FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Why Alcohol May Doom Putin

by Dr. CESAR CHELALA

Russians’ love for vodka has a long history. Legend holds that vodka arrived in Moscow in the 14th century, brought by Genovese merchants to Prince Dmitry Ivanovich. Legend also says that monk Isidore, who lived in the Chudov Monastery, inside the Kremlin, made a recipe for Russian vodka around 1430. He probably didn’t anticipate the devastating effect that alcohol addiction, mainly to vodka, would have on Russians’ health and quality of life and on the country’s economy and social fabric.

When the Bolshevik Party came to power its leaders tried -without much success- to reduce alcohol consumption in the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin, however, reestablished state monopoly to generate revenue. Mikhail Gorbachev, in 1985, increased controls on alcohol consumption and imposed a partial prohibition through a massive anti-alcohol campaign.

That campaign, which included severe penalties against public drunkenness and alcohol consumption, as well as restrictions on liquor sales, was temporarily successful. It reduced per capita consumption and improved quality of life measures such as life expectancy and reduced hospital admissions. However, the population disliked this policy and ultimately had to be abandoned, its consequences felt again soon afterwards.

Periodically, reports surface on the great number of people who die as a result of consuming fake vodka and other alcohol substitutes. It is estimated that more than 40,000 Russians die every year after drinking such toxic liquids which include medical disinfectants, after-shave lotions and other dangerous substances.

Today, the average Russian drinks 4.75 gal. (18 liters) of pure alcohol a year, mostly as vodka and other black market moonshine called samogon. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), this consumption is far above what is considered safe to drink, and higher also than in any other nation in the world.

Russia has now one of the highest rates of alcohol-related illness, which on a long term include neurological, cardiovascular, psychiatric and liver problems, among many others. In the short term, however, and generally as a result of binge drinking, it provokes several kinds of injuries: violence, risky sexual behavior (including unprotected sex,) alcohol poisoning, and miscarriage and stillbirth in pregnant women.

The connection between excessive drinking and interpersonal violence cannot be overstated. However, due to social tolerance of violent behavior and incomplete or inaccurate information, official statistics only record a small percentage of violence. Some, however, are worrying. Among male perpetrators of spousal homicide, 60-75% of offenders had been drinking heavily prior to the incident.

Among young men, the risk of suicide is five times higher for heavy drinkers and nine times higher for alcoholics. Although men drink more than women, excessive alcohol consumption during pregnancy can result in the child developing fetal alcohol syndrome or show fetal alcohol effects which are associated with delinquent and violent behavior later in life.

Russians poor health status has translated in a short life expectancy. According to a United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) Population Division, life expectancy for males in Russia is 61.56 and for females it is 74.03. These figures are 17 years lower than in the western European population. By contrast, these figures in Japan are 79.29 and 86.96 respectively.

In June of 2009, the Public Chamber of Russia estimated in 500,000 the number of alcohol related deaths in the country. This figure highlights a very serious situation particularly taking into consideration that the country is going through a severe demographic crisis –it is estimated that its population will drop by 20 percent by 2050.

Although no precise figures are available, the direct and indirect costs of alcohol abuse in Russia can be considerable. Unless stronger measures are taken soon, Vladimir Putin’s dreams of a greater Russia will not be realized. The situation was aptly described by Oliver Bullough in his book The Last Man in Russia, “One man’s alcoholism is his own tragedy. A whole nation’s alcoholism is a tragedy too, but also a symptom of something far larger, of a collective breakdown.”

Cesar Chelala, M.D., Ph.D., is an international public health consultant and the author of “Environmental Impact on Child Health,” a publication of the Pan American Health Organization.

Dr. Cesar Chelala is a co-winner of the 1979 Overseas Press Club of America award for the article “Missing or Disappeared in Argentina: The Desperate Search for Thousands of Abducted Victims.”

