For years champagne has been a symbol of celebration and prosperity. Soviet champagne was a symbol of decadence and comfort immediately after a tumultuous period of famine and immediately prior to horrific fear and uncertainty. Might it be possible that indulgence provoked the events that followed?
Famine. We begin with collectivization and industrialization. The first Five Year Plan was responsible for both. After Stalin began the campaign to seize grain and other food items in the Urals and western Siberia, he begin organizing collective and state farms, pooling together all peasant resources. Surplus was in abundance. The collectivization of farms set the foundation for the industrialization that was to follow (Freeze, 347). Food however was in short supply. Collectivization, the influx of peasants, and low food processing rates led to an imposed ration on most items (Freeze, 353). This resulted in the famine of 1933 (Freeze, 354).
Prosperity. The year was 1934. Foods and goods, absent for years earlier, suddenly began coming back. Once an elite drink of aristocrats and NEPmen, champagne started popping up on shelves of grocery stores. There was a cultural revolution taking place in a sense. Bourgeois products were available and used by more common people (Freeze, 355). 1934 was a year that marked mass production of champagne. This was in part due to Anton Mikhailovich Frolov-Bragreev developing a new efficient production system that involved fermentation in reservoirs instead of bottles. Production rose from 300,000 bottles per year to 12,000,000 by 1942. Moscow residents indulged in goods without being labeled “bourgeois”. 1934 also saw the abolition of bread rationing. The Bolsheviks decided to abolish the card system for distribution of bread goods and create unrestricted sale to the population. Uniform retail prices were also introduced in the process. Wages of workers and officials and stipends of students were also increased. They lived happy lives, at least for some time.
Aftermath. Following this period of prosperity, we saw a rise in the production of military essential goods due to industrialization. Production rates of steel, coal, and electricity had multiplied. A major crop failure in 1936 exhausted the reserves and led the state into a crisis (Freeze, 372).
The presence and abundance of soviet champagne was a symbol of prosperity in between two periods of crisis. Do you think this period of prosperity was random? Or does it follow a pattern?