The Gorbachev campaign was an anti-alcohol crusade by the owner of the world’s most famous birthmark, Mikhail Gorbachev, the then General Secretary of the Communist Party. Known also as the ‘dry law’, the 1985—87 movement resulted in the rise of alcohol and the demise of wine shops, as 80% of the outlets were banned from trading.
Dare to be found intoxicated in a public place, and you’d be hauled into an alcohol recovery centre; the ‘police’ who worked these establishments receiving a nice little bonus as revenues rose. Soviet anti-alcohol posters appeared everywhere, the designers presenting the campaign message in the most graphic of manners. Depicting the dangers of drinking, words like hoodlum; hooligan; squanderers; thieves; and barbarians accompanied images of drunks literally trapped inside a bottle, caught in a spider’s web, or strangled by ‘the green snake’,.
Although there is evidence to suggest the reform had a positive effect on alcoholism, the economy was seriously damaged (the campaign a key contributor to the 1987 economic crisis) and it did precious little to change the world’s long-standing perception of the hard drinking Soviet Union. Furthermore, tens of thousands were dying annually as a result of poisoning; countless citizens turning to substitute spirits like cologne and even brake fluid, insecticides and de-icer. Nasty.
Bluntly named, ALCOHOL is a brilliant new publication by Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell’s graphic design and publishing company, FUEL, and takes the form of a 248-page hardback book complete with a splendiferous lenticular cover that is next-to-impossible to put down. ALCOHOL presents an exhaustive collection of unseen posters focussing on, but not restricted to, the 1985-initiated campaign; many demonstrating a familiar Soviet aesthetic, with some notable influence from the West’s designs of the day.