The Day Russia Completely Ran Out Of Vodka
When many Russians celebrate, they tend to do so with a vengeance — not that anyone could blame them after all that they had been through by the time May 9, 1945, rolled around. During WWII, many German atrocities were carried out in Russia, leaving the country's people overcome with grief after spending years being physically and mentally beaten down, literally starved by war and dictatorship, and — on top of it all — many were completely terrified of what may come next. Then it happened: Deep within the grips of war, depression, and hopelessness, Hitler's Germany finally surrendered and the whole world rejoiced — especially Russia.
The Russians celebrated the end of WWII so successfully that they somehow managed to completely run out of vodka. The country-wide party quickly turned into a nationwide hangover, followed by the sad realization that they were completely tapped out of the very product that their national budget relied upon. In a few parts of the world, it was simply May 9, 1945. For most, it will forever be known as a day of victory. For others, it was the day Russia threw a huge party and ran out of vodka.
A Global Sigh Of Relief Was Released At The End Of WWIIPhoto: alexaleutians / flickr / CC-BY-NC 2.0
It was on May 7, 1945, that Germany officially surrendered to the pressure of the Allies and called off its armed forces. The good news quickly spread across the world and one by one the United States, Canada, France, Britain, Italy and everyone else stopped everything they were doing to celebrate this global victory. And then Russia found out.
Once News Reached Russia, They Decided To Show The World How To PartyPhoto: Australian War Memorial collection / flickr / No known copyright restrictions
It was 1:10 am on May 9, 1945, when the news finally broke in Russia. The radio suddenly crackled to life with the voice of Radio Moscow’s chief announcer, Yuri Levitan: "Moscow is speaking," it began, "Fascist Germany is destroyed!" It was at this moment the Russians decided to show the rest of the world how to really celebrate the end of WWII.
Russia Set Sail On A Sea Of VodkaPhoto: John H. Boyd / Wikimedia Commons
An impromptu celebration of such magnitude called for a drink, or four. It took 22 hours before the country suddenly found itself faced with yet another crisis: They had completely run out of vodka. Before Joseph Stalin could even officially announce the German surrender, the country had already run out its alcoholic beverage of choice.
Even Those Reporting On The Festivities Took The Time To Participate
Adolph Hitler no longer lived and WWII was over, so let there be peace and hangovers for all. In less than a day, the entire country managed to drink itself dry. A reporter later wrote, “I was lucky to buy a liter of vodka at the train station when I arrived, because it was impossible to buy any later ... There was no vodka in Moscow on May 10; we drank it all.”
The War Didn’t Stop Vodka ProductionPhoto: Wikimedia Commons
Vodka production didn't stop during the war. In fact, it had been integral to Stalin’s national defense strategy and the Soviet budget was dependent on it. One would have thought that there would be more than enough vodka to go around, especially after Stalin insisted that the government “directly and openly promote the greatest expansion of vodka production possible for the sake of a real and serious defense of our country.” Apparently, there was not.
The Russian Vodka Supply Always Took PrecedencePhoto: A History of Russia / Anthem Press
The depletion of the vodka supply becomes especially shocking when considering how its production has historically taken precedence over everything else, including food. Even in times of famine, the production of vodka remained steady. In his book, A History Of Russia, Walter Moss described a time of famine in the 1930s:
“Stalin ensured that sufficient grain and potatoes were still available for vodka production, and vodka revenues in this period provided about one-fifth of government revenues.”