The history of Russian vodka
The history of Russian vodka should be begun since the second half of 14 century, when in 1383 the Genoa embassy brought the grape spirit, named aqua vitae, to Moscow for the first time and showed it to the Great Prince, boyars and foreign pharmacists. This fact is interesting first of all to that is the first documentary certificate, which testifies to acquaintance of our ancestors with spirit.
The second half of 15 century was a very important period in development of the Moscow centralized state. Its economy had become stronger. The agriculture had passed to the new and more progressive system of landownership – «three fields», which had caused the rapid increase of bread manufacturing. According to these facts this period was for Russia the time of certain prosperity. There is no doubt, that the middle of 15 century is considered to be the time of emergence of distillation. Mr. Pokhlebkin, the known researcher of this question, believes having proved by a laborious search, that from 1448 to 1478 Russian distillation arose, the technology of pasture of grain spirit from local raw material was invented. It proves to be true also that in 1472-1478 John III had established the state monopoly on manufacture and sale of grain wine, and also other alcoholic drinks (honey, beer).
1533 is a year to remember in history of Russian distillation, because the first «Tsar’s kabak» was opened in Moscow. Trade in vodka had concentrated in hands of imperial officials. Further - it is more. By the end of a century in all areas of Russia vodka was on sale only in kabaks. According to the imperial decree only the owners of kabaks and their helpers were allowed to sale vodka.
Being persons elective, they nevertheless should carry out the state alcohol policy strictly. A result of kabaks’ activity was larceny, drunkenness, abusing, which caused in 1648 revolts in Moscow and other cities. These revolts took place in history as «kabak’s revolts» and had been severely suppressed.
However Tsar Aleksey Mikhaylovich had to gather «Zemskiy sobor» urgently which main question was reforming of trade in vodka. But vague measures could not improve a condition of alcohol business seriously. Drunkenness in Russia in 17 century had reached significant scales, increasing poverty and ruin of people.
In the beginning of 18 century young Tsar Peter I had to wage war in the North, having the sharpest shortage of means. Throughout Russian history, the manner of vodka production and sales has changed many times. The system of wine lease, the right to produce and sell vodka for a payment of a small percentage of income to the state, which made the leaseholders rich, was constantly being introduced and withdrawn. Peter the First combined leases with the state sale of vodka, trying to increase the income for the state to a maximum. Of course, the wine lease system was an extreme measure and could not exist long.
With introduction of freedom of distillation the wine lease system had been cancelled. Now wine producers were assessed with the special tax which was defined from patent capacity of the enterprise, and then - from quantity of the made raw material.
The middle of 18 century by the right is considered to be the top in the development of Russian distillation. This «gold» period in history of Russian vodka began on March, 31st, 1755 when Ekaterina II defined distillation as the exclusive privilege of noblemen, having released them from any taxation. Volumes of nobiliary distillation were established strictly according to a borrowed rank: the titled nobility could make more vodka, than others. Other estates had no right to produce vodka and should buy it from the state. It is interesting, that nobiliary and state distillation did not stir, but supplemented each other. In the second half of 18 century there were a lot of grades of vodka. Each landowner-manufacturer believed, that it was very important to have own mark of this drink. A flavored drink could be called vodka when it was prepared with use of various vegetative components, such as grasses, berries and fruit.
Vodka of house manufacture differed in the highest quality which was reached by fourfold distillery, but also by high quality water cleaning and using natural proteins (milk, egg white). In 1781 Ekaterina II created new special organs – «Piteynaya Palata». Their function was to stock up vodka. And it could be bought both from state factories, and from private ones.
By the end of a century malpractice by stocking up vodka had brought to nothing its buying from state manufactories; at the same time the wine lease system became a dominate system. On the one hand, this wine lease system was a course of unexpected enrichment for the merchant class. On the other hand, this system was extremely ruinous for treasure. The state had to introduce the monopoly in the country, though also incomplete: the retail trade in vodka remained in private hands (see V.V. Pokhlebkin «The History of Vodka»).
