Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

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9780199755592: Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State

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.

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From the Back Cover:

"A gripping and original book." -Tyler Cowen, Marginal Revolution  "Vodka Politics retells the history of the Russian state as a startling, almost Grand-Guignol narrative of spiritous excess, with one autocratic regime after another using drink to befuddle its courtiers, pacify its masses, stoke its imperial ambitions, and keep its treasury full." -David Courtwright, author of Forces of Habit: Drugs and the Making of the Modern World  "Written in a lively and entertaining fashion, Vodka Politics details the enduring link between autocracy and alcohol across the expanse of Russian history. In this impressive interpretive history, Mark Schrad leaves no stone unturned in laying out how vodka became intertwined with governance in Russia and the tragic consequences that this has had for Russian society." -Mark Beissinger, Princeton University, author of Nationalist Mobilization and the Collapse of the Soviet State

About the Author:


Mark Lawrence Schrad is Assistant Professor of Political Science, Villanova University.

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Schrad, Mark
Editorial: OUP USA (2014)
ISBN 10: 0199755590 ISBN 13: 9780199755592
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Descripción Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2014. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Russia is justly famous for its vodka. Today, the Russian average drinking man consumes 180 bottles of vodka a year, nearly half a bottle a day. But few people realize the enormous-and enormously destructive-role vodka has played in Russian politics. In Vodka Politics, Mark Schrad reveals that almost every Russian ruler has utilized alcohol to strengthen his governing power and that virtually every major event in Russian history has been tinged with alcohol. The Tsars used alcohol to dampen dissent and exert control over their courts, while the government s monopoly over its sale has provided a crucial revenue stream for centuries. In one of the book s many remarkable insights, Schrad shows how Tsar Nicholas II s decision to ban alcohol in 1914 contributed to the 1917 revolution. After taking power, Stalin lifted the ban and once again used mandatory drinking binges to keep his subordinates divided, fearful, confused, and off balance. On such occasions, a drunken Khrushchev routinely pushed the drunken Soviet Deputy Defense Commissar Grigory Kulik into a nearby pond.Under Gorbachev the pendulum swung back the other way, but his crackdown on alcohol consumption in the 1980s backfired, exacerbating the Soviets fiscal crisis and hastening the 1991 collapse. Today, chronic alcoholism has created a massive health crisis, and life expectancies for men have fallen to an alarmingly low 59 as a consequence. Schrad argues that Russia s storied addiction to vodka is not simply a social problem, but a symptom of a deeper sickness-autocracy. Indeed, Schrad shows that alcoholism and autocracy have gone hand-in-hand throughout Russian history. Drawing upon remarkable archival evidence and filled with colorful anecdotes of the enforced drunkenness Russian leaders imposed on their courts, Vodka Politics offers a wholly new way of understanding Russian political history. Nº de ref. de la librería AOP9780199755592

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Mark Lawrence Schrad
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ISBN 10: 0199755590 ISBN 13: 9780199755592
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Descripción Oxford University Press Inc, United States, 2014. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. Language: English . Brand New Book. Russia is justly famous for its vodka. Today, the Russian average drinking man consumes 180 bottles of vodka a year, nearly half a bottle a day. But few people realize the enormous-and enormously destructive-role vodka has played in Russian politics. In Vodka Politics, Mark Schrad reveals that almost every Russian ruler has utilized alcohol to strengthen his governing power and that virtually every major event in Russian history has been tinged with alcohol. The Tsars used alcohol to dampen dissent and exert control over their courts, while the government s monopoly over its sale has provided a crucial revenue stream for centuries. In one of the book s many remarkable insights, Schrad shows how Tsar Nicholas II s decision to ban alcohol in 1914 contributed to the 1917 revolution. After taking power, Stalin lifted the ban and once again used mandatory drinking binges to keep his subordinates divided, fearful, confused, and off balance. On such occasions, a drunken Khrushchev routinely pushed the drunken Soviet Deputy Defense Commissar Grigory Kulik into a nearby pond.Under Gorbachev the pendulum swung back the other way, but his crackdown on alcohol consumption in the 1980s backfired, exacerbating the Soviets fiscal crisis and hastening the 1991 collapse. Today, chronic alcoholism has created a massive health crisis, and life expectancies for men have fallen to an alarmingly low 59 as a consequence. Schrad argues that Russia s storied addiction to vodka is not simply a social problem, but a symptom of a deeper sickness-autocracy. Indeed, Schrad shows that alcoholism and autocracy have gone hand-in-hand throughout Russian history. Drawing upon remarkable archival evidence and filled with colorful anecdotes of the enforced drunkenness Russian leaders imposed on their courts, Vodka Politics offers a wholly new way of understanding Russian political history. Nº de ref. de la librería AOP9780199755592

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