Streetwise Professor

July 14, 2010

Russia: Where Life–and Death–is a Drinking Game

Filed under: Russia — The Professor @ 12:11 pm

In Russia, everything seems to be an excuse to drink.  I’m happy!: I’ll drink!  I’m sad: I’ll drink.  I’m cold: I’ll drink.  And now, in the midst of a heat wave, the game is: I’m hot!  I’ll drink.

And the consequences are appalling:

Dozens of Russians, unduly fond of their national tipple, are drowning daily as they stream to water to escape the record-setting scorching heat, a senior emergencies ministry official said on Wednesday.

Vodka-drinking groups — some with small children — can be seen at lakes and ponds in and around the Russian capital where the current three-week heatwave may set a new all-time record of 37 Celsius (98.6 Fahrenheit) this weekend.

“Russia’s Emergencies Ministry is very worried by the current situation. In the last day alone, 49 people drowned (in Russia), including two children, Vadim Seryogin, a department head at the ministry, told a news conference.

Forty-nine in a day.  By contrast, in the US, a country with double the population, averages about 74 drowning deaths per week. (It would be interesting to learn whether Russia’s already astronomical vehicular death rate has spiked to.)

Some of the stories are especially gruesome, like the 6 children who died in the Sea of Azov while their summer camp counselors were stupefying rather than supervising.

I appreciate that the heat–in the mid-90s F–is very difficult for people to deal with.  I split time between Houston and St. Louis, which are beastly in the summertime: forecast highs for Houston are mid-90s through the entire week.  But natives are used to it, and more importantly, air conditioning is ubiquitous.  In Russia, in contrast, people aren’t used to it, and air conditioning is a rumor: I almost suffocated in a Moscow hotel room in late-August when the temperature was merely in the 80s F. I can imagine that it is nearly intolerable under current conditions.

But even given that, this spate of drownings is dumbfounding.  In the US, heat waves in inner city areas (where AC is less common) lead kids to play in the hydrants, and go swimming more frequently.  There are more drownings, but the rate and the delta of the rate is nothing by comparison with what is being reported in Russia.

And the difference can, apparently, be distilled down to one thing: spirits. Which is pretty amazing, because I never considered getting sh*t faced to be all that refreshing.

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20 Comments »

  1. Yeah, it’s hot. Really hot. Even at my dacha, under big leafy trees, I’m sweating. In the city it is close to unbearable. I have tried to figure out why our 88 (with relatively low humidity) seems worse than New York’s 105 with 97 percent humidity, and have concluded that it’s the quality of the air. We don’t use unleaded gas, there is construction dust and dirt all over, and of course a lack of air conditioning (the metro is truly unbearable these days!). And we drink too much, jump in a pond or river, and drown. One thing that would help is a concerted, well-done, long-term media campaign. So far that isn’t happening.

    Comment by mossy — July 14, 2010 @ 12:56 pm

  2. […] Professor discusses the consequences of drinking in Russia, not least as temperatures now reach high peaks and people […]

    Pingback by Global Voices in English » Russia: Drowning in drunkenness — July 14, 2010 @ 12:59 pm

  3. The drowning is being attributed to drinking, but it is not known (and probably would be damn hard to measure, in Russia especially) if the overall drinking-related death rate has actually increased.

    Maybe the people who got drunk and drowned would in a cooler weather get drunk and murder some normal person in a fight (which the scorching heat probably discourages).

    So, drinking being a constant in Russia, it is not known whether the heat has a positive or a negative effect on the quantity and quality of the surviving population.

    Comment by Ivan — July 14, 2010 @ 1:23 pm

  4. Drinking deaths are fairly easy (for Russians) to find out – Rosstat has monthly statistics on causes of death.

    Also, what is worse – sweating it out like real people (with a nice cold beer on the side), or turning on the AC and contributing to the global warming that is causing more of the sweating in the first place?

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 14, 2010 @ 1:27 pm

  5. Alcoholism is a disaster in Russia. Life expectancy for men is down to 60. This is usually brought up in discussion of pervasive drinking (and they don’t drink wine or beer).

    Comment by David Hoopes — July 14, 2010 @ 1:55 pm

  6. […] Professor discusses the consequences of drinking in Russia, not least as temperatures now reach high peaks and people […]

    Pingback by Official Russia | Russia: Drowning in drunkenness — July 14, 2010 @ 2:05 pm

  7. http://www.theworld.org/2010/02/05/alcoholism-a-national-disaster-in-russia/

    Comment by David Hoopes — July 14, 2010 @ 3:07 pm

  8. Excellent work Sub Ob! I was wondering how you’d interpret this one. So, all those Russian drowned are martyrs in the cause of preventing global warming. Another aspect of Russia’s moral greatness, i guess.

