Bad Witches in Russia

But let’s go back to the 1990ies in Russia to continue with chronology of the events, not just influencing me and my life after, but also the fate of Russia and how it has become.

When I talk about witches, and apologies to all nice white witches, who wish no harm, I talk about bad witches, and in order to ban you from telling me what I am deranged, I will present you a picture of Moscow on one day in June in 1991.

It was a beautiful day, as far as I remember, and I was strolling the lovely streets of the Moscow city, together with my cousin, who came to see me from the South of Russia. We were then really young, fourteen, fifteen, care-free, and very independent. I, for instance, due to the fact that I was constantly moving from the house to my dad and step-mother to the house of my grandma, and back, had lots of freedom. I really could do anything I wanted, and once I came back home at seven o’clock in the morning from a party of my boyfriend, and no one even noticed.

I was proud of my city then, because Moscow still stood as it was meant to: large streets with scare construction, old beautiful buildings, the view of the Kremlin, undisturbed, amazing museums, and not than many shops. I was slightly boasting to my cousin, even if I also actually envied her, with her nice, simple, very friendly life in an old mining town in the Eastern Ukraine, where she could visit our grandparents, proud Cossacks, in the South of Russia, whenever she wanted.

We walked for a long time, stopping at different places, to admire the view. We didn’t go inside the Kremlin that time, but stared at it from the bridge, taking in the breathtaking view of that amazing establishment. Kremlin is indeed breath-taking, encompassing beautiful imposing building, the most beautiful cathedral in the whole world, and the Kremlin tower itself, as well as the canon, and park and river around. All Kremlins in Russia were built on the river, surrounded by it, to protect themselves from the enemies.

And then we reached the old Arbat, a famous street in the center, forbidden for cars, where so many Russian writers created their stories, and where artists and vagabonds loved to assemble: to play guitar, to have a laugh, to share artistic ideas, to fall in love and to experience magic. Old Arbat was magical.

But no anymore. In the summer of 1991 I got for the first time a definite feeling that something wrong was going on in my native country. We entered the street, and there it was: witches parlors on almost every corner. At each corner, they were sitting, the witches. One was saying on a poster in front that she could read your fortune and make it better. The other had an announcement that she could ban certain people out of your life, and one man claimed to be a hypnotizer, looking similar to the idiot Kashpirovsky, promising to hypnotize one to good health or death, depending on your wishes (he didn’t mention ‘death’, but he looked like he could do it).

Ah, all that is innocent, and doesn’t mean anything, you might say at this point, especially if you are an atheist, or a psychiatrist.

Well, it does, of course it does. Queues of people were assembling next to each witch, wishing, hoping to get something that would make their lives better. It was indeed a desperate moment for my country: there was nothing to eat, nothing to buy, with uncertain future and total turmoil in politics and economics.

I didn’t like any of them, and I kind of felt a sort of despair myself when I saw these crowds of people, and because I was curious by nature, I joined the queue of a palm reader, a woman who didn’t look kind, and who started to give me weird looks before I even approached her. My cousin was standing next to me, but I told her I had money only to pay for my reading, not for hers. Something protective was always in me, in regards to my one year older than me cousin. She was vulnerable, fragile, thinking that she had lost on points, because my father had made a life in Moscow, while her dad, my uncle, worked in a mine. We both didn’t understand then, yet, that the life of her parents, in a small mining town, was the one that was full of beauty and wonder, and nice, kind people, who earned their bread with honesty and integrity.

By the time I approached the palm reader, I wasn’t feeling that well, I think it was probably due to the fact that all people who had a reading with her, had sad, desolate faces when they departed after receiving their reading. She was piercing me, with her unkind, calculating eyes all the way through, and I assumed it was due to my quite sexy, revealing top, that my mum had brought me from Italy. I was standing out in terms of my clothes, and the woman probably didn’t like it, was my guess.

When I sat in front of her, I had a massive headache, not helped by the fact that what she was telling me, a fourteen years old, was beyond being disturbing, it was pure bad madness.

