Indigenous villagers in Russian Far North vote to ban sale of alcohol completely as addiction becomes overwhelming societal issue

Residents in a Russian village marred by alcoholism have voted for a blanket ban on the sale of booze after measures to curb intoxication failed to be effective. The settlement previously only sold alcohol on Friday evenings.

Located in Russia’s Far North in Irkutsk Region, the village of Khamakar is populated by Evenks, a group of indigenous people from the region. According to Vasily Yuriev, the head of the local municipality government, there are 100 registered residents of the village, with just 50 people, mostly young people, residing there permanently.

Despite the ban on alcohol sales at all times but Friday evening between 5 and 8, there is no shortage of booze in the area. According to the newspaper Pravda Severa, despite the fact the shops are restricted to selling drinks with low-alcohol content, hard liquor enters the village illegally by helicopter and road.

“Khamakar has its own history of a relationship with alcohol, and the story is full of sad pages,” the article said.

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According to Yuriev, one of the most recent invents led to children falling through ice and dying, allegedly due to the negligence of intoxicated parents.

Alcoholism is a severe issue for many of the indigenous peoples of the Far North, with some believing that it may eventually lead to the extinction of certain groups. According to an article on the website of the Evenk Municipal Region, originally published in the local ‘Evenk Life’ newspaper in 2002, studies have shown that northern peoples do not have enzymes that break down alkaloids, leading to them to quickly become addicted to alcohol.

“In recent years, the incidence of alcoholism among indigenous peoples of the Russian North has increased by 20-25%,” the article says. “Mortality from chronic alcoholism during this time has increased 6.5 times among males and 19 times among females.”

According to the 2010 Russian census, there are less than 40,000 Evenks in the country, with a similar amount across the border in China.

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Despite the village’s vote, the decision will now go to the local municipal parliament to officially put the initiative into law. 

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