Alcohol Industry

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Alcohol Industry


a branch of the food industry that produces raw and distilled ethyl alcohol from raw food products, such as grain, potatoes, and molasses. The largest users of ethyl alcohol are the food, medical, and electronics industries. The chief methods of large-scale production of industrial ethyl alcohol are the hydrolysis of nonconsumable vegetable matter and various methods of chemical synthesis.

Alcoholic beverages obtained by fermenting sugar and starch substances were known in antiquity. Ethyl alcohol was obtained by distilling grape wine for the first time in Italy in the 11th century. Alcohol production—principally from grain—greatly expanded in Western Europe and Russia in the 14th century. In the 16th century, under Ivan IV the Terrible, vodka was taxed by the state. In subsequent years the importance of alcohol distillation as a source of state revenue continued to increase. With the development of capitalism, the number of alcohol enterprises in Russia grew, reaching 2,127 by 1895. Most were small private enterprises equipped with primitive machinery and situated near sources of raw materials. Approximately 150 large industrial alcohol plants arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1913 there were already 3,029 alcohol enterprises in the Russian Empire, and 55.2 million decaliters (dkl) of ethyl alcohol were produced.

The development of the alcohol industry in the USSR has been greatly stimulated by the growing demand for alcohol for industrial purposes. Large alcohol plants with Soviet equipment of the latest design have been built, including the Efremov Plant in Tula Oblast, the Petrovskii Plant in Ivanovo Oblast, the Mariinsk Plant in Kemerovo Oblast, the Lokhvitsa Plant in Poltava Oblast (Ukrainian SSR), the Dzhambul Plant in the Kazakh SSR, and the Kara-Baity Plant in the Kirghiz SSR. The production of ethyl alcohol from raw food products doubled between 1940 and 1974 (see Table 1). The largest producers during this period were the RSFSR (49.8 percent), the Ukrainian SSR (35.3 percent), and the Byelorussian SSR (6.4 percent).

Table 1. Production of ethyl alcohol from raw food products in the USSR (million dkl)

Since the 1940’s, new alcohol plants have been located closer to regions of industrial processing, and sugar-beet molasses has been used as a raw material along with grain and potatoes. In 1940 grain accounted for 68 percent of the alcohol produced, potatoes for 16.8 percent, and molasses for 15.2 percent; corresponding figures for 1970 were 50 percent, 9 percent, and 41 percent. New techniques were devised and introduced in the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s; they include continuous processes for crushing raw materials, heat treatment of raw materials, fermentation hydrolysis of starch, alcoholic fermentation, distillation and rectification of alcohol, and the advanced technique of using cultures of microorganisms and fermentation products to replace grain malt. Highly efficient machinery has been created for the boiling and vacuum cooling of intermediate products, and for saccharifi-cation, fermentation, distillation, and rectification. The quality of all types of rectified alcohol has increased, rectification wastes are now recycled for use, and production losses have been lowered.

Labor productivity in the alcohol industry rose by 63 percent between 1965 and 1974. In the 1960’s and 1970’s concentration of production in the alcohol industry has been accompanied by an increase in the production capacity of the existing alcohol plants and the formation of production associations. The following trends characterize the development of the alcohol industry: the industry-wide introduction of continuous processes, including heat treatment of raw materials, two-step vacuum saccharifica-tion, fermentation, distillation, and rectification; the intensification of production through maximum utilization of raw materials and the manufacture of not only alcohol but also other products important to the national economy, such as nutrient yeast, dry ice, and liquid carbonic acid; the use of diluent fermentation products; the industry-wide replacement of malt with complexes of amylolytic and other fermentation products; the introduction of automatic systems for the control of technological processes; the integrated automation of production; and the mechanization of loading, unloading, transport, and storage operations.

The following figures pertain to the production of ethyl alcohol in other socialist countries (1974, in million dkl): the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, 2.8; the Hungarian People’s Republic, 0.3; the German Democratic Republic, 4.1; the Mongolian People’s Republic, 0.1; the Polish People’s Republic, 24.9; the Socialist Republic of Rumania, 9.5; the Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, 13.3; and the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, 6.5. The technology of alcohol production is based mainly on batch processes. Dry and green malt and fermentation products are used as dilution and saccharification agents.

The largest producer of ethyl alcohol among the capitalist countries is the USA, where approximately 260 million dkl were produced in 1973. In the same year, Brazil produced 45 million dkl; the Federal Republic of Germany, 28.4 million dkl; Great Britain, 19.1 million dkl; Italy, 18 million dkl; and France 8.7 million dkl. The largest US firms producing ethyl alcohol for human consumption are Schenley Industries, Inc., Joseph E. Seagram and Sons, Inc., and Barton Brands, Ltd. In the Federal Republic of Germany, France, and some other countries, most plants producing ethyl alcohol for human consumption are part of a state monopoly system.


Klimovskii, D. N., V. A. Smirnov, and V. N. Stabnikov. Tekhnologiia spirta, 4th ed. Moscow, 1967.
Sivolap, I. K., A. L. Malchenko, and G. I. Fertman. “Iz istorii razvitiia tekhniki russkoi spirtovoi promyshlennosti.” In the collection Vkusovaiapromyshlennost’ SSSR, no. 1. Moscow, 1948.
Iarovenko, V. L. “Nauchno-tekhnicheskie razrabotki VNII produktov brozheniia.” Fermentnaia i spirtovaia promyshlennost’, 1974, no. 7.
Iarovenko, V. L. Osnovnye zakonomernosti nepreryvnogo spirtovogo i atsetono-butilovogo brozheniia. Moscow, 1975.
Spravochnik rabotnika spirtovoi promyshlennosti. Edited by P. V. Rudnitskii. Kiev, 1972.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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