Over at The Daily Beast, I delved into how, and which, conspiracies have roared back into official Moscow rhetoric - with cameos from KGB psychics, Siberian separatists, and Madeleine Albright's subconscious:
Boris Ratnikov looks the part of a retired KGB general. The septuagenarian, having served both the Soviet and Russian states, fits an expected mold: flagging jowls, small-bore eyes, clipped speech. Much like the current iteration of the Kremlin, Ratnikov boasts an image of stern resolve and state-centric piety.
Push past the lapels, though, and Ratnikov morphs from a Brezhnev blue-blood to something closer to a kook, a crank, a Rasputin minus the heinous facial hair. According to the former KGB general, as the USSR reached the height of the Cold War, the regime enlisted the country’s supernaturals, its Leninist X-Men, to the Soviet cause. “Almost all the people with supernatural powers were controlled by the KGB,” Ratnikov said. “You can’t even imagine the war of brains that unfolded in the first half of the last century. I’m hardly exaggerating when I say that sometimes there were astral battles.” Following the USSR’s collapse, enemies who would “practice magic” were sought by the “hundreds of millions” to fight via “remote influence [for] the psyche of our country.” As the years wound, Ratnikov came to be known as the Kremlin’s Merlin, one of the few able to access the “single information field” extant—one of the few to see that “the war in Kosovo… was considered only a first step to establish control over Russia.”
As Russia struggled in the ’90s, Ratnikov says he used his telepathic prowess to prevent a border war with China, to stave off the handover of the Kurile Islands to Japan, and to prevent foreign psychics from accessing President Boris Yeltsin’s pickled brain. (Ratnikov also warned about the rise of “psychotronic weapons,” more menacing than nuclear arms, which would be “used to take over the minds of millions, making them zombies.”) But when NATO threatened a bombing campaign against Russia’s traditional Serbian ally, Ratnikov realized he and his team needed to add to their arsenal. As such, a few weeks before the bombing began in earnest, Georgy Rogozin, a deputy to the former head of presidential security—a man who claimed to resuscitate souls of the dead, no less—studied a photo of U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, and fell into a deep, hypnotic sleep. While riding the parapsychological waves, Rogozin, according to Ratnikov, communed with Albright’s consciousness. “By tuning in on her image, our specialists were able to glean [information],” Ratnikov said. “We found a pathological hatred of Slavs. [Albright] resented the fact that Russia has the world’s largest reserves of minerals. In her opinion, the future of Russian reserves should not be disposed to a single country but all of humanity under the supervision, of course, of the United States.”
Why Rogozin didn’t bother to access, say, NATO’s bombing schematics, or the deepest secrets of Albright’s statecraft, Ratnikov didn’t say. But the Kremlin’s Merlin had come away with another fact just as perturbing: The U.S. wanted Siberia, and wouldn’t rest until it owned Russia’s grandest mineral deposits.