Russian Zakuski Part IV: Vodka

Russian Standard Vodka & Shot Glasses
Russian Standard Vodka & Shot Glasses

In the 10th Century Prince Vladimir the Great of Kievan Rus’ wanted to abandon paganism in favour of a more modern religion.  In the Primary Chronicle it is said Vladimir sent emissaries out to investigate alternatives.  When the emissaries returned and relayed what they had found out about Judaism, Christianity and Islam it is believed Vladimir rejected the option of Islam saying, ‘Rus’ loves to drink, we cannot be without it.’

Mead, kvas and beer met the imbibing demands of the Kievan Rus’ until the late 14h Century when spirits became available, probably via the Baltic.  However, there is some confusion over what exactly was available, vino being used to describe sprits distilled only once (unlike vodka) and also wine.  According to one Soviet historian, there seemed a complete absence of information on drinks like present-day vodka and if one is to believe written sources, only spread to Russia in the 16th Century.

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