Drunken Russia

Reuters reports that the classic stereotype of Russia being a nation of reckless drunkerds is, well, quite simply true. Maybe instead of attacking as “racist” anyone who dares to point out basic demographic facts, so-called “russophiles” ought to be working to change the status quo and save lives:

Cheap and illicit alcohol kills more than half Russian men and women in their most productive years and the government must act urgently to reverse the trend, a study to be published in The Lancet at the weekend said.

“Excessive alcohol consumption in Russia, particularly by men, has in several recent years caused more than half of all the deaths at ages of 15-54 years,” the Lancet article said. The research conducted in three industrial cities — Tomsk, Barnaul and Biysk — said “excess mortality from liver cancer, throat cancer, liver disease, and pancreatic disease is largely or wholly because alcohol caused the disease that caused death”.

High mortality from tuberculosis and pneumonia may be partly a result of increased exposure to infection, weak immunity, or decreased likelihood of cure, the research found.

Russia’s mortality rate in people aged 15-54 years was more than five times higher for men and three times higher for women than in Western Europe, the study showed.

Alcohol is responsible for about three quarters of the deaths of all Russian men aged 15-54 and about half of all deaths of Russian women of the same age, the data showed.

Russia must stop or tax the illicit alcohol output, the article said, adding this in turn would mean “confrontation with organised criminals and corrupt officials … All that is needed is the political will to make public health a priority”.

David Zaridze, head of the Russian Cancer Research Centre and principle author of the study, told Reuters, “Each year 1.3 million people die from cardio-vascular diseases in Russia.”

“Based on our investigation, it is possible to suggest that at least a third of these deaths is linked to alcohol consumption and not to any specific heart pathology,” he said.

Alcohol-related deaths also include suicides, murders, drowning and deaths in fires, he said.

A United Nations report said in April that poor diet, leading to heart disease, heavy drinking and the high incidence of violent deaths may cut Russia’s present population of some 142 million to around 131 million by 2025.


Store shelves across Russia are laden with cheap vodka that costs between 60 roubles ($1.92) and 80 roubles ($2.56) per half litre bottle, while Russia’s illicit alcohol production is estimated to account for at least 50 percent of consumption.

Alexander Nemtsov, a department chief at the Moscow Research Institute of Psychiatry, estimated Russia’s annual consumption at 15 litres of pure alcohol per capita, including children and elderly people. This compares to just 6 litres in 1864, he said.

He estimated Russia had some 2.5 million registered alcoholics and about the same number of unregistered ones.

“Drunkards, not alcoholics, are the main threat to demography,” Nemtsov told Reuters. “Heavy drinkers make up 40 percent of Russian males, but this figure may be bigger.” The proportion of male and female drinkers is 4 to 1, he said.

Thirty-thousand people — twice the number the Soviet Union lost during its 10-year war in Afghanistan — die from alcohol poisoning in Russia each year.

Psychiatrist Nemtsov said fighting drinking in Russia was an uphill task, because cheap vodka was only part of the problem.

“Poor quality of life, cultural disadvantages, poverty and everyday stress all contribute to the problem,” he said.

14 responses to “Drunken Russia

  1. One wonders,….. what is the quality of the church-brand of vodka, produced & sold by the (KGB run) ‘Moscow Patriarchy’, the official state-church? But, I suppose that question is meaningless, as it is often consumed together with the smoking of church-brand cigarettes, (‘holy-smokes’?) also sold by that same ‘church’. When asked, why?…. does the church sell such unhealthy products as vodka and cigarettes? The now-Patriarch, KGB-agent- Kyrill (formerly labeled, ‘The Tobacco and Vodka Metropolitan’,) said: ‘Because we care about peoples’ needs’.
    Of course, too, it brings in huge profits, ‘for God’ (?)

