Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Friday, March 10, 2023


I've been writing here at Skeptophilia for twelve years, something that I find a little mind-boggling.

Even more astonishing is that despite the amount of time I've spent debunking crazy ideas, I still run into ones I'd never heard of before.  Such as the phenomenally loopy claim I bumped into yesterday, about the "Tartaria mud flood."

First, a little background.

The Tatars are a group of Turkic ethnic groups that now live mainly in Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, and Turkey.  They were the predominant force in the "Golden Horde" that swept across Central Asia in the thirteenth century C.E., establishing a khanate there that would last for four centuries.  The Europeans -- as usual, not particularly concerned with accuracy in describing people they considered inferior -- picked up this name, and started calling pretty much anyone from Central Asia and eastern Siberia "Tatars" (more commonly misspelled as "Tartars").  And the entire region appears on old maps as "Tartary."

An English map from 1806 showing "Tartary" (note that they even include Japan under this name!) [Image is in the Public Domain]

Not to beat the point unto death, but the whole European concept of Tartary was wrong right from the get-go; it was lumping together dozens of groups of people who were not only not Tatars, but weren't even Turkic, and it was pretending that the whole lot of them were under some kind of unified central government.

So we're on shaky ground from the start, but it gets worse.

In 2016, a guy named Philipp Druzhinin started posting videos and articles claiming that not only was Tartary (which he called "Tartaria") real, it had been ascendant until the 1800s -- at which point, something catastrophic happened.  Some time in the early nineteenth century, there had been a worldwide "mud flood" that had buried Tartarian cities and effectively ended the theretofore thriving country of Tartaria.  At first, his videos got little notice, but then something happened in 2019 -- it's not entirely apparently what -- that made them suddenly gain traction.

A lot of traction.  And, as you'll see, started entangling them with something a lot darker.

But first, with regards to the claim itself, I have several questions.

First, what evidence is there that anything like this ever happened?

The most accurate answer is "almost none."  The main argument seems to be that in a lot of cities there are catacombs and underground passageways, which in Druzhinin's pretend world were the actual original street levels before all the mud came in and buried stuff.  (Amusingly, he includes the Seattle Underground City in this, despite the fact that (1) Seattle is on the other side of the world from "Tartaria," and (2) the Underground City was created from a thoroughly-documented reconstruction project designed to raise street levels after the Great Seattle Fire of 1889.)

Second, why doesn't this show up in any reputable history books?

Well, Druzhinin knows the answer to that.  The knowledge was suppressed.  Because of course it was.  The evil, scheming historians went and destroyed any record of the mud flood, cackling and rubbing their hands together the entire time.  Notwithstanding the impossibility of erasing every account of a supposedly worldwide event that only happened two centuries ago.  Historians are just that diabolical, apparently.  Why they did this is unclear.  Maybe just being eeeeee-vill is enough.

Third, where did all the mud come from?

Druzhinin is a little thin on this point.  (Truthfully, he's a little thin on every point.)  Considering that even a good-sized volcano can only cover a few square miles in lava during an eruption, it's hard to imagine any process that could produce enough mud to generate a mud flood worldwide.  But, hey... Noah's ark and everything, amirite?  So q.e.d., apparently.

The Tartarian mud flood claim is so patently ridiculous that you'd think an average middle schooler would recognize it as such, and yet -- since its first appearance seven years ago -- it has gained tremendous traction.  YouTube videos about it have been watched and downloaded millions of times.  Worse still, the whole thing has gotten tangled up in other, nastier conspiracy theories -- QAnon, the Illuminati, various antisemitic ideologies, all the One World Government nonsense, microchip implantation schemes, even climate change denialism -- because, as I've pointed out before, once you've abandoned hard evidence as the touchstone for understanding, you'll fall for damn near anything.

Or perhaps for everything, all at the same time.

What would be hilarious if it weren't so disturbing is that a big part of this crazy conglomeration of claims state that the Powers-That-Be want to silence all dissent and stop anyone from finding out about their nefarious dealings, and yet some tinfoil-hat-wearing twenty-something living in his mom's basement can make and upload hours of YouTube videos on the topic, and the response from the Powers-That-Be is: *crickets*

Almost drives you to the awkward conclusion that the whole lot of it is unadulterated horse waste, doesn't it?

And of course, the purveyors of this nonsense love it when people like me write stuff like this, because there's nothing for their sense of self-righteousness like also feeling persecuted.  Laughing at them just increases their certainty they're right, because otherwise... why would we be laughing?  It reminds me of the quote from Carl Sagan: "[T]he fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses.  They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright brothers.  But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown."

Anyhow, keep an eye out for this.  One of the most recent additions to the long, ugly list of conspiracy theories.  Dating from when it really took off, the whole thing is only about four years old, and astonishingly -- considering the logical leaps you have to make to believe any of it -- is still gaining serious traction.

Which just pisses me off.  I work my ass off to get views here at Skeptophilia, and some wingnut claims that a magical mud flood wiped out a non-existent country two centuries ago, and it somehow gains wings.  It reminds me of the quote from Charles Haddon Spurgeon -- "A lie can go all the way around the world while truth is still lacing up its boots."


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