The end of the world as we know it? Don’t count on it.
The New York Times has reported a number of occurrences of odd behavior all across Russia. Reports from a women’s prison near Russia’s border with China say inmates experienced a “collective mass psychosis.” The episode was apparently so severe that the wardens of the prison had to bring in priests in order to calm the inmates down. Just east of Moscow, Russian citizens in a small factory town rushed to local stores by all of the matches, kerosene, sugar, and candles available. In addition, a large Mayan inspired archway is currently being constructed out of ice on Karl Marx Street in the city of Chelyabinsk in south Russia.
All of these strange occurrence are thought to be in response to the Mayan-predicted end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012. This is the day that the famous Mayan calendar, the Long Count, is said to end its 5,125-year cycle. As a whole, Russians are known to take heed of mystical warnings and develop mystical thinking, making it no surprise that the country has responded to the end of the Mayan calendar.
Despite these unusual occurrences, the Russian government have officially gone on record saying the end of the world will not be occurring anytime soon. The Russian minster of emergency situations said he had worked with methods of monitoring what is occurring on Earth that have led him to fully believe the world will not end later this month. Instead, he said Russians will likely be struggling with “blizzards, ice storms, tornadoes, floods, trouble with transportation and food supply, breakdowns in heat, electricity and water supply.”
More famous Russians have tried to discredit the Mayan doomsday theory including the chief sanitary doctor, an important figure in the Russian Orthodox Church, lawmakers from the State Duma, and a former disc jockey and winner of the television show “Battle of the Psychics.” It has even been proposed to being legal action against though who have spread the theory when it is proven false on Dec. 22, 2012.
Leonid Ogul of the Russian Parliament’s environment committee said the recent odd behavior of some Russians does not reflect the whole country. “Everyone has a different nervous system, and this kind of information affects them differently,” he said. “Information acts subconsciously. Some people are provoked to laughter, some to heart attacks, and some to negative actions.”
The Russian government isn’t the first to encounter doomsday fanatics. In France, the Bugarach mountain is expected to be sealed off from believers who think it is a sacred place where a few people will be saved. In Ukraine, the the head of the country’s Orthodox Church recently warned the people that the end of the world will come, but because of moral decline, and not the “so-called parade of planets or the end of the Mayan calendar.”
The Russian warnings also follow in the wake of the U.S. government taking steps to ward off conspiracy theories. NASA, the U.S. space agency, held a Google+ forum last week, answering questions from interested participants concerning the myth of the 2012 apocalypse.
“The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012,’ said NASA officials. “Just as the calendar you have on your kitchen wall does not cease to exist after December 31, the Mayan calendar does not cease to exist on December 21, 2012. This date is the end of the Mayan long-count period but then — just as your calendar begins again on January 1 — another long-count period begins for the Mayan calendar.”
With the mythical event set to take place later this month, a number of top scientists around the world have seized the reins in an effort to counter conspiracy theories. Dr. David Morrison, a senior scientist at NASA’s Astrobiology Institute in the Ames Research Center in California, remains one of a handful of scientists trying to set the record straight about these theories. Dr. Morrison joined Neil de Grasse Tyson and Don Yeomans, a NASA scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in creating a video debunking the theories. He says he intends to continue answering doomsday questions until December 23.