Amidst Russia’s Economic Crisis a Moonshine Black Market Emerges

As Russia’s economic crisis continues, locals are turning to cheap, dangerous and potentially lethal alternatives to vodka, reports NOLA. As liquor prices increase, the country has seen a rise in the consumption of moonshine, cleaning products and medicinal alcohol.

While the government’s minimum price requirement of 185 rubles ($2.96) for a half-liter of vodka may seem low, for poverty-stricken Russians residing in provincial towns, it’s expensive. In response, a moonshine black market has emerged. Home distilling for personal consumption is legal in Russia, but distilling for resale is not, yet as Nielsen analyst Marina Lapenkova explains, “Today the share of illegal vodka market adds up to half of the total market.”

Drinking illegal vodka and “under the counter” alternatives to alcohol can have serious consequences. Alexander Polikarpov, the head doctor of Moscow’s Alcospas alcohol rehab clinics, says he’s noticed patients experiencing withdrawal symptoms he’s not seen before, such as delirium tremens (“the shakes”) and epilepsy.

However, contrary to popular belief, moonshine—when made correctly and safely—is not necessarily a dangerous drink. Making old-fashioned Russian moonshine, known as samogon, is a traditional activity for Russians who reside in country cabins. Samogon-style spirits have even become a cult drink in a few of Russia’s hipster bars—not unlike America’s recent obsession with all things white lightning. [NOLA] [Photo: Flickr.com/hannumakarainen]