Feature

Russia: Why are we a nation of drunks?

Simply put, alcohol is our &ldquo;national anti-depressant,&rdquo; said an editorial in <em>Nezavisimaya Gazeta.</em>

EditorialNezavisimaya Gazeta

Vodka is Russia’s curse, said Moscow’s Nezavisimaya Gazeta. Literally for centuries, “the fight against alcoholism has been part of Russian governmental policy.” Yet our national drinking problem only gets worse. In the early 1990s, right after communism fell, the average Russian consumed 5.4 liters of pure alcohol a year, and even our president, Boris Yeltsin, was a drunk. “Things got so out of hand” that the main criterion for a new president was that he be sober, and we ended up with the teetotaling Vladimir Putin.

But as capitalism spread, so did cheap vodka, and now average annual consumption is up to 18 liters per person. This month, Putin announced he wanted to cut that rate in half in 10 years by raising prices. It won’t work. Russians who can’t afford decent vodka will simply turn to cheap moonshine, readily available on the black market. Simply put, alcohol is our “national anti-depressant,” and many Russians just couldn’t face the day without it.

Our only hope is to reach the youth before they become addicted. If we make “great investments in recreational activities that encourage a healthy lifestyle,” perhaps the next generation won’t be lost to booze.

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