Thursday, January 3, 2019

Are Soviet-Style Sobering Up Stations about to Make a Comeback in Putin’s Russia?

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 3 – Seven years ago, the Russian government shut down the last Soviet-style sobering up stations, Valery Burt says; but in recent months, ever more voices have been raised in support of the idea that they should be re-established because Russians “as before drink often and a great deal and not only around the New Year’s holiday.

            Those who lived in Soviet times know the sobering up stations from songs, movies, novels or perhaps even personal experience, the Svobodnaya pressa commentator says; and they have formed a remarkably positive image of an institution that was often anything but good for those held in it (

            And consequently, when they raise their voices in favor of reviving the sobering up stations, be they members of the Duma or journalists or anyone else, they are often calling for the restoration of something that rarely existed outside of films or songs, something that should be remembered in assessing their proposals.

            The militia gathered up drunks on the street, often so inebriated that they were unconscious, and deposited them at one of the hundreds of such institutions across the USSR. Some of those running them treated their inmates with respect; while others were anything but that.

            Those so incarcerated were forced to pay a fine when they were subsequently released, usually but not always sober and often into the hands of a spouse.  But the most horrible aspect of these institutions was that those who ran them informed the bosses of those who had fallen into them, something that often constituted a black mark against these people.

            Now at a time when so many Russians want to revive the Soviet past, they are seeking to revive these institutions as well, all too often forgetting the ways in which the sobering up stations were a means of social control that those who drink too much even now may come to regret the existence of. 

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