Russians spurn vodka

Moscow, January 17:

It has been drunk in Russia since the 15th century. But the country’s long love affair with vodka appears to be drawing to an end, with new figures showing that newly affluent Russians are preferring to drink other types of alcohol.

According to a survey by Euromonitor, vodka sales in Russia have fallen 15 per cent since 2000 with upwardly mobile Russians switching to brandy, cognac and tequila. Sales of beer and wine have also gone up.

Originally sold in taverns, taxes on vodka played a key role in the tsarist economy, at times providing up to 40 per cent of state revenue.

The drink remained popular in the 20th century - often knocked back with a plate of dried fish or pickles. Even in 2001 vodka amounted to 70 per cent of all alcohol sold in Russia.

Yesterday, however, Dmitry Dobrov, spokesman for Russia’s Spirit Association, conceded that vodka’s popularity was waning. People’s salaries have gone up. As a result they are buying more aspirational drinks, like rum and whisky.

Russians may no longer consume the 2 billion litres of vodka a year that they once did, but the figure is not expected to dip below 1.5 billion litres by 2010, the manufacturers said.