"I can't drive, so I'm going to walk all over you!"
"Drink is the joy of the Rus.note 'Rus' can refer to either Ukrainians, Russians or both."
— St. Vladimir the Great
Glorious Mother Russia. Supposedly, it's the coldest place on the planet, and really depressing. The obvious solution to this problem? Booze. Copious, even egregious amounts of booze. (Drink up!) So much, in fact, that there's a good chance a Russian character on television will be an alcoholic, or at least will look for the slightest excuse to find somebody to go get drunk with.
Somewhat Truth in Television; alcoholism is a rather large problem in Russia and is a major contributor to high suicide rates and lowered average lifespannote which is so bad at this point that it's the lowest of any industrialized nation, though there's a lot more to that than booze. Vodka sales are also a prime source of revenue for the Russian government going as far back as the days of Tsarist Russia. Many bottles of cheap vodka in Russia come with a paper pull tab rather than a screw-top because, like its owner, it's going to be drunk in one sitting. In fact, aftershave is marketed in recycled vodka flasks so people don't look cheap while drinking it. They tend to see green imps rather than Pink Elephants.
Also, this trope is sometimes extended to people in former Warsaw Pact countries, partly as a result of cultural osmosis and partly because life just sucked that much.
When The Boys go to Russia, they stay with a Russian ex-superhero who drinks some unholy abomination home-made liquid that no one (but Hughie) drinks- they just toss it back over their shoulders. We later learn it's not vodka, it's made with, among others, tank brake fluid. And Hughie grows to like the stuff.
Truth in Television — some types of brake fluid in Russia are indeed just alcohol denatured with castor oil. After some freeze-purifying they are drinkable without major ill effects except some loose bowels — castor oil is a powerful laxative and what remains still has some potency. Grain alcohols were also sometimes used as antifreeze for aircraft, and were similarly turned into drinkable versions by ground crews in search of booze.
When Lucky Luke is the bodyguard of a Russian grand Duke, said ambassador likes to shout "Fedia! Vodka!" and "Fredia! Visky!".
Alex "Spaceman" Glushko in Top 10 is a former cosmonaut and special interrogator for the eponymous police department. He drinks, a lot - which is a problem for his co-workers since he mainly communicates telepathically, meaning they get his headache, too.
In Doctor Strangelove, we only hear President Muffley's side of the conversation with Soviet Premier Kisov, but even without the ambassador's word on the matter it's fairly obvious that Kisov is sloshed.
Ivan Vanko in Iron Man 2 is very fond of his vodka. Even the burd loves vodka. His father wasn't so alcoholic until he was forced out of the US by Howard Stark for trying to profit off the Arc Reactor research. After that he turned to alcohol to numb the pain of being forced to live out his days in Siberia and died a drunken mess.
The Russians acknowledge the stereotype as well. Case in point, the Peculiarities Of The National Hunt, a film where a group of men (all of which as Russian except for a young Finnish man studying Russian customs) go hunting, only to spend several days mostly drinking. One of the men is an army general, so when the hunting party forgets several crates of vodka, his men have them airlifted via helicopter. The Finnish guy even asks his friend when they're actually going to to hunt something. An interesting twist is that the Finnish man keeps dreaming of an old-fashioned Tsarist hunt, involving dogs, horses, and dozens of men, who, despite also drinking, actually do hunt.
Rather ironic considering that Finns are also stereotyped as heavy drinkers - sometimes by the Russians themselves!
The film was followed by three other Peculiarities of the National... films. The second film involved fishing, the third had another hunt, and the fourth was about politics. All of which, naturally, involve a lot of drinking.
Another example from Russia/the Soviet Union is 1980's Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears. Gurin the hockey player is a teetotaler in 1958, but after the 20-year Time Skip he's a raging alcoholic. His wife blames his alcoholism on all the hockey fans that kept foisting drinks on him.
The Irony Of Fate is a Russian romantic comedy from 1976 in which this is crucial to the plot. Zhenya goes out celebrating with his friends after getting engaged. Zhenya's friend Pavlik has to catch a plane, so they take the party to the airport, but everyone gets so drunk that a passed-out Zhenya gets put on the plane instead. After it lands he's too drunk to realize that he's taken a taxi home to the wrong apartment in the wrong city. Hilarity and romance ensue when the woman who lives there comes home.
In the novels featuring the Russian Investigator Arkady Renko, Gorky Park, Polar Star, Red Square, Havana Bay, Wolves Eat Dogs and Stalin's Ghost, Russia is pretty much shown as a place where everyone drinks and smokes. Constantly.
