| Rise in alcohol abuse by teens disturbs police|
YORK, Maine - Police Chief Doug Bracy said a marked increase in the abuse of ...
| Conference focuses on link between diversity and drug abuse|
Acting as a seeming counterbalance to the notorious debauchery of Spring Break, today's Seventh Annual ...
| Woker dies due to alcohol-related heart problems|
A 42-year-old foundry worker from Dudley who died of a heart attack after a fit ...
| Teen Alcoholism|
More than three million teenagers are alcoholics. That's why MADD or Mothers Against Drunk Driving, ...
| Pickled Babies Drafted to Battle Alcoholism|
LYUBERTSY, Moscow Region -- Peter the Great would have been proud. The schoolchildren huddled together ...
| Alcohol: A clear and present danger|
The three top drugs of Jefferson County are alcohol, marijuana and methamphetamine, but the No. ...
| UNDERAGE COLLEGE DRINKERS DRINK MORE|
Underage college drinkers have easy access to alcohol, pay less and consume more per occasion ...
| Drugs Cocaine|
Sat, 03/15/03 Cocaine is now top street drug by Claire Connolly Doyle DRUG squad members ...
Pickled Babies Drafted to Battle Alcoholism
LYUBERTSY, Moscow Region -- Peter the Great would have been proud.
The schoolchildren huddled together in silence, eyes goggling at the collection of deformed human fetuses started by the tsar almost 300 years ago.
"You see, kids," whispered Tatyana Borisova in the soft tones of a children's storyteller as she pointed to the "Cyclops" -- a stillborn baby with a single eye in the middle of its forehead.
"This is what can happen if you mess around with drugs and alcohol."
For one young girl, it was all too much. She asked for permission to leave but passed out as she headed for the door.
The stomach-churning collection of preserved mutant babies and pickled body parts is part of the Kunstkammer, Russia's first museum, which the tsar founded in 1714 to combat superstition and promote scientific education.
Three centuries later, the "anatomical rarities" exhibition -- part freak show, part medical study -- is being used in a "shock tactics" campaign to combat drug and alcohol abuse.
Russians drink some 15 liters of pure alcohol per head each year, one of the highest rates in the world, and by some estimates one in seven Russians are alcoholics, experts say.
Male life expectancy has plunged to under 59 since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991. And a country where drug abuse was virtually unknown in Soviet times now has 3 million drug users -- about 2 percent of the population.
Borisova, the administrator of the exhibition, says desperate times call for desperate measures.
"Unfortunately, so many children are surrounded by drunks on the street or even in their homes," she said.
"We should show this to children and show them what organs look like and what happens to our body if we use certain substances."
The Kunstkammer is based in the Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography in St. Petersburg. But 40 exhibits are touring Russian cities to promote health education, much in the spirit of Peter the Great, Borisova said.
Captivated by all things European, the tsar started the collection after visiting the museum of a Dutch anatomist, Frederik Ruysch, in Amsterdam in 1697.
He bought Ruysch's entire collection of pickled body parts and encouraged Russians to contribute human and animal abnormalities, determined to show visitors such phenomena were not the work of the devil, but of nature.
The result is one of the most bizarre museums in the world -- its German name reflecting the European influence on Peter.
As well as the Cyclops, it includes Siamese twins, a two-faced baby known as a "Janus," a "mermaid" with a fleshy tail instead of legs, and a double-headed calf.
Another highlight is the skeleton of a giant named Bourgeois, whom Peter brought back to Russia from the French port of Calais.
This month, the exhibition was in Lyubertsy, a town of concrete high-rise buildings and simple wooden houses just outside Moscow, with a poor record of substance abuse.
The poster outside the Lyubertsy House of Culture has an unashamedly "Roll-up! Roll-up!" ring.
"You will see the Siamese twins, the Cyclops, the mermaid, the two-faced baby and other anatomical rarities!" it proclaims.
But once inside, the 300 schoolchildren and dozens of curious adults who visit every day listen to Borisova patiently preaching the virtues of temperance.
"You should talk with them not to scare them, but to let them draw their own conclusions," she said. "You should tell them about our ecology and about unhealthy lifestyles."
Judging by their reactions, her unorthodox approach -- P.T. Barnum meets Betty Ford -- is getting the message through.
"Well, this shows me that you should never smoke, use drugs or drink if you want to have a normal child or a normal career," said Natasha, a third-grade student.
Even a couple of swaggering teenage boys said they would think twice before lighting up a cigarette or cracking open a beer after seeing the disintegrated lungs of a smoker and the bloated liver of an alcoholic floating in formaldehyde.
"We already smoke and drink," said Yevgeny Ganin, 14. "It's normal for kids our age. But I think vodka can be dangerous and I stay away from drugs."
Police in Lyubertsy say most addicts are aged between 16 and 30, and 80 percent of cases involve heroin.
President Vladimir Putin last year called drug addiction a social disaster and created a national agency to lead a crackdown on drug trafficking.
But tackling alcoholism is more problematic given the enduring popularity of vodka.
Alcohol is sold 24 hours a day from kiosks around Lyubertsy -- as in most of Russia -- and a liter costs just over $1. Beer is regarded by many as a soft drink.
The Moscow city government is considering ending round-the-clock alcohol sales because boozing is draining the economy and driving away tourists, a Moscow newspaper said this month.
But such moves are fraught with political risk in Russia -- especially with a presidential election set for early 2004.
In the 1980s, attempts by Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to curb alcoholism by slashing vodka output and destroying vineyards only caused widespread derision and a surge in production of moonshine.
Shocking as the Kunstkammer exhibition may be, pessimists argue that drinking has always been part of Russian culture and always will be. After all, legend has it that when Peter the Great opened the museum, he had to entice visitors by offering them a free shot of vodka.