SGP Research Articles

 



 

Hans-M. Beyer 
Notes on the current field situation of an assumed population of recent non-sapiens hominids in the northern central Caucasus
June 19, 2008

Georg Thomas, Karl C. Beyer
On the history of the Russian field work on “Relic Hominoids” in the northern central Caucasus
June 18, 2009
   

 



July 19, 2008


Hans-M. Beyer

Notes on  the current  field  situation of  an assumed  population of  recent  non-sapiens hominids in the northern central Caucasus.

Russian research In Kabardino-Balkaria, northern central Caucasus, systematic field research on so-called “relic hominids” has been carried out since the early 1960s (Koffmann 1996: 19-35). The first investigations into this problem in this Caucasus republic were conducted by Alexander Mashkovtsev in 1960 (Porshnev 1974: 178).Thanks in part to the results from his field work, Marie-Jeanne Koffmann and her co-workers have carried on her research in Kabardino-Balkaria since 1962 (Koffmann in Panchenko 2002: 219). They are following the hypothesis that a population of recent non-sapiens hominoids exists in this region. The Russian researchers have introduced the term Almasty in the literature, based on the Kabardinian name for these hominids.The research work is conducted mainly in the Zolsk district (western part of Kabardino-Balkaria), with the research center in Sarmakovo village, including the work done at the present time. One goal of this field work is to sedate such a creature and then examine it. (Koffman 1968: 91; Koffmann 1992b: 10)

According to Koffmann (1996: 19), she and her co-workers have collected more than 500 statements by witnesses in the Caucasus. They have recognized a large decrease in the encounters with Almasty (Koffmann in Mahuzier 1982: 84, 86). Koffmann has determined that in the 1980s, the critical level of the population was “much below the goal level.” (Koffmann in Mahuzier 1982: 86) In 1984, she published: “The number is falling catastrophically and must presently be at a critical or even lower level.” (Koffmann 1984: 83). Gregory Panchenko, a close co-worker of Koffmann, has been working under her direction in the same area since 1984 (Koffmann 1992a). In 2002 he published: “Each year, there are fewer and fewer Almasty [local name of the hominids]. There is a catastrophic decrease in the numbers. We are hoping that this is not the last generation, and also not the second-to-last. (Panchenko 2002: 120). In 2005 he published as one of the results of his 2005 Caucasus expedition: ”…not only does the population of the ‘Snowman’ exist, that one can almost says it is blossoming.” (Panchenko 2005: 53).[1]  In 2007 Panchenko declared in a lecture in UK on the results of his Caucasus research: “But in the end of the 1990s we heard that in some regions the extinction of Almasty stopped. […] We also heard about new children that were born since our last expedition. […] “ [2]

Koffmann lists the following reasons for the decrease in individual number which she has determined: “Radical changes in agriculture, social structure, in human geography […] a strong demographic upturn, a complete anthropogenic revolution in the area […]" (Koffmann in Mahuzier 1982: 84). "[...] Demographic explosion, fundamental anthropogenic transformation of landscapes, sudden and went of plenty of modern machinery in the recently feudal rural areas.” (Koffmann 1984: 83).

Presumed habitat and anthropogenic pressure since the 1960s.  The changes in the landscape caused by anthropogenic influence which Koffmann has listed are mainly due to two factors: 1. Creation, enlargement, and intensifying of work in the agriculture fields in the lowland, up through the valleys of the foothills. 2. Expansion and intensification of these pasture-farming in the mountains. Since the 1960 the state grazing farms throughout the complete area, up into the alpine zone. The numbers of cattle were so large in the 1980s that many of areas suffered from over-fertilization and soil erosion. During the process of intensification, there was also an extensive expansion of the infrastructure – for example, building a new network of dirt roads up to the sub-alpine zone. This network of streets is more compact in the Zolsk district than in the neighboring districts. Therefore, almost every area of the district is relatively easy to reach with motorized vehicles.

 

 Typical dirt roads in the Zolsk district: Great Kuraty valley, western of Kamenomostkoye village (left) and on mount 
  Kenzhal (2829 m) in the south of the district; view to mount Naudzhidza (2948 m) in Elbrus district
(right).

Since the end of the 1960s, shelters for the herders, sometime quite large and with electricity, were built throughout the complete area of the mountain pastures. Small cheese factories, cattle barns, and sheds for farm machinery were also built. Settlements of herders, composed of several houses, sprang up. The agricultural traffic increased. Nearly the complete territory was used for agriculture, with the exception of some forested valleys, rocky areas, and the alpine zone. There were also significant changes in the use of the land since the 60s in the area north of the mountains - about 15% of the area of the Zolsk district. Large fields were planted in the valleys of the foothills. A “cleansing” of the landscape came about: small areas of forest, bushes, and wasteland were cleared. The villages grew. New cattle stalls and summer farms were built. This increase in the anthropogenic pressure lasted until the end of the 1980s.

The structure of the landscape and how it has been used in the presumed habitat can presently be described as such: A part of the northern mountain range has been taken over by a strip of the forest steppe about 12 miles wide. The natural forests of this strip, called the “black mountains” (Stschukin 1929, Baume and Marcinek 1998: 55) stretches over the complete length of the northern slope of the Caucasus main range. This forest in Kabardino-Balkaria is built up primarily of Fagus orientalis, Carpinus betulus, Ulmus montana, Fraxinus excelsior and others as fruit trees (Stschukin 1929).

 
The"black mountains".  This forest zone between the Kabardinian flatland and the alpin level is the assumed preferred habitat of Almasty. View to the main range from Baksan district.

Examinations in Kabardino-Balkaria have shown: this stripe of forest is interrupted only in the western part of Kabardino-Balkaria, Zolsk district, at around 45 miles. The forest is replaced only in this district with extended mountain pastures, which dominate the landscape. These pastures reach until the level of the mountain steppe and the mountain-fields-steppe-level. About 90% of the Zolsk district is without forest. Larger areas of forest only exist in the upper Malka valley, and its side valleys. Therefore, the economy of grazing cattle was particularly well-developed in this district. It must be assumed that the lack of forest in these areas made many of the sightings documented by the Soviet-Russian researchers possible, and the sightings by the researchers themselves. Vadim Makarov writes on Koffmann’s fieldwork, that the search group participants several times saw dark figures similar to humans on the slopes and in the hills, always from a large distance (Makarov 2002: 179). The mountain pastures of the “black mountains” in the South of the Zolsk district are connected with the Kabardinian flatland in the North of the republic which is formed by diluvial materials. This lowland is used almost exclusively for agriculture, such as maize, etc.

