World War II: Tobacco--Soviet Union

Soviet children smoking
Figure 1.--These Soviet children are rolling cigarettes for the soldiers at the front. The photograph is undated. One source says iy was a Lennigrad scene. There may have been a warehouse wih tobacco before the Germans cut off the city.

We do not know much at this time about the Soviet tobacco industry. Stalin was a smoker and there was no anti-smoking campaign before the War. The Soviets had an economic policy of autarky (economic self-suffiency). We do not know much about Soviet tobaco production, but believe it was grown in Georgia. We do not know how common smoking was in the Soviet Union or the extent of gender differences. As far as we can tell it was something the Red army soldiers wanted. We do not know how large the cigarette industy was. Apparently it was not very large. We know that Red Army soldiers carried smoking pouches with tobacco and paper to roll their own cigarette. And we notice numerous types of Soviet World War II era tobacco boxes. We do not know how common this was as opposed to obtaining cigarette rations. One source describes the Red Army tobacco ration as 0.7 oz. That is 7 oz of tobacco, not factory produced cigatrettes. One curious related topic is that German soldiers invading the Soviet Union would give boys cigarettes and take their photographs, thinking that it was humerous. This is not something they did in Germany. It apprently helped to confirm their idea that Russian and the Russians were backward and uncivilized. What we are unsure of is why Russian boys seemed to enjoy cigarettes. Here we are not talking bout teenagers, but primary-school age boys. There was in the Soviet Union before the German invasion a shortage of just about all consumer goods. This presumably would have included cigarettes, although we do not yet have information on availability. If cigarettes were hard to obtain befire the German invasion, we suspect that few boys would have picked up the smoking habit. So we are unsure why so many boys seem to have enjoyed the cigarettes given to them by the Germans.


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Created: 8:20 PM 11/6/2014
Last updated: 8:20 PM 11/6/2014