Russian military stops issuing soldiers with cigarettes, offers candy instead

Russian military stops issuing soldiers with cigarettes, offers candy instead

Real changes in culture?  Or more cosmetic façades?

Russian Deputy Defense Minister Colonel General Dmitry Bulgakov has announced that the Defense Ministry will no longer purchase cigarettes for soldiers, Russian website reports.

“There are no cigarettes in our new military allowance. We have replaced cigarettes for the army with caramel candies and sugar. However, we can’t prohibit smoking completely. If a soldier wants to smoke, he will have to buy cigarettes with his own money at a store during his period of leave,” Bulgakov said.

Bulgakov also announced that all Russian officers will change their footwear by 2013.

“We have developed special office shoes for officers. They are lightweight shoes made of high-quality leather, which let soldier’s feet breathe. Women’s boots will be substituted too. Now we will distribute refined shoes for our beautiful military women. And, of course, the unpleasant naval jacket with a high collar will be replaced by a convenient sweater.” Bulgakov said.

(Via MosNews)

Russia groans under the weight of its rubbish

Russia groans under the weight of its rubbish

Landfill areas in Russia are bigger than some countries and authorities call for more recycling and tougher action against pollution.

With more than 2,000 square km of rubbish and solid waste rotting across Russia, the total area is six times the size of Malta.

Only 30 per cent of Russia’s waste is recycled properly, leading to 80 billion tons being dumped across the country.

The volume increases by 7 billion tons each year, the Federation Council’s first vice-speaker Alexander Torshin said at a national ecological forum, Moskovsky Komsomolets reported.

Vladimir Putin has also warned that the authorities need to act if they want to change the ecological situation in the country.

The Prime Minister said that about 15 per cent of Russian territory is in poor ecological condition, Interfax reported.

“In almost all of the country’s regions air and water pollution remain high,” Putin said at a meeting devoted to improving Russia’s ecology.

Federation Council first vice-speaker Alexander Torshin suggests that in the coming years we will begin mining trash piles for secondary resources (he continues to suggest that this could rival Gas/Oil as a source of resources/wealth)


(Via Johnson’s Russia List)

Alcohol blamed for half of Russia’s premature deaths

Alcohol blamed for half of Russia’s premature deaths

Excessive drinking causes nearly half of all deaths among Russian men of working age, researchers have found. British researchers who investigated drinking habits in one town in the Urals found men were imbibing colognes, medical tinctures and cleaning agents containing up 97 per cent alcohol.

Past studies have suggested that Russian men drink more than 15 litres of pure alcohol a year on average – equivalent to a 70cl bottle of spirits a week.

Professor David Leon and colleagues from the LSHTM and the Social Technologies Institute in Izhevsk say earlier research has neglected the “vast area of manufactured alcohol” and the significant contribution it makes to the death rate.

“We only came across it when we were sitting round a table with our colleagues in Izhevsk and asking what could men be drinking,” said Professor Leon. “They mentioned tinctures and eau de colognes. We had no idea this was going on.”

A 100ml bottle of Hawthorn tincture is more than 90 per cent alcohol and costs 15 roubles (35p), compared with the cheapest vodka which is 70 roubles for a standard bottle (700ml) and only 40 per cent alcohol. “Not only is it cheaper unit for unit of alcohol, but because it comes in smaller bottles it is cheaper to buy,” said Professor Leon. “We have pictures of eau de colognes – shelves and shelves of them displayed like a drinks counter in a supermarket rather than an aftershave counter. In Omsk we visited a shop where the top shelf carried a row of eau de colognes, the next one bottles of anti-freeze and the one below that cleaning fluids. They all contained ethanol – the way they were displayed was testimony to the fact that they were being sold for their ethanol.”

Professor Leon said men who turned to these products had entered a downward spiral that accelerated as their drinking increased.

(Via The Independent)

Alcoholism in the countries of the old Soviet Union not because of Chernobyl

Alcoholism in the countries of the old Soviet Union not because of Chernobyl

Some people try to blame alcoholism deaths in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus on ChernobylAlcoholism causes about half of all premature the deaths in Russia.

Alcohol has been a very important part of Russia’s social history since around the 10th century AD. Nearly every class and both genders appeared to over indulge regularly. Effectively, there was a culture of alcohol use that has continued into modern times

Because alcohol provided an excellent source of revenue, drinking was often encouraged throughout Russia. Alcohol and alcoholism in Russia continues to influence the overall morality, crime rates, social behavior and legislation.  Mikhail Gorbachev enacted an anti-alcohol campaign in 1985 that was successful for about a year, during which time male life expectancy improved by 2 years. Ukraine also had an anti-alcohol campaign from 1985-1988

Ukraine experienced a large mortality reduction during the (1985-1988 anti-alcohol) campaign. The estimates of prevented deaths revealed that at least 76% of the mortality reduction was attributable to alcohol. While in Western countries alcohol is considered as a protective factor for CHD, in Ukraine alcohol-related cardiovascular mortality is rather high. In 2004 in Ukraine total number of alcohol-related deaths was about 119,000 or 251 per 100,000 of population.

