It’s (Not) Five O’Clock Somewhere…

Today, alcohol consumption in Russia remains the highest in the world. The high volumes of alcohol consumption have resulted in serious consequences socially, politically and economically. The public health ramifications have been an ever going issue throughout the years and has led to alcoholism to be thought of as a ‘national disaster’. In the 1970’s, alcoholism had been linked to high rates of child abuse, suicide, divorce and a rise of mortality rates, especially among males. It was estimated the two-thirds of murders and violent crimes were committed by intoxicated individuals in 1980 and the death toll from drunk drivers was on an incline. The problem ultimately stemmed from the idea that drinking was seen as a pervasive, socially acceptable behavior in society.¹ Consumption of alcohol holds deep cultural roots in Russia, it often accompanied an array of celebrations, indicated hospitality and created bonds between individuals. It was a source of revenue for the Soviet state, which created tremendous income and was exercised as a monopoly on it’s production and distribution.¹ With the negative ramifications growing and society being impacted as a whole, Mikhail Gorbachev thought he had the solution.

Mikhail Gorbachev was not only known as the General Secretary but became known as the ‘mineral’nyi sekretar’ (mineral-water-drinking secretary).¹ In May of 1985, less than two months after becoming General Secretary of the Communist Party, Gorbachev launched a campaign against alcohol abuse. It introduced ‘partial prohibition’, the prices of vodka, wine and beer were increased and their sales were restricted to certain times of the day.² It also included limiting the kinds of shops that were permitted to sell alcohol which resulted in the closings of distilleries and vineyards. Even official Soviet receptions became alcohol-free events. Ultimately, the campaign had an effect on alcoholism country wide. It improved quality of life measures however it was very unpopular among the population.

Economically it was detrimental to the state budget since the alcohol production migrated to the black market. It also contributed to the sharp increase in the production of moonshine and the use of more dangerous substances.² The decline in state revenue created a major budgetary imbalance that led to printing more money which fueled inflation.¹ Eventually all these reasons led to the campaign being abandoned after 1987 and the legal use of alcohol being reintroduced.

¹ “Anti-Alcohol Campaign.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 2 Sept. 2015,


Cover photo: Anti-Alcohol Campaign Poster “Socially Harmful”

reference video to title of blog post

Lights, Camera, Re(action)

During the post-war years in Soviet Russia the works of the cinema was a distraction to the deep wounds left from the war. Seldom were their films about war and the ones that were, focused on leaders and little on soldiers. What was portrayed on screen was vastly different than what was seen on the front line, leaving viewers with no reflection of real life experience. Often films pretended that the war never occurred, showing a world of tranquility, where men and women created strong, healthy families. A common character trend was that of the Russian men and women behaving honorably, fighting courageously and obeying silently.¹ Even documentaries, although responding to the most outstanding events, gave a pale reflection of the variety of facts and events in Soviet life.³ The death of Stalin and the public disparage of his image by Nikita Khrushchev gave filmmakers the margin of comfort they needed to move away from the narrow stories of socialist realism and begin to expand it’s boundaries to a winder range of artistic Soviet films.²

Ivan Pyriev’s notorious Cossacks of the Kuban, fell under the notions of film constraints. The rare war film displayed a false sense of war and home. The colorful film glorified the life of farmers of the Soviet Union’s Kuban region, disregarding the full impact of the war.¹ Both, The Battle of Stalingrad directed by Vladimir Petrov and The Fall of Berlin directed by Georgian Mikhail Chuareli, culminated the same theme. All three films were released from 1948-1950, before the shift in views and regulations on Soviet films.¹

In 1953, Soviet writers and artist recognized a ‘thaw’ in the culture of political party’s. Khrushchev gave the people a sense of new found freedom, especially in the creative realm.² The film industry increased productivity in the more tolerant climate and ultimately thrived.² Eventually, Soviet film artist were pushed to reenter the international film industry and even began to import foreign films for domestic release. This resulted in a gradual production of new films throughout the upcoming decade.

The Soldier Ivan Brovkin was directed by Ivan Lukinskii and released in 1955, being the first film to breakthrough postwar taboos. It conveyed the story of a young Russian boy drafted into the war through lyrical performance.¹ The film evaluated the war but on a level that let common viewers understand the true pain it presented. In 1959, the film Ballad of a Solider followed a similar story line, displaying a young boy on leave from war to convey the true tragedy of it.¹ This was the start of the introduction to the new Soviet film era. Without the restraints from existing power, the true ‘war story’ was on big screens.

Eventually censorship was renewed, nonetheless the breakthrough in the Soviet film industry not only entertained but also informed, showing people the true meaning and impact of war.


  1. “War Films.” Seventeen Moments in Soviet History, 21 May 2017,
  2. Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 2009.
  3. Pudovkin, Vsevolod. “CONCERNING DOCUMENTARY FILMS.-NOTES OF A FILM PRODUCE.” EVXpress – CONCERNING DOCUMENTARY FILMS.-Notes of a Film Produce –  Current Digest of the Russian Press, The ,  1953 , No. 20, Vol. 5, SovietCurrent Digest of the Russian Press,

Featured Picture: An illustration of Kinopanorama from a Soviet magazine published in 1959.