“You will soon have an operation and you might survive, but it is all in the hands of the fate. You should never work as a teacher, or become a doctor. You will be unlucky in love.”

There was nothing nice coming of the mouth of the woman, and I don’t even know where I found the strength to contradict her, but I did. When she finally revealed her trick, such as asking to paying her lots of money to correct my outrageous fortune, I put a hand on top of hers, looked into her eyes and said:

“You are a liar.”

I then stood up and took my cousin firmly by the hand. I stopped for a good measure as well, looking at the crowd still waiting for their reading, really wishing for them to never approach that monster psychic, to never deal with her madness, greediness and ill-will.

Something unexpected happened then. The bad psychic stood up and started to assemble her chair and her tools (cards or whatever), and then she said:

“No more reading today, I am going home.”

I experienced enormous relief then.

The next day, I took my cousin from the south of Russia, and my cousin from Moscow, my sisters really, I don’t like the term ‘cousin’ to the Zamoskvorechye, a district full of churches, right outside of Moscow (now, a part of it), to baptize all three of us.

We received baptism, someone stole my best hat on the train back to Moscow, and I did feel something. Something really good entering my life.

It wasn’t enough though to fight with the negative energy my native town was dealing with then, but we will come back to it in my next post.

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One Russian New Year

Due to the absence of most grocery products in the 1990s in Russia, people had to develop quite remarkable culinary skills. One had to be truly inventive in order to come up with any interesting dishes, besides a piece of bread with butter (and even butter was at some point totally unavailable in the shops). I remember the period when we would eat either cabbage pies for weeks in a row, or spaghetti with minced meat for months in one go. One would get used, however, to such a simple life quite quickly: if there was nothing available, one had no choice but to adapt.

Being a teenager during that difficult period in the history of Russia, I wasn’t paying much attention to it, unless I was confronted with it directly, like when I had to buy floor and sugar with vouchers or think strategically about how to store bread in a freezer. Most of the time, I was preoccupied with other things, such as where to get a new book in the French language, how to get more tickets to my favourite theatre, and where our next escapade with my best friend would take in the city. Were there so many new things to discover in our native town adjusting itself to a new, very weird ideology, where all those who had been proclaiming ‘to each, according to their needs’, would suddenly become busy with setting up their new businesses, mostly small corner shops, which would start selling vodka but also an array of American goods, such as Cocal-Cola, Snickers, Mars, and Marlboro Light. It was strange to observe the sudden interest of my nation in all things American right when shops still stood empty of the goods most needed on a daily basis, like bread or milk.

But during one winter in Moscow, I had to learn how to be creative and inventive like the rest of the local population. One could fill oneself with Mars and Coca-Cola only to a certain extent. It lost its appeal and even flavour after a couple of months or so. After all it wasn’t what we had grown up with, and the taste was even disappointing after a while. Russian people are more used to a simpler taste, and their own selection of favourite dishes, that one starts to crave after some time passes. And then it comes to traditional festive period, Russian people have to have what they have been used to since years. On the eve of the New Year, which is the main festive day in Russia, one always expects to celebrate it with the traditional Russian dishes, such as venegret (a Russian salad), Olivier salad, roast, potatoes, Vodka and medovik (Russian honey cake).

In 1992 I was invited to attend the New Year celebration at a friend of my boyfriend then, who studied at the university of cinematography in Moscow. I never declined invitations coming from people studying at that prestigious place as these were the funniest and most outgoing bunch of people I’d ever met in my entire life. They were all studying acting and it reflected in how they were in real life. Something interesting was always happening in their lives, and the group where my boyfriend studied had the most remarkable characters. The oldest daughter of Nikita Mikhalkov was among the group, and while the current celebrity culture was totally absent then, I was still in awe. I was at the final years of secondary school then, and for me it was an outlet to a grown-up, much more interesting and exciting world.

