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“Let's Smash It!” Mobilizing the Masses against the Demon Drink in Soviet-Era Health Posters

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The problem of drink and the consumption of alcohol, especially vodka, and its consequences in prerevolutionary and Soviet Russia have been well documented. Furthermore, historians of Russia have also analyzed the role of posters as a form of propaganda or as a means of generating support for the policies of the Soviet state. However, with the exception of Laura Bernstein and Tricia Starks, very few specialists on the Soviet era have explored the link between the two. This article aims to fill the gap by using visual illustrations to analyze the anti-alcohol health text and messages in Soviet posters from the 1920s to the end of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). The issues explored include: the historical context and other factors and how they shaped the content of the posters; the way posters were employed by the Ministry of Public Health and Soviet leadership to create a new way of life (novyi byt); how far and in what way these posters are a sign of the key health problems highlighted by the Soviet state and medical profession; and the types of appeal made. Finally, a critical assessment will be undertaken of the impact and effectiveness of these posters as part of a broader campaign of Soviet health promotion in relation to drink and alcoholism in Soviet Russia.

Keywords: Anti-Alcohol Campaigns; Body Soviet; Government Policy; Posters; Propaganda; Russia

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2012-12-01

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