Many people enjoy the fireworks and celebrations that come with Chinese New Year. Not everyone, however, is enthusiastic about the upcoming Year of the Snake, which begins February 10.
For one thing, the Year of the Snake is traditionally considered a less fortuitous cycle in the 12-year Chinese zodiac than the Year of the Dragon, which precedes it.
The September 11 terrorist attacks, the Tiananmen Square massacre, and the start of the Great Depression all took place in "snake" years.
Even worse, the 2013 Year of the Snake will be what's known as a Black Water Snake -- a rare, once-in-60-years confluence of astrological elements that may augur a volatile year ahead.
But one country in particular has reason to be afraid of snakes -- Russia, where some of the tumultuous moments its in history have consistently coincided with Years of the Snake.
'Big Changes' Coming
"The Year of the Snake is different because it's a year that, for Russia, has always marked very important, sweeping changes in our social and political life," Pavel Sviridov, a futurologist and president of the Temporal Research Fund, explained in a recent interview with the pravda.ru website. "So 12 years have passed, and we're about to usher in the 2013 Year of the Snake -- a year that will mark the beginning of big changes in our country.
"In fact, a quick look back over some of the most notable moments in Russia's turbulent 20th-century history reveals an uncanny synchronicity with the "snake" years. (Even earlier, if you count the 1881 assassination of Alexander II, known as the "tsar-liberator.")
It begins in 1905 with the first Russian revolution -- the massive workers' strikes that spelled the beginning of the end of the tsarist regime. Twelve years later, in 1917, came the Bolshevik Revolution, which ushered in more than seven decades of communist rule.
In 1929, the next Year of the Snake, the Soviet government launched its collectivization drive -- stripping peasants of their land and livestock -- leading to massive deportations and famine.
Twelve years later, in 1941, World War II began. In 1953, Josef Stalin died. And 1989, the last Year of the Snake of the 20th century, marked the start of the Soviet collapse with revolutions in Eastern Europe.
The imminent arrival of a new Year of the Snake has stirred speculation about what major changes could await Russia this year.
The astrological site astroscope.ru stopped short of predicting a new Russian revolution but suggested 2013 could see a crash in the country's financial markets reminiscent of the 1929 Black Tuesday collapse in the United States that sparked the Great Depression.
Other astrologists appeared more sanguine about Russia's chances.
"Of course, we don't wish anyone ill," astrologist Mikhail Chistyakov wrote on his website. "But cataclysms can befall not only us but also those on the other side of the Atlantic."
Still another prognostication went so far as to pronounce Russia as stuck in the midst of a 52-year political "lacuna" that will leave the country socially stable, if ideologically inert, through 2053 -- a Year of the Snake forecast that most Russian politicians may find to their liking.