History 19/02/20 “Dry law” of 1914: as Nicholas II struggled with alcoholism in Russia

Since the XVI century, the Russian Treasury was largely replenished by revenues from state-owned monopoly on the sale of vodka. The step taken by the last Russian monarch, immediately after the outbreak of the First world war, was at odds with the centuries-old tradition of the Russian state.

Global trend

Social movement for sobriety has developed since the mid-nineteenth century in many countries of Europe and America. It has not bypassed the party and Russia.
the Most powerful temperance movement appeared in the United States. At the forefront of the movement were Protestant preachers, who advocated a return to a strict Puritan traditions. There have been practical arguments: alcoholism leads to a decrease in the quality of labor, to the ruin of the workers and farmers. Already in the 1840-ies, some States have begun to impose restrictions on the production and sale of alcohol.
Initially, all such measures have been taken at the state level. Full, who introduced the “dry law” in the early twentieth century, there were 13 States, 26 acted different restrictive measures. But a growing number of supporters of the “dry law” at the Federal level. As a result, in 1920, prohibition in the United States was introduced by the amendment of the Constitution, that is, voted for him not only more than two thirds of congressmen, but more than three quarters of the States. It was repealed in 1933.
Around the same years (1919-1932) operated “dry law” in Finland. However, a pioneer in the introduction of “dry law” at the national level was Russia.

From trezvinsky riots to ban

Until the abolition of serfdom in 1861, the revenue from the vodka monopoly was obtained through the sale of private entrepreneurs payoffs – the right to manufacture and sell vodka in a particular area. Tax farmers, pre-paying the state a certain amount, then more than compensated for their costs for midrangeet sale to the public poor quality vodka at high monopoly prices. At the end of 1850-ies throughout Russia swept “tresenitsa riots”: farmers in many townships have agreed among themselves not to buy more bread wine and not to drink in taverns. The tax farmers began to suffer large losses, itself a lease system had long been outraged sane part of society. By the decree of Alexander II on June 4, 1861 repurchase was cancelled and allowed free trade of alcohol to all comers, upon payment of their excise duty.
However, the new system was not uncommon in the production of substandard alcohol. In addition, from the hands of the Treasury sailed an important source of income. This drew the attention of Sergei Witte, in 1893 became Minister of Finance. For his proposal to revive, but on a new basis, state monopoly on grain, the wine, Alexander III appointed him to this post. In the same year the monopoly was introduced in four “pilot regions” of the Urals and the Volga region, and by the end of the century was gradually extended to the whole country.
vodka Production could remain in private hands, but the right to trade it belonged only to the state. The patent for the production were given only to those breeders who were able to provide a high quality product. State-owned vodka monopoly gave in 1900, 28% of all budget revenues.
Nicholas II, proderzhaly Witte as Minister of Finance until 1903, initially supported this measure. However, it became more and more inflamed by the desire to instill in the Russian people sober. The last king perceived the painful pangs of the press (including the conservative, which was a bit) that the state budget is built de the people of soldering. More the king grew stronger conviction to introduce a “dry law”.

Decisive step

the state budget of the Russian Empire in 1914 was founded estimated revenue from liquor monopoly 1 billion rubles. For the previous three years, with the overall growth of welfare of the population, sharply – by 17% – increased consumption ande of vodka. Increased and household crime. It is particularly highly swept streets of St. Petersburg and Moscow.
the intention of the king to forbid in the future, both state-owned and private sale of vodka in ruling circles has long been known, but nobody thought that Nicholas II suddenly will strongly take up the case. At that time, the Council of Ministers headed by Vladimir Kokovtsov, the former more and the Finance Minister (a post he has held since 1906). Kokovtsov, for purely fiscal reasons, was a staunch opponent of the “dry law”.
by Rescript of January 29, 1914 Nicholas II dismissed Kokovtsov in honorable retirement. Even here secretive the king expressed genuine reasons for its move, explaining it by the fact that de Kokovtsov at 61 it is difficult to combine the two posts. The explanation is the more insincere that in place, Prime Minister king appointed the 74-year-old (!) Goremykina. It is clear that dignitary, all faithfully served the throne, painfully took the Royal command. Such steps are not added to Nicholas II respect in the environment of the high-ranking bureaucracy.
Expressed the opinion that only the beginning of the First world war prompted Nicholas II to introduce a “dry law”. In fact, it was merely a pretext. Kokovtsov’s resignation, when the war still did not smell, shows that the king was in any case going to conduct the specified measure in 1914.

the Implementation and consequences

Nicholas II laid a big role in the “prohibition” on the public. The first measure in this direction, announced July 18, 1914 – the first day of General mobilization – gave the Zemstvos and city Dumas (in the absence of the crown authorities) the right to restrict or even completely prohibit the sale of alcohol in their area. On all days of the mobilization, the relevant resolution was adopted by the local authorities almost all over Russia.
August 16, 1914, issued a decree of the Council of Ministers, prohibiting the manufacture and sale of any of the drinks (strong and fortified wine) with degree greater than 16, as well as the manufacture and the sale of beer stronger than 3.7 degrees. As you can see, this law probably should be called a “semi” than “dry”. By the decree of 16 September, 1914, on the initiative of the Minister for Finance P. L. Barca, this measure was established for the duration of the war. The king himself expressed that after the war is not going to allow the sale of vodka.
Since then, there have been disputes about what impact had the introduction of such a law in the midst of war. Treasury received less significant portion of the planned income. However, the first time significantly increased the productivity. Did the forced sobriety on the combat capability of the Russian army in the First world war? It is hardly possible to prove that she has affected for the worse. As it is impossible to unambiguously associate the revolution with the ensuing total “disillusionment” of the people. But speculation on this subject will be to go always.

Yaroslav Butakov

© Russian Seven

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