Conspiracy theories and myths in the Armenian and Georgian societies

It seems that urban legends and conspiracy theories are part of folklore, and cannot have a significant impact on the consciousness of modern society, but the damage they sometimes cause is great. They often reproduce and reinforce racist, anti-Semitic and anti-scientific approaches. The most toxic forms of these stories lead to violence.

According to some surveys conducted in Germany in 2003, 20% of participants thought that the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 were organized by the US government. 5-6% of the US population has believed and still believes that the moon landing in 1969 is a hoax. Surveys conducted in France in 2017 showed that 8 out of 10 French people believe in at least one conspiracy theory.

With this study, we present to you the most famous myths and conspiracy theories of the Armenian and Georgian societies.

Infected needles and 'AIDS terrorism'

“Needles have started to appear in ATMs. Please be extremely careful. Examine all public transport seats carefully before sitting down. A new type of terrorism has appeared. They are trying to spread HIV-AIDS through an infected needle. Those infected with this deadly disease have nothing to lose, that's why they want to take revenge on humanity. ”

This alarming call, in various formulations, has been appearing in the Armenian media for about two decades. To make the statement more credible, those who spread the news refer to the Ministry of Health, the National Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and the more daring ones - to the Police and Russian partners. These panic calls are followed by the refutations of the field experts and the experts of administrations. On different occasions, it has been mentioned many times that the story of HIV-infected needles is fabricated. No such case has been registered in Armenia, but that does not prevent the news from circulating again every year. The news was last circulated in October 2019 in the Armenian media, which was followed by the refutation of the spokesperson of the Ministry of Health.

The main reason for not believing the story is that it is practically impossible to transmit the virus through needles placed in public places, as the virus requires a living organism to survive. Outside the body, the virus is destroyed very quickly due to various external factors.

I first heard about HIV-infected needles in 2005 when I was a schoolgirl. But this mythical story, of course, is much older. It has entered the Armenian reality from the international, particularly American media. The news has been extensively spreading in the United States since 1998. The local police have repeatedly stated that the received alarms have been a hoax.

"Lugar Laboratory" - a source of spreading viruses?

In 2002, an agreement was signed between the US Department of Defense and the Ministry of Defense of Georgia to prevent the spread of technology, pathogens and experiments related to the development of biological weapons. Within the scope of the agreement, Central Public Health Reference Laboratory (CPHRL), named after US Senator Richard Lugar, was established in Tbilisi in 2011. Since its opening, many myths have been circulating around the activities of the laboratory.

Myths have had different sources for being spread: journalists, academics, former health workers, etc. According to popular myths, various viruses are created and spread in the laboratory, biological weapons are made, as well as experiments are performed on humans. It was initially reported that the H1N1 virus had spread from this laboratory. The news was actively circulated in various Georgian media.

The information could not be correct, as H1N1, known as "swine flu", was spread in 2009, while "Lugar laboratory” started its activity only in 2011.

On September 11, 2018, the former Minister of Security of Georgia Igor Giorgadze announced during a press conference in Moscow that the Lugar Laboratory in Tbilisi is conducting experiments on people. The mentioned announcement has been widely covered by 1 TV, Russia-24, REN TV, "Zvezda", NTV, Sputnik-Georgia news.

According to the former minister, the laboratory developed and tested on people drug "Sovaldi" for the treatment of hepatitis C, which, however, was contraindicated for those people, as a result of which they all died on the same day.

In fact, “Lugar Laboratory” deals only with the diagnosis of hepatitis C and not its treatment. The claim that they use “Sovaldi” on people to test its effectiveness does not correspond to reality, as the drug has European and American quality certification and is widely used not only in Georgia but also in various countries in the world, including Armenia. It is noteworthy that in 2015-2017, 24 481 out of 36 012 patients included in this Hepatitis C Treatment Program were cured.

It is also worth mentioning that the people Giorgadze is talking about did not die in one day, but within a period of one month, from October 31 to November 30.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) data of 2015, 1.34 million people worldwide die from hepatitis C, which is often associated with late treatment. In the video, Media Development Foundation (MDF) researcher Sopho Gelava talks about the myths created around the laboratory.

Zorats Karer – an observatory?

Zorats Karer historical and cultural reserve is one of the most interesting and exotic places in Armenia. It is located near the town of Sisian, 200 km from Yerevan. It is also known as Karahunj, which many people consider to be an artificial name. This name was suggested in the 1990s by academician Paris Heruni, who studied the complex.

The ancient site is often compared to the British Stonehenge.

There is an accepted view that the Zorats Karer is in fact an ancient observatory. These claims have been made by several researchers, but the most important evidence is the work of the famous scientist and academician Paris Heruni "The Armenians and Ancient Armenia".

