The Vodka Wars

A very short book excerpt
olegtoka/Shutterstock

By far the most dramatic split between Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev came over vodka. As president, Putin had occasionally spoken out against Russia’s national shame, but words were rarely matched by deeds that would threaten the state’s alcohol revenues. President Medvedev took a decidedly more aggressive approach to Russia’s vodka problem beginning in the summer of 2009. By the time Medvedev handed the presidency back to Putin in 2012, his anti-alcohol campaign had quietly produced marked improvements in Russian health. Consumption of all types of alcohol had dropped from 18 liters per capita to 15. Suicides, homicides, and—most telling—alcohol-poisoning deaths occurred less frequently. In 2011, “only” 11,700 Russians died from alcohol poisoning, quite a drop from the average of 36,000 a year during Putin’s first eight years (2000–08) but still some 50 times higher than the rate in Europe and North America. The same year, combined life expectancy for men and women surpassed 70 years (64.3 for men, 76.1 for women) for the first time since 1986, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s anti-alcohol campaign.

— Adapted from Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State (published by Oxford in February)

Presented by

Join the Discussion

After you comment, click Post. If you’re not already logged in you will be asked to log in or register with Disqus.

Please note that The Atlantic's account system is separate from our commenting system. To log in or register with The Atlantic, use the Sign In button at the top of every page.

blog comments powered by Disqus

Video

A Stop-Motion Tour of New York City

A filmmaker animated hundreds of still photographs to create this Big Apple flip book

Video

The Absurd Psychology of Restaurant Menus

Would people eat healthier if celery was called "cool celery?"

Video

This Japanese Inn Has Been Open for 1,300 Years

It's one of the oldest family businesses in the world.

Video

What Happens Inside a Dying Mind?

Science cannot fully explain near-death experiences.
More back issues, Sept 1995 to present.

Just In