MARTOR no. 28 / year 2023

“We Live in the Country of the Victorious Kafka”: Witchcraft and Magic in Present-Day Russia

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Olga Khristoforova
Independent researcher, Russia
ORCID: 0000-0001-5041-2335

Olga Khristoforova has a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and is Doctor Habilitatus (Doctor of Sciences) in Philology, Folklore Studies. She is the author of more than 200 scholarly publications, including four books. Dr. Khristoforova specializes in folklore studies, anthropology of religion, witchcraft, and spirit possession studies.

PAGES: 31-55

KEYWORDS: Witchcraft; magic; Russia; media; propaganda.


This article examines the problems associated with witchcraft and magical beliefs in contemporary Russia. It analyzes media discourse in online publication, video streams, social networks, and comments in public media resources in which ordinary people and social and political elites describe and discuss witchcraft and paranormal beliefs and rituals. The paper talks about magic in a broad sense, including esotericism, occultism, astrology, divination, parapsychology, and so on, as people engaging with these issues understand it. The paper discusses the following facts and trends: (1) the Russian media contain many references to magical rituals, which suggests people’s interest in the topics of magic and witchcraft, esotericism, and occultism; (2) Russian public media and social networks discuss magic and witchcraft among celebrities and elites; (3) in a context of political instability, narratives of magic and conspiracy theories are incorporated into the official propaganda to create a negative image of the enemy and form moral panics, on the one hand, and to create a positive image of Russia, its power, and its future, on the other hand; (4) the state media broadcast this narrative of magic to the wider society, where it is contaminated with the grassroots witchcraft narrative and keeps it in a “working” state; (5) The result is grassroots denunciations, accusations, and new rumors of magic and witchcraft among political and economic elites.


Khristoforova, Olga. 2023. “’We Live in the Country of the Victorious Kafka’: Witchcraft and Magic in Present-Day Russia.” Martor 28: 31-55. [DOI: 10.57225/martor.2023.28.03]

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