FORUM FOR ANTHROPOLOGY AND CULTURE

ANTROPOLOGICHESKIJ FORUM
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Forum for Anthropology and Culture, 2016, no. 12

 

‘THE FIGHT BETWEEN ASES AND DEVAS RUNS THROUGH OUR WHOLE EXISTENCE’: THE CONSPIROLOGICAL IMAGINARY OF NORTH OSSETIAN INTELLECTUALS AND THE SEARCH FOR MEANING IN NATIONAL HISTORY

Sergei Shtyrkov

European University at St Petersburg
3 Gagarinskaya Str., St Petersburg, Russia
Peter the Great Museum of Anthropology and Ethnography (Kunstkamera), Russian Academy of Sciences
3 Universitetskaya Emb., St Petersburg, Russia
shtyr()eu.spb.ru

Summary: In the contemporary Republic of North Ossetia-Alania, just as in other segments of Russian society, inter-confessional arguments often take the form of conspirological accusations against opponents. Every party — Orthodox activists, the Muslim community, and Ossetian ethnic religious revival projects — has its own conspiracy theories. The main ‘ideal types’ proposed in this context can be understood as a conspiracy of dishonest, politically motivated academicians (‘the historians’ plot’), a conspiracy of a sacerdotal corporation (‘the priests’ plot’) and ‘the plot of (Western) intelligence services’. The popularity of these narratives can be explained by the fact that in the communication sphere of North Ossetia, every phenomenon of social life is often explained by answering the question ‘who needs this?’ while overlooking any objective explanations based on general economic or political regularities, or a combination of them. In addition, in the Soviet tradition social life is interpreted as an overt series of consequences of the secret struggle between intelligence services and ‘our party’, who is not just a victim of the foreign enemy but also an active participant in the strife. These narratives and cognitive schemes can help to explain why such conspiracy theories appear, in which the hope for victory over secret enemies is not only presented as the triumph of revealed truth, but as a result of the effective work of ‘our’ secret societies and organizations.

However, in contemporary Russia there are other informational communities that have their own interpretative practices that form specific conspiracy narratives. Thus the mental habits of some conservative Christians (Orthodox believers as well as certain evangelicals) enable them to find building blocks for their conspirological eschatology. In their narratives, there is no hope for the wisdom of good secret societies, but there is alarming inner readiness for the last trial prepared for the faithful at the Last Things.

Keywords: conspiracy theory, North Ossetia, Orthodoxy, religious traditionalism.

To cite: Shtyrkov S., '"The Fight between Ases and Devas Runs through Our Whole Existence": The Conspirological Imaginary of North Ossetian Intellectuals and the Search for Meaning in National History', Forum for Anthropology and Culture, 2016, no. 12, pp. 230–252.

URL: http://anthropologie.kunstkamera.ru/files/pdf/eng012/shtyrkov.pdf