Russia, as the stereotype is to many Westerners, is synonymous with alcohol – more specifically, the hard stuff, like vodka. Alcohol seems to be the lifeblood flowing through the veins of the Russian people. Here are some fun facts about drinking and alcohol in the world’s largest country.
- Vodka is considered to be the national drink.
- According to the World Health Organization’s 2011 report, annual alcohol consumption in Russia was 15.76 liters per capita.
- Legend has it that the Russian prince, Vladimir the Great, rejected Islam as the country’s religion because of its intolerance to alcohol.
- Vodka, in Slavic languages, translates to “little water” (a diminutive or ‘cute’ way of saying”water”). Its name is popularly attributed to the famous Russian chemist Dmitri Ivanovich Mendeleev, who formulated the Periodic Law, which classified elements according to their atomic numbers.
- A study of deaths in 3 different Siberian towns between 1990 and 2001 by researchers published in The Lancet determined that 52% of those deaths for people between 15 and 54 were the result of alcohol abuse.
- Russia ranks #1 in world alcohol spending.
- Vodka in Russia often is used for medicinal purposes. As Peter Baker once wrote in the Washington Post, “Many Russians ascribe medicinal, almost supernatural qualities to vodka. Parents soak cotton balls in vodka and dab them on children to bring down a fever or ease an earache. Vodka with pepper is prescribed for an adult cold; vodka with salt is for an upset stomach. Some nuclear scientist even drank it protect themselves from radiation poisoning.”
- Until January 1, 2013, beer in Russia was not considered an alcoholic beverage; until that date, anything under 10% alcohol content was similar to a soft drink!
- Italians introduced the prototype of vodka, aqua vitae, to Russia in the 15th century.
- It is said that vodka’s ability to stay liquid even in the coldest corners of Siberia helped it to become the favored beverage.
* Yes, I know it is a bit off-putting to talk about drinking in Russia, like talking about any other stupid stereotype, but I didn’t want to write it to strengthen this stereotype, but rather because it was fascinating and multitudinous in material; I could hardly write about drinking facts about, say, my mother’s country, Indonesia, as alcohol barely exists.