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Vodka TURNS 500

ANCHOR
Well Russia’s most famous export, vodka, turns 500 this year. The drink may well be popular the world over, but it’s Russians themselves who see the drink as an essential part of their colorful history. Many say the country just wouldn’t be the same without it. Jill Dougherty looks at the lasting appeal and influence of Russia’s national drink.

CORRESPONDENT
We’ll call her Natasha. She doesn’t want her real name used. Here’s where she keeps it in her bedroom, behind a blue curtain. Moonshine, in Russian, somagon. Five pounds of sugar, some water and yeast, ferment for about ten days, then distill it.

NATASHA
People in Russia have been making moonshine for years and years. My father used to make it from beets.

CORRESPONDENT
Moonshine may be Russia’s most affordable hard liquor, but Russia’s most famous drink is vodka.

JILL DOUGHERTY, MOSCOW BUREAU CHIEF
In Russian, the word means little water. Tradition has it, vodka was invented by monks in the Kremlin 500 years ago as an antiseptic. Then the monks began to drink it.

CORRESPONDENT
Since then, almost every event in a Russian’s life, from marriages to funerals, is blessed and sometimes cursed with vodka. Studies show Russians drink more hard liquor than any nation in the world. Russians don’t sip vodka, they drink it bottoms up. After a shot of vodka, they have a chaser , something salty or a pickle.

But it’s not ‘how’ they drink vodka, but ‘why’ that sets Russians apart. Throughout Russia’s turbulent history, vodka has been the ultimate remedy for people to forget their troubles.
Author Viktor Erofeev has studied the history of vodka, he calls it the Russian God.

VIKTOR EROFEEV
Other countries, they can’t drink. In Russia, it is not drinking. You are drinking not vodka; you are drinking your own soul.

CORRESPONDENT
Russia’s history, he says, would be different without vodka. Soviet president Mikail Gorbachev tried to ban it. Boris Yelsin was a big fan of vodka. Vladimir Putin prefers green tea. So will vodka be the Russian national drink for another 500 years?

NATASHA
Oh, I don’t think you can live in Russia without vodka.

CORRESPONDENT
Natasha, our home distiller thinks so. Jill Dougherty, CNN, Moscow.


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