Thursday, August 9, 2007

You don’t smoke or drink – oh my! Do you think, you'll never die?

Everyone smokes!
Unknown artist, 1923

In Russia tobacco and alcohol has always been quite popular, being one of the main sources for state treasury income. Tobacco was brought to Russia in the 16th century during the reign of Russian tsar Ivan the Terrible. Later smoking was strictly prohibited, as it supposedly caused a vicious fire which burned down Moscow in 1634. Infringers were subject to chopping of their noses. During the next 50 years Russian rulers were prohibiting and legalizing tobacco, until realizing that monopolization of the tobacco market could result in fantastical profits.

After the WW1 the Bolshevics were in financial trouble, as the country economy struggled to survive the nationalizing and planned economy measures. Tobacco and alcohol were the most significant financial drivers for the young soviet government, so massive advertising campaigns started – promoting tobacco and smoking. Although nationalized some factories were still operating under old brands.

This poster says: “Everyone smokes! Donskaya State Tobacco Factory (fomer Asmolov and Co)”. And this was sad but true – more than 90% of the adult population were smoking tobacco in the twenties. Later, this figure went down, albeit slowly, resulting in 70% of smokers among the adult male population nowadays.