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Moscow Believes In Conspiracy Theories

  • Viktor Yerofeyev

A woman looks at job listings in Kemerovo during a job fair in November.

A woman looks at job listings in Kemerovo during a job fair in November.

Who financed the global financial crisis?

That's the main, secret question the Russian authorities are asking. They're certain there's no such thing as accidents, or fate, or human conscience. But there are conspiracies.

Conspiracies targeting Russia. The Orange Revolution in Ukraine was a conspiracy. And so was the Rose Revolution in Georgia. And behind all the conspiracies stands the United States. And behind the United States, what? International Zionism? And behind International Zionism, the devil himself?

But we are Holy Rus. And for our Holy Rus, the financial crisis is potentially fatal. But why is it tantamount to death particularly for Russia? Because it is unfolding against the background of another crisis -- a crisis of confidence. In recent years the state has once again become, as it was in Soviet times, impenetrable.

Even if the Kremlin is being guided by beneficent notions of our national interests, officials do not discuss those notions in public. They just hand them down from on high, like gods. Deus ex machina.

As a result, the government's actions are seen as unpredictable. They change or violate the rules of the game. The only logic that might be divined from them is that they strengthen the state. Or that the state thinks they strengthen it. Either way, the symbolism of the Kremlin as a fortress ringed with high walls increasingly attains a gloomy actuality.

And an atmosphere of total suspicion emerges. The Kremlin can say -- and it has said many times -- that there is no financial crisis in Russia. And the people are supposed to accept that. And the Kremlin itself partly believes what it says because in Russia, historical reality has usually been built on words, not deeds: the verbal icon, denying the existence of a crisis, becomes a magic talisman protecting against the crisis.

In order to strengthen its verbal talisman, the Kremlin needs to find foreign fingerprints on the crisis. And it does find them. The Americans are to blame for the international financial crisis. And if this crisis infects the Russian economy, we know who is to blame.

But that is not where this verbal fantasizing ends. In Soviet days, the authorities would have said that the financial crisis was created by the Americans in order to destroy our country (which they are always dreaming of doing). And, if it comes down to that, the Kremlin might say the same thing now.

And if it isn't possible to tame the crisis with words, then it needs to be blown up into a universal conflagration. The public must be terrified so that the country can be turned into an armed camp under martial law. And, again, this is done for the good of the state. They aren't talking about the crisis itself; they are talking about how the state can benefit from it.

Viktor Yerofeyev is a novelist and a regular contributor to RFE/RL's Russian Service. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

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