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