A Novel Way to Combat Russia's Love of Cheap Booze


Because the average Russian drinks like an unemployed Foster Brooks, the Kremlin has decided to create a black market in booze from neighboring countries like Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania, by levying an enormous tax on beer and vodka. Reuters has details on this ingenious, fool-proof plan:

The price of the cheapest half-liter vodka bottle will nearly double to a new minimum of 89 roubles ($2.95), according to the alcohol regulator's website www.fsrar.ru…Russia has moved to triple the excise duty on beer and is considering drastic limits on where and when beer can be sold, such as banning the sale on street side kiosks. There are also plans to raise duties for vodka, but these are separate measures that do not take effect yet….

The average monthly salary of 18,702 roubles ($651) would have bought 368 bottles of the cheapest vodka available before the New Year in an online supermarket, but 210 bottles now.

In 1985, the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev declared a war on the traditional evil of alcohol abuse, ordering dramatic cuts in the production of wines and spirits and introducing strict controls on public consumption of alcohol.

The campaign triggered a surge in illegal production of low-quality home-brewed booze and the curbs dealt a blow to the popularity of Gorbachev, the author of the liberal Soviet reform known as Perestroika.

Just in case they haven't yet figured out that consuming three bottles of bootleg vodka per day might have a deleterious effect on your health, the government will also require health warning labels in the new year and is toying with the idea of a state monopoly on the production of alcohol.

For obvious reasons, this isn't a campaign that would have had much credibility under the Yeltsin government: