The catalysts behind this volume, Damon Murray and Stephen Sorrell, are the proprietors of FUEL, a London-based design and publishing company that has brought out a series of books on Russian design and public culture, and owns the copyright to archives of photographs and drawings documenting Soviet-era criminal tattoos. Their previous publications include Soviet Space Dogs (2014), Soviet Bus Stops (2015) and the Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia Volumes I–III and Russian Criminal Tattoo Police Files I–II (all 2004–14, except Police Files vol. II, which is forthcoming).
Alcohol is a compact but rich book that illuminates a topic crossing decades of social discourse in the Soviet Union. It’s a somber text, though that fact is belied by its flashy lenticular cover and clean, contemporary design. Lovers of popular culture and social advocacy graphics will enjoy this snapshot of thematic Soviet design. The book’s two essays—“Surviving Gorbachev’s Prohibition” and “The Origins and Significance of Alcoholism in Russia: What and How Russians Drink”—were written by Alexei Plutser-Sarno, a linguist and member of the Russian performance/street art collective Voina. Readers who delve deeper into these essays, or who know the history of Soviet graphic art, will uncover a rich trove of new material in the book’s 260 images, much of it published for the first time.