Anti-alcohol Campaign in the USSR

In the USSR, alcoholism was a terrible problem. So when Gorbachev became Secretary General of the Communist Party, he started an anti-alcohol campaign. It was supposed to be very popular with women who were tired of their husbands drinking themselves to death. Alcoholism caused sky-high rates of domestic violence. It was terrible for work productivity. It led to horrible rates of fetal alcohol syndrome, creating a whole generation of brain-damaged children.

So the campaign started. Alcohol disappeared from the stores. There were strict limits on how much alcohol you could buy if you did manage to come across it at a store. Vineyards were destroyed.

The campaign was so extraordinarily stupid that later a whole cottage industry of conspiracy theorists arose arguing that the anti-alcohol campaign had been created on purpose to manufacture an epidemic of drug addiction in a country that, until the campaign, had no problem with drugs.

Because that’s exactly what happened. Lower-income people brewed moonshine (samogon), sniffed glue, and drank cologne. Cologne disappeared from the stores because alcoholics started swilling it like crazy. And younger people turned to hard drugs. Immediately a huge drug cartel industry arose. Today, Russia’s younger generation is being wiped out by drugs. Russia became a world leader in non-sexually transmitted HIV because people shared dirty needles to shoot up heroin.

It’s needless to say that not a single alcoholic was cured by the anti-alcohol campaign. Many picked up a much more severe addiction to heroin. Many died of chemical poisoning. It’s still unclear whether this was done to give some people in the party leadership an extra source of income through the nascent drug industry or was just a dumb mistake.

6 thoughts on “Anti-alcohol Campaign in the USSR

  1. I thought most people in villages brewed moonshine since it was cheaper than buying vodka in a shop. Was it not so?

    On a modern historical topic, the Merkel era is over and I liked this touching story re her and music (in Russian):

    ‘Angela Merkel was conducted into retirement with a small military parade’


    1. Yes, samogon was always a reality in the countryside. But in 1989 I was offered samogon at a friend’s birthday party in Kharkov. I was 13, and it was on the table openly. The mother was proud she’d made it herself. Of course, this was a working class family but it was still bizarre to see it in a large, industrial city.


  2. Where I live in a Western country, something similar has happened down to details like foetal alcohol syndrome.

    In regards to the question “It’s still unclear whether this was done to give some people in the party leadership an extra source of income through the nascent drug industry or was just a dumb mistake”, were it posed to me about what is happening right now, the answer would be that it doesn’t matter because once the money starts to flow from drug sales and a few people within the power structure begin to use them, the whole pattern changes to keep drugs flowing.

    Where I am, what that means is that organised criminals were allowed into the police force and given jobs in government, where they became henchmen of important persons in the legislature and administration.

    To my knowledge they have not infiltrated the judiciary yet, but that was corrupt from the first day so it doesn’t matter.

    Liked by 2 people

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