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Vodka Nation: Alcohol Problems and Policy Formation in the Russian Federation

Bailey, AL; (2015) Vodka Nation: Alcohol Problems and Policy Formation in the Russian Federation. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London).

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The thesis analyses the formation of state alcohol policy in contemporary Russia, with particular emphasis on the initiative to reduce consumption initiated by President Medvedev in 2009. The analysis is based on qualitative data gathered from a range of sources: semi-structured interviews conducted during fieldwork in Russia; interviews or extended discussions of alcohol policy already in the public domain; government documents and other official publications; contemporary media articles and opinion polls. I apply a constructivist sociological methodology which views ‘social problems’ as not simply objective states of affairs, but rather the result of competition between different groups in society to establish their interpretation of ‘the problem’ as the dominant discourse. I describe how from the mid-2000s, a small but influential anti-alcohol movement emerged comprised of members of a ‘civil society elite’. This new elite was successful in gaining cultural authority over the definition of the ‘alcohol problem’, and thus setting the anti-alcohol agenda. I interpret changes in alcohol policy in the 1990s and 2000s in the context of broader political and socio-economic trends. I apply the concept of sistema, the informal network-based system of governance in Russia, to explain how state-sponsored vodka interests have affected the development of anti-alcohol policy over the period 2009-2012. The development and passage of the major 2011 law on alcohol is described in detail, including the crucial role played by rival vodka and beer industry lobbyists. The thesis concludes by evaluating to what extent alcohol policy under President Medvedev 2009-2012 can properly be described as an ‘anti-alcohol campaign’. I conclude that while the initiatives cannot be dismissed as mere ‘simulation’ of anti-alcohol policy as some respondents suggested, the word ‘campaign’ gives a false sense of coherence to policies that were pushed by a variety of competing policy actors pursuing their own sectoral interests.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Vodka Nation: Alcohol Problems and Policy Formation in the Russian Federation
Language: English
UCL classification: UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1462915
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