Monday, December 28, 2020

Russians Increasingly Can’t Afford Quality Alcohol and are Turning to Cheap and Dangerous Kinds, Bulgakova Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 26 – As poverty rises in Russia, its population is increasingly turning to cheaper forms of alcohol and even surrogates rather than cutting back on this form of consumption. As a result, Anastasiya Bulgakova says, mortality rates, especially among men, are rising.

            The psychologist says that the current high levels of mortality among men have two sources: rising production of cheap alcohol that often contains dangerous components and a pre-existing high level of heart and circulatory diseases. When these factors combine, they lead to “fatal consequences” (

            Top-quality alcohol is expensive and increasingly beyond the reach of “the majority of citizens,” Bulgakova says. A bottle of good wine may cost 1000 to 2000 rubles (14 to 28 US dollars), something a Russian earning 20,000 rubles (280 US dollars) a month isn’t in a position to buy. And that leads him and increasingly her to purchase cheap brands or surrogates.

            That situation has been made worse during the pandemic both because incomes have fallen and because the Russian government agency responsible for monitoring alcohol quality has shifted its focus to determining whether people are wearing masks. It isn’t controlling the quality of alcohol and other goods on store shelves.

            “Over the last 30 years,” the psychologist continues, Russian men “have been under colossal stress and this has led to serious diseases. Plus, they are having to deal with poor quality food. Why are stores overfull of goods that harm them? Possibly, this is a definite policy: cheap alcohol is a poison, but vodka is a strong, dangerous and aggressive drink.”

            Bulgarkova’s conclusions are strengthened by Russian taxation policies. They hit alcohol and quality alcoholic beverages far harder than they do the cheaper kind; and so ultimately, the government is encouraging Russians to drink things that may be worse than those it is seeking to direct them away from.

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