How the Russian people were drunk

K. Vasiliev. Ilya Muromets and Gol tavern

The fight against drunkenness in Russia has a long history. The first sermon on this topic in Russian history, The Lay of Drunkenness, was composed by Theodosius of the Caves in the 11th century. It said that through the consumption of alcohol, a person drives away the guardian angel from himself and attracts the demon. Alcohol is one of the weapons of genocide directed against the Russian people.

From the history of alcohol

Alcohol has been known to mankind since ancient times. This is an Arabic word. Sometimes this word is translated as “the most exquisite, volatile and delicious.” But the correct translation is “alcohol”. The beginning of the purposeful production of fermented products containing alcohol (alcohol), many historians attribute to the time of the Neolithic revolution, the transition to a manufacturing (agriculture) economy, that is, about 10 thousand years BC. e. In Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Palestine, Greece, Rome and China, alcohol was produced and consumed.

Already in ancient times, the negative effects of alcohol on the physical, intellectual and spiritual health of a person were noted. In Ancient Sparta, the stronghold of the cult of warriors, there were lessons of sobriety. Young men were seated at the table, abundantly laden with food and wine, slaves were planted opposite, they overeat and drank. So they developed the attitude of aversion to gluttony and drunkenness among young Spartans. In the rest of Ancient Greece and Rome, they preferred to drink diluted wine (with an alcohol content of 2-3%) and only after 30 years, when healthy offspring were already born. Violators of the ban were expelled from the clan. And on his grave they could write: “He lived like a slave – he drank undiluted wine!”

That is, strong, undiluted wine could only be drunk by slaves, because drunken, dependent people are easier to manage. “A drunkard does not need a knife, / You will pour a little for him, / And do whatever you like with him!” The corresponding conclusions suggest themselves. Since ancient times, alcohol has been a method of control and a weapon of genocide aimed at the dependent population, slaves (consumers). It is clear that during the period of the disintegration of the ancient states of Greece and the Roman Empire, these prohibitions were forgotten, and the gentlemen in their behavior equaled the depraved slaves.

In ancient times, the extremely negative impact of alcohol on society and the state was noted. In ancient India, women who drank alcohol were severely punished. Alcohol was banned for an entire civilization – the Muslim world. In ancient China, even BC. e. there was a decree of the emperor, which was called “Notice of drunkenness.” It read: “Our people are extremely dissolute and have lost their virtue, which must be attributed to intemperance to the use of intoxicated products. Meanwhile, the destruction of states, large and small, occurred for the same reason – because of the use of these products. ” The drunkards were threatened with the death penalty.

Drink of the gods

At the same time, alcohol has been part of the spiritual culture of people since ancient times. In Latin, the word “spiritus” has two meanings – spirit and alcohol. Alcohol allowed a person to go into a different state of consciousness, into a trance, to cross the boundaries of the ordinary. All over the planet used grape and palm wine, berry juices and milk to create the “drink of the gods.” This was done by the priests who were introduced to the world of the gods.

As a result, these drinks were of cult significance. They were used only during the most important holidays (summer and winter solstice, spring and autumn equinox), in the most solemn and significant moments of human life. For example, during a funeral feast – a feast in memory of the deceased.

In Russia, this tradition has been preserved for many millennia. Russia did not know any other drink, except for pure water, red lead (infusion of various herbs in honey water, fermented in the sunlight), birch tree (made from birch sap), kvass, beer and mash. These drinks then had a strength of no more than 1.5-3%. There was also a special honey product. Fruit juice was made from the juice of the berries, then mixed with honey, poured into containers and kept for 5 to 25 years (sometimes up to 40). The so-called staged honeys turned out. The fortress of this product was already from 5 to 6%. This is a fairly strong and intoxicating product. A very small amount was enough for human consciousness to visit the “world of the gods.” But more often than not, regular mead was not fermented and was a non-alcoholic beverage.

That is, in the most ancient period, the Russian people remained sober. During the Scythian Empire, wine was brought from Greece. But it was used by an extremely insignificant layer of the Scythian-Russian nobility associated with the coastal Black Sea cities. The bulk of the Russians consumed non-alcoholic and low-alcohol drinks during the great holidays (in an insignificant amount – 1 cup, that is, 0.12 liters) and significant moments of life. The gene pool of the Russian people was healthy.

The switch to Greek wine and the emergence of alcohol

After the process of the baptism of Russia, a radical change in the cult drink took place, there was a transition to Greek wine – Malvasia, and then Cahors. We received communion with wine. The strength of the wine was already significantly higher than 11-16%. True, the people were still far from getting drunk. Firstly, Christianity has been established in Russia for more than one century. Wine was expensive. And it, like the intoxicated honey, was subject to a heavy duty. That is, they were practically inaccessible to the common people. For many centuries, wine was available only to a narrow stratum of the nobility and wealthy merchants (as in ancient Scythia). Thus, the sobriety of the people was preserved.