I was always invited to all their events for also ulterior motives on the part of the group. I was extremely talented in making the cake Medovik, based on a secret, passed through generations of my step-mum recipe. Every time there was a party they would call me, and after asking me whether I was interested to join, add as an after-thought: “Ekaterina, do you think you can bring your cake, please, as well?” Despite the fact that the cake would take hours to make and had to be made the day before to acquire the melting taste, I never minded to deliver. It was fun to be among them, drinking like a grown-up, dancing till dawn, witnessing the improvised acting on a script written during the gathering.

In 1992 shops, while getting better (one could at least make a cake based on what was on offer), still stood empty of the products that were needed the most for a New Year’s party, such as sausages (necessary for salad Olivier), or even peas. But Andrei, the friend of my boyfriend, had procured the sausages for the part, and this was a task assigned to me for the party preparation. I had to cut them all for our planned salads. It would be actually our main dish (the salad), since we hadn’t managed to get any meat for the roast. That and my three Medovik cakes, that Andrei had hidden as soon as I arrived so that others wouldn’t eat it before the party would start. They really liked my cake. The secret ingredients were the chocolate topping and roasted nuts in the crème, plus, in reality, the recipe was absolutely different from all known medoviks on the market, but this fact I kept for myself. It was named ‘medovik’ and thus, stayed called so.

Andrei had a big dog who was affected by the absence of products like all of us. He was constantly starving and had to eat the cat food for a year or so, when shops suddenly got a big supply of Whiskas and of nothing else. It was a very friendly, outgoing creature, just constantly starving.

How could we have forgotten that fact, I still wonder today? How come we totally missed the dog in the picture of our party? Maybe because the dog was sleeping in the corner during our preparations, lurking, as if invisible, sniffing the delicious sausages, being cut for the main dish for twenty people or so.

It took me two hours to cut the sausages, and I deposited the huge bucket with them on the table when I was done and went for a cigarette break. Some other people stayed behind in the room. Maybe if it was just me, I would remember the dog in the corner. But we all forgot. Others had left the room shortly after me, and it was only ten minutes or so later that I heard a shriek from Andrei coming from the room:

“Where, the fuck, are the sausages???”

We all rushed to the room and stared into the bucket. It was empty. As in a slow movie we moved our heads to acknowledge the dog, not anymore sleeping, but leaking his paws with a satisfied grin. He was the culprit, but who could blame him really? It was New Year’s eve after all, and the dog had his best meal in years.

As to us, we had to improvise on the spot and prepare the salad without any meat. But we had enough of medovik cakes, and some vodka, and the story of the dog became the best joke we had for years.

It was, of course, one of the best parties in my life. Because it was around experience of fun and laughter and unexpectedness of life, sometimes, harsh, sometimes, better, and not around consumption, buying of useless stuff a year ahead, and expensive overpriced presents that no one really needs for a happy and cheerful life.

Best moments in life lie in their simplicity.

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When shops stood empty in Moscow

We are still in Moscow in the 1990s right when the whole country and its neighbours experienced traumatic changes, that would never be reversed, and I wouldn’t claim that they led to anything better. Some people will disagree with me, of course, on this matter, saying that capitalism is better than socialism, that before the regime was too corrupted, people had less chances, and no one was able to travel outside of the Soviet Union.

I agree that it’s always better when one has more choices and more freedom, and while I was able to execute it in practice more than perhaps the majority of the world’s population (I lived in 4 different countries, and managed to live in two countries twice, so in total I moved 5 times in between countries), I am not that sure that people outside of Moscow and Saint Petersburg have that many choices, and the only choice that seems to be presented to young people of today, is to know how to make money. The success of today is measured by one’s bank account, which is a good thing to have, but if it becomes the main goal, it denies one of some other important aspects of meaningful human existence, such as value of friendship, enjoying nature for the sake of enjoying it, meditating on the meaning of life, and being able to appreciate the purity of unexpectedness of life, when one isn’t looking to get richer and better off.

