Russian religious texts about alleged prophecies disseminate panic over the new coronavirus
The religious beliefs of some Macedonian citizens are being used to disseminate panic and misinformation about the new coronavirus (designated by the World Health Organization – WHO as 2019-nCoV) by manipulatively citing Russian texts for its outbreak in order to portray it as the beginning of a worldwide catastrophe.
The Facebook page “Orthodox Macedonia” has published a post with a picture of a fresco оf the Mother of God with water flowing down her cheeks which should possibly connect it to the numerous tearing events of the frescoes presented as a supernatural phenomenon. The accompanying text, however (almost entirely translated from Russian) speaks of how certain persons, designated as prophets, “predicted” that “half of the population – elders and children” would die because of this virus.
The post was liked over 1,400 times, has 401 comments (mostly affirmative) and 403 shares.
Most of the quotes in the post are attributed to persons unknown to the Macedonian public, alleged saints from the deep Russian provinces, or cities such as Kemerovo in Siberia or Chebarkul on the banks of the Ural. The quotes speak generally of diseases resulting from divine wrath, albeit with no details which can show prior knowledge of this virus. Some of the allegations raise the level of fear and horror with announcements of a world war.
In addition to the quotes, links to news about the coronavirus epidemic from Macedonian news sites are also included in the text, in order to give readers the impression that there is a connection.
At the end of the extensive text, there is a quotation called “The Prophecy of Aeromonas Elpidius” in which there is no prophecy, but instructions from a Greek priest to the believers on how to pray. A link to a Russian text from his 2013 sermon is cited as a “source”. However, this kind of text is not only about filling up space, but has the function of reassuring readers that what has been written above is backed by church officials.
Regardless of the fact that the content of this last segment has nothing to do with the title, which, in turn, announces a prophecy, it invokes the authority of the Greek monk, who, through photographs and videos, is portrayed as helping the children in Africa.
Other parts of the sermon promote conspiracy theories such as the “jet spraying”, GMO food poisoning and Masonic influence, culminating in the announcement of a war between Russia and Germany that would be assisted by 8-10 states led by Lucifer himself. Reportedly, the main battle would be for Istanbul. This section of the text is illustrated with a picture of a medieval Russian warrior, Prince Pozharsky in front of the fresco of the Mother of God.
The Facebook page “Orthodox Macedonia” is anonymous, its administrators have not released who they are and where they are, while Facebook’s transparency tool has data that administrators are 9 people located in North Macedonia. Established on 12 June 2014, it has 23,169 followers.
Totalitarian and authoritarian regimes around the world, both in the past and today, have often supported the dissemination of prophecy stories that foretell disasters and conspiracy theories as a means of keeping subjects in a state of constant fear. Such stories are often republished by unprofessional media not only for ideological but, above all, commercial reasons, because they attract readers’ attention.
A typical example is the deception of the “Kremlin prophecy”, which was first put into operation by the 1902 policy of Serbian King Milan Obrenovič to justify his decision to divorce. During the 20th century, 12 books on “prophecy” were published, with sections being added announcing “events” that occurred in the meantime.