 
In the completely for agriculture used Kabardinian flatland in the North of Kabardino-Balkaria. View to the foothills of the "black mountains" in Chegem district. Even today, in summer encounters with Almasty in this flatland are reported.

This flatland with its villages in the North of Zolsk district and the only in this district practically de-forested region of the “black mountains” was and is the main working area for the Soviet-Russian researchers since the 1960s. The North of Zolsk district has a landscape structure and high population density of which is very similar to great parts of Middle Europe. With its close network of roads and a mild climate, it offers a much easier area to conduct field work, compared with former Soviet central Asia, Russia’s European North, or Siberia.[3]

Changes of the anthropogenic influence since the early 1990s and current situation.  The political changes in the Soviet Union in the mid-80s led to fundamental economic changes since the early 90s. The agriculture in Kabardino-Balkaria was also affected by this. Under these changed conditions, particularly the state-controlled pasture-farming was not longer economical. This led to a drastic decrease in the number of cattle in the 90s, and therefore also to a decrease in the anthropogenic pressure in the area. Today, only a few traces of the previous pasture-farming remain. However, even today this is the main anthropogenic factor outside the villages.These changes came about slowly, over a period of nearly then 10 years. They started in the beginning of the 90s, and ended around the year 2000. At first, the herders’ shelters and stalls furthest away from the villages were abandoned. Presently, even those close to the villages are derelict. The infrastructure that was related to the pasture - farming is also now decaying; particularly in the areas which are far away from the villages.

 

One of the abandoned summer farms in the nearly forestless North of Zolsk district: Small Kuratey valley, about 3 miles southern of the Kabardinian village Kamenomostkoye. There are many statements by locals that Almasty visits such huts (left). A typical herders settle-   ment on plateau Bechasyn in Karachayevo-Circassia, about 6 miles from the western border of Zolsk district (right).

Field investigations of the author and coworkers.  Since 1994, the author and coworkers have been conducting investigations on the field situation in the Kabardino-Balkaria. One part of these investigations involved documenting reports from the locals, who claimed to have observed Almasty themselves. The majority of the encounter reports collected by the author during that period come from the time before 1960. However, reports of current encounters have been registered each year since 1994. Such reports have been chronicled in the entire territory of the Kabardino-Balkaria – with the exception of the northeastern part of the republic. The locals claim, that they have observed single adult specimens of Almasty (both genders), juveniles and pairs, up through the present days: in the Kabardinian flatland, in the villages and their surroundings, in the forest zone and in the area of the mountain pastures. Footprints of the juvenile specimen have been found too. These show the particular characteristics which according to Koffmann and Kozlov (1990: 31) are characteristic for tracks of these hominids.

According to today’s oral statements of the natives in the Zolsk district, it can be concluded that there is a decrease in the encounters, which has been happening since at least the 60s.  The main reason for this is thought to be the continuous increase in anthropogenic pressure through the end of the 80s.  A main factor for this pressure is the intensification and expansion of pasture farming.  This is more pronounced in this district than in the neighbouring regions – as a result of the lack of the forest. One can guess that in the Zolsk district many encounters were possible because of the number of people and lack of the forest.  But it must also be noted that in the summer, the Almasty are drawn to large cattle herds.  Many people are at the mountain pastures at this time (Kofffmann 1992a: 60). The herdsmen were Koffmann’s major source on the Almasty (Koffmann in Mahuzier 1982: 89, 92; Bayanov 1996: 24).  Even presently, the Zolsk district is the main area for the Russian researcher’s fieldwork.  There, it was possible to collect the most information on Almasty.

In the neighbouring regions to the east and west of the Zolsk district – about 20 miles away – the forest areas begins, which stretches out almost over the entire length of the northern Caucasus slope.  These forests are protected by the government and were never intensively economical used.  It is easy for a hominoid to evade others there. It can be assumed, that specimen are moving from one to the other forest area through the forestless district. According to Koffmann, the forest makes up the preferred habitat of the Almasty (Koffmann 1992a: 55).
Systematic investigations, such as those that were conducted in the Zolsk district have never been made in this forest areas.  The conditions to conduct an investigation in these areas are much more difficult here, because of the significant smaller infrastructure and a much smaller number of people who could be potential eye witnesses. The species is nomadic, and the paths of these migrations are not known and this is a main problem of the research. (Koffmann 1968: 89, Koffmann in Mahuzier 1982: 86, Koffmann 1992a: 63). According to Koffmann, the territory of the Almasty is the entire Caucasian landmass (Koffmann 1992a: 55).

Based on the author’s investigations, in the late 80s, when in the Zolsk district was the highest anthropogenic pressure, at the same time there were also many sightings –including such of juveniles. The fact that they constantly move, as nomads, mean that it is unlikely that the same ones were always observed. Among other things, in 1979 Koffmann said to the specimens she registered in and around Sarmakovo village: “Even in this village it was never the same ones, some came and others went.” (Koffmann in Mahuzier 1982: 86). Koffmann's and Panchenko’s characterization of the situation of the population in the 80s and later, should be seen critically nowadays.

At present there is no hint to support the possible hypothesis for a current "regeneration" of the assumed population because of the decrease of the anthropogenic pressure. An decrease of the number of encounters since the 1960s can be noticed, but according to the dates, collected during the time of the investigation by the author and coworkers, there has been never a situation which can be described as "extinction". Since 1994, no noticeable increase or decrease in the number of encounters, including those of juvenile specimens, could be determined.

At the present time, it is impossible to make a statement about the number of the individuals. Because of the regional conditions, it is certain that the majority of the encounters are not known by the researcher. However, one can assume, from the encounters with juvenile specimens registered by the author that in the 1990s, and currently, a population capable of reproduction exists. The decrease of the anthropogenic pressure, above all in the areas which are furthest away from the villages, seems to be favorable to a positive development of the assumed population. Other anthropogenic influences have increased: such as vehicle traffic between the settlements and urban centers and poaching. Whether, and how much, this could influence the population, can not be judged at the present time. On the field results of Koffmann from the 1990s and later are presently no publications known. She worked in the area during that time and later.

