Medvedev Praises Anti-Alcohol Drive

RIA-Novosti / APPresident Medvedev eating lunch with German Chancellor Angela Merkel at a beer restaurant Thursday in Munich.

President Dmitry Medvedev on Friday praised the unpopular 1980s anti-alcohol campaign of Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev and suggested his own crusade could also introduce new restrictions.

The positive comments toward Gorbachev are unusual among the country’s leadership because he is usually identified with the sudden collapse in the former superpowers status and the ensuing economic chaos of the 1990s.

In 1985, Gorbachev declared a war on the countrys traditional evil, ordering dramatic cuts in the production of wines and spirits and introducing strict controls on the public consumption of alcohol.

The campaign triggered a massive surge in illegal production of low-quality home brewed booze and the curbs soon dealt a fatal blow to the popularity of Gorbachev.

Medvedev, who is waging his own campaign against alcoholism, which kills tens of thousands of Russians every year and is seen by experts as a key element in the countrys low life expectancy, said Gorbachevs drive had some positive elements.

“[The campaign] was accompanied by idiotic bans and mistakes that fueled legitimate indignation among the population,” he told a meeting of his advisory State Council, comprising regional bosses and top officials.

At the same time, and this is a fact rather than speculation, that period saw demographic growth that was unprecedented in our country, he said.

A United Nations report in April said poor diet, smoking and heavy drinking had led to a high rate of heart disease and, alongside emigration and violent deaths, could cause Russias population to fall by 11 million to 131 million by 2025.
On average, 30,000 people — twice the number of Soviet casualties during its 10-year war in Afghanistan die from alcohol poisoning in Russia each year.

A report by The Lancet medical journal last month said alcohol-related diseases caused around half of all deaths of Russians between the ages of 15 and 54 in the 1990s.

In the past few weeks, state-run television channels have been running a massive propaganda campaign against heavy drinking, especially among the young.

Medvedev said more than one-third of underage Russians consume alcohol. Teenagers sipping beer or cheap alcopops on the streets are a common sight in cities and towns.

We must think about a system of measures, including restrictive ones, he told the State Council members.
Apart from the boom in moonshine, Gorbachevs anti-alcohol campaign led to the destruction of vineyards and wineries in the traditional production areas of Crimea, Moldova and Southern Russia. It took more than a decade to restore them.