How Do Russians Treat Vodka - The Russian Story
How do Russians treat Vodka? Vodka commands a divine existence in lives of many Russians. It has been a part of their history, culture rituals, and cuisine, since last 7 centuries.
There is a global conception that Russians drink vodka everyday and all of them are alcoholic. But the truth like in any other country is that there are lots of alcoholics in Russia, especially after the downfall of communism and economy but vodka is considered to be a man's drink and women generally prefer to have it in small amounts only – as most of them like their champagnes.
For some people vodka is a drink from heaven, and for some others it is a drink from the hell, but for Russians it is a drink that assimilates with their moods and energizes them to face the inherent situations in life. Most of the Russians love to drink vodka for three reasons:
• To celebrate
Russians love to celebrate every special occasion like birthday, wedding, New Years Eve, birth of a child etc over a glass of vodka. The drink is a regular fixture on the party scene since 13th century, when it became a ritual to pass the cup of vodka to begin any celebration. A cup of vodka was passed around and people who refused to drink it were considered to be sinful.
• To Relax
Russians typically believe that a cup of vodka will help them to relax and overcome the physical stress. Russians believe that one shot of vodka aids in blood circulation. There is some medical truth behind this belief because moderate consumption of alcohol is considered to be good.
• For medical reasons
Vodka was first used as a medicine to cure plague that struck Moscow in late 14th century. This tradition continued till late middle ages, when vodka evolved as the distilled social drink. Like Americans and Europeans who love to have a nip of whiskey or brandy to get rid of cold, Russians too have a nip of peppered vodka to serve the same purpose. The remedy is taking a shot of peppered vodka and then sleeping in bed with lots of blankets and sweating out. Although you may not experience complete relief but still you can experience a comfortable progress in your health.
When we hear of vodka the first images that conjure in our minds are that of people sipping their glasses of vodka with fun at a slow pace. That’s very untrue, because Russians love to have their vodka at one shot. Russians don’t follow “screwdriver" or "vodka and orange" method of sipping, which is popular in other countries. This method of sipping is considered to be a sort of ritual, which is strictly followed by almost all Russian vodka drinkers.
Vodka is always served with wide assortment of appetizers, tapas, starters, amuse-bouches, snacks, hors d'oeuvres, and canapés in small plates, which is known as zakuskis. The other wonderful thing is that vodka can also be teamed with fruits and many other sweets.
During family gatherings and other important events, where friends and family gather around a table, chilled shots of vodka is poured in each glass, and officially feasts begin only after toasting. Russians believe that a toast is incomplete without vodka. Some of the classic toasts enunciated during gatherings are:
• "Naz dyroovnia", or "Zah vsyo kharohshoyeh" ("May everything be good in your life")
• “Vashe Zdorvie” (This to your health)
• “Vipiem za Lubovie” (Lets drink for love)
• “Za Milyh Dami” (To the lovely ladies of land)
• “Za Vstrechui (To our get together)
• “Do Dna” (Until the end, the heroic!)
If the gathering is conducted in honor of the parted soul then toast is raised without touching the glasses.
Vodka in Politics
Vodka also played an important role in downfall of Russia. The Gorbachev administration imposed a cautionary ban on production of vodka because it believed that several Russians are destroying their lives and money on vodka. As a result vodka was only sold at licensed shops. People also loved to buy their drinks from illegal sellers hovering around the streets. Mostly these people sold acetones in disguise of vodka, which claimed several lives in Moscow and rural areas during the 80’s.
America also has witnessed such imposition in the 20’s and 30’s, which gave rise to Mafia culture there. But unlike Americans, Russians were not supposed to immediately let go of the spirit of vodka from their blood, so after some years the laws were amended to encourage the production of vodka like before, but by that time mafia had strengthened their grip on Russian economy and society. Even today economy is basically controlled by them.