In fact, when Renko is locked inside a storage freezer by a bad guy and almost freezes to death, everybody simply assumes he accidentally locked himself in there while trying to get high on gasoline fumes.
Colonel Filitov from The Cardinal of the Kremlin is seen drinking almost every time he appears in one of the books, and mentions that "he wouldn't have gotten sick if he'd had a little more antifreeze." Much of that drinking is to try to forget about his dead family, whose deaths were part of what drove him to become The Mole for the CIA.
A lot of other Russian characters in the series are also often seen drinking (with vodka being the tipple of choice), though most of them usually aren't drunk.
Alcoholism is a plot-relevant off-"screen" detail in The Hunt for Red October: The wife of the renegade submarine captain Ramius died of complications from appendicitis. The doctor that was to perform the surgery was drunk, and while breathing pure oxygen to try to sober up her appendix burst. The still-inebriated doctor fumbled the surgery to remove the burst organ, resulting in the death of the wife of Ramius. Ramius' dissatisfaction with the Soviet state started at this point, when the surgeon wasn't punished because he was the son of a high-ranking party official. note Some people have complained that the captain of a Soviet ballistic missile submarine had considerable political clout, but the book was written decades before the Iron Curtain came down.
Vorkosigan Saga: Barrayar, which is at least to some extent Russia IN SPACE, has "getting drunk" as one of the great traditions.
Moscow - Petushki. While many Russian writers try to subvert or avert this one-dimensional stereotype, Venedikt Yerofeyev, who modelled the protagonist after himself, plays it painfully straight, and with good reasons. Although vodka was not the protagonist's main tipple. What he usually drank was worse—in some cases, possibly even dangerous. Although all of the recipes in the book should be essentially harmless—if you consider drinks with over 50% alcohol harmless.
The Bridge to Holy Cross by Paullina Simons. The female protagonist, a former Russian nurse who's come to the United States, is going to travel with a Red Cross team into the Soviet Zone in now-conquered Germany. Her superior complains about the amount of booze she's packed.
"Have you ever met Russians before?"
"Trust me, we will need the vodka."
* The Primary Chronicle, a Russian historical account written in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, includes the statement, "It is the Russians' joy to drink; we cannot do without it."
One novel about the USSR's mental health institutions had several doctors joking about the state of their nation. One claimed that Russia had achieved Communism. Another stated they were still practicing Socialism. A third claimed that they were backsliding into Capitalism. A fourth stated that the true state of Russia was Alcoholism.
Animorphs: During one mission to prevent the Yeerks invading a world summit, Rachel (in elephant morph) crashes into a world leader's room, sitting in his underwear and drunk out of his mind. She doesn't name him, but since one of the leaders is Russian...
In one Mamas Family episode, the family briefly hosts a Russian exchangee, Olga. While playing the board game version of Pyramid, Mama is describing items to take to the beach to Olga. This is Olga's reply to the clue for suntan lotion:
Mama: VODKA?! Who the hell takes vodka to the beach?!
Scotty: When are you going to get off that milk diet, lad?
Chekov: This is vodka!
Scotty: Where I come from, that's soda pop. Now this is a drink for a man.
Chekov: It was inwented by a little old lady from Leningrad.
SCTV had an episode constantly being hacked by Soviet TV - an ad for vodka, that played like a Western beer commercial, shows a model worker relaxing at a bar with his friends after his shift, but as a responsible citizen of the State, he quits after one drink, in contrast to "the decadent Uzbeks", seen in a boorish, drunken daze. This is one of several examples seen of Uzbeks being held up as state-sanctioned Acceptable Targets.
Trope Namer: True to the ongoing theme in Punch-Out!! of boxers based on absurd stereotypes, Russian combatant Vodka Drunkenski followed this trope to the letter — in the arcade version. The NES version Bowdlerised his name to Soda Popinski, but all his taunts still make obvious references to alcohol and drunkenness. When not boxing, he spent his time between rounds suckling a soda bottle and making puns about being punch-drunk or unable to drive.
In the Wii game, soda really is the focus of his obsession. He fizzes and bubbles when punched! On the other hand, there were still some hints at being a drunkard: When taking out his bottle, he says "За моё здоровье!" (Za moyo zdorove!) which is Russian for "For my health!" (a common alcohol toast line), and if the player knocks away his bottle, he'll say "Моя бутылка!" (Moya butylka!), meaning "My bottle!" and fly into a rage and attempt to beat Little Mac up using his Soda Fury technique. Incidentally, the toast may be a bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall, because it really does recover his health.
