A Sobering Topic for a Drunken Nation

There are many jokes made about the amount of alcohol a Irish, German, or Russian can drink and many people, college students in particular, rant and rave that they can drink just as much as a Russian can. The manhood of college males seems to be directly tied with how much he can drink. There is a lot information in the internet that should discourage people from drinking, but we give in to peer pressure, our emotions, and our desires to drink. Russia as a country was wounded by the treatment that it had at the end of World War II and the violence of the Cold War, so it is no surprise that Russia was a drunken nation.


iconic image from the anti-alcohol campaign

Not long after Gorbachev took office, he launched an anti-alcohol abuse campaign. He was trying turn around the economy of the country, but he needed workers to do so. Men showing up drunk to work, drinking during lunch breaks, and leaving early from work because the bars were opening, created a serious decline in production and the economy. Gorbachev wanted to decrease alcohol consumption and decrease that amount of alcohol that was produced.


Down with the drunks! Saying out loud

Gorbachev increased the price of vodka as well as put a rationing on the amount of vodka that a person can buy. These laws or dry laws cause many Russians to start brewing their own vodka and alcohol. During his time as president, Gorbachev was met with a lot of retaliation. There were illegal stills found all over the Soviet Union. The amount of sugar that was in demand to make the alcohol was making the Russian economy worse.


Vladimir Vysotsky

There have been songs and videos created for the anti-alcohol campaign the most famous song by Vladimir Vysotskii called Anti-Alcohol Song.



After the collapse of the Soviet Union, Alcoholics Anonymous was introduced and took roots in Russia. This was the first step to getting Russians to stop drinking. Even recently, Russia still has a problem with the amount of alcohol per capita drank. As of 2008, the life expectancy of the average Russian male has increased to 62 years.



Alcoholism is a disease that can infect anyone. Once your body becomes dependent on alcohol, you no longer have control over your own life. Remember there is a line between having fun and excess.

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Here comes the BAM, now where’s the Boom!


The Trans-Siberian railroad was an enormous feat for Russia when it was built. The 5000 miles of railroad stretched across the tundra of Russia to connect one end of the largest country in the world with the other. It opened up new trading possibilities and was a way to transport goods that before were unreachable. Stalin tried to expand this railroad during his rule.

standard first ticket

The BAM or Baikal-Amur Mainline started construction under Stalin, but did not finish until 1991 with the fall of the Soviet Union. The mainline was a secondary railway that sprouts off the Trans-Siberian railroad and extends for two thousand miles. The BAM is north of the Tran-Siberian railroad. The mainline is known to be very scenic as the writer Finn-Olaf Jones attested. She is awed by the tundra of the Siberia as the train travels. She said that she “couldn’t imagine another place in the world that could be more pristine.”

inside meeting first train

The Baikal-Amur Mainline progressed well through the first years of its construction, but with the death of Stalin the amount of funding and work that was put into it dwindled. The project was not restarted until Brezhnev took power in 1974. The mainline was completed only 10 years later, though not all of the railroad was functional. The plans that Brezhnev had for the mainline were revolutionary with an electrified double track, though it was sized down to a single track due to funding. The labor and environmental costs were staggering.

The pollution that the construction of the BAM caused to the terrain of the forest and Lake Baikal were irreversible. Lake Baikal was the largest clean body of water that the world had known, until the pollution from construction waste turned the water murky. The construction of the city, Severobaikalsk, caused environmental problems. This city was mainly used to house personnel that were working on the mainline.


Earlier in the year, Putin promised to brighten the future for the railway. This month, Putin is looking to reinvesting in the BAM. The government would be investing $14.3 billion to upgrade the BAM with the hope of doubling the cargo capacity of the trains by 2020. This investment would be one of the biggest projects that Russia has seen in the past 10 years. The upgrade would cover, as the article stated “4,324 kilometers.”

