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Authors: Boris Starling

Vodka

BOOK: Vodka
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Also by Boris Starling

MESSIAH
STORM

For Mills

Contents

Cover

Other Books by this Author

Title Page

Dedication

Map

Russian Names

Prologue: Wednesday, August 21, 1991

Chapter 1 - Monday, December 23, 1991

Chapter 2 - Tuesday, December 24, 1991

Chapter 3 - Wednesday, December 25, 1991

Chapter 4 - Thursday, December 26, 1991

Chapter 5 - Friday, December 27, 1991

Chapter 6 - Saturday, December 28, 1991

Chapter 7 - Sunday, December 29, 1991

Chapter 8 - Monday, December 30, 1991

Chapter 9 - Tuesday, December 31, 1991

Chapter 10 - Wednesday, January 1, 1992

Chapter 11 - Thursday, January 2, 1992

Chapter 12 - Friday, January 3, 1992

Chapter 13 - Saturday, January 4, 1992

Chapter 14 - Sunday, January 5, 1992

Chapter 15 - Monday, January 6, 1992

Chapter 16 - Tuesday, January 7, 1992

Chapter 17 - Wednesday, January 8, 1992

Chapter 18 - Thursday, January 9, 1992

Chapter 19 - Friday, January 10, 1992

Chapter 20 - Saturday, January 11, 1992

Chapter 21 - Sunday, January 12, 1992

Chapter 22 - Monday, January 13, 1992

Chapter 23 - Tuesday, January 14, 1992

Chapter 24 - Wednesday, January 15, 1992

Chapter 25 - Thursday, January 16, 1992

Chapter 26 - Friday, January 17, 1992

Chapter 27 - Saturday, January 18, 1992

Chapter 28 - Sunday, January 19, 1992

Chapter 29 - Monday, January 20, 1992

Chapter 30 - Tuesday, January 21, 1992

Chapter 31 - Wednesday, January 22, 1992

Chapter 32 - Thursday, January 23, 1992

Chapter 33 - Friday, January 24, 1992

Chapter 34 - Saturday, January 25, 1992

Chapter 35 - Sunday, January 26, 1992

Chapter 36 - Monday, January 27, 1992

Chapter 37 - Tuesday, January 28, 1992

Chapter 38 - Wednesday, January 29, 1992

Chapter 39 - Thursday, January 30, 1992

Chapter 40 - Friday, January 31, 1992

Chapter 41 - Saturday, February 1, 1992

Chapter 42 - Sunday, February 2, 1992

Chapter 43 - Monday, February 3, 1992

Chapter 44 - Tuesday, February 4, 1992

Chapter 45 - Wednesday, February 5, 1992

Chapter 46 - Thursday, February 6, 1992

Chapter 47 - Friday, February 7, 1992

Chapter 48 - Saturday, February 8, 1992

Chapter 49 - 49: Sunday, February 9, 1992

Chapter 50 - 50: Monday, February 10, 1992

Chapter 51 - Tuesday, February 11, 1992

Chapter 52 - Wednesday, February 12, 1992

Chapter 53 - Thursday, February 13, 1992

Chapter 54 - Friday, February 14, 1992

Chapter 55 - Saturday, February 15, 1992

Chapter 56 - Sunday, February 16, 1992

Chapter 57 - Monday, February 17, 1992

Chapter 58 - Tuesday, February 18, 1992

Chapter 59 - Wednesday, February 19, 1992

Chapter 60 - Thursday, February 20, 1992

Chapter 61 - Friday, February 21, 1992

Chapter 62 - Saturday, February 22, 1992

Chapter 63 - Sunday, February 23, 1992

Chapter 64 - Monday, February 24, 1992

Chapter 65 - Tuesday, February 25, 1992

Chapter 66 - Wednesday, February 26, 1992

Chapter 67 - Thursday, February 27, 1992

Chapter 68 - Friday, February 28, 1992

Chapter 69 - Saturday, February 29, 1992

Chapter 70 - Sunday, March 1, 1992

Chapter 71 - Monday, March 2, 1992

Chapter 72 - Tuesday, March 3, 1992

Chapter 73 - Wednesday, March 4, 1992

Chapter 74 - Thursday, March 5, 1992

Chapter 75 - Friday, March 6, 1992

Chapter 76 - Saturday, March 7, 1992

Chapter 77 - Sunday, March 8, 1992

Chapter 78 - Monday, March 9, 1992

Chapter 79 - Tuesday, March 10, 1992

Chapter 80 - Wednesday, March 11, 1992

Chapter 81 - Thursday, March 12, 1992

Chapter 82 - Friday, March 13, 1992

Chapter 83 - Saturday, March 14, 1992

Chapter 84 - Sunday, March 15, 1992

Chapter 85 - Monday, March 16, 1992

Chapter 86 - Tuesday, March 17, 1992

Chapter 87 - Wednesday, March 18, 1992

Chapter 88 - Thursday, March 19, 1992

Chapter 89 - Friday, March 20, 1992

Chapter 90 - Saturday, March 21, 1992

Chapter 91 - Sunday, March 22, 1992

Chapter 92 - Monday, March 23, 1992

Chapter 93 - Tuesday, March 24, 1992

Chapter 94 - Wednesday, March 25, 1992

Chapter 95 - Thursday, March 26, 1992

Chapter 96 - Friday, March 27, 1992

Chapter 97 - Saturday, March 28, 1992

Chapter 98 - Sunday, March 29, 1992

Chapter 99 - Monday, March 30, 1992

Chapter 100 - Tuesday, March 31, 1992

Epilogue : Saturday, May 9, 1992

Copyright

V
odka
was a very personal labor of love, and yet I couldn’t have written it without being helped by scores of people, all of whom have my gratitude and affection.

My publishers and agents were endlessly patient as deadline after deadline vanished into the ether, and infinitely wise in their judgment on the drafts that did finally appear; my thanks to Julia Wisdom, Nick Sayers, Anne O’Brien, Brian Tart, Caradoc King and Nick Harris, and to Kelly Edgson-Wright for marketing services beyond the call of duty.

