How Alcohol Conquered Russia

tags: Russia, vodka, alcoholism



Stan Fedun is a masters student in political science at the University of Toronto.

Picture the Russian alcoholic: nose rosy, face unshaven, a bottle of vodka firmly grasped in his hands. By his side he has a half-empty jar of pickles and a loaf of rye bread to help the devilish substance go down. The man is singing happily from alcohol-induced jubilation. His world may not be perfect, but the inebriation makes it seem that way.

Today, according to the World Health Organization, one in five men in the Russia Federation die due to alcohol-related causes, compared with 6.2 percent of all men globally. In 2000, in her article “First Steps: AA and Alcoholism in Russia,” Patricia Critchlow estimated that some 20 million Russians are alcoholics in a nation of just 144 million.

 The Russian alcoholic was an enduring fixture during the Tsarist times, during the times of the Russian Revolution, the times of the Soviet Union, during the transition from socialist autocracy to capitalist democracy, and he continues to exist in Russian society today. He sits on broken park benches or train station steps with a cigarette drooping out of his mouth, thinking about where his next drink will come from and whether he can afford it....



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