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February 02, 2004

Why do Russians get drunk?

This story about Russians carrying a gene that doesn't metabolize alcohol in the same way as other Europeans because of the prevelance of a Mongolian allele among them has been making the rounds (via Dienekes). My first reaction is that this might be bogus (like the "Blondes will die off" research), but the institute mentioned seems to exist. The data set seems really small, 12 students.

A few points:

1) Most members of the Golden Horde that ruled Mongolia were "Turkic" rather than "Mongolian." The terms are kind of confusing in the first place, but I figure this should be made clear when speaking of a "Mongol" gene.
2) If this is the result of intermarriage from the Golden Horde, I'm skeptical of how this would work, since it seems that most intermarriage would have involved Russian slaves and serfs becoming concubines, and their descendents being Islamicized. At least that's how I read the history.
3) It might be more plausible that the "Mongol" gene is the result of long term genetic exchanges along the Eurasian east-west axis.
4) From what I know, it doesn't seem like there has been "50%" admixture of "Mongols" into the Russian population (assume Mongoloid). A quick reading of the article might give that impression to people. If the "Mongol" gene for metabolizing alcohol is a new arrival, it might have experienced some positive selection pressure....

Anyway, I'm still not convinced that this might not be a joke.

Posted by razib at 03:36 PM