HOMINOLOGY IN RUSSIA
PERSONAL OBSERVATIONS, PROBLEMS AND PERSPECTIVES
By Igor Bourtsev
North Caucasus: After the unsuccessful Pamir Expedition of 1958, the North Caucasus became the main region of searches for the "snowman." Marie-Jeanne Koffmann’s expedition worked there for decades. Her headquarters was based in the settlement of Sarmakovo on the Malka river in the Soviet Autonomous Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria (in Russia). The creature in question is called there almasty, sometimes kaptar. I joined Koffmann's expedition in the summer of 1965, which was my first one in that respect. The information collected there within one month was so convincing that the search for hominoids became ever since the main goal of my life. In nearly 40 years that have passed since then I changed several professions: electro-mechanical engineer in automation of flying machines (earlier I have graduated the Moscow Aviation Institute); organizer of the youth movement in Moscow (1965-69); teacher of history and management in a higher educational institution (1969-73, 77-80); adviser and organizer of the democratic youth movement in South Yemen(1972-1974); after post-graduate course in the Academy of Social Sciences (1974-77) defended a thesis in international youth politics and sociology at the example of some Arab countries (using the materials in Arabic); editor of the scientific and political magazine, Asia and Africa Today, published in five languages (1980-85); adviser at the editorial office of the magazine, Afghanistan Today in Kabul, Afghanistan (1986-88) and finally, editor and director at the small private publishing firm Crypto-Logos in Moscow (since 1989). But all through this time and whatever positions I occupied, I have always remained a hominologist. At every opportunity I engaged in the search and investigation of relict hominoids. So it is possible to say that my basic and constant specialty is hominology.
Azerbaijan: After my first expedition season of 1965, there was a rather long break in my field work on account of a lung disease which sent me into hospitals and sanatoriums. But I used this enforced illness for the study of anthropological disciplines and foreign languages, English in the first place. Besides, I took an active part in the organization and preparation of Koffmann's expeditions to the North Caucasus, in collecting information from other regions of the Soviet Union, and participated in the work of the Smolin hominology seminar at the Darwin Museum. My next expedition to the mountains was in 1970 - the Talysh Mountains in the south of Azerbaijan, on the border with Iran. I had read several sighting accounts from that area in Boris Porshnev's book and wanted to ascertain something, and if lucky, at least to find hominoid tracks. I had also been tipped by the chief teacher of a school in Baku (capital of Azerbaijan), named Pinya Kalika. He had been on excursions with his pupils in the Talysh Mountains and had heard local people talk about "wild men." He gave me addresses of the locals who could help me and even serve as guides. I travelled there with my previous wife Alexandra Bourtseva.
I managed to establish friendly relations with the local people in Talysh mountains (they called themselves Talyshs, their population is about one hundred thousand, their language is different of the Azerbaijanian and close to the Persian; there I started to study their language) and some of them entrusted their stories to me about the mysterious wild bipeds. In Azerbaijan they are called guleibany (probably derived from the Arabic "goul’) or meshe-adam, i.e., wood man. But the Talysh people have names of their own for these creatures, alazhen for females and alamerd for males. In the course of the Talysh expedition, we collected about 30 accounts concerning hominoid sightings and encounters which not always had a peaceful ending. Most memorable are two cases. The first happened in 1948, during the time of local elections. At night three men, members of the election commission were carrying the ballot box from a village to the district's election center. And all along the way they were followed by a wild biped two and half meters (8 feet) tall. They even had to fire in the air when the creature came too close.
Another case occurred also in the 1940s and concerned a militiamen (i.e., policeman), named Shahbala Huseinov. Once he was returning after duty late at night, and on the bridge across a creek he was attacked by a couple of homins, a female and a male. The female was taller than the male but the latter was stouter than she. The female knocked the militiaman down; he fell on his back and was afraid to move. She touched bright buttons on his uniform and mumbled, while the male growled in displeasure. They lost interest in him in about an hour and went away. The militiaman got up and trudged home without his cap which fell off when he was knocked down. Only then did he remember that he was armed with a pistol. After that he was ill for a long time. He told me that story himself and showed me the place where this happened to him.
