Prohibiton in Russia


In 1985 Mikhail Gorbachev shocked the people of Russia when he launched his Anti-Alcohol campaign.  Not two months after being elected as General Secretary Gorbachev became one of the most despised men in Russia.  Alcohol was not only a means of enjoyment but also part of Soviet culture.  It was also a major source of revenue to the state.  Not only did they have a monopoly on production and distribution of alcohol but also generated a lot of revenue through taxation.  All this in mind, alcoholism was leading to an increased rate in child abuse, suicide, and divorce, resulting in an overall death rate increase.

Gorbachev limited the supply of alcohol by restricting not only the production but also what kind of stores could sell it.  His movement also lead to the closing and destruction of many vineyards, distilleries and other alcohol producing facilities.  Overall Gorbachev’s efforts worked.  Alcohol consumption throughout the Soviet Union did decrease.  However, much like prohibition in the United States, these new regulations on alcohol also had side effects.  The first of which was the production of illegal alcohol such as moonshine.  Many soviets began the production of alcohol in their own homes, sometimes even making it in their bathtub.  Another side effect of this prohibition was an increase in organized crime which brought with an increase usage of drugs and other illegal substances.  It also lead to a decrease of state revenue which resulted in the abandoning of the campaign on two years after it started.

Although soviet people and ultimately the soviet economy were not ready for such a strict anti-alcohol campaign it actually did decrease alcoholism.  This probably wasn’t a bad thing but the approach to this decrease could have been better planned.  The video on seventeen moments is pretty hilarious, reminding me of a scene from an episode of COPS.