Drinking just got better, drinking got more fun

Around 1986, I saw a heartbreaking sight in the Volga city of Kineshma. It was approaching 14:00, at which time it was allowed to start selling alcohol (until 19:00). The local wine and vodka at the door was crowded and anxious. There was no such queue, there was a crowd overwhelmed with dry wood, and the desire to get in first to everyone, then to everything—really or not. The police were there, apparently in the form of two slender sergeants, but they were powerless and did not particularly conceal their weakness. It was almost an eternity until the time of the National Guard, equipped with the latest technology to deal with troublemakers. Yes, and those people were not troublemakers, they were a well-established people. Although Gorbachev clearly burned out in the crowd, it was as if he had no memory of the Gulag in his genes. At that time, there was no article regarding “extremist” expressions in the Penal Code, and those who were punished for “discrediting and spreading fraud about the party’s and government’s anti-alcohol policy” had not yet been considered.

And the word “fake” itself wasn’t there either. The only successful developer to get it into circulation, Donald Trump, had just met Soviet ambassador Dobrynin, who invited him to come to the USSR via Intourist. What did he do a little later – in 1987, with his first wife, Czech model Ivana Zelnichkova, he visited Moscow and Leningrad (he loves the Slavs, what can you do). A little later (in 1990) he would recall his trip: “I was not completely impressed. Their Soviet system is a disaster. What we will see soon is revolution… Russia is already out of control and the authorities know it. This is Gorbachev’s problem. He doesn’t rule hard enough. My guess is that he will be knocked down as he shows unprecedented weakness.” Ah, if he had known in advance the role of post-Soviet Russia under a much more powerful (by his own standards) ruler in his own destiny… But we digress.

… As the precious hour was about to arrive at 14:00 – the crowd felt by the fact that an aunt in a dressing gown had appeared outside the store’s doors and was preparing to open them – some kind of impulse seemed to pass through the door. gray irregular mass of people. He immediately exhaled, and suddenly above their heads the body of a frail, drunken peasant appeared, forward, forward, like Lenin’s diary in a subbotnik. Further! Ready for the door behind which the aunt stands. His eyes began to approximate the feelings that the ship’s commander felt when he saw an approaching enemy torpedo and that it was no longer possible to escape from it. He didn’t have time to open the door. The crowd smashed the window with the head of the ram and threw him in, but miraculously he was not trampled. It was moving. The doors creaked open. The heartbreaking victorious cries of the villagers were heard in the air, as if the Iroquois warriors had just swam the hated Yankee “in his inner helm” and the women’s squeaks. The attack was successful. Not the Winter Palace, of course, but still. Note that in Kineshma they go to a liquor store almost every day. Noon St. It was as neat as a cannon fired from the Naryshkin fortress in St. Petersburg.

The anti-alcohol campaign, which was initiated by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on May 16, 1985, “Strengthening the fight against drunkenness and alcoholism, eliminating moonshine” was in full swing.

It is still debatable whether this initiative of Gorbachev and his comrades was a mistake based on an incorrect analysis of the consequences of such a decision, or whether it reflected, among other things, the readiness of the political leadership at that time to take things that were extremely unpopular. measures taken for the sake of the so-called public good. Not all modern politicians are capable of this, we agree.

Gorbachev, of course, soon came to be doomed for his anti-alcohol campaign, and after he lost power, almost everyone who touched the topic of alcohol thought it appropriate to kick the defeated general secretary. Yes, and now keep kicking periodically. This decision was probably fateful, playing the role of straw that eventually broke the back of the Soviet camel. As in the mountains before an avalanche, a delicate balance was disturbed in the system. After that, the avalanche should have already descended.

The problem of drunkenness worried the Soviet leadership: the drunken “scoop” did not fit into the rosy picture of the creation of a “new historical community”. By the end of the Brezhnev administration, in terms of vodka and taking into account hidden moonshine, alcohol consumption reached 90-110 bottles per year per adult male, or 10-14 liters per capita, more than double the consumption level. In Tsarist Russia and in the days of Stalin. True, in terms of alcohol, say, the French drank even more at that time. But, firstly, they are not a decree for us, and secondly, we drank mainly strong drinks, vodka, French wine and beer.

