehorses he owned. Then Pyotr and Dmitriy Venediktovich Smirnov, one among Smirnov’s closest cousins, scrolled down an inventory of extravagances made on behalf of Trukhanova, together with 7,000 rubles at a modern costume store, 30,000 rubles with an unique jeweler, and indulgent furniture for her flat (ibid.

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