The Russian Health Ministry is finding new and unusual methods to battle world-famous Russian alcoholism.
An animated short film titled "Squirrel From Hell," designed to fight alcoholism, has had over 2 million hits on YouTube since its launch in late November. The ad shows a red-eyed squirrel with a severe case of "the shakes," running around an empty white room, singing and yelling in an alcohol-induced delirium. The rodent -- "belka" in Russian, which is also slang for "belaya goryachka" or delirium tremens in Russian -- raves about "chasing spiders up the walls" and tracking down imaginary creatures with an alcoholic friend, who later murders his wife. At the end of the 56-second animation, the squirrel delivers the line, "Are you on the booze yourself?" and then adds, "Then I'm coming to see you."
Sophia Malyavina, adviser to the Russian health minister, who was part of the team that created the commercial, hopes the humor will get the attention of a young, Russian-speaking Internet audience. "It's fun, and our whole campaign from the beginning is built on this positiveness or humor, because we understand that fear doesn't work in Russia," she told Reuters. "If it's the television, they just switch the channel, but if it's a viral promo, then they will pass it on."
The average Russian is thought to drink 18 liters of pure alcohol per year, and a campaign against alcohol said earlier this year that 3,000 Russians a year die from alcohol poisoning and more than 75,000 from alcohol-related diseases.
-- Pavel Butorin