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The coverup of a Massacre

The summer of 1962 was difficult for the Russian people and workers due to the increase in food prices. Workers from Novocherkassk Electric Locomotive Works spoke out against the rise in prices, but were met with hostility. There were guards outside of the Communist Party headquarters in Novocherkassk where the protests came to make their petitions heard. The protesters did not stop when the commander of the troops warned them and the troops opened fire on the civilians. Reports have said that twenty-four people died and many were wounded and many were arrested.


The authorities that were fearful of a revolt attempted a cover up of the shooting. The workers that were in protest did not provoke the soldier by throwing mud or stones or trying to take their weapons. The workers were protesting peacefully and the troops were given the order to open fire upon them. According to the official report, twenty-three died. Fifteen were identified and the rest still remain unknown.


Many years later as the Soviet Union started to crumble, the public found out about the coverup. An investigation was opened to uncover the truth about what happened. The investigation uncovered that there were seventeen deaths at the protests in the city square, another five during the demonstrators’ attack on the city police department, and another two were shot during curfew. All of these killings were covered up. The official report said that the bodies were dumped outside the city in abandoned cemeteries and in huge mass graves.

Many people have eye witness account of the events that happened in June 1962. They did not come out until after the story was leaked to the public. Now the world knows about the Novocherkassk Massacre that ensued during a protest for a better standard of living and the coverup which took over twenty years to be uncovered.  A monument was built there after the investigation was finished.


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A Thaw that would not refreeze

After the death of Stalin, the Soviet Union did not know what to do. The years of repression and cleansing left the population of Russia fearful and questioning the new leadership. There was something that came out of the death of Stalin: The age of the Thaw began.


The Thaw started in 1953. With the publication of “Il’ia Ehrenburg’s THE THAW,” a new age started in the Russian population. This time period from 1953 until 1964 was known as the Khrushchev thaw. This was a time a fewer repressions and a more liberal political life (though still very strict). These were the first steps in an effort to change the Stalinist tendencies that formed during the beginning of the Soviet Union.


With the death of Stalin arose many new anti-communist movements which began during this period. The Communist Party handled these protests with just as much force as before. The destalinist movement was leading to more political liberalization than they wanted to see. The party became actively resistant to this movement though the continued tightening down of the Soviet Union.


The irony of all of this, it that the book that sparked this thaw was largely written to “honor the tenets of Stalinist culture,” according to von Geldern. Though the book did not show Soviet culture in the same magnificent light as many other publications, it was not written to degrade the benefits of soviet society. The Soviet culture flourished through the time of the thaw. There were romantic films and music made. This thaw was irreversible.


There was another ironic thing that happened during the Thaw. The political regime did not change at all. Though the partial destalinization was a step towards a better life, many did not see it. The repressions of the intelligensia continued as well as the destruction of churches. The Thaw was just a new era that the people of Russia saw which sparked hope for a life with more freedoms. Many thought that the death of Stalin would bring more change, but the Communist Party still had their hold on the Soviet Union.

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Treblemakers in a national cause

When you hear about a singing revolution, what comes to mind? A group of people making a statement or an entire nation standing up for liberty? A little country that no one heard of (and still doesn’t know about) had a peaceful revolution against the Soviet Union.


Estonia is the northern most Baltic state. Estonia declared its independence from Russia in 1918 when the Russian Revolution has crippled Russian power. The United States among many other countries recognized Estonia’s independence and guided Estonia into a democratic political system. The hope for peace and independence faded with the beginning of the Second World War. The Soviet Union took over Estonia in 1940 and from there the country was a war zone with both Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union fighting for land. After the end of World War II, the Soviet Union maintained control over Estonia.


