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Kremlin’s years of conspiracy spreading now bites back

Russian, Kremlin, Sputnik-V, Vladimir Putin

Oped

Kremlin’s years of conspiracy spreading now bites back

Russian President Vladimir Putin himself has not yet had a Sputnik-V COVID-19 vaccine. Meaning, he surely doe not have trust in it. According to media reports, throughout 2020, Russians demonstrated a steady lack of belief in the existence of Covid-19 and showed distrust toward the vaccines created by Russian scientists.

Commenting on Kremlin’s culture of spreading conspiracy theories, Ilya Yablokov, a lecturer on Russian media and politics at the University of Leeds in Britain said: The Kremlin has been actively involved in spreading anti-Western conspiracy theories for almost two decades. 

The conspiratorial way of perceiving reality spread through books, the state-loyal press and mainstream politicians. 

Conspiracy theories were used to undermine opposition politicians, like Alexey Navalny or the late Boris Nemtsov, or to provide public support for the Kremlin’s actions. 

The growth in popularity of conspiracy theories, that gradually became the main explanatory tool of politics, for years guaranteed public support for Vladimir Putin’s actions.

In critical political situations, Putin and his entourage used conspiracy theories to call for support from the Russian people. Putin’s leadership throughout his years introduced legislations which were highly conspiratorial in their essence. For instance, the introduction of laws against so-called foreign agents as well as constant references to unspecified foreign threats to Russia are core aspects of Kremlin’s domestic policy since the 2010s.

Foreign agents, multiple espionage cases as well as constant references to the foreign threat to Russia are core to domestic kremlin policies since the 2010s

As we know from research, if a person believes in one conspiracy theory, there’s a great chance they will believe in another one, even if it’s contradictory to the first. 

The neoliberal reforms of the Russian health system as well as the drop in quality of its staff made many Russians skeptical about doctors’ professionalism. 

At least 41 percent of Russians in 2019 distrusted doctors double-checked their diagnoses.

Once the health system entered pandemic havoc, and state officials made contradictory and poorly synchronized decisions on lockdown measures, trust figures were unlikely to rise.

According to Russia’s leading independent pollster the Levada Center, a whopping 64 percent of Russians believe that the coronavirus was invented in a lab, while just 23% believe it appeared naturally. Some 62 percent are not willing to get a Sputnik V jab, and 69 percent are not afraid of catching the virus.

Russians do not trust Kremlin’s statements, as it has lost total credibility because of its rogue culture of spreading conspiracy theories. According to Ilya Yablokov: In a way, the Kremlin became caught in its own trap. Sowing mistrust, promoting tabloid-like conspiracy theories and at times dropping conspiratorial hints about US bioweapons being used against Russians has contributed to the growth of skepticism and beliefs in conspiracy theories.

Even if many people in Russia support Vladimir Putin as a leader, they are also unhappy with the state institutions they deal with on a daily basis, be they concerned with education, health or the legal system. 

These are the institutions that have the biggest influence on people’s wellbeing, and they know they are crooked, poorly managed and unable to produce expert knowledge.

What helps Russians to survive under these circumstances is the centuries-long reliability on informal networks and distancing from the state that cannot bring anything good.

In his opinion, what helps Russians to survive under these circumstances is the centuries-long reliability on informal networks and distancing from the state that cannot bring anything good.

An internationally acclaimed multi-award-winning anti-militancy journalist, research-scholar, counter-terrorism specialist, and editor of Blitz. Follow his on Twitter Salah_Shoaib

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