    • Sorry, I never met Mr. Jack Daniels!
      Added comment: As far as I know, the church-sold vodka, is not claimed to be produced ‘by monks’ or Moscow Patriarch monasteries, etc. BUT, correct me, if I am wrong, which I MAY be. It is produced FOR the state-church, the MP, under contracts with private (or state) distilleries., or some of it may be imported. The cigarettes, are, mostly, foreign-imported brands.. However, they do have a church-logo brand, of cigarettes, which shows a Russian Orthodox church on it. Where exactly such poisons are sold to the public, seems to be in special church-connected kiosks, but where holy-items, as the normal religious items such as baptismal crosses and icons, prayer books and bibles, etc., are in a seperate section, as it would be unseemly, (in the Russian mind) for such items to be publically/visibly mixed together, which would for sure offend Russian sensitivities! But, again, perhaps some reader of this site, who lives in Russia, can illumine us further….as to WHERE all, these church vodkas and smokes are sold.
      And, again, whether we in the west approve or do not approve ( and many of us do NOT approve of it!) of Catholic-Orders producing or contracting others to produce and sell for them alcoholic beverages for sale, ( mostly, very elitist and expensive and exclusive stuff, afterall!….not meant for the masses) is irrelevant. Christian monastics, east or west, with some notable exceptions, always historically made their own monastery wines, as it is a key ingredient in Holy Communion, afterall, and most monastic ancient rules, allowed SOME moderate use of wine for the monks, as a part of their normal diet, etc. What is in Russia today, is a far far cry from that. It is mass alcoholic poisoning of the population, which fills the pockets of government and ‘church’ authorities.
      To La Russophobe! KEEP TELLING THE TRUTH!

  2. How’s Jack Daniels?
    I do hope he is fine. Send him my best regards.

  3. psalomchik – isn’t getting drunk a sin in the – true – Russian Orthodox faith?

    And I agree with you – it somehow seems unseemly for the Moscow Patriarchy or the so-called Russian orthodox church to be selling “holy water” and “holy smokes.”

    There is, of course, Benedictine, and there have been assorted ales made by monks – some excellent ones from Belgium come to mind.

    Nevertheless, I haven’t heard Benedictine monks say – “oh, gee, we need to feed the disease of alcoholics,” like Killer Kyrill did.

    • Responding to Elmer, Well, yes of course, drunkeness is considered a serious sin in Orthodox morality, though…..moderate consumption of alcoholic beverages is not forbidden, as that has always been, through time immemorial, considered normal, etc. UNLESS a person has a problem with alcohol, and in that case they should not drink one drop! …alcohol for that person, IS a sin. The Russian church historically prescribed tea-drinking for them.
      Traditionally too, tobacco smoking was totally forbidden by the church, as, ‘the devil’s incense’. However, why the Moscow Patriarchy has a state-granted monopoly and special exemptions from tobacco and alcohol taxes, etc…..has to do, totally, with plain old human greed, and it is indeed prospering, money-wise, at the expence of other’s addictions, their very harmful addictions. Hense, a ‘church’ is helping to kill and destroy lives! Since, most Russians smoke and drink, therefore, Kyrill II is: ‘caring for the….needs (read, addictions) of the people’, etc. i.e. giving them what they want, and would buy elsewheres, IF the ‘church’ did not sell it to them, etc.
      For smokers and alcoholics, they will spend their last ruble on those products, and not even buy food, hense the great & steady profits to be gained by those who provide them. And the Moscow Patriarchy, is indeed a BIG business operation, connected to the KGB ruling class. Ironically, of course, the main public reason given for this new , post-soviet-era, official toleration/promoting of the state-religion, is that it is hoped that: ‘the church will help upgrade the moral level of the population’……which those long past official communist-era years, greatly diminished.
      But, the exact opposite is happening. It is this phony ‘church’ which approves all of the Kremlin’s lines and which even blesses nuclear missiles aimed at America, with holy water (no, not with church-vodka!, just cheap holy water!)
      But, we live in a time of many many contradictions, and lies, endless lies, especially from the current rulers of Russia, their KGB gangster-state & their captive ‘church’.
      In the end, what does that ruling class really want?
      Money and their continued power. PERIOD!….and the people be damned! This is the formula, for NATIONAL SUICIDE!
      And, by the way, this preferred-status for the Moscow Patriarchy, in it’s tobacco and vodka sales, means that ‘the church’ sells those products at much lower prices than others, hense they have a special cornered market. And, NO! this devilish arrangement, is NOT like Catholic monks making Benedictine Liquor, or whatever. This situation in Russia is big-time promoting of POISONS for the masses, by a supposed, ‘church’.
      Thus, this ‘church’ is aiding the destruction of many many lives, as it also….is corrupting souls , and minds too, as it is a phony-communist front, serving the athiest nomenklatura, not Jesus Christ! and it is not a serious Christian entity at all. Afterall, Stalin created it in 1943, and it is NOT the true historic Russian Orthodox Church, NOT! at all.
      Reader Daniel