The first celebration to Estonian culture was in 1869 in Tartu (the second largest city in Estonia). The Estonian people had great nationalism and held on to that through the many occupations and wars that their country endured. The song festivals happened every five years. These festivals were a way for the people of Estonia to rejoice in their nationalism and individuality. The only time when there were no song festivals was during the Second World War. The song festivals continue in 1947, though Estonia was still occupied by the Soviet Union.

crowds at the festival

The song festivals continued to occur through Soviet occupation because the Soviet Union thought that it would be a good was to show the happiness and joy in the Soviet Union. The choir was not allowed to sing the original Estonian national anthem, but a rewritten version about the Soviet Union. The song festival was the only thing that kept Estonia nationalism alive during Soviet occupation. During the song festival of 1988, the choir sang the original Estonian national anthem. This was the beginning of the Singing Revolution. Estonia was the only country in the Soviet Union to have a peaceful revolution. In 1991, the Soviet Union recognized Estonia has a independent nation.


Today the song festival is a national event. There was a stage erected for the thousands of singers that come to preform for their country. People for all over the world come to see the spectacular performance. I was fortunate enough to study in Estonia for two months this summer and attend the song festival. There is a heart-warming feeling that you get when you hear the choir sing. I didn’t understand the language at all, but you feel like you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Being at the song festival is an awe inspiring moment. At the song festival this summer, one million people came to hear the choir sing and participate in the festivities. The population of Estonia is 1.3 million. That means that 77% of the population showed up to participate and experience the performance. It is incredible to think about.


The finale was the best part of the performance in my opinion!! Check it out
Song Festival Finale

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Великая чистка

Boris Efimov: Ezhov’s Iron Glove (1937)

The travesty that befell Russia from 1936 until 1939 (some argue longer) was brought about by a paranoid tyrant. When Stalin came to power he was fearful of others he had shared power with taking it from him. So he started the “purge” of power from the party. He cut down anyone that had the opportunity or ability to rival his power.

The Great Purge or the Great Terror coincided with the forced collectivization. These two events raked up the death toll to tens of millions. There was an order given by Stalin to kill or capture all criminals or anti-Soviet activists. This order was carried out by Stalin’s dogs, the NKVD. Stalin later added to the order that all families of these people could be captured or killed by association. Russians were terrified because they didn’t know who they would blame or what lies the NKVD heard and believed.

The leader of the NKVD, Ezhov, set quotas for the number of arrests, exiles, and executions. The numbers that he set were greatly exceeded. The power that the NKVD had was staggering and they abused it often. But as the party became cleansed, Stalin found that the people who were a threat was the military officers. The military had the ability to stage a coup and throw Stalin from power. So, he turned his cleansing techniques towards the military, exiling or executing half of the officers.


As Stalin slowly made his way towards every are that could oppose his power, he found himself looking back towards the organization that was fulfilling his wishes. He suspected the NKVD of having the ability to stage a coup. And with the information that the organization had about the Great Purge, they were too dangerous. So, Stalin purged the NKVD of high ranking officers and former officers that had any information.

There have been estimations of how many actually died during the time of the Great Purge. Estimations that I have found have said anywhere from 10 million to 19 million people died from execution, labor camps, prison, or arrests. Most of these people being men. The survival rate was estimated to be around 3 percent. 3 percent of the population did not have to fear being taken or killed.


Stalin created a submissive population and eradicated all opposition that could be possible. He was an iconic figure. Many people loved and feared him and mourned for his death. But no one questioned or spoke up about the Russian holocaust that ensued prior to the Second World War. Stalin had the ultimate control, though it failed him, as he lie dying by himself with everyone too scared of him to disobey his orders and enter his room.

Video: Stalin: Inside the Terror

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Образование масс


With the revolution in February, the socialist youth movement emerged out of young workers throughout Russia. They pushed for more education opportunities and education for everyone. This youth movement join with the Bolsheviks Party and they helped to create policies that would educate the youth of Russia.

At the end of 1917, there was a state commission on education. This brought about all different types of schools for the youth and a few for adults. These schools had great influence on the people on this time. With Bolsheviks giving more attention to the youth of Russia, they were focusing on the future opposed to trying to fix the issues of the present.


