Priests in the Russian city of Tver took to the skies this week to save local citizens from drunken craziness by air-bombing the town with holy water.
Clergymen poured out 70 liters’ worth of sacred liquid from a large chalice through the open door of a rickety green plane on Wednesday, in an escalation of their battle against “drinking” and “fornication,” local outlet Tvernews reported.
Local television showed a priest strapped into a harness to keep him from accidentally falling from the airplane while tipping gallon after gallon onto the city below.
“Let them laugh,” a priest named Father Alexander said. “We’re doing our jobs.”
The move marks just the latest effort to promote sobriety in Russia, a country whose longstanding national love affair with vodka has recently shown signs of ebbing in the face of tightening state liquor laws aimed at improving the country’s health.
Recent stats from the World Health Organization indicate new laws banning the sale of alcohol at gas stations or in Moscow kiosks at night appear, at first glance, to have helped cut Russian per capita alcohol consumption dramatically — from 18.7 liters of pure alcohol in 2005 to 11.7 liters in 2016.
But some independent experts argue those numbers can’t be fully trusted, in part because they don’t account for bootleg moonshine or Russians who still drink “non-beverage” alcohol, like bathroom products or cologne. In December 2016, 74 people died in the Siberian city of Irkutsk from drinking scented bath lotion mislabeled as containing drinkable ethanol. The ingredient was actually methanol, a toxic substance used in antifreeze.
The priests’ airborne assault on alcoholism in Tver fell on Russia’s Sobriety Day, a non-official holiday on Sept. 11 with roots dating back to Tsarist times a century ago.
The priests have been flying over Tver on Sobriety Day every year since 2006. Previously, they’ve limited their aerial interventions to prayer. This year, they added holy water bombardment for extra firepower.
Cover: Screengrab from local outlet Tvernews, which covered the priests' efforts this year on Russia's Sobriety Day, a non-official holiday that takes place on September 11. Credit: Tvernews/YouTube