When and why vodka appeared in Russia

The well-known and widespread concept of “vodka” raises few questions from anyone (why it is called that and when it appeared). We do not think about the origin of the words “vodka”, “moonshine”, “sivukha”, “fume”, why moonshine is not boiled, but “driven”, what is the volume of the “stack”, “bottle”, “quarter”, “bucket” and what is the difference between a tavern and a tavern. And all of them are of ancient Russian origin and are associated with the emergence of vodka.

The fight for the vodka brand

It is believed that vodka is a primordially Russian alcoholic drink and it was born in Russia, but not all vodka producers agreed with this and tried to appropriate this brand for themselves. In the late 70s of the XX century, a “case” was provoked about the priority of using the “vodka” brand by a number of American companies, they tried to challenge the priority of the Soviet Union and arrogate to themselves a priority right on the basis that they allegedly started production earlier than Soviet firms. but they could not prove it.

Strangely enough, Poland was seriously trying to appropriate this brand for itself, justifying this by the fact that vodka was invented and produced on its territory earlier than in Russia, since Ukraine and Belarus were part of Poland at that time.

The case came to the International Arbitration: in 1978, a lawsuit began for the primacy of the brand “vodka”. In the USSR, there was no evidence of the origin of vodka on its territory. The Soviet historian William Pokhlebkin took up the solution to this issue and proved that vodka is of Russian origin, it was born in the 15th century, a hundred years earlier than in Poland, and this was due to the decline and death of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. Since 1982, the decision of the International Arbitration for the USSR has been assigned the priority of creating vodka as an original Russian alcoholic beverage.

Based on the results of his work, Pokhlebkin wrote a very interesting book “The History of Vodka”, in which he discovered many interesting facts and terms related to the origin of vodka. He began his research by describing ancient Russian alcoholic beverages such as honey (mead), kvass and beer.

Ancient Russian alcoholic drinks

In Russia, an alcoholic drink in the form of grape wine has appeared since the 9th century, and with the adoption of Christianity in the 10th century, it became an obligatory ritual church drink. They brought him from Byzantium. It should be noted that in Russia the most ancient alcoholic drink from the 9th century was honey (mead), for the preparation of which bee honey was used as raw material. Wort was brewed from it and after the process of fermentation and long aging, an alcoholic drink was obtained from it. The process of making mead was lengthy, up to 10 years, and very expensive, there was a lot of honey, and the yield of the drink was small. Therefore, mead was consumed only by the highest nobility. The heyday of honey making fell on the XIII-XV centuries and was associated with a reduction in the import of Greek grape wine due to the invasion of the Golden Horde and the decline and collapse of the Byzantine Empire. Already in the 15th century, honey supplies began to decline significantly, it was mainly sold to Western Europe and the question arose of replacing mead.

Since the 12th century, there were other drinks for the consumption of the common population – kvass and beer, for the production of which cheaper raw materials were used: rye, oats and barley and additional vegetable raw materials (hops, wormwood, St. John’s wort, cumin). The wort, as for mead, was not boiled, but boiled with boiling water, which led to a lengthy cooking process, but ensured a high and unique quality of the product. Since then, the word “kvass” has given rise to today’s “kvass”, that is, to be a drunkard.

The technology of distilling production in Russia (honey brewing, leavening and brewing) could not lead to the production of vodka by themselves, the technology for producing alcohol was required, but it was not. In 1386, in Russia, they got acquainted with the grape alcohol imported from Kafa, and, probably, in the process of brewing malt for kvass and beer, an accidental distillation of alcohol occurred.

The birth of vodka

At the same time, a similar technology appeared in Russia in a completely different area – tar-smoking, obtaining tar by dry distillation of the resin of pine and birch wood, which assumed the removal of tar and tar through gutters into another tank. These gutters gave rise to the idea of ​​pipes in distillation for the removal of distillation products. So tar-making gave birth to the idea of ​​distilling with pipes and cooling, which could not have been born in mead or beer brewing. The resin was “expelled” from the tree, so moonshine is not boiled today, but “driven”.