In the beginning of 19 century Russian vodka was delivered to France. After Napoleon’s defeat and entry of Russian army into Paris in 1814 vodka appeared at the restaurant «Very», which was rented by the Russian government for having meals by generals and officers of the army. Russian vodka had become available for French aristocracy who appreciated this drink.
In 1868 new Tsar Nikolay I cancelled the state monopoly on vodka that caused a shortage of taxes but it was extremely profitable for the nobility and the merchant class. Again, as well as at Ekaterina II, vodka of private manufactories was widely spread.
In prosperous houses it was bad manners to offer guests vodka of industrial manufacturing. They said, home made vodka was better than vodka of industrial manufacturing.
There are a lot of examples in the Russian classical literature, where home made vodka is mentioned.
«For easy to eat each pancake was poured down with 40 sorts of vodka and 40 liqueurs. There was the classical vodka which is made of currants kidneys, smelling sweet of garden; the caraway vodka; the wormwood vodka; the aniseed vodka, the German Doppel-Kümmel; tincture of birch kidneys; tincture of poplar kidneys; the citric vodka and pepper brandy, you will not list all sorts…» A.I. Kuprin writes about sorts of Russian vodka.
Russian noblemen, who dealt with vodka manufacturing, kept the whole process of distillation under strict control; it should be distilled very slowly. During the process of making home-made vodka the alcohol was distilled three times, water and various plant flavours were added, and then vodka was distilled once more.
Since the second half of the 19 century the Russian government introduced a state monopoly on vodka in the largest part of the Russian empire.
Having received freedom manufacturers filled the market with cheap alcoholic drunks, «so-called vodka», substitutes of vodka made out of another raw material, for example of potatoes. The chronic drunkenness of poor people overflowed Russia.
Feeble attempts of the government to solve the problem (replacement of kabaks with taverns, the sanction for selling vodka by portions, reform of excise system) could not improve the situation. In 60-70 years a lot of private companies of manufacture and trade in wine-vodka were founded and fast they «were on legs». There were about 5160 wine factories in Russia at that time. The Moscow company «Widow M.A. Popova», which was well-known for its vodka «Popovka», and the Nizhniy Novgorod company «A.V. Dolgov & C», which produced the high-quality vodka «Stolovaya Vodka ¹30», were the largest ones among them.
Not so large companies (in St. Petersburg «Beckman», «A.F. Schritter», in Kazan «Varaksina», «Alexandrova» etc) delivered on the market vodka of average quality. The geography of similar companies was rather wide and included Siberia and the Far East.
The most well-known and the largest manufacture vodka company «Trading House of Peter Smirnov» originated from the business which was started by Smirnov’s heirs.
In 1842 his nephew aged 10 Peter Arsenyevich started to serve as a salesman in the family company «Smirnov from Varvarka». In 20 years he became a merchant of the third guild, the owner of the biggest wine warehouse (a wine factory was called so that time) at «the Pig-iron Bridge», the first wine merchant in Moscow. In 1886 he received the rank of the supplier of the Russian Royal Family. His company produced amount of different sorts of vodka, liquors, balms and even whisky. Smirnov transformed his company to a share company. Company was managed by one of his brothers and also by his three elderly sons (Peter Arsenyevich had got 13 children).
«Wine monopoly» which was introduced in 1897 struck his business seriously. The founder of the company died in the following year.
In 1902 his sons liquidated the share company and founded the trading house «Peter, Nikolay and Vladimir Petrov in Moscow», trading as Smirnov Company in Moscow.
In 1863 the distillery manufactory of Ivan Smirnov, the son of Aleksey Smirnov, was founded, which made a severe competition to the company of Peter Smirnov. In spite of fact that the well-known «Vodka Smirnovskaya» was a grain vodka (not rye vodka, which was produced on state manufactures, it was made out of wheaten), it had no the honorary title «cleared», which the high-quality vodka received. Besides the low-quality vodka there were other drinks on the market which could not be called vodka because of the different technology. Later after introduction the next state monopoly these drinks were called «pseudo-Russian vodka». They were made on a special recipe from black treacle; widely spread in the South «Kizlyarka» (vodka of Prince Eristov) was prepared from fruit and berries. Talented Russian writer S. Maximov gave a very real and impressing picture of vodka manufacture and trade in Russia in 80, 90 years of the last century. «Hear on the way near the river there is a distillery of a wealthy person. It was built here just because of many crowded markets. A lot of grain is taken to these markets for sale; the distillery can not exist without grain. Grain wine, so-called vodka, is a spirit which is diluted by water.
