When Coca-Cola Made ‘White Coke’ For A Soviet War Hero

By Nolan Moore on Friday, February 14, 2014
Soviet_occupation_of_Bessarabia_and_Northern_Bukovina_02
“We are so accustomed to disguise ourselves to others, that in the end, we become disguised to ourselves.” —Francois de La Rochefoucauld

In A Nutshell

Georgy Zhukov was a Soviet war hero with a serious drinking habit. The man loved Coca-Cola. However, the Soviet government considered Coke a sign of American imperialism and forbade its citizens from enjoying the soda. Unwilling to give up his favorite beverage, Zhukov asked America for help, and the Coca-Cola Company rose to occasion.

The Whole Bushel

What’s red, white, and enjoyed across the planet? Coca-Cola! The sugary soft drink is the world’s bestselling soda, but despite its international appeal, Coke is usually associated with America. And that posed a pretty big problem for Georgy Zhukov.

Zhukov was a Soviet general and a beloved World War II hero. He successfully defended Leningrad from the Nazis, was appointed Commander in Chief of the USSR’s western front, and fought the Germans at Moscow, Stalingrad, Kursk, and Berlin. However, when the Russian officer wasn’t crushing enemy troops, he was refreshing himself with the cold, crisp taste of Coca-Cola.

It was pretty easy to find a bottle of Coke during World War II, even if you were a soldier in the middle of a combat zone. In 1943, General Dwight D. Eisenhower asked the Coca-Cola Company to set up 10 bottling plants in North Africa. Before the war was finished, there were over 60 plants across Europe and the Pacific, all built as close as possible to the front lines. On top of that, the US government considered Coke crucial to defeating the Axis powers, going so far as to exempt the Atlanta-based corporation from sugar rationing.

With Zhukov pursuing the Germans across Europe, it was only a matter of time before he discovered America’s ice cold sunshine. In fact, Eisenhower himself gave Zhukov his first bottle, and soon, the Soviet general was a Coke addict. But when the war ended, Zhukov realized his drinking habit was in danger. Thanks to its association with the US, the Soviet government viewed Coca-Cola as a symbol of capitalistic decadence. The soft drink was forbidden inside the USSR, and it looked like Zhukov would have to live without his favorite drink.

Only this Soviet officer wasn’t going to give up so easily. Desperate for his soda pop, Zhukov went to the highest authority outside Russia: Harry Truman. He asked the President if America could secretly send him a stash of Coke . . . but not just any Coke. These drinks had to be special. If someone saw him chugging an American soft drink, he’d probably end up in a Siberian gulag or worse, courtesy of Joseph Stalin. Truman was only too happy to help a war hero and asked the Coca-Cola people to work on a solution.

The first problem was the drink’s instantly recognizable brown color. However, a Coca-Cola chemist experimented with the recipe and found a way to create a clear soda. Secondly, the curvy bottle had to be redesigned as it was a dead giveaway. The final product was White Coke, a clear liquid in a straight bottle, complete with a red Soviet star on a white cap. Now Zhukov could safely sip his soda in public, and everyone else would think he was drinking vodka.

Not long after the White Coke incident, Georgy Zhukov fell out of favor with the Communist Party. He was forced out of power in 1957 and finally died in 1974, one year after Pepsi-Cola was allowed to sell its products inside the USSR. If Zhukov had only lived 12 more years, he would’ve been able to buy a regular Coke without fearing for his future. “The pause that refreshes” was finally allowed inside the Soviet Union in 1985, complete with contour bottle and the caramel-colored liquid Zhukov had loved so much.

Show Me The Proof

The Chronicle Of Coca-Cola: A Symbol Of Friendship
When Coca-Cola Made Special Soda For The Soviets
BBC News: Who, What, Why: In which countries is Coca-Cola not sold?
LA Times: Coca-Cola plans to sell Coke in the Soviet Union

  • Marozia

    I never knew Zhukov was a Coke addict! You learn something new every day! Good idea with the ‘white coke’ and red star on the cap, though.

  • https://soundcloud.com/arjan-hut Arjan Hut

    Good story! I’d like a coke and a hamburger right now ha ha. Hey, isn’t this what they call an ‘infomercial’?

    • lbatfish

      Well, they gotta have some way of paying for all these articles and lists, I suppose.

      If my plan over in LV — to trademark/copyright/register a stable of popular short comments — doesn’t work out, maybe I ought to see if “discrete” product-placement in the comments would be worth something . . . . :-)

  • Ray

    Was it Pepsi or coke? The article mentions Pepsi near the end.

    • lbatfish

      Pepsi was the first of the “Big 2″ soft drinks that was allowed for sale in the USSR, with a little assist from detente-booster Dick Nixon. It was another dozen years before Coke got the go-ahead (during Reagan’s term rather than Carter’s, oddly enough, even though Coke is based in Carter’s home state).

  • Archibald

    I could go for some ”white coke”… (Sniff, sniff…)

  • GoodEvilDade

    Pepsi, also went clear in the 90s. Mmm Crystal Pepsi!

    • What

      I remember Pepsi Blue… it was a limited edition here in Turkey. I used to spend all my lunch money on it

  • http://thatweb.net/ ThatWeb

    In Short: Here are a most amazing story when Coca-Cola made White Coke for Soviet War hero, Georgy Zhukov was a Soviet war model with a genuine drinking propensity story at: http://toplistpoint.com/coca-cola-made-white-coke-soviet-war-hero/

    • DarthPoot

      Good catch, wtf? Same almost word for word posted same day?

  • UN

    general had a drinking problem…..and now i really want to drink coke

  • 1DireWolf

    That is so cool.

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  • Culture Vulture

    Awesome story. I lived for awhile on a street named after him in Smolensk, he’s an interesting man.

  • GoldenBoy_CrackHead

    i drink like a liter everyday. all bad smh

  • Check

    I am on the Paleo Diet so I don’t drink sugary drinks, but even before I went caveman, I never really cared for colas of any sort. I preferred 7-Up and Sprite over Coke and Pepsi. But I had a great love of Root Beer over any other soft drink. Man, I really miss Root Beer.

  • registan

    Imagine what a bottle of white coke with the red star would be worth today for collectors:)

  • James Lando Deltoro

    Cant blame him, Coke is awesome!

  • Hillyard

    Interesting article, what we took for granted this guy had to go to extremes to enjoy. Kudos to the Coca Cola company for doing this for a war hero.

  • That Guy

    Just don’t put in the caramel and the beverage will be near clear without any noticeable change in taste.

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