Russia's Most Popular Conspiracy Theory Is All But Unknown in the U.S.
Conspiracy theories, like jokes, do not translate easily across cultures. Rooted in the anxieties of the place that spawned them, theories popular in one part of the world may never penetrate another. In Russia, a conspiracy theory focused on an American plot to gut Russian culture—known as the Dulles Doctrine or the Dulles Plan—is so well known it has its own meme. But as The New York Times notes, this theory “may seem obscure to Westerners.”
A former employee of the Internet Research Agency, one of the organizations indicted by the U.S. Department of Justice for interfering in the 2016 presidential election, had to write an essay on the plan as part of his job application, the Times reports. In Russia, the Dulles Plan is “perhaps the most popular ‘indigenous’ post-Soviet conspiracy theory,” says Alexander Panchenko, a literary scholar at the the Russian Academy of Sciences, who's studying the plan and its influence. The faux document at the heart of the conspiracy theory is supposed to lay out a strategy for undermining Russian power by sowing “chaos and confusion"—to defeat Russia by destroying its people from the inside.
The Dulles Plan first bubbled up in the early 1990s, not long after the fall of the Soviet Union. Attributed to Allen Dulles, the first civilian head of U.S. intelligence, and supposedly written in the 1940s, the plan explains in grandiose prose how America can defeat Russia by undermining the country’s foundational values.
The idea, according to the text, is to “hammer into the people's consciousness the cult of sex, violence, sadism, and betrayal, in a word, immorality,” with the help of “our accomplices, helpers, and allies in Russia herself.” In this corrupted version of Russia, “Bureaucratic red-tape will be elevated to a virtue. Honesty and orderliness will be ridiculed as being of no use to anyone, an anachronism.” The whole country will be led into moral turpitude: “Rudeness and insolence, lies and deceit, drunkenness and drug-addiction, animal fear of everyone and everything, indecency, betrayal, nationalism, and strife between ethnic groups, and above all hatred for the Russian ethnos: we'll cultivate all of that, quietly and skillfully.”
References to the Dulles Plan first surfaced in a pro-Communist newspaper, Narodnaja Pravda, in 1992 and soon started popping up across the Russian media. From its first appearances, it was twisted up with other conspiracy theories: one early article, by a religious leader in the Orthodox church, put the Dulles Plan alongside the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as an explanation for Russia’s moral decline.
But soon researchers and reporters sussed out an earlier, fictional version of the plan, published in the novel The Eternal Call (Vechnyi Zov). One of the book’s villains, a Trotskyite and Nazi collaborator, lays out this vision of a plan to defeat Russia after World War II. The book, says Panchenko, has an anti-Semitic undercurrent, too, eliding Trotskyism and Judaism into an enemy force. The book’s author, Anatoly Ivanov, first wrote the passage in the early 1970s, but it didn’t pass through censors and into print until the 1980s.
Even after the Dulles Plan was traced to this fictional account, though, its popularity did not diminish. “This fake document has been more influential in shaping the Russian popular historical consciousness and memory of the Cold War than any of the reams of genuine archival documents that have been declassified in recent decades,” writes the University of Melbourne’s Julie Fedor, who specializes in modern Russian history. It’s a useful tool for explaining the changes that have transformed Russian culture in the post-Soviet era. In the Dulles Plan meme, the text reads “план даллеса не существует но действует”—“The Dulles Plan: Does not exist, still works.”
But not everyone believes the plan is fake, either. “Now, its supporters would discuss either Ivanov’s prophetic gift that allowed him somehow mystically learn about the intentions of Dulles or his contacts with certain KGB officers that shared with him their knowledge of the CIA secret plans,” says Panchenko.
Though supporters of the theory have sometimes hinted they could produce documents proving the connection, there's no actual evidence of an American intelligence plot to undermine Russian culture. The power of the Dulles Plan comes from its worth as a catch-all explanation for any changes in Russia that are perceived as negative: If the culture is falling apart, don't look at anyone in power in Russia. It's obviously a CIA plot to rot the heart of Russia's power.
Every February, when the final weeks of winter still linger over the land, one Japanese town is treated to an early burst of vivid springtime color. Gorgeous bright pink flowers give locals and visitors alike a sneak peek of the cherry blossom displays that will bloom across the country a few weeks later.
Kawazu is home to some of the earliest Sakura blooms in all of Japan. From mid-February to mid-March, the river meandering through the town is lined by thousands of the beautiful bubblegum-pink petals, all thanks to one original tree that can still be viewed today. Pedestrians can walk beneath breathtaking canopies of cotton candy-colored blossoms, or soak in nearby hot springs and spas while admiring the floral display.
The Kawazu cherry trees were discovered in Kawazu in the 1950s. Noticing the blossoms had a deeper, more vivid pink color than other types of cherry trees, locals then deliberately planted seeds along the riverbank, giving the town its signature pink-striped waterway. The original Kawazu Sakura tree is planted in a residential area, which is still possible to view.
People from across Japan—and beyond—venture to the town to experience its early blossoms. An annual festival celebrates the spectacular trees, complete with street vendors and family-friendly activities.
Orava Castle is an eerie and majestic place, built high up on a rocky cliff over the winding Orava river. It is one of the most beautiful and well-preserved medieval castles in Slovakia, dating back to the 13th century.
Its long history starts as a military barracks built after a Mongol invasion to defend what was then the Kingdom of Hungary. Seven centuries later it still stands, now an elaborate neo-Gothic castle that holds many unique myths and legends.
Notably, the striking exterior was used as the filming location for Count Orlok’s Transylvanian castle in the 1922 silent film Nosferatu, a claim to fame that adds to its haunting appeal.
Inside, a tour of the castle museum takes visitors through the knights’ room, paintings gallery, weapons room, and a collection of many scientific and archaeological artifacts.
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