In a factory we can see a big wooden tub, in which flour and malt are fallen down. This tub is poured by water. It is dough, where all components are mixed. Malt incorporates to starch of flour and starch will be transformed to sugar. Dough is transformed into jam. When the jam is getting cold, at the same time the process of fermentation is starting. We can see it on small bubble with carbonic gas. When they disappear, the jam calms down. It means that the fermentation has already terminated. The jam is transformed into «brazhka». Brazhka is brought to another place, special copper vessels or cubes, built into a furnace. The furnace is stocked up with woods. Brazhka heats up. Heated up it turns to steam which passes in new pipes. These pipes are lead through a tub with water, so they are cold; in a cold air steam is besieged, turns again to a liquid, like fog in the top layers of air - during a rain. The liquid follows on the end of pipes in new tubs already as a spirit. The spirit diluted by water is transformed into vodka and if distillery of spirit is not repeated some times, this vodka is real raw vodka because it contains fusel oil, has got unpleasant smell and is bad for a stomach. Except for grain, they began to receive a spirit... from potatoes, boiled or pounded, but anyway mixed with grain malt. «Peysakhovka», the Jews vodka, is made out of beetroot juice. This Jewish vodka was very popular with Jews in the south, north and west regions of Russia. They tried to distill vodka, or simple wine, from treacle at sugar factories, but this drink was not pleasant to lovers of vodka. They began to distill vodka from that moss which dears eat in the North.
The later history is known: vodka was poured in flanks, taken to warehouses, from warehouses it was bought by dealers, poured in small bottles, placed on shelves for hunters; it was sold in kabaks as a drink and in bottles. Near a market the trade in vodka was very successful. Each owner of a kabak had his own art in selling vodka: one was very kind and close to the clients, in another kabak it was very cheerful - they sold wine with help of music. The habitual drinker always spent their time in kabaks. They played the balalaikas, joked, and seemed very cheerful. Sometimes violin players and guitar players joined them, they shouted all animal and bird’s voices and sang different songs, which brought people to laugh up to tears and up to fall. The third «kabatchik» sold wine even people did not have any money, just «for mittens»... They say: visiting a kabak is like to meet a lot of people. Russian people could say, that the worst drink was vodka, especially when it was produced on grain, but still «where kabak is - there Russian «geezer» is.» That’s why it was very noisy on the market, and at the rare visitor his cap kept on his head by the end of the market.»
In this way, capitalist manufacture and thirst of a profit promoted appearance of cheap vodka in the Russian market, including Ukrainian «Kartofelnaya» (vodka made of potatoes), «Svekolnaya» (made of beetroot), become «national». Manufacturing of pure, high-quality vodka became unprofitable for the manufacturers who were guided mass production. All this caused distribution of the most unbridled drunkenness.
Here it is necessary to note, that potato vodka can not be clear full of fusel oils. That is why such vodka is bad fro the health, it destroy the organism, cause aggression and bad mood of a drinker. Concerned by growth of drunkenness the imperial government had come to conclusion about necessity of introduction of the centralized manufacture and trade in vodka, establishments of the strict governmental control over every possible abusing in this business. Many statesmen, representatives of intelligence, scientists agreed with such decision. It was clear, that absence of elementary culture of consumption of vodka at wide broad masses can oppose with only patient and long-term work under aegis of the state. It was clear to statesmen of that time, that only decrees could not solve this problem. Reduction of alcoholism should be reached by introduction of vodka monopoly. This reform was very important; it was developed seriously and comprehensively. It was devoted to the achieving the following targets: transferring manufacture and trade in vodka in the country from private hands in state, developing the culture of drinking vodka, raising the qualitative standard of Russian alcoholic drink.
