This, too, is an extract from French Wikipedia, translated by Google, on the history of the alcoholics favorite beverage, vodka. We can blame the Russians:
It is distilled from the fourteenth century, but a century later, Prince Ivan III (1462-1505) prohibited the production of strong alcoholic beverages. Czar Ivan IV (1533-1584), said Ivan the Terrible built the first tavern in Moscow and establishes the principle of distilleries and places of distribution of state. It had a monopoly on the production and sale of vodka, which has enabled the state to reap substantial profits. During this period, the vodka is a very important role in culture and the Russian economy.
In 1894, Emperor Alexander III decreed that the standard of the title alcohol Russian vodka is 40 °. It builds on the work of the chemist Dmitri Mendeleev who had previously shown that the best vodka headline to 38 °, but the fees for the time being calculated on the alcohol, is the title of which was 40 ° retained to facilitate the task of tax authorities. (note: this last sentence probably means that the tax authorities in Russia insisted on vodka remaining at 40 percent proof for ease of calculating tax).
There is a museum of vodka Mandrogi in Leningrad Oblast in Russia.