It always makes me proud to read or hear some information about my country’s rich cultural heritage. As with many other ancient countries that have survived in one form or another till present, wine is often an enduring theme.
Some estimate that the earliest wines were consumed in Georgia circa 6,000 BC. In the modern era, public consumption of alcohol is restricted and in many countries, including in Georgia, where one can now get slapped with a small fine for drinking in public. However, the law and cultural nuances do not always deter people from enjoying a bottle of beer on the streets.
The 6th and the most recent wave of the World Values Survey (WVS) asked representative population samples in 60 countries how frequently alcohol was consumption in the streets in their neighborhoods. Certainly this question, along with the 200 plus others in this survey, has academic theories behind it and are tested and assessed by scholars and policy makers. In this column, however, I will only present raw data on visibility of alcohol consumption in the streets to present top countries worldwide where such behavior is still visible and common, as well as where it has been eradicated or is likely to rise.
Among the top 10 countries (actually there are 13 because three have an identical percentage) Russia and Mexico are the leaders, with 7 out of 10 respondents saying that drinking in the streets occurs very or quite frequently in their neighborhood. Two former Soviet republics, Belarus and Ukraine, are also among the “champions” in this poll. The champions represent 4 continents and are predominantly Christian countries.
Chart 1: Top countries where one can witness alcohol consumption in the streets (Figures are given in percentages)
One of the most interesting institutions that I remember from Soviet times was the so-called “drunk tank” (Vytrezvitel, in Russian). This was a sobering-up station and although I was fortunate enough never to have been taken there, I know some individuals who spent a night under cold shower and ended up paying 2 kopeeks (cents) for their hangover treatment. In some countries, they are still in service and interestingly these are topping the list of champion countries. In the Chart 2 I listed ex Soviet states where people frequently witness others drinking openly in the streets.
Chart 2. Visibility of alcohol consumption in the streets among Ex Soviet states (Figures are given in percentages.)
Azerbaijan and Georgia are those two countries were only 6% of respondents reported seeing alcohol consumed in the streets of their neighborhood, the lowest figure not only among the former Soviet Union but worldwide! Truth to be told, the most publically sober country inlcuded in this survey was Yemen - only 5% witness people dirinking in the streets.
GORBI is a regional hub for partner organizations and international clients. GORBI is an exclusive member of Gallup International research network since 2003 and has over two decades of experience in survey research in the former Soviet Union, as well as Mongolia and Iraq.