Budem zdorovy! Soviet Era Anti-Alcohol Posters

by Matt Forcey

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According to Christina Gathmann, a post-doctoral fellow with Stanford University’s Center for Health Policy, this anti-alcohol campaign started in 1985 as a top-down decision from Mikhail Gorbachev, ostensibly because he was always drinking water while his fellow government officials had a preference for other beverages. 

Gorbachev felt the need to do something about the drinking culture, especially due to the high mortality rates from alcoholism in Russia.  In addition to reducing alcohol production and imposing limits on distribution, the government created this fantastic propaganda, designed with simple bold shapes and colors to get the message out.  During this era, Constructivism design (a geometric abstract art movement in Russia) was heavily used in commercial art.  Constructivism was greatly influenced by the Bauhaus movement in Germany.

Unfortunately for Mikhail, the campaign wouldn’t last long.  You see, his government received more than 10 percent of its revenues from taxes on alcohol sales.  So, even though the anti-alcohol policy might well have been effective in reducing alcoholism and increasing life expectancy, due to the sharp decline in tax revenues, it was not itself sustainable.

All images are from the personal collection of Moscow-based designer, Yuri Matrosovich

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