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Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State (Anglais) Relié – 27 février 2014

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Présentation de l'éditeur

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.

Biographie de l'auteur

Mark Schrad is Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Illinois

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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 10 commentaires
10 internautes sur 11 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Brilliant, original, riveting! 14 mars 2014
Par Paul Gelman - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Sometimes you may have to wait quite a long time in order to read such a masterful book like Professor's Schrad gripping book. It is about the way in which vodka and other spirits have influenced the long, rich and arduous history of Russia.
His main thesis is that since the days of the Vladimir the Great of Kiev, alcohol has been used to make the Russians happy. The traditional drinks of Russia were naturally fermented beers, ales, meads and kvas. The imposition of the more potent artificial, distilled spirits came only with the imposition of the modern autocratic state, which used vodka to siphon off society's wealth into the treasury, making this drink the central pillar of Russian autocratic statecraft. Vodka, corruption and autocracy have been intertwined in Russia ever since.
Its secondary thesis is that, in a way, Russian rules conducted a kind of controlled schizophrenic policy vis-av-vis vodka: on the oned hand there were those who encouraged the masses to drink(Stalin being one of them) and on the other hand there were those who were against it(Lenin who was really paranoic about it, and Gorbachev). The reason: vodka was a powerful tool to control the masses and also served as a principal source of income for the state.
What is great about this book is the vivid style of writing, demonstrating again that only some people belonging to the academia can also write not only for their peers but also for the history buff as well. The author demonstrates that since its inception, Russia was drenched in alcohol. This fact created the tragic consequences for the Russian society. It hastened the demise of the Soviet Union itself and caused what Professor Schrad calls "the literal demodernization of a twentieth century country".
Just to give you an example: after Gorbachev announced a crackdown on the sales or production of vodka, which claimed the lives of tens of millions (mind you, this is no mistake), the most hard of drinkers turned to alcohol surrogates; from mouthwash, eau-de-cologne and perfumed to gasoline, cockroach poison, brake fluid, medical adhesives and even shoe polish on a slice of bread.
Another example: "Soldiers in the Soviet Army would offer their last piece of bread to their comrades in order to get vodka and they drank everything just as during the Civil War: aftershave lotions, medicines and liquids containing poisons".
Alcoholism runs like a red thread throughout Dostoyevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment" and Marmeladov is only the first noteworthy drunkard. Tolstoy suggested that it was alcohol that clouded Raskolnikov's judgment and led to his inhuman axe murders. The pervasive drunkenness of the Russian soldiers contributed to the military defeat of Russia in the Crimean War during the nineteenth century. Forty-four percent of all military deaths were attributable to alcohol. One can conclude that the chief contributory cause of the Bolshevik Revolution was the prohibition in 1914 of the sale of spiritous liquors.
As stated by its author, this book does not pretend to say that vodka was/is everything in Russian history, thus it it not a monocausal explanation of Russian history and culture, but "vodka politics means a lot and it is an alternative lens through which Russia's complex politics and development is seen".
By using newly dicovered documents hitherto classified and by integrating them with an in-depth examination of secondary sources, by incorporating studies from many fields such as sociology, political science, literature, memories and various diaries, anthropology, letters as well as demographic studies, Professor Schrad has managed to write a book of twenty-four chapters (overpacked with many details and anecdotes in addition to excellent analyses) which is both a masterpiece and will definitely become a classic of its kind. This book is more than highly recommended for anyone who would like to enjoy reading about an original idea, examined almost microscopically, leaving no stone unturned . And in addition, it is also a great read!
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Very different, very fun 11 avril 2014
Par zeb wilder - Publié sur
Format: Relié
This is probably one of the best books on Russian history ever written. It starts out a little stilted (because it is technically a scholarly work), but it gets interesting pretty quickly. It becomes a page turner, if not a drunken ramble, with each chapter going off on a new tangent. Somehow the author manages to gather all the tangents together to support his thesis. It's impressive, and fun, too.

There are drunken toddlers, soldiers called in to keep people from becoming sober, and a midget wedding (possibly dwarves). What other history book can offer that?
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Glad my family left Russia 3 juin 2014
Par Stuart M. Wilder - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
Cheap alcohol as a way to control the population— who would have thought. Schrad is the kind of writer the latem great Paul Fussell fretted was disappearing— an academic who writes popular history that can be read by the hoi-poloi like me. I look forward to more form him.
2 internautes sur 2 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
A critically important perspective 26 mai 2014
Par Chris Evans - Publié sur
Format: Format Kindle
As a lover of Russian history I think this book covers a big variable in key events that has been underweighted by even the best historians. The book is fun and comprehensive while providing a lot of new material.
1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Readable, informative and thought-provoking. 17 octobre 2014
Par E. Suthers - Publié sur
Format: Relié
For those with a casual interest in Russia, this book presents an insightful, accessible overview of Russian political history, through the lens of alcohol. For those who are already familiar with Russian history and politics, the book is a fascinating examination of how the peculiar relationship between citizen and state in Russia has played out in-- and been influenced by-- this particular arena.

The book is eminently readable, well researched, and moreover manages to deal seriously with something that has become a cliche, without resorting to stereotypes or platitudes. Recommended.
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