Part 33: The Conquest of Vodka
Chapter 33: The Conquest of Vodka
With the hardworking Nazerov and the crusader-like Petrov in their ranks, the Novistranan Coalition marched on to the final step in their preparations for the national strike. In an unprecedented and downright odd display of priorities, Piotr Prokofiev made it his goal to conquer the Berezinan vodka distillery in order to deny Novistranans their beloved Victory Vodka. His reasoning was that without the essential drug to keep them placated, the people would awaken from their stupor to see how Karasov had destroyed their lives.
Students of contemporary history laugh at the plan, but they cannot argue with the results. Taking over the vodka distillery and raising the price of Victory Vodka had the intended effects of driving people to desperation and rage. Moonshine, bootlegging, and alcohol smuggling increased sharply during this time, which in turn brought crime Karasov couldn't fix. Prokofiev maintained the vodka prices high until the people focused their attention of Karasov entirely rather than just being denied a cheap drink. The takeover of the distillery was the final straw for many Novistranans...
* * *
: Comrades, I have the next step of our plan in mind.
: Let's hear it, Piotr.
: We've already gotten a large support base in the Chekhov Industrial Estate, so we're going to use that support to take over the vodka distillery there.
: Sir, I have to ask if you've been nipping the gin lately.
: I agree, Piotr, I don't see how this is going to help us.
: I know it's a long shot, but waiting any longer for the people to build up to a state of discontent is dangerous. Karasov is already attacking influential people who have no connection to political factions. Sooner or later, he'll find exactly who is where and move in.
: And how does taking over the distillery help, my student?
: Vodka is an important staple of Novistranan life. You can't deny that a cheap drink helps keep people dumb and happy. If we manage to raise the price of vodka, we'll have some very angry people looking for trouble.
: The drink is of the devil! I must agree with this plan on principle.
: That's a really weird way of going about it, Comrade Prokofiev, but all right.
: This is worth a try. We need to be fast and have a goal: denying people their vodka is as good a start as any. If we're going through with this, we need to do it tonight, before morning.
: Very well, sir. We'll get to work in the area right away.
: Comrade Nasarov and myself should be able to help convince the workers to our side...
: ...And I know some people who can be blackmailed into raising the price of the stuff. All right, let's do it.
: Be subtle, comrades. I don't want people tracing this back to us. And remember: have it done before morning!
* * *
Prokofiev walked out of the alcohol distributor at Chomsky Gardens, whistling in the night. As he walked away from the warehouse, he heard loud cursing and shouts for a phone.
He took out his pad and made a note on it. He had spent the night visiting local breweries and warehouses, taking stock of their vodka and spreading the news about an impending price increase on vodka by Karasov. The reactions at each place were quite similar: he would drop the news, blame Karasov, and let the raging commence. He never stuck around for follow-up questions, as the rumor of the prices going up was enough to take their attention before getting a better view on the story.
Putting away the pad with the address and beginning to walk away, Prokofiev took out his phone and called up Petrov. He had put the priest on evangelizing duty about Karasov's evils, and to let the people know that the only move he agreed with was the increasing prices of vodka. Petrov was more than happy to speak his mind, even at the cost of turning people off of his speech, and this let the word spread. The priest was quite happy to report that the people were up in arms about the price increase.
He called Nazerov next. The politician was sent door-to-door to canvass the situation and gather supporters for the national strike, using the price increase as a hook. While Nazerov was still not done, he proved to have been quite good at getting people to listen to his dire news.
Vilnov was busy leafletting in the Zasulich Estate, a stronghold of the President's. Of course, the leaflets revealed Karasov's fake plans to jack up the vodka prices.
As for Nasarov and Churnyeav... he decided to hold off on calling them just yet. They were probably still busy working their particular brand of magic on the distillery.
* * *
A lonely graffiti tag on the vodka distillery was the only marker that the place was backing the Novistranan Coalition.
Or at least, the workers were.
