Staunton, Oct. 27 – The coronavirus pandemic may trigger a new rise of fascism in the world in much the same way that the 1919 “Spanish flu” epidemic did, Sergey Yenikolopov says. In Russia, the current pandemic has already driven Russian society back to the uncertainties of the late 1990s and the desire for order regardless of the costs.
Speaking at a conference on the impact of covid on society at large, the senior scholar of the Moscow Scientific Center for Psychological Health argues that the coronavirus pandemic also shares in common popular Russian reaction to the 1986 Chernobyl accident that led to glasnost, perestroika and the end of the USSR (vz.ru/society/2021/10/27/1126208.html).
Many Russians, he continues, don’t believe in the coronavirus just as they did not believe in the radiation from Chernobyl because they “they can’t hold it in their hands.” As a result, the impact of the pandemic inside Russia very much “recalls the 1990s” when people stopped believing in evidence and turned instead to magic and radical religious sects.
Again, Yenikolopov says, “constructive thought is quickly weakening while esoteric and magical thinking is intensifying,” leading people not to believe real evidence and instead accept radical and unfounded ideas and call for a leadership that can impose order rather than seek to follow real knowledge and overcome problems on their own.
A second participant in the discussion, Aleksandr Tkhostov, a psychologist at Moscow State University, adds that the second year of the pandemic has increased a sense of uncertainty, especially among people who have been forced to self-isolate and lack the ability to cope with that on their own.
“Archaic forms of thought are being reborn,” he says, “and even people who think rationally have begun to speak about some kind of stories from other words. The most surprising is that a segment of doctors have shown an inclination to strange and baseless theories,” thus making these notions more acceptable to more people.
According to Tkhostov, “the trust of the population in the initiatives of the authorities in the struggle with the virus has turned out to be quite low,” not only in Russia but throughout the world.
But a third participant in the roundtable, Mariya Kiselyova, a psychiatrist at the Sechenov Unviersity, says that these trends exist but shouldn’t be exaggerated. According to her, roughly the same share of Russians needs the services of mental health professionals now as was the case before the pandemic.