So in the 15th century in Russia, a technology for the production of a qualitatively new product – bread alcohol appeared. This product was called bread wine, boiled wine, burning wine, the name “vodka” appeared much later. Until the 19th century, the term “wine” was mainly used for vodka.

The recipe for vodka preparation included rye wort with the addition of no more than 2-3% wheat, oats, barley or buckwheat grain, yeast, water and aromatic components of various forest herbs (St. John’s wort, wormwood, anise, cumin). Hence the most ancient term “to drink bitter” – to drink vodka, infused with bitter herbs.

The most important raw material component of vodka was water, it should have a softness of no more than 4 meq / l. The quality of vodka largely depends on its mineral composition. For example, high-quality Stolichnaya vodka could be produced only in Kuibyshev, where natural water, unique in its composition, was used in its preparation.

The origin of the term “vodka”

The origin of the term “vodka” is interesting. In its meaning, this is a derivative of the word “water” and comes from the ancient Russian custom to dilute any alcoholic drink with water, generated by the regulations of the Orthodox Church, to dilute grape wine with water according to the Byzantine tradition. By its origin, vodka is a Russian alcoholic drink obtained by diluting bread alcohol with water.

The word “vodka” in the meaning of “alcoholic beverage” appears in Russian since about the 16th century, in 1533 in the Novgorod chronicle the word “vodka” was mentioned to denote a medicine, an alcoholic tincture. From the middle of the 17th century, there are written documents where the word “vodka” is used to denote an alcoholic drink. Since 1731, the term “vodka” has been widely used to denote strong pure alcoholic beverages other than grape wines.

By the beginning of the 19th century, the word “vodka” meant exclusively flavored vodkas made according to noble recipes of the 18th century. During the 19th century, the term “bread wine” was replaced by the term “vodka”, and since the middle of the 19th century this term has been gaining its main meaning in its current understanding and spread in the Russian language.

The production of vodka, due to the extremely cheap raw materials and the high cost of the finished product, which exceeded the cost of raw materials tens and hundreds of times, naturally attracted the interest of the state, and it repeatedly introduced a monopoly and special taxes on the production of vodka. All this led to the soldering of the Russian population, for example, kisselovalniki received an order “not to drive off the cock from the tsar’s taverns” and “to hand over the kruzhey collection to the tsar’s treasury.”

The Zemsky Sobor about taverns in 1652 introduced another wine monopoly, the church was officially deprived of the opportunity to engage in distilling, all drinking matters were transferred to the “zemstvo huts”, and private and illegal distilling was punished by whipping, and in case of a relapse into prison.

In the 18th century, the state abandoned the monopoly on the production of vodka, giving this right to the nobility. The decree of 1786 “On the permissible customary distillation of the nobles” completed the process of decentralization of vodka production, which began under Peter I.

At the same time, the slang words “Petrovskaya vodka” and “vodka” appeared, derogatory from “water”, “sivukha” – vodka of extremely low quality, grayish in color, like a gray horse, “fume” – bad vodka with burnt, “brandokhlyst” – potato vodka of poor quality, distorted from “whip”, that is, induce vomiting, “moonshine” – unrefined bread wine, and after 1896 it meant unauthorized, illegally made bread wine.

Vodka fortress

The strength of vodka was determined in a very original way, the concept of “semi-tar” was introduced, simple vodka with a strength of 23-24 ° was set on fire and burned with difficulty. After the end of the burning, no more than half of the composition should have remained in the dishes.

The strength of vodka until the end of the 19th century was not regulated by anything and it was in a wide range. In the 80s and 90s of the XIX century, it was customary to call alcoholic beverages vodka, the alcohol content of which ranged from 40 ° to 65 °, and liquids that contained from 80 ° to 96 ° alcohol were called alcohols. Since 1902, a rule has been established that vodka with an ideal ratio of alcohol and water in its composition can be called genuine vodka, that is, vodka containing exactly 40 ° alcohol.