Granin from Metal Gear Solid 3. Although, arguably, he had a pretty good reason for getting drunk. It also should be noted that the game takes place in the USSR, so it's not as though this was the one Russian character in the cast.
MGS3 fanfic tends to portray everyone at Groznyj Grad like this.
If you had to work under Volgin and see the things he does to people. You wouldn't want to be sober.
In Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops, we have Colonel Skowronski, the former commander of the San Hieronymo Soviet Missile Base, who is heavily implied to be drunk in his appearance (he was slurring his words a lot of the time, laughing at seemingly inappropriate times, and Roy Campbell refers to him as a drunk when he calls you right after you locate him). Actually, several of the soldiers on the San Hieronymo Peninsula were implied to drink a lot (one of the calls to Para-Medic, should she be recruited, has her beign confused about why they were having headaches at the height they are at as the mountains shouldn't be high enough to cause altitude sickness, until she realizes that they actually had amplified hangovers from drinking too much alcohol at the height they currently were at). It's probably justifiable that they did so, considering the fact that their nation essentially screwed them over by abandoning them at the peninsula shortly after they abandoned the construction plans in order to make it seem as though they were Renegade Russians.
Nikolai Belinski from Call of Duty World at War's Nazi Zombies mode. Every quote he says basically refers to vodka and getting drunk in some way. In fact, he actually can't function without vodka, or a "vodka-based serum".
Serious intoxication is almost bound to happen in the first game - at one point, you have to raid a bandit base (alone, to boot) to get a key to a nearby underground lab off their leader and if you poke around in the right area can raid their armory. There's nothing too staggeringly awesome in there - they're bandits, not Duty or the Monolith - but if you look in the right box you can find almost thirty bottles of vodka. You have a weight limit of fifty kilograms (of which you'll probably be carrying at least thirty or forty in armor, guns, ammo, medical supplies, food, artifacts, and stuff you looted from the corpses of the bandits you just killed), a bottle of vodka weighs half a kilo apiece, and chances are you'll never be through this area again. Drunkenness (and possibly drunken gunfighting) ensues.
In Call of Pripyat, the mechanic in the first area cannot make modifications to your equipment without vodka, even if he has the tools. One drink is a small discount and first tier upgrades, two drinks is a higher discount and all upgrades... and three drinks puts him to sleep for a few hours. He claims it helps him keep his hands steady. May be Drowning His Sorrows over lost friends, too.
Crosses over into Drunken Master, although if you find and bring him the PD As of his buddies and show him the Gauss Rifle, which he worked on in the past, he gets over his alcoholism and joins up with the other technician after the game ends.
However, this is once again easily averted - vodka reduces your nourishment level, so scarf down a loaf of bread every few bottles and you can keep right on drinking.
Grigori the informant from Alpha Protocol. Thorton can even mock him by smashing a bottle over his head and saying he spilled his wodka.
A case of Bilingual Bonus here as "wodka" is both the German and Polish spelling of vodka.
In the Tropico games, being an Alcoholic gives a boost to USSR relations.
Metro2033 takes place After the End in and around the Moscow subway system. Since the agricultural infrastructure of the world has been destroyed by nuclear war, their vodka is made from mushrooms.
While Zangief from Street Fighter goes for the OTHER huge Russian stereotype, if you look closely at his home stage in either SF II or Super SFII you will immeidately notice that at least two people in the crowds are chugging down on bottles of what seems to be vodka.
Russians have absolutely no use for shot glasses. Vodka is commonly served "Sto gramm", which means "100 g" (which equals 0,1 l - that's a normal water-glass instead of a shot glass of 0,02 l). But they're not going literal and serve you a 0,25 l glass filled to the top as well. You're supposed to empty it like a normal shot, though...
Boris Yeltsin. Especially in the later years of his presidency. At one point, while visiting Clinton in DC, Yeltsin turned up in his underwear on Pennsylvania Avenue, trying to hail cabs.
During The Nineties, Jay Leno always first referred to Yeltsin in the monologue as "Boris 'Buy Me A Drink' Yeltsin."
At one time, his plane was flying to Ireland for a refueling stopover, and the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) was on hand to receive him. But instead of landing, the plane circled Shannon Airport...and circled...and circled...until it landed. But Yeltsin never made it off the plane, his doctor stating that the President was not feeling well...
For a little while afterward, "circling over Shannon" became Irish slang for "trying desperately to sober up before an important event."
Referenced at one point in The Simpsons, where the highest possible reading on a breathalyzer's scale is "Boris Yeltsin".