My own approach to money, and well, shopping, was shaped during the 1990s, and stayed with me till today. I lived in between two families (my dad’s and my grandma), and I experienced the deprivation periods on different levels, as a result. In 1991 my sister was born, the year when instead of products and cash money, we were presented with ‘coupons’ by our unfortunate government. It was a constant struggle for my step-mum, as we were five of us, and to feed the lot, with a small baby in tow, needed lots of imagination and sometimes, pure luck.

I remember the day when my step-mum asked me to go and explore whether our local product delivery center had any sugar and floor. Yes, even these products were rare, and one needed coupons to get them. These were also quite good products, as one could then make some pies, which could last for a week, and easily feed the whole family.

I started my walk with the coupons in my pockets on a freezing February afternoon, without hoping to return with anything back (floor and sugar were absent for a month already), but was delighted to see a big crowd waiting outside of the product center when I approached it. People outside meant that there was something, and sometimes it didn’t even matter what it was. Washing powder, outdated yogurts, tea, or even bread, everything was good when shops stood empty.

But oh, my delight when it appeared that the center was giving both sugar and the floor, as long as one had coupons, one could take as many as one could carry. I was so excited by the prospect, that I managed to stand in the queue for more than an hour, in an absolutely debilitating cold. I remember that when I finally presented my coupons, I had problems to hold them in my fingers because they lost any sensation due to the cold.

But then the march back home began. On the peak of my enthusiasm for sugar and floor, I got indeed as much as I could possibly carry, and ended up with twenty kilos of weight as a result. I was a teenager then, still very young and fragile, and the burden turned out to be way too big. It took me an hour to drag it all with me, as I had to stop every couple of minutes to take a breath. I was crying by the end but I went on.  Step by step, one meter after another. I couldn’t wait to see the happy smile on my step-mum’s face, because my weight carried really good news. We would have both floor and sugar for good three months, at least.

The face of my step-mum wasn’t a happy one when I arrived, but full of worry, as I was absent for three hours, it was already dark, and it was clear that I was an emergency situation by the time I finally showed up. I turned into a purple colour.

“You should have just left it, and run home,” my step-mum was telling me, “it isn’t worth it if you end up with pneumonia.” But when I was in my hot bath, I could already smell the preparation of the pies, and this was perhaps a reason as to why I didn’t end up ill after all. The motivation for something is sometimes stronger than the unfortunate circumstances surrounding the wish.

In another apartment, but in the same bloc, my grandma lived. Her circumstances were different and perhaps even more challenging, as she had less of coupons. When I was in her household, I had to learn the basic survival techniques. Like what to do when you run out of bread, there is nothing else to eat, and shops don’t sell any bread? We struggled without anything for quite some time (living on the dry milk, which I was receiving as ‘American’ aid parcel at school), until someone finally tipped me with a solution. One had to put the bread in the freezer! Buy as much as you can, when it is available, and freeze it! Ah, the feeling of happiness when I learned the trick, my sense of pride that I was some sort of ‘provider’ at the age when I was supposed to have no worries but only fun.

But so, to come back to the beginning of my post, capitalism is presented to us as a given, as a regime which survived and flourished much better than all other ideologies. We have many of its manifestations nowadays: financial capitalism with the power of the banks, informational capitalism with the power of Silicon Valley, medical capitalism with the power of Big Pharma, and so on.

But I was there when it arrived to my native country, and I saw what it did to it. Yes, we started to have a variety of products at some point, too many of them in fact. But I cherish the memory of the days when there were only two types of sausages in the shop, one type of bread, and two types of cheese. These were the days when people cooked at home among friends, read books in the park, trusted strangers, and spent so much less time on shopping.

Because shopping, while providing instant gratification, has absolutely no value in a longer term of meaningful life, takes precious time away from more rewarding activities (such as reading a book), and brainwashes the brain into believing that it is something nice to do.

But then capitalism is based in shopping and buying more and more stuff, and we are told that it’s the best way for us to conduct our existence.

Is it? Is it really?

