Battle for sobriety. How peasants declared war on vodka
Everyone knows that there has always been a special relationship with alcohol in Russia. Suffice it to recall the famous words attributed to Prince Vladimir in the adoption of Christianity: "We cannot relish Rus, without that being ...". However, for a very long time, for many centuries of Russian history, people drank, but could, as they say, “hold on”. They drank on holidays, on special occasions, drunkenness was severely condemned.
Sigismund Herberstein, the Austrian ambassador, who visited Moscow in 1517 and 1526, recalled:
However, in the 1552 year, Ivan the Terrible, taking an example from the Kazan Khanate, established taverns in Russia. And if in the Khanate in the taverns they ate and drank, that is, they were taverns, catering establishments, in Russian taverns they served only drink. At the same time, the fight against non-state trade in intoxicating drinks began. Trade in vodka and wine became one of the main sources of income for the state treasury, the benefit of the population in the Russian Empire was many and due to its soldering in the direct sense of the word it was possible to derive huge financial benefits. Therefore, it was decided that every male state peasant was assigned to a certain tavern and had to leave a certain amount there during the year.
Not all the peasants could or wanted to drink, but if they did not drink the established standard for a year and, accordingly, did not leave the necessary amount in the tavern, then the tavern owners, by virtue of their duty, collected the missing money from the sober and ulcer men. It turns out that even if a person for some reason did not drink or simply did not have time to consume the prescribed amount of alcohol, he still had to pay the cab.
State-imposed drunkenness has become a serious problem for the country. Following the peasantry drunkenness penetrated into the monasteries, the army. In serving people, drunkenness reached such proportions that many of them drank their uniforms and even weapon. Those of the dignitaries who sincerely were concerned about the situation, petitioned the kings, reported on the deplorable state of affairs, but the supreme power in the fight against alcoholism did not take any serious measures. It didn’t help even the fact that the boyar children themselves became subservient to the wine vice, who more often preferred reveling to learning the tricks of public administration and military science.
So Russia lived for centuries. Peasants and serving people drank and drunk, replenishing the state treasury. The state was rich in monopolies in the trade in intoxicating drinks. Kabatchiki had their own benefits, which the peasants hated, but to which they inevitably went to carry their money, and if not they did not come to the tavern, then the tavern would come to them.
The reason for popular indignation was the arbitrariness of the owners of pub houses, which was sanctioned by the state interested in increasing the cash flow from the trade in vodka and wine. For comparison: in 1819, the state received income from drinking fees in the amount of 22,3 million rubles or 16% state tax, and in 1859 year, forty years later, these revenues increased to 106,1 million rubles and amounted to 38% state tax. It was decided to increase the buy-out amount, which led to an increase in prices for vodka for the population in two - three times. At the same time, the quality of the vodka being sold has greatly deteriorated, which also could not but cause popular discontent. Tax collectors had a colossal profit by the standards of other traders - 110%, which was two to three times higher than the profits in other branches of trade.
People's reaction to the arbitrariness of the tax dealers did not take long to wait. Peasants were very unhappy with what is happening. The country began a spontaneous boycott of pubs, which gradually embraced the most diverse provinces of the Russian Empire. At the same time, the peasants in various regions acted in fact according to the same scenario - they refused to visit the pubs, buy alcohol, pay the cabbets a fixed amount of money for alcohol.
The sober way of life was becoming increasingly popular among the Russian peasantry. And we are talking about the most ordinary peasants, and not representatives of religious communities, among which drunkenness has always been censured. Peasants began to give up alcohol by whole villages. For drunkenness, community gatherings introduced corporal punishment, emphasizing that they “do not drink in our village”. Sobriety was a necessary measure, because the peasants saw how drunkenness destroys families, the habitual way of life of the communities, and impedes proper economic management. Therefore, rural communities began to take the most drastic measures. Near the taverns, the peasants set up guards that did not let in quite numerous people who wanted to drink inside the establishments. Those who did not obey the decision of the community, flogged.
The struggle for the sobriety of the peasants was supported by more educated sections of the population. Sobriety societies began to emerge in the country, the activities of which were soon banned by the authorities. As early as March 1858, the ministries of finance, internal affairs and state property issued an order to local authorities not to allow the creation of sobriety societies in the provinces, to refrain from consuming wine categorically to stop.
But the directives of officials unfolding the wave of popular sobriety could not be stopped. In December, 1858 was proclaimed a boycott of kabaks and alcohol in the Balashov district of the Saratov province, in December 4752. It was just one of the mildest episodes in the struggle for sobriety. 20 May 1859 of the year in the city of Narovchaty, Penza province, a crowd gathered at the bazaar, began to threaten pogroms of drinking houses. The police responded quickly and the most active protesters were immediately captured. However, the unrest has not stopped. Within three weeks, more than 50 drinking houses in seven counties of the Penza province were destroyed. Rural elders and district chiefs who tried to resist the pogroms of the taverns were beaten up. In the village of Ise, protesting peasants wounded an officer, in the city of Trinity attacked a military team.
