Rituals and Etiquette in Russian Drinking Culture

The informant, a first generation Russian-American, listed the following as customs and beliefs regarding drinking that he picked up on as he attended family dinners growing up:

  • “The pattern goes: toast, take the shot, toast, take the shot, and so on and so forth. To take a shot without toasting with the people at the table is a huge…like…it’s no good.”
  • Toasts can be made regarding celebrations, but also more generally to things like good health.
  • “One would not drink vodka without toasting, but one would not toast without vodka to drink.”

Drinking vodka mends a broken soul.¬†Drinking is not for enjoying the taste, but for feeling the effects of the alcohol, which is believed to amplify the love among the people one is drinking with. It’s not solely about the drunkenness, but rather about the affection that the drunkenness gives rise to that is believed to be the cure/relief from the pains of life.

In this case, the informant has drawn conclusions regarding a cultural view not only on alcohol but also on community based on the gestures of a ritual.