In the 1980’s the Soviet Union realized there was a direct link between alcohol consumption and many persistent social problems and health problems in the nation. There were several warning signs from studying data acquired from the previous decade, one huge one is how much money the Soviet Union made from the sales tax of alcohol. In 1979 it was 25.4 billion rubles from the sales tax of alcohol alone, more than the total gained from income tax. There was also a lot of domestic and petty crimes that were linked to alcohol, and even workplace incidents, or people just not showing up to work. So shortly after Mikhail Gorbachev gained power in 1985, he set up several measures to try and reduce alcohol consumption. One of the more famous of these measures was the law that made it illegal to buy or sell alcohol in restaurants or bars before 2:00 P.M. There was also more restrictions on what establishments were allowed to sell alcohol, and eventually the sales tax on alcohol was raised. There was even in some regions a system of “coupons” for the purchase of alcohol, with an individual only allowed so many of these coupons. These measures were actually pretty successful, there was a noticeable decline in alcohol consumption, but there were also several negative effects as well.
Unsurprisingly these new anti-alcohol policies weren’t very popular with the general population and it mirrored several of the same negative effects as we experience here in the United States during Prohibition. An increase in organized crime dealing in alcohol, poorly set up moonshining facilities that lea to health risks for those that consume it. There was also a severe drop in how much the Soviet Union made from the sales tax of alcohol.
Along with all the laws and policies that were made to reduce alcohol consumption and sale, there was also a sort of propaganda campaign against alcohol. The Soviet Union tried to educate the masses on the health risks of alcohol and how what sort of lives alcoholics live. Posters were created, literature was made, even songs were written about trying to live life in sobriety, or the dangers of drinking. Volunteer Temperance Societies were made to try and enforce these measures on the civil level. While there were successes with the anti-alcohol campaign, it proved to be too costly for the Soviet Union with the loss of revenue from alcohol sales tax. The campaign ended up only lasting for roughly two years, from 1985 to 1987.