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Russian Drunkenness
February 19, 2010 10:25


Nikolai Kopeikin

Everywhere we hear statements that Russians are the nation most intemperate in using of alcoholic drinks and it was allegedly like that from time immemorial. Often we, the Russians, also repeat the affirmations about the "historical predisposition" of Russians to alcohol. However, the history of Russia refutes this myth.

It is known, that in Old Rus’ there was no drunkenness at all. As a matter of fact, the population of Old Rus’ did not grow grapes, and so wine for the Holy Communion sacrament was brought from Byzantium. Fermented honey and beer were traditional intoxicating liquors in Russia back then.

The Hypatian Chronicle (XII century), one of the ancient Russian annals, describes how the Russian Prince Igor Vsevolodovich made his runaway from captivity. Everybody in the enemy camp got drunk with koumiss and fell asleep. Since Igor refused to take this drink, he managed to break free from the camp and left so far away to the steppe, that they did not even try to find him.

Wine in Russia was used for medical purposes and appeared under the following circumstances.

Prince Oleg on his return from Tsargrad in the year 907 brought gold, luxurious fabrics and numerous sorts of Greek wine to Kiev. In the beginning of the 16th century Russians tried the Burgundy wine, and later Canary wine. Only guests of honour were treated with these faults: they were poured one, or rarely, two tiny liqueur glasses, which they would savour for long. Besides, Malvasia was esteemed as medical wine good for relieving various pains. Red church wine brought from Greece was also considered a similar medicine.

From olden times one of the favourite drinks of the Russian people was kvass, which was very useful and was used not only as a beverage. As far back as the 10th century kvass was not only drank, but was widely used in banya (Russian steam bath) to add steam and also to poured it over the body for better health. Kvass became commonly used after the Novgorod bishop Niphont permitted monks to drink kvass and honey on holidays and during the Lent, because these drinks were very useful for health.

The researcher of antiquity Pryzhkov in his Stories of taverns in Russia proves that our ancestors never suffered drunkenness. “Drinking was not a defect corroding the national organism. It evoked fun and pleasure, as illustrated by Prince Vladimir’s words: “Rus’ has joyful drinking – it cannot be otherwise”. But centuries later dabblers in science came to cite it as an example of Russian drunkenness.

The myth about Russians as the most drinking nation in the world is probably the steadiest of various myths. Though the myth was not born in Russia, it somehow set its roots in this country, becoming nearly a subject of national pride. Hardly any other peoples like it so much to tell about their defects, at times exaggerating it, as we do. Russian drunkenness is a favourite theme for jokes and domestic comedies. It has become almost trendy to talk about the tradition of Russian drunkenness.

In the modern world most of all alcohol (from 10 to 12 litres of alcohol per person) is taken in Ireland, Portugal, France, Germany, Czechia and Romania. Whereas in Russia consumption of alcohol reaches 8,6 litres, according to official and informal data.

So the myth about Russian drunkenness does not only set up a certain model of behaviour, providing an excuse for any sort of excesses, but also continues to spoil the international reputation of our country.

To read on the theme:
Russian Vodka
Russian Drinks

 

Sources:     old-rus.narod.ru


Tags: Russian Drinks Russian Customs Russian Vodka   

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