My short time spent traveling and studying in Russia made an indelible mark on my social interests, university studies, and drinking preferences. Much of my leisure reading involves some facet of Russian or and Soviet history, whether it be of World War II’s Eastern Front, USA-USSR Cold War espionage, or even Post-Soviet/Russian politics (thank you graduate school).
Even when it comes to drinking, my time in Russia reveals itself: I only drink vodka neat and ice cold (albeit infrequently); and I have a particular soft spot for Russian beer.
These points are made to preface my interest and delight in a recent Buzzfeed post titled “25 Fascinating Soviet Anti-Alcoholism Posters, 1929-1969.” I’ve included a few favorites above and below – the rest can be found via the preceding link. More importantly, however, is the hilarity in considering the posters’ original purpose: the Soviet government somehow thought they would somehow decrease alcoholism.
Using posters (i.e., print media) to impact public health is nothing new. Yet, when matched against the colossus that is Russian alcohol consumption, a poster campaign just seems laughable, quaint, or even hilariously simplistic. But certainly not effective. On this point I speak from experience: in Russia, beer is sold in two liter bottles in vending machines, just as soda is here. Vodka is endlessly consumed, especially over dinner and and with guests.
Although my experience in Russia is now over a decade old, it still appears to be similar to what’s happening today, if recent statistics on drinking are any indication. A 2011 World Health Organization (WHO) report* singles out Russia as follows: “By far the highest proportion of alcohol-attributable mortality is in the Russian Federation and neighbouring countries, where every fifth death among men and 6% of deaths among women are attributable to the harmful use of alcohol.”
While the posters offer a historical (and sometimes whimsical) look back at Soviet efforts to curb this longstanding social ill, the problem itself still sadly exists. A sobering fact to be sure.
All translations courtesy of Buzzfeed, with a little assistance from Google Translate. Unfortunately, my own Russian translation ability has long since lapsed into uselessness. And visit ADME.RU for the full series of posters.