The streets of St. Petersburg have transformed into an outdoor banya, except with no snow to cool down in. And I feel like I’m slowly losing my mind as I stew in a pool sweat and mosquitoes inside a stuffy classroom. Russia’s experiencing one of the worst heatwaves in decades — the locals have rechristened the country as Africa. it’s not terrible, in the sense that it hasn’t reached over 100 (at least, in Petersburg, it hasn’t), but keep in mind that it rarely gets this hot. (In other areas, such as Siberia, Moscow, and southern Russia, it gets over 40 C in the shadows.) But it’s terrible in the sense that Russians escape the heat by swimming…and drinking. Unfortunately, in the reverse order. In the past week, there have been over 200 deaths from drinking and drowning. The heat’s also destroyed an absurd amount of crops. Russia’s in a state of emergency, since the heat wave doesn’t look like it’s about to end.
I would consider this a health crisis — with no end in sight, Russians are still going to take to the beach and arm themselves with alcohol. It’s fun to drink, and it’s even more fun to drink on the beach, so why not? But it’s difficult to gauge how much one is drinking, especially in the tortuous heat. I’m sure that Russians have been drinking and swimming for centuries, but the heat has never been this bad. They just don’t realize how quickly they’re dehydrating and that they’re replenishing themselves with 40 proof alcohol. In June, 1200 people died from drowning, and I can only imagine that the numbers are going to be significantly higher by the end of July.
What’s the solution going to be? Tell Russians to stop drinking? That’s sure as hell not going to happen. Raise the price of vodka again is a possibility, but that would probably just mean that more Russians would turn to good old-fashioned samogon — moonshine. I don’t know. All I know is it’s going to be pretty devastating if the weather doesn’t cool down soon.