Main Menu
User Menu

Military history website

Alcohol motivation in the Red Army

Author : 🕔14.11.2021 📕3.303
Our budget for 2021 : 85.000,- CZK Income so far : 83.494,- CZK
♡ Donate

Alcohol and the military

Alcohol. Cursed and damned, but also loved and revered. Another is the view of the family of an alcoholic and another artist who created a work of art under his influence. And completely different is the view of a soldier who was helped by a few sips of alcohol to displace terrifying experiences, the smell of blood, burnt flesh and rotting bodies. Or he just helped him fall asleep. Armies around the world have been aware of these important properties of alcohol for centuries. Of course, none of the armies wanted her soldiers drunk during the fighting. Because a drunk soldier behaves in most cases as a so-called unguided missile. He is much more difficult to subordinate to the commander's authority than a sober soldier, and moreover he is more prone to irrational behavior. On the other hand, the stress and difficult conditions on the front line apparently destroyed the soldiers' combat readiness. That is why most armies allocated alcohol to their members, but regulated its amount. And it's not just twentieth-century fabrication. Alcohol has been a part of soldiers' salaries or natural rations for centuries. From the point of view of our own history, the period of the struggle against the Turks in the 16th and 17th centuries is interesting in relation to alcohol in the army, in which the soldiers of the imperial army received wine as part of their salary. At the time, however, it was not so much an " antidepressant " as a substitute for drinking water, which was in short supply at the time. There were few wells in the farms. Well, it was not unusual at that time if there was a well in the yard and a septic tank a few meters away. And as a result, for centuries, people have been accompanied by various cholera epidemics and infections that originated in hygienically harmful water. Therefore, wine was valued as a safe drink to quench thirst.

British sailors on HMS King George are waiting for their allotment of rum, 1940.

Alcohol and the Russian Tsarist army

Before we go back to the 20th century and to the Soviet Union, which jumped straight from feudalism into building communism, let's take a moment to join the feudal, or also imperial, or imperial Russian army. Her command was also clearly aware of the importance of alcohol in strengthening the military's combat readiness, so it is not surprising that Tsar Peter the Great introduced alcohol spending to the team in the Russian navy in the seventeenth century. Another tsar, Alexander I, again in 1812 ordered that four regiments ( cup - 0.123 liters ) of vodka per week be issued to soldiers of lower ranks in guard regiments, which is almost half a liter of this fiery water. During the Russo-Turkish War of 1853-1856, other standards applied to the regiments that took part in the fighting in the Caucasus - three glasses of vodka a week for lower ranks ( 0.37 l ) and two for non-combatants ( 0.25 l ). At the same time, troops fighting in the Crimea, as reported in the " History of the 147th Samara Infantry Regiment ," " soldiers received half a kilo of meat and two cups of vodka ( 0.25 l ) daily to maintain strength. “. Even in units located far from the battlefield of this war, soldiers received " bread wine " according to war standards. Military infantry theorist and historian AM Zayonchkovsky wrote: " Portions of alcohol for lower-ranking soldiers were generally acknowledged in significant quantities, not only in exceptional cases or during intensive camp activities, but also to some units on an ongoing basis.For example, units located in the provinces of the Kingdom of Poland and some others received 156 glasses of vodka per year ”( 19.1 l ).

Finnish war

After the revolution in 1917, the new workers 'and peasants' red army rejected all the bourgeois experiences of its predecessor, and alcohol was officially taboo in it until 1939. That is, not if the soldiers stopped drinking, no. But if, just out of service. The only exceptions were members of submarine crews on longer voyages and also divers to whom alcohol was officially allocated in small quantities officially.

Until 1940, submarines and divers were the only ones who officially received alcohol during their service

The turning point came after being attacked by the size and population of small Finland, which refused to submit to the harsh pressure of its powerful neighbor. As a result, it did not end for fifty years as one of the Soviet republics, as happened to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. The Soviet Union had a huge human and material superiority over the Finnish army. In soldiers it was in a ratio of 3: 1, in tanks even 80: 1 ( ! ) And in aviation 5.5: 1. The Soviet Union prepared twenty-three rifle divisions with 450,000 troops, 2,000 tanks and 2,000 cannons to attack its northern neighbor. The Finns were able to pit 180,000 soldiers, 146 ( ! ) Planes and several dozen obsolete tanks against them. Despite this apparent disparity, reminiscent of the biblical struggle between David and Goliath, Soviet troops suffered catastrophic losses in human beings and technology in the first battles at the end of 1939. In addition to excellent strategic planning and the construction of the defense line by Finnish Marshal Mannerheim, the failure of the Soviet offensive was also affected by the extremely harsh weather. Temperatures on the Karelian Neck reached -40 ° C at that time, thanks to which not only technology but also people froze. In January 1940, People's Defense Commissioner Kliment Voroshilov was convinced of this during an army inspection, who immediately turned to USSR leader Joseph Stalin with a proposal that 100 grams of vodka and 50 grams of bacon be issued to soldiers and Red Army commanders a day. Tankers were to double the standard, and brandy was to be issued to pilots instead of vodka. Stalin agreed, and by order of the People's Commissariat of Defense ( NKO ), more than 10 tons of vodka and 8.8 tons of brandy were issued to troops from January 10 to early March 1940. And although the soldiers were this Stalin, respectively. Voroshilov's decision evaluated positively, from the practical, resp. from a medical point of view, this was a pointless step, because alcohol does not warm the body in winter. On the contrary, it causes the blood vessels to dilate, which causes the body to cool down more quickly. On the other hand, ingested alcohol dulls the pain after a possible injury and thus delays the need for rapid evacuation of the injured. Also, massaging frozen parts of the body with alcohol is one of the basic forms of first aid.

