Ottawa Citizen

For this Russian job register, only the sober need apply

A businessma­n has hired women whose husbands are drunks to interview men who claim to have given up the bottle, TONY HALPIN reports.

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Oscar Wilde may never have met a Russian peasant, but many have taken to heart his observatio­n that work is the curse of the drinking classes.

So many, in fact, that a former millionair­e businessma­n has set up an organizati­on devoted to finding sober men for employers to hire.

German Sterligov establishe­d his Register of Non- Drinking Men to counter rampant alcoholism, particular­ly in the countrysid­e, where unemployme­nt and the hardships of post- Soviet life have prompted many to drown their troubles in vodka with even greater commitment than usual.

Mr. Sterligov, who was one of post- Communist Russia’s first millionair­es before giving it all up to become a sheep farmer, plans to establish committees of women to judge whether applicants are telling the truth about their relationsh­ip with alcohol.

“ We won’t need these committees in the villages, because everybody there already knows who the alcoholics are, but they will be needed in the towns,” Mr. Sterligov said. “ We want to use women whose husbands either are, or have been, alcoholics, because they will have the necessary experience to spot the telltale signs.

“ If they decide that someone is a drunk, he won’t be allowed to register, but if he appeals and is proved right, then we will pay him $ 100.”

Companies will be asked to pay a fee to examine the register for suitable candidates. Organizers claim to have signed up 126 sober men so far.

Mr. Sterligov said he gave up drinking a decade ago. “ Before, when I was a millionair­e, I used to drink all the time,” he said. “ Then, I realized that I was on the road to becoming an alcoholic and stopped overnight.”

The entreprene­ur, a staunch Russian nationalis­t, made millions by starting a commoditie­s brokerage in 1991, and later set up a highly profitable business selling fancy coffins for rela- tives of the country’s wealthy new elite. He sold his Moscow mansion and moved his family to a small farm 160 kilometres away, where they live without a radio or television.

The sobriety register has won support from Dmitry Zelenin, the governor of Tver, the largest region in central Russia. Mr. Sterligov and his partners, Vladimir Samoilov, a senior official at the KamAz truck company, and a film director, Kirill Mozgalevsk­y, said they planned to extend it across Russia.

Alcoholism, particular­ly among men, ranks as Russia’s third most serious health problem after heart disease and cancer, and kills between 40,000 and 50,000 people every year.

The demon drink has a serious impact on Russia’s economy. A 1995 study found that regular drunkennes­s affected as many as 60 per cent of manual and 21 per cent of white- collar staff.

Soviet leaders have failed repeatedly to curb alcoholism.

“ A state struggle against alcoholism is not possible. It has to be the decision of each individual,” Mr. Samoilov said.

 ?? GETTY IMAGES ?? Unemployed Russian men north of Moscow share a couple of bottles of vodka, a habit that will definitely not get them on a new job register set up by millionair­e businessma­n German Sterligov.
GETTY IMAGES Unemployed Russian men north of Moscow share a couple of bottles of vodka, a habit that will definitely not get them on a new job register set up by millionair­e businessma­n German Sterligov.

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