"Alcohol: Soviet anti-alcohol posters"
23 March - 13 April
Open 2pm - 5pm; Monday - Saturday, most days
(scroll to the bottom of the page to see dates when the exhibition is closed)
Please call in advance to check or if you would like to see the exhibition outside these hours.
Designed and curated by FUEL Design and Publishing, Pushkin House presents an exhibition of previously unseen Soviet anti-alcohol posters from the FUEL archive. The posters are published as a book, ‘Alcohol’, to be launched at the same time as the exhibition.
The book includes examples from the 1960s through to the 1980s, but focuses on those produced during the Mikhail Gorbachev ‘dry law’ campaign initiated in 1985 and lasting for two years. Displayed in public places these posters attempted to sober up the Soviet citizen by forcing them to confront the issues associated with excessive alcohol consumption. This allowed the poster designers to present the anti-alcohol message in highly graphic terms.
Drunks were depicted literally trapped inside the bottle or being strangled by ‘the green snake’ of alcoholism. They are exposed as dangerous elements, violent, paralytic freeloaders and shirkers who drive under the influence, they are black-marketeers and desperate cologne drinkers.
The exhibition retains the integrity of the original posters by pasting prints of them directly onto the walls of Pushkin House, transforming it into a Soviet workers’ club.
A season of events has been organised around the exhibition, exploring the theme of alcohol in Soviet society. On 31st March author of the new preface to Venedikt Yerofeyev’s masterpiece ‘Moscow Stations’, Charlotte Hobson will consider the role of alcohol in the book: does it represent liberation from an oppressive regime, or a dead-end response to a period of stagnation, disguising itself as romantic oblivion?
On 5th April author Caroline Walton will talk about her experience of co-writing ‘Smashed in the USSR’ with Ivan Petrov, a vagrant and drunk in late Soviet times, who like Yerofeyev was practiced in the art of mixing cocktails of glue, petrol and eau de cologne to achieve his alcoholic fix. This searing memoir is a terrifying picture of surviving on the margins of Soviet society, and the affliction of alcoholism on the nation.
On 12th April we will look at the medical effects of Gorbachev’s ‘Dry Law’, from which the majority of these posters date, with Professor of Epidimiology David Leon and journalist and author Oliver Bullough. It is considered that the main positive effect of these two ‘dry’ years is a spike in the Russian population that is unlikely to be repeated. David Leon has been studying the period for many years, and Oliver Bullough wrote the book ‘The Last Man in Russia’ about the country’s now dwindling population.
In the meantime, eat, drink and enjoy the brighter side of alcohol with a vodka tasting with food from Zima restaurant, led by Pushkin Wine Club’s Tanya Nesterova, on 30th March.