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Cultural Discourse Analysis of Russian Alcohol Consumption

The study uses cultural discourse analysis to explore alcohol consumption that is valued as normal and enjoyable, and to examine how alcohol consumption is viewed as a problem in both folk and official discourses in Russia. An event called “posidet’” (to sit) is deeply embedded in Russian cultural discourse in the form of a communication ritual with enjoyable alcohol consumption. The ritual has a structured sequence, commonly upheld norms, and a multilayered “sacred object” that provides access to cultural meanings of Russian personhood, relations, actions, emotions, and location in the nature of things. A ritualistic corrective sequence in case someone refuses a drink results in a clash between the face of the immediate group and the face of the individual refusing to drink. The success of communal motives over individual ones ensures achieving “understanding,” the ultimate goal of the “sitting” event. Russian folk discourse defines problem drinking through two key terms and their clusters: “to drink” (regular consumption driven by dependency) and “to get drunk” (one-time heavy intoxication). Russian government discourse addresses problem drinking mainly though a term cluster that presumes a drinking individual’s imminent move toward alcoholism, with irreversible harm done to health, personhood, relationships, career, and Russia as a country. A comparative analysis demonstrates that the official discourse largely ignores the practice conveyed by the folk term cluster “to get drunk,” and portrays most of the problematic consumption through a term cluster close in its meaning to the folk practice “to drink.”
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