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Legislators vs psychics saga continues unabated

September 25, 2014, 16:19 UTC+3 Alexandrova Lyudmila
© ITAR-TASS/Valery Matytsyn

MOSCOW, September 25. /ITAR-TASS/. Russian legislators are adamant in protecting the country’s population and media space from what some of them describe as “negative influences of astrologists, fortune-tellers, magicians, spiritualists and psychics”. A bill on the issue, authored by A Just Russia’s State Duma member Mikhail Serdyuk was on the lower house Wednesday session agenda. However, at the very last moment, it was postponed until the end of the autumn session. Nevertheless, media debate over the issue of psychics and their effects on people’s minds has flared up with renewed force.

The bill, if and when turned into law, will impose restrictions on broadcasting programs that promote the activity of magicians, psychics and sorcerers. Such programs will be allowed to go on air only during late night hours between 23:00 and 04:00 and have to carry the mandatory subtitle “For entertainment.”

“We are not prohibiting anyone from indulging in fortune-telling or reading horoscopes,” Serdyuk said on the Vesti FM radio station. “Do it if you like it. But advertising and promoting such services on television is hardly appropriate.”

Soothsayers, healers, clairvoyants and fortune-tellers do not have to be looked for in remote villages of Russia. Print media, television and the internet are brimming with their advertisements. Paranormal phenomena receive extensive coverage even on the largest television channels. One of the most popular TV programs in this genre - The Battle of Psychics (Russia’s replica of the UK television show Britain’s Psychic Challenge) - has been on the air of Russia’s TNT channel for 15 years in a row with invariably high ratings.

Channel One, the biggest government-controlled television company with the largest audience at home, recently launched a mystical project called Black-and-White, presented as a new-generation contest for people with extra-sensory capabilities.

The Russian Orthodox Church is firmly against this. The chief of staff of the Moscow Patriarchate’s commission for family affairs and protection of motherhood, Dmitry Smirnov, recently accused Channel One and its management of turning state-run television “into an infernal, stinking zone of Satanism and obscurantism”.

Approximately a third of the country’s adult population has resorted to the services of all sorts of psychics at least once in their lifetime, the daily Novyie Izvestia says, quoting psychotherapist Mark Sandomirsky as saying that “Sometimes people lose not only their money, but also their health and even their life.”

These days, very different people - from common folk to highly educated intellectuals - turn to psychics and healers, says the chief of the Centre for Legal and Psychological Assistance in Extreme Situations, co-host of the Battle of Psychics show Mikhail Vinogradov. “That’s what human nature is all about. It has taken shape over thousands of years. People are superstitious by nature and Russia to my mind is a country of the most superstitious people in the world,” he believes.

The image of psychics and fortune-tellers is the favorite disguise of all sorts of swindlers. According to Rossiyskaya Gazeta, the annual market of occult and magic services provided by “spiritual healers” is estimated at $2 billion. Two-thirds of the sum ends up in the pockets of the most outrageous swindlers.

Some in the State Duma say the issue is “white-hot”. The chairman of the State Duma’s committee for the affairs of non-governmental associations and religious organizations, Yaroslav Nilov, has said complaints from individuals come pouring like rain. Some have fallen victim to swindlers’ financial schemes and others have developed such an addiction to occult services as to be eventually defrauded of all property.

Since 2008, the State Duma has considered four similar bills, but none of them has become law. There is a pile of technical and legal problems that intervene with legislators’ years-long crusade against psychics. The problem has still one more side to it: Hypothetical bans will be hard to enforce in practice and those trading occult services will have too many loopholes to go unpunished.

 

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