The special commission, which was led by the Great Russian chemist D.I. Mendeleev, developed recommendation to the government for introduction of the state monopoly. The commission advised not only to achieve the high chemical cleanliness of the product but to improve the conditions of public consumption of vodka, to propagandize the vodka consumption at home, to teach people how to use vodka in different situations; to show them, that vodka was an element of a feast instead a mean causing strong intoxication.
Reform consisted of some periods. It started in 1894 and came to the end in 8 years, in 1902. The introduction of the state monopoly on distilling manufacture was connected with the Great Russian politician, Minister of Finance, Sergey Juryevich Vitte. The state monopoly caused the building of state distilling manufactories. At the beginning of the century about 350 state manufactories were founded. One of such factories was the Moscow State Wine Warehouse ¹1, later known as «Crystal».
So, the state monopoly pursued good purposes, but it existed not so long – less than 10 years. Only after the Russian Revolution 1905-1906 the vodka monopoly was carried out in all country. The introduction of the vodka monopoly in the beginning of 20 century coincided with the final definition of character of vodka as Russian national alcoholic drink. Thanks to work of Great Russian chemist D.I. Mendeleev it became possible. A lot of rumours were spread about him. One rumour had it that Mendeleev had opened the search of distillery of Russian vodka which had become famous for its exclusive taste. Other rumour had it that Mendeleev produced forged French wines for the famous owner of shops Eliseev. All rumours were based on an actual fact, Mendeleev’s thesis for his doctor’s degree referred to «Connection of spirit and water». During the half and a year he was searching for an ideal parity of volume and weight of water and spirit in vodka, ran a lot of experiments for mixture of various weights of water and spirit that was rather complicated and labour-consuming.
The definition of the ideal parity of volume and weight of water and spirit was a «strong nut let» for researchers for a long time. The matter is that spirit by connection with water compresses all mix, for example, the mix a liter of spirit with a liter of water never gives as a result two liters of a mix.
Having opened this phenomenon, the scientist had deduced the formula which contained 30 members and borrowed 5 lines. It considered being one of the most elementary formulas though the data received from this «elementary» formula, on accuracy have surpassed figures in researches of all Mendeleev’s predecessors. It at once his formula had been estimated by departments o alcohol drinks. Mendeleev’s measurements had been taken in a basic table of all alcohol measures first in Holland, then in Germany, Austria and Russia.
Such tables for quantitative definition of the spirit, developed by D.I. Mendeleev, are used till now. However, besides practical value of the dissertation, much more important theoretical result was: it was established, that the greatest compression of a mix occurs at mutual solution in a weight parity of waterless spirit of 45, 88 percent about 54, 12 percent of water.
It means, that if on each molecule of spirit in a solution are three molecules of water, the volume of a mix becomes minimal, hence, its relative density reaches a maximum. D.I. Mendeleev had proved, that the ideal maintenance of spirit in vodka - 40 %. It practically cannot be received at mixing water and spirit in volumes, but only at mixture of exact weight parities of alcohol and water.
After D.I. Mendeleev’s researches the real Moscow vodka was vodka which, besides other characteristics, was dissolved by water on weight precisely up to 40. This recommendation of the great chemist in 1894 had been patented by the government of Russia as Russian national vodka – «Moscow Special».
By use of 40% vodka a lot of ashes is emitted and the drink becomes more homogeneous. Beside 40% vodka does not burn a gullet.
The positive moment of vodka monopoly was a success in struggle against the consumption of substitutes of vodka. In the end of 20 century, when the state distillation had not been developed yet, favourite drinks of Russian people became so-called «Kinder balsam» or « elevating drops «, representing spirit solution of muscat, citric, carnation, dill and other oils. Peasants used this medical preparation as a drink. Its consumption led to the heaviest consequences. Gofmann’s drops – «likvora» – were very popular too; it was a mix of two parts of 90 percent spirit and one part of sulfuric ether. Government could not forbid the consumption of these «drinks» without a recipe, the trade in this «drinks» by chemists. Occurrence of cheap state vodka made the consumption of such drugstores meaningless.