I spent five expedition seasons in Talysh, 1970-1975. Aside from eyewitness accounts I did not obtain any other evidence of the homins' presence in that area. I also paid attention there to the braided manes of horses. The locals claimed that the braiding was the work of "wild men". I cut off some 40 braids from different horses. I investigated the phenomenon by watching grazing horses at night through a night vision device. Then I understood that the braids could appear by themselves. This can happen when something like a piece of clay or a thorn fastens to the ends of three tresses of a mane. When the horse shakes its neck, the piece of clay sometimes gets into one gap between two tresses, sometimes into another gap, and thus the hair becomes braided from the ends of hair tresses to the roots. I concluded that at least some braids originate by themselves. After that I made no more expeditions to the Talysh mountains. This story is described in Dmitri Bayanov's book, In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman. During my expeditions in Talysh, I learned that a well-known Georgian zoologist and palaeontologist, Nikolai Burchak-Abramovich, was also searching for homins in that area. I was told that he had found their tracks and made casts of them. Professor Burchak-Abramovich is the discoverer in the Caucasus of the tooth of a fossil primate, Dryopithecus, named by him Udabnopithecus. Later on Burchak-Abramovich helped me in my searches for the grave of Zana in Abkhazia.
(Since January 1972, after Rene Dahinden’s visit, I concentrated on the study of the Patterson film and this investigation has continued for many years until now. The more we study this film the more we get convinced it is genuine. I do not dwell on this study here because it is described in other publications).
Abkhazia: The story of Zana is that of a wild woman, caught and habituated by people in Abkhazia at the end of the 19th century. She not only lived with people but was the mother of children by human fathers. I had also read that information in Boris Porshnev's book. By that time I was not only acquainted with Porshnev but also helped him in his research. The story of Zana is written up in detail in the above mentioned book by Bayanov. I only want here to emphasize three points.
First, the story of Zana is not simply a fascinating tale about a surprising contact of people with a wild man-like creature. This story is one of a number of episodes remarkable from the point of view of the theory of parallel existence of Homo sapiens and non-sapient hominids, and their crossbreeding throughout the course of history. There are other cases of probable crossbreeding of this kind as, for example, in the Sungir excavation, of twenty-three thousand year antiquity, in central Russia, where in a sapiense burial were found bones with Neandertal features. The Zana case could shed more light on this problem. The point is we have the skull of Zana’s son. Besides, Zana’s descendants live in Abkhazia and DNA analyses of their blood could be of much help in verifying the Zana story. During one of my trips to Abkhazia, I obtained blood for analysis from the daughter of Zana's son - that is a granddaughter of Zana. Unfortunately the result of that analysis is unknown to me because of the ethnic war and conflict that engulfed Abkhazia, which is still not over and prevents our further research in that area.
Second, I dug out an unusual burial of a female near the grave of Zana's son Khwit. The rubber footwear of the buried female had the date of its make - 1880. Khwit was born, according to his documents, in 1886. But considering the fact that personal documents began to be issued in Abkhazia only in the 1930s, on the basis of oral statements, we can suppose that Khwit was born earlier. On the other hand, footwear could have been kept for many years after it was made - such a custom exists in those parts even today. The study of the female's skull showed its Negroid (African) features, whereas Khwit, according to anthropologists, looked very much Australoid. I learned that some Africans lived in Abkhazia in the 19th century, and even found several of their descendants. But all those who had seen Zana insisted that she was not African - her body was covered with hair and she remained wild, despite all attempts to civilize her.
I personally restored the female's skull at the laboratory of plastic reconstruction, headed after Mikhail Gerasimov's death, by anthropologist Galina Lebedeva. She consulted me during the restoration and highly appraised the quality of my work. She also made a drawing of the woman's face, based on her skull, and that portrait clearly shows African features. At the same laboratory, Khwit's skull was examined for the absence or presence of a pathological condition, called acromegalia - and it was found that no pathology was present. Modern methods allow us to determine by analysis of bones whether these two skulls belong to relatives. If yes, then the buried female was the mother of Khwit, i. e. Zana. If not, then the female is clearly not Zana. At present I believe the second version. But for 100% certainty it is necessary to undertake a corresponding analysis. Unfortunately, we have no funds for that and have not been able so far to interest those who have.
