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Alcoholism in Russia has been a problem throughout the country's history due to drinking being a pervasive element of society. Moreover, it has also been a major source of government revenue for centuries. It has repeatedly been targeted as a major national problem,[1][2] with mixed results.


Template:Seealso Drinking as a part of Russian culture has deep roots, dating back to at least the tenth century AD.[3] Historically, it has been tolerated or even encouraged as a source of revenue.[3] In the 1540s, Ivan the Terrible began setting up kabaks (кабак) or taverns in his major cities to help fill his coffers;[3][4] a third of Russian men were in debt to the kabaks by 1648.[4] By 1860, vodka, the national drink, was the source of 40% of the government's revenue.[4] At the beginning of World War I, prohibition was introduced in the Russian Empire, limiting the sale of hard liquor to restaurants.

After the Bolshevik Party came to power, they made repeated attempts to reduce consumption in the Soviet Union.[3] However, by 1925, vodka had reappeared in state-run stores.[4] Joseph Stalin reestablished a state monopoly to generate revenue.[3] Soviet leaders Nikita Khrushchev,[5] Leonid Brezhnev (himself a drinker),[5] Yuri Andropov, and Konstantin Chernenko all tried to stem alcoholism.[3] It was Mikhail Gorbachev's turn in 1985.[6] He attempted to impose a partial prohibition, but he too failed.

In 2010, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev nearly doubled the minimum price of a bottle of vodka in an effort to combat the problem.[7]



A study by Russian, British and French researchers published in The Lancet scrutinized deaths between 1990 and 2001 of residents of three Siberian industrial towns with typical mortality rates and determined that 52% of deaths of people between the ages of 15 and 54 were the result of alcohol abuse.[8] Lead researcher Professor David Zaridze estimated that the increase in alcohol consumption since 1987 has caused an additional three million deaths nationwide.[8] In 2007, Gennadi Onishenko, the country's chief public health official, voiced his concern over the nearly threefold rise in alcohol consumption over the past 16 years; one in eight deaths was attributed to alcohol-related diseases, playing a major role in Russia's population decline.[6] Men are particularly hard hit; according to a U.N. National Human Development Report, Russian males born in 2006 had a life expectancy of just over 60 years, 17 less than western Europeans, while Russian females could expect to live nine years less than their counterparts.[9] In June 2009, the Public Chamber of Russia reported over 500,000 alcohol-related deaths annually, noting that Russians consume about Template:Convert/l of spirits a year, more than double the Template:Convert/l World Health Organization experts consider dangerous.[10]


In 1985, at the time of Gorbachev's campaign to reduce drinking, it was estimated that alcoholism resulted in $8 billion in lost production.[11]


In the early 1980s, an estimated "two-thirds of murders and violent crimes were committed by intoxicated persons; and drunk drivers were responsible for 14,000 traffic deaths and 60,000 serious traffic injuries".[5] In 1995, about three quarters of those arrested for homicide were under the influence of alcohol, and 29% of respondents reported that children beaten within families were the victims of drunks and alcoholics.[12]


  1. "Russia declares war on alcoholism". RIA Novosti. January 14, 2010.
  2. "Each of 7 million Russian alcoholics drinks 27 liters of alcohol a year". Pravda. November 9, 2006.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 McKee, Martin (1999). "Alcohol in Russia". Alcohol and Alcoholism (Oxford Journals) 34 (6): 824–829. doi:10.1093/alcalc/34.6.824. PMID 10659717.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Claire Suddath (January 5, 2010). "A Brief History of Russians and Vodka". Time magazine.,8599,1951620,00.html. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Dorman, Nancy D.; Towle, Leland H. (1991). "Initiatives to curb alcohol abuse and alcoholism in the former Soviet Union". Alcohol Health & Research World.;col1.
  6. 6.0 6.1 Tony Halpin (April 13, 2007). "Health alert as Russia’s alcohol consumption triples". The Times.
  7. Kate Transchel (January 18, 2010). "Opinion: Why a $3 bottle of vodka won't cut it". Global Post. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Zaridze, David; et al (2009). "Alcohol and cause-specific mortality in Russia: a retrospective case—control study of 48 557 adult deaths". The Lancet 373 (9682): 2201–2214. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(09)61034-5.
  9. "Alcohol blamed for half of ’90s Russian deaths". Associated Press. June 25, 2009. Retrieved May 10, 2010.
  10. "Russia's alcohol consumption more than 100% above critical level". RIA Novosti. September 24, 2009.
  11. John Moody, James O. Jackson, and Nancy Traver (October 21, 1985). "Soviet Union Fighting the Battle of the Bottle". Time magazine.,9171,960191,00.html. Retrieved May 12, 2010.
  12. "Interpersonal Violence and Alcohol in the Russian Federation". World Health Organization. 2006. Retrieved May 12, 2010.

Further reading


See also

ru:Пьянство в России uk:Пияцтво в Росії

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