Following in the grand tradition of past government leaders, Russian drug czar Yevgeny Bryun is blaming people from other countries for his nation’s problems. In this case, the people being blamed are the members of The Beatles, the top-selling musical act of all-time, and their nation of origin is the UK. He claims their well-documented drug use in the 1960’s was the launching point for Russia’s current immersion in heroin, crack, crystal meth, and krokodil addiction.
The band, whose 1968 song “Back in the USSR” might as well have been titled “Banned in the USSR” (western music was outlawed for most of the country’s existence), never played live in the Soviet Union, though their music did manage to penetrate The Iron Curtain through the underground market. Presumably, it had little effect during the Cold War-era, communist heyday of the now defunct USSR, since drug addiction was a relatively minor issue until recent decades.
When part of the USSR, the Russian people were under the iron fist of a totalitarian government that tolerated mass consumption of tobacco and alcohol, but frowned upon drug abuse. Untold gallons of vodka were imbibed to help the Soviet people, Ruskies included, get through long cold winters, food shortages, communist oppression, and the insufferable nature of Soviet pop culture, whose primary focus was indoctrinating the nation’s miserable masses into believing they were the luckiest people on the face of the earth to be living in a communal paradise.
According to Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University, Russia has one of the worst drug problems of any nation, and one that has been rapidly deteriorating for more than three decades. Shelley says illicit drugs were rare in the Soviet Union before the Afghan War, launched in 1979 when the USSR was under the leadership of Leonid Brezhnev. After the war, opium made its way across the Soviet border.
The last Soviet troops pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989, during Mikhail Gorbachev’s reign, but the opium continued to flow unabated (Soviet bureaucracy proved as incompetent at keeping out bad influences as its American counterpart, despite the absolute power bestowed upon the communist state). By 1991, the Soviet empire collapsed, and a new era of openness and crony capitalism spawned even greater decadence and hedonism. The progenitors of this treachery have now been identified: John, Paul, George, and Ringo.
Said Bryun, “After The Beatles traveled to expand their consciousness in Indian ashrams, they brought the idea of changing one’s psychic state to the people.” He went on to say, “When business then realized it was possible to make money from this—goods associated with pleasure—that was when the growth in the demand for drugs started.” Thus, The Beatles and capitalism conspired to derail the collective Soviet/Russian psyche—from perpetually shitfaced to perpetually stoned in a single generation.
While there may be some truth to these statements, how this led to Russia’s current drug crisis remains unclear, especially given that its origins have been traced to a war that began nearly a decade after The Beatles broke up. The group’s music was banned in the USSR, and played no known role in the Soviets’ attempts to—well, whatever they were attempting to do in Afghanistan. Nor were the band members responsible for making opium a staple of the Afghan landscape.
Louise Shelley, director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University, agrees with me. “In the past, they’ve often criticized the United States, (claiming) that we haven’t done enough to stop the flow of drugs out of Afghanistan, because approximately a quarter of the drugs now exiting from Afghanistan go through Central Asia, on up to Russia. And then they go across Russia to the east and the west, creating drug addiction all across these routes.”
The band’s bassist, Paul McCartney, has been arrested numerous times for drug-related offenses, most famously in 1980 on the eve of a Japanese concert tour with his post-Beatles outfit, Wings. His legal problems in this arena were primarily related to his longtime marijuana habit, a habit he claims to have given up for good, telling Rolling Stone magazine in early 2012, “I smoked my share. When you’re bringing up a youngster, your sense of responsibility does kick in—if you’re lucky—at some point. enough’s enough – you just don’t seem to think it’s necessary.”
As the Russian population steadily declines, the mass extinction of a once mediocre but numerous and arrogant people seems all but inevitable, much like everything in life that eventually outlives its usefulness (book stores, Blockbuster, and Kid Rock come to mind). But the music of the perpetrators of Russian genocide will live on. “All you need is drugs….”
- Werman, Marco. “Russia’s Drug Czar Blames Beatles for Drug Problem.” PRI’s The World. 10 July 2012. Web. 10 July 2012.
- Lasky, Jane. “Paul McCartney gives up a 40 year habit: Marijuana.” Examiner.com. 16 February 2012. Web. 10 July 2012.
“Timeline: Soviet war in Afghanistan.” BBC News. 17 February 2009. Web. 10 July 2012.
Filed under: Featured · Tags: abuse, Addiction, Afghan War, alcohol, Alcohol Abuse, Alcohol and Drugs, Beatles, Beatles music, drug addiction, drug czar, drug problem, Illicit Drugs, music, Opium, opium addiction, Paul McCartney, Ringo, Ringo Star, russia, soviet border, Soviet empire, Soviet pop culture, Soviet Union, substance abuse, USSR, vodka