Anastasia Mironova Horror stories about terrorist recruitment are part of urban folklore 28.03.2024, 12:18

For almost a week, our people have been sending their friends and subscribers heaps of screenshots in which unknown persons offer to organize an explosion in a Russian city, throw poisoned water or a subway passenger under the train for 200-500. thousand rubles. There are literally dozens and hundreds of such messages. One is worse than the other. Social media is abuzz. VK is calmer, but Odnoklassniki was completely at odds. Housewives, respectable old ladies and concerned citizens publish the same screenshots on their pages with the note “Be careful.” Or – “Girls, we are hunting.” “They may even be among us.” It seems that it is assumed that among us there may be those who will decide to push us onto the metro rails for 200 thousand. Of course it’s creepy. Living is scary.

Do you recognize the handwriting? In 2022, the same horror stories about calls to children from Ukraine were circulating: Scammers-terrorists are allegedly calling Russian children and asking them to turn on the gas in their apartments. This had a great effect at the time, but the effect lasted for a few days. Then people saw that new searches were not approved. All that was left was fear.

Do you know what this is? This is urban folklore. The purest example of the genre.

The philological department has a discipline – Russian oral folk art. By the way, the situation is complicated: they do not sing poems there, but you have to read dozens of books about poetics, myth-making, they cram the works of Potebnya and Propp. I knew people who couldn’t pass this RUNT the first time.

Thus, within the framework of this challenging discipline at the Faculty of Philology, they study the mechanism of emergence and spread of urban folklore, including horror stories. This is exactly what we saw after the terrorist attack on Crocus City Hall. People spread horror stories. So they throw out their fears, they concretize them, they make them concrete, and then they push their experiences out of their heads.

Remember the 90s. What were your fears then? Bandits, drug addicts and later HIV. And horror stories about “addicts” scattering used syringes in doorways spread throughout the cities. Of course, so that children can take them and get hepatitis infection.

Then we started talking about HIV/AIDS. A great enlightenment began. I still remember that concerts were held in stadiums and shown on television to support funds for the fight against AIDS. The issue suddenly gained momentum. A curse word appeared in the conversation – AIDS. And in folklore there are horror stories about how the same AIDS workers stuck blades taken from Sputnik razors into the bars, and these blades, of course, first got infected with their own infected blood. I remember the fear of touching the railings throughout my childhood. Maybe this is how parents actually teach their children about hygiene: Once again, don’t touch anything outside the house with your hands.

There was also a more brutal version in which knives were placed in bus seats. Or in the back. So it was scary to sit! As you drive from one end of the city to the other, you are afraid to sit down.

They also talked about bombs in boxes. But this is strictly for educational purposes so that children do not interfere anywhere. Of course, they were afraid of terrorist attacks at that time. That’s why every self-respecting mother found it necessary to mention that a friend found a bomb in her son’s shoebox. During those years, I thought: If so many bombs were scattered around us, why didn’t even a single explosion occur in my city?

But these were understandable events. People were afraid of everything, so they sublimate their anxiety and feelings of defenselessness and helplessness. The difference from today’s “Ukrainian” horror stories is that at that time people produced scary urban folklore themselves, but now they are clearly inspired by it.

Do you believe that Ukrainians can write an offer to participate in a terrorist attack to at least one in five people in Russia? I’m not very well. There are far fewer of us. So where do they get all this money? And if thousands of terrorist attacks were being prepared every day across the country, we would know… Right? But it is easy to accurately throw a duck so that people spread it in panic and become even more frightened.

As with any urban folklore, stories about the ease with which terrorists are recruited quickly become more elaborate. Man is weak, we remember this from Bulgakov. You never know where it might break. Ten users will quietly repost these horror stories about Ukrainian recruiters, at best with the traditional “Be careful”, and the eleventh will sign: “Girls, I also received such a message.” Even though nothing happened to him. But confident in the truth of the story and the correctness of his own intentions, he sincerely wants to strengthen the persuasiveness of his own words in order to save as many people as possible. Definitely! He wants to give credibility to which he is ready to lie. He even thinks it’s true.

The result is exactly the opposite: many people are stunned to see Ukrainians writing proposals to carry out a terrorist attack on their real acquaintances. Imagine living in an apartment building where nearly half your neighbors have been sent offers to blow up the house for half a million. What kind of a dream, what kind of work, what kind of a series is this?

We also trust this. Disturbing people’s peace. So they look at the faces of passers-by, neighbors, colleagues and try to understand which of them agreed to take half a million to kill their fellow citizens. Or he will accept it. Everyone in their imagination is instantly divided into those who will receive the money and those who will not.

St. In St. Petersburg, I saw an announcement circulating that Ukrainians had placed mock-ups of phones, wallets, and toys around schools with small bombs attached for children to pick up and tear off their hands. Reposted in our school chat. This is probably a local injury. Echoes of war and blockade. At the time, people in the city believed that German saboteurs and their men were distributing poisoned gingerbread cookies to starving Leningrad. To be honest, I couldn’t quite tell from the books whether this was true or not. It seems to me that if the gingerbread was scattered, it was of a unique nature: I think it was unprofitable for the Germans to invest so much effort in such an extravagant method of encircling the city. But people believed and were afraid. There is hunger, cold, bombings, but you can’t even find food. Everyone was dreaming of finding a piece of bread on the street. And everyone remembered that he could be poisoned. This is the power of urban folklore!

Today’s children dream of finding a wonderful smartphone – the emptiness is ready for horror: if you find it, it will explode.

The current wave of hysteria differs from previous waves of hysteria and classical urban folklore in that it is clearly externally inspired and leads to increased fear rather than eliminating it. A man from the 90s, who believed that drug addicts threw syringes around and stuck knives into railings, believed that he was protecting himself from risks: He did not take the syringes, tried to keep his hands in his pockets and did not get hurt.

The effect of the current wave of urban horror stories is exactly the opposite: if a person today believes that Ukrainians are massively recruiting their colleagues and neighbors to shoot people and detonate bombs, he will retreat, withdraw into himself, lose his peace and begin to see. There are terrorists in everyone. We trust this. So much so that we will go crazy with terror after bombarding each other with terrible ads.

The author expresses his personal opinion, which may not coincide with the position of the editors.

What are you thinking?

Source: Gazeta


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