Russia Prepares for World Cup With 11 Planned Sobering Up Centers

Very soon, 11 Russian cities which coincidentally are the World Cup host cities might reintroduce sobering up centers. According to RIA Novosti, the initiative is already being discussed in St. Petersburg, while the Moscow City Duma will review it in December. Whether foreign language proficiency will be a must for the employees, is not yet clear, but similar institutions are already operating in some cities. Sobering up facilities have celebrated their 115th anniversary in November. How do they look nowadays and who are their potential clients?

Let's hear from Sergey Arsenichev.


115 years later this place publishes books, magazines and newspapers. Back in the day, the building itself was featured in the newspapers. The Refuge for the Drunk was the first of its kind in the country, and the doctor who opened it deserves a monument. Two people were working in the center — a medic and a coachman who'd pick up drunks around Tula and bring them to a warm place.

Sergey Demidov, Tula Local History Museum: "I'd like to point out one difference. It was a purely medical institution. The police had nothing to do with it".

But for most of their history, sobering centers were run by the police. Coachmen were replaced by special cars. Drunken people were taken without their consent and held behind locked doors. The service had to be paid for and was reported to the client's workplace to shame people into a sober lifestyle. The phenomenon was such a huge part of everyday life that it was featured in many movies. One of them, And In The Morning They Woke Up, takes place entirely in a sobering center.

The cinema frame: "What if I killed someone too?"

A host of stars, including Sergey Garmash, Aleksandr Abdulov, Evgeniy Stychkin, Igor Bochkin. On the first day of shooting, director and actor Sergey Nikonenko said to his colleagues, "You will have to play a life that is alien to you." And everyone broke into laughter.

Sergey Nikonenko, Director: "It was important to show that it's not so much the fault of the characters, as their misfortune. And this illness can be cured".

In 2011, it was decided to ignore this misfortune. All sobering centers in the country were closed but soon started to re-open. History repeats itself. Sobering centers, once again, have nothing to do with the police.

A woman from Samara: "Alcoholic, guilty as charged".

This woman from Samara was helped to the doctor's office at 3 AM by the police. Her blood alcohol level is almost 2‰. But since she still can and even wants to walk, she won't stay overnight. Out of 7 beds in the room, only one is occupied. Bed rest is arranged only for those who cannot walk.

A modern sobering center is usually a standalone building with two rooms — for men and women, each with several beds and clean linens. The biggest difference from the previous-generation centers is the lack of window bars, although there are no handles either. Attempts to escape do happen, even though nobody stays here against their will.

In Kazan’s sobering center, the beds are bolted to the floor. The doors are metal but no longer locked. The new sobering center is located where the old one was working for nearly 70 years. The building underwent renovations and is ready to receive patients. Today, sobering centers are run by the regional Ministries of Health. Apart from sound sleep, visitors are offered further treatment, since some patients end up in the hands of doctors twice in one day.

Andrey Scherban, Chief of Medicine: "We talk to them and bring them straight to the hospital if needed".

Nizhny Novgorod is an exception. Here, the sobering center is completely independent, with the status of a municipal enterprise. All expenses are covered by the city budget, even the deluxe suite with a TV and a bookshelf.

Nikolai Bankov, Director: "If a person sobers up by 2 or 3 AM, he can just sit around and watch some TV".

In any case, all currently operating sobering units are rarely empty. Which means they are needed.

Sergey Arsenichev, Leonid Muravyov, Stanislav Nazarov, Dmitry Cherkassov and Laura Polovandova. Vesti