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More wizards than doctors in Russia
For many it’s all hocus-pocus, but a growing number of Russians are turning to spiritual healers of every stripe.
And the trend has reached the point where Russia has more sorcerers and wizards than medically trained doctors.
Andrei Yurevich, of the Russian Academy of Science, told a RIA Novosti press conference: “According to World Health Organisation data there are some 800,000 sorcerers and wizards in Russia.
“As for professional doctors there are around 640,000.”
To combat the rising numbers of unlicensed magicians, whose efforts to cure often do more harm than good, occult advertising faces a crackdown.
Individuals or companies offering faith healing, fortune telling or folk remedies must have a license from the Federal Scientific Clinical Centre for Traditional Methods of Diagnosis and Healing, which has been issuing permits since 2008.
However, as befits its clumsy title, the organisation offers authorisation to a wide range of what it calls “traditional medicine”, which can include anything from folk medicine to psychic healers.
Interest in the paranormal really took off in the final years of the USSR, when psychic healers Anatoly Kashpirovsky and Allan Chumak became huge stars and drew TV audiences of millions as they demonstrated their sixth senses.
And even today shows like "Bitva Ekstrasensov" (Battle of the Extra Senses) enjoy prime time slots on Russian TV.
But the roots of these traditions often lie in folk remedies handed down from generation to generation – typified by a wide-held belief in the curative powers of tea for almost any ailment.
And a survey from the Levada agency in August found that 20 per cent of Russians have used some sort of occult service.