By Noor Azeem
The role of alcohol in shaping Russia into the country it is today was discussed during a presentation at the College on Tuesday, Nov. 12.
“(Vodka’s) like beer goggles for Russian history,” Mark Lawrence Schrad said as he introduced his topic. Schrad, who earned his Ph.D. in political science from the University of Wisconsin, used his second book as the basis for his discussion as he dived into a chapter-by-chapter discussion of “Vodka Politics: Alcohol, Autocracy, and the Secret History of the Russian State.”
However, instead of making things blurry, exploring the politics of this hard liquor brings the past into a clear view.
Schrad took the “drunken-Russian” stereotype and analyzed it to the core.
“Behind a lot of stereotypes, there is a little bit of truth,” he told the audience, adding that the average Russian drinker drinks about two bottles of vodka and 13 beers a week.
But alcohol, as the largest contributor to Russian mortality — causing about 500,000 deaths per year — ties deeply into Russian history. Schrad explained this by going back to the rule of Stalin, who deceivingly got his peers constantly and completely drunk in order to inhibit them.
“They weren’t drinking because they wanted to drink,” Schrad said. “They were part of a system that forced them to drink.”
In his search for the origins of a cultural norm, Schrad discovered a myriad of connections between alcoholism and Russian history. His observations sparked a fast-paced lecture, with a lively question and answer session to follow.
“It was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be, and I thought he kept it really understandable for people who might not have as much knowledge on the subject as others,” freshman accounting major Anna Lin said.
“I liked that he discovered all of these different effects of alcohol based on a stereotype most people don’t pay attention to,” freshman open options major Emily Maragni said. “It was different from most political discussions, in a good way.”
Schrad’s lecture was well received and may even have created some potential readers of his soon-to-be-published book.