Statements of the locals: documentation, translation, interpretation.   The generation of locals, who consciously experienced the time before the Second World War, is starting to die out. Based on many statements which confirm each other, the contact between humans and Almasty was much closer before the war. This is another possible reason why there were more encounters then. According to Panchenko (2002: 96), after the 1960’s, the last generation of Almasty, for whom contact with humans was relatively common, died out. The reports of these people are probably the most important part of the during the Soviet time collected materials of the researchers.

The statements from the native people with Caucasian nationality in Kabardino-Balkaria, who claim that they have observed Almasty, must be seen in their cultural background. This is determined mainly by a mix of sunnitic Islam, elements of Soviet ideology, remains of natural religion, and superstitions. In the majority of the locals, this results in a value system which is in many cases much different than that of the west. Therefore, most of the time, their information can only be correctly interpreted by someone who is quite familiar with this value system. To understand many many terms in the statements, it is necessary to translate these terms into the western value system.

Often, problems arise when the locals who are reporting only speak a very simple Russian, and are not able to differentiate in this language. Sometimes, the statements are made in Kabardinian or Karachay-Balkarian, and translated into Russian by locals who are present. The translation of these recorded translations often turns up significant differences between the versions.[4] According to the local mentality, many statements about time or distances are very imprecise. According to the local mentality, it is in many cases impossible to get more detailed informations when asking more and more detailed questions. That the reports by the locals are describing a real, existing species, is supported by the material findings and the personal encounters of the Russian researchers in this area (Makarov 2002: 178-181). Koffmann, Panchenko and co-workers had several personal encounters with Almasty.

The reports of encounters by natives are almost always incomplete and illogical in their chronological progression. Important details must be asked about. Therefore, most of these talks seem like an interview. The statements of possible eye-witnesses from Kabardino-Balkaria, published in the appendix, are therefore the summarized re-narration of the contents of interviews - in the words of the author. The text areas noted as quotations are translated from the recorded speech of the locals. In most cases the local Kabardinians use the name Almasty or Almaste for this hominids, Balkarians use Almostu, Russians and Ukrainians Snezhny chelovek ("Snowman"). The interviews, which are the basis of the following published reports, were recorded between 1997 and 2001 – based on own interviews, sometimes with help from local translators. All statements were recorded on video or tape recorders, in some instances without the knowledge of the interviewee. The published selection is a reflection of typical statements. None of them are exceptions from the general ideas of all recorded reports. Statements from natives, who claim to have seen Almasty during the last two or three years, can also be relatively easily collected at the present time.


Possible eye-witnesses from Karbardino-Balkaria.

Chudin Khotov, Kabardinian, retiree from the village Nishniy Kurkuzhin, Bakasan district. The possible eyewitness was 69 years old at the time of the interview.

Khotov ’s statements were in Kabardinian, and were conducted through a translator into German. The communication was difficult in some parts since the translator insisted on translating directly into German, despite the fact that his German was not good enough. Therefore, he completed his translation partly with Russian phrases.

Kkotov told that his encounter was “after the war, around 1947-48.” At the time, he wanted to bring some wood from the forest to the village Verkhniy Kurkuzhin along with two other men. It was winter. The snow was knee-high. It was cold and already dark. The men found themselves next to a newly built, yet empty cow shed. They wanted to spend the night there. There was a wooden shack next to the cow shed. Khotov wanted to get some firewood from the shack and opened the door - which was nailed shut - enough with an ax so that he could squeeze through. Suddenly he heard a noise in the shack. He lit a match and found a female Almasty standing in front of him. Khotov: “There are large women – but she was bigger.” Her upper body was wrapped with a blanket. Her hair was long, messy, and stood out from the sides. He lit a second match. She mumbled something, but he didn’t understand it. Khotov: “I prayed to Allah  that  the Almaste doesn't curse me."  There was some "shapi" lying on the floor of the shed.
[5]

An old blanket lay on the "shapi". Khotov saw two small Almasty lying there. It seemed to him the female had just given birth. Khotov described the small ones as pink-colored. They were smaller than human babies. Khotov used the words “like small dogs.” He took some wood, left, and started a fire outside. The three of them sat around the fire and ate. His two companions were telling stories during this – including that in places like this “various hobos and devils” could appear. Khotov: “When they said that, and I told them what I had just seen … If I had said ‘Almaste are there!’ they would have been afraid. We ate and drank, and I had brought a couple bottles. I was young.”

There were some leftovers from their meal. Khotov put them in a sack and wrapped everything up together. Then he went into the shack once again. The woman was still standing there. Khotov: “Maybe she stood up when I went into the shack. I startled her a second time. It’s not good if you’ve seen [an Almasty] once and then go in a second time. I laid the wrapped up sack down, took some wood, and my companions were talking again about Almaste, Shaitan, and devil. I didn’t say anything. The others didn’t see anything, but I had seen everything with my own eyes.”

In the morning, Khotov looked in the shack once again. The blankets and "shapi" had disappeared. Khotov: “They had changed their location – in the morning, she was no longer there. I didn’t see any more. […] That was the first time that I had seen an Almaste. […] Some say that the Almaste don’t exist.” Khotov stresses again that the female Almasty was “bigger than the largest woman in the village.” He demonstrated how wide the Almasty’s mouth was on his own face: wider than that of a human. Two neighbors of Khotov were also present during the interview. Obviously Khotov felt uncomfortable during the interview, because the topic is considered taboo by the locals. The situation did not make it possible to ask further questions about the incident. The interview took place in October 2001.


Sofiat Chakhmakhova, Kabardinian, retiree from the village Zayukovo, Bakasan district; 78 years old at the time
of the interview.


Sofiat Chakhmakhova talked about an experience from her childhood, in the 30s, before the Second World War. She wasn’t able to give a more precise time. She often played with the other children on the slope of the mountain Kharakhora (1233 m) close to her Kabardinian home village Zayukovo. This slope is covered with rocks and grown over with bushes. The children were playing on this slope on a sunny later afternoon in fall, when a boy from the group suddenly called: “Hej ! Almaste ! Almaste !” . The other children ran to him with Chakhmakhova and looked: Under a rock in a cleft, there lay a small child completely covered in fur. It was much smaller than the children. The proportions were human, and his skin color was dark. It was covered with short black hair. The hair completely covered his ears and they could not be seen. Even his face was somewhat hairy. His eyes “glinted.” Chakhmakhova couldn’t tell the gender of the child. She and the other girls became afraid and ran away a bit. The girls called to the boys in the group: “Don’t do anything to it!” A boy from the group wanted to take the child. It reacted with a piercing scream and crying. Chakhmakhova described this sound as “worse than a human.” Suddenly, there was a very loud, piercing, and frightening scream from the mountain slope.The children were startled and ran away.

