Print copies of “Ruski doktor” magazine; Photo: Meta.mk
The “Ruski doktor” (Russian physician) magazine is no longer published in Macedonian language. However, this print magazine, as one of the methods of spreading Russian soft power in the Balkans, is present in North Macedonia through the Serbian edition, which is available at the selling points throughout North Macedonia.
Оn the former Yugoslavia territory, “Ruski doktor” also has a Croatian and Slovenian edition, but these editions cannot be found at the newspaper stands in North Macedonia. This alternative medicine magazine is published by “Color Media International” from Novi Sad.
What one first notices about the Serbian edition of “Ruski doktor” that cand be bought in our country, is its price, which is by far the lowest compared to the other former Yugoslavia countries. So, “Ruski doktor” in our country costs MKD 30 a copy, which is even lower than its price in the country of publishing – Serbia. There it sells at 90 Serbian Dinars (MKD 47), and in Montenegro, it costs €1, while in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the magazine can be bought for two Convertible Marks (MKD 63).
Apart from the Serbian edition, in Croatia “Ruski Doktor” sells at € 2.5, while in Slovenia a copy of the magazine can be bought for €1.80.
The Serbian language edition of “Ruski doktor” with 52 pages in full color in our country is sold cheaper than other printed Macedonian language media with approximately the same number of pages and paper quality. Hence, a copy of a Macedonian-language political weekly at the newspaper outlets sells at MKD 60, which is double the price of “Ruski doktor”.
The printed edition of “Ruski doktor” carries the motto “Russian advice for good health!” That said, the Serbian edition for March has an article about a certain Russian herbalist named Aleksandar Vasilyev from Vitebsk who reveals “precious advice from his 72-year old mother” for controllin blood pressure, while an emergency doctor from the Russian region Vladimir provides advice for skin diseases.
The April edition of “Ruski Doktor” also contains advice from doctors on Russian methods for treating high blood pressure, as well as from a certain Russian “experienced herbalist”, A. Kremnyeva, who offers herbs as substitutes for the pills for high blood pressure. Then, some Yelena Petelina from the Russian city Pyatigorsk writes about how her neighbor solved the problem with colitis. In addition, readers are offered advice on how to prepare Russian ointments and compresses for painful joints.
Some retired forester named Yuri Alyekseyev from the Vologodska region, with a tree-hugging photograph sends a message to the readers that he was in good health thanks to the trees and advising the citizens to hang out with trees for healing purposes:
Come close slowly, put your palms on the cold rough bark of the tree, lean your forehead onto the trunk of the tree, close your eyes and stand like that for five or ten minutes.
His additional advice is that greater bio-energy is released by hugging older trees.
Nevertheless, hanging out with trees seems to be less effective when it comes to extending the average life expectancy of the Russian population. The average life expectancy of a Russian citizen is 69 years, while Macedonian citizens live 73 years in average, which is four years longer compared to the Russian population, as can be seen from the World Bank data for 2020. This practically means that Russia has worse statistics of life expectancy than the Macedonian population, although the motto of the magazine praises the advice provided by Russian medicine.
Apart from the articles – predominantly on alternative medicine – the Serbian edition of “Ruski doktor” contains advertisements with big promises for curing diabetes, enlarged prostate, menstrual problems and other diseases. Individuals advertise that they heal uncurable chronic diseases in people. There is also a promotional article on a Russian tea, guaranteeing the readers that they will always be healthy, stressing the information from unidentified scientists who have allegedly proven that many people in Siberia simply do not know what cancer was, nor had prostate problems.
To avoid possible problems, “Ruski doktor” has a disclaimer with small letters in the masthead stating: “Color Media International and the newsroom of “Ruski doktor” are not responsible for the contents and truthfulness of the published commercial messages and articles taken over from mentioned or advertised electronic locations. The client-advertiser is responsible for the quality of products and services included in the magazine”. This way the magazine avoids possible complaints or even court proceedings by the readers due to negative consequences caused from using any of the products or services advertised.
Among the many advertisements, April’s edition of “Ruski doktor” also contains an ad for COVID-19 vaccination by the Serbian Ministry of Health whose public awareness-raising campaign is being implemented with the support of the World Health Organization and USAID. Their logos can be found on the published advertisement.
Nevertheless, “Ruski doktor” magazine has been sold at newspaper stands in our country for years. Judging from the advertisements, contents, and articles, and the fact that it is in print form, it seems that the primary target group of the magazine is the elderly population in North Macedonia.
The years-long experience suggests that the impact of “Ruski doktor” magazine is long-term and it could qualify as part of the Russian soft power. Without prejudices about the aim, the media discourse disseminated through the editions of this magazine is quite clear – the glorification of Russian medicine, but also alternative healthy life “prescriptions” that, undoubtedly, are an attempt to spread positive, affirmative Russian influence among the Macedonian population.
On two occasions in the last few years, Meta.mk wrote about the content of “Ruski Doktor”. Another novelty identified in the latest issues of the Serbian edition of the magazine is the absence of politicizing the health-related topics that in the past led directly to glorifying Russian President Vladimir Putin, thereby creating a personality cult in our country.