History | May 27, 2017 5:00 am

The Psychic Who Tried to Distract Soviets From Communism’s Collapse

'Perestroika’s chief magician' tried to hypnotize the entire country .

As the Soviet Union teetered on the verge of collapse in 1989, the Communist government turned to state-run television to assure its citizens that all was well.

Well, with the help of a psychic.

Through the broadcasts, Anatoly Mikhailovich Kashpirovsky promised to heal the populace, even as their world changed forever.

Kashpirovsky has been described as “perestroika’s chief magician.” Born in Ukraine in 1939, he trained in clinical psychotherapy and practiced it for 25 years. Having worked successfully with the Olympic weightlifting team, in 1989 he appeared on TV six times for “séances” in which he promised mystical benefits to his viewers.

Sarah Laskow’s article for Atlas Obscura explores these remarkable programs, as one of the biggest moments of the 20th century inspired some of its most surreal television.