Saved by the Bottle

Mikhail Gorbachev drinks alcohol only on rare ceremonial occasions. When he toasts friends and dignitaries, it is nearly always with fruit juice. After he came to power, he curtailed vodka production to save his country from alcoholism. Ironically, that may have been the vice that saved him.

Former Vice President Gennadi Yanayev and then Prime Minister Valentin Pavlov were deep into the toasts at a party at Pavlov's dacha when they were suddenly summoned to the Kremlin to take part in the coup. Pavlov, who turned up semi-coherent at one meeting of the plotters, was eventually hospitalized for "hypertension," sometimes a...

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