Either, or. [Text on the bottle: Vodka]
P. Letunov. 1983. 400 x 550 mm

Stuff CrushPublications


The Soviet designers who tackled their hard-drinking public's demons one powerful poster at a time...

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.

ALCOHOL by FUEL: Soviet Anti-Alcohol Posters Book

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.


Soviet anti-alcohol poster: V. O. Pushenko

This is a shameful union — a slacker + vodka!
V. O. Pushenko, Ukrainian SSR. 1980. 440 x 290 mm

Soviet anti-alcohol poster: P. Sabinin

Rowdy partying ends with a bitter hangover.
[Text on the tattoo: I love order]
P. Sabinin. 1988. 480 x 650 mm

Soviet anti-alcohol poster: S. Smirnov

UNDERPASS — to the ‘next world’
S. Smirnov. 1988. 430 x 550 mm

Soviet anti-alcohol poster: I. M. Maistrovsky

Don’t drink your life away
I. M. Maistrovsky. 1977. 570 x 385 mm

Soviet anti-alcohol poster: The serpent has warmed up among us

Not among trees or grasses
The serpent has warmed up among us.
Don’t suck on him, mammals,
Or you’ll turn into a reptile yourself.
[On the snake are various labels from alcoholic drinks]
A. E. Bazilevich, Ukrainian SSR. 1972. 872 x 580 mm

Soviet anti-alcohol poster: E. Bor. 1985. 650 x 480 mm

Caption reads: We will overcome!
[on the ‘snake’: Alcoholism]
E. Bor. 1985. 650 x 480 mm

Soviet anti-alcohol poster: V. Zharinov

Fight drunkenness!
[Text on the bottle: Vodka]
V. Zharinov. 1977. 525 x 405 mm