By Baiba Zile*
The popularity of the US conspiracy theory movement QAnon is increasing in Russia — supporters believe that Navalny is the “son of Soros” and that Putin is battling the “deep state”. Russian-speaking QAnon supporters most often spread narratives that Covid-19 does not exist or that it was unleashed by the global elite, specifically against Russia.
A QAnon group in the social network VKontakte was established in the summer of 2020 and since then has gained increasing popularity in Russia, despite the group receiving a so-called shadow ban (an algorithm aimed at restricting misinformation) on the website. There is also a Russian QAnon channel in Telegram with 60,000 followers.
According to the supporters of QAnon, vaccination is a tool to control the society, as well as a biological weapon that causes death. It should not surprise you that there is extremely low support among Russians for vaccinating against Covid-19, but this is not because of QAnon but because of the continuous spread of conspiracy theories by the TV networks REN TV and TNT. Just like in the US, and elsewhere in world, the local popular conspiracy theorists call the pandemic the “plandemic”, the virus “the sheep virus” and masks “muzzles”. The supporters of these conspiracy theories also discuss the people that wear these “muzzles” along with a number of other mystical and otherworldly topics.
For example, QAon members believe that Russian artists like Kirkorov, Timati, Leps, Face and Oxxxymiron are servants of the devil corrupting people’s souls because supposed Satanic symbols can be seen on their clothes and tattoos.
With respect to Navalny, besides claiming he is the son of George Soros and a pawn of the US, QAnon members are also certain that his poisoning with Novichok was staged and that he exploits children to overthrow the Russian government.
All of this is backed by “evidence” that Navalny receives support from Western leaders, especially President Joe Biden, who happens to be QAnon’s arch enemy.
Interestingly, Russian President Vladimir Putin is portrayed as being a good force by QAnon conspiracists, despite him rarely being mentioned in their discussions. He, along with Donald Trump and Chinese leader Xi Jinping, are portrayed as the ones fighting against the “deep state”. The conspiracists believe that Putin’s best quality is his passing of laws against the spread of the LGBT movement. Perhaps not surprisingly, it almost seems that QAnon is closely tied to the Russian intelligence services because the narratives spread by QAnon are shockingly similar to those spread by the pro-Kremlin propaganda media.
As can be seen the Russian QAnon movement unites supporters of conspiracy theories about the emergence of Covid-19, the dangers of vaccination and “pedophile lobbyists” in US politics. Like their US brothers, these people also believe that the global media is a sham and that they are paid to spread disinformation, which means — according to QAnon supporters — that the sensible thing to do is not to believe official information or the news.
Knowing how and why conspiracy theories are made, it is no surprise that there are plenty of conspiracists in the world who are willing to “bring the truth to the disbelieving herd of sheep that is being devoured by the global elite”. That said, I truly hope that once everyone has received the vaccine and life continues as usual, then this absurd house of cards built by our local conspiracists and individual politicians will finally collapse.
*Baiba Zile is an independent Latvian journalist