Staunton, October 13 – Since September 11 when what Russians call “telephone terrorism” – anonymous reports that bombs have been planted in one or another location – more than a million people have been evacuated from almost 2500 buildings in 170 cities and towns across Russia.
This phenomenon is continuing, even though it has received little attention from the central media or officials, Galina Mursaliyeva writes in today’s Novaya gazeta. Thus, on October 10 alone, she reports, 79,000 Russians were evacuated from 115 sites in seven cities, including Moscow and St. Petersburg (novayagazeta.ru/articles/2017/10/13/74180-vremya-ryt-okopy).
Three experts with whom the journalist spoke say that this drumbeat of events is having an effect as many people have been forced to evacuate more than once and because they have not been given guidance from the authorities on the nature of the problem and how they should react. As a result, many are falling into depression.
Maksim Chekmaryev, a psychotherapist, says that “the social instability” that the bomb threats and forced evacuations suggest has led to “the growth of depression, worry, panic attacks, and neuroses.” Daniil Khlomov, a psychologist agrees but points out that the fact that no bombs have been found has a dual impact.
On the one hand, he suggests, many are frightened; but on the other, many others are dismissive or assume that everything is under complete control. At the same time, the evacuations have had a serious economic impact amounting to billions of rubles and that too worries many.
The organization of the evacuations has convinced many, Khlomov continues, that “we are reliably defended.” It has led others to treat the whole thing as a joke. “One thing is obvious: only those whose psyche is troubled are going to get genuinely ill as a result of this situation.” But it is unfortunately the case that in Russia today, “there are many such people.”
“They can evaluate evacuations as a tragedy,” and “if the situation continues for a long time, depression in society will grow.” If that occurs, it will lead to “an increase in the general level of concern.”
And Academician Aleksandr Asmolov, a psychologist, says that the continuing threat has put Russians as a whole in the position of soldiers in the trenches who fear that an attack could come at any time. If they keep busy and focus on doing what they are doing, they do well; if not, then not.
Clearly, he says, those making the threatening phone calls want to infect the country with “an epidemic of fear,” something for which there are no drugs available and which has the avility to transform peoples “from personalities into members of a crowd and lead to the loss of ‘the ego.’”
“In order that this not happen,” Asmolov says, “one must be ready for an encounter with the unexpected and find a place” for taking actions that will allow individuals to cope by suggesting that they are still capable of doing something to defend themselves.
The fact that officials have been so reluctant to talk about these events may be making it worse. On the one hand, that lack of public discussion has led some to speculate that the Russian special services are behind telephone terrorism (sobkorr.ru/news/59E07C2D59331.html). And on the other, it has led some to accept reports about other things more readily or combine them into one common threat (ura.news/news/1052308310).