Author(s): Stickley A, Razvodovsky Y, McKee M
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Abstract OBJECTIVE: To examine major changes in the supply of alcohol in Russia and its impact on health in late-tsarist and early-Soviet society. STUDY DESIGN AND METHODS: Statistical data on acute forms of alcohol mortality were drawn from official publications and medical literature published in the period 1860-1930 that covered the 50 provinces of European Russia and some of the major cities in the Russian Empire. These data were examined for across-time changes in alcohol mortality in relation to changes in the availability of alcohol products, both in terms of increased and decreased levels of supply. RESULTS: Rapid changes in the supply of alcoholic products in earlier periods of Russian history resulted in quick and marked changes in the levels of acute alcohol mortality. However, while restrictions on the availability of spirits have sometimes been effective in reducing alcohol mortality, there has often been a rapid recourse to alternative forms of alcohol, i.e. alcohol surrogates. CONCLUSION: The lesson of history suggests that any attempt to deal with the problem of hazardous drinking in Russia must deal with all sources of alcohol, both legal and illegal, as individuals have demonstrated a high degree of ingenuity in identifying alternative sources of alcohol, both in the past and the present.
This article was published in Public Health
and referenced in Journal of Antivirals & Antiretrovirals