Crime Down, Health Up After Siberian Village Gives Up Alcohol

By Paul Gaita 10/02/15

A self-imposed booze ban has led to some surprising results in the tiny village of the Sakha Republic.

Sakha Republic locals
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A tiny village in Russia’s Siberian region has reported an abundance of benefits, from increased health to a drop in crime to 0%, after the residents imposed a ban on the sale and consumption of alcohol.

Tumul, located in the Sakha Republic, adopted the dry law in 2012 after electing Vasily Alexeyev to head their local district. In response to long-standing problems with alcoholism among the village residents, Alexeyev pushed for local establishments to halt the sale of alcohol.

Reportedly, all 989 residents of Tumul voted to back the decision to be one of approximately a dozen villages in the Sakha Republic to become completely dry.

According to Alexeyev, the ban extended only to the sale of alcohol. “The refusal to drink alcohol comes entirely from the determination of the villagers,” he said. “No one actually banned drinking. [They] gave up drinking themselves, and chose a healthy lifestyle.”

The results of the self-imposed ban have been dramatic. Alexeyev reports that the crime rate dropped to zero in 2013, and sick days from work have declined by 50%. Some residents, whose alcoholism prevented them from finding work, have taken up jobs.

Many local adults have taken up walking or other sports, like volleyball and parkour, which has required the local gym to remain open from 5 a.m. until 10 p.m. Celebrations that traditionally included alcohol consumption, like weddings or local dances, have also continued to flourish with the town’s new dry policy.

“It was once hard to imagine having fun without booze, but it’s possible, and we’re a living example,” said Fevronia Desyatkina, director of a local sports facility. “[People] are surprised to see that a no-booze celebration is actually a lot more fun. On top of that, you can save a lot [of money].”

Alcoholism has long been a blight on villages in this part of Russia, resulting in public intoxication, the loss of income for the town, and discord among families. Local teacher Akulina Sokolnikova recalled hearing devastating stories about the impact of parents’ alcohol abuse among her students.

“At the end of the 1970s, when I started working [in Tumul], I asked the children to write an essay about alcoholism. I will always remember what they said. One wrote, ‘I once went looking for my mom, [and] she was lying in the snow drunk. I put her on my sledge and dragged her home.’ Now, you ask children to do the same, they write differently. They don’t personally know what alcohol is, because they’ve never seen it. It all starts with a family, and if there is a healthy lifestyle, it is positive for the children.”

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Paul Gaita lives in Los Angeles. He has contributed to the Los Angeles Times, Variety, LA Weekly, and The Los Angeles Beat, among many other publications and websites.