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Drunk Tanks Face Money Woes, Bad PR

Published: December 15, 2006 (Issue # 1230)


MOSCOW — Two police officers escorted Boris into the station at about 6 p.m. His speech was slurred. He had trouble recalling his last name. When the cops forcibly removed his coat and sweater, the stench of booze and sweat was overpowering.

“Why did you bring me here?” Boris screamed after the nurse managed to coax his age, 53, out of him.

When the officers told him he’d have to take off all his clothes, Boris less-than-politely declined.

One double-arm lock later, three officers had Boris hoisted in the air, immobilized. They removed his boots, stripped him down to his tattered boxer shorts, and hustled him off to a ward where two men who had urinated on themselves hours before were passed out on their cots.

Boris is among the hundreds of thousands of Russians scooped up off the street by police each year and forced to dry out at the infamous, century-old institution known as the vytrezvitel, or sobering-up station.

With winter approaching, sobering-up stations can be lifesavers for people who drink themselves unconscious in freezing temperatures.

But now the sobering-up station, or drunk tank, is facing an uncertain future, plagued with financial woes, legal questions and a public image tainted by times past.

Since the Soviet collapse, the number of sobering-up stations has plummeted. There are now 586 stations in the country, down from 1,249 in 1990, said Yulia Ivanova, spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry’s Public Order Department, which oversees the stations.

In Moscow alone, several sobering-up stations have been closed in recent years. There are 12 facilities in the city — 11 for men and one for women.

Police Lieutenant Oleg Sergeyev of Moscow’s No. 3 Sobering-Up Station, in the Northern Administrative District, voiced serious concerns about the months ahead.

“Winter is especially dangerous,” Sergeyev said. “I think our patrol guys have saved the lives of a lot of the people they’ve found. We get thank-you notes from people thanking us for saving their lives.”

The No. 1 problem facing stations is money. The fees charged to drunks for sobering up vary widely — 100 rubles in Moscow, 50 rubles in Vladimir, 1,900 rubles in Yakutsk — and are rarely enough to cover overheads.

Another hurdle the drunk tanks must contend with is the courts. With the forced disrobing and prison-like atmosphere, many have questioned whether Russia, like the Soviet Union before it, has the right to force people to get sober.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Saturday, Sept. 20


Starting on Sept. 18 and ending tomorrow is the Extreme Fantasy Wakeboarding Festival in Sunpark by Sredny Suzdalskoye lake in the Ozerki region of the city.


Those after something more laid back can instead head to Jazz and Wine night at TerraVino with legendary jazz guitarist Ildar Kazahanov. 12/14 Admiralteyskaya Emb.



Sunday, Sept. 21


Learn more about African culture and get some exercise during today’s “Djembe and Vuvuzela,” a bike ride starting in Palace Square that includes several stops where riders can listen to the music of Africa or watch short films about the continent. The riders plan to set off at 4 p.m. and all you need to join is a set of wheels.



Monday, Sept. 22


Do you love puppetry? If so, then be sure to go to BTK-Fest, a five-day festival that starts on Sept. 19 celebrating the art. Contemporaries from France, Belgium, the U.K. and other countries will join Russian artists to put on theatrical performances involving a variety of themes, materials and eras. Workshops and meetings are also scheduled for a chance to discuss the artistic medium in further depth.



Tuesday, Sept. 23


Marina Suhih, Director of the External Communications Department at Rostelecom North-West, and Yana Donskaya, HR Director for Northern Capital Gateway are just some of the confirmed participants of today’s round table discussion on “Interaction with Trade Unions” being hosted by SPIBA. Confirm your attendance with SPIBA by Sept. 22.


Kino Expo 2014, an international film industry convention, will be at LenExpo from today until Sept. 26. The third largest exhibition of film equipment in the world, the expo focuses on not only Russia but former Soviet republics as well.



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