It is interesting that for the first time grape alcohol called “aquavita”, which means “water of life” (“living water”), was brought to Russia in the 1380s. During the reign of Dmitry Ivanovich Donskoy. The “water of life” was brought by Genoese merchants who had trade and military bases on the lands of Byzantium and in the Crimea. Grape spirit did not make much of an impression at the prince’s court. Russian people are used to using honey.

Italian merchants (Genoese, Florentines), Greek and Russian clergy began to massively import alcohol to Russia during the reign of Ivan II the Dark (ruled intermittently from 1425 to 1462), when Russia was engulfed in civil war.

Thus, a kind of revolution is taking place in the culture of drinking in Russia. Earlier, intoxicating drinks were part of the cult communion, the introduction of man to the “world of the gods.” Its use was a rare, exceptional moment of sacred rite. Honey was given by the priests during the holidays free of charge. Then intoxicated honey became an export product and a monopoly of the state, the common people practically did not see it (like wine, because of its rarity and high cost). Now the former sacred drink became formally public and not sacred. And earlier the cult drink was in the hands of the priestly estate, the Magi. Now it was owned not only by the Christian clergy, but also by the powerful and wealthy stratum. And alcohol could now be consumed at least every day, if there was an opportunity and means.

Tsar’s taverns

Alcoholic products with a high alcohol content, such as vodka (up to 40 degrees or more), appeared in Western Europe in the 13th century, and in the 16th century vodka already penetrates into the Russian state. From the middle of the 16th century, the production of vodka in Russia was established at special distilleries. Sovereign Ivan Vasilyevich founded the first Russian tavern in 1552. It was opened in Moscow only for guardsmen. But when he began to bring noticeable income to the treasury, such taverns were opened for other people as well.

At the same time, a ransom appeared, under which the state, for a certain fee, transferred the right to create taverns to private individuals (tax farmers). The dealers, having bought this right, set the prices and sales volumes themselves. This right was received by representatives of the clergy and nobility. They created a system of ransom taverns, which existed along with the royal ones. It was a very profitable venture. Raw materials were very cheap, bread in Russia was usually in abundance, finished goods exceeded the cost of raw materials tens and hundreds of times. The vodka was easy to transport, stored well and for a long time. The product is compact and well divided into parts. Thus, an extremely profitable business appeared, and a small social stratum was enriched by soldering a part of the people.

The highest supervision over the sale of wine and vodka in taverns was first entrusted to the tsar’s governors, then it was under the jurisdiction of the orders that governed the regions. For this in Moscow and the cities numbered to it, a special institution was created in 1597 – a new couple (a quarter). By decree of 1678, it was transformed into the Order of a new quarter. This was the first state monopoly. Under Alexei Mikhailovich, the taverns were ruled by the Order of the Grand Palace and the Order of the Big Treasury. Alcohol was sold by faithful kissers and heads, chosen mainly from merchants and people of “first articles”, or tax farmers. Under Peter the Great, they were replaced by tavern stewards, who were subordinate to the burmister’s chamber.

Strong wine and vodka began to have a destructive effect on society and the state. Vodka destroyed the moral, cultural and social foundations of society. For example, at this time a special layer of tavern drunks appears (tavern gol, tavern yaryzhki), whose whole life was reduced to obtaining funds for drinking. Classics: “Stole, drank, to jail!” They formed detachments of thieves-robbers, the townspeople “bottom”, ready for any crime for the sake of a bucket of vodka.

From that moment on, the confrontation between Russian society and the authorities began, which believed that alcohol was, first of all, profit. For example, in Russian folklore there is a strong image of Ilya Muromets (all epics of the 15th – 17th centuries, where Ilya Muromets is mentioned), who smashes the tsarist taverns and treats the roll coals. The church at this time also actively opposed the soldering of the people. However, the state believed that alcohol was a high income. Therefore, the kisselovalniki received instructions: “The drunkards from the tsar’s taverns should not be driven away at all, and the kruzhniy tax should be handed over to the tsar’s treasury against the past with a profit.”

The financial abuse of tavern heads, a sharp decline in the quality of vodka, the devastating consequences of drunkenness for the people (usury and even the disruption of sowing crops) led to “tavern riots” in a number of Russian cities. As a result, Tsar Alexei Mikhailovich in 1649-1650. convened the Zemsky Sobor (a cathedral about taverns). An attempt was made to reform the drinking business in Russia. So, it was forbidden to sell grain wine (vodka) on credit, which led to the enslavement of people; private and secret taverns were liquidated; the church’s agitation against drunkenness intensified. At the suggestion of Patriarch Nikon, it was decided to sell only one glass of alcohol per person 4 days a week, and an hour before the commencement of Mass, the sale should be stopped altogether. True, such half measures did not last long. It took only a few years, and everything returned to normal. A decree was issued, according to which the widespread sale of alcohol was allowed, “in order for the great sovereign to make a profit for the treasury.” This is how the “drunken” budget was born in Russia.

To be continued…

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