ABSTRACT Aim Assess the impact of heavy drinking on homicide and suicide mortality in Russia between 1956 and 2002. Measures and design Alcohol-related mortality was used as a proxy for heavy drinking. We used autoregressive integrated moving average techniques to model total and sex-specific alcohol–homicide and alcohol–suicide relationships at the population level. Findings We found a positive and significant contemporaneous association between alcohol and homicide and between alcohol and suicide. We found no evidence of lagged relationships. These results held for overall and sex-specific associations. Conclusion Our results lend convergent validity to the alcohol–suicide link in Russia found by Nemtsov and to the alcohol–homicide associations found in cross-sectional analyses of Russia. Levels of alcohol consumption, homicide and suicide in Russia are among the highest in the world, and the mounting evidence of the damaging effects of consumption on the social fabric of the country reveals the need for intervention at multiple levels.