The Russian scientist Mendeleev took an active part in resolving this issue, he insisted on the introduction of the official name “vodka” and was looking for the ideal ratio of the volume and weight of the parts of alcohol and water in vodka. It turned out that the physical, biochemical and physiological qualities of these mixtures were significantly different. At that time, different volumes of water and alcohol were mixed, Mendeleev mixed different samples of the weight of water and alcohol. So, a liter of vodka at 40 ° should weigh exactly 953 g. With a weight of 951 g, the fortress in a water-alcohol mixture will already be 41 °, and with a weight of 954 g – 39 °. In both of these cases, the physiological effect of such a mixture on the body sharply worsens, and both of them cannot be called Russian vodka.

As a result of Mendeleev’s research, Russian vodka began to be considered a product that was bread alcohol diluted by weight with water exactly up to 40 °. This composition of vodka was patented in 1894 by the Russian government as the Russian national vodka – “Moscow special”.

Ancient vodka measures

The oldest unit of Russian liquid measures was a bucket. This unit of volume has been common since the 10th century. The bucket had a volume of 12 to 14 liters, and the main alcoholic drink, mead, was also counted in the buckets at that time.

Since 1621, a palace bucket appears, it was also called a drinking measure, or a Moscow bucket. It was the smallest bucket in volume and was equal to 12 liters. Everyone accepted him as a standard.

Since 1531, the bucket began to be divided into smaller parts, into 10 stops (one tenth of a bucket, 1.2 liters) and 100 glasses or glasses (one hundredth of a bucket). So we have a pile not one hundred grams, but one hundredth of a bucket – 120 ml. From the old Russian measures of vodka, the “quarter” bottle, which is a quarter of a bucket – 3 liters, was also preserved. Once, while visiting a village, I noticed that the locals call three-liter cans “a quarter”. When I asked why they call banks that, they could not give an intelligible answer, Russian traditions turned out to be very tenacious.

In the 80s of the XIX century, the foot turned into a vodka bottle of 1.2 liters and half a bottle of 0.6 liters, bottles of 0, 5 and 1 liter appeared at the end of the 20s of the XX century. In the 18th century, instead of a foot, they tried to introduce a Western European measure – a damask (1.23 l), but it did not take root. Another Russian trade measure of vodka was a mug – one sixteenth of a bucket (0.75 l). By the decree of 1721 of Peter I, the soldier received a compulsory allowance – 2 mugs a day of plain wine (vodka) with a strength of 15-18 °. For large volumes of vodka, a barrel containing 40 buckets was used, since 1720 it was called a forty, and for higher grades of vodka there was a vodka barrel with a volume of 5 buckets.

The fight of the state against drunkenness

In the 19th century, the state aspired to introduce a complete monopoly on the production and sale of vodka, but, not having outlets in the form of taverns, it was quite difficult to implement this. Preventing speculation in state vodka, the government set a fixed price for it throughout the empire – 7 rubles per bucket. The ransom system led to an unrestrained increase in drunkenness and, at the same time, to a deterioration in the quality of vodka, and the centuries-old existence of taverns without food exacerbated this situation.

In 1881, a decree was adopted to replace taverns with taverns and taverns, where they sold not only vodka, but also a snack could be obtained for vodka, which led to a lesser manifestation of intoxication.

In addition, until 1885, vodka was sold to take away only in buckets, and bottles existed only for foreign grape wines, which came from abroad in these bottles. The transition to the bottle trade in vodka made it possible to limit the consumption of vodka outside the inn in not so huge quantities as in buckets. In 1902, the state vodka monopoly went into effect across the country. Attempts to introduce “dry law” in 1914-1924 and 1985-1987 were unsuccessful, the long-standing traditions of drinking Russian alcoholic beverages (including vodka) took their toll with all the disadvantages, and these laws did not take root.

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