(Bears because that was their thing during the Cold War, not because they are all hairy gay men…anyway)

The NYTimes brings us a bit about the Russian condition of being perpetually drunk, and how their government wants to do something about it, but that would be hard, and they’d rather just have a shot of chilled vodka instead.

Russia’s president, Dmitri A. Medvedev, has been voicing that sentiment a lot lately, declaring that the government must do something about the country’s status as a world leader in alcohol consumption.

The Kremlin has already vanquished one vice this year, casino gambling, which it all but banned in July. But drinking — vodka in particular — is another thing entirely. It is a mainstay of Russian life, both a beloved social lubricant and a ready means for escaping everyday hardship.

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His plan, though, follows a long line of failed anti-alcohol campaigns here, going back centuries. The most notable was pressed by Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, who in the mid-1980s ordered shelves emptied of vodka and historic vineyards razed. Those measures succeeded at first, resulting in a nationwide bout of temperance that even increased life expectancy.

But they also touched off a severe public backlash that damaged the standing of Mr. Gorbachev and the Communist Party, and he eventually relented.

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Russians consume roughly 4.75 gallons of pure alcohol a person annually, more than double the level that the World Health Organization considers a health threat. The consumption figure for the United States is about 2.3 gallons.

The country will have difficulty resolving its demographic crisis — its population is predicted to drop nearly 20 percent by 2050 — if it does not confront its alcohol problem. Life expectancy for Russian men is now 60 years, in part because of alcoholism.

Researchers studying mortality in three industrial cities in Siberia in the 1990s found that in several years, alcohol was the cause of more than half of all deaths of people ages 15 to 54, often from accidents, violence or alcohol poisoning, according to a report this year in The Lancet, a London-based medical publication.

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Several experts said they doubted that the government would accomplish much unless its plan was drastically strengthened. They said the most important step would be to raise vodka prices significantly through heavier taxation and the closing of unlicensed distilleries. A half liter of vodka now costs as little as $2.

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Dr. Aleksandr V. Nemtsov of the Moscow Psychiatric Research Institute, one of Russia’s leading alcohol experts, said that little would change unless the Kremlin got serious about shutting down unlicensed distillers, which produce half the vodka consumed in the country and usually are protected by corrupt officials.

“The government does not want to deprive poor people of cheap vodka,” Dr. Nemtsov said. “Because it is better for them when people are drunk. You probably know that Catherine the Great said it is easier to rule a drunk public. That is the root of the evil.”

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Outmoded ways of addressing the problem were evident at the drunk tank in Mytishchi. After they sobered up, those who had been brought in were written up: they were told that before being released, they would have to pay a fine.

The amount was 100 rubles, $3.50, just as it has been since Soviet times.