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"Narkomovskie 100 grams", truth and fiction
"Narkomovskie 100 grams", truth and fiction

People's Commissar's 100 grams are one of the most mythologized pages of Russian military history. After the war, this practice was skillfully used by propagandists to create a cliché of an eternally drunk Russian soldier who thoughtlessly went into the attack.

Needless to say, this image of the Red Army soldier in propaganda perfectly fits the national stereotype about the relationship between Russians and alcohol. But what about the situation in reality?

People's Commissars 100 grams introduced into the Finnish war

The tradition of distributing alcohol among the troops and the navy existed long before the appearance of the Soviet Union. However, in general, there has always been a negative attitude towards alcohol consumption in the army. The Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army was no exception in this regard.

An exceptional situation was the state of affairs at the front during the Soviet-Finnish war of 1939-1940. After an unsuccessful offensive, the Red Army found itself in an extremely disastrous situation. Due to improper planning, the troops suffered large non-combat, primarily sanitary losses.

Poured into the forward detachments

An inspection of the People's Commissar for Defense Kliment Efremovich Voroshilov was sent to the front. As a result of the work of the commission, it was decided, among other things, to radically increase the rations and supply of Soviet soldiers.

Among other things, military personnel began to be obliged to issue 50 grams of lard, 50 grams of fat for rubbing on the skin, 100 grams of vodka in the infantry and 50 grams of brandy in the aviation and tank forces. The rations were increased to raise morale and reduce the number of frostbite (on the Karelian Isthmus that winter, frosts fell to -40). The soldiers greeted the proposal of the commissars with well-known enthusiasm, for which they immediately called 50-100 grams of alcohol "People's Commissars" in honor of Kliment Voroshilov.

In all other parts of the Red Army that were not involved in the Finnish front, alcohol was prohibited. Until 1941, there was no longer any issue of vodka among the troops. Already after the beginning of the Great Patriotic War, due to the extremely difficult situation at the front, an order was issued on August 22, 1941 No. GKO-562s "On the introduction of vodka for supply in the active Red Army." This order ordered to organize from September 1 of the same year the issuance of 100 grams of 40-degree vodka in all army units fighting on the first line. Once a day, soldiers and commanders were allowed to issue no more than 100 grams of alcohol.

After 1943, almost no poured

By the spring of 1942, the situation had changed. The order of August 22 was changed. Now 100 grams of vodka once a day could be given only to those soldiers who participated in offensive operations. Drinking alcohol was completely voluntary. According to the memoirs of veterans, only those who wanted to drink drank. Most often these were young, unharmed soldiers, as well as non-communist servicemen.

The "grandfathers" who were fired upon before the battle generally treated vodka badly at the front. By the summer of 1942, the rate allowed to issue 50 grams of vodka per day to workers in the rear and to the wounded in hospitals, if medical reasons permit. On the Transcaucasian front, instead of 100 grams of vodka, they gave out 200 grams of port or 300 grams of dry wine. Also, a portion of alcohol was allowed to be given out to all military personnel on the days of major public holidays.

After 1945, vodka was no longer issued

In 1943, the issue of vodka among the troops was greatly reduced. Pouring "People's Commissars" on a permanent basis was now prohibited. The issuance of 100 grams was allowed to be resumed only by decision of the councils of the fronts and individual armies. At the same time, the issue of 100 grams of vodka to all military personnel on the days of major public holidays was preserved. After the victory in 1945, all alcohol consumption in the USSR troops was abolished.The only exception was the navy, where to this day they issue 100 grams of dry wine.

Eyewitness accounts

There is no evidence that dispensing alcohol helped the war in any way. For medical purposes, alcohol was needed (disinfection of wounds, use as anesthesia in the absence of other means, and the like), but when taken internally, the "People's Commissar" was more in the way of fighting than it helped. It led to a significant increase in the inappropriate behavior of fighters, scattering of attention and concentration and, consequently, a strong deterioration in the fighting qualities of people, as well as an increase in the number of frostbite, since, contrary to popular misconception, vodka creates only the appearance of warming. Therefore, in the post-war years, this measure was subject to great criticism.

“We were given these notorious 'hundred grams' in the landing, but I didn’t drink them, but gave them to my friends. Once, at the very beginning of the war, we drank hard, and because of this there were heavy losses. Then I gave myself a vow not to drink until the end of the war … By the way, in the war, after all, almost no one was sick, although they slept in the snow and climbed through the swamps. Nerves were on such a platoon that no ailment took. Everything passed by itself. They did without a hundred grams. We were all young and fought for a just cause. And when a person feels that he is right, he has completely different reflexes and attitude to what is happening."

“In general, they were given them out only before the attack itself. The foreman walked along the trench with a bucket and a mug, and those who wanted to, poured themselves. Those who were older and more experienced refused. The young and the untrained drank. They died in the first place. The "old people" knew that one shouldn't expect good from vodka"

“I have fought since 1942. I remember that vodka was given out only before the attack. The foreman walked along the trench with a mug, and whoever wanted to, poured himself. First of all, young people drank. And then they climbed right under the bullets and died. Those who survived several battles were very wary of vodka."

“Enthusiastic poets called these treacherous hundred grams 'battle'. Greater blasphemy is hard to imagine. After all, vodka objectively reduced the fighting efficiency of the Red Army"

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