COMPLETE NONSENSE ABOUT STALIN, CHURCHILL, AND GEORGIAN COGNAC
ARMAN NAVASARDIAN
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary






The undeniable proof of the superiority of socialism, Soviet foreign policy and diplomacy was Lenin’s "victory” over national politics, which had "secured” the brotherhood and eternal friendship between the Soviet nations. The collapse of the Soviet Empire revealed the defects of that "friendship,” heightened the hidden conflicts between the nations and their regional, historical, economic, and cultural disagreements.

Armenian cognac has been known to be good. It has been rated high everywhere, including the homeland of cognac—France. According to experts, there are only two kinds of cognac, French and Armenian. The rest are third-rate in comparison. And like any other topic, there are many true, but more often fictitious, stories about Armenian cognac. According to one of them, when Stalin offered Churchill a glass of Dvin at the Tehran Conference in 1943, Churchill liked it so much that he started drinking a glass of Dvin every day since then.

I must disappoint those who believe this myth. The incident hasn’t been mentioned in any of the records of the Tehran Conference. No references to it can be found in Stalin’s translator Valentin Berezhkov’s books or Churchill’s memoir. The myth, however, doesn’t degrade the noblest of Armenian drinks. But it is a fact that Churchill indeed tried Dvin, which is fifty degrees proof (ten more than most cognacs). It’s difficult to say when exactly and in what circumstances the British Prime Minister tried and liked Dvin. But that doesn’t really matter in the end. There are people in Yerevan who remember sending boxes of Dvin in the early 1960s to Soyuzplodimport, which in turn shipped them to Churchill.

Our friends, the Georgians, probably knowing all this very well, seventy years later created their own Georgian myth with the same mise-en-scène and actors. If we call things by their real names, it’s a typical case of plagiarism. I am talking about the widely advertised Georgian cognacs Yeniseli and Gramni on television in New York today.

Let me introduce you to the details of the advertisement, which is so full of distorted facts and grotesqueries that the tall tales of Baron Münchhausen might seem like a child’s babbling compared to them. Poor Frenchmen, poor Nikolai Shustov, forefather of Armenian cognac, poor Margar Margaryan, Hero of Socialist Labor and author of various cognacs! They are all probably turning in their graves under the sounds of the advertisement that was produced in Tbilisi and broadcast in New York.

Cognac was first produced in 1836 in the wine-growing region surrounding the town Cognac from which it takes its name, in the French Departments of Charente. The Georgians announced during the Soviet years that cognac production in Georgia was started in 1885 by liquor operator David Sarajev (read Sarajian). Forgetting this history, the advertisers of Yeniseli and Gramni declare in their advertisement that the production of cognac in Georgia dates back to immemorable times, when in reality this type of drink couldn’t have existed. Then we are informed that for many years the communist leaders drank Georgian cognac in the Kremlin. This is when, according to Soviet protocol consultants and diplomats, the Georgian cognac Samtrest was not popular at all.

But the crux of the advertisement is Stalin’s and Churchill’s meeting. They are in Tehran again, dining at the Soviet embassy, and drinking cognac, but a different kind this time. Uncle Joe (Stalin) offers Churchill French cognac poured out of a bottle without a label. The British Prime Minister is unimpressed. Then Uncle Joe pours him some Georgian cognac. Churchill’s face glows.

"This is real French cognac,” he notes.
Stalin slyly smiles beneath his mustache.
"No, it’s Georgian cognac.”


With the reader’s permission, I will use slang here. Churchill "goes nuts” when he hears this. When he recovers, he asks Stalin to send him bottles of this remarkable drink. Stalin, naturally, keeps his promise. Then the authors of the advertisement come to a brilliant conclusion, declaring that Churchill saved the lives of Georgian cognac makers. They note that had it not been for Stalin’s promise to supply Churchill with cognac, he would have sent all of them to Siberia and that would be the end of Georgian cognac.

And the punch line is a real salto mortale of the mind, if it’s actually not a joke. It turns out that Stalin didn’t just treat Churchill to a glass of his "national” drink; he played a cruel joke on the naïve Englishman. The dictator turned him into an alcoholic and such a hopeless one that poor Churchill, forgetting his wife Clementine and the post-war controversies that turned him into a Perfidious Albion, just kept drinking Georgian cognac. And the terrible thing is that he was haunted by the thought that the cognac could be poisoned. Despite the fears, he couldn’t quit the cognac. He was simply powerless. What nonsense!

The advertisement was accompanied by melancholic duduk music. It was simply amazing how the narrator of the advertisement had forgotten to mention that the duduk was a "traditional Georgian” instrument invented many centuries ago on the banks of the Kura River.
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1731 reads | 16.11.2013
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