Staunton, December 7 – The Russian government claims that Russians have reduced their alcohol consumption by almost 30 percent over the last decade, but in fact, while they may be drinking less legal alcohol, they are increasingly turning to cheaper and more dangerous surrogates that are now killing more than 40,000 people a year.
In a new commentary (russian.eurasianet.org/node/65016), Alina Musina cites estimates which suggest Russians are now consuming 700 million liters of surrogates, ranging from samogon to paint thinner, alongside 996 million liters of officially registered hard liquor (gks.ru/wps/wcm/connect/rosstat_main/rosstat/ru/statistics/enterprise/retail/ and bbc.com/russian/features-38372029).
If those figures are correct, they certainly mean that Russians are consuming nearly twice as much alcohol as the Russian government acknowledges and they almost certainly mean that Russians, hurt by the economic crisis, are now buying cheaper surrogates than more expensive registered hard liquor.
According to Rosstat, Russians consumed far less alcohol this year than ten years ago. In 2007, they consumed 9.4 liters of pure alcohol, above the eight liter limit for healthy living set by the World Health Organization; but this year, they drank only 6.6 liters of pure alcohol. That would be a significant improvement if it were true.