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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(hard drinking), immoderate consumption of alcoholic beverages, having an adverse effect on work, daily living, individual health, and the welfare of society as a whole. Occasional drunkenness includes isolated instances of intoxication and the use of alcohol at or before work, in public places, or by minors. Habitual drunkenness may be manifested either by frequent (two to four times a month or more) noticeable intoxication or by constant (two or three times a week or more) consumption of moderate quantities of alcoholic beverages with no noticeable intoxication. Both habitual and occasional drunkenness have pernicious effects on all aspects of the life of society and the individual: they impair health, cause antisocial behavior, damage production, and interfere with the upbringing of children. The most serious consequence of drunkenness is the development of a pathological addiction to alcohol, which is accompanied by mental and somatoneurological disturbances that result in degradation of the personality.

Alcohol has toxic effects on the brain, liver, heart, and other internal organs. It also has toxic effects on the endocrine glands, which frequently leads to sexual dysfunction in men and often impairs a woman’s ability to bear children. Drunkenness lowers the body’s resistance to toxic and infectious agents and is a frequent cause of accidents, at work and elsewhere. Mortality from somatic diseases is three to five times higher among those who abuse alcohol than it is among those who abstain from alcoholic beverages. Alcohol has been found to be toxic to the genetic apparatus: the physical and mental development of children of heavy drinkers is slowed, and the children often suffer from developmental anomalies and epilepsy. The probability of giving birth to children with birth defects is proportional to the length of time the parents have been hard drinkers. Intoxication is accompanied by a weakening of restraining influences, loss of the sense of shame, and loss of the ability to appraise realistically the consequences of one’s acts. It can lead to casual sexual relations, which often result in venereal disease.

Drunkenness interferes with normal social production. Drinking even small quantities of alcohol causes a 30-percent decline in the productivity of a skilled worker. The direct action of alcohol on the brain leads to excitement, aggressiveness, and the loss of inhibition of base desires, which cause lawbreaking and crime, particularly rape, hooliganism, and murder. As a result of the intellectual and moral decline caused by prolonged drunkenness, socially useful interests often give way completely to the constant craving for drink. Obtaining money to get alcohol becomes the leading and uncontrollable motive of behavior. Conditions are created that lead to a breakdown of family life because of personality changes, altered sexual capabilities of husband or wife, marital infidelity, and financial difficulties. Immorality in the family and the narrow range of interests result in a loss of respect for parents and unsociableness, bitterness, and moral and intellectual impoverishment among adolescents; this can eventually lead to antisocial behavior, unwillingness to study or work, attraction to alcohol, sexual promiscuity, and crime.

Efforts were made to combat drunkenness even in ancient times by educational measures and prohibitions. Drunkards were subjected to ridicule and humiliating punishment in ancient Egypt and Sparta, the sale of undiluted wine was prohibited in Athens, and use of alcohol by persons under 30 years was not allowed in Rome. All efforts to control drunkenness essentially aim to restrict the production and distribution of alcoholic beverages and combat the consumption of alcohol by the populace. To combat alcohol consumption, various antialcohol leagues and associations have been formed. The various organizations of the abstinence movement have become international in character and comprise networks of national branches that use the mass media to fight against alcohol. These organizations are responsible for the introduction of education on alcohol and alcohol abuse in American and Swedish schools. They also attempt to persuade the governments of certain countries and various local agencies to take administrative action against drunkenness, such as banning the sale of alcoholic beverages to minors. Efforts are made to limit the income of owners of businesses that produce or sell alcoholic beverages and to limit the quantity of alcoholic beverages served to a customer. The organizations favor the right of communities and local governmental agencies to introduce local bans against the sale of alcoholic beverages and to enact legislation (dry laws) limiting or forbidding production and sale of alcoholic beverages. The need to combat drunkenness in the developed capitalist countries is dictated by the intensification of labor and the need for maximum precision in production operations. The efforts fail for the most part because they do not eliminate the causes of drunkenness, which include lack of confidence in the future and loneliness caused by alienation.

In the USSR, drunkenness is controlled by a variety of educational, administrative, and medical measures and by social and state actions against persons unwilling to comply with the moral code of a socialist society. These measures are necessary because society is not yet fully protected against those who, because of an insufficient ability to adapt or intellectual immaturity, resort to immoderate consumption of alcohol. The goal of antialcohol education, which makes use of all the mass media, is to bring about a change in attitude toward alcohol and its abuse. Education seeks to make people see that abuse of alcohol is harmful to the interests of the state, family, and drinker and therefore incompatible with the morality of Soviet man. It relies on the influence of a raised cultural level among people and a properly developed social and moral orientation in the individual. Another positive influence is better organized leisure time, which includes the development of amateur activities, people’s amateur theaters, and the mass physical-culture movement.

Existing legislation limits the distribution of alcoholic beverages among the population. The decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR of May 16, 1972, On Measures to Intensify the Struggle Against Drunkenness and Alcoholism calls for reduced production of vodka and spirits. It limits the time at which alcoholic beverages—especially those containing more than 30 percent alcohol—may be sold and restricts the number of stores and public catering enterprises that serve alcoholic beverages. Those who drink in public are held administratively responsible. Persons addicted to alcohol can be deprived of prizes and certain supplementary social privileges by decision of administration and social organizations.

At the same time, efforts are being made to control the production of strong alcoholic beverages at home. Persons guilty of making or selling home-brewed vodka or other alcoholic beverages bear administrative responsibility; repeated offenses entail criminal liability. To prevent young persons from becoming hard drinkers, measures have been taken to forbid the sale of all alcoholic beverages to minors and prohibit minors from entering restaurants, cafés, and bars at night without an adult. Minors cannot be employed in jobs involving the production, storage, or sale of alcoholic beverages. The edict of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the RSFSR of June 19, 1972, and other legislation of the Union republics stipulate administrative responsibility for individuals guilty of contributing to the intoxication of minors, with a fine of up to 30 rubles. Inducing minors to become hard drinkers is punishable by deprivation of freedom for up to 5 years.

A decree of the Council of Ministers of the USSR of May 16, 1972, stipulates that no medical certificates for ambulatory or hospital treatment are issued when disease results from intoxication or is related to acts resulting from intoxication; it also states that temporary disability allowances are not paid. In accordance with Article 34 of the Basic Principles of Criminal Legislation of the USSR and the Union Republics, the commission of a crime while in a state of intoxication is an aggravating circumstance. By court order, an individual who creates serious material problems for his family because of his abuse of alcohol may be declared partially incapable and placed under a guardianship.


Bol’shaia meditsinskaia entsiklopediia, 3rd ed., vol. 1. Moscow. Pages 244-53.


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


See also Alcoholism.
self-indulgent in the pleasures of the senses. [Br. Lit.: Faerie Queene]
Admiral of the red
a wine-bibber. [Br. Folklore: Brewer Dictionary, 11]
Bacchus, priest of
a toper, perhaps originally because of ceremonial duties. [Western Folklore: Brewer Dictionary, 65]
Barleycorn, John
humorous personification of intoxicating liquor. [Am. and Br. Folklore: Misc.]
sold cheap whiskey in a log-cabin bottle. [Am. Hist.: Espy, 152–153]
Capp, Andy
archetypal British working-class toper. [Comics: Horn, 82–83]
mythical Flemish king; reputed inventor of beer. [Flem. Myth.: NCE, 1041]
Magnifico, Don
appointed Prince’s butler, oversamples his wines. [Ital. Opera: Rossini, Cinderella, Westerman, 120–121]
inebriated from wine, sprawls naked in tent. [O.T.: Genesis 9:20–23]
one of Bacchus’s retinue; fat, always inebriated. [Gk. Myth.: Hall, 283]
Sly, Christopher
identity changes during drunken stupor. [Br. Lit.: Taming of the Shrew]
Tam O’Shanter
stumbling home from the tavern sees witches dancing around open coffins in the graveyard. [Br. Lit.: Burns Tam O’Shanter in Benét, 985]
Vincent, St.
patron saint of drunks. [Christian Hagiog.: Brewer Dictionary, 1129]
Allusions—Cultural, Literary, Biblical, and Historical: A Thematic Dictionary. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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