About 50-60% of men in the Ukraine are smokers

Alcohol caused the premature death of about 40% of men in the Ukraine. (PDF of the Research Paper Showing this figure)


(Via Planke Institute for Demographic Research/Environment News Service)

A Day That Shook The World: Chernobyl disaster

A Day That Shook The World: Chernobyl disaster

On 27 April 1986, the Chernobyl atomic power plant near Kiev in the USSR exploded in the world’s worst ever nuclear disaster.

The ensuing crisis was totally mismanaged by Soviet authorities, and spread radioactive material halfway around the world, causing untold harm – and the deaths of many of the workers battling to contain the meltdown.

The disaster would put the whole future of nuclear power in doubt across the world.

Watch original British footage from the disaster after the link.

(Via The Independent.Co.Uk

Fallout from Chernobyl in Poland

Fallout from Chernobyl in Poland


It is not uncommon today to read, or hear that the effects of the Chernobyl accident “have been greatly exaggerated” and that “only” 31 people died immediately when the disaster occurred (particularly as people rushed to minimize the dangers posed by Japanese Reactors following the recent earthquakes).

Naturally, the former Soviet republics of Belarus and Ukraine come to mind quickly. But what about other countries?

Poland was the third country profoundly affected by Chernobyl.

It was a glorious late-spring time, sunny, warm, blue sky, light breeze. On Sunday evening, April 27th, the wind became very strong and changed direction.  Many people had similar feelings of sleeping badly that night, waking several times and sweating. “It must be that hot eastern wind”, people commented.

The sister of the journalist, aged 40 at the time, a scientist in the field of fishery and hydrobiology, spent the day working on lakes in north-east Poland, about 40 miles from the former USSR border. On April 29th, the evening news on Polish TV was interrupted by a special communiqué from Moscow. “There was an accident in Ukraine nuclear power-station. “Shortage of tincture of iodine, all sold out” – a perplexed, tired looking lady chemist announced. (Iodine tablets did not exist in Poland).

My parents had a small bottle of iodine tincture at home. Ten million Polish children continued their normal school routine getting plenty of “fresh air” in their usual sport and outdoor exercise activities.

March 18th 2011 marked the 10th anniversary of her death.

(via The Irish Times)

Remembering Chernobyl

Remembering Chernobyl

The Chernobyl disaster had only been publicized because the Soviet Union couldn’t hide it.  If the USSR had its way, Chernobyl would have been tucked in that file of previously unreported Soviet disasters, like failed moon launches, humanitarian disasters, even another nuclear accident 29 years earlier.  It was only when radiation readings rose throughout Scandinavia and meteorologists tracked back wind patterns did suspicion fall on the four reactor power plant 80 miles north of Kiev, a city the size of Chicago.
Initially, reporting on Chernobyl was a challenge for NBC News. (Soviet Life had featured Chernobyl, ironically enough, in an article on the Soviet Union’s great nuclear safety record!) Then, a freelance “journalist” with exclusive video of the reactor on fire approached three of the four networks’ bureaus in Rome. Apologies abounded.

Ultimately, the Soviets opened up. There were reports on Soviet television and in Soviet newspapers and scientific journals.  The eeriest part of the trip, no doubt, was watching the clean-up at Pripyat, the mini-city of 55,000 that surrounded the nuclear power plant. By Soviet standards, it was paradise. High rise towers with roomy apartments surrounded by parks, including an amusement park and a sports park that had been ceremoniously opened the morning of the accident but never used.

Two years after the accident, an army of clean-up workers were still carting away things like school desks from the local school, preparing to dismantle the steel cars from the ferris wheel at that park, all of it accompanied by classic music pumped out over an area-wide p.a. system…to help the workers avoid going crazy from the deathly silence of a city abandoned on a spring day two years earlier.  The workers were from all over the Soviet Union, drawn by the double salary, the double pensions, good housing. They talked of drinking vast volumes of red wine, ostensibly as an antidote for radiation, but no doubt for more banal medicinal purposes.



Antarctica, 1961: A Soviet Surgeon Has to Remove His Own Appendix

Antarctica, 1961: A Soviet Surgeon Has to Remove His Own Appendix

In 1961, Leonid Rogozov was stationed at a newly constructed Russian base in Antarctica. Transportation was impossible. Operating mostly by feeling around, Rogozov worked for an hour and 45 minutes, cutting himself open and removing the appendix. The men he’d chosen as assistants watched as the “calm and focused” doctor completed the operation, resting every five minutes for a few seconds as he battled vertigo and weakness. He recalled the operation in a journal entry:

“I worked without gloves. I work mainly by touch. With horror I notice the dark stain at its base. At the worst moment of removing the appendix I flagged: my heart seized up and noticeably slowed; my hands felt like rubber. Just a little reminder that humans can complete some pretty amazing physical feats when their lives hang in the balance.”


(Via The Atlantic Monthly)