Davai! The Russians and Their Vodka

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Author, Translators, Pages, Cover,


Edwin Trommelen
David Stephenson & Nora Favorov


 “It’s not out of poverty or grief that the Russian people drink, but out of an age-old
thirst for the miraculous and the extraordinary;
they drink, if you will, mystically, striving to lift the soul out of
its earthly equilibrium and to return it to a
blissful, incorporeal state.”
- Abram Tertz

You cannot separate Russians from their vodka or vodka from Russia. For over 600 years, this proud Slavic culture has – for good or ill – been inextricably bound up with their national drink. Vodka is an omnipresent and constant factor in Russian history, a drink for the great and the lowly, in times of happiness and in times of calamity. This has been expressed in literature, song, politics, history and every aspect of popular culture. 

In this comprehensive, quixotic and addictive book, Edwin Trommelen explores all facets of the Russian obsession with vodka. Peering chiefly through the lenses of history and literature, Trommelen offers up an appropriately complex, rich and bittersweet portrait, based on great respect for Russian culture.

In addition, most all of the hundreds of wonderful quotes from literature, theater and poetry are presented in both their Russian original and English translation, making this also a useful guide to improving one’s Russian through the lens of this ancient drink.

"an excellent introduction not only to the specific cultural rites of drinking but also to a large number of Russian cultural situations and customs..."

– John Ellison, Slavic and East European Journal

Also available in digital format on:

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Documentary filmmaker and author Edwin Trommelen is a life-long Russophile, an inveterate plumber of the mysterious Russian soul, and, of course, a lover of vodka. He spent decades researching this culturally-laden drink and has now generously poured all that he learned into this – quite possibly the most thorough literary and historical compendium of the world’s most popular spirit.

ABOUT THE TRANSLATORS: A native of Charlotte, N.C., David Stephenson earned a Bachelor of Arts in German and Russian from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and also studied modern languages, history, and sociology at the Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. He has been an independent translator and ATA member since 1983 and holds ATA certification in Dutch to English, German to English, and Croatian to English. Nora Seligman Favorov is an accomplished Russian to English translator. Among her recent published translations is Master of the House: Stalin and His Inner Circle by Oleg Khlevniuk (Yale UP: 2008). She is associate editor of SlavFile, a newsletter for Slavic translators and interpreters, and a frequent translator and contributor to Russian Life magazine and Chtenia, a literary journal of translations from Russian. She lives in Chapel Hill, NC.


This book was translated and published through a generous grant from 



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