Vladimir Lenin was not fond of alcohol. He agreed with Friedrich Engels that intoxication followed from capitalist degradation; presumably, once workers were free of their bonds, they would no longer feel the need to marinate their minds, to stumble, slouch, and slur. Lenin himself eschewed alcohol; once installed in the Kremlin, he pronounced a nationwide prohibition on the possession and consumption of alcohol.
Lenin didn’t last very long; neither did the USSR’s prohibition experiment. Soviet citizens were allowed to return to the bottle in 1925, a year after Lenin’s death. In 1928, Joseph Stalin succeeded in maneuvering himself into Lenin’s place.
Now Stalin was a man who liked to take a drink or 19, and he was not averse to determining the fate of the nation while immersed in alcohol. Hunter S. Thompson has a version of one pickled-premier story:
He had gone into one of his rages, according to the story as I heard it, and this one had something to do with a notion that seized him, after five days and nights in a brutal vodka orgy, that every Catholic in Moscow should be nailed up on a telephone pole by dawn on Easter Sunday. This announcement caused genuine fear in the Kremlin, because Stalin was known by his staff to be “capable of almost anything.” When he calmed down a bit, one of his advisers suggested that a mass crucifixion of Russian Catholics—for no reason at all—would almost certainly raise hackles in the Vatican and no doubt anger the pope.
“Fuck the pope,” Stalin mumbled. “How many divisions does he have?”
Anyway. Seems from the news today that Lenin, even from the grave, continues to frown upon alcohol. In Uvarovichi, a town in the former Soviet republic of Belarus, an intoxicated 21-year-old man took it into his bibulated brain to clamber upon a 70-year-old, 16-foot tall plaster statue of Lenin. As the man hung from Lenin’s arm, the statute crumbled and collapsed, killing him.
“The monument’s heavy head tumbled on him,” said Nataliya Bolbas, a witness.
In my trade—criminal-defense law—we call this sort of thing an SDT: Stupid Drunk Trick. Crimes occasioned or encouraged by alcohol probably account for something like 80 percent of our business.
Somewhere in Uvarovichi today, family and friends are calling it something different: senseless tragedy.