Chakhmakhova was certain that the mother of the Almasty-child was the one who had screamed, to chase away the children. None of them ever went back to this place. Chakhmakhova used the words “like a human” numerous times to describe the being. When asked if the being was more like a person or an animal, she answered: “That was not a human. It was a real animal, an ape. A human isn’t like that. When a human is born, he doesn’t have any fur. I saw a real ape. It was a long time ago […] There were a lot of ape-Almaste then.” It was obviously that Chakhmakhova did not want to use the word Almaste during the talk. The interview was recorded in December 2001.

 













On this southern slope of mount Kharakhora (1233m), Sofiat Chakhmakhova claims to have seen a Almasty-child in her childhood. View from the Kabardinian village Zayukovo.                                                                                           
         

                                              

Ismail Gedgavov, Kabardinian, retiree from the village Zayukovo, Baksan district; 76 years old at the time of the interview.

 
Gedgavov’s statement was made in Kabardinian. One of his neighbors translated into Russian. In summer 1943, Gedgavov was walking to mow grass. It was during the day, between the villages Zayukovo and Kurkuzhin. An old man, who was accompanying him, was walking in front of him. Suddenly, Gedgavov heard that the old man was speaking to someone, but didn't understand who it was, since they were walking alone. Suddenly, the old man said, “ Pooh! Why did she have her baby here?” Gedgavov saw, in the bordering corn field, a female Almasty, about 5-6 meters away. She held a small child in her arms – it was smaller than a human child. The old man called at the Almasty. She ran away. Her skin was black-brownish. She was not very strong, completely covered in fur, and she had tied old rags around her hips. Her hair was “like a woman’s,” but was tousled and black. Gedgavov assumed that her pupils was not vertical, but rather, horizontal. About a year later, a strong thunderstorm came through.

Gedgavov had taken shelter in a herder's hut near Zayukovo in the mornig. Suddenly, he saw an Almasty run by, very close to the hut and very fast, through the rain. Gedgavov reports that he had a third encounter shortly after the Second World War. This also took place between the villages Zayukovo and Kurkushin. It was in fall. The maize had not yet been harvested. Gedgavov went to the field at night with some others, to steal some maize. Suddenly a dark figure stood in front of them. At first he believed that that it was one of his companions and he spoke to him, but the figure did not answer. As he got closer, he then recognized a hairy body and the "vertical pupil", and realized that it was an Almasty. Gedgavov reported further, that he had heard from stories that his grandfather had once caught an Almasty and brought him home. However, the village elders insisted that he be let free, which was what happened. The interview was recorded in August 1999.


Statement of a Balkarian villager,
resident of the village Nizhniy Chegem, Chegem district; about 55 years old
at the time of the interview.

villager  

Other villagers informed the interviewer that he has seen Almasty. Asked for he confirmed this information. It was agreed that the interview would be recorded onto video. He asked not to be named. A part of the interview follows, with some omissions. It gives an impression how these types of dialogs with the ordinary village residents often run. The encounter took place in the late 80s in the area of the mountain range Kachkortash, 3 miles western of the Balkarian village Nizniy Chegem.
Villager.: “I saw him [...] here. We call him Almostu. His height was about like me." [The villlager is about 170 tall.] "The hair was like this, they hung from here to here." [He motions from the crown to his breast] "I don't remember. I didn't see the face. It wasn't very big. A dog was with me. And I had a weapon with me. I also had a weapon. I also had three rounds. I wasn't afraid, I had a weapon. He was three to five meters away. I was sitting above. […] If I had wanted to, I could have jumped on him and taken him on. Of course, he was stronger than me.”

Interviewer: “How many meters was it to him?” Villager.: “Four to five, not more.” Interviewer: “What was his face like?”
Villager: “I didn't see his face.” Interviewer: “And his eyes?”
Villager: “I didn't see his eyes, either. There was the moon. Moon. In the evening. Down below was a Kosh. [Meant is a herder's hut]
I wanted to go there. The milkers were there. [...]”

Interviewer: “But are you sure that it was not a human?"
Villager: “I had a weapon. I wanted to hunt wild boars. I thought it was a pig. But he walked, this one, he walked on two legs. He walked like a man. I waited. Thought, it must be a pig. [...] I thought that. I waited. Thought, it must be a pig. [...] He walked like a man.”
Interviewer: “Which direction was he going in?”
Villager: “I sat above and he was going below. Four to five meters away, not more. [...]”
Interviewer: “Was he going quickly?”
Villager : “No, no! No, he walked like a man. Just like I walk, just like you walk, that's also the way he walked. There, there is a stream. He crossed it. From there I went back, told it to the boys. The dogs were barking at him.”
Interviewer: “Did he notice you?”
Villager : “He didn't pay me any attention. [...] He was just walking. He went calmly. He wasn't afraid [...].”
This questioning took place in September 1999.


Nikolaj Vindishev, Karbardinian, welder from the village Sarmakovo, Zolsk district; 38 years old at the time of the interview.

 
In winter 1991, Vindishev was on the north-eastern edge of the Kabardinian village Sarmakovo. It was about 3:00 in the morning. He wanted to steal some crops from a field close to the village. He had brought his horse for transportation and had his dog with him. It was a bright night with a full moon and no snow. Vindishev was by the edge of a field. There was a steep drop off to a field that was about 8-10 meters below. This was grown over with bushes and leafy trees on the bank of the river Malka. He noticed that his dog was acting afraid. The dog stayed back despite his call. His horse, which he was leading on a rope, didn’t want to move forward. Suddenly he saw two dark, humanlike, hairy figures standing below him on the drop off. They were about 25 meters away. They stood still and looked in Vindishev’s direction. One figure was about 2 meters tall and described as massive. The other figure was much smaller, only about one meter tall. Vindishev realized that they were two Almasty. Because of the dark he could not see more details.
He became very afraid and went straight home. The interview with was recorded in July 1997. In 1994 , there was also an alleged sighting of a possible female Almasty in this place. A local observed him from the overhang, about 20 meters away below him. The Almasty then hid himself in the nearby bushes. This observation took place during the day.

