ISSN 2409-2274

Mortality in Russia in light of the reduction in alcohol consumption

Alexander Nemtsov 1

  • 1 Moscow Research Institute of Psychiatry

2016, English selection, pp. 116–134


In the contemporary history of Russia, there have been three significant reductions in alcohol consumption associated with a decrease in mortality. The first, resulting from the anti-alcohol campaign of 1985, lasted 3 years, and the second, resulting from the impoverishment of the population and death of a large part of heavy drinkers, 4 years (1995-1998).

In 2004 began the third decrease in consumption, often inexplicably linked with the anti-alcohol laws of 2005. However, the history of this decline goes back to the year 2000. It started with the creation of Rosspirtprom (RSP) and the anti-beer campaign, with Rosalkogolregulirovanie (RAR) taking over in 2009. The main activities of RSP and RAR involved the bankruptcy of several hundred enterprises of the alcohol industry. This and many other actions of the RSP and the RAR resulted in the instability, sometimes disruption, of the alcohol market. This could be a significant cause of the decrease in consumption and mortality in 2004. In fact, in 2000 the second anti-alcohol campaign started. The object of the first one had been the consumer, of the second - the alcohol market. The aim of the first campaign was to decrease consumption and improve the economy. The aim of the second was to fill the budget by suppressing the illegal market and moving consumers into the legal market. The methods of the first campaign consisted of a reduction of production and trade restrictions; the methods of the second one changed in the course of the campaign. The main goal was to squeeze small and medium-sized players out of the market, on the assumption that they were the principal suppliers of illegal products. The methods of the second campaign included the introduction of a Unified State Automated System, the growth of excise taxes and a minimum price for alcohol, as well as tough, sometimes criminal competition. The tool of the first campaign was administrative pressure. The main instruments of the second one were RSP and then RAR.

As a result, there was neither an economic recovery in the first campaign, nor a filling of the budget thanks to alcohol in the second. The decrease in consumption and mortality in the first campaign was short-lived. The second campaign was in this regard more effective, due to the economic crisis and the growing budget deficit. Both campaigns led to increased consumption of illegal alcohol.

Keywords: alcohol consumption; mortality in Russia; anti-alcohol campaign; illegal alcohol