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As Mayan 'Apocalypse' Nears, Doomsday Craze Grips The World

Preparation, Prayer, And Profits Precede 'Apocalypse'i
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December 19, 2012
December 21 marks the end of one cycle of the ancient Mayan calendar, and some people believe that means a coming disaster. For many, though, the doomsday rumors mean an unmissable opportunity to make money -- or make merry. (Reuters video)
WATCH: Preparation, prayer, and profits precede "apocalypse."
By Claire Bigg
The end is near. The world as we know it will end on December 21, when cataclysmic events will leave a trail of destruction and cause near-total human extinction on Earth.

At any rate, that's the belief held by some people worldwide based on interpretations of the ancient Mayan calendar.

Despite the best efforts of scholars, officials, and religious leaders to debunk the theory, fears of an impending apocalypse have elicited panic, humorous spin-offs, and many shameless attempts to cash in on the rumors.

Perhaps nowhere has the doomsday craze taken hold more than in Russia and Ukraine, where prices for candles and other household staples have soared as families stock up ahead of December 21.

ALSO READ: A Reset, Not Doomsday -- How The Mayans Measured Time

Panic-buying has been taking place across Russia, with people reportedly hoarding torches, matches, thermos flasks, and kerosene lamps. Oddly, the industrial city of Novokuznetsk has witnessed a run on salt.

In the Siberian city of Tomsk, what began as a gag idea to offer end-of-the-world survival kits has since turned into a profitable business venture.

"People have been talking about the end of the world a lot lately, so we decided to joke about it," Aleftina Popova, an employee at Marina Mendelson, the wedding agency offering the kits, says. "We came up with this kit to show people how to laugh about such things."

Popova says people from all over Russia have ordered the kit online. "It's definitely been a successful project," she quips.

The kit, which goes for 890 rubles ($29), contains a length of rope, bandage, a notepad, vodka, a can of sprats, a bar of soap, and several other items deemed necessary to survive an apocalypse.

ALSO READ: Top 10 End-Of-The-World Predictions

Russian officials, however, are not amused. A group of lawmakers in Russia's State Duma has written to the heads of federal television channels urging them not to disseminate "pseudoscientific information about the end of the world."

Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, Emergency Situations Minister Vladimir Puchkov, and Gennady Onishchenko, the country's chief health inspector, have felt the need to weigh in to discourage rumors about the Earth's pending demise.


In Italy, the Vatican's top astronomer has also sought to quell anxieties about December 21, describing the various doomsday scenarios based on the Mayan calendar as "not even worth discussing."

NASA, the U.S. space agency, has even taken the unusual step of publishing a fact sheet titled "Beyond 2012: Why the World Won't End."
Mayan priests hold a water-blessing ceremony at the Noc Ac cenote, a natural deep deposit of water, in Yucatan, Mexico, on December 15 within the framework of a cultural festival to celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar.
Mayan priests hold a water-blessing ceremony at the Noc Ac cenote, a natural deep deposit of water, in Yucatan, Mexico, on December 15 within the framework of a cultural festival to celebrate the end of the Mayan calendar.

But one government head has put a fun spin on things. In a spoof video posted on the Internet early this month, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, looking grave, announced the impending apocalypse that "the world is about to end."

She continued: "Whether the final blow comes from flesh-eating zombies, demonic hell beasts, or from the total triumph of K-Pop [Korean pop music], if you know one thing about me, it's this: I will always fight for you to the very end."

Cash Bonanza

Meanwhile, efforts to capitalize on the current doomsday-mania are in full swing.

A number of companies, from automaker Chevrolet to Shock Top, a U.S. beer, have released Armageddon-themed commercials in a bid to boost sales.

INTERVIEW: NASA Astrophysicist Sets 'Doomsday' Record Straight

In Serbia, hotels on the eastern Rtanj Mountain are being swarmed by tourists who believe it will be spared when the rest of the world turns to rubble on December 21.

According to popular belief, the mountain hides a pyramid structure left behind by aliens more than a thousand years ago that will shield it from destruction.

"We've seen frenzy here in the past 10 days," says Obrad Blecic, a manager of one of the local hotels. "People are calling us to book rooms, but we're already fully booked out. We are usually only 20 percent full. Two or three families from Austria contacted us as well as domestic customers from major cities in Serbia, including Belgrade. People keep calling us, and when we tell them we are full they ask if they can stay in the parking lot or in the restaurant."

At least two other mountain hamlets, one in France and one in Turkey, have also been touted by doomsday cults as safe havens and are experiencing an unprecedented tourist boom -- prompting locals to offer room and board at exorbitant prices.

A number of enterprising doomsday aficionados have preferred taking matters into their own hands.

A Chinese farmer, for instance, has built seven spheres from fiberglass and steel that he hopes will allow their passengers to ride out the end of the world.

In the United States, developer Larry Hall has transformed a former rocket silo in Kansas into several luxurious survival condos. At least three of the units have already been sold, each for $2 million.

Amid the global doomsday craze, few have stopped to listen to what native Mayan communities have to say on the matter.

According to ethnic Mayans, the end of the ancient Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012 does not herald any catastrophe -- simply the beginning of a new calendar.

They condemn the financial exploitation of their cultural heritage and plan to mark the day with private ceremonies at Mayan archaeological sites, far from the massive crowds expected to flock to Mexico and Central America for end-of-the-world concerts and fireworks.

