Over half the population of Russia believe in witches that can "cast curses or spells that cause bad things to happen", according to a new study.

Vladimir Putin's subjects aren't alone either, with roughly one billion adults across the 95 countries examined also believing in witchcraft.

The study, titled 'Witchcraft beliefs around the world: An exploratory analysis', was published in the PLOS ONE journal.

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It found that, on average, 40% of adults surveyed in the 95 countries believed in "the evil eye" – meaning that Russia (56%) had a higher than average number of believers.

Moreover, the study's authors said that their results likely underestimate the true extent of belief in witchcraft worldwide.

Towards the bottom of the scale was the US with just over 16%.

The study also sought to explain why there are varying levels of believers across different countries, concluding that people living in countries with "weak institutions" and "low quality governance" are more likely to fear witches.

Gershman told Newsweek: "One important finding of my study is that witchcraft beliefs are substantially more prevalent in countries with weak institutions.

"The idea is that historically, one of the main social functions of witchcraft beliefs has been to enforce social cohesion and maintain order in societies lacking alternative mechanisms of doing so."

Although witch trials are something we in the UK associate with a bygone era, there are still some parts of the world where women are accused of witchcraft and punished.

In Ghana, hundreds of women live in so-called "witch camps" after managing to survive persecution.

There, it is often elderly women who find themselves accused and ousted from society after being blamed for tragic events, such as a death in the village.

In other instances the accusation can come from someone who owes a debt and wants rid of it.

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Although the amount of believers in Russia may come as a shock to some, Gershman explained how it isn't that surprising given what the country is like.

He said: "Russia is notorious for its broken institutions including corrupt courts, police, and generally dysfunctional central and local governments.

"It is also a country that offers a very thin social safety net and has a high proportion of people vulnerable to adverse shocks (such as disease and poverty), and thus seeking to explain misfortunes in their lives (which includes attributing them to supernatural powers like witchcraft)."


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