At the end of Brezhnev’s rule, plans arose under the Soviet leadership to switch the Soviet persona from vodka to beer and wine, in particular to open more cafes and bars. But the Soviet administrative system was not capable of such a restructuring of the public food service. After all, cafes were not opened according to market conditions, but only at the behest of the party. And the party glanced sideways at the cafe: a kind of debauchery, but potential. Also beer. It is not like in the GDR, where in Dresden the future president sometimes visits such institutions.

Andropov, who came to power directly from the KGB after Brezhnev, was inclined to more decisive measures of struggle, since he believed that one of the main causes of the crisis of the Soviet system and economy was the decline of moral and moral values. (as they will say now – braces). And that’s why you have to be tougher, tougher.

But the general secretary, who was constantly on hemodialysis, did not have time to complete the plan. But the “developments” had already been taken over by Gorbachev’s Politburo of the Central Committee of the CPSU, which initially differed little from Andropov’s in terms of personnel. Thus, Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign was born out of Andropov’s pants.

Everyone knows roughly then: reducing the production of everything by one degree (volumes have halved in three years), closing wine shops and limiting the working hours of the rest, barbaric destruction of vineyards, raising the prices of vodka, and eventually even making it a deficit. All this under the noise of propaganda about a “sober lifestyle.” Propaganda was carried out with convincing faces. They even banned banquets and any alcoholic celebrations at work. After all, we know how to make everything crazy. And they brought

Prior to the start of the anti-alcohol campaign, revenues from the sale of alcohol reached up to 30% (but at least 15%), according to some reports (the Soviet budget did not tolerate transparency). They fell sharply and at the same time caused damage comparable to the impact of the fall in oil prices. The “collateral damage” of the anti-alcohol campaign – both economic and political (a strong first blow to Gorbachev’s popularity and policies) was enormous.

What went wrong and why? And instead of painstaking work – changing the structure of alcohol consumption, improving the general culture of society – the way of campaigning in the Soviet version from brutality to stupidity was chosen. Instead of reforms in this direction – a revolution. Instead of a point setting – a cavalry charge. Instead of diplomacy – in fact, a war with its own “eternally unreasonable” population.

The Soviet leadership, struck by dogmatism, did not have the understanding that many countries were going through a similar Soviet path of alcoholization during a period of rapid urbanization, when the first generation of city dwellers did not yet have the appropriate level of culture. Prohibition in the United States in the 1920s was a reaction to similar processes. He could at least take American lessons. But America is not a decree for us either.

However, in the long run, the anti-alcohol campaign has had some positive results. And it’s no coincidence that 20 years after it started, almost 60% of Russians rate it quite positively (a third – as a mistake). Subsequent research showed that Gorbachev’s campaign saved at least 1.6 million lives (allowing to reduce the death toll by 400,000 people, or 24% per year). Yet the restriction in the early 1990s led to a new increase in death rates.

Today, the changes are even more pronounced. Russians did indeed start drinking less hard liquor (half-half in the last decade), partly switching to beer and wine. True, some also went to the “shadow market” (according to some, about 35% of the strong alcohol consumed by our compatriots today is produced illegally), but this does not make up for the entire volume of reduced consumption. same vodka.

Society has changed. “Citizens” defeated yesterday’s villagers. The culture of consumption has also changed: drinking in the hallways is no longer the most popular format, but it is still with us. Most of those who wanted to get drunk and could get drunk were already drunk. Working two or three jobs to support a family and pay off a mortgage is also not conducive to alcohol excess. Not everyone today is ready to lose their job for the sake of a bottle. Finding smart non-drinking workers is still a big challenge for employers in the regions, though.

Thus, in the long run, Gorbachev gained more than lost with his anti-alcohol campaign. But the country in which he began to so resolutely fight for moral principles no longer exists. I should have been more careful somehow. One cannot fight for the common good by conducting such brutal experiments on one’s own people. And the classic of our satire and humor comes from Odessa, Mikhail Zhvanetsky, and nowhere does he usually formulate it more precisely. Don’t forget?

“Sober assembly cases became more frequent, then design flaws appeared. And sometimes it began to happen that there was nothing structurally, then elements of subcontractors of low quality appeared. And now the assembly is sober, there are no design flaws, and the subcontractors did not produce anything, and then the shortcomings of the organization came into play. And now, more often, the assembly is sober and structurally good, and the subcontractors and organization are good – the flaws of the entire life system in the country have escalated. You shouldn’t have touched the vodka.” But any satirist and humorist, as we know, is more of a decree.

The author expresses his personal opinion, which may not coincide with the editors’ position.



Source: Gazeta

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