Nostradamus and coronavirus: How Russian propagandists use names of seers to push own narratives
“The Noble Lady in the City by the Sea. The Chinese Coronavirus Was Predicted by Nostradamus.”
Last week, one of Russia’s largest state media companies decided to publish an article under this headline in one of its online outlets.
What could be the motivation for promoting this kind of information? The name of the outlet suggests an answer: Ukraina.ru
More .ru than Ukraina
The online news portal Ukraina.ru has been operating from Moscow since June 2014 – the early days of the conflict in Ukraine. It is part of the Russian state-owned media holding Rossiya Segodnya.
The Rossiya Segodnya media giant also includes the outlets Sputnik, RIA Novosti, and InoSMI. The CEO of Rossiya Segodnya is the EU-sanctioned Dmitry Kiselyov. The chief editor is Margarita Simonyan who is also the chief editor of RT (Russia Today).
Even if Ukraina.ru presents Ukraine as its first name, the outlet’s surname, “.ru”, reveals that it is, in fact, a Kremlin-controlled, Russian-language propaganda project targeting audiences in Ukraine – the country which is one of the most frequent targets of pro-Kremlin disinformation.
Doubt, fear, and confusion
Last week’s issue of the Disinformation Review highlighted the Nostradamus story as one of many other examples of conspiracy theories about the coronavirus in pro-Kremlin media.
Other pro-Kremlin media have published similar stories about a Bulgarian psychic who allegedly predicted the coronavirus in the 1970s.
In the case of Ukraina.ru, the claim about the Nostradamus prophecy becomes a small part of a massive campaign, whose aim it is to sow doubt, fear, and confusion in Ukraine.
To see other examples of disinformation appearing on Ukraina.ru, follow this link to the EUvsDisinfo database.
Russian media often resorts to “weaponizing” the names of well-known seers in order to reinforce the impact of disinformation narratives.
The most popular personalities used to put pieces of propaganda disguised as prophecies in their mouths are Nostradamus and Baba Vanga. The latter, a blind Bulgarian prophetess of the late 20th century, is less known in the West but extremely popular in Russia.
If Russian media is anything to go by, both Nostradamus and Vanga talked just about anything and everything and it’s pretty hard to find a topic they didn’t cover. For example, here are some of the “prophecies” ascribed to Nostradamus, produced by the Russian press and fake news sites only in the first two months of 2020:
- Russia started entering its Golden Age in 2014.
- Yellowstone is going to erupt in the near future.
- Lives of ordinary Russians are going to start improving in 2020.
- A “new USSR” will be established in 2020 by uniting former Soviet republics, and a conflict between Russia and Great Britain will start the same year.
- Russia is going to form a successful alliance against the US and Ukraine.
- An armed conflict between Russia and the West before 2025, in which Russia with its Islamic allies will win, the EU will lose leadership, and the US will collapse.
- World War III will start in 2020.
- Russia’s Golden Age will start in 2035 to last 33 years, in which Russia is going to be a superpower.