There was other focuses on education in the beginning on the Bolsheviks reign. Labor education and agriculture education were important for the continual growth of the agriculture systems so that there would be a reduced chance of famine and hunger with the growing population. This focus continued as the Soviet Union was formed and even after Lenin died.


Education continued to be a focus into the Cold War time but the government started to have more of a stress on science and technology because of the arms race with the United States. Higher education became easier to obtain with the desire to have a bigger and better military. An article from Nature says, that “professional knowledge does not correspond to the increased requirements for science and industry.”

With the education system that was created for the future of Russia, children became the “privileged class” of the Soviet Union. Education in the Soviet Union was free and mothers were able to stay home with their children until they were 18 months old to take care of them and start their education. Formal Education started when children were 7 years old and ended at 18 years old. During their education, children were integrated into the Communist Party and became a member Komsomol when they were 14 years old. The Soviet Union had all of the children taught the exact same way with the same information.

The education system in Russia was progressive in many ways. Before the revolution of 1917, the masses were uneducated and ignorant of how the government really affected them. After the Bolsheviks took power and implemented an education system that incorporated everyone, the ignorance decreased. There were more people who were able to do the basic of reading and writing and were able to be an active member of society. With the variety of schools that were created, society become more varied and people were able to move classes, become a specialist, and openly share new ideas with the community.

Work Cited


James Bunyan and H.H. Fisher, ed., Bolshevik Revolution, 1917-1918; Documents and Materials (Stanford: Stanford University Press; H. Milford, Oxford University Press, 1934), pp. 201-202.

James Bunyan, ed., Intervention, Civil War, and Communism in Russia, April-December 1918 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 1936), pp. 534-535.

Soviet Education Today
Richard E. Werstler and Wilma P. Werstler
The Phi Delta Kappan, Vol. 62, No. 10 (Jun., 1981), pp. 710-712
Published by: Phi Delta Kappa International
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/20386108

State Children: Soviet Russia’s Besprizornye and the New Socialist Generation
Alan Ball
Russian Review, Vol. 52, No. 2 (Apr., 1993), pp. 228-247
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The Editors and Board of Trustees of the Russian Review
Article DOI: 10.2307/131345
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/131345

The Socialist Youth Movement in Revolutionary Petrograd
Isabel A. Tirado
Russian Review, Vol. 46, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 135-155
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The Editors and Board of Trustees of the Russian Review
Article DOI: 10.2307/130623
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/130623

Soviet Correspondent. “Soviet Education Policy.” Nature 239 (1972): 62. Print.

Click to access 239062b0.pdf



Октября Манифестъ


The October Manifesto was created out of the hope for changed, signed out of fear, and not fully used until the “Fundamental Laws” was written almost 6 months later.

The year of 1905 proved to hold the biggest trouble for the Russian Tsar. To kick off the year with Bloody Sunday, then continue it by the losses in the Russo-Japanese War, then massive strikes all over Russia, with the closing of factories, schools, and theaters. The autocracy needed to fix the unrest which was prevalent throughout his country. He turned to Sergei Witte for an answer. Military action or reform?


Sergei Witte was the “architect of the manifesto,” who had felt the “Russia had out grown its existing order and is striking towards a legal order based on civil liberty.” The October Manifesto was a means to give the people hope without taking too much power away from the autocracy. The Manifesto, which was signed on October 17, 1905, promised the people civil liberties, freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, and that no laws would be implemented without the agreement of the Duma. Though it does not say anywhere in the Manifesto that the Duma can create new laws or act like a normally functioning legislative body like we know it in the West.

The Manifesto was well received at first, but the broadness of the Manifesto sparked more conflict. The workers and peasantry felt that they were not getting the proper change. They wanted immediate “practical social and economic change.” The Manifesto was a short term fix of the chaos that was erupting all over Russia. Nicolas II put a cork in the bottle of the Revolution without realizing that the bottle was going to shatter under the pressure. But the Tsar’s “failed implementation of the Manifesto” was the driving force in the Revolution of 1917.