Frozen members of the Soviet ski unit on the Finnish front during the so-called Winter War

Since the decision to dispense vodka was enforced by the People's Defense Commissioner (narodnyj komissar oborony) Voroshilov, until then until the end of the Second World War, the alcohol provided was referred to as the so-called Drugomov or Voroshilov 100 grams.

The German is moving forward

After the end of the Finnish campaign in 1940, the dispensing of vodka and brandy to members of the army also ended. But not for long. As early as June 22, 1941, Hitler's coalition troops invaded the Soviet Union and rolled in seemingly unstoppable.Millions of Soviet soldiers ended up in the middle of the cauldrons, the besieged areas, and later in captivity. Millions more retreated more or less inwardly into their vast country. In this desperate situation, the country's leadership came up with a desperate idea to restore the vodka ration to its soldiers and commanders. On August 22, 1941, the State Defense Committee issued Order No. 562 " On the introduction of vodka into the supply of the fighting Red Army ", which began issuing 40 degrees of vodka in the amount of 100 grams per day per person for soldiers and commanders of the first-line, so-called fighting army. I desperately called this idea intentional. Because while in the Finnish frosts this idea had at least some kind of ration, in the August heat it could only have one goal. To dull the fear of the enemy, who moved forward unstoppably and acted as an invincible force.

A soldier in the rank of senior infantry sergeant drinks his "drug addict 100 grams".

During the war, the standards of extradition and the categories of soldiers who were entitled to " drug addicts " of 100 grams of vodka changed several times. The first change took place in the spring of 1942, and the final form of the change was given by the decree of the State Defense Committee of May 11, 1942. The other front soldiers were entitled to 100 grams of vodka only during public holidays, celebrations of revolutionary anniversaries or celebrations of the day of the establishment of their unit.

Order of the State Defense Committee of 11 May 1942

Another change in the standard took place on November 12, before the start of the offensive at Stalingrad. This change again emphasized that its release was associated with the support of soldiers in winter conditions. This time, all soldiers in the front line were entitled to 100 grams. That is, not just those who led offensive operations, as was the case under the previous legislation. For soldiers in the rear, which included construction battalions, regimental and divisional reserves, the dose size was reduced to 50 grams. The same number could receive injuries to the back, but only with the permission of medical staff.

A certain peculiarity was the Transcaucasian Front , where due to local traditions and climatic conditions, instead of vodka, they dispensed 200 grams of port wine or 300 grams of table wine to the soldiers.

The issue of alcohol dispensing was finally resolved by Decree-Law No. 3272 of April 30, 1943. According to him, the " front 100 grams " were again left only for units leading the offensive operations, while all other categories of soldiers received vodka only on holidays and anniversaries. In this form, the regulation was in force until the end of the war.

Consumption of vodka was purely voluntary in the army. Those who refused 100 grams received a monetary compensation of 10 rubles instead of vodka. A soldier who did not drink this month received about 300 rubles. However, due to the inflation caused by the war, the purchasing power of such a sum of money was low. Therefore, non-drinkers did not reject vodka and subsequently used it as a universal means of exchange for various things needed in everyday life.

Did alcohol help the soldiers, or did it do harm?

Opinions on the effect of alcohol on soldiers' combat capabilities vary. On the one hand, there are those who completely curse alcohol in the military and blame him for the fact that soldiers under his influence are less cautious and more often fall victim to the enemy. This is evidenced by the views of several veterans, captured in an excellent series of books by Russian historian Artyom Drabkin " Ja dralsja .. " ( I fought .. ). According to their memories, before the attack, an elder always ran through the trenches with a bucket of vodka and a glass. Who wanted to picked up and drank.Mostly young and inexperienced soldiers drank, who then headed head-on and fell in most cases. Older and more experienced soldiers knew that vodka before the attack was not very suitable. Especially in situations where the train delayed the unit and the soldiers did not get eaten. Drinking a blanket of alcohol, or two, on an empty stomach, with their nerves tense to burst for fear of an impending attack, this was a situation that could have caused a state of intoxication even from this amount of alcohol. Therefore, it could often happen that the infantry attacked drunk.

Cheers and victory!

Several pilots also mentioned that there were few of them who drank before the flight. However, most of them did not reject alcohol after the day of flight, especially at dinner, when he helped relieve the stress of combat flights and the grief of losing his fallen friends. And the award was always sung. Most often, the freshly awarded award was thrown into a glass of vodka and the cup was drunk decorated at ex. Only then could he pin the decoration on his blouse.

On the other hand, there are opinions that in incredibly difficult conditions of combat activity, especially in the winter, vodka was the only stimulant that helped survive the hardships of life in the front line. It was a means of allowing tired, exhausted people to attack again and again.

The truth will be, as it is in life, probably somewhere in the middle of these two perspectives.


Source selection:
Drabkin, A .: My dralis na bombardirovščikach, Časť I. Ja dralsja na Pe-2, Jauza, 2015 (Artyom Drabkin
Drabkin, A .: Ja dralsja na T-34, Jauza, 2020, ISBN: 978-5-00155-220-8 (Артём Драбкин:
Drabkin, A .: Tankists. My pogibali, sgorali Jauza, 2015, ISBN: 978-5-699-52016-9 (Art.

Similar articles

More articles from this author

Author : 🕔14.11.2021 📕3.303