More articles by:
June 28, 2016
Jonathan Cook
The Neoliberal Prison: Brexit Hysteria and the Liberal Mind
Paul Street
Bernie, Bakken, and Electoral Delusion: Letting Rich Guys Ruin Iowa and the World
Anthony DiMaggio
Fatally Flawed: the Bi-Partisan Travesty of American Health Care Reform
Mike King
The “Free State of Jones” in Trump’s America: Freedom Beyond White Imagination
Antonis Vradis
Stop Shedding Tears for the EU Monster: Brexit, the View From the Peloponnese
Omar Kassem
The End of the Atlantic Project: Slamming the Brakes on the Neoliberal Order
Binoy Kampmark
Brexit and the Neoliberal Revolt Against Jeremy Corbyn
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Alabama Democratic Primary Proves New York Times’ Nate Cohn Wrong about Exit Polling
Ruth Hopkins
Save Bear Butte: Mecca of the Lakota
Celestino Gusmao
Time to End Impunity for Suharto’’s Crimes in Indonesia and Timor-Leste
Thomas Knapp
SCOTUS: Amply Serving Law Enforcement’s Interests versus Society’s
Manuel E. Yepe
Capitalism is the Opposite of Democracy
Winslow Myers
Up Against the Wall
Chris Ernesto
Bernie’s “Political Revolution” = Vote for Clinton and the Neocons
Stephanie Van Hook
The Time for Silence is Over
Ajamu Nangwaya
Toronto’s Bathhouse Raids: Racialized, Queer Solidarity and Police Violence
June 27, 2016
Robin Hahnel
Brexit: Establishment Freak Out
James Bradley
Omar’s Motive
Gregory Wilpert – Michael Hudson
How Western Military Interventions Shaped the Brexit Vote
Leonard Peltier
41 Years Since Jumping Bull (But 500 Years of Trauma)
Rev. William Alberts
Orlando: the Latest Victim of Radicalizing American Imperialism
Patrick Cockburn
Brexiteers Have Much in Common With Arab Spring Protesters
Franklin Lamb
How 100 Syrians, 200 Russians and 11 Dogs Out-Witted ISIS and Saved Palmyra
John Grant
Omar Mateen: The Answers are All Around Us
Dean Baker
In the Wake of Brexit Will the EU Finally Turn Away From Austerity?
Ralph Nader
The IRS and the Self-Minimization of Congressman Jason Chaffetz
Johan Galtung
Goodbye UK, Goodbye Great Britain: What Next?
Martha Pskowski
Detained in Dilley: Deportation and Asylum in Texas
Binoy Kampmark
Headaches of Empire: Brexit’s Effect on the United States
Dave Lindorff
Honest Election System Needed to Defeat Ruling Elite
Louisa Willcox
Delisting Grizzly Bears to Save the Endangered Species Act?
Jason Holland
The Tragedy of Nothing
Jeffrey St. Clair
Revolution Reconsidered: a Fragment (Guest Starring Bernard Sanders in the Role of Robespierre)
Weekend Edition
June 24, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Pilger
A Blow for Peace and Democracy: Why the British Said No to Europe
Pepe Escobar
Goodbye to All That: Why the UK Left the EU
Michael Hudson
Revolts of the Debtors: From Socrates to Ibn Khaldun
Andrew Levine
Summer Spectaculars: Prelude to a Tea Party?
Kshama Sawant
Beyond Bernie: Still Not With Her
Mike Whitney
¡Basta Ya, Brussels! British Voters Reject EU Corporate Slavestate
Tariq Ali
Panic in the House: Brexit as Revolt Against the Political Establishment
Paul Street
Miranda, Obama, and Hamilton: an Orwellian Ménage à Trois for the Neoliberal Age
Ellen Brown
The War on Weed is Winding Down, But Will Monsanto Emerge the Winner?
Gary Leupp
Why God Created the Two-Party System
Conn Hallinan
Brexit Vote: a Very British Affair (But Spain May Rock the Continent)
Ruth Fowler
England, My England
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail