Gorbachev admits mistakes made in anti-alcoholism campaign 30 years ago

The anti-alcoholism campaign held in the former Soviet Union 30 years ago was a mistake; it should not have been so drastic, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has said.

Mikhail Gorbachev. Source: Reuters

The anti-alcoholism campaign held in the former Soviet Union 30 years ago was a mistake; it should not have been so drastic, former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev has said.

"In my opinion, the anti-alcoholism campaign was a mistake, considering the manner of its holding. The shutdown of [liquor] stores, especially in Moscow, went to extremes. There were huge lines. A rise in the illegal production of homemade distilled spirits. There was no sugar available in stores. We should have held a long-term fight against alcoholism rather than that campaign," Gorbachev said in an interview published by Komsomolskaya Pravda on May 15.

The anti-alcoholism measures, which the Soviet Communist Party Central Committee had been discussing for six years, were aimed to reduce high levels of alcoholism in the Soviet Union, he said.

"You should understand that people had been drinking alcohol to excess in the years before the campaign was launched. Brezhnev was receiving bitter letters from citizens who said that everyone was in a bout of drinking, children did not know their constantly drinking and missing parents and parents did not remember their children. There were divorces everywhere," Gorbachev said.

In his opinion, anti-alcoholism measures still had a positive result.

"True, we had obvious shortcomings, such as budget gaps and long lines. But we had some positive effects too; the death rates declined and the birth rates went up. Some 1.6 million people less died during the years of the anti-alcoholism campaign than in the previous years. The number of industrial and road accidents fell drastically," Gorbachev said.

He noted that the campaign had to stop because of growing losses of the budget and the public discontent.

"Society cannot be sobered up in a snap. This will take years. And the fight should be ongoing, constant. I think the fight against alcoholism should continue even now. Things will be even worse if stop doing so," Gorbachev said.

 

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