Heruni studied the Zorats Karer in the 1990s and 2000s and declared that the site is a 7,500-year-old observatory. The main argument for being an observatory was the holes in the stones through which it is possible to look at the sky.

In 2004, by the resolution of the Government of the Republic of Armenia, this structure was recognized as an observatory. The decision was ratified by the second President of the Republic of Armenia Robert Kocharyan. In 2017, however, the government's resolution was cancelled.

However, studies conducted by archaeologists in Armenia in recent years have shown a different picture. Many of them are inclined to think that the monument is an ancient mausoleum complex. In contrast to previous studies, where the stones, the positions of their holes have been observed, archaeologists have conducted excavations for 5-6 years and conducted laboratory studies of the acquired materials, which allowed them to conclude that the current age of the site is not more than 4000 years. In other words, there is no evidence that it has a history of 7,500 years.

According to Prof. Dr. of Historical Sciences Ashot Piliposyan, the monument is not only a mausoleum. It occupies an area of about 10 hectares, and there is a large settlement in the northern part, which has not been excavated yet. There is a mausoleum in the southern part. The stones that many consider to be the oldest tools for tracking constellations are tombstones, wall coverings, or wall fragments. According to the professor, there are similar stones in the cemeteries of nearby communities.

Prof. Dr. of Historical Sciences Ashot Piliposyan

The expert notes that the discovered materials allow to say that burial ceremonies were held in 4 different rounds here, and the holes in the famous stones were most likely intended for their transportation. According to Ashot Piliposyan, tombstones of medieval khachkars are placed in the graves of Elpin and Vorotnavank communities, all of which have similar holes in the lower part.

For the conversation with Ashot Piliposyan, please follow the link below:

Antennas as the cause of new myths in Georgia

Radio waves radiation and receiving equipments, such as antennas, are a source of myths in Georgian reality. In different times, they have become targets for conspiracy theory fans who are against the mobile and radio companies. "Antennophobes" believe that antennas spread various viruses, endanger human health and affect negatively the environment, particularly, the quality of water.

In 2012, residents of the village of Digomi protested, demanding the dismantling of the antenna installed by the mobile operator on the school building. Similar complaints were made in 2017 in the villages Khutsubani and Chale in the Jalenjikha region. In the first case, the complaint was against the installation of "Geocell", and the second complaint was directed against the installation of a high-voltage antenna. There have been many similar mass protests in Georgia on this occasion.

In 2020, the target of "antennophobes" is 5G systems. 5G is a fifth-generation wireless network that can provide a much faster internet connection. It is just being introduced in different countries of the world. Technology experts say that this is one of the greatest technological achievements in recent years.

As technology advances, so does the number of people who are afraid of new systems and consider them risky. The fear of these systems is not only typical of the Georgian society. There were active protests against the introduction of the systems in the Netherlands, Switzerland, Great Britain, etc. It was also claimed that the 5G systems were to blame for the spread of coronavirus.

The Netherlands

The World Health Organization (WHO) has also responded to this false news by noting that 5G technology does not contain radiation harmful to human health, and radio waves cannot spread the virus. And those infected with coronavirus are also infected in countries where there is no 5G, for example, in Armenia, Iran, etc. After all, it has been proven that this virus is transmitted from person to person.

It should also be noted that the radio waves used in 5G and other mobile phone technologies are not more powerful than visible light, they are too weak to damage the cells. For comparison, we’d like to note that we receive a much bigger amount of electromagnetic radiation from sunlight.

'Armenicum' - the birth and death of the myth about AIDS treatment

In 1988, the first case of AIDS infection was registered in Armenia. Ten years later, in the fall of 1998, when the country was experiencing intense domestic political developments, and the issue of the resignation of Interior Minister Serzh Sargsyan was being actively discussed, the latter announced the creation of ‘Armenicum’ on state television, which completely cured the plague of the century – HIV-AIDS.

The statement was sensational; it was the top topic of discussion both in Armenia and abroad. One of the Russian TV journalists even thanked the then President of the Republic of Armenia Robert Kocharyan and the Minister of Internal Affairs Serzh Sargsyan for the exceptional medicine that saved the world.

According to experts, after taking the drug, 10-15-times virus decline was observed in patients, and the number of cells in the immune system increased. The idea that Armenia will have billions of dollars in revenue was circulating in media. Unlike other countries, the treatment of HIV-AIDS in Armenia was much more affordable - 80 thousand drams.

It wasn’t reported who the authors of the invention were, how and where the medicine was created. It was a state secret. According to the head of the "Armenicum" program Leon Gevorgyan, he personally provided millions of dollars that have been spent on the tests.

