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March 2006
224 pages  

6 x 9
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Under the Influence
Working-Class Drinking, Temperance, and Cultural Revolution in Russia, 1895–1932
Transchel, Kate
This book examines a highly significant chapter in the history of the Russian state and society: how those in power in Russian understood the impact of drinking on the state policy and on Russia’s working classes between 1895 and 1932.

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Kate Transchel is associate professor of history at California State University, Chico.
“Using drinking as a lens through which to assess cultural revolution in Russia, Transchel persuasively reveals how practices steeped in everyday life limited state-sponsored efforts to remake society. In elegantly lean prose, she demonstrates how workers effectively resisted Bolshevik efforts to establish cultural hegemony and what this ultimately meant for the Soviet project.”--Donald J. Raleigh, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

“In this fascinating study, Kate Transchel shows how Russian workers resisted both Tsarist and Soviet attempts to reform their traditional drinking habits. Eventually, in the mid-1930s, Stalin had to abandon the attempt to transform Russia's drinking cultures, along with the larger project of creating a 'new Soviet man.' Like much recent research on early Soviet history, Transchel's pioneering study shows the remarkable resilience of Russian working-class culture despite the colossal and often brutal transformations of the early twentieth century.”--David Christian, San Diego State University

“In this carefully researched and well-written book, Kate Transchel examines the ill-fated temperance movement in Tsarist and Soviet Russia. By illustrating the persistence of popular drinking traditions, she vividly demonstrates the centrality of alcohol to Russian working-class sociability and the limits of directed cultural transformation.”--David Hoffmann, Ohio State University

”Written with grace and authority, ‘Under the Influence’ is a model monograph . . . the most thorough study of its kind. But more than this, Transchel’s study places alcohol consumption within the working-class culture of the time, in a way that helps us understand why the abolitionist movements of the time were repeatedly defeated.”—Slavic Review

”A compelling analysis of a much-cited yet superficially investigated aspect of Russian and Soviet life. Through a careful investigation of an impressive array of archival and primary resources, Transchel’s work offers important insights into the relationship between the newly industrialized working classes and the Russian state through the negotiation over the use and abuse of alcohol.”—Labor History

“An insightful, well-written, and thoroughly researched account of how tenacious and enduring traditional practices thwarted the Soviet state’s attempts to transform everyday life. It deserves a wide readership.”—Annals of the History of Eastern Europe

“A solid examination of the persistence of drinking culture despite revolutionaries’ attempts to eliminate it, using a wide range of all available sources. It should be read not only by those who study Russia, but also by those who study working class culture in other areas of the world. Concisely and clearly written, the study would be a useful supplementary text in upper-level undergraduate Russian history classes.” —The NEP Era

Complete Description Reviews
Russian and East European Studies Table of Contents
Russia and East Europe/History Read a selection from this book

Under the Influence presents the first investigation of the social, cultural, and political factors that affected drinking and temperance among Russian and Soviet industrial workers from 1895 to 1932. Kate Transchel examines the many meanings of working-class drinking and temperance in a variety of settings, from Moscow to remote provinces, and illuminates the cultural conflicts and class dynamics that were deeply rooted in drinking rituals and the failure of attempted reforms by the Tsarist and Soviet authorities. As the title suggests, workers were often under the influence of alcohol, but they were also under political influences that defined what it meant to be a Soviet worker. Perhaps more importantly, they were under deeper, prerevolutionary cultural influences that continued to shape lower-class identities after 1917. The more the Soviet state tried to control working-class drinking, the more workers resisted. Radical legislation, massive propaganda, and even coercion were not sufficient to motivate workers to abandon traditional forms of fraternization. Under the Influence highlights working-class culture and underscores the limitations the Bolsheviks faced in attempting to create a cultural revolution to complete their social and political revolution.


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