Russian clairvoyant healer Tamara (translation after the jump)
By Jessica Golloher
Going to the doctor is most likely not on the top of anyone's list, in any country. But a new Russian study shows that only about 44 percent of Russians actually went to the doctor last year. Perhaps more interesting than that, when people from the former Soviet Union finally do seek help, they usually avail themselves of alternative alternative-medicine.
Meet Marina Belorysova, a college educated 20-something English teacher working at a primary school in Moscow. Her feelings on what doctors do aren't exactly what an American might see as mainstream.
"They give advice but most of them are about herbs," said Belorysova. "Most of them use these ladies who cast spells for different sicknesses. They know a lot of recipes of how to use herbs and so on. Those who grew up in the village it's very popular there. My mom still uses this kind of medicine, like a healing cuff with herbs."
Herbs and spells? May sound like something out of Harry Potter. But not here. According to the latest government statistics, about 300,000 Muscovites went to alternative healers last year. Overall, Russia has 800,000 of them; more than the number of official doctors.
Clairvoyant healer Daria Minerova's Moscow office is full of crystal balls, lava lamps, white owls and candles. She says she is often called upon by "regular" doctors to either cast or clear spells for patients.
"They ask me for a consultation when they have a difficult case," said Minerova. "For example, when the diagnosis and treatment seem to be correct, but they still can't cure a patient."
Belorysova, a school teacher, says it's pretty common among Russians to try western medicine, then go for the alternative.
"I have a friend she has a baby, a daughter of three," said Belorysova. "When the baby was one; the baby she had some kind of disease. And of course they could treat it with medicine – with pills or something – but they said you have to go to a lady who can cast a spell on it and it will go away. And it did."
Now, one might think people are seeking out alternative healers because they're cheap, but health care in Russia is basically free. It's just not very good.
Belorysova says many people are downright afraid of western medicine in Russia.
"Medicine is very poor in Russia," said Belorysova. "It is very bad. At least they know when they use alternative medicine nothing really bad will happen. When they go for a surgery they don't know whether they will live or not. If they do alternative medicine that maybe it won't help but nothing bad will happen."
Dr. Malkina, who prefers not to use her first name, works at the European Medical Center, a private clinic here in Moscow. She is a certified neurologist but has integrated alternative medicine into her treatment methods at the clinic. Dr. Malkina agrees with Belorysova that many Russians don't like to take risks when it comes to their health.
"Russian people like because it is very safe and very comfortable for people," said Malkina. "The crystal is very clean and make very big and powerful energy. It heals people and gives people energy. Gives people a better feeling."
Russians are just flocking to alternative therapies in person; some are turning to the Internet, radio and television.
Diamond Indigo is one of several popular healers on Women's Club TV, a channel devoted to women's issues. Here he is trying to help a patient who called in complaining of various medical problems.
"You have darkness there; you have an entity inside you, in the form of … a gnome. I'll clean it! I'll get rid of it! Do you feel anything?" he asks. The female caller says, "I feel a slight coldness."
Indigo's healing partner says, "(t)hat's good! The clean energy is working. The entity has gone and it is being replaced with clean, cosmic energy. That's what you are feeling from Diamond!"
In light of the interest in these healers, officials are starting to act.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has admitted that the country's health care system is a mess. He's pledged, among other things, to fix outdated equipment and medical supplies.
In the meantime, the government has become increasingly concerned that Russians are being taken for a ride when it comes to alternative healers.
Evgeny Fedorov, head of the State Duma Committee on the Economic Policy and Entrepreneurship told Russian news agencies that Russians are too trustful of the promises made by magicians and wizards; therefore they are more often than not the victims of conmen.
Last year, parliament approved the first reading of a bill that would prohibit users of supernatural powers to promote their services in mass media. These "mystical advertisements," as they're called, include solicitations from witches, magicians, psychics, fortune tellers and faith healers.
OLGA: You have foreign bodies (cells) inside you. We're cleaning your body of them. We're establishing the program to regenerate your cells, to renew them. Relax… are your legs heavy?
CALLER TAMARA: I don't know. I'm sitting down.
OLGA: Calm down, calm down, relax. Do you have water nearby?
CALLER TAMARA: Yes
OLGA: Place your hand over the water. Just hold your hand there; you don't need to pick it up. Ok, cover up the water. Ok, we can regenerate and renew your cells. We can make the body fight to renew your cells, even against the most serious illnesses. I can do it even with the most serious conditions. You can activate your body to get it to start working. And be sure of that! Do you understand that?
CALLER TAMARA: Yes, yes
OLGA: If it's ok I'll hand you back to Valentina now. But please call me, please call me, we need to fully clean you and support you, and that is more than one day's work. Ok, Tamara?
CALLER TAMARA: Yes, I just wanted to ask, would it be possible to open my son's money channel?
OLGA: Indeed, that is what Valentina is here for. Yes, please just hold on one minute.
VALANTINA — Tamara, Olga is right, there are links by which we can get in touch with those who have passed, and that is something that we need to work with. So I'll wait for you to send in your photo, and we'll work on that. Now, please introduce your son. Tell me his name, and I'll try to open his money channel.
CALLER TAMARA: Alexander.
VALENTINA: How old?
CALLER TAMARA: 41, nearly 42.
VALENTINA: Great, that's a good age. Yes, I can see the money is locked. And I can see something, almost like debt. Does he have any loans?
CALLER TAMARA: Yes
VALENTINA: Aha. Now we'll open the money, as much as possible. Listen to your feelings, think about your son. As soon as you sense anything in your spine, tell me. Tamara, do you feel anything?
CALLER TAMARA: No, nothing yet.
VALENTINA: Take a breath in and out. I'm receiving information about your son. Focus on your spine, you should feel something like a light wind running down it.
CALLER TAMARA: I feel something, but it's not like a wind.
VALENTINA: Ok, you don't need to do anything else. The information is being transferred to your son. I can will place a shield and wish him the best of luck. And now we'll go to a commercial break.