Third, the process of excavation was connected with some mysterious phenomena: unexpected strong rain with storm when finishing the excavation; my personal hard illness with unknown diagnosis followed in two-three days after; the worsening of the health of a person with ESP-ability, who visited later the place of the burial, and so on. (That woman was vomiting when being close to Khwit’s grave, though she did not know whose was the grave. Bold letters for your attention, Jan)
Mongolia: In 1976 we showed the Patterson-Gimlin film to a prominent Russian academician, archaeologist Dr. Alexey Okladnikov. At the time he headed a major Soviet-Mongolian archaeological and ethnographic expedition in neighboring Mongolia. The film and our talk about the Mongolian almas so much impressed the academician that he immediately decided to organize a group for an expedition to search for almases and he included me in that group. Thus in 1976 I made a fact-finding trip to Mongolia. I learned that the Mongolian prime minister, Maidar, was keenly interested in the almas problem and even devoted a chapter to it in his book about Mongolia. I also met academician Rinchen, a pioneer of the almas research, but his advanced age did not allow him to be active any longer. In the company of three colleagues I traveled in the western regions of Mongolia. A detailed account of that trip needs a separate report. I can only say here that conditions for fieldwork there are not easy. The landscape is barren and strong cold winds are blowing, but the fauna non-the-less is very rich, especially in marmots, so there is plenty of food for the almases. Unfortunately, academicians Okladnikov and Rinchen died soon after, and the new head of the Soviet-Mongolian expedition was not at all interested in almases. Our thrust, therefore, in that direction had to stop. In those years, or somewhat later, Mongolia was visited by British anthropologist Myra Shackley who published a book about her findings. She wrote about the possible existence of Neanderthals in Mongolia, thus supporting Porshnev's hypothesis. Dmitri Bayanov and I had occasion to meet Myra Shackley in Moscow. I shared with her some of my material and I understand she used them in her publications.
Tajikistan: Expeditions to Tajikistan, led by Igor Tatsl, of Kiev, Ukraine, and I are, are documented in Bayanov’s book, In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman. I wish only to draw attention to a particular aspect of the story. During those expeditions we made planned attempts to contact the homins. The most known is the case of Nina Grinyova who volunteered to "date" a homin in an open place and who succeeded. The meeting strongly affected Nina's subconscious; she received, so to speak, a mental shock. Her immediate subsequent actions were unconscious and it was thanks to the actions of other people that she came-to. She just lost her memory about the event for a time. I spoke to her immediately after her eyewitness, and she was recalling what happened to her step by step (the memory was returning to her slowly).
Another case in that expedition was an unsuccessful attempt to photograph a homin who approached the tents of a group at night. One of the group, an engineer, knowing of the creatures' ability to affect human mind, prepared his camera and what's more the tent itself against what he presumed to be the electro-magnetic influence of the homin's vibes. He simply screened his tent with foil. Nonetheless, when he heard heavy steps outside and tried to raise himself toward the window with camera in hand his body suddenly felt so heavy that he couldn't even lift his arm. He was sort of paralyzed. And only when the steps moved away was he able to move and look out. But there was nobody in sight.
In that expedition I cast one of the best homin footprints discovered in the Soviet Union, which you can see in the above-mentioned book. A set of footprints appeared during the night some twenty metres (70 feet) from our tents, but not all were clear. I made the cast of the best one - 35 cm long and 15 cm wide at the ball. I am certain hoaxing was excluded.
Another important result of those expeditions was the discovery of cast of such form and size which leave no doubts of its belonging to a big homin.
Expeditions to Tajikistan continued through the 1970s and 80s, with such participants as Dmitri Bayanov, Vadim Makarov, Michael Trachtengerts, Gleb Koval and others. Our work stopped there with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the start of military operations in Tajikistan. As for me, I went to work in Afghanistan in 1985 and returned home only in 1988. In 1991 Igor Tatsl died, also the political situation changed in the country. Tajikistan became an independent state, the same as Ukraine from where the expeditions by Tatsl had been organized. Expedition to Pamiro-Alay stopped.
The political and economic changes in Russia influenced our activities. There was a period when our fieldwork completely ceased because of hard economic conditions. Of late it is picking up, especially after we received news of recent sightings in the Kirov Region in the north-western part of European Russia. I made trips to the area with our younger colleague, Gleb Koval, and we have established that the area has very promising perspectives for further work, both on account of good recent sightings and the positive response and attitude of the local authorities.
Events in the Kirov region have activated sessions of the Smolin Hominology Seminar and the Russian Cryptozoology Association. On the initiative of Gleb Koval, we have just established a Fund for furthering scientific explorations and searches, named Cryptosphere. So far there is not a kopeck of money in the fund's account, but we hope to draw attention to our activities and raise money for our work. We see our main goal in establishing friendly contact with the homins for subsequent videotaping and photographing. With these aims in view, we prepare for publication of our newsletter, The Herald of Hominology, first only in Russian, but if we find sponsors abroad (in particular, in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.), we could prepare an English version of the magazine – also in other languages on the basis of partnership. (I already published the first issue - 32 pages of usual paper sheet size with photographs and nice drawings).