Apr 16, 2009

Rapid Rhetoric: SAMOGON

Raphael's depiction of Plato defining the difference between true and false rhetoric This is an irregular feature - both in frequency and oddness - dedicated to a word I came across that I have never previously used.

samogon (SAH-moh-gohn) n. a homemade distilled liquor produced in Russia through a variety of methods and ingredients.

From the Russian word самогон, which literally means "self-fire" or"self-distillate," the production of samogon is even more time-honored in Russia than moonshine is in the United States. The production of distilled spirits was a state monopoly in Russia from the sixteenth century through the Soviet era, and taxes from liquors such as vodka provided an important source of state revenue.

As much as 50 percent of distilled spirits in the Soviet era consisted of samogon, and one estimate suggested that 40 percent of Russian peasant households produced their own samogon in 1928.

Samogon production was a pressing issue for the administration of Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s. Efforts to eliminate samogon distillation - part of a wider anti-alcohol campaign - served only to increase samogon consumption and dry up tax revenues from legal alcoholic beverages, both of which came back to haunt Gorbachev.

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