      • The true historic rooshan Orthodox Church died in the 17th century. :(

        • I suppose you are referring to the 1600’s Old Believer Schisms? Since this article is about alcoholic problems in current Russia, it would not be on-topic to get off into old-Russian history, such as those matters. But, most Russians consider that sad page in Russian history, as among the darkest in all their history. Of course, today, there are many remnants of those, various/much-divided, Old Believer sects, inside of the RF territory and also in neighboring countries. The Kremlin is constantly pursuing them,….at least the, ‘priestly-ones’, to join it’s Moscow Patriarchy, but so far, with little success.

    • Belgian trappist beer is DA BEST IN THE WORLD!

    • There is a pub in Philadelphia where they only serve Belgian beers, at $4.50 to $35 a pop. It’s not far from the Liberty Bell, but for obvious reasons I can’t provide more specific directions.

  4. Paul Goble had this related post yesterday:

    Vienna, June 26 – Extremely high mortality rates among Russian men in prime child-bearing ages, far larger than those in other developed countries and largely the result of alcohol consumption and drug abuse, are undercutting not only Moscow’s efforts to solve the country’s demographic problems by pro-natalist policies but its hopes to modernize the Russian economy.


    According the Moscow daily, there are currently a total of 22 million men aged 20to 40, the prime age cohorts for new fathers. “Of these,” however, “about 700,000 are in prison, 2.1 million are registered alcoholics—and how many of those are uncounted,” the paper asks. And there are 2.5 million drug addicts. As result, 5.3 million potential fathers are not really available.


    And Putin’s response: he acknowledged this week in the face of several reports including the Lancet that alcohol consumption was a major problem but suggested only that “Russians should drink less” .

    It’s the same paradigm as any thug state in Africa where the ruling clan pillages the assets, stuffs their offshore accounts with the loot and ignores the needs of the population.

    Anyone want to take a guess at the number of “(un)registered” alcoholics that aren’t in those stats? Yikes!

  5. http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/health/article6586091.ece

    Vodka kills as many Russians as a war, says report in The LancetTony Halpin in Moscow
    The terrible cost of Russia’s love affair with vodka was laid bare in a study published yesterday. It blamed alcohol addiction for more than half of all deaths among Russians in their prime years and said that the scale of the carnage was comparable to a war.

    The report, which appeared in The Lancet, said that three quarters of deaths among men and half of deaths among women aged 15-54 were attributable to alcohol abuse. The mortality rate in Russia in this age group was five times higher for men and three times higher for women than in Western Europe.

    Professor David Zaridze, who led the international research team, calculated that alcohol had killed three million Russians since Mikhail Gorbachev tried and failed to restrict sales in 1987. He added: “This loss is similar to that of a war.”

    The study analysed the deaths of almost 49,000 people between 1990 and 2001 in Tomsk, Barnaul and Biysk, three industrial cities in Siberia with typical mortality rates. It concluded that alcohol was the cause of 52 per cent of mortalities; 13 times greater than the worldwide average.

    The Russian, British and French researchers said that “excess mortality from liver cancer, throat cancer, liver disease and pancreatic disease is largely or wholly because alcohol caused the disease that caused death”.

    The findings will fuel the debate about a slump in life expectancy in Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union, particularly among men. The average Russian man now lives little more than 60 years, compared with 77 years for men in Western Europe, while Russian women die on average at 73, nine years earlier than their European counterparts.

    Soaring poverty and stress associated with the Soviet collapse, and the loss of jobs and security, have been blamed. The study highlighted a doubling of alcohol consumption in seven years between 1987 and 1994 to about 10.5 litres annually per person.

    “Alcohol consumption is always connected with poverty. It’s been associated with social crisis. If we take our mortality statistics, it will be obvious that it’s parallel to our social crisis,” said Professor Zaridze, head of the Russian Cancer Research Centre.