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(I could reflect on all these things while enjoying a nice stroll in Leeuwarden, where I currently live, and there people don’t really shop that much, which is a welcoming sign of a town that preserved something deeper than constant consumption)

Moscow and the arrival of capitalism

I was a teenager when the Soviet Union collapsed and suddenly I found myself in a new country and in a new regime.

As things go in life, when you have to live through the unbelievable, you adjust pretty quickly, especially when you are young.

Still, the changes that my country was undergoing right before the collapse, and after, were remarkable.

It started with the emergence of ‘lareks’, the small ugly compact boxes decorating almost every street in Moscow, selling stuff. These were the first visible signs of capitalism, offering everything from coca-cola, mars chocolate, and spirits to tampons and cigarettes.

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(example of Larek)

No one was even thinking of checking for age, and together with my best-friend, Masha, we took advantage of this new development at once. We would stroll to one of such shops after school, buy coca-cola and cigarettes, and then stroll to the McDonald restaurant in the centre of the city for more ‘delights’. It was the first real fast-food event in our city, and therefore, very noticeable. The queue to the place would stretch for a kilometer, with people eager for the Big Mac and apple pies. Masha and I were still at school, we had plenty of time, and so, spending an hour at least in a queue, was really a minor matter, considering the joy of discovering McDonald when you are fourteen/thirteen, the age which is so easily corrupted by the allure of fast, unhealthy food. We would go for the big mac meal, together with milkshakes, and apple pies, barely able to walk after each feast at the ‘restaurant’. Smoking our cigarettes bought at the ‘larek’ as a complimentary measure following the escapade to McDonald, we would make plans for our new discoveries, ‘things to follow, to try’.

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The world suddenly turned upside down, and for Masha and me, it represented new undiscovered adventures. Everything seemed possible, everything was allowed. There was no one to explain that cigarettes were bad, or that fast-food was unhealthy. We could do anything we wanted, and when you are at that daring age of fourteen, you, obviously, dare to pursue the temptations.

I remember the day when we first entered the casino in the centre of Moscow, situated at the prestigious hotel in the centre. Our aim was really unclear, we didn’t plan any playing or betting, but we wanted to have a look. Having established that anything, absolutely anything was possible in our new brand world, called the ‘capitalism’, we started to push the boundaries to a tricky and often, dangerous extent.

We wanted to be clever, we wanted to be smart. We were too young for the grown up world in its whole glory, but the truth was clear to our eyes: in the new regime, under the new ideology, the crown belonged to those who overcame the rules, bent them, and went for what they wanted. At that time we wanted to be among the grown-ups, and thus, we went to where the adults had fun. The adults who seemed to rule the new world, based on money and status. That first entrance to the casino was our first appearance among the cool ones, and since it had worked (we got the entry), we tried all other, prestigious and luxurious places.

Masha and I would dress in what we judged to be smart clothes, while in reality, it was what most of Moscow was wearing at that time. Clothes were still rare, at least, interesting, clothes, but I was luckier than others because my mum worked in Italy then and would bring me good stuff, while Masha had extremely resourceful mum.  Masha, would simply borrow her sophisticated, beautiful dresses.

We would turn up at the entrance to the casino or the most prestigious club for foreigners, and play a game of getting in. Bouncers were strict, because these places were reserved strictly for the nouveu-riches or wealthy foreigners, and thus, we would start speaking French with Masha hundreds metres before approaching the bouncers. We attended a French school in Moscow, you see.

“Hello,” I would say to the bouncer, smiling in a conspiratory matter, as if I was about to unveil a bombshell. “This is the famous singer, Margerite Condounois, coming directly from Paris. I am her translator,” I would point towards Masha, leaning towards us as if she couldn’t understand a word, and then switch to a whispering mode to continue with my tale, “Miss Condonois is incognito here, to look at how the locals live, to relax little bit, so, please, make sure, it stays private,” I would then slip a note of some roubles into the hand of a bouncer, and proceed to the entrance. The money was very little (less than a pittance for a tip), because we didn’t have any, but it worked each and every time. Wherever we went, we were let in.