The name of the eye witness is unknown. This information comes from Khadshimat Vindisheva, Sarmakovo. In August 1996, she showed M.-J. Koffmann and the author the location of this encounter.

 
Nikolaj Vindishev is standing on the place on the eastern edge of Sarmakovo village, in which, according to him, the booth Almasty stood.



Eldar Kumukov, Balkarian, pupil from the village Nizhniy Chegem, Chegem district; 16 years old at the time of the interview.

Kumukov claimed the encounter took place in March 1998 on a treeless, grass covered mountain range about 3.5 miles southeast of the Balkarian village Nizhniy Chegem. Kumukov was searching for his horses there. Around 3:00 in the afternoon, he was at about 1500 meters elevation. The snow was 30 cm deep. He went to a cliff and suddenly saw an Almasty about 20 meters away. The creature was knelt down with one knee against the ground and his hand at his mouth. It appeared to Kumukov that he was eating snow. The Almasty stood up and looked at Kumukov. He became afraid and ran away. The Almasty started to run away in the opposite direction. At first he ran on two legs, like a human. When he reached a steeper slope, covered in show, he started to climb up it very fast on all fours. Once he was gone, Kumukov went to the anticline and looked down at the other side of the mountain. There, he saw how the Almasty descended down the valley. At the point, he was slow and walking on two legs like a human.
Kumukov described the Almasty as about two meters tall, completely covered with brown fur. He had long hair on his head, which reached his breast. His dark face also appeared to be partially hairy. Kumukov stressed that he had a very prominent lower forehead. The tracks in the snow were described as “like the tracks of bare human feet, but bigger.”
 

The toes were easily recognizable. The big toe was also described as unusually large. Two days later, Kumukov went back to this place with a friend from the village to show him the tracks, which were yet visible.

There was a talk with the mother of Kumukov, without her son present. According to the mother, during the evening of his encounter, he was very afraid because he was worried that the being could follow his tracks to the family’s house. Kumukov’s encounter became known in the village, but as usual and according to the local mentality most of the village residents didn’t believe it. The interview took place in July 1998.

Eldar Kumukov at the place
of his encounter. He claimed that the Almasty went on all fours from the slope of the hill (right) upwards.


Boris Aleksenko, Russian, construction worker from the city Tyrnyauz, Elbrus district; 24 years old at the time of the interview.


In August 1998, Aleksenko went searching for mushrooms in the mountains south of the city Tyrnyauz. Amajbash (3160 meters) is the highest peak of these mountains. Aleksenko left about 5:00 in the morning. Around 7:00, he reached a birch grove on the mountain side via a path in the Gekhoshan valley. It has an elevation of about 1700 meters, about two miles southeastern of the city Tyrnyauz. Suddenly, he noticed a dark being between the bushes on the mountainside above him, about 30 meters away. At first he thought it was a bear. He climbed up a birch out of caution. A short time later, the being came down the side towards Aleksenko. He realized that it was not a bear, but obviously a “Snowman”. According to him, the “Snowman” was about as large as a human and completely covered in brown fur. His face was humanlike, but dark. The head hair was longer. He was bent over as a walked, and with each step bent down further to the ground. He grabbed at the small bushes (Vaccinium spec.) with his palms facing up, in order to get at berries. He ate these berries. However, he didn’t stop walking during this activity. He was obviously not afraid and looked up at Aleksenko numerous times. Then, he went directly past the tree where was Aleksenko was sitting, back up the mountainside, and disappeared between the trees.

 
 
Possible eyewitness Boris Aleksenko on the birch which he climbed up. (left)

Eastern of Tyrnyauz city in the Gekhoshan valley, in which Aleksenko claimes to had his encounter; about a half mile away from the encounter location.
(right)

Aleksenko didn’t give this encounter any special meaning. He admitted he had heard of the “Snowman” from the locals from time to time. At the time of the interview, he was not aware of the interviewer’s special interest in the subject. Aleksenko’s mother, with whom he lives, was interviewed separately. She confirmed that her son had told her of this encounter at the time. She, too, did not place any special meaning on this encounter. Aleksenko’s report was recorded in August, 1999.

In the summer of 2000, the city Tyrnyauz experienced numerous "Seli" (mud and rock avalanches). The "Seli" originated in the Gekhoshan valley where Aleksenko had his encounter. They destroyed several houses in the city, among them a nine-story high rise. The mass of mud and stones blocked the river Baksan, which flows through the city, and as a result parts of the city were flooded. The avalanches left a about 100 000 square meter area of mud. Later, residents of Tyrnyauz reported that at this time, footprints of a bare foot, similar to humans were found in the mud. Locals claim that these were the footprints of “Snowman”.

 
Tyrnyauz city in middle part of Baksan valley.

Three police officers were given the job of keeping watch in the upper part of Gekhoshan valley, where the avalanches originated. They were supposed to warn of any avalanches via radio. The police were stationed not far from the place where Aleksenko had his encounter. They stayed there over night. A Balkarian informant of the author knew one of the policemen well. This Kabardinian reported that he and his colleagues had an encounter with a Almasty there: At night, the police made a fire and were cooking meat. Suddenly an Almasty appeared and stood about 15 meters away from the fire, apparently lured by the smell of the meat. The police left the camp in the morning. The informant quotes the policeman with the following words: “There’s not enough money in the world to make me go back to that place!” The policeman declined to answer any more questions related to this. According to the informant, the policeman was afraid that he would have difficulties with his superiors if he were to talk about "such things".


Ruslan Guliev, Balkarian from the village Elbrus, Elbrus district, employee of a tourist camp; 23 years old at the time of the interview.

In April 1998, Guliev parked his car in a garage in his Balkarian home village Elbrus. He walked to his house from the garage. It was dark, around 10 at night. The garage was one in a complex of many garages which were built together in a row. There were more garages being built there. Guliev walked by one of the half-finished garages. The walls were already up, but there was no roof and no door. He noticed that someone was squatting on the floor inside the garage, about 3-4 meters away from him. At first he thought it was a man, because it was so dark. He stood there and looked at this person to see who it was.

Ruslan Guliev (left) shows the half-finished garage without roof in Elbrus village, in which he, according to his statement, saw an Almasty in April 1998.

