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Dysfunctions Last Updated: Feb 7, 2024 - 1:43:08 PM

Russia Faces Spike in Crime and Alcoholism as War Nears Two-Year Mark
By  Sergey Sukhankin, EDM 29/1/24 https://jamestown.org/program/russia-faces-spike-in-crime-and-alcoholism-as-war-nears-two-year-mark/
Jan 30, 2024 - 1:04:30 PM

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Russia’s war against Ukraine has led to a surge in alcohol consumption in Russia, reaching 2.3 billion liters in 2023 and mirroring Soviet-era trends. The spike in alcoholism correlates with an increase in violent crime across Russia, with over 589,000 felonies in 2023, the highest since 2011.   Growing alcoholism and crime, fueled by war-related stress and the return of pardoned criminals from Ukraine, contribute to a more stagnant, apathetic society and poses risks to Russia’s stability.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine is quickly nearing its two-year anniversary. For Moscow, predictions about a quick and glorious victory have turned into the realities of massive bloodshed, international isolation, and significant economic losses. Re-emerging ethnic tension are gaining momentum in the ethnically non-Russian regions, threatening widespread destabilization (see EDM, January 23). As the war wages on, two interrelated phenomena—the rise of alcoholism and violent crime in Russian society—could have detrimental consequences for the Kremlin.
Increased alcoholism has become a serious problem for Russian society. In 2023, Russians purchased 2.3 billion liters of hard alcohol, surpassing the previously established record of 2.2 billion in 2022 (The Moscow Times, January 23). Alcoholism in Russia has been historically attributed to negative internal socio-economic changes and growing social apathy. Experts from the Center for Macroeconomic Analysis and Short-Term Forecasting noted that the current trends in alcohol consumption mirror that of the Soviet Union “during the ‘lost decade’ from the mid-1970s to mid-1980s. This could result in the long-term degradation of human capital, most likely starting from the most depressive regions” (Forbes.ru, June 20, 2023; Forecast.ru, accessed January 26). In 2022 alone, Rosstat noted a rapidly growing number of patients suffering from “alcoholism” and “alcoholic psychosis.” This reversed the trend of 2010–2021, when the number of patients with similar maladies was half the current number (Kommersant.ru, January 15).
Rising alcoholism rates in Russian society has no proven correlation with social status or the level of consumers’ disposable income. Vadim Drobiz, director of the Center for the Research of Federal and Regional Markets of Alcoholic Beverages, stated that, in Russia, alcohol is one of the last commodities consumers will remove from their budget, even amid degrading economic conditions (Lenta.ru, December 27, 2022). According to Meduza, following Moscow’s expanded invasion of Ukraine, Russian statesmen began to consume significantly more alcohol. This reportedly started to affect people within “Putin’s inner circle,” much to his displeasure (Meduza.io, January 15). The most recent statistics published by official Russian sources reports that the regions most afflicted by alcohol consumption in 2023 were Buryatia (one of the primary sources of manpower for Russia’s war), the Chukotka Autonomous District, Kurgan Oblast, Sakhalin Oblast, and the Republic of Altai (Dzen.ru, December 19, 2023).
The growth in alcohol consumption has occurred in parallel with an increase in violent crimes. From 2021 to 2022, there was a 4-percent spike in murders and attempted murders in Russia. For example, in Nizhny Novgorod, a veteran of the “special military operation,” while drunk, stabbed his wife in front of his two small children. In Chuvashia, a former prisoner, recruited by the Wagner Group, was beat to death while out drinking. Some experts have drawn a correlation between declining mental states due to participation in the war against Ukraine, an increase in alcoholism, and the rise in crime rates over the past two years (Eurasianet, July 19, 2023). In 2023, more than 589,000 felonies were registered in Russia, many of which were connected to alcohol consumption. This is the highest number of felonies registered since 2011 (Dw.com, January 15). Experts report that, according to official Russian statistics, the regions with the most crime in 2023 were Komi, Karelia, and the Republic of Altai (RIA Novosti, January 22).
Russian officials are attributing the growth in violent acts to “crimes committed by Ukrainian formations on Russian territory” (Interfax, April 27, 2023). The war in Ukraine has played a significant role in the spike of violence and criminalization among Russian society, though in a very different way than Moscow portrays (see EDM, December 21, 2023, January 19, 22). Russian sources identify two primary aspects of the war that have contributed to skyrocketing crime rates. First, the polarization of opinions “about the war in Ukraine” has resulted in violent brawls accompanied by increased alcohol consumption (Sibreal.org, January 16). Second, many dangerous criminals, including murderers, assassins, and sexual abusers pardoned by Russian President Vladimir Putin to take part in the war, are now returning home and committing more violent crimes (Novaya Gazeta Europe, July 23, 2023; Sibreal.org, January 17).
The criminalization of Russian society is likely to rapidly increase as more veterans return from Ukraine. Undoubtedly, this process was greatly influenced by Yevgeny Prigozhin, the late Wagner Group chief who set the trend of recruiting convicts and criminals for the war against Ukraine. His method of “sorting out conflicts” with his opponents and perceived “traitors” is spreading through Russian society. One of Prigozhin and Wagner’s symbols, the notorious sledgehammer, which was used to perform on-camera executions, depicts the growing violent sentiments of Russian society (Novaya Gazeta Europe, November 12, 2022).
The notion of solving disagreements by violent means is not new to Russian society A popular Russian crime television series, “The Boy’s Word: Blood on the Asphalt” (Slovo patsana. Krov na asfalte), based on the novel The Boy’s Word: Criminal Tatarstan 1970–2010s, has had a profound effect on the Russian mentality (Vedomosti.ru, December 19, 2023). The series describes the nascent criminal world of Kazan during Leonid Brezhnev’s zastoii period, glorifying criminal notions (poniatiya) of grassroots “justice.” According to Olga Romanova, a Russian human rights activist and founder of Russia Behind Bars, the TV show confirms that Russia is and has always been a “prison-centric country” with a population continuously demonstrating affection for prison-related values and customs (Svoboda, December 20, 2023). Svetlana Stephenson, a professor of sociology at London Metropolitan University, who specializes in the origins of Russian organized crime, argues that the series provides a clear answer to the origins of Russia’s current political architecture, which was shaped by the criminal world of the “golden era” of Soviet times (Novaya Gazeta Europe, December 30, 2023).
The combination of growing alcoholism and criminalization of Russian society is unlikely to destroy the Putin regime. These two interrelated trends, however, demonstrate a pivot toward increased stagnation and growing social apathy within Russian society. If these trends continue to develop in parallel with further the destabilization of ethnically non-Russian regions, mounting military losses, and a crumbling economy, Russia may begin to rupture and experience a partial disintegration in the near future.

Source:Ocnus.net 2024

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