Russians drink less

New times for Russian breweries and destilleries as Russian authorities take new strict anti–alcohol measures.

A string of regulatory alcohol laws might be about to change the relationship between Russians and booze.


Thisty for a beer at a late night hour? Or preparing for some vodka in your weekend party? Well, if you are in Russia, you will need to prepare a bit. Access to alcohol drinks in the country is far from as easy as only a few years ago.

In many Russian regions, you will today not be able to buy alcohol beverages in shops after 9 pm and all kind of alcohol drinks, even beer, are no longer availble in street kiosks. All outlets selling spirits must today be no less than 25 square meter in rural areas and 50 square meters in towns. Furthermore, there has been a significant hike in alcohol taxation and subsequent prices.

A key part of the new federal legislation adopted in 2010 and later also include the re-definition of beer as an alcoholic beverage. Before that, all drinks containing less than 10 percent alcohol was defined as ”foodstuff”.

The plan of the federal government is to cut consumption by as much as 50 percent by 2020.

The measures, unthinkable just few years ago, are about to significantly change national drinking habits. Russia might still be among the top vodka countries in the world, and beer consuption is considerable. But Russians are drinking less, and alcohol-related accidents, diseases and deaths are on the decline.

The situation in Barents Region
Figures from Patchwork Barents show that sales of alcohol drinks in five Northwest Russian regions have dropped sharply over the last years. In Murmansk Oblast, Russia’s most populous region north of the Arctic Circle, the sales of wine and destilled beverages dropped as much as 25 percent between 2012 and 2013. In the neighboring regions of Karelia and Arkhangelsk the drop was about 17 percent and 15 percent respectively.

The alcohol sales are still higher in Russia than in the neighboring Nordic countries. However, the differences are no longer so significant. While the average per person sales in Murmansk in 2013 amounted to 31 litres, the average sale in the neighboring Finnish Lapland province were 27 litres and in the Swedish Norrbotten 28 litres. The Norwegian region of Finnmark is the region with the lowest consumption. There the average person in 2013 bough 18,3 litres of wine and destilled beverages, Patchwork Barents figures say.

Health benefits
The lower consuption also has positive effects on the health situation in Russia. According to Patchwork Barents, the number of alcohol-related deaths in Barents Russia has declined steadily over a number of years. That positive trend is likely to continue. That said however, a great number of Russians continue to die of alcohol-related damage. According to a new report from the World Health Organization, alcohol still kills as many as half a million Russians every year and  is the third most significant risk factor for disease.

New federal anti-alcohol laws are likely to try to change that picture. New measure now address the situation in the roads. State Duma lawmakers are about to prepare a new bill which will enable law enforcement authorities to confiscate cars from drivers caught in drunken driving, as well as deprive the driver’s license for life, reports.