In Russia’s latest time of troubles, many people are turning to a mystic healer who claims longtime connections to the cosmos and the Kremlin--not necessarily in that order.
Psychic or sales wiz, the woman known to millions as “Dzhuna” commands attention.
Dressed all in black in a three-star general’s “uniform” and sternly barking orders to an obsequious staff, Yevgenia (Dzhuna) Davitashvili holds forth in her office like a cross between Michael Jackson and Stalin.
She hobnobs with film and pop stars and confers with the highest politicians. She counseled Leonid I. Brezhnev and has met with President Boris N. Yeltsin.
In a country long enamored with parapsychology, the 45-year-old Dzhuna is probably the best-known mystic since Rasputin, and just maybe its best connected.
Dzhuna promises to fix what ails you. She says she can cure cancer, allergy, back pain, high cholesterol, bad circulation, heart attacks, sexual problems, AIDS. All without medicine.
All it takes is her hands, she says, or the “Dzhuna Stimulator” machine with pictures of her hands on it.
How? The answer is cosmic.
“Probably space gives me some information,” she said recently in an office that seems to double as a Dzhuna shrine, filled with reverent minions and decorated with paintings, photographs and plastic busts of herself. “But space, this is God. Probably God marked me in the field of science.”
A fan of Yeltsin, she was among his supporters who spent two nights in the White House with him during the 1991 coup attempt by Communist hard-liners. She later met with him in the Kremlin at least once and purportedly has visited his dacha, although she vehemently denies giving him treatment or advice.
It was Brezhnev who launched Dzhuna to stardom. The former Soviet leader plucked her from obscurity in southern Russia, got her a Moscow apartment and temporary government job in 1980, and made her what she obliquely describes as “sort of a Kremlin doctor” for Brezhnev and others.
A flair for self-promotion spread her name throughout the former Soviet Union--her televised psychic seances in the 1980s were a big hit.
“In such turbulent, transitional times, the mentality of all the people tends to be vulnerable to cultists or people with supernatural claims,” said Boris Makarenko, a political scientist at Moscow’s Center for Political Technologies, a think tank.
Such skepticism is tantamount to sacrilege to the patients and pilgrims who stream to Dzhuna’s office just off fashionable Arbat Street every evening.
One devotee, Lev Kolodny, compared her to Jesus, saying he witnessed her diagnose and heal his daughter’s diseased liver with her hands.
“She is a genius,” said Kolodny, who since has become Dzhuna’s biographer. “If Jesus Christ’s method was only a legend, you can’t say this about Dzhuna.”
Dzhuna rules her office like the general she dresses as, complete with medal and epaulets--an apparent tribute to veterans of the Afghan war she treats for free.
She peered intensely at an interviewer through dark glasses and chain-smoked cigarettes while complaining about criticism that paints her as a charlatan rather than a scientist.
Declining to reveal all her “secrets,” she said she uses the healing techniques of her ancestors in ancient Assyria and her family’s methods to generate heat and electromagnetic waves that can raise a patient’s body temperature.
She claims her grandfather lived to be 139. The scientific world hasn’t yet documented anyone living past 120.
Dzhuna rushed to pop in a promotional videocassette that touts the “surprising power of her wonderful, surprising hands.”
For those who call when those hands are busy, there is the stimulator, or “artificial Dzhuna.” Like the genuine Dzhuna, it costs the equivalent of $25 for a 10-minute session, or about one-fourth of an average Russian’s monthly pay. On a recent evening several people waited to use it.
Her prized invention looks like a collection of high-tech stereo gear stacked inside a refrigerator-size machine, with cables connected to two round pads depicting her hands on either side of an armchair.
“I can compare my discovery with the invention of the airplane or rocket,” Dzhuna said. “Before me, people had just a zeppelin, and with my discovery they received an airplane or a rocket.”
If her claims sound immodest or preposterous, consider her competition.
Anatoly Kashpirovsky, a mystic who capitalized on his fame from televised seances to win election to Parliament in 1993, came up with a new healing twist recently. In a published interview, he claimed he could cure hemorrhoids if the patient simply pressed the afflicted part to the TV screen during his seances.