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

by Linda Himelstein

ISBN-10: 0060855894
ISBN-13: 9780060855895
Region: Europe
Publication Date: May, 2009
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Publishers Information

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

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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 nineteeth-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 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.

Author Information

About Linda Himelstein

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Linda Himelstein is the author of The King of Vodka: The Story of Pyotr Smirnov and the Upheaval of an Empire.

A graduate of Scripps College and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, Ms. Himelstein is a veteran reporter. She began her career in the Washington bureau of The Wall Street Journal, and from there went on to work for The San Francisco Recorder and Legal Times, members of American Lawyer Media group. She covered congress, federal agencies, city hall, and the courts, and appeared on television outlets such as CNN and C-SPAN as an expert commentator on news of the day.

 In 1993, Ms. Himelstein joined BusinessWeek in New York as its legal affairs editor. She wrote about a wide array of topics, including the tobacco industry and Wall Street. One of her cover stories, titled the Bankers Trust Tapes, earned national headlines and helped BusinessWeek win the National Magazine Award. As legal affairs editor, Ms. Himelstein also covered the lawsuit filed by Smirnov’s descendants. They sought to return the trademarks and copyrights of the vodka empire, lost in the tumult following the Russian revolution, to the family and to Russia. It was a fascinating story that earned BusinessWeek’s publisher’s award.

 In 1996, Ms. Himelstein relocated to the Bay Area, writing about finance and retail for BusinessWeek. Two years later, she became the Silicon Valley Bureau Chief just as the technology boom took off. She wrote about the infancies of eBay and Yahoo! as well as many other early technology standouts. Despite the excitement of Silicon Valley, Ms. Himelstein could not forget the Smirnovs and their compelling story. She wondered what had happened to them and how many other Russians faced similar plights. At the end of 2004, Ms. Himelstein left the magazine and focused her energy for more than four years on the research, reporting, and writing necessary to tell the fascinating—and wrenching—tale in The King of Vodka.

Ms. Himelstein lives in the San Francisco area with her family.

Cookbooks by Linda Himelstein

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