Russia is world famous for its vodka and its amazing drinking culture. Vodka is an essential part of the lives of many Russians, and it is also indispensable to the study of Russian history and politics. Vodka is everywhere, from the court intrigues of the Tsarist era to the drunken mischief of Soviet and post-Soviet leaders.
The All-Russian Public Opinion Research Center has investigated the main symbols that best represent Russia in the 20th century in the hearts of Russian people: vodka occupied the top spot, beating polar bears, shamisen, Russian nesting dolls, and even AK-47 rifles. all opponents within. When it comes to the challenges facing Russia in the future, only about 10% of the respondents mentioned “national security”, “economic crisis” and “human rights issues”, and about 25% to 30% of the respondents mentioned “terrorism” and “” Crime problem”, about 50% to 60% of the respondents chose “alcohol and drug addiction” as the most pressing challenge facing Russia at present, and this proportion continues every year.
Yet while almost all developed countries tackled their so-called alcoholism a century ago, the alcohol problem continues to plague Russia’s top leaders.
Since Putin began to gain attention in Russian politics in 1999, Russia’s social indicators have improved significantly on the basis of the social order and economic setbacks that were devastated after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. In the 10 years from 1998 to 2008, Russia’s economic growth rate could reach about 7% per year. While Russia’s macroeconomic indicators are rebounding, Russia’s life expectancy indicator is closer to that of sub-Saharan African countries and not at all like a post-industrial European country.
It is not malnutrition or starvation that endangers Russia, let alone stray bullets in the civil war. The obvious culprit is vodka. Russians drink an average of 18 liters of pure alcohol a year, nearly double the maximum safe level determined by the World Health Organization.
Russia’s cultural addiction to vodka is tragic, and is often attributed to “a torture of the Russian soul”. But simply attributing alcoholism and self-destructive behavior to some innate cultural trait, as a genetically inalienable part of Russians, is a sin of desire. The vodka disaster in Russia was not a natural disaster, but a man-made one.
The long-term addiction of Russians to vodka and the various disasters brought about by this addiction is actually a political disaster created by the modern Russian authoritarian regime.
Before the rise of the autocratic regime in modern Russia, medieval Russians already drank beer and ale made from naturally fermented grains, mead made from naturally fermented honey, and kvass made from naturally fermented bread. Beginning in the 16th century, the Grand Dukes and Tsars of the Principality of Moscow had monopolized the lucrative vodka trade and rapidly developed it as the primary means of extracting wealth and resources from their subjects.
Government control of society through alcohol is not unique to Russia, even in the 19th century, distilled spirits had a very significant effect in “impoverishing the proletariat” of the African colonies and in enslaving black slaves before the American Civil War . But alcohol played a more ingrained role in Russia’s dictatorial tsarist regime and Soviet state governance than in any other country, and it has left intractable aftermath for the Russian Federation today and in the future.
Allowing people to indulge in vodka raises all kinds of moral, social and health problems, but as long as the country is strong and the treasury is full, these problems can be easily bypassed. At least when it comes to maintaining the stability of the regime, alcoholism is an added bonus for people to go to pubs rather than strike at the picket line.