A 22-year-old Nikolay Kalesnikov, who had been infected with AIDS and who came from Russia to get a course of treatment, was one of the first to be tested for the drug.

In one of the archive videos, he even tells how he recovered after the treatment.

In December 2005, however, Nikolay died. Experts mentioned that the number of the infected cells in his blood was higher than usual for people living with AIDS.

A year after Armenicum’s development, the head of “Federal Scientific and Methodological Center for AIDS Prevention and Control” in Russia announced that no positive changes had been registered as a result of the drug. Since 2018, the state funding of “Armenicum” Medical Center has been stopped.

Asteroid with mask and April apocalypse

Myths about the destruction of the world are an integral part of human history. The expected apocalypse occurs in the form of natural disasters, wars and disease, and celestial bodies. Not long ago, Vanga's theory of the destruction of the world was spread, according to which the world was going to be destroyed on December 21, 2012. The thing is that the Mayan calendar ended on that day, which meant nothing but the beginning of the destruction of the world. 

As it is known, the world was not destroyed, however, it turned out that the number of the Maya supporters in the world is not small. There are many supporters in Georgia as well. The Georgians were expecting the imminent end of the world in 2000, believing in Nostaradamus' predictions. 

The world must have collapsed in 1986, when the Halley’s Comet appeared in the sky. It is a periodic comet that appears every 74-79 years. Fans of apocalyptic scenarios hastened to associate the discovery of the comet to the imminent end of the world.

People were so frightened by the collision of the comet and our planet that the number of cardiovascular diseases and heart attacks increased significantly during that period.

The next time Halley will visit in 2061, so it’s needed to be prepared for new myths.

One of the similar myths spread in Georgia and around the world in 2020 was the collision of an asteroid called 1998 OR2 with the planet at the end of April. As a result, a huge number of deaths and climate change were predicted. There have been many publications about this in mass media and on youtube.

In the end, the clash did not take place. When the asteroid passed by the planet.

in the radiolocation photo it looked as if it wore a mask, which was jokingly associated with the coronavirus.

The end of the world was predicted in 1000, then in 1492, 1666, 1900, 1967, etc., but the Earth still revolves around its axis. According to astronomers, there are more than 20,000 celestial bodies around the Earth, none of which is a threat to our planet.

During our conversation, philosopher Gia Tsatsashvili presented the myths about the apocalypse and the reasons they spread.

Vaccinations as new ways of microchipping?

In Georgia, the myths and conspiracy theories about memory devices (chips) began to spread along with the development of the latest digital technologies. These were particularly frightening to believers who associated those technologies with the “devil’s number” 666, mentioned in the “Bible”. The latter avoided the use of memory devices.

The conspiracy theory about chips in Georgia is associated with the ID card scandal, which kicked off in 2011 when the issuance of cards started in the country.

This was unacceptable to many believers in the Orthodox Church. In 2013, they made demonstrations in front of the Ministry of Justice demanding that they find an alternative to ID cards.

The Georgian government had to repeatedly deny the connection between the identification cards and the "evil forces", stating that it does not contain satanic code. Its use is completely safe among the population. The Ministry of Justice posted a 6-minute video on its official YouTube channel, which presented what the ID card was for.

On July 5, 2012, the Holy Synod of the Georgian Orthodox Church made a statement. It was stated that the church does not consider ID cards to be "devil’s stamp" - the same as the sign of the Satan. At the same time, the church called on the government to find an alternative solution for people, if possible.

Following this call, some people filed a lawsuit against the identification cards. The Constitutional Court partially satisfied the claim of the believers, allowing them to receive identification cards from the Chamber of Justice without digital storage devices, i.e. chips.

Today, conspiracy theory about chips have entered a new phase. Various social media users are urging people not to be tested for coronavirus disease and not to be vaccinated. Otherwise, they are threatened with chipping, which is a Masonic conspiracy to decrease the number of people on the planet to 1 billion.

Theologian Kakha Kuratanidze associates the "chipaphobia" spreading in Georgia with the wrong interpretation of the biblical book "The Revelation"

According to the theologian, it says that all people will have the seals of the devil (chips), and those who do not have it will not be able to engage in any activity. We also talked to physicist Irakli Machitadze about microchipping. 

Conspiracy theories and myths really have connection with reality, and they can even be based on true judgments, however, at some point in their interpretation, they begin to get clearly distorted and generalized.

Studies made by a number of research groups over the past decade have shown that conspiratorial belief is strongly associated with paranoid thinking and schizotypy. Some researches made in Europe, particularly in Poland, clearly emphasize the connection between conspiratorial thinking and paranoia.

Authors: Ophelia Simonyan and Eka Kukhalashvili