Moscow (dpa) - For decades, Russia is considered the nation with the biggest alcohol problem and extremely high mortality from alcoholism. But a new study by the World Health Organization (WHO) confirms the vodka nation is now making massive progress in the fight against alcohol.
Consumption has fallen from 2003 to 2016 by 43 percent, the WHO said. At the same time, life expectancy has increased dramatically - from just 57 years for men in 1994 to now 68 years for women and 78 years.
"We are destroying a cliché of Russia here," said WHO expert Carina Ferreira-Borges of the German Press Agency. Accordingly, Russians drank in 2016 only 11.7 liters of alcohol per capita per year. By comparison, in Germany, according to WHO data, 13.4 liters. This refers to pure alcohol. Half a liter of beer contains about 20 grams of alcohol. The Russians usually prefer to drink harder things like vodka.
For years Russian politics has been talking about successes in the fight against alcohol. There is a minimum price on spirits, higher taxes, a nocturnal ban on sales and strict advertising requirements. In addition, since long traded as beer beer since 2013 is also classified as alcohol. However, the WHO study is the first independent confirmation that, as critics have occasionally doubted, their successes are demonstrable.
As co-author of the study, Ferreira-Borges has collected and compared vast amounts of data from 28 years. "It all fits together," she said. Russia can now serve as a role model for other countries.
According to the WHO, around one million people die each year in Europe from the effects of alcohol consumption, many at a young age. In the largest country in the world, suffocation is often a deadly problem. Again and again there are massive poisonings with rumplem or with industrial alcohol. At the end of 2016 and the beginning of 2017, more than 70 people died in Irkutsk in Siberia because they had consumed an alcoholic bath additive.
Even Russian experts who are skeptical of official statistics and like to refer to the many Selbstbrenner, sometimes admit that probably something better in the vodka empire. The new WHO study certifies the authorities not least progress in the fight against illegal production.
Not only President Vladimir Putin, but also his officials preach a healthy lifestyle. The sportsman Putin - judoka and ice hockey player - is in this respect the complete opposite of his often intoxicating predecessor Boris Yeltsin. The Kremlin chief has been particularly concerned about the high mortality rate in Russia, including tobacco and traffic accidents.
Especially in the chaotic 1990s marked by hunger and poverty, hundreds of thousands of Russians died as a result of drunkenness. At that time, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the consumption of alcohol in men rose to 34 liters per year - equivalent to about 340 half-liter bottles of vodka, almost one per day.
Also because of the demographic problem, the policy was forced to act in the geographically largest country on earth - against the resistance of the powerful alcohol lobby. Unlike in the past, however, the government no longer relies on brute force methods. Unforgettable here is an anti-alcohol campaign under the Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev in the 1980s.
Today there is a "quiet campaign", which is probably the most successful in Russian history, said the clergyman Tikhon Shevkunov the newspaper "Komsomolskaya Pravda". It is forbidden to drink in parks and in public places, praised the chairman of a body in the state authority to regulate the alcohol market. In supermarkets, and to the delight of the WHO, each bottle is now separately tracked for tracking via an electronic system.
The WHO experts also emphasized that Russian values continued to be among the highest in Europe. Nevertheless, the successes so far could be an incentive for other countries to join the WHO Action Plan in the fight against dangerous alcohol consumption. Especially on price increases swears the WHO. But not only.
Ferreira-Borges puts it in the simple formula: "The more politically the alcohol control is implemented, the steeper the decline in mortality." The example of Russia also shows that there has been an upsurge in history. The scientist now hopes that politics will take further steps. It has been planned for some time, for example, to raise the age limit for higher percentages in Russia to 21 years. Above all, this should lower the mortality rate of young drinkers.
WHO status report from 2018 on global alcohol consumption
Alcohol consumption in Germany with the figures from 2010 and 2016
2019 WHO status report on alcohol consumption in 30 European countries
New WHO study on alcohol consumption in Russia