Now in retrospect, I think it worked because of the obvious lie. We looked too young to be international stars or translators, and on top of it, Masha looked way too Russian (distinctive Russian cheeks and blue eyes) , while it was me who could pass for a French, with some difficulties. And because of such a visible ‘oversight’ in our story, we were allowed to proceed, since the bouncers and security always believed in what we were saying. The opposite could pass for a truth, in case we were lying, that was their assumption.

As a result, Masha and I, attended the best casinos, restaurants, clubs, theatre performances, managed to get into the ‘White House’ twice, and into a private party of an oligarch in the making. Masha even went on stage to perform some songs in French (she could indeed sing), and we ended up being paid on several occasions.

We exited the narrative of the life of the glory and the rich, when we both realized that we were after different things. We wanted to study, to be independent, to discover the world, to read books, and to remain young, care-free girls for longer, instead of turning into ‘gold-diggers’.

As a result, despite the absolute madness of that times, I am also grateful that I discovered the inside of it, the inside of what it means when one lives one’s life based on money, power, and more money. Each time Masha and I succeeded to enter the world of the powerful and wealthy, it led to a terrible disappointment. There was nothing of real interest there, no real discussions, no interesting talks, no spontaneity. No philosophy, no deepness, no soul, and no real laughter. We looked, we observed, and we made our minds. We wanted to remain in that old world, in that space in between the ideologies, where feelings, people, and soul discovery mattered more than one’s bank account.

Ironically, we remained true to our convictions, where life is interesting on a daily basis, when you look for something deeper than money and status.

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(The view of Moscow with my best-friend Masha, five years ago)

Madness as manifestation of the world around. Moscow in 1990s

Having looked at Moscow in 1989 in my previous post, we are going to stay there for the time being, but move a couple of years forward.

We are staying there, because I want to start demonstrating that madness is not just a state that affects individuals at some point or another, but can also be a manifestation of the society as such. And while it is also very much present in the Western hemisphere (where we will move together in 1995, when I went to Brussels to do a Bachelor degree in French), Russia and my native town, Moscow, were a typical, very outspoken examples of that particular case, when madness strikes the society, deeply and profoundly, without that individuals affected realise it, or if they realise it, they either keep it for themselves (like I did), or they reanalyse it in retrospect. That moment when you look at some past, and say, loud and clear, yes, that was totally insane.

As Nietzsche once said:

“Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations, and ages, it is the rule.”

So, Moscow in 1990 to 1992 and beyond, represented quite an interesting sight.

Moscow at that time (from my archive)

You can watch the depiction of these times in a brilliant movie, called ‘Taxi-Blues’ by Pavel Lungin (trailer), which starts with showing us the glimpse of Kashpirovsky, hypnotising the entire nation from state TV in 1989, and then proceeds in telling us the story of how ordinary people managed (or not) to survive that period. As we all know, Gorbachev, came up with his ideas of ‘democracy’, ‘glasnost’, and ‘freedom of speech’, that he tried to incorporate into real life by demonstrating an absolute act of insanity, such as banning alcohol at some point. My dad worked at a local communist council by that time and used to receive ‘special’ packages once a month. Before the arrival of Gorbachev, packages contained some interesting variety of cheese, one type of sausage, some biscuits, and a bottle of vodka. Once Gorbatchev introduced his ban on alcohol, the bottle of vodka was replaced by lemonade.

My dad used to joke about the new measures, saying that: “One Russian is a drunk, two Russians are a drunken party, and three Russians are a local communist party.” It was all done in good spirit, because alcohol was still, obviously, available, made by desperate Russians in the safety of their homes. The name was ‘Samogon’, and local psychiatric hospitals were struggling with the new intake of patients, who were either intoxicated by the homemade spirit, or feeling very unwell after the séances of Kashpirovsky on the TV.

