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Russia and alcohol addiction.

Updated on August 20, 2013

Russia has often been depicted in media as a country prone to alcoholic excess, their creation of Vodka has possibly reinforced this image in the mind set of the general public. I never real buy into the idea of a national stereotype, as I find it quite racist and counter productive. Unfortunately evidence exists and points to the marked increase of alcoholism in Russian society when compared to the Soviet era figures. Is the increase of alcohol abuse a reaction to Twenty years of free market economy? or is it more the case that a relaxing of State control has allowed Russian's to experience greater personal freedom and alcoholism is a natural consequence.

Stolichnaya Vodka
Stolichnaya Vodka | Source

History of Alcohol Abuse in Russia

Both Capitalist, Soviet and Imperial ruler's have sought to reduce the dependence on alcohol and the associated problems associated with the drink culture. Alcohol has been a much needed source of revenue by taxation and a means of allowing people to relax and enjoy their leisure time. The Russian's like other civilizations appreciates the need to have and allow alcohol within their society, and a responsible attitude to drinking should pose no problems to the overall health of the nation.

Culturally the Alcoholic's of Russia have not had to hide their addiction, it was only in the Soviet era that alcoholism was frowned upon. For the majority of Russian history there has not been the stigma attached to Drunkenness that we see in the Western parts of Europe. In many parts of Russia the ability to drink hard is a sign of toughness and manliness.

Alcohol abusers and the economy

The First written evidence of alcohol in the lands of Russia dates to the start of the Medieval period of history. When the ruler's discussed adopting the official State religion of Russia, the option of Islam was quickly discounted due to the Russian peoples reluctance to forgo alcohol. The Tsar's of Russia in time began to realise that alcohol represented a taxable essential that their subjects were never going to give up.

The early Tsarist economy was built on the revenues of their people and their slippery slide into State sanctioned alcohol abuse. By the mid 20th Century it was estimated that over a third of the countries domestic revenue came from Vodka. After the fall of the Soviet regime it was thought that each Russian was responsible for consuming over 15 Litre's of alcohol per year.

The silent problem

The stereotypical view of an alcohol abuser in Russia, usually falls upon the working class male who is in low paid menial employment. Although there are a number of Russian's who do fit the stereotype, the less publicised victim's are the Women of the Russian Federation. According to Sociologists and senior Medical professionals, the number of Russian women who find solace in alcohol abuse is steadily on the rise.

Alcoholism in Russian women is effecting the victims no matter what their social status, you can find recovering abusers in rehab with different backgrounds. The reasons for their illness are different but their suffering is the same. Many Sociologist's highlight the plight of the woman and their substance abuse is evidence of an equality of the sexes. The Woman of Russia are now allowed to work like men and in turn they have adopted the men's relaxation and leisure tendencies. It is more likely that there is in parts of Russia a desperation and cultural hangover from the shifting political revolutions. For both Men and Woman a short term answer to the chaos and feeling spare, was to embrace the bottle and become disconnected to reality.

The Russian State response

Since the end of the Soviet era, the abuse of Alcohol by Russian citizens has been extensively studied by domestic and foreign scientists. The continual portrayal of the Russian people by outsiders is becoming a national tragedy, if you look at Hollywood depictions of the Russians they are often seen with Vodka or other substances open to abuse around them. The Soviet ruler's were aware of the problem and tried and failed with a partial prohibition in the later half of the 20th Century.

In Modern day Russia the current government had doubled the retail price of Vodka in an attempt to reduce consumption of alcohol. Unfortunately this lead to an increase in "moonshine" versions of Vodka and the drinking of illegally imported drinks from the Asiatic regions. These smuggled drinks had erratic alcohol contents and lead to many instances of Alcohol poisoning.

The impact on the Russian people from the abuse of Alcohol has created some very disturbing figures in regard to the health of the nation. According to figures collated after 2008 the abuse of Alcohol was a factor in the majority of Russia's deaths. There is a clear link between Alcoholism and Depression, which in turn leads to Suicide. Russia has one of the largest rates of Suicides in the world and the figures remained constant as the overall standard of living increased.

The impact on the physical health of the Russian people is very evident, the Health minister stated on record that alcohol abuse is responsible for over half the premature deaths of Russian citizens and that all Russians drink more than the average yearly consumption recommended by the World Health Organization.

The Government aware that Alcohol abuse is killing their country, has passed ordinances prohibiting sale of alcohol, public consumption of alcohol and tighter regulations over production. They have also tried to encourage the citizens to shift drinking habits to Beer consumption as it has a lower level of Alcohol. They have also tried to change the cultural attitude to Alcohol, so it is more in line with more reserved drinking cultures. These changes will take a while to come to fruition and while they do many more Russians will suffer in their Alcoholism.


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