Work Cited:

“The October Manifesto”. HistoryLearningSite.co.uk. 2005. Web. 7 Sept 2014. <http://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/october_manifesto.htm>.

“The Explosive October Manifesto.” Proquest. Proquest, Sept.-Oct. 2010. Web. 7 Sept. 2014. <http://search.proquest.com/docview/749234680?pq-origsite=summon>.

“The October Manifesto of 1905.” The October Manifesto of 1905. Durham, n.d. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <http://community.dur.ac.uk/a.k.harrington/octmanif.html>.

Kropotkin, G. M. “The Ruling Bureaucracy and the “New Order” of Russian Statehood After the Manifesto of 17 October 1905.” Get VText Search Results. Russians Studies in History, 2008. Web. 07 Sept. 2014. <http://su8bj7jh4j.search.serialssolutions.com/?ctx_ver=Z39.88-2004&ctx_enc=info%3Aofi%2Fenc%3AUTF-8&rfr_id=info:sid/summon.serialssolutions.com&rft_val_fmt=info:ofi/fmt:kev:mtx:journal&rft.genre=article&rft.atitle=The+Ruling+Bureaucracy+and+the+%22New+Order%22+of+Russian+Statehood+After+the+Manifesto+of+17+October+1905&rft.jtitle=Russian+Studies+in+History&rft.au=Kropotkin%2C+G.+M&rft.date=2008-04-01&rft.issn=1061-1983&rft.eissn=1558-0881&rft.volume=46&rft.issue=4&rft.spage=6&rft.epage=33&rft_id=info:doi/10.2753%2FRSH1061-1983460401&rft.externalDBID=n%2Fa&rft.externalDocID=10_2753_RSH1061_1983460401&paramdict=en-US>.

“Tsar Nicolas and the October Manifesto.” Cgscrussianrevolution2011. N.p., n.d. Web. 7 Sept. 2014. <http://cgscrussianrevolution2011.wikispaces.com/Tsar+Nicolas+and+the+October+Manifesto>.

Does Religion Matter Anymore?

Old gates in the Church of the Assumption of the Mother of God. Deviatiny. [Russian Empire]

The Russian Orthodox Church has been a major factor in Russian culture, economics, and politics since its origin in 988 AD. In 1589, Moscow was named the patriarch for the Russian Orthodox Church, but there would be no separation of church and state. This can be seen with Tsars being “appointed from God.” In 1721, Peter the Great modernized Russia and opened many doors to Europe. With that, he abolished the patriarch in Moscow and put in a Holy Synod, who could be controlled by the government, to work between the church and the state.

In 1900, after the reforms of the late 19th century, there was a movement for a “restoration of church autonomy and organizational reform.” This was a time of unrest throughout all of the Russian empire. The lack of a proper and substantial economic system make the peasantry and nobility look to alternative ways to increase their living. When Nicolas II took power, he started to make some changes. In 1905, there was an attempt to industrialize, which failed miserably with terrible living conditions and widespread famine. With the losses in the Russo-Japanese War, protesters took to the streets on January 22nd in the hope of fixing conditions but many were killed by guards. January 22nd was known as Bloody Sunday. Bloody Sunday was the spark that started the Russian Revolution. As the conditions worsened, many people started turning to new ways of thinking and change like Marxism. With the introduction to Marxism in the early 20th century, religion become a force that could oppose Lenin’s growing power over the people.

Religion become an enemy of the revolution. The golden gates (above) that have been taken off the hinges are a testament to the almost anti-religion movement that started before the revolution even began. They have been propped up against a building (at least off the ground) to be moved out of public view. The tarnish and wear that has started, shows the neglect that they have been under. The gates symbolized entering into the house of God, now they are an unwanted piece that has been push off to the side. This picture was also taken with a collection of sights along on the Mariinskii canal and river, which is in St. Petersburg. There are many picture of churches in the collection, but nothing that resembles the conflict and revolution in Russia than this picture.