All is Fair in Love and War, or is it?

In the midst of violence and animosity, romance was a common denominator between all opposing sides. However, the traditional idea of ‘forever’ was foreign and the knowledge that they may never see each other ever again made wartime love even more appealing in such dark times. The 1940’s reintroduced the diminishment of traditional gender roles, courting and mating. Romance challenged the socialist movement that was to have made traditional gender roles antiquated. The men were to fight for their wives and lovers, while women depended on the marital valor of their men. The belief of full-scale mobilization of men to the frontline and women in leading roles at factories, kolkhozes and in the family, was common during war efforts. With such violence and terror occurring on the home front, the concept of constructing courtships and romance gave living a whole new meaning.

Not only did the idea of ‘newfound’ romance influence the reintroduction of gender roles, it also presented itself through Soviet music, films and poems. Konstantin Simonov was a playwright and wartime correspondent that established a voice of love and emotion that made an impression on millions. While covering the catastrophic retreat of the summer of 1941 from the front lines, he wrote “Wait for Me. It became a powerful message about a solider in war asking his beloved one to wait for his return. The power of the message conferred throughout the poem presented a real-life conversation that many soldiers and their significant others were experiencing during wartime. The poem became, and remains, one of the best-known poems in Russian literature. Klavdiia Shulzhenko was a strong women and artist, breaking the barriers for women during wartime. She inspired the Soviet Union with her songs “Blue Scarf” and “Let’s Have a Smoke”. Shulzhenko voluntarily joined the ranks with her husband, preforming in trenches and under bomb shelters. The two gave people the hope for victory and love. They exhibited positivity and reinforced the importance of love, destined to enter the history of the heroic defense of wartime efforts.

With all things comes consequences, especially romance. The state and society quickly recognized the implications that ‘love’ was leaving. In the early 1930’s the Soviet Union attempted to reinforce the importance of family life. However, the need to bear soldiers and workers resulted in the incline of illegitimate births. The abrupt population drop from the previous decade forced the state to acknowledge unwed mothers. Eventually a tax was introduced that taxed families that were childless. The need for healthy men were high and the state was willing to give rewards to the families that provided such for them. But above all, nothing could be of aid to those grieving from losing a loved one. While love played a positive role during wartime it negatively impacted so just as equally. It built up society’s spirits and tore them down just as fast. It was simply a concept that could change an individuals life, forever.

The return home of some Soviet soldiers in Moscow in 1945

In fact, all was not fair in love and war.

Russia’s Lifeline

"View from the Rear Platform of the Simskaia Station of the Samara-Zlatoust Railway"

“View from the Rear Platform of the Simskaia Station of the Samara-Zlatoust Railway”

This picture was taken by Russian photographer, Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii in September 1909. Prokudin-Gorskii made a considerable number of trips to the area surrounding the Ural Mountains. The Ural Mountains run approximately, from north to south through western Russia.¹ The Ural region is comprised of numerous amounts of resources, that contributed greatly to the mineral sector of the Russian economy.

The first railway across the Ural region was completed in 1878, it connected Perm to Yekaterinburg. In 1890, another railway linked Ufa to Chelyabinsk which became a part of the Trans-Siberian Railway in 1896. Since Tsar Peter the Great, the Ural region had been perceived across the Russian Empire as the country’s mineral treasure and military stronghold. However, the region was not perceived the same to outside states. Many outsiders believed that it was outdated and populated by people not wanted anywhere else. However, the Ural region played a major role in the economic growth and history of the Russian Empire.¹

In the fall of 1909, Prokudin-Gorskii visited Sim Station. Sim Station was located on a pre-existing railroad called the Samara-Zlatoust, which began in 1885. The railroad was completed in 1892 and resulted in access to the national rail system for the Sim Valley, along with access to Simskii Zavod (Sim Factory). The sturdy design use to create the water tower within the photo has proven its architectural stability, resulting in numerous towers with analogous designs that are still standing in present day.  The long span of railway stretching towards the mountains in the photo elicits a sense of accomplishment and progression.² The west was advancing rapidly and in order to remain a major world power, the Russian Empire had to do so as well.

The evolution of the railway in the Russian Empire opened numerous doors and connected the most rural parts of the region to larger opportunities. In order to “modernize”, economic progress was vital, that was to be done by the balancing of Russia’s trade and promoting domestic industries.³ The growing use and improvement of the railways had a considerable impact on furthering their economic progress. The connection of rural Russia and Russia’s metropolitan areas gave forth a sense of advancement, the declining economic status of the Empire, needed.

End Notes

  1. Givental, Elena. “Three Hundred Years of Glory and Gloom: The Urals Region of Russia in Art and Reality.” Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency, 14 Apr. 2013,
  2. Prokudin-Gorskii. “View from the Rear Platform of the Simskaia Station of the Samara-Zlatoust Railway.” WDL RSS, Detroit Publishing Company, 1 Jan. 1970,
  3. Freeze, Gregory L. Russia: a History. Oxford University Press, 1997.