    Comment by Gaw — July 14, 2010 @ 4:34 pm

  9. @Gaw. LOL. I’d just substitute “spin” for “interpret.”

    @S/O. “Weather=climate” is still a fallacy, even if made by a True Believer in AGW. Arguably especially so. And “cold beer” is hardly the modal beverage of choice in Russia, as you well know.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 14, 2010 @ 4:57 pm

  10. Drinking deaths are fairly easy (for Russians) to find out – Rosstat has monthly statistics on causes of death.

    This reminds me of a funny story. When Sakhalin Energy first excavated the site of the LNG facility at Prigorodnoye they discovered a corpse which had been dismembered and the limbs and torso buried separately, probably dating from the time of the mafia wars in the 1990s. The local militia, obviously worried they might have to carry out an investigation involving real work, put it down as a suicide.

    Comment by Tim Newman — July 14, 2010 @ 6:39 pm

  11. @Tim–hilarious! Like the story of that exec who was found tied hand and foot in his swimming pool that was also classified as suicide.

    The ProfessorComment by The Professor — July 14, 2010 @ 8:42 pm

  12. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Brenda Small, Amy Jay. Amy Jay said: Streetwise Professor » Russia: Where Life–and Death–is a Drinking Game: Russia: Where Life–and Death–is a Drinking… http://bit.ly/dqNWKL […]

    Pingback by Tweets that mention Streetwise Professor » Russia: Where Life–and Death–is a Drinking Game -- Topsy.com — July 14, 2010 @ 10:44 pm

  13. @S/O. “Weather=climate” is still a fallacy, even if made by a True Believer in AGW. Arguably especially so. And “cold beer” is hardly the modal beverage of choice in Russia, as you well know.

    1. No, I don’t think so. Climate is weather averaged over long time series. One of the surer predictions of AGW is that the duration and frequency of heatwaves will increase per year, especially over places like the Eurasian interior (the continental USA, etc).

    2. I can tell you for sure that during hot summer daytimes, cold beer (sold everywhere and cheaper than water!) is not only the beverage of choice but pretty much the only one (well, plus sparkling water or kvas; certainly not vodka, anyway).

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 15, 2010 @ 1:40 am

  14. In winter drunks fall asleep in the snow and freeze to death. Unfortunately hard drinking is glorified as a macho pastime. Yet there’s nothing more pathetic than a drunk.

    Comment by So? — July 15, 2010 @ 1:41 am

  15. Anyway, those were my observations; the article says different. In any case I haven’t met anyone foolish enough to drink vodka during a daytime heatwave but maybe I just didn’t meet the right people.

    Comment by Sublime Oblivion — July 15, 2010 @ 1:43 am

  16. […] annual story of drunken swimming deaths (ringing in at 49 in just one day).  (Hat tip to Streetwise Professor, who has a posting commenting on this “dumbfounding” high rate of alcohol-related […]

    Pingback by Official Russia | The Dead Heat of Summer — July 15, 2010 @ 2:03 am

  17. I, too, haven’t seen Russians drink vodka during a heatwave. Cold beer or canned Gin and Tonic (12% alcohol, sold in Moscow vending machines) are another story….

    Comment by AP — July 16, 2010 @ 8:38 am

  18. One thing that would help is a concerted, well-done, long-term media campaign.
    Or maybe it’s time to push the falling?

    Comment by So? — July 16, 2010 @ 8:48 pm

  19. “Anyway, those were my observations; the article says different. In any case I haven’t met anyone foolish enough to drink vodka during a daytime heatwave but maybe I just didn’t meet the right people.”

    — SUBLIME MORON

    That comment really says it all about the Russophile scum. They are just blowing smoke, have no real experience with life as it is lived on the street in Russia. They cannot put down their crack pipes long enough to perceive even slightly the real reality of Russia, so obsessed are they with the Kremlin’s narcotics. And when confronted at last by undeniable facts from a legion of unquestionable sources, they simply collapse from shock.

    Think we’ll ever get an apology, though? Keep dreaming.

    Comment by La Russophobe — July 17, 2010 @ 5:54 pm

  20. At the present timne I am sitting in my bedroom in Donetsk in the eastern Ukraine. The temperature outside is 41 degrees celsius. The night time temperature is 31 celsius. No point in going out, best stay indoors with the air conditioning going. I am in the fortunate position of being retired and not having to work either inside or outside and my heart goes out to those poor souls who have perforce to journey outside the house.

    Air conditioning seems to be the only viable solution, at work, in the home and in public places. But I realise of course that not everybody can afford this. Being without air conditioning in this climate is like being without heating in the winter.

    Comment by Francis Lee — August 3, 2010 @ 8:23 am

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