Amanda Macias

The day Russia (of all places) ran out of vodka

Amanda Macias
The day Russia (of all places) ran out of vodka

It was May 7, 1945, when the war-weary world found out that Hitler's 'Thousand-Year Reich' was no more.

Nazi Germany unconditionally surrendered after 12 acutely devastating years, ushering in a welcome end to World War II.

And while rapturous crowds rejoiced in the streets throughout Europe and the United States, the Russians kept the vodka flowing for 22 hours straight.

In the wee hours of May 9th, thousands of Muscovites — many in their pajamas no less — took to the streets to turn one of the most iconic cities on the planet into a "sea of vodka," according to Martin Gilbert in his book "The Day the War Ended."

By the evening of the 10th, Stalin informed the euphoric nation that its favorite libation had run dry. 

Enter stage left an epic nationwide hangover.

War correspondent Alexander Ustinov was among the crowds that day and spoke with Nikolai Kryuchov, a military transport aircraft navigator, who was given special permission to visit Moscow.

"I was lucky to buy a liter of vodka at the train station when I arrived because it was impossible to buy any later," Kryuchov reportedly said.

“We drank to the victory and to those killed, wishing to never see such a massacre again. There was no vodka in Moscow on May 10, we drank it all.”

Today, vodka is synonymous with Russian history and culture, but during World War II the Soviet Union wasn’t exactly overflowing with the libation. In order to support the war effort, vodka's primary ingredients (grains and starches) were collected and rationed.

Stalin took it a step further and folded vodka revenues into his national security strategy, writes historian Walter Moss in his book "A History of Russia."

"I think vodka production should be expanded," Stalin wrote in a letter to his minister of foreign affairs. "We need to get rid of a false sense of shame and directly and openly promote the greatest expansion of vodka production possible for the sake of a real and serious defense of our country."

And even so, on May 10, 1945, Russia was depleted of its beloved stash.