The person stood up and Guliev realized: He was about two meters tall, built very solidly, and apparently completely covered in dark hair. He had long arms and stood without motion. Guliev became very afraid and ran away. Later he came to the conclusion that he had met an Almasty. He couldn’t give any further details because of the dark. Guliev admitted that a day after this encounter he was sick. Neighbors who knew of this situation confirm that Guliev himself did not want to say anymore about this “sickness”.  The report was recorded in August, 1998.
 

Fatimat Zalikhanova, Balkarian, from the village Tegenekli, Elbrus district. She was an employee of a youth hostel and 22 years old at the time of the interview.

In about 1989 (she couldn’t remember the exact year), Zalikhanova was herding her family’s cows from the Balkarian village Tegenekli  to the mountainside close to the village, and then to the meadow. It was summer, about 5:00 in the morning. There were no clouds, but the sun hadn’t yet risen over the mountains. Among all of her neighbors, she was the first this morning to herd the cattle out of the village. Suddenly, she saw “a human” far away on the mountain slope. It was unusual to meet another person so early in the morning. Zalikhanova was somewhat nervous, because at this time there were rumors that some people had escaped the prison. As she went further up, she no longer saw the person. She remembered that the cattle suddenly refused to go any farther up. She was to force them forward with her stick, which was unusual. Some minutes later, she heard the sound of small rolling stones close by. Suddenly, she saw a pair of hairy legs above her on the slope. In the first moment, she was amazed and thought that a person “with large black rubber boots” was standing in front of her. Then she looked up and saw a being similar to a human, which was covered in dark fur on his entire body. Zalikhanova and the being stood about 6-7 meters across from each other and looked at each other.

She described it as larger than a human. He had a very strong build. His arms reached down to his knees. His face was also partially covered in fur. It seemed that his eyes were red. The hair on his head was short and it looked like he was wearing “a cap.” It seemed to Zalikhanova that it was male. Zalikhanova was afraid and ran back toward the village. On the way, she met an old man from the village and told him about her meeting. The old man said that that must have been an Almasty. The report was recorded in July 1999.  












Upper Baksan valley. The village Tegenekli is located in the middle part of the picture. According Fatimat Zalikhanova, the encounter happened on the left mountain slope where the sun is shining.



Hussein Margushev,
Karbardian, employee of the Kolkhoz (collective farm) from the Kabardinian village Kamenomostkoye,
Zolsk district, 37 years old at the time of the interview.

 

In June 1994, he was on the western edge of the upper Malka valley, close to the Kharbaz mount. He
wa
nted to go to catch squirrels for medical reasons. He sat on his horse, directly on the edge of the slope of the valley. It was shortly after sunrise, with clear weather. About 50 meters below the observer, there was a knoll covered with grass on the slope of the valley. Suddenly, about 50 meters away on the slope below him, he saw two beings, similar to humans, who were moving in the shadow of the slope. At first glace, he thought they were shepherds, because of the nearby hut. Then he realized that they weren’t humans. He described them as large as humans, solidly built, and completely covered with dark hair. The long hair on the head, reaching down their backs, was particularly noticeable. Margushev said his horse acted as if it was afraid. The creatures did not seem to notice their observer. They walked slowly, close together, toward the knoll on the slope (which was lit by the sun) and disappeared behind the knoll. The complete observation was about two minutes long. The observer couldn’t give any more details. He only saw the beings from the side and from behind. There was no significant difference in their size or form. Sex could not be determined. The statement was recorded in July 1997.


.











View into the upper Malka valley. Line of sight from the location of the observer. According to Hussein Margushev, the two beings were moving from right to left in the foreground. They crossed the sunny knoll
(left) and disappeared into the valley.



Ali Dottuev, Balkarian, shepherd from the Balkarian village Gundelen, Elbrus district. At the time of the interview he was 43 years old.

In July 2001, Dottuev was in the upper Tyzyl valley, close to the Tashlysyrt mountain, to fish there. It was a warm, sunny day during lunchtime. He had a horse and a dog with him. Around noon time he reached the junction of the rivers Tashlysyrt and Tyzyl. His horse was grazing about 100 meters away. Dottuev went upriver, singing songs. He was wearing rubber boots, but his feet still got wet in the river. He took off his socks and laid them on a rock on the river bank to dry.
The Tyzyl river is about three meters wide at this place. From there he went about 30 more meters upriver. Suddenly, he saw a hairy being similar to a human, sitting on a hill covered with grass on the river bank. The being was looking at the slope on the other side. His right arm and hand were stretched out at a steep angle. The long hair on his head hung over his arm. The being was not looking at him. Dottuev understood that there was an Almasty in front of him. He was very afraid and bent down, in order to hide himself. Dottuev.: “I called ‘Bismillahi’, but it didn’t disappear.” […] If it had been a devil or a Shaitan, he would have disappeared. You see, this was a living being. If it leaves behind a trail, it lives. A devil never leaves behind a trail.”
[6] The being stood up. It went slowly in a curve below the slope, around the observer, upriver. At various times, Dottuev couldn’t see it. Its body was built very solidly, about 2 meters tall.

Dottuev stressed that a strong force radiated from the being and its stride. Its hair was very long and thick. Long hair hung in its face; therefore it was hard to recognize any details of the face. Its arms reached down to its knees. Dottuev assumed that it was a female, but didn’t have any reasons for this. The long hair that covered the head reached under the hips. When the being reached the stone, on which he had laid out his stockings to dry, it sat on the ground for a moment. Excrement lay there, and it looked as if it was human. Dottuev had seen the excrement when he laid his socks there. The being took some of this excrement and ate from it. [Dottuev asked not to write down that the Almasty had eaten excrement that looked human. He said it was “not necessary.” Apparently, he was ashamed about this description out of religious reasons.] Then the being took the socks which were laying on the stone and smelled them. It put them a few meters away. He crossed the river and slowly went away, to a small valley on the side. Dottuev left his location to get his socks. It was here that he saw a footprint from the being on the sand by the river bank. He describes it as about 35 centimeters long, and very wide.

 
Ali Dottuev exactly at this spot on the left shore of Tyzyl river, where, according to his words, the Almasty was sitting.

He walked back to his horse, was very nervous and let out a loud neigh because of this nervousness. At this moment, the being, about 100 meters away, let out a loud sound. Again, he became very afraid, that the being could come back. Dottuev: “In my position, another man would have died of fear.” He got to his horse and left that place. He noticed that his dog had disappeared, and only reappeared later. A bit further upriver, he met two local hunters. He told them about his experience, but they didn’t believe him. Dottuev stated that this was the first time he had seen an Almasty, despite the fact that he had worked 13 years earlier as a shepherd on the border of the Urdy valley, a side valley of the Tyzyl valley. The interview took place in October 2001.