My family—David and Judy Starling, and Mike and Belinda Trim—were, as ever, my most trenchant critics, most ardent supporters, and finest chefs. Richard Fenning first fired my interest in Russia; Samantha de Bendern, Guy Dunn and David Lewis fanned the flames. Mark Burnell, Godwin Busuttil, Charles Cumming, Juliette Dominguez, Fiona Kirkpatrick, Fiona McDougall, Rory Unsworth and Iain Wakefield all spent more time than they could spare to read a gargantuan first draft and give me their thoughts. Ben Aris took me under his wing in Moscow; the Apple workshop in Granada performed miracles with a sick iMac; and the Fell-Clark family rented me their tower by the sea, the most magical place to write.

I read more books than I care to remember during research, many of them by authors who clearly share my passion for Russia. It is for me the most fascinating and inspiring country on earth, and I hope that in
Vodka
I’ve done some small measure of justice to an extraordinary nation and a unique people.

Boris Starling

RUSSIAN NAMES

All Russians have three names: their given name (what Westerners would call their Christian or first name), their patronymic (a derivative of their father’s name) and their family name (surname). To show respect, formality or distance, Russians use both the given name and the patronymic. Friends and family use only the given name or a nickname derived from it (e.g. Kolya for Nikolai).

PROLOGUE
Wednesday, August 21, 1991

M
oscow at dusk, the great city hanging suspended in all its contradictions: halfway between day and night, past and future, east and west, sanity and madness, picturesque and squalid, good and evil.

The coup was over. For the first time since it had begun, the night was dry and moonlit. The troops had that afternoon started to withdraw from around the White House, the Russian parliament building. They were retreating from Moscow as Napoleon and Hitler had done before them, but they were doing so with pleasure, relieved that they’d not had to massacre their countrymen, and pursued by the grateful cheers of demonstrators who threw sweets, cakes and coins in through the hatches of their armored vehicles. Four tanks were left empty on the grounds of the White House, garlanded with flowers and Russian tricolors; the rest snaked away in long columns of belching gasoline and churned asphalt, and the parliamentary defenders had never smelled anything sweeter.

They’d been there since the very start, three days and a lifetime before, flimsy lines facing down the Soviet army and the world’s press, and this was their moment. They picked their way through rocks and crushed machinery, sidestepped the armfuls of flowers laid on the street to cover dried bloodstains and grinned in joyful disbelief that the building—that Russia itself—was safe.

And among all these Russians, there was not a bottle of vodka in sight; not one.

Inside the White House, Lev—parliamentary deputy, distillery director, criminal godfather, champion weight lifter, his shoulders as wide as two men’s, the crown of his head seven feet above the floor—walked the corridors and surfed waves of intelligence and rumor. Gorbachev was on his way back from the Crimea. The coup leadership had disbanded and flown out of Moscow. The three ugly sisters—the Party, the KGB and the Ministry of Defense—were in disarray. Between them, they hadn’t even managed to produce a decent coup.

Lev felt a hand on his elbow. It was Nikolai Arkin, the brightest of the young reformers and, if parliamentary gossip had any credence, hot favorite to be the new prime minister. He grinned at Lev with teeth white enough to suggest German dentistry, and steered him toward the nearest balcony. Out on the Moscow River, bobbing tugboats let off flares and called themselves the Russian navy. The crowd was singing now. “We’ve won! Victory is ours!”

Arkin waved a papal arm over the throng. “Is there a greater nation in the world?” he said. “They’ve been repeatedly beaten to their knees, but they’ve never forgotten how to stand up. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” A breeze caught his dark forelock and lifted it from his brow. “You know what that is?” Arkin asked, the euphoria making him ever more melodramatic. “It’s the wind of change.”

Lev looked at Arkin with the weary indulgence a parent grants an excitable child. “Change?” he growled.
“Change?
Aren’t things bad enough as they are?”

BOOK: Vodka
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