From Vedomosti, May 23, 2024. Complete text:

On May 22, members of the political [party] Beer Lovers’ Party (BLP), which was disbanded in 1998, met in a Moscow bar called Vkusnadze. Around 20 participants, excluding journalists, gathered around a wooden table holding drinks and snacks. Political analyst Mikhail Vinogradov was among the visitors, and political analyst Konstantin Kalachov intends to become the party’s chair. Vedomosti correspondents also attended the event.

“We have had many occasions to get together over the past 30 years, but somehow it never happened. It never worked out, but now it has,” former party chair Dmitry Shestakov said, greeting the guests. Kalachov introduced his colleague as a “spiritual mentor and leader,” even though Shestakov is not a member of the revived party’s organizing committee.

According to members of that committee, the “great creative friendship” between Kalachov and Shestakov dates back to their military service and their desire to drink beer. Shestakov acknowledged that this desire arose when the White House came under fire in 1993 [see Vol. 45, No. 40, pp. 1‑6]. “They were shooting at the White House, everyone was sad. The White House was riddled with bullets, so I felt like having a beer. That was how everything started,” he explained.

It was no accident that the party chose beer as its symbol, since it is a “catalyst for communication, a symbol of unity, friendship and mutual understanding,” Kalachov told the people in attendance. He believes that the country currently lacks a party that belongs to society. He puts his chances of registering the organizing committee with the Justice Ministry at 40% to 60%. “We have a chance to become the largest party in Russia. Let’s drink to that!” he said in conclusion, to the sound of glasses clinking.

After it is officially registered, the BLP plans to participate in regional elections in 2025 and then debut in the State Duma elections in 2026. Kalachov said that the party has already been able to establish contact with 33 regions.

“I am convinced that Russia was, is and will remain a promising place to live and to do business,” said entrepreneur Sergei Grishin. (Grishin was the president and a member of the board of directors of Freedom Finance joint-stock company from 2012 to 2022 and is the chief owner of Capital Leasing Group. On his Web site, Grishin describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, investor, and dollar millionaire – Ed.) To a journalist’s question of where the party will find funding, he responded: “In my pocket.”

Erkin Tuzmukhamedov, the director of the National Distillers Union and an expert on hard liquor, said at the meeting that statistics show that beer sales are 10 times higher than wine sales throughout the world. According to him, there couldn’t be a different party, because everyone drinks beer. “It’s the foundation of the food pyramid,” he said. At the same time, he stressed that the party does not lobby for the beer industry, even though everyone down to the smallest local pub owner would be ready to “carry out the will of the BLP organizing committee” if it wanted them to.

Over a discussion of beer tourism and beer sports, the attendees were given rare membership cards from the 1990s signed by Kalachov. BLP members promised the guests that they would go to the Justice Ministry to register the party on May 23.

In late April, Vedomosti reported that a working group to resurrect the party met in Moscow [see Vol. 76, No. 16, pp. 9‑10]. After two meetings, an organizing committee of 10 people was formed. This committee will notify the Justice Ministry in writing of its intention to establish a political party. According to Kalachov, [we] “have received serious requests to create regional branches from about 30 regions, and we have had contact with over 50.”

Artist and former publisher of the journal Politicheskiye tekhnologii [Political technologies] and administrator of the eponymous Web site Sergei Polyakov, who led the BLP from 1994 to 1995, is coordinating the party’s comeback. “We are relying on BLP chair Dmitry Shestakov for the legal aspects – he’s a doctor of law, a professor and an attorney,” Kalachov explained. Kalachov served in the Army and studied history at Moscow State Pedagogical University with Shestakov. In 1993, after Kalachov’s failed run for State Duma (he ran on the Party of Russian Unity and Accord list, but did not make it into the lower house), his comrades met on the street on the way to have a beer. They decided to create the party while drinking the foamy beverage.

The BLP was registered by the Justice Ministry on Aug. 9, 1994, and existed for four years. It took 21st place in the 1995 State Duma elections, garnering 0.62% of the vote (428,727 votes) [see Vol. 47, No. 51, pp. 1‑15]. Forty-three parties took part in those elections. In 1996, BLP supported [then] Russian president Boris Yeltsin in his bid for a second term in exchange for state funds to cover debts incurred during the previous year’s campaign. At the same time, the BLP basically ceased operations, and, two years later the Justice Ministry decided to liquidate it on that basis, Kalachov recalled.