In Science, first hand, an odd, English language journal published by Akademika Koptyuga, there’s a fascinating article on the Gmellin-Mueller expedition to Siberia and the theme of alcohol by A. Elert, copiously illustrated with marvelous lubok – which are playing card sized woodcuts evidently produced for a mass audience.
The article is aptly summarized thus:
“This article will show our readers that the Russian people “took to the bottle” three centuries ago, which, however, did not prevent them from spreading over the vast area and building a most powerful empire in the world history. There is something wrong about it — too much passion in these talks about the “universal alcoholism” of Russians and too many extreme views. Our compatriots have long gotten used to treating vodka as something almost sacred, something exclusively Russian, but in the last fifteen years they have been able to compare. The comparison proves paradoxical — Europeans drink at least as much as we do but liquor is not a domineering feature of their national character.”