The vodka monopoly had considerably strengthened the state budget. In the beginning of 20 century more than thirds of revenue of the state were made with proceeds from trade in vodka in Russia. In the country there were about one million kabaks, taverns and other pubs. From 1905 to 1912 about 440 million buckets of 40% vodka had been sold. In these years 185 million rubles profits were received, and from use of railways - only 160 million rubles. Consumption of vodka per capita was increasing from year to year, in liters:
1891 – 1895 – 4,3;
1896 – 1900 – 5,0;
1901 – 1905 – 5,23;
1906 – 1910 – 6,09.
The alcohol was considered to be useful for an organism and it was necessary to struggle only against drunkenness, encouraging consumption of alcohol. Imperial Minister of Finance said, that «being strong-cold sober contradicts the opinion on advantage of the moderate consumption of strong drinks».
Having entered the First World War, the government of Russia had to publish at once the decision about the termination of sale of vodka to the population. All 400 distilleries of Russia began to make lilac spirit for needs of front and the medical purposes. The introduction for trade in vodka had been prolonged in December, 1917 and in July, 1918 for the period of revolution and civil war. Alcoholic drinks were considered as enemies of revolution. The importance of struggle against drunkenness in the first days and weeks of revolution, the factor of proletarian sobriety were estimated very highly. Introduction of one of the first ant alcoholic brochures at the Soviet time came to the end with words: «Workers’-and-peasants’ Russia was born under a flag of abstention from alcohol and it should become stronger». In the propaganda material Damian Bednyi said:
«Have you seen the orders on a wall –
About drinkers and about wine?
It’s demanded to pour out wine,
And all drinkers will be shot down».
After the termination of civil war in January, 1924 the famous resolution of the Central Electoral Committee of the USSR about renewal of manufacture and trade in alcohol drinks in the USSR had come into force, and in October, 1925 the trade in vodka had begun.
Till the beginning of Great Second War a lot of measures were taken for improving of distilling technology, for using of science achievements, for producing of a high-quality product. Within war vodka manufacture had not been stopped, though was reduced five times. Since September, 1st, 1941 it was ordered to give 100 gr. vodka to each solder every day. In post-war years new steps on improvement of quality of Russian vodka had been made. As a result Russian vodka «Moscow Special « was awarded a gold medal at the international exhibition in Bern in 1953. Occurrence in the international market of new mark «Capital» which author was widely known manufacturer V.G. Svirida, supported the world prestige of Russian vodka.
The perfect industrial technologies, use of natural vegetative raw material, absence of synthetic substances, carefulness and accuracy of carrying out the standards - all these had based high flavouring qualities of Russian strong alcoholic drink.
In 1967 according to the new vodka standards norms of the maintenance of impurity were toughened. New stages in perfection of vodka manufacture were in 1970-1971 years. During this period recipes of new vodka marks - «Posolskaya» and «Sibirskaya» - had been developed. In the end of 70th years the USSR faced a serious problem: sharp necessity of protection of the priority and the invention of vodka.
At first sight, the question was absolutely clear: the priority of Russia in the invention of vodka was conclusive. However sometimes even obvious demands proofs. For confirmation of the priority our country had to sustain serious struggle against a number of foreign firms. Vodka firms of Russian emigrants («Pierre Smirnoff», «Ernestov», «Gorbachev», «Keglevich» and others) appeared in the USA and in the Western Europe in 1918-1921. Their activity was based on the West-European and American technology and the equipment. They produced the distilled drink in a beautiful packing. Nevertheless, this drink is deprived typical qualities of Russian vodka. According to these facts, this vodka could not be called vodka; it differed on raw material and on technology.
V.V. Pokhlebkin was absolutely right approving, that biological and geographical reasons do not give an opportunity to reproduce Russian vodka somewhere outside Russia. In the same way, as it is impossible to reproduce Scotch whisky outside Scotland.
Nevertheless a number of Russian vodka marks had been subjected to boycott. The American firms tried to deprive the USSR an opportunity to advertise and sell vodka, sat a goal to take over the right to use such name only for their goods. Their said, that they were the first in producing vodka not Russia.
