Russian residents have been buying up cereals, tinned meat and boxes of matches in anticipation of the pending apocalypse.
Pictured: A Mayan priest performs a ritual in Yucatan, Mexico on Nov 19, 2012. The Mayan calendar predicts that Dec 21, 2012 will herald the end of the world. Photo: AFP PHOTO/LUIS PEREZLuis PEREZ/AFP/Getty Images
In a widely reported - and derided - prediction, it has been claimed across the globe that the world will end on December 21 when the Mayan "long count" calendar comes to an end.
The head of a chain of hardware stores in Chita, Siberia, told reporters that demand had trebled the prices of candles.
Some shopkeepers have taken a tongue-in-cheek approach, flogging "Meet the End of the World" kits which include a tot of vodka, a bar of soap, and a piece of rope. But others appear to be awaiting a genuine cataclysm.
In Barnaul, close to the Altai Mountains, panic-buyers snapped up all the torches and Thermos flasks, while locals in Omutninsk in Kirov region rushed to buy kerosene and other supplies after an article supposedly written by a Tibetan monk appeared in the local paper confirming the prediction of a December 21 catastrophe.
The industrial city of Novokuznetsk, meanwhile, has seen a run on salt and a disgruntled resident wrote to local authorities demanding they prepare themselves for the electricity cuts and looting which will surely accompany the planet's final moments.
The impending sense of doom spurred a group of MPs in Russia's lower house of parliament to write to the heads of federal television channels this week asking them not to disseminate "pseudoscientific information about the end of the world".
In an editorial on Friday, the Moscow broadsheet Vedomosti said the atmosphere of unease reflected something deep in the Russian character. "Your average American will run for salt and matches only under the real threat of a storm or tornado, announced by the authorities for the next day.
"Our Russian psychosis has two curious features. Firstly, that an 80 per cent Christian Orthodox society for some reason reacts to a Mayan calendar which no one has even seen. And secondly, that the end of the world is perceived as an economic crisis that can be survived on the banal level of consumption."
Speaking in a live interview to five television channels on Friday, Prime Minister Dimtry Medvedev seized on a chance reference to the Mayan prediction to express his scepticism. "I don't believe in the end of the world," he said, before adding mysteriously: "At least, not this year."
SOURCE: Tom Parfitt