Staunton, Nov. 20 – Since Boris Yeltsin ended the state monopoly on the production of alcohol in June 1992, more than a million Russians have died from illegally produced and low-quality alcohol or surrogates, not counting the vastly larger numbers who have suffered premature deaths from excessive drinking, Sergey Kholodov says.
Many suggest that the only way forward is to restore a state monopoly over the production of alcoholic beverages, but they are opposed by others who say that this represents a retreat from free enterprise and who point to the failed efforts of the state to control samogon in the 1990s, the Sovershenno-Sekretno writer says (sovsekretno.ru/articles/palenka-iz-proshlogo/).
Others oppose a state monopoly because they associate it with the Soviet Union, but in fact, Kholodov says, while the Soviet effort lasted longer than any of the others, the Russian state four times before introduced total government control of alcoholic beverage production in the hopes of reducing consumption and the health consequences arising therefrom.
He describes how and why the Yeltsin era efforts to control what they had freed backfired and set the stage for the problems Russia is having now, with samogon widely available, closely linked to criminal groups in the Caucasus, and threatening the health of tens of thousands of Russians each year.
The arguments Kholodov makes in favor of a restoration of state control of alcohol production suggest that that idea is now gaining increasing favor in Moscow, especially as media reports detail ever more cases in which dozens of Russians are dying from consuming samogon or even worse surrogates like perfume and kerosene on an almost weekly basis.
This doesn’t mean that Moscow is about to reverse course – there is too much money for the elites in the current highly corrupt system of licensing – but it does mean that the demographic consequences of samogon are now so great that at least some at the center think they have now choice but to restore a state monopoly.