Claims of competitors had been recognized groundless. The priority in «invention» of vodka had remained beyond Russia, which according to the imperial Decree of 1721 gave out to the soldiers two mugs of vodka a day, and in 80th years of the last century imported abroad about 7 million buckets (a bucket - 12,3 liters) vodka spirit a year. The problem with claims of the West-European and American firms was solved rather easily; they could not present the convincing dates of the initial invention of vodka. The situation with the claims of Poland was more serious. In 1978 heads of state vodka monopoly PNR tried to prove, that in territory of Polish Kingdom, Great Duchy Lithuanian and Ukraine with Zaporozhye vodka had been invented earlier, than in Russia. According to this fact, only Poland should receive the right to trade in vodka on foreign markets. Polish said that vodka from Russia could not be called vodka as a drink. Research of V.V. Pokhlebkin « History of vodka « allowed to answer a question about the period when and where vodka had arisen, proved, that «gorzalka» (gorzalka is the-initial name of vodka in Poland) had been created not earlier than in 1540, that is much later, than in Russia. In 1982 the priority of creation of vodka as Russian original alcoholic drink had been given to the USSR by the decision of the international arbitration. Only the USSR acquired the right to vodka advertising under this name in the world market, the export-advertising slogan of Russian vodka «Only vodka from Russia is genuine Russia vodka «(« Only vodka from Russia - the real Russian vodka) was also recognized.
The book of V.V. Pokhlebkin is a mark in history of Russian vodka. Its value consists not only that the author established the time of occurrence of vodka and helped to protect a priority of Russia, but also that he investigated and a lot of question about the role of vodka in life of the Russian state and society.
Since the middle of 60th years export of vodka was stable and large clause of currency receipts of the USSR. But with producing of some marks of Russian vodka («Stolichnaya», «Moscovskaya») nearly on all distilling factories of the country export of vodka faced some serious problems. Nevertheless the authority of vodka in the world market has not suffered, as there was a system of the state monopoly. The Ministry of Foreign Trade of the USSR traded in vodka abroad, in territory of the country 12 trade vodka marks had been registered: Stolichnaya, Moscovskaya, Russkaya, Starka, Yubileynaya, Kubanskaya, Zubrovka, Okhotnichya, Pertsovka, Limonnaya, Stolovaya, Krepkaya. According to requirements of the Parisian convention and the Madrid agreement their realization abroad became possible.
Nowadays association, now Russian, «Ministry of Foreign Trade» owns 250 registration of Russian vodka on the markets in 80 countries. «Stolichnaya» and «Moscovskaya» have taken a place in a scale of ten the most widespread vodka in the world for some years. It allowed to the Ministry of Foreign Trade to bring the export up to 3,4 million a year in cost of 42,7 million dollars. Last years Russian goods became the leader in hierarchy of vodka import in Germany and Greece, has taken the second place on the market of the USA. Trade marks of Russian vodka are protected by the Parisian convention on protection of the industrial property. It provides Russia objective prospects of the further escalating of goods export.
The 90th years have come, time of «perestroyka» has come. One of the first large actions of this period was the well-known decree «About measures on strengthening struggle against drunkenness and alcoholism «, left on May, 15th, 1985. Its result was dismantling of some distilling factories, and also their re-equipment in the enterprises of soft drinks.
The given decision was accepted without careful historical and economic research. It put Russian distilling industry in a difficult position, caused a huge material loss. Finally the decision caused wide discontent of people, occurrence of queues for vodka, splash of producing of samogon, death rate from the use of various substitutes, increase of gamble by vodka, etc.
Only some years later, in 1990, this decision has been recognized erroneous. Difficult process of restoration ruined distilling manufactures has begun. According to Goskomstat, manufacture of Russian vodka has made, in millions deciliters:
1990 – 137,5;
1991 – 154,6;
1992 – 155,8;
1994 – 100.
That makes the order of 10 liters of alcohol per capita a year.
