WTF Fun Fact 13150 – When Moscow Ran Out of Vodka

On May 9, 1945, reports that Nazi Germany had surrendered to the USSR resulted in a 22-hour celebration. The Soviets partied so hard that the entire country briefly ran out of vodka.

How the Soviets ran out of vodka

On May 9, 1945, a radio report in the USSR announced that Germany had officially surrendered to the Soviet Union. There was every reason to celebrate immediately. Joseph Stalin, the country’s leader, would address citizens later that day, but revelers were too overjoyed to wait.

While the country probably wasn’t entirely devoid of vodka, those who stayed up to celebrate drank the store shelves dry. And grain was in short supply in wartime, leaving few vodka reserves on hand to replenish the shelves.

War History Online notes that in the book History of Russia, author Walter Moss wrote, “During the famine of the early 1930s, Stalin ensured that sufficient grain and potatoes were still available for vodka production, and vodka revenues in this period provided about one-fifth of government revenues.”

There was also a state monopoly on alcohol. Stalin made its production a national priority, even during the widespread famine. So it’s likely that the shortage didn’t last long since vodka production never stopped.

In any case, by the time Stalin officially addressed the nation on that fateful day in 1945, those who hadn’t celebrated had to find another way to do so. Those who had were probably nursing one heck of a hangover.

Accounts of the vodka shortage

According to Mental Floss (cited below): “As one reporter put it, ‘I was lucky to buy a liter of vodka at the train station when I arrived because it was impossible to buy any later… There was no vodka in Moscow on May 10; we drank it all.‘”

War History Online quoted naval navigator Nikolai Kryuchkov, who recalled:

“On May 9, 1945, with the permission of the commander, I left for 3 days in Moscow. It was impossible to tell what happened on that day in Moscow…. We celebrated Victory Day with my family, the owner’s apartments and neighbors. They drank for the victory, for those who did not live to see this day and for the fact that this bloody massacre would never be repeated. On May 10, it was impossible to buy vodka in Moscow, because it was completely drunk.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Time Russia Ran Out of Vodka” — Mental Floss

WTF Fun Fact 12656 – Wilmer McLean’s Role in the Civil War

People say Wilmer McLean “was perhaps the only man who ever had the first major pitched battle of a war fought in his front yard and the surrender signed four years later in his parlor.”

It’s a strange fact that few people know about the Civil War – but it all started and ended at one man’s house.

Wilmer McLean was a grocer from Virginia, but his farm was one of the first places to see artillery fire on July 21, 1861, in what would later become known as the First Battle of Bull Run (First Manassas) in Manassas, Prince William County, Virginia. That’s because it was being used as a headquarters for Confederate Brigadier General P. G. T. Beauregard. McLean swiftly regretted getting involved after a cannonball fell through his kitchen.

That’s when McLean took his family to Appomattox, Virginia, hoping to never see violence again (and to headquarter his own business supplying sugar to the Confederate Army in a more strategic location).

While he had long retired from the military himself, the war found him again as the Confederates lost and General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Lieutenant Ulysses S. Grant. All they needed was a safe place to meet. And that’s when McLean got a second knock on his new door on April 9, 1865.

A messenger requested to use his home – his parlor, to be exact – for the surrender. McLean is supposed to have said, “The war began in my front yard and ended in my front parlor.” That’s where Lee surrendered to Grant and effectively ended the U.S. Civil War.

McLean may have seen history twice, but his house got ransacked both times as Army members made off with his furniture, knowing it would be a part of history. However, they handed him money as they did it. For example, Major General Edward Ord paid McLean $40 (equivalent to around $700 today) as he made off with the table on which the document of surrender was signed.

If you want to see what McLean’s house looked like before that event, it has been recreated at the Appomattox Court House National Historical Park. – WTF Fun Facts

Source: “Key Civilians at Appomattox” – National Park Service