Marshal Georgy Zhukov of the Soviet Union was apparently a fan of a drink that his compatriots would not approve of so easily. He liked the taste of Coca-Cola, today’s second most widely understood term in the world after “OK” and, back in the marshal’s day, it was also a prevalent symbol of American imperialism in the communist country.
According to the story, the marshal first tasted the Coca-Cola drink around the WWII period, thanks to his coordinate in Europe, the Supreme Commander of Allied Forces and the future 34th US President, Dwight D. Eisenhower, also fan of the famous soda drink.
The Soviet marshal liked the taste of the drink so much that he allegedly issued a request for manufacturing a unique, colorless and unlabeled variant of the drink, later called “White Coke”. Zhukov was obviously wary of being seen or photographed consuming such a product. He was also creative and playful with his ideas as, according to English journalist and author Tom Standage, he had asked if Coca-Cola could come up with a design package that would resemble a bottle of vodka.
Word traveled a long way. Reportedly, it got through to President Truman thanks to General Mark W. Clark, commander of the US sector of Allied-occupied Austria. From the President’s staff, the request was passed to James Farley, the chairman of the Board of the Coca-Cola Export Corporation.
During that period, Farley was already looking forward to the opening of the new Coca-Cola bottling plants around Southeast Europe, Austria included. He had delegated the marshal’s special request to Mladin Zarubica, the technical supervisor of the Coca-Cola team, who had traveled to Austria after WWII to supervise the creation of a larger bottling plant in the country. Allegedly, the technician also found a chemist who was able to remove the coloring from the drink which meant that soon, Marshal Zhukov’s wishes were to be really fulfilled.
Finally, the first shipment of 50 cases of White Coke was made by the Brussels-based Crown Cork and Seal Company. The colorless Cola was bottled in a straight, clear glass and had a white cap with a red star in the middle.
Another peculiar aspect that relates to the whole story is that the Coca-Cola Company was carefree under the customs regulations on route to the Austrian capital, and prior shipment transit through a Soviet occupation zone.
As all goods entering the Soviet zone were scrutinized and inspected for weeks by officials, the Coca-Cola supplies would always make a fast journey and were never stopped on their way to the Vienna warehouse. From there, the White Coke bottles could have easily found their way to Marshal Zhukov.