Process of restoration of earlier capacities of manufacture is going on. All efforts are devoted to keeping constantly historically reached originality, high quality and original features of Russian vodka. Vodka is considered to be a certain cultural-historical value in the field of life and national feast in Russia.
One problem for Russian vodka was followed by other one. On June, 7th, 1992 the President of Russia B.N. Eltsyn published the decree which cancelled the state monopoly for vodka. Thus, continued 68 and a half of a year the first Soviet monopoly which had proved the efficiency for vodka was abolished. From the middle of 1992 in Russia everyone could produce vodka, buy it abroad, trade in vodka on the basis of the special sanction which was given by executive authorities (a license).
As a result at once on the internal Russian market there was a plenty of the low-standard, poor-quality, forged, non-standard strong alcoholic drink of type «vodka».
The Russian market was overflowed by a stream of foreign pseudo-vodka, moon shining extended, the share of the state quality vodka decreased. Cost of the Russian vodka increased, the financial position of the state became worse, and the vodka prices were different in various regions of the country. The majority of distilling factories were going bankrupt.
The canceling of the state monopoly caused many problems for export of Russian vodka. Uncontrolled manufactures substandard, and even counterfeit vodka under world famous signs, export of false production to the market of the CIS and to abroad countries conduct to essential costs for the Russian economy and the prestige of Russia. Russia has a responsibility for its buyers all over the world for the goods which are connected with its name.
Nevertheless the true Russian vodka «Moscovskaya» and «Stolichnaya» still have a high reputation in Europe, America, in Japan. They are prestigious, as caviar, furs and brilliants of «Russian facet «. World face-value of these trade marks is estimated by the western experts in 400 million dollars.
But there is another danger for Russian vodka on the international market.
In the West, besides presence of huge quantity of own distilling manufactures of strong alcoholic drinks of type «vodka», there is well adjusted manufacture of false vodka under labels of popular Russian vodka. For last years only in Greece the Russian firm «Wine Export» conducts and wins up to 20 litigations against false manufacture from Czech Republic and Bulgaria which delivers vodka of extremely poor quality to the West under the label of Russian vodka «Stolichnaya». Russian vodka is the currency good of Russia. The owner of its trade marks should be only the state which has the right to resolve use of these marks for the enterprises and the exporters possessing a high technological level of production and experience of the foreign trade activity. It will not mean the return to monopoly of foreign trade because other manufacturers also have the right to export the goods, but under other trade marks. It is a key to the decision of the problems connected with export of these Russian currency goods. But nowadays the Russian manufacturer is pressed on the world market of traditional Russian vodka and supervises only 4 % of it. If we want Russian vodka to take the lead place in the world, it is necessary to struggle against the unfair prices for alcohol bought from us, to adjust manufacture of more original container and packing, with more responsibility to create the design of products. But we can be sure that the quality of Russian vodka is the best of all.
At last in a year all perniciousness of a canceling of the state monopoly became clear to the country leaders, and in June, 1993 the Decree of the president of Russia «About restoration of the state monopoly for manufacture, storage, wholesale and retail sale of alcoholic production» was published. It is directed, first of all, on suppression of activity of a various sort of swindlers and the tricksters who make profit resale of vodka, and also on protection of interests of the Russian manufacturers of vodka. The decree restored the 5th state monopoly on distilling manufacture, on trade in vodka and on its consumption.
Thus, experiments of last decade have brought huge harm and the extremely insignificant advantage to Russian vodka. That’s why the establishment of vodka monopoly is a true and correct measure which will promote to strengthening of the Russian statehood, to development of culture of alcohol consumption, consolidation of the international authority of Russian vodka. However it is necessary to note that officially proclaimed policy of return to the state alcoholic monopoly is difficultly compatible to the antimonopoly law operating in Russia. Thus, the new alcoholic monopoly will not copy the previous one.
In September, 1996 Russian government introduced restrictive import quotas on drinking spirit and vodka. Now it is forbidden to import to Russia the Russian marks of vodka of foreign manufacture. It is thought, that this extremely reasonable though also overdue decision will help to solve many problems in the Russian distilling industry, will protect the Russian consumer from cheap and poor-quality production.