Fatima Paunesheva, Kabardinian, housewife from the village Psykhurey, Baksan district; 21 years old at the time of the interview.


During the first few days of August 1998 she went to her field about 8:00 pm, along with her three-year-old daughter. The field was about 200 meters from the edge of the Kabardinian village Psykhurey, which is directly on the northern border of Kabardino-Balkaria. The field was surrounded by a barbed wire fence to keep animals out, similar to the neighboring fields. One part of the field was planted with maize, more than two meters high. Paunesheva was busy with her work on the edge of the field. Suddenly, her daughter (who was standing a few meters to the side) called for her. Excitedly, her daughter pointed into the maize field. Paunesheva saw a dark, hairy being lying on the ground between the maize plants. At first she didn’t realize what it was. Then she saw that it was similar to a human. It was lying on its left side, with its back turned to Paunesheva and was maybe sleeping. Suddenly, the being stood up, possibly because it had been awaken by the daughter’s cries. Paunesheva then realized that it was an Almasty. For a moment, it looked at both of them, then turned its back to them and slowly went deeper into the maize field, and disappeared.

According to Paunesheva the Almasty “walked on two legs like a human.” She described him as larger, and above all, with wider shoulders than a regular person. She couldn’t tell the sex. The body was completely covered with dark hair. The head hair was long. His face was similar to a human, had dark skin and no hair. She described it as “dirty.” Paunesheva was afraid and ran away with her daughter. Back home, no one believed her story at first. On the next day, footprints from large, human-like feet were found in the damp ground where the sighting had been. The interview took place in August 1998. This report gives an example of an possible encounter in the completely for agriculture used flatland in the north of Kabardino-Balkaria, about 20 miles northern from the foothills of the Caucasus main range.

 

Paunesheva's maize field on the left, behind the fence, close to the southern edge of Psykhurey village (left).
A group of village children exactly at this spot from where she and her daughter saw the being between the maize plants
(right).

 

The hint that Paunesheva had an encounter came from another resident of Psykhurey, the Kabardinian Mukhamed Abasokov. He admitted that he himself had seen Almasty numerous times and was willing to speak about it. He also reported that before the Second World War, Almasty had often been seen on the edge of the village at the river Malka. The villagers could hear the Almasty children crying in the fields, close to the village, like human children. According to Abasokov, the Almasty built nests in the trees, which they might have used to sleep. Abasokov stressed that Paunesheva’s encounter was the first he had heard of in the last few years from nearby the village. His wife Kuarka also said that she had observed Almasty close to the village during the Second World War several times.


Kuarka and Mukhamed Abasokov with one of their grandchildren.



      Italics are translations from the French and Russian, H.-M. B.
[1]   It was not mentioned that his expedition worked in Kabardino-Balkaria.
[2]   Panchenko, Gregory. 2007. The Russian Snowman . Lecture in the UK
[3]  N. Akoev, one of Koffmanns former coworkers, stressed these comfortable working conditions in comparison with other regions in the former Soviet Union.
      (Akoev, N. 1990. System, ecology and the problem of the search for the relic primates of the family Pseudohomo.
      In: Sapunov, Valentin (ed.) 1990. Leshiy. Ecology, Physiology, Genetics. St. Petersburg: Rivera. (in Russian)
[4]  The problems in use of native translators is mentioned also by Koffmann. (Koffmann, Marie -Jeanne.1990. On the questioning of natives on the problem of the relic hominid. 21-29.

      In:  
Zeligman, E.; Rogov, V. (eds.) 1990. Collection of Methodic Field Instructions for Field Work on the Problem of the Relic Hominoid. Teberda: Selenchukskaja (in Russian)
      The  complete text of this booklet is published in  www.alamas.ru.

[5]  'Shapi' = Scraps of straw, which were used in the region earlier to insulate shoes. No longer in use today.
[6]  ’Bismillahi’ – Comes from the Arabian ‘B-ism-Allah’ – ‘In God’s name.’ Used by the local people as a meaningless phrase.


Baume, Otfried; Marcinek, Joachim (eds). 1998.
Gletscher und Landschaften des Elbrusgebietes. Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen, Ergänzungsheft  228. Gotha: Justus Perthes.
Bayanov, Dmitri. 1996. In the Footsteps of the Russian Snowman. Mocsow: Crypto-Logos.
Koffmann, Marie-Jeanne. 1968. The steps remain. Science and Religion. 4. 87-91 (in Russian); Koffmann, Marie-Jeanne; Kozlov, Andrey. 1990. Working on tracks. pp. 31-33.
      In: Zeligman, E..; Rogov, V. (eds.).1990. Collection of Methodic Field Instructions for Field Work on the Problem  of the Relic Hominoid. Teberda: Selenchukskaja (in Russian)
Koffmann, Marie-Jeanne.1984. Brief ecological description of the Caucasus relic hominoid (Almasti) based on oral reports by local inhabitants and on field investigations.
      In: Markotic, Vladimir. 1984. The Sasquatch and other Unknown Hominoids. Calgary: Western Publishers.
Koffmann, Marie-Jeanne; Kozlov, Andrey. 1990. Working on tracks. pp. 31-33. In: Zeligman, E.; Rogov, V. (eds.) 1990. Collection of Methodic Field Instructions for Field Work on       the Problem  of the Relic Hominoid. Teberda: Selenchukskaja (in Russian)
Koffmann, Marie-Jeanne. 1992a. L`Almasty du Caucase. Mode de vie d'un hominoide. Archeologia. 276. 52-65.
Koffmann, Marie Jeanne. 1992b. Comment on Gegory Panchenko's report Observation d'un hominoid relique au Caucase du Nord. (unpublished). In: Archiv Bernard Heuvelmans,
       Musée cantonal de zoologie, Lausanne.
Koffmann, Marie-Jeanne. 1996. Reflections on the possible survival of a population of relict hominoids in the Caucasus. In: Bayanov, Dmitri. 1996. In the Footsteps
       of the Russian Snowman
.
Mocsow: Crypto-Logos, pp. 19-35.
Mahuzier, Katja and Alain. 1982. Les Mahuzier au Caucase. Paris: Presses de la cite.
Makarov, Vadim. 2002. Atlas of the Snowman. Moscow: Sputnik Company. (in Russian)
Panchenko, Gregory. 2002. Catalogue of Monsters. Moscow: Olma Press (in Russian)
Panchenko, Gregory. 2005. Eine Expedition in den Kaukasus 2005 - Auf der Suche nach dem Schneemenschen. Pterodactylus. 24-25/III-IV.
Porshnev, Boris; Heuvelmans, Bernard. 1974. L' homme de néanderthal est toujours vivant. Paris: Plon.
Stschukin, I. 1929. Vegetationsbilder aus Balkarien. (Nordabhang des Zentralen Kaukasus). Vegetationsbilder, 20, Reihe 3/4.


