Very interesting post, Andrew. Of course, as I noted, the vodka problem goes way back. Yet as I understand it, Russia’s alcohol problem has gotten much worse of late. Communism was indeed a substitute religion for many Soviet citizens, but it was an atheist religion that has helped stifle the re-emergence of any more conventionally religious successor. The economy is a huge problem in Russia today, but it’s not clear to me that Russia’s economic problems can be entirely separated from these cultural questions. I believe a boom in evangelical Christianity has been associated with economic development in East Asia, for example, and it’s arguable that a sense of religious purpose contributes to the cultural underpinnings of a successful developing economy. (I believe Peter Berger has written about the links between Christianity and ecnomic growth in East Asia.) The problem is that Russian society as a whole has collapsed, and a number of factors in that collapse are likely mutually reinforcing. But for my money, the absence of any vital religious faith looks to be one of those factors, as you seem to concede at the end.