Between the Nation and the Empire: The Transmission of Texts and Ideas about Temperance in the USA and Russia in the early 20th century

  • Anna Smelova Georgetown University


The 19th century witnessed the rise of various reformist movements at both international and local levels, such as clean-living crusades, public health campaigns, and temperance activism. Anti-alcohol activism flourished in different countries and regions and resulted in a wave of legal restrictions on the sale, production, and use of alcoholic beverages, or as a political thinker Mark Schrad called it, ‘the global prohibition drama.’ The most significant temperance movements were those in the United States, the United Kingdom, and the Nordic countries. Nevertheless, Russia, which is traditionally represented as an “alcoholic empire” is absent from the map of ‘temperance cultures’. This article seeks to bridge the distance between the metropolis of the anti-alcohol world - the United States, - and its imagined periphery. It will be shown how the ideas and practices of sobriety traveled across the Atlantic and found their implementation in late imperial Russia. To trace this international exchange of ideas, I will focus on the conference presentation made by the American temperance activist Cora Frances Stoddard at the 12th Anti-alcohol Congress in 1909 and its Russian translation of 1914. The proposed research will address the “glocalization” of temperance on several levels. A comparative consideration of the report and its translation will contribute to the understanding of the national contexts in which American and Russian temperance movements were developing. Of particular interest to me is the invention of sobriety as an international social movement and political practice in the modern era, as well as the circulation and transfer of ideas from one continent to another. From a larger perspective, this work aims at placing Prohibition into the global context and understanding the causes and outcomes of the worldwide policy in the first quarter of the 20th century.

Author Biography

Anna Smelova, Georgetown University
2Y PhD Student at the Department of History