Medvedev Praises Anti-Alcohol Drive
- By Oleg Shchedrov
- Jul. 20 2009 00:00
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.
In 1985, Gorbachev declared a war on the country’s traditional evil, ordering dramatic cuts in the production of wines and spirits and introducing strict controls on the public consumption of alcohol.
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 country’s low life expectancy, said Gorbachev’s drive had some positive elements.
“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.
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.
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.
Apart from the boom in moonshine, Gorbachev’s 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.