Being a teenager at that time, I was taking it all in as a really curious observer. In all honesty, I was totally bewildered by what was becoming with my native town, my country, and my surroundings. Having lots of free time for myself, I would often take a notebook and write in it, while walking around the streets of Moscow. The view was indeed, how to say it, (amazing is probably a wrong word to describe the peculiarity of madness) stupefying. Kashpirovsky’s appearance on the TV seemed to have led to a particular phenomenon outside of the state TV, such as resurgence of all things ‘psychic’ literally on every corner. Wherever you looked, you could either see a palm reader, or a nice old kind lady, offering a Tarot spread, right next to a Russian Orthodox Church. Churches were reopening their doors next to newly established businesses, specialising in all kinds of magic. You could order a love spell, or ask to get rid of your enemy, and the problem was, that it all worked in reality. People disappeared every day, the unwanted elements were get rid by the widespread mafia, and at some point my entire family had to hide in a remote apartment, because my dad had refused to accept payment for his business in yet another huge stock of ‘Triumph’ lingerie, instead of much needed cash.

My own problem was a particular one. I had a ‘psychic’ intuition myself. I could see the fakes, the greedy ones, and the evil. I could also feel that something totally wrong was taking place in my country, at the level way above my head, such as rubbing an entire nation of its resources and money in a matter of one year (maybe two, but I remember it more as a participant, rather than as a historian with concrete facts). The state companies offered ‘vouchers’ to the laypeople, and it was done right when the whole Russia was having a starvation problem. Shops were empty, and the lucky ones would get an ‘American aid’ at schools. As other children, I was entitled to one and would often carry the cartoon box (containing the aid) to my grandma, who, as other old people, had nothing at all. We would open the box, hoping for something better than last time, but it was always the same: uneatable dry ‘sausage’ (it was called a sausage, but it didn’t taste anything like that), and bottles of dry milk.

Since there was nothing else in the fridge, we would eat that.

The same companies which had given vouchers to the laypeople, started to buy them off the deprived, desperate people for a penny back. It was all done right when shops suddenly started to get some spare products in. My grandma was among those who sold her voucher, as she just wanted little bit of cash, to buy some bread, to buy some nicer food, to buy some boots in order to be able to walk in harsh winter.

We all know now, that it was a moment when oligarchs were made, but not that many people know, of course, that it all happened when Moscow city and the whole Russia was under the curse of evil magic, orchestrated under Yeltsin and his entourage.

So, yes, madness as such, to conclude my argument for this post, is nothing more than an outburst of grotesque and incomprehensible at any given time. It is not madness as such which is a problem, and definitely, not an innocent weird eccentric who points you to its manifestations. The problem is when it is all taken into the hands by evil, greedy people, who want nothing more but power, money, and even more money.

Psychosis, Russia, Kashpirovsky and mass hypnosis

Before we launch fully into the phenomenon of what the psychiatrists define as ‘psychosis’, we need to set up a scene.

‘Psychosis’ as such as defined as ‘a loss of touch with reality’, but my aim (a humble one) is to demonstrate, eventually, that those who go into this state (naturally) often reach another reality, which is true, real, and magical.

To set the scene, we need to go back in time, and more specifically to Moscow in 1989. It was the time of ‘mass psychosis’, and my own ‘madness’ or rather questioning on my part but ‘what is really going on here?’ started exactly then.

In 1989 Kashpirovsky made his first appearance on a national Russian state TV. As I remember he would appear once a week, for a televised mass hypnosis. Yes, you read it correctly. The national TV (one of the two channels which existed at that time) would air a hypnotist for an hour or so, to hypnotize an entire nation. I am not making it up. Google ‘Kashpirovsky’ or check this article about him in The Guardian.

Kashpirovsky was a trained psychotherapist, a lecturer, and a self-proclaimed ‘psychic healer’. Provided you had a bottle of water in front of the TV (that was his requirement in his address to the nation), you would be healed of all your troubles, both physical and spiritual.

My engagement with Kashpirovsky happened at a very personal level, as I could see, with my proper eyes, that something was terribly wrong. Absolutely out of order.

