What’s Worse in Russia: Drinking, or Lying about Drinking?

Last week the Kremlin admitted that Russia has 2 million alcoholics, that more than 40,000 Russians are killed each year by alcohol poisoning, according to the Kremlin’s data, and it was reported that over the past three weeks 400 people have been hospitalized by alcohol poisoning in the region of Pskov alone, with 15 fatalities. Sound horrific? It would be anyplace other than Russia. In fact, though, this data likely underestimates Russia’s problem by several orders of magnitude.

Indeed, the Kremlin’s brazen dishonesty is perhaps an even greater problem than drinking. According to experts, “in an adult population where at least three-fourths are drinkers, about 6 percent of the total group are probably alcoholic.” That means Russia must have over 6 million alcoholics as defined by Western standards (Russia’s adult population is about 110 million), and Russia is one of the most severe abusers of alcohol in the world, so the actual share of its population that is afflicted is probably far greater. So either Russia is defining “alcoholic” in a way so extreme as to exclude two-thirds of the population, or it simply lying about the number. Either way, it’s not suprising that the problem only gets worse. At the same time, it’s perfectly possible that the government is simply incapable of determining what share of its population is afflicted, and just guessing. This kind of thing is what passes for “social policy” in Russia and explains why the population falls by up to 1 million each year.

The simple fact is that, being governed by a clan of proud KGB spies, not one single word the Kremlin utters can be taken at face value. This lack of credibilty alone is good enough reason to condemn the election of a proud KGB spy as president. Without basic information that is credible, it’s impossible to establish a civilized, prosperous society.

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