What did Soviet leaders drink?

Kira Lisitskaya (Photo: TASS; Gamma-Rapho/Getty Images)
Unlike Stalin, Khrushchev or Brezhnev, Lenin was almost a teetotaler.

1. Vladimir Lenin

Lenin and a jug of his favorite Hoffbrau

The founder of the Soviet Union was indifferent to wine and hard liquor, but loved beer. When he lived in Munich during his first emigration (1900-1905), Lenin regularly went to the ‘Hoffbrau’ beer house. Nadezhda Krupskaya's memories confirm that Lenin drank beer not only in Munich. "Sometimes, in Paris, he would sit down with the workers, order a small jug of dark beer and the whole evening would talk about urgent tasks," Lenin’s wife recalled.

There is evidence that Lenin also drank vodka. Finnish communist Yrjö Sirola once had lunch with Lenin in a restaurant in 1910. "When the carafe of vodka in a circle reached us, I asked Lenin, ‘Will you allow yourself a shot before dinner?’" - ‘My party does not forbid it,’ was the reply," Sirola recalled.

2. Joseph Stalin

Stalin pouring himself some... water during a speech

As a true Georgian, Stalin loved classical Georgian wine – ‘Khvanchkara’ and ‘Kindzmarauli’, – and, in the last years of his life – ‘Majari’, a young, homemade wine saturated with carbon dioxide. Stalin dubbed this drink "juice for children". 

However, when it came to formal occasions, Stalin was capable of consuming significant amounts. Air Marshal Alexander Golovanov recalled how Stalin drank cognac with Churchill: "I saw in the hands of the British Prime Minister a bottle of Armenian cognac. After examining the label, he filled Stalin's glass. In response, Stalin poured the same cognac for Churchill. Toasts followed one another. Stalin and Churchill drank in line. When the meeting came to an end, Churchill left the room, supported under the arms."

Joseph Stalin, standng with Britain's Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Foreign Minister Anthony Eden, makes at toast at Churchill's 69th birthday party, in Tehran, Iran, Nov. 30, 1943.

According to the memories of Golovanov, after this feast Stalin told him: "Do not worry, I will not drink Russia away. But, Churchill will be out of his mind tomorrow when he is told what he has babbled here... When big state affairs are done, any drink should seem like water to you and you will always be on top. All the best," and, as Golovanov recalls, "he left the room with a firm, unhurried gait".

3. Nikita Khrushchev

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (left) drinking with Charles E. Bohlen, the US Ambassador to the Soviet Union, at an official function, circa 1955.

Coming from a working family, Nikita Khrushchev favored strong drinks – vodka and cognac. Under him, specialists from ‘Moscow Metrostroy’ were sent to the Crimea to build underground galleries and cellars for the ‘Koktebel’ winery – Khrushchev wanted the USSR to produce wines and cognacs that were not inferior in quality to European ones.

There are memories of how, in December 1963, Khrushchev invited Finnish President Urho Kekkonen to his residence in Zavidovo near Moscow. At dinner, Khrushchev ordered ‘Stolichnaya’ vodka to be served not in shot glasses, but in champagne flutes. At the end of the feast, the guards led Khrushchev away under his arms and Kekkonen, a famous athlete in his youth, nonchalantly poured himself another full flute of vodka and drank it with the words: "One for the road".

4. Leonid Brezhnev

General Secretary of the Soviet Communist Party Leonid I. Brezhnev, (L) offers a toast to President Richard Nixon following the signing of the Strategic Arms Limitation Pact between the U. S. and the U.S.S.R., 1972

According to legend, Leonid Brezhnev loved the saying: "Life is beautiful and wonderful if you wet your throat beforehand". His favorite drink was ‘Zubrovka’ – a vodka tincture on the ‘Zubrovka’ (Hierochloe odorata) herb.

READ MORE: What cars were in Brezhnev's garage? (PHOTOS)

French actress Marina Vlady, the last wife of Vladimir Vysotsky, recalled that Brezhnev shared with her a "recipe" for drinking strong drinks in three parts: 50 milliliters, then 100 milliliters, then another 150 milliliters. It is hard to believe, however, that Brezhnev, a physically strong man who had been through World War II, stopped at three hundred milliliters. It is rumored that Leonid Ilyich used his favorite ‘Zubrovka’ to wash down his prescribed pills during the last period of his life.

5. Mikhail Gorbachev

Nancy Reagan lifts her glass in a toast to Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev at the state dinner at the Kremlin in Moscow, May 30, 1988.

In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev, the last general secretary of the CPSU Central Committee, introduced prohibition, but he was not a teetotaler himself. Born in Stavropol, he knew the culture of long wine feasts. Leonid Kravchenko, director of the USSR State TV and Radio Theater in 1985-1991, recalled: "At first, Mikhail Sergeevich did not drink much at all. Then he started to enjoy wine and cognac." Among cognacs, Gorbachev preferred the Armenian ‘Yubileynyi’.

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