Similar events took place in many other regions of the Russian Empire. In Nikolayevsk, the Samara province, peasants and otkhodnik workers crushed all drinking establishments, and the police, realizing that they could not resist the popular elements, chose to retire. The districts of the Orenburg and Simbirsk regions were in turmoil, with rumors among the peasants that the government was about to cancel the existing buy-out system, but the landowners resisted. Therefore, the spontaneous leaders of the protesters called first to smash the pubs and wine shops at fairs, and then get to the landlords, who allegedly stand behind the ransom system.
In Volsk 24 July 1859, the real riots began. A crowd of three thousand people staged a pogrom at the fair, breaking wine stalls. The guardians and policemen who were guarding the order could not cope with the crowd. Disabled teams and units of the 17 artillery brigade arrived to help the police. However, the rebels were able to disarm the police and soldiers and freed the prisoners of the local prison. The riots swept not only Volsk, but also Volsky and neighboring Khvalyn counties. The people's element was raging for several days, before the troops from Saratov were sent, who were able to restore relative order. 27 people were arrested, and in the counties - 132 people. Nevertheless, the damage to the treasury turned out to be significant - in two days 37 taverns were defeated in Volsky district. Naturally, the state immediately shifted the expenses of their restoration to ordinary people, imposing heavy fines on the peasants of the county, who were sent to restore the pubs.
Prince Vasily Dolgorukov, chief of gendarmes, reported to Emperor Alexander II:
As expected, officials preferred to immediately refer to external intrigues, rather than acknowledge the destructiveness of state policy for the country and its people. The chief of the gendarmes Dolgorukov reported to the emperor that in the Kovno province the Roman Catholic church was behind the emergence of sobriety brotherhoods, since the sobriety fraternity was established by Pius IX and now the Catholic priests in churches call on the people to join the sobriety fraternity. Under the influence of these brotherhoods, the Kovno province and more than half of the population of the Vilna and Grodno provinces found themselves. But if in the Kovno, Vilna and Grodno provinces the Catholics did make up the bulk of the population and therefore it was possible to discern the intrigues of the Vatican and its agents, then what about the original Russian and Orthodox provinces? Is there also a “pope's fault”?
In a memorandum, the chief of gendarmes reported that the sobriety movement began in the Saratov province, as we noted above, then spread to the Ryazan, Tula and Kaluga provinces, and soon the inhabitants of the Samara, Orel, Vladimir, Moscow, Kostroma regions joined the inhabitants of these provinces. , Yaroslavl, Tver, Novgorod, Voronezh, Kursk, Kharkiv provinces.
Temperance riots swept 32 provinces of the Russian Empire. 260 drinking establishments were crushed, and 219 of them were located in the provinces of the Volga region, which became the epicenter of unrest. Tens of thousands of peasants participated in the riots.
The scale of the speeches can be judged by the number of those arrested. Historian V.A. Fedorov talks about 780 arrested members of sober revolts. They were tried by the military courts, who, as punishment, appointed them with gauntlets and exile. The main part of the arrested accounted for state peasants, retired soldiers, burghers. Other sources call the far greater numbers of those arrested and convicted - up to 11 thousands of people.
Despite the harsh suppression, sober riots still led to certain consequences. In 1860, Alexander II decided to replace the buyout system with an excise system from 1863. However, the abolition of outposts did not lead to a real change in the situation in the field of drunkenness and the alcohol trade. The number of taverns in Russia grew rapidly and already several years after the transition from the payoff to the excise system increased six times, making up more than 500 thousand drinking establishments in all the provinces of the country.
The activity of supporters of sobriety continued to be viewed as seditious, undermining the economic foundations of Russian statehood. The ideas of sobriety, by the way, really actively exploited revolutionary organizations of a socialist kind at that time.
Only by the end of the 19th century did the authorities of the Russian Empire begin to realize the destructive scale and consequences of the alcoholization of the population. Drunkenness was inevitably followed by declining productivity, unemployment, begging, prostitution, crime, and suicide. Therefore, the state has ceased to interfere with the activities of societies and sobriety groups involved in organizing tea drinking, lectures, and charitable activities. But the state did not render support to these voluntary popular societies either, knowing full well the dependence of the country's income on trade in vodka. Rather, the activities of sobriety societies simply turned a blind eye, preferring not to notice them. Only in 1913, the last Russian emperor Nicholas II for the first time received a delegation of sober in Tsarskoye Selo.
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