By Paul Goble
The Russian people have long had a propensity for believing in conspiracy theory explanations of what is going on around them. Having limited information, they are more than ready to accept as true explanations that aren’t based so much on real evidence as on imagination and that reduce the world to understandable terms.
Increasingly, however, Russian elites have joined the population in believing in conspiracies, first promoting these ideas for what at least are rational reasons such as justifying the steps Moscow has taken but now believing in what they are saying and thus making them ever more likely to make mistakes, Aleksandr Arkhipov says.
To make his point, the independent cultural anthropologist points to five recent examples, each of which one might expect some in the population to believe but none of which withstands close analysis and thus should not be but is part of the mental maps of members of the Moscow elite (novayagazeta.eu/articles/2023/01/11/bunkernyi-bred).
In each case, the powers that be have sought to present these conspiracy theories as fact and to do so in a way that will convince the Russian population. But in doing so, the authors of these typically outrageous notions have ended up convincing themselves even though they should be aware of just as invented and false these ideas area.
The first of these conspiracy theories many in the Russian elite and population, that of a behind-the-scenes plot by the rich against Russia has its origins in Soviet Marxist propaganda but has assumed the role of a conspiracy theory about the supposed power and milolsdeeds of “the golden billion.”
The second, that the war in Ukraine is a war against evil, is intended by the elite to justify their aggression in Ukraine. After all, if what is being fought is pure evil, then all means are justified, exactly what the Kremlin wants Russians and others for that matter to accept.
The third conspiracy theory is the hoary notion of a Dulles Plan to dismember Russia, a nonexistent but widely believed in plot that can be invoked to distract attention and explain away any problems among the non-Russian nations.
The fourth is the idea that the West is engaged in mental wars against Russia and thus Russia must take all steps to defend itself against that insidious plot. This notion is related to the Dulles Plan but is even broader and can be used to deflect criticism away from the Kremlin onto otherwise unknow “dark forces.”
And the fifth, Arkhipov says, is that there is a Western conspiracy involving Poland to dismember Ukraine. Given its existence, believers in this idea say, Russia has no choice but to invade and occupy all of Ukraine lest the West do so an annex sizeable portions of the country to Poland.