Alcoholism in Communist Poland: How Regime and Alcohol Interact


  • Emily Williams Political Science and History



Poland, Polish, Poles, Eastern Europe, Europe, Eastern Bloc, Alcohol, Alcoholism, Addiction, Solidarity, Sobriety, Catholic Church, Alcoholics Anonymous


In communist Poland, while the state took care of the basic needs of its people, there was a widespread social issue plaguing society: alcoholism. Alcoholism was an increasing issue from the period of destalinization, to the Solidarity movement and over time, sobriety became symbol of resistance under a regime which relied on the vodka industry as the most important source of domestic revenue. By analyzing the high levels of consumption, the consequences, and the response from the state, church, and union, I analyze the political nature of alcoholism in Poland. To highlight the role ideology played, I also compare the social responses and methods of treatment in state socialism, to those in Western democratic countries. From this, an image begins to emerge of how alcoholism interacted with regime and feelings of mass disenchantment. While it is yet to be seen if communist regimes directly impacted people’s drinking habits, the Polish communist government certainly allowed the health and wellness of its citizens to come second. Further research into the dynamics of alcoholism in other Eastern European communist countries such as Hungary and Czechoslovakia could further develop understanding this complicated relationship between alcohol and communism. This topic of study remains important as the intergenerational dynamics for the families who lived under this system remain; looking at alcoholism under this regime can help us understaind these ongoing social relations.