Churnyeav and Nasarov had arrived early with a small army of subordinates to intimidate and persuade the owners of the distillery to support the Coalition's increase in pricing. They were having mixed success: Nasarov was able to whip up the workers in a frenzy about striking then and there for the proposed price increases, while Churnyeav was busy holding a discussion with Nikolai Korovin, head of the distillery.
The discussion involved a gun pointed at his head and a tearful Korovin holding a shaky pen over a contract.
"We already told you Karasov doesn't like you defying his wishes," snarled Churnyeav, continuing the ruse he and Nasarov had perfected. "You're backing the Novistranan Coalition, aren't you?"
"Oh god, no, no I'm not, please!" cowered Korovin, visibly shaking and quaking at the gun right on the side of his head. When Churnyeav jabbed him quickly with the point, Korovin cried, "Please, I'm not s-s-supporting the Coalition, really, I'm not!"
"Then why do your workers cry out Prokofiev's name?" Churnyeav demanded with a practiced hiss, opening the office's window and letting in a loud cry of 'Pro-ko-fi-ev! Pro-ko-fi-ev!' With disgust, Churnyeav closed it again. "Piotr Prokofiev is the leader of the Coalition, you maggot, and your workers are out there chanting for him in defiance!"
"I c-can't control who they b-believe in!" a pale Korovin pleaded. "P-please, I'm just here to make sure the distillery is running! I d-don't know anything about propaganda or any factions!"
"I have a man down there who's recording everything my pal is saying," sneered Churnyeav. "What do you think is going to happen when we bring that evidence to Karasov himself?"
"Oh god!" moaned Korovin in tears. Churnyeav was getting a sick thrill off of the power trip, but he had to get to business.
"You listen to me, maggot. Sign this contract," Churnyeav motioned to the clipboard on the table with the gun. "Karasov wants to put in a new tax on vodka, and that means you need to increase pricing. If you don't follow through, I swear to whatever god of alcohol there is that you're going to be getting a new hole in your head."
"F-fine! I'll sign! J-just please, don't kill me!"
Churnyeav pulled the gun back, and Korovin immediately signed on the marked lines before sitting back on his chair and curling in a fetal position. Churnyeav laughed bitterly, putting the pistol back in his holster and picking up one of the copies of the contract.
"You keep your mouth shut about this," Churnyeav snapped. "Keep that copy of this contract and give it to the media, but don't you dare say we made you do it, or else..."
"O-okay!" sobbed Korovin. "Just go away, please!"
Churnyeav marched out of the office, elated and feeling like a new man.
"Comrade Josef!" he shouted at his friend, who was now fully into a pro-union and pro-strike rant. "I got the paperwork, let's get out of here!"
It took a few minutes before they left, and it was only when the veteran had walked up to him and grabbed his arm that Nasarov understood they had to leave.
"Comrades, prepare for the strike!" Nasarov shouted as he walked briskly away with Churnyeav. "The increasing price of vodka is not the only thing Karasov plans to do! Remember his plans to destroy the unions!"
A shout of pure rage followed them out of the distillery, and the two Coalition lieutenants swiftly parted ways in the night, their missions accomplished.
* * *
The Novistranan National Archive - Ekaterine Echo Article on Rising Vodka Prices: 16/04/1996
VICTORY VODKA NOW A LUXURY OF THE RICH
Well, Karasov has finally done it. Not content with keeping prices high for other essential services, the President-for-Life has decided to squeeze some more tax revenue from the poorest of Novistranans and decided to raise up the prices for Victory Vodka, Novistrana's national drink.
People have already begun declaring hotly that they will hoard up all the vodka they can, and that should the opportunity come along, they will drop what they are doing and support anyone that stands up for this outrage.
Yuri "Biggie-K" Kalinin of the hit soap Siberian Street has declared that the vodka pricing was a "major blunder, dude" and has already begun on a new rap song to testify against the price rise of vodka. Whether this hit will be the one that launches his group, Biggie-K & the Mean Streets, into superstardom is yet to be seen.
