Students in Brazil have discovered a Russian-language message in an old bottle believed to have been written several decades ago by an unidentified sailor expressing discontent with Soviet general secretary Mikhail Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign.
According to Brazil’s GauchaZH news outlet, the bottle was found by a group of vacationers, who unsealed it expecting a treasure map, only to find a mysterious Cyrillic text. Having no idea what the message said, one of the vacationers decided to post a photo of the message on the Federal University of Pelotas’s Facebook page, where it instantly racked up thousands of views and nearly 2,000 comments.
The message was eventually read by a Russian-speaker, who translated it as follows: “This letter is addressed to those not too lazy to go through the trouble of fishing this bottle out of the water. The bottle was drunk despite all the instructions and decrees of the MF [presumably the Soviet ‘Ministry of Fisheries’] and the government by real sailors who remember and observe the traditions of the sea on the day of homage to Yudin V.A., honourable sailor, captain of long voyages, on the occasion of his birthday.”
The ‘instructions and decrees’ referred to prohibiting the consumption of the bottle’s alcoholic contents was likely a reference to Mikhail Gorbachev’s comprehensive alcohol prohibition campaign, which ran from 1985 to 1988 in a bid to reduce the negative social and economic effects of excessive alcohol consumption in the Soviet Union.
Brazilian media believe the letter was written in 1990, and that it was dropped into the ocean somewhere off the coast of Greenland. However, the alcohol prohibition campaign was officially ended in late 1988 after the Soviet budget posted a record deficit, with Moscow discovering that alcohol production and sales had shifted from state to the black market.
Furthermore, Mauricio Mata, a professor at the institute of oceanography, told GauchaZH that it was unlikely that the bottle could have floated such a vast distance, crossing over 11,000 km and powerful ocean currents. However, a preliminary forensic analysis did show that the letter appeared to have been written decades ago.
While it was conceded to have been a failure, the anti-alcohol campaign did have several benefits, including a significant decline in mortality, an increase in life expectancy, and a baby boom which resulted in 1.6 million extra children being born into families across the Soviet Union.
This isn’t the first time Soviet sailors have succeeded in making contact with future generations. Earlier this year, Sputnik reported that a resident of Alaska had discovered a bottle containing a message from over 50 years ago, with that message wishing whoever fished it out warm greetings, “good health, long life and happy sailing.”