The Corner

Re: Drink and the Russians

Derb, on the history business: I’ve said from the start that Russians have always been partial to vodka and drunkenness. The point is that this cultural predisposition has rocketed to far higher levels in the past couple of decades, and that shift is significant. Communist ideology and/or discipline kept a lid on the problem for a while, relatively speaking. But when communism fell and no belief system emerged to take its place, the pre-existing predilection for alcohol became the only game in town, spiritually speaking. Also, the alcohol business means that in the Russian case, we’re dealing not only with the question of birth rates, but also and even more crucially with death rates. On China, the peasant setting favors children, who are needed to do agricultural labor and care for aging parents. I suspect that relative lack of urbanization had a lot to do with China’s pre-one-child policy birth rates. In any case, it’s the death rate that makes Russia a special, and especially interesting, case.


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