Conspiracy theories already flourishing in Russia about meteor explosion

February 15, 2013

Screen grab from a car dashboard camera shows the meteor over central Russia. (AP Photo/Nasha gazeta, www.ng.kz)

When I had coffee this morning with a fellow journalist who was born in Ukraine and had just returned from a reporting trip to Moscow, she told me that the one thing I should keep in mind about public reaction to the meteor that streamed over central Russia today is that superstition runs deep in that country. The predicted Mayan "apocalypse" in December, for example, was widely reported in Russian media as a seriously plausible event, she said.

It turns out that she may have been on to something. The site RussiaSlam, which monitors Russian social media, is gathering Web commentary from within the country. So far, theories include the biblical apocalypse and an alien invasion.

A poll on the Web site for the Ridus news agency shows that 51 percent of respondents believe the meteor is the start of an alien invasion, according to RussiaSlam.

To be clear, judging by the Web commentary that RussiaSlam has gathered so far, the majority of Internet users seem to be treating the meteor incident as only that, with some rolling their eyes at the stranger theories. Every country, including the United States, has its fair share of fringe conspiracy theories. Moments like this can provide an interesting glimpse of those theories.

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Olga Khazan | February 15, 2013