Dec 29, 2020
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Where did the nervous people go in Moscow? Vodka as medicine and a frightening unknown

In 1941, when the Germans stood at the walls of the capital, there were queues for alcohol. And sobering-up stations were working

They drank on Ruki always, at all times. They brought drunk citizens to their senses in different ways, and from the beginning of the 20th century – with the help of sobering-up stations.

In pre-revolutionary Russia, they were a rarity – then such establishments were called “Shelters for the drunk,” and in the Soviet Union they became commonplace.

The sobering-up stations also worked after the collapse of the USSR. However, ten years ago, on January 1 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared invalid the order of the USSR Ministry of Internal Affairs from 22 May 1985 of the year “On the approval of the Regulations on the medical sobering-up center at the city district organ of internal affairs and the Instructions for the provision of medical assistance to persons delivered to medical sobering-up centers.”

Sobering-up stations began to be abolished everywhere, and in 2011 the last one was closed. I would like to ask a lot of questions to the former head of state Medvedev: “Why did you do this, Dmitry Anatolyevich? Are there really fewer drunks? Or did the citizens who had gone overboard become quiet and calm, stopped hooliganism, swearing and falling asleep in the streets? ”

I am sure that Mr. Medvedev would not have been able to clearly answer these and other questions. Maybe he decided that sobering-up stations are an old, unnecessary phenomenon? Besides, the legacy of the collapsed Soviet system long ago, from which we urgently need to get rid of? Or was the president convinced that there was much less drinking in Russia, and very many citizens just recently, having handed over their last bottles, even “tied up”?

Unknown. It is only known that the leaders of our country do not live in reality, but hover in some kind of parallel worlds. Therefore, their decisions often look very strange. This example is one of many of this kind.

Soon after the closure of the sobering-up centers, more and more people began to talk about the need to open them again – the drunks freeze, die, they are robbed. The protesting voices sounded more and more often, and, finally, the State Duma has developed a bill, which was recently approved. The document allows, from the New 2021 year, to restore the sobering-up centers. Police officers have the right to bring drunks into them.

Drank with joy, whipped with grief

Let’s digress from reality. Fast forward many decades back to the war years. Did you drink a lot during the Great Patriotic War in Moscow? Where did you get the alcohol? And what about the sobering-up centers? ..

21 June 1941 after the speech of the People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Vyacheslav Molotov, in which he reported on Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union, people rushed to the savings banks. But only a few managed to withdraw their deposits. On the same day, a restriction was received – no more than two hundred rubles could be withdrawn from accounts.

Huge queues arose in stores. They bought mainly wartime “sets” – salt, matches, kerosene (there was no gas in many houses, they used kerosene stoves). They swept away cereals, pasta, flour, canned food from the shelves. Bending under the weight of purchases, they hurried home, then again ran to the shops, got up in anxious and excited buzzing lines. The main thing is to provide the family with the most necessary, everything else later!

Some were convinced that as soon as our best units arrived at the front – infantrymen, tankmen, pilots, cavalrymen, the Germans would have a bad time. Victory reports will pour out of the black dish of the radio and it will be possible to breathe more freely, wider. In addition, workers and peasants will rise up in Germany, who, of course, with their souls and hearts with the Soviet people!

But these “optimists” were not really believed. In addition, there were many who experienced the exhausting and bloody First World War on their own experience. These aged veterans knew that the Germans were excellent soldiers and it was not easy to defeat them …

The liquor stores were also filled with buyers. They drank out of grief – from the fact that they would have to go to war and what will happen next, no one knows. They raised glasses, wine glasses, glasses for the Red Army, wise Stalin, who will certainly lead the people to victory.

Ahead is a frightening unknown

“Covered with covers, anti-aircraft quadruple machine guns are being carried along Mozhaika,” wrote in his diary 22 June 1941 writer Arkady Perventsev. – On three-axle trucks – boxes of cartridges. The boxes bear fresh stamps. There are many idle people everywhere. Fun. Lots of drunks. This is already outrageous. ”

Probably, the writer was a very correct person – an ideologically consistent, ardent communist. If trouble comes, you must meet it with unshakable determination. Close ranks, unfurl banners, pick up rifles and go to crush the enemy …

However, at that terrible time it was difficult to drown out the heavy melancholy that penetrated into the soul of everyone – what will happen to us next !? Many drowned it in wine and vodka, trying to forget, to be distracted – at least for a short while …

Men and women drank, then sang, danced, danced to the sounds of accordions and gramophones – in houses, on faces, in courtyards, squares. They laughed and cried. They poured over and over again, talked, sang again. They laughed less, they were more silent and gloomy.

Seeing off to the army began. Some of them were quiet, modest, while others were noisy and crowded. Cafes, restaurants, kebabs were filled. There were no difficulties with food yet, and therefore many did not spare money and ordered expensive meals and drinks. Ahead was a frightening unknown …

According to the testimony of the Moscow ambulance doctor Alexander Dreitser, who during the Great Patriotic War went on calls, nervous diseases were added to traditional diseases. There have been more attempts at suicide. People worried about their loved ones at the front, relatives and friends who fell into the occupation. In July 1941, the terrible bombing of the capital began. The cure for the emotions was traditional – alcohol …

Moscow sobering-up centers, which, by order of the People’s Commissar of State Security Lavrenty Beria, were withdrawn from the People’s Commissariat of Health and subordinated to the NKVD, worked with increased workload. Dr Dreitzer and his colleagues used to take other patients there. Here’s one of the cases:

“In Orlikov Lane, in a small house, there is a sobering-up station. It’s dark outside, but the driver knows the exact place and stops the car at the door. We hardly manage the patient, he rests, swears, enters into a fight. The police officers and paramedics on duty, experienced people, quickly tame him: they knock him down on the floor, a towel dipped in ammonia, put into his hat and put on his face. A wild cry, but it’s already half tamed. It is handed over to two hefty women dressing room. They knock him down on the sofa and strip him naked in one minute … “

By the fall of 1941, sobering-up stations began to close – his employees were transferred to other places. They hung the locks on the doors of the special institution on Poteshnaya Street, and the sobering-up station in Serebryany Pereulok near Arbat, which used to be a bathhouse for metro workers, stopped working.