RFE/RL Balkans Service correspondent Branko Vuckovic contributed to this report

Claire Bigg

Claire Bigg covers Russia, Ukraine, and the post-Soviet world, with a focus on human rights, civil society, and social issues. Send story tips to​


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Comment Sorting
Comments page of 4
by: Jon Danzig from: London, United Kingdom
December 19, 2012 13:57
The predicted world’s end on 21 December is irrational scare-mongering nonsense – but the ‘Millennium Bug’ was not. There’s a difference, and it’s important to the human race that we understand what it is. See my latest blog: ‘Mayan Catastrophe versus Millennium Bug’:

Short link:
In Response

by: Chuhyona from: Atlanta
December 19, 2012 21:30
The world as we knew it ended when Obama was elected.

by: desert from: az
December 19, 2012 14:29
How freaking stupid are these people that believe this lie? This is b.s. put out by tv producers making buckets full of money on YOUR irrational fears! READ THE BIBLE...either you believe the word of God that is tried and true..or you believe these lies...if you want to call the word of God a lie....I pity you!
In Response

by: Stu from: Iowa
December 19, 2012 20:45
The word of God that is tried and true? How do you try God's words?
In Response

by: Pogue Mahone from:
December 19, 2012 21:13
One way is to accept His word that the rainbow seen after the flood was his promise that no other such world-ending catastrophe would again be unleashed against the people before His return. That's just one example among many in the Bible.
In Response

by: Bryan V.
December 19, 2012 21:14
Well you see, there are quite a few conditional statements made in the bible. You know, like 'If this, then that' statements.

If you do the 'If' part, then the 'Then' part comes true.

You put the word of God to the test just as you would any other source that makes claims. The problem is that so many opponents of the bible think that it is just another book and yet they won't treat it and judge it as they would other books and they disregard it.

The most important thing you can do is simply ask God to prove himself to you. Proving his existence will not accomplish anything, but proving who God is will accomplish everything. Knowing that God exists won't change a person's heart, but knowing who God is will.
In Response

by: Budwize from: Long Beach
December 19, 2012 22:03
I think they were talking about the expiration date on "Mayan" brand yogurt.
In Response

by: Sketch from: KCMO
December 19, 2012 21:40
"Either you believe the word of God that is tried and true OR you believe these lies." Considering there is a third option (neither) and is not just an "or", your statement is a lie.
In Response

by: John Doe
December 21, 2012 04:44
God does not exist. God is for people who have to believe in the divine because they do not believe in themselves.
In Response

by: Camel Anaturk from: Kurdistan
December 21, 2012 11:32
Like bloody `ell he exists,Johnny,and he just gave a 4 hour press conference yesterday!!! But if you live in Brooklyn,then there is no God and try to find a plumber on Sunday,as Judy Allen says!!!

by: Mike from: AZ
December 19, 2012 14:36
I suspect the world will come to an end some day, but not as predicted. Rather, I think it will happen at the hands of man. And I'm not talking climate change either! Humans, by far, are not the smartest animals on this planet, that's for sure!
In Response

by: jonny
December 20, 2012 08:24
Um... Yes we are? Call me when another animal builds a vehicle that can exit the Earth's atmosphere. I don't see any complex structures being built by any other species of life on this planet. Speak for yourself.

by: Looneytoonsindville from: United states of america
December 19, 2012 14:39
I have heard that the Mayans believed that they would be renewed on 12/21/2012, not die. Their calendar supposedly "resets" to a new beginning. The folks who have been predicting the end of the world based on the Mayan calendar are supposedly misinterpreting it. I, for one, subscribe to this theory " ... in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory.”

by: ATM from: Down by the River
December 19, 2012 14:43
I think it is much more likely that the Mayans merely meant that it was the end of an Age rather than the end of the world.

I think it is the end of the Age of Debt.

by: Dobbs from: New Mexico
December 19, 2012 15:23
No one knows the hour. Certainly not a pagan culture.
In Response

by: Red Shift from: Indiana
December 19, 2012 22:45
The ONLY way they could know the hour is if somebody else told them when it would be. Mountain top symbols, ufo's, maybe it's time to rewatch "the day the earth stood still?"

by: Alan from: Orlando Florida
December 19, 2012 15:38
This takes me back to 1999, all over again.

by: grendel007 from: usa
December 19, 2012 15:43
Lock and Load, baby! Time for the mutant zombie apocalypse! (and I'm being serious...)

by: Terri from: USA
December 19, 2012 16:18
This I do know....Dec 21st!!...will not be DOOMSDAY!!! as long as YOU ARE not the one CAUSING ANY DOOM!!!!...Practice being at Peace and in Jesus Peace and Grace that day, this Friday and everyday and there won't be any DOOM!!!!!!!!..are you listening people!!!!..Get rid of all weaponry in this world and all you are left with is local fist fights that can be rounded up!!!!..Amen!!!!...That is what Jesus meant when he said hold yourself blameless in this life!...Don't be the cause!!!!...Peace & Love all over the World, Amen!

by: thunderbolt from: CA
December 19, 2012 16:28
When I was in Mexico (Maya country) I asked some native Mayas about the Mayan calendar ending, foretelling the end of the world. They just giggled. They did not know anything about it.
Comments page of 4

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