Prohibition in the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union

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Prohibition in the Russian Empire and Soviet Union existed during 1914-1925. The Russian term is "сухой закон" (sukhoy zakon, literally "dry law").

Russian Empire

Prohibition as introduced in the Russian Empire in 1914 permitted the sale of hard liquor only in restaurants. It was introduced at the beginning of World War I under the premise that it would prevent the army from dealing with drunken soldiers.[1] Other warring countries (e.g. the United Kingdom, France, and Germany) imposed certain restrictions on alcoholic drinks, but only Russia completely stopped the retail sale of vodka.[2]

Soviet Russia and Soviet Union

Prohibition continued through the turmoil of the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the Russian Civil War, into the period of Soviet Russia and the Soviet Union until 1925.[3]

In the Soviet Union, there were three major anti-alcohol campaigns: started in 1958,[4] in 1972, [5][6] and in 1985.

Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign

During 1985-1987 Mikhail Gorbachev carried out an anti-alcohol campaign with partial prohibition,[7] colloquially known as the "dry law". Prices of vodka, wine and beer were raised, and their sales were restricted in amount and time of day. People who were caught drunk at work or in public were prosecuted.

The reform had an effect on alcoholism in the country, as evident from statistics showing some fall in criminality and rise in life expectancy, but economically it was a serious blow to the state budget (a loss of approximately 100 billion rubles to the exchequer according to Alexander Yakovlev) after alcohol production migrated to the black market economy.

See also


  1. How Prohibition Came to Russia, NY Times, Nov 18, 1914
  2. I.N. Vvedensky, An Experience in Enforced Abstinence (1915), Moscow (Введенский И. Н. Опыт принудительной трезвости. М.: Издание Московского Столичного Попечительства о Народной Трезвости, 1915.) (Russian)
  3. D. Christian, Prohibition in Russia 1914–1925. Australian Slavonic and East European Studies, vol. 9 (1995), pp. 89–108.
  4. Г. Г. Заиграев. Государственная политика как фактор алкоголизации населения (PDF)
  5. Приказ Минздрава СССР ОТ 24.08.1972 № 694 о мерах по дальнейшему усилению борьбы против пьянства и алкоглизма (там же приводится и постановление от 16 мая)
  6. Радио «Маяк»: Идейный компромисс для нетрезвеющего народа
  7. Decree of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium "On the Increased Struggle against Hard Drinking and Alcoholism", May 16, 1985 (Указ Президиума Верховного Совета СССР «Об усилении борьбы с пьянством и алкоголизмом»)

External links