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alcohol and its impact on society were to a large degree driven by short-term considerations of fiscal expediency, i.e., the need to provide the state treasury with steady alcohol-related revenues.2 Supporting these policies were several vague and simplistic notions shared by central Soviet authorities and the Communist Party.
First, it was firmly believed that heavy drinking and alcohol abuse were historical products of bourgeois-capitalist institutions and as such should ultimately disappear in a ''classless" and "conflict-free" socialist society. The alcohol issue was thus never very high on the government agenda. What alcohol abuse remained in the new Soviet society was viewed as stemming from character flaws of the individual, absence of personal willpower, peer pressures, alien (foreign) influences, and the like, but was not believed to be related to systemic features of the society. Contrary to all evidence (and disregarding cause-and-effect considerations), it was also assumed that alcohol abuse and heavy drinking were associated with low educational, "cultural," and income levels. Thus, projected progress in education at all levels and planned increases in real income were optimistically expected to reduce drinking and to eradicate alcohol abuse.
It was believed further that deviant behavior, social disruptions, economic and violent crime, and other consequences of heavy drinking and alcohol abuse could be effectively contained by restrictive and penal measures, controlled by law enforcement agencies, and corrected by appropriate educational and popular propaganda programs. The responsibility of medical institutions was confined to treatment of the worst clinical cases of alcoholism, alcohol-related cirrhosis of the liver, and alcohol psychoses. The need for involvement of medical, public health, educational, legal, and social organizations in prevention, counseling, and rehabilitation of heavy drinkers and alcoholics was never seriously considered by state and Communist Party authorities.
The socialist centrally planned state had a complete monopoly on the production, pricing, foreign trade, and distribution of alcohol. Setting higher-than-average excise tax rates3 on alcoholic beverages and thereby making them expensive relative to other consumer goods and to average wages was considered an optimal state policy because it would discourage drinking, while also providing the state treasury with much-needed and easily collectible revenues. The high level of ruble retail trade sales of alcoholic beverages (which accounted for between 15 and 20 percent of total retail turnover) was also viewed as an important factor in helping central planners, industry, and consumer trade authorities balance the inadequate supply of consumer goods with people's income. It was conceded that high prices of state-produced alcoholic beverages would encourage illegal distillation of samogon 4 and home production of wine, but it was believed, contrary to all evidence, that law enforcement agencies would be able either to eliminate or to minimize home production.
The almost complete absence of information on the consumption of alcohol and on the health, social, and economic consequences of heavy drinking and