October 5, 2010
Russian lawmakers on Tuesday backed a bill banning the country's faith healers, witches and assorted sorcerers from advertising their services in a potential blow to the booming business.
Faith healers and the like cause "moral and physical harm to the people and economic harm to the country," wrote lawmakers proposing the bill, which was passed in an initial reading.
Russians often turn to folk healers and fortune-tellers to solve problems and tabloid newspapers fill pages with ads for "psychics", who promise to return cheating husbands, cure alcoholism and bring business success.
Advertising of esoteric services in the mass media means that "charlatans attract a lot of clients without giving any guarantees, and sometimes engage in fraud," the bill's authors said.
The Duma needs to vote for a draft in three readings before it is signed by the president and becomes law.
Esoteric healers outnumber doctors in Russia, and the annual turnover of the business is close to two billion dollars, said Duma deputy Tatyana Yakovleva, who sits on the parliamentary health committee.
"The number of healers has reached 800,000 people, while there are only 620,000 medical doctors," Yakovleva said in a statement, calling claims by some to cure cancer and AIDS 'criminal'."
"It's ridiculous to treat toothache by dangling a rat's tail near your cheek," she said.
A survey carried out by Levada independent polling agency in August found that 20 percent of Russians have visited alternative healers for their problems and only 10 percent have ever seen a psychotherapist.
Televised psychic sessions were prevalent in Russia in the 1990s, with some of the more popular psychics even running for legislative offices around the country.
One of Russia's national channels, TNT, runs a popular Friday primetime show "Battle of the Psychics" where contestants use alleged psychic abilities to solve various puzzles.