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Vodka and the Russian Army and Economy – “The Guns of August 1914”, Barbara Tuchman

April 2nd, 2012 · No Comments · Communism, Economics, History, Policy, Politics, WW1

Vodka, another traditional companion of war, was prohibited (by the Russians). In the last mobilization in 1904 when soldiers came reeling in and regimental depots were a mess of drunken slumbers and broken bottles, it had taken an extra week to straighten out the confusion. Now, with the French calling every day’s delay a matter of life or death, Russia enacted prohibition as a temporary measure for the period of mobilization. Nothing could have given more practical or more earnest proof of loyal intention to meet French please for haste, but with that characteristic touch of late-Romanov rashness, the government, by ukase of August 22, extended prohibition for the duration of the war. As the sale of Vodka was a state monopoly, this act at one stoke cut off a third of the government’s income. It was well known, commented a bewildered member of the Duma, that governments waging war seek by a variety of taxes and levies to increase income, ‘but never since the dawn of history has a country in time of war renounced the principle source of its revenue’.

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