Ironically, Yeltsin sobered up after his resignation and lived a good seven years after that. In fact, his noticeably better form in retirement was used by some conspiracy theorists as a proof that he was the double, and the real Yeltsin indeed drank himself to death in 1999.
Peter the Great.
They say that way back when Russia was looking to implement a state religion, the authorities liked a lot of what Islam had to say (and liked even more the lucrative trade contacts that would come with converting, to say nothing of the chance to cement an alliance with the Turks and knock the Byzantine Empire out of its miserynote The Rus' had always coveted Constantinople and led several futile assaults on the city before they converted to Christianity), but upon realizing that it meant giving up alcohol, the idea was dropped entirely—it was too much a mainstay of life even then.
During the Cold War, both major powers were looking for good Truth Serums to extract information from the enemy. The CIA looked into all kinds of mind-altering substances (including LSD) as part of Project MKULTRA, and were embarrassed by the FBI when all these exotic chemicals failed but the Bureau got actionable intelligence on a mob heist by lacing a captured mafioso's cigarettes with THC. The KGB, on the other hand, decided to just use vodka: agents trying to extract intel would get into a drinking contest with the other guy, and since the Russian (by this trope) would have much higher tolerance, the the other guy would probably start leaking secrets long before the agent.
During the latter half of Leonid Brezhnev's tenure as leader of the Soviet Union, alcohol abuse skyrocketed among the Soviet population, to the point where the average life expectancy of the Soviet population took quite a hit.
Up until the early 2010s, beer was not classified as an alcoholic beverage in Russian law; that dignity was reserved for beverages with 14% abv (28 proof) or greater. Anything less—including pretty much all beer—was considered a mere "foodstuff".
It's been said that Americans make a distinction between those who drink and those who don't; Russians make a distinction between those who drink vodka and those who don't.
Those who drink samogan (moonshine) are a separate category altogether. Good samogan clocks at least at 120 proof, often 140. The same status is reserved for medical antiseptic alcohol (96%, or 192 proof, mostly safe for consumption) or various surrogates of similar strength, many of which aren't so safe.
It is probably no coincidence that Korsakoff's Syndrome was first described by and named after a Russian neurologist. While not actually caused by alcohol, it is often a side effect of alcoholism as alcohol provides the body with a lot of energy but virtually no nutrients at all and people who consume almost nothing but alcohol suffer from severe damage to the brain and nervous system from lack of vitamin B1. While it can be caused by other forms of malnutrition, this disease is what people are talking about when speaking of drinking your brain to death.
Famous Russian composer Modest Mussorgsky had a drinking problem that is widely considered to have hindered his career and contributed to his early death.
Dmitri Mendeleev, discoverer of the Periodic Law and father of the Periodic Table of the Elements, wrote his dissertation in 1865, entitled, "On the Combinations of Water with Alcohol." This came in handy when, 28 years later, the Tsar put him in charge of the Bureau of Weights and Measures; one of of Mendeleev's first tasks was standardizing vodka, and he came out with a regulation that all vodka in Russia had to meet exacting standards of purity (having discovered the means of detecting impurities) and be 40% ethanol (a standard which not only persists today, but has spread around the world to be the standard strength of distilled liquor almost everywhere).
How do they drink vodka in Northern countries? Sweden: With water. Finland: Without water. Russia: Like water.
Oddly enough, "vodka" means "water" in Russian.
This is one of many reasons why there's some old Soviet/Russian jokes about how the people there drink vodka.
Technically, "voda" (emphasis on the second syllable) means "water" in Russian. If anything, "vodka" would be similar to a name someone gives a good friend. Basically, vodka is really good water.
In a subversion one Russian agent during World War II was sent to get into a drinking contest with a Turkish dignitary. However pretty soon the Russian was babbling like an idiot and the Turk was gleefully recording everything; Turks, being brought up on the formidable Raki (nicknamed Lion's Milk), know how to handle drink.
Norwegian Prime Minister Einar Gerhardsen once visited a Soviet Kolkhos (i.e. a "common farm"), and was served the traditional beverages. What the proprietor didn`t know, was that Gerhardsen never touched alcohol, and was served water. The local man-in-charge presumed it to be vodka, and entered a drinking contest with Gerhardsen. Every time Gerhardsen toasted, the proprietor did likewise, and drank with him. Over time the Russian started to get somewhat unstable, and had to excuse himself. Meanwhile, Gerhardsen continued in the same pattern with his glass of water, and got the reputation as an incredibly hard drinker, being able to drink an experienced Russian under the table. The Russian probably never learned the truth.
In America you consume vodka. In Russia, vodka consumes you.