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VI. DRINKING and EATING

 

Drinking is much more important for a Russian than eating. Russia is a drinking country. One thousand years ago, when the heathen Eastern Slavs were considering which new religion to choose, Prince Vladimir rejected Islam for the sole reason that Muslims shun alcohol. ”The joy of Russia is drinking!” declared the worthy Prince and was consequently proclaimed Equal-to-the-Apostles by grateful compatriots.

The chief national drink is vodka. Russians have 3 kinds of money – roubles, dollars and vodka, the latter serving as currency when you pay a plumber or hire a tractor driver to plough your vegetable plot. People prefer to be paid in vodka rather than roubles because vodka may be drunk the moment you get your hands on it without the tedious procedure of going to the wine shop, to say nothing of having to explain to your wife where the money went. Every sensible old country woman keeps a few bottles of vodka under her bed to be made use of when the time comes for planting the potatoes or to getting her well cleaned.

Vodka is also the chief tool in starting a conversation. Do not forget to take a bottle when going to visit a Russian. Once a bottle appears between you, mutual understanding is immediately established. If there is one thing Russians hate more than anything else, it is drinking alone. (This is only seen at the last stage on the road to delirium tremens). Scores of bars in every town or city provide the perfect place to sit, to drink, to smoke, to dance and with luck, to punch a nose or two.

Special feasts cannot be enjoyed without drink – vodka for men, vodka and wine for women – in unbelievable quantities. Russians will express concern and sympathy if you refuse a glass or two, because the only thing it can mean is that you are seriously ill. If you don’t care for vodka, the only acceptable excuse will be that you have an ulcer or cancer.

Drinking prowess is a matter of pride. To drink a lot without getting really drunk is the secret wish of every Russian. This is why Boris Yeltsin was referred to as “our man”’ a true Russian, his drunken escapades evoking friendly laughter rather than indignation.


Date: 2015-04-20; view: 132


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