How Alcohol Conquered Russia

by Christopher Paul on September 25, 2013

Russia, say the surveys, have nearly 20 million alcoholics which is about one in five men. It's a problem the government has spent decades trying to solve:

The Russian government has repeatedly tried to combat the problem, but to little avail: this includes four reforms prior to 1917, and larger scale measures taken during the Soviet period in 1958, 1972, and 1985. “After each drastically stepped-up anti-alcohol campaign, [Russian] society found itself faced with an even greater spread of drunkenness and alcoholism,” explains G.G. Zaigraev, professor of Sociological Sciences and Head Science Associate of the Institute of Sociology at the Russian Academy of Sciences. The Kremlin’s own addiction to liquor revenues has overturned many efforts to wean Russians from the snifter: Ivan the Terrible encouraged his subjects to drink their last kopecks away in state-owned taverns to help pad the emperor’s purse. Before Mikhail Gorbachev rose to power in the 1980s, Soviet leaders welcomed alcohol sales as a source of state revenue and did not view heavy drinking as a significant social problem. In 2010, Russia’s finance minister, Aleksei L. Kudrin, explained that the best thing Russians can do to help, “the country’s flaccid national economy was to smoke and drink more, thereby paying more in taxes.”

Sad. The article reads as if Russia's government is actively promoting promoting behavior that only serves to cause longer-term problems for short term gains. And it also points out that Russia's AA doesn't have one of the major components of any AA programs around the world: religion. Say what you want about them, but AA relies on the concept of God to help addicts through the process. It's missing in Russia because, among other reasons, the government doesn't recognize AA as a treatment.

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