UnNews:Vodka industry in turmoil following Yeltsin's death
24 April 2007
MOSCOW, Russia -- The entire distilled beverage industry was shaken, and possibly even stirred, by the unexpected death of ex-Russian President Boris Yeltsin today. Mr. Yeltsin and his entourage accounted for 25% of the world's liquor consumption, with the ex world leader personally consuming up to 15%. His death will surely have worldwide economic effects.
When news of Yeltsin's death first broke in the early morning hours, shares of Smirnoff plummeted nearly 50% at the Moscow bourse. The panic quickly spread to the New York Stock Exchange, where traders dumped vodka stocks in record-high volumes, sending the Dow Jones down a full ten percent. The Federal Reserve scheduled an emergency meeting for tomorrow to discuss possibly slashing interest rates to spur the economy.
Yeltsin played a key role in lifting worldwide vodka sales by letting Russian distilleries operate under free-market rules after the collapse of the Soviet Union. His personal dedication to promoting the beverage helped Russia avoid a massive depression following the political turmoil of the 90s. He was known for the saying, "Comrades - a good swig from the bottle can help you forget your problems." Yeltsin's passion for drinking transcended politics, and even national boundaries - he offered shots of his best vodka to all guests, and was thus branded "a true gentleman and world leader" even by his opponents.
Perhaps the most enduring image of Mr. Yeltsin was his rousing speech atop a tank in front of the parliament building during a 1990 coup attempt on then-President Gorbachev. Grabbing a megaphone, Yeltsin announced "I know this is a trying time for our nation, but lets not resort to violence. Lets all drink together in peace. Free vodka for everyone!" He then proceeded to open that tank's hatch, revealing the interior to be full of the alcoholic beverage. Ex US President Bill Clinton wistfully recalled watching that moment on TV, "I opened up my liquor cabinet and had a round of shots with my staff."
Doctors say Mr. Yeltsin - the same man who was once too drunk to have a meeting with the IRISH prime minister-died of a heart attack, but the death is viewed as suspicious by many, who say that if years of intense drinking didn't kill him, surely a mere heart attack wasn't enough to topple the world's greatest drinker. An autopsy is scheduled to be performed Tuesday, at which time his body will be carefully extracted from his horribly swollen liver and placed in a mausoleum. Scientists hope to extract some cells from the other organs in an effort to clone them and find a cure for all liver-related diseases.
Meanwhile, stock markets are poised to open even lower tomorrow morning as the future of the alcohol industry remains uncertain. Russian President Vladimir Putin promised immediate relief by assuring company executives that the state would sponsor a lavish funeral for Mr. Yeltsin, at which "vodka will be served by the barrel." The coffin itself will be filled with the finest spirits, and ice cubes served at the reception will be from Grey Goose in lieu of water. The inscription on his grave will read: "Boris Yeltsin, age 76. His Liver, age 304."
- BBC "Russian ex-president Yeltsin dies" BBC, April 23, 2007