    Consumption has continued to rise sharply. A report in 2007 by Gennadi Onishchenko, the Chief Public Health Officer, said that Russians were drinking the equivalent of 15 litres of pure alcohol each year. His report said that almost 30,000 people died annually from alcohol poisioning and that at least 2.3 million people were alcoholics.

    Attempts to limit Russians’ thirst have never enjoyed much success. Mr Gorbachev almost lost public support for his reforms by launching an antialcohol campaign in 1985, whichmerely encouraged a black market and put a hole in the state budget from lost revenues on official sales.

    As President, Vladimir Putin ordered the introduction of a strict licensing system to fight illicit alcohol sales. It provoked complaints that poorer Russians were risking death by turning to industrial cleaners.

    Even so, vodka remains remarkably cheap by European standards and supermarket shelves are lined with brands costing as little as £2 per bottle. Beer sales have tripled since 1998, but most do not regard beer as a “serious” alcoholic drink and it is common to see people consuming a bottle on their way to work in the mornings.

    Drink that bites back

    • Vodka can be produced from grain, potatoes, molasses, beets or other plants

    • The name comes from the Russian word woda meaning water

    • Normal vodka is about 40 per cent alcohol but the Balkan brand comes in at 88 per cent

    • Deadly fake vodka, often made from industrial wood alcohol, has plagued Russia and Eastern Europe in recent years since production was liberalised

    Health alert as Russia’s alcohol consumption triples

    Russians have gone on an alcohol binge remarkable even by their own formidable standards, according to the country’s chief public health officer.

    The average Russian consumes almost three times as much alcohol as he did 16 years ago. A report by Gennadi Onishenko, head of the consumer protection agency, found that Russians drink 15 litres (26 pints) of pure alcohol per year, or half a pint a week, compared with 5.4 litres in 1990. That far exceeds the estimate of 9.7 litres made in 2005. The study calculated that at least 2.3 million people in Russia were alcoholics, and blamed rising mortality rates, particularly among men, on drink.

    It voiced alarm that more children were becoming dependent on alcohol, noting that the age at which juveniles started to drink had slipped from 16 to as low as 13. “The ever-higher consumption of alcohol by adolescents and women is especially worrying,” Mr Onishenko said.

    While Russians’ love for vodka is undiminished, beer consumption has risen sharply, encouraged by advertisements portraying it as fashionable, the study notes. The popularity of beer among the young created further potential for “mass alcoholism”.Sales of beer and other lower alcohol drinks have tripled since 1998 and accounted for 75 per cent of the 12 billion litres of alcohol sold in Russia last year. Vodka represented 16 per cent of sales by volume, double the level for wines.

    Deaths caused directly by alcohol poisoning fell but alcohol-related illnesses continued to account for one in eight of all deaths in Russia.

    Alcohol dependence is seen as central to the country’s demographic crisis; the population is declining by 700,000 a year and male life expectancy has fallen to less than 59 years, compared with 72 for women. Russia also suffers significant economic damage because of alcohol abuse among workers.

    Mr Onishenko called for a campaign to reduce alcoholism and to improve education. His appeal is likely to fall on deaf ears. Soviet leaders, notably Mikhail Gorbachev, tried without success to curb Russians’ thirst for alcohol.

    The Government’s strict licensing system, introduced under pressure from President Putin, prompted concern that poorer people were risking their lives by drinking cleaning fluids as vodka prices rose to pay for the new licences.

    Round of drinks

    Annual alcohol consumption, litres per head

    15: Russia

    11.2: UK

    9.8: Australia

    8.4: US

    7.6: Japan

    1.5: Turkey


  6. It is my understanding that during sovok times, there was a deliberate official policy of making vodka – cheap vodka – readily and widely available to the masses, so that they could better endure or tolerate the “workers’ paradise.”

    So I think we have yet another sovok legacy continuing on and living today in Russia.

    Does Russia have any help available for alcoholics, such as Alcoholics Anonymous?

    Or maybe less kleptocracy on the part of the Kremlin, and more favorably economic policies for the people?

  7. I agree, I always thought that the opinion about Russians being just bums and drunks was exaggerated… But after MUCH closer inspection of random Russians in Europe in Russia and elsewhere…

    It’s totally true, they are nearly all alcoholics.

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