About a year after the Berlin wall fell, I found myself in Bucharest screwing around with the flying hydraulic knife of a continuous casting steel mill my dad had designed a dozen years before. I ran across an old buddy that had switched jobs and was tasked with finding investment opportunities for a FBC fund run by Mike Holland.

We meet in the lobby of the hotel he was staying at and he asks me if I want to go to Warsaw the next day. So we catch a morning Aeroflot flight to Warsaw. I ask the stewardess for OJ and my buddy asks for tomato juice. She pours out half a glass of orange juice and half a glass of tomato juice and then grabs a bottle of vodka that and poured a shot into both.

My buddy says, ''if the default on the breakfast flight is vodka, maybe eastern Europe isn't the next Singapore or Taiwan, maybe eastern Europe is the next Brazil or Uruguay.''

Nigel Davies adds: 

With the death of Maxim Sorkin (after being discharged from hospital) it's difficult not to notice the number of Russian Grandmasters who've died either during or after medical treatment, the two most notable ones being Leonid Stein and Paul Keres.

It's also difficult not to have noticed the number of domestic Russian plane crashes or the fact that my brief visit to a Russian dentist (whilst residing in Israel) came to a sudden end when I realized he'd been partaking in a few glasses of vodka that lunchtime (I ran like the wind). And this guy had been recommended.

Now does anyone want to speculate why India and China are emerging as powerhouse economies whilst the Russian bear seems to be somewhat confused, and at every level? Well here's a big clue, even according to the Kremlin's figures, 12% of deaths in Russia last year were directly attributable to alcohol. 


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