16 January 2007

Alcoholism in Russia

Alcoholism poses as much a national health crisis in Russia today as it did during the Soviet Union’s early 1980s, when up to 2 of every 5 men were considered alcoholics (no wonder, the state focused on the ballistics more than its citizens' problems then).

Today alcohol is said to play a role in the deaths of nearly a third of all Russians ( according to Alexander Nemtsov, director of the Moscow Psychiatry Institute and one of the country’s leading experts on alcoholism). Alcohol poisoning kills an estimated 40,000 Russians each year, compared with just 400 Americans annually (and maybe the same amount in Turkey; who think that death from a fake-raki is similar to martyrdom).

Alcohol abuse is believed to be one of the driving forces behind Russia’s shrinking population, which now stands at 143 million and is projected to plummet to 80 million by 2050. The average life expectancy for a Russian woman now is 72 — but for Russian men it has dropped to 58. So that is why you see a lot of old women around!

The Kremlin has a history of ignoring the problem. When it has tried to act, the results have not been impressive. Here are some posters:

Drunkenness - NO!...A communist must prefer milk or water!

This is the ideal comrade in full march to communism!

Alcohol is the best partner-in-crime!

Count the days without alcohol (or count the days in Gulag). The choice is clear!

A little hint about the fate of the drunks...

Mikhail Gorbachev’s ill-fated anti-alcohol campaign slashed the hours that vodka could be sold and scaled back production; the measures infuriated Russians and fueled a booming black market. The Russian government nearly caused a revolt when it raised taxes on vodka by 40 percent in 2000.

Health experts say government efforts should target the counterfeit alcohol market, which is wreaking havoc on Russia’s working class. Occasional stings aimed at uncovering illegal alcohol production aren’t enough, the experts say — authorities need to clamp down on corrupt officials who look the other way for a price. The toxic brew is called Gamyrka and is sold by dealers who work door-to-door. A bottle of Gamyrka costs about 60 cents. No need to say that it is about %90 percent alcohol...it is like riding the king's highway to nirvana (and no hassles)

Presenting the Russian Chess, another step in the evolution of a thousand year old game: The loser gets drunk, first!

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