Why is vodka so popular in Russia

Folk drug alcohol - Russia has a life-threatening drink problem

New Year's Eve, the feast of festivals for Russians, is celebrated - and as one has spent the night of the New Year, according to one of the country's superstitions, people will also fare the following twelve months. Vodka, drunk from large glasses in 100 milliliter rations, the “stopka”, is traditionally part of the celebration on New Year's Eve. And that is where the problem begins for a not inconsiderable number of Russians: Vodka consumption continues all year round.

Statistically, every Russian drinks almost 16 liters of pure alcohol a year - one of the highest values ​​in the world. However, experts assume that it is up to 19 liters. One in five deaths among men is due to alcoholism. Russian men have an average life expectancy of less than 60 years; a German, however, can plan with the 75th birthday. And: A large number of crimes in the largest country on earth are committed while drunk; 83 percent of the murderers were drunk at the time of the crime. "Beer without vodka," Russian men like to joke, "is a waste of money."

Putin combats excessive alcohol consumption

President Vladimir Putin, who names kefir as his favorite drink, is therefore trying to curb excessive alcohol consumption. The taxes on the distillate were drastically increased; the half-liter bottle of vodka now costs almost 5 euros. Advertising in the media was banned; Beer sales were also more strictly regulated. But if you want to drink, you look for ways. In Irkutsk, Siberia, a bath additive with a 90 percent alcohol content recently found huge sales and was sold for just 40 cents a bottle. However, it contained the highly toxic methanol. More than 70 people died in the southern Siberian city. "One would simply have to forbid the sale of such a beverage substitute," said Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev helplessly.

Russians have long consumed substitutes containing alcohol, such as aftershave, or distilled schnapps themselves. The number of poisoning by substitutes is hardly falling, the number of methanol poisoning is even increasing, admitted Anna Popowa, head of the consumer protection agency. Irkutsk is therefore not an isolated case, almost 15,000 people die every year from consuming alcoholic liquids that are not actually intended for drinking.

Illegal production exacerbates the problem

Around 1.3 billion bottles of illegally produced alcohol further exacerbate the problem for society. However, it is not new. Vodka, which translates as humiliating water, was already popular in the tsarist empire. About half of the state's income came from the alcohol tax. When Lenin's revolutionaries stormed the Winter Palace in the course of the October Revolution, the Tsar's stocks of alcohol were also looted. Lenin himself banned alcohol consumption in the Soviet Union. The ruling proletariat needn't get intoxicated, he stated. Not his only mistake: in 1925 the red prohibition was ended.

The booze also became an economic drag on the USSR. Around a third of the harvest rotted in the fields because the collective farm workers were drunk. Two years ago, a Russian billionaire groaned that 80 percent of the rural population were unusable for regular work because they had become addicted to alcohol, and spoke of the "tragedy of our economy". The Russians have always shown themselves to be resistant to state campaigns to “dry up” citizens.

The reformer Mikhail Gorbachev had tried the end of the 1980s - and had to be ridiculed as "Comrade Mineral Secretary". The Russians found his unshakable charisma in the West suspect and found themselves better represented by his hard-drinking successor Boris Yeltsin. And so the newspaper “Vedomosti” recommended simply giving up the fight against the scourge of alcohol. “Perhaps one should admit that there would be fewer deaths if the people would drink cheap, but high-quality vodka,” wrote the paper and demanded: “One would have to lower the alcohol tax so that every man in the most remote village could get half a liter Can buy vodka for 100 rubles (1.50 euros). "

By RND / Alexander Dahl