Review: The King of Vodka by Linda Himelstein

Smirnov
Smirnov

Although Linda Himelstein's King of Vodka concerns itself with a different time and a distant land, the byzantine history of the founding and eventual disintegration of the Smirnov vodka empire seems oddly resonant in today's business environment. The famous brand was forged in one of the most tumultuous periods in Russia's history, yet the company's eponymous founders struggled with many of the same business problems that financial analysts see today.

Pyotr Smirnov, founder of the empire, was born into serfdom in 1831, and was, effectively, the property of the Skripitsyn family. Fortunately for Smirnov, however, his family was ambitious, and the success of an uncle who made enough money to buy his own freedom inspired a young Pyotr to move to Moscow and pursue his own liberation.