TABLE 7-3 Vodka as Percent of Total Alcohol Consumed in Russia, Selected Years

Year

Percentage

1960

75

1970

58

1975

56

1980

57

1984

53

1985

53

1989

60

1990

65

1991

69

1992

74

1993

81

1994

81

NOTE: The data shown do not take into account consumption of samogon.

SOURCE: Tremolo (no date: vodka and alcohol files).

The explanation for the alcohol abuse includes not only the relatively high level of overall consumption of alcohol, but also the high share of alcohol consumed in the form of vodka and Samoan, as can be seen in Table 7-3. Drinking vodka results in faster intoxication, more frequent violence, and more serious somatic effects, particularly accidents of different types and fatal alcohol poisonings (as discussed below), than does drinking wine or beer. A second, equally important factor is the mode of drinking prevalent among Slavs, which characteristically consists of "drinking binges"—the intermittent consumption of large quantities of alcohol in a relatively short period of time and often without accompanying meals. It should be noted that a small group of Russian alcohol specialists have long suggested that total alcohol prohibition is fruitless and that the most promising policy would be to educate the public in "civilized" drinking. This position was never popular in the Soviet Union, and its proponents were all but silenced during Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign.

It will be noted that the 1960 high share of vodka of 75 percent of total alcohol consumed had been reduced by government policy to the lowest point of 53 percent just before the start of Gorbachev's anti-alcohol campaign. An unexpected and alarming result of the campaign was that the share of vodka increased rapidly.12

In summary, we can say that even in recent years, the availability, usability, and reliability of state statistics on alcohol consumption and related matters in Russia leave much to be desired. Clearly, no coherent and effective public policy



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