Because men have borne the heaviest burden of premature mortality in the former Soviet Union, women have for the most part been overlooked in studies of the health crisis in this part of the world. A considerable body of research points to alcohol consumption among males as a primary lifestyle cause of premature mortality. However, the extent to which alcohol use has penetrated the female population following the collapse of communism and how this consumption is associated with other social factors is less well-understood. Accordingly, this paper investigates alcohol consumption in eight republics of the former USSR - Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine using data collected in 2001. More specifically, discussion of gender role transformations and the historical experiences of women during the Soviet era emphasize two potentially important social influences examined in this analysis: psychological distress and Soviet political ideology. Findings suggest that distress is only weakly statistically associated with frequent drinking behavior among women, but results for political ideology show that this factor is statistically and significantly associated with drinking behaviors. Alcohol consumption was not particularly common among women under communism, but trends have been changing. Our discussion suggests that, after the collapse of the Soviet state, women are more able to embrace behavioral practices related to alcohol, and many may do so as an overt rejection of traditional Soviet norms and values. Findings are also discussed within the context of current epidemiological trends and future research directions in these eight republics. © 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.