I was reaching my years as a teenager at that time, and alternated between my dad’s family and my grandma, who lived on the same street, in the same house, but in a different apartment. I would often stay with her. She was an old, fragile lady, who had lost her beloved husband, and was struggling to adjust to the radical changes that my country was undergoing then. The regime and ideology were changing, and the majority of the population was at a loss about what was really going on.

Being still very young, I also didn’t know what was really happening, but one thing was clear: it was all wrong, and especially the appearance of mass hypnosis on the state TV. The word ‘psychic’ made me feel uneasy, and somehow suspicious. The whole nation was lost then on a spiritual level, and it seemed that all sorts of charlatans and fakes tried to feel the niche. This was taking place in parallel with the resurgence of the Russian Orthodox Church, and therefore, it was all terribly confusing. But wasn’t the ‘hypnosis’ on such a mass scale in total contradiction to the Christian teachings, I was asking myself?

My uneasiness was also based in seeing what Kashpirovsky was doing to my late grandma. As most people she would wait for Kashpirovsky on TV the whole day (streets would empty during his ‘séance’), put a bottle in front, and stay glued during the whole hypnosis.

I couldn’t watch it and tried to argue in vain with her that maybe it was all too far-fetched, and even dangerous. I was an avid reader by then, I was extremely curious, and from the scarce knowledge I had by that time, I had a nasty gut feeling that by ‘saying’ things on the state TV, and by channelling some kind of ‘energy’, one could indeed hypnotize an entire nation to death.  I also didn’t like the look of Kashpirovsky, and he didn’t strike me as someone one could trust.

Kashpirovsky didn’t heal the nation, and subsequent reports demonstrated the harm he had inflicted on numerous people. I could see what happened to my grandma after following his sessions. She developed diabetes, and on a spiritual level got lost even more. The promises of Kashpirovsky were all lies, as nothing was ‘calm’ anymore or would ‘get better’.

It all got worse, for the nation, for Russian people, and also for my own family for a long while.

But why do I give you the example of Kashpirfovsky, you might ask, to set the scene?

Well, mainly for two reasons.

First of all, it is to demonstrate that once someone puts a ‘psychotherapist’ or ‘psychiatrist’ in front of you, on a national level, it is often in order to exercise the power, and authority which can be misplaced, wrong and even not ethical. The UK government (and many other governments) are doing it now on a scale similar to mass hypnosis, by waiving their term of ‘mental illness’ and putting it on the same level as ‘any other physical illness’. As discussed by many survivors (check the open letter to the UK government by National Survivor User Network), it is nothing but an attempt to get rid of dealing with people experiencing distress on an individual level, and is in cooperation with Big Pharma. It all comes from the psychiatry, which is no longer a domain reserved to medicine, but a fifth estate, with the enormous power to regulate the entire population.

Secondly, it is to show that the general population often doesn’t see the obvious, even if the obvious is in front of you. Kashpirovsky and his hypnosis was a very obvious, and quite dangerous scam, happening so openly in front of the eyes of the entire population, that very few questioned its legitimacy. Indeed, why should we, if it is promoted by the government itself?

The point I am trying to make, is that ‘psychosis’ is not a matter of an individual only. The ‘loss of touch’ with reality is happening to all of us in the Western society, and those who see it are often proclaimed as ‘mad’, because they threaten the status quo of our society based in greediness, profit accumulation, and loss of moral values, where everything goes into making money, more money, and even more. In the UK we have the ‘psychosis’ of Brexit, in Russia we had Kashpirovsky and oligarchs, in the US they had September Eleven, which was a turning point for the direction in which we are all going now. Right after it happened, the stock markets all fell, and hedge funds made billions in money. I was working as a financial analyst of banks in Amsterdam then, and watched in stupor that such a massive human disaster was nothing but a matter of buying stocks on the stock market.

It also led to increase in distress among the general population, because of incomprehension as to how to process something totally incomprehensible, but as in Moscow in 1989, it led to the rise of psychiatric admissions and of treating human malaise with the psychiatric drugs, making profit for Pharma.

And the cycle goes on.

Being ‘mad’ is a cry of sanity in the world gone mad.

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