The Novistranan National Archive - Pugachev Post Satirical News Column by Felix Lavanov on New Costs of Vodka: 16/04/1996
VODKA EVERYWHERE, AND NOT A DROP TO DRINK
I wasn't expecting that when I popped into my local vodka queue, I would have to fork over three extra stamps for my little nightly bottle of victory. As always, defeated in the bedroom and looking forward to drowning my sorrows of love in a sea of cheap stuff, I didn't expect my sorrows to get picked up by the life raft that is Karasov.
Okay, so let me get this straight, Big Daddy. We're already all being driven into the dirt and being the best communist country since Stalin's little pet project, and now we're getting denied the little pleasures in life of getting some quick and dirty alcohol to get a little stoned? What next, are the lovely ladies of the night going to unionize and jack up their prices? Believe me, if that's the case, we're not going to need vodka to go soft. The people love their animalistic pleasures, hell, I know I do, and now Dear Leader thinks we can just suck it up and take it.
I can see a little Coalition stepping up to plate, my fellow Pugachevians. I wonder if their charity trust would do us the kindness of handing out Victory Gin, excuse me, Victory Vodka, alongside servings of bread and soup. I'd be rethinking their altruism quite a bit if that happened.
God, I need a drink.
The Novistranan National Archive - Berezina Herald Article on Rising Vodka Prices: 16/04/1996
RISING VODKA PRICES SET WORKERS, MIDDLE-CLASS ON EDGE
The Herald is often not so political in its reporting, but last night, a bombshell was dropped on the nation: the national vodka distillery in Chekhov Industrial Estate has decided overnight to increase the price of their vodka to a new high, making it more expensive than gasoline and food combined. Distributors everywhere have frozen, scrambling to get more money to pay for the sudden demands the distillery is making for what they call an "increased alcohol taxation".
The Herald interviewed some workers of the distillery (catch their side of the story in page A7) and discovered that the orders to raise prices came from Karasov himself. This story was corroborated by the head of the vodka distillery, Nikolai Korovin, who gave us documentation proving beyond a doubt that Karasov seeks to implement a new tax on vodka to account for lost revenue. Clearly, the resources spent on fighting underground factions have left his own party a little on the poor side, and now he seeks to make up for lost income through control of the vodka distillery.
Media representatives from Karasov have repeatedly denied any action on their part for trying to increase vodka prices, claiming they are being framed and that an underground faction is trying to set people against the President (read further in page A5). Even if this is the case, however, the people have been blaming Karasov directly for a lack of cheap, easily-available vodka. This panic has spread to small alcohol shops, who have pulled their stock off the shelves in fear of theft, or are selling the vodka at slightly higher prices to make up for the losses they are suffering.
"It's ridiculous," commented Pavel Briullov, a local general store owner. "I was nearly robbed at gunpoint this morning by some guy with a shotgun. The only thing that stopped him was a cop who then demanded half of my stock for free as a service for stopping the robbery. It's ridiculous!"
Further details on the vodka story will be revealed as the day continues. We are still waiting for a word from President Karasov himself.
* * *
The Novistranan National Archive - CIA Agent CENSORED 's Daily Report to Langley: 16/04/1996
This is fucked up, CENSORED . The people here are in a frenzy. Piotr Prokofiev actually managed to take over the distillery here and make the prices go up like he said in CENSORED . Factory workers 'round here are already saying they want to strike. I met with Agent CENSORED to get a grip on the situation, and she told me the reaction is the same in her side of the capital. Things are reaching boiling point, sir. It's like Prohibition on steroids out here. Whatever they said about the Russkies enjoying their vodka was right.
Prokofiev's plan is working.
* * *
Piotr Prokofiev's Diary - Hundred-twenty-third Entry: 16/04/1996
Our gamble to take over the distillery and raise the price of vodka has worked! The distillery is a major one for the entire nation, and provided nearly 90% of all national Victory Vodka.
I was brought examples of the papers from Ekaterine and Pugachev as well as Berezina, and everyone is up in arms about the price of vodka being raised. Reports from Churbanov, Baturin and Federov all say the same thing: the people are mad as hell and they're not going to take it anymore.
It is time.