Slogan of the day: bread and wine

The production of alcoholic beverages decreased and countless queues began to line up for it. This was the case even when the Germans approached Moscow. Here is an excerpt from the diary 1941 of the journalist and writer Nick Olaya Verzhbitsky:

“16 October people already from four o’clock in the morning took queues for bread … Near liquor stores – a crush: they are selling draft wine. In Cherkizovo, in Glavspirt they sold vodka – there the crowd crushed two old men to death … “

Another entry by Verzhbitsky from 21 October 1941: “Preobrazhenskaya Square. Noon. The “panic” has been experienced. People are no longer rushing about, they again lined up again in line. Behind the clouds, terrible machine-gun fire. Airplanes are buzzing, windows are shaking, three hundred meters from the store on the banks of the Yauza, anti-aircraft guns begin to roar angrily and deafeningly. High-explosive bombs are thumping somewhere. But nothing has changed in the square. Queues stretched out motionless, especially the big one for port (21 rubles 60 kopecks half a liter), the line for sparkling water did not flinch. At the shop window, a handful of attentively read newspapers under glass that we are retreating near Maloyaroslavets. At the bus stop, a young man reads Tsensky’s Sevastopol. The sounds of Borodin’s “Heroic Symphony” are flying from the horn.

A drunken one weaves. The Red Army men are drawing beer. Where have the nervous people gone in Moscow? ”

How does this picture not fit with books about the war, memoirs, articles that argued that everyone, without exception, was covered by patriotism! Yes, the townspeople gave a lot of energy to fight the enemy. But these forces were not limitless. I was overwhelmed by fatigue, apathy crushed, I wanted to spit on these damned bombings, difficulties, hardships and … get drunk. You can’t be damn tense all the time!

The authorities understood this. Otherwise, why in October 1941, alcohol was regularly supplied to the distribution network? And where do these countless queues come from, if, as it was argued, the workers literally did not leave the machines, working on 10 – 12 hours? So, after all, not everyone worked for the front and victory?

Another testimony is from the Moscow ethnographer, historian Pyotr Miller:

“The enthusiasm of the Moscow population is not visible. “Barricades” or “anti-tank structures” are erected without enthusiasm and even without skill: no one is curious, everyone silently and quickly passes by, and the military smile and sometimes say that this is all nonsense. And another feature in the behavior of the inhabitants: monstrous queues near drinks (they sell bad grape wine) and the desire to drink everything; I was faced with the fact of making a drink from … Lenol, purchased as a pharmaceutical preparation “

Another sharp, unexpected touch and complete dissonance with our ideas about the disturbing autumn 1941 of the year: like a hungry dog ​​bone. It is not at all felt that in 60 – 100 there are amazing battles, the half-ring of the enemy is getting closer and closer to the capital “. These lines are from Verzhbitsky’s diary …

Everyone was waiting for the New Year again

14 October 1941, when Moscow was, in fact, thrown to the mercy of fate by the country’s leadership, looters roamed, They robbed shops with wine and vodka, emptied warehouses with alcohol. Drunken robbers roamed the streets, dragging stolen food. Only a few days later the police took on them and the looters began to be shot on the spot …

Since it was difficult for ordinary citizens to get alcohol, and in the market vodka and moonshine brought from villages and villages were insanely expensive, the people went into all seriousness. Colognes and various technical means with the addition of alcohol were used, more precisely in the mouth. The doctors managed to save some poor fellows, for others such a “feast” was the last.

Dreitzer’s diary entry from 16 November 1941: ” 10 pm. In his apartment lies a drunken gr. T. 41 years. Drank a bottle of denatured alcohol. A large family watches with tears in their eyes as we wash his stomach. A little girl comes up to me and asks:

“Save daddy, he’s kind, he won’t drink this stuff anymore! ..”

Another testimony of an ambulance doctor: “Home call. Male 37 years old. Drunk. Drank a few bottles of Dandruff & Hair Remover. Khimfarmtrest label.

… In December 1941, the Red Army launched a counteroffensive near Moscow, and the Germans turned back. Every day the radio brought news of victory, and people, as in the old days, waited for the New Year. They were eager to see off the old, forty-first, which brought so much trouble and suffering to everyone …

It was 31 December. On the streets of Moscow, in the metro, there are many people, they smiled and laughed, as in peacetime.

“Most of them travel in companies, make appointments at such and such a station, at such and such a carriage,” historian and archaeologist Mikhail Rabinovich recalled in the book “Notes of a Soviet Intellectual”. – And almost everyone has bags, large and small: sometimes a bottle is clearly visible, although not drunk it is a holiday. Moreover, everyone is in a hurry: they are afraid of not getting there by midnight … ”

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