Saturday, January 20, 2024

Russian Urban Legends about Ukrainians Ever More Hyperbolic and Both Threaten and are Exploited by Kremlin, ‘To Be Continued’ Portal Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, Jan. 15 – Urban legends, stories circulating among the population to explain things people feel the government is not in control of, became especially widespread first during the coronavirus pandemic and then in the months since the launch of Putin’s expanded war in Ukraine.

            Often, these stories are far more hyperbolic and disturbing than anything the Kremlin wants people to think, although the Putin regime is prepared to use them when that suits its purposes given that such expressions of popular beliefs are typically more powerful than even the state’s propaganda.

            That has been particularly true in the period of the war in Ukraine and explains why the Russian authorities both try to suppress some urban legends and exploit others, although the regime’s ability to do both at the same time is limited – and the urban legends often get the upper hand, the To Be Continued portal says (

            The portal says that the conclusions of Alan Dundes, an American folklorist who studied cases of blood libel against Jews, are especially suggestive about how Russians have reacted to the war in Ukraine. He found that “individuals who commit evil acts tend to blame victims of this evil act for evil thoughts or even evil actions.”

            “According to Dundes,” To Be Continued says, “this xenophobic horror story about the blood of Christian babies is so tenacious because it is a projection of the unconscious feeling of guit of Christians toward a people they have been persecuting for centuries. Don’t you think this is very similar to our situation with regard to the Ukrainians?”

            Such horrific urban legends “simultaneously sow panic and calm the population, maintaining the correct emotional balance in society for a continuation of the war,” the portal suggests, adding that that is the reason that the powers that be use rather than suppress all of them.

            Because such urban legends “recreate for us a picture of a just world in which we attacked first and launched missiles at residential areas only because very evil people life there” and “confirm that we are right.” Even more important, “they distract us from real rather than invented nightmares that are so terrible we don’t want to believe or hear about them.”

            At the same time, To Be Continued says, “people tend to believe in legends where they still intuitively feel that the authorities are not in control of the situation,” when propaganda claims one thing but their own eyes see something else. The longer the war goes on, the more such urban legends will spread in Russia.

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