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russian unorthodox: Preparing for the End of the World

Published: December 5, 2012 (Issue # 1738)


Thousands of Russians are preparing for a very special day during the last half of December. And they are looking for special deals and attractive offers to mark the occasion.

If you guessed New Years Eve, youd be wrong. They are preparing for doomsday, December 21. That is the day on which the Mayan people of Central America calculated the world would come to an end.

Residents in the Siberian city of Tomsk, for instance, have been buying emergency kits designed specifically to enable Russian people to face the ultimate calamity. These packs are being distributed by the Marina Mendelson private wedding agency at the bargain price of 890 rubles ($28). They contain food items such as buckwheat and sprats, and, this being Russia, there is vodka to soften the trauma of extinction, or maybe just lubricate that last party.

The kits also contain practical equipment like matches, candles, and a first aid kit. Judging by the contents, its creators expect the last day of human civilization to include, at the very least, a power outage.

According to the state-funded daily newspaper Rossiiskaya Gazeta, several thousand packs were sold in less than a week. The wedding agency said it has been getting orders from far beyond Tomsk.

The Mayan doomsday kit seems to be a bit of light-hearted fun that got out of hand. Spokespeople for Marina Mandelson told the media that the packs were created as a kind of comic relief idea. But it seems that plenty of people have taken the apocalyptic prediction at face value.

In Moscow, dozens of people have apparently been buying vouchers, at 500 rubles ($16.20) apiece, that are supposed to grant absolution for their sins, guaranteed by a Roman Catholic church in Italy. In the Middle Ages the sale of indulgences was widespread. The main difference today is that they are sold on the Internet.

Normally that offer might cut little ice with Russian Orthodox believers, but it seems that on this occasion the potent brew of Mayan prophecy, god-fearing Russian Orthodoxy, and purported Roman Catholic endorsement has proved too much for some people to resist.

The Mayan calendar is no laughing matter for Andrei Gorshechnikov, a member of the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly. He sponsored a motion calling on St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko to ban discussion of the doomsday prophecy in the media. The appeal, supported by a group of Gorshechnikovs fellow lawmakers, said, Media attention to the doomsday according to the Mayan calendar is unhealthy and is provoking a climate of panic in society.

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