Excessive drinking is blamed for more than half the deaths of people aged between 15 and 54 since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, and Russia has decided to do something about the problem.
'We declared religion to be the opiate of the masses during our Great Bolshevik Revolution', said Vladimir Yevschenko, current Drug Czar of Russia. 'Without opiates, they turned to vodka.'
'Stupid human tricks, such as nude ice-skating on the Volga, glacier bungee-jumping without bungee cords, and games like 'flip a ruble, drink a litre' are wiping out our factory workers', Yevschenko said. 'We need a solution.'
Beginning January 1 2010, any half-litre bottle of vodka selling at below 89 rubles (almost $3) will be outlawed. Ninety rubles will be the minimum price for any vodka, on the 'black market' or elsewhere.
Vodka producers were delighted at the news.
'Now that we have mandatory price increases, we will all be as rich as kings', said Boris Malsky, who runs a distillery in the basement of his rotting tenement slum building.
'We have been lobbying the government for price controls on vodka for over a decade, and have finally won a round for profitable -- I mean, responsible -- drunkenness.'
Russian producers of brandy and scotch were also jubilant.
'Just add some paint thinner and a bit of waste from a coal-fired power plant, and it's not vodka anymore', said Anatoly Belchitov, who produces brandy and scotch in the basement of the former nuclear power plant at Chernobyl.
'High prices for vodka means higher demand for our stuff', he said. 'Our prices are now 88 rubles for brandy and scotch, which is twice the price we used to get.'