The Champagne Train


Prince Lev Golitsyn (1910) at his vineyard. Seventeen Moments in Soviet History.

The importance of wine is not in its ability to get you drunk but in its cultural expression. Wine, for centuries, has been the drink paired with thoughts of wealth, culture and seems to be some marker of a state’s innovation and stature. Everyone wants a taste of the great drink, even Russia.

When people think Russia they most likely think Vodka; a hard, bitter drink that helps the people survive the environment. But as the cultural explosion of the 30s hits a high point in Russia, they turn to the drink of the rich: wine. Champagne in Russia’s 1930s is a crucial social point, as it has both domestic and foreign significance.

Like mentioned before, wine makes a statement. If given to a group of people it separates them from the rest and marks their importance; if given to an entire culture it marks sophistication and equality. Stalin understood this concept when he signed Resolution 1366 that would set up the champagne industry to serve all Russian people. He knew if everyone were allowed to drink there would be a sense of equality and the workers would feel important. “Stalin (perhaps under the impulse given by Anastas Mikoyan, the People’s Commissar for External and Internal Trade), decided that champagne was ‘an important sign of material well-being, of the good life’. The pressure was on to show that under Communism goods such as champagne and caviar that were once the preserve of the wealthy were now available to Soviet workers.” (WordPress, 2014). Champagne was no longer being produced in bottles but in massive tanks and served on taps to encourage consumption (von Geldern, n.d.). Champagne production quickly rose to 12,000,000 bottles by 1942 (von Geldern, n.d.). Of course, this was not the highest quality champagne because of the mass production method but this was not about the drink it was about the idea; the importance of all the people. Champagne became intertwined with society and was featured in ads and a part of societal traditions: “If you want your secret New Year wish to come true then you need to have the bottle open on the table as the Kremlin clocks start to chime midnight so that you can down your glass before the bells come to silence again (WordPress, 2014).

Champagne had foreign dominance too. This drink was known to be the French specialty (as far as sparkling wines were concerned) and it is what the Champagne region was best at. Prince Lev Golitsyn challenged this notion. This man cultivated very high quality champagne in the Crimea region and beat the French and others in an international competition. This made a huge statement for Russia. Not only was Russia good enough to make wine but it made better wine than the most famous place in the world at the time. (Rus Articles Journal , n.d.) With the title came all the other concepts of wine. It gave the appearance that Russia reeked of culture, wealth, and innovation and was of equal stature.

Jump to today and wine remains a cultural expression. Today the drink represents the cultures from which they arose. Russia, even with its early success, remains an under appreciated producer of the drink but does have some exceptional vineyards that do produce top quality wines and experiments with many grape varieties.

This post received the Comrade’s Corner award



Rus Articles Journal . (n.d.). Retrieved from How the prince Lev Golitsyn created the Champagne recognized as the best in the world for Russia? :

von Geldern, J. (n.d.). Seventeen Moments in Soviet History . Retrieved from Soviet Champagne:

WordPress. (2014, August 26). Retrieved from Wine As Was:

9 thoughts on “The Champagne Train

  1. I really liked how you tied wine to the people instead of just looking at the economic aspects of it. It puts into persepective something that we usually assume but don’t really think about.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I can honestly say I had never heard of ‘champagne’ being used as a social equalizer of sorts in the Soviet Union. This is fascinating. It makes sense when you think about it- champagne has the same connotations in the US today. It’s almost humorous how many aspects of culture the Soviet government was manipulating at its height. Well done

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This is so interesting! It seems like social symbols in Russia was a large part of their culture. It’s also interesting that Stalin used this as a way to promote a communist community and “equality” throughout the Soviet Union. It’s so funny that alcohol was used as propaganda. Really good post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. It is interesting to see the appropriation of this well known symbol of ‘high culture’ and wealth into the collectivized and labor focused Soviet Union. It’s unique they chose a beverage that has distinct foreign influence, instead of the native beverage. Perhaps even though the country was pursuing the premise of a ‘Worker’s Paradise’ the signs of affluence still had a significant pull.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I really liked this post! It’s interesting how the Soviet government didn’t use only traditional methods to change their society, but simple things to try and change how the world viewed them. I also think its interesting how you mentioned vodka as well, showing how they were trying to change how they were seen but they couldn’t get away from their previous stereotypes/image from the outside. I think this small aspect represents a lot of the struggles that the Soviet government faced as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’ll just build on what others have noticed — that the story of Soviet “Champagne” highlights how influential something like sparkling wine can be in terms of its cultural cache. Such a tension between the working-class / proletarian ethos of the early revolutionary era and the elite connotations of a luxury wine! I put “champagne” in quotes because the “real stuff” comes from a specific grape in a specific region of France. Thanks so much for writing about this! And you’ve found some really interesting sources (in the links) that give the post depth. Might be worth finding a more helpful formulation of the article, “Sovetskoye Shampanskoye – Stalin’s ‘plebeian luxury.”
    Oh, I keep coming back to Caroline’s point about how Soviet Champagne as a counterpoint to the more commonly discussed (and less cheerful) aspects of the thirties.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I really liked this post! It was refreshing to read about something other than poverty, famine, and conflict. I am taking Boyer’s Geography of Wine class, so this was especially interesting to read! I appreciate the way you informed us readers about the cultural and social implications wine brings, and Stalin’s desire to unify the entire state under a simple delicacy that wine is. Great post!

    Liked by 2 people

  8. This title and topic was very cool! Made me want to read about it and see what it was about. I had no idea champagne had such a presence. I think it is ironic that a beverage that represents “class” was taken from production into tanks rather than bottles, which somewhat represents the age of collectivization.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. This is another fascinating cultural strategy used by Stalin. I like that you highlighted both champagne’s international appeal and Resolution 1366’s attempt to put the drink in the hands of the workers. Additionally, I enjoyed the wine links at the end of the post! Nice work.

    Liked by 1 person

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