                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                       H.-M. Beyer © 2008




June 18, 2009

Georg Thomas,  Karl C. Beyer


On the history of the Russian field work on “Relic Hominoids” in the northern central Caucasus

The field research in Europe on the problem of the so-called “relic hominoids” has been, up until now, the most intensive in Russia. The Caucasus is one of the areas where the research has been the longest and most systematic, for more than 40 years (Makarov 2002: 177-78, Panchenko 2002: 71). The main area of this fieldwork has been in the Zolsk district in the western part of the Kabardino-Balkarian republic, northern central Caucasus. Russian fieldwork has been on-going in this republic up to the present time (Beloborodov 2008, Tkachenko 2008). Since the early 1960s, participation in this work has significantly influenced some generations of researchers of the former USSR. Those who talk of the "relic hominoids" with the locals of this region today will often be confronted with information about the field work of the Russian researchers – particularly from the Soviet times. But the conditions in the field in this region, compared to those in from the 1960s, have changed.[1] Therefore, field research in the Caucasus is today confronted also with the following questions: What field situation has been found by the researchers since the 1960s? Which methods were used by the researchers in the past and what results could obtained? Are these methods still applicable today? Outside of Russia, even today, on this questions little is known. For example, it was first published by the Moscow “hominologists” in 2002 that the reaearchers had observed the “relic hominoids” multiple times, although this was possible obviously since the early 1970s (Makarov 2002: 179-81). This publication gives some basic informations about the Soviet-Russian and Post-Soviet fieldwork – as much as the authors knows about them today.[2] Furthermore, the knowledge today about these works is fragmentary, at best, but it is constantly growing, and by the time of this publication, will already be surpassed.

The first field work on the problem in the Republic of Kabardino-Balkaria was conducted in 1960 by the Moscow zoologist Alexander Mashkovzev (Porshnev 1974: 179, Makarov 2002: 52). He was charged with solving this problem by the former Moscow “Snowman” commission from the Soviet Academy of Science (Makarov 2002: 45). His field work resulted in rich material, which became the basis for additional work. (Porshnev 1974: 178, Makarov 2002: 52). Dr Marie-Jeanne Koffmann became the main authority for this research since the 1960s. She first worked on the problem in North Azerbaijan, southern Caucasus, in the end of the 1950s. Because of Mashkovtsev’s’s field results, she changed from Azerbaijan to Kabardino-Balkaria at the beginning of the 1960s (Panchenko 2002: 119). She has worked there since 1962 (Koffmann 1964: 2). Since then, her base has been in the Kabardinian village Sarmakovo in the Zolsk district. She chosed this village because of the encounter reports which have been registered there (Mahuzier 1982: 87).[3]  It is possible that the choice of this village was also influenced by a villager, who is said to have had “friendly contact” with a female 'Almasty' - the Kabardinian name of this hominoids.[4] Koffmann rented a few rooms in a house in the centre of Sarmakovo, on the property of the family Ali Kardanov.[5] The centre of the field work, Sarmakovo village, stretches along 3, 5 miles on the river Malka. Here, the grassland from the foothills turns into agricultural fields for maize, potatoes, and wheat. The surrounding areas of the villages are characterised by primarily bare, hilly ground with fields and grass. [Satellite photo of Sarmakovo]

Villages like Sarmakovo were very different in the 1960s, compared to now. They first had electricity at the end of the 1950s. At that time, there were no paved streets. Today, only the main roads are paved. At the beginning of the 1960s, almost no one had a private car. The general modes of transportation were horses, donkeys, and oxen. Even the village Collective farm had only a few motorized machines. It was considered a great privilege to privately own a horse. In the 1960s, Samakovo village had about 5,000 inhabitants.

sarmakovo1  
sarmakovo2

Sarmakovo in 2008. View from the hills south east of the village. In the background the eastern peak of Dzhinal mountain range (1186 m) (left). And view from the northwest, from the slope of Dzhinal over the river Malka (right). In this village over decades very much encounters were registered. Based on eyewitness reports in the 1960s Koffmann was able to identify at least four specimen from the mass of Almasty observations in the surroundings and also in the village. The majority of specimen in Sarmakovo "came and left" (Mahuzier 1982: 86). But this four specimen obviously lived there over several years. Among them was a fat female specimen which picked fruit from the village gardens “unabashedly” (Mahuzier 1982: 88). In the middle of the 1970s two of these specimen were yet present. Obviously in the late 1980s they were replaced with others (Koffmann 1992: 63).

The field work of Koffmann and her team concentrated on Sarmakovo, the neighbouring villages Kamenomostkoye, Khabaz, Kamljuko, Sovkhoznoe, Malka, Kichmalka, Kurkuzhin and their immediate surroundings. These all are in the western part of the Kabardino-Balkaria republic, in the Zolsk district. According to Koffmann in this district the researchers gained a lot of information about the subject (Koffmann 1964a). In 1982 she characterized the field situation in this region with: "In general one can said that the basic elements of the problem are concentrated in Kabardino-Balkaria and most clearly here, in the Zolsk district." (Koffmann 1982). Parts of the fieldwork also involved trips to other districts of the republic and to other Caucasus republics. All of this fieldwork is called “the Caucasian expeditions” (Makarov 2002: 177). 'Sarmakovo' is a well known term in the "relic hominoid" scene of the former Soviet Union – just as, for example, the valleys Karatag and Siama in Tajikistan.

Even in the 1960s Koffmann could conduct her field work for several years – each year for several months. By 1965, she had already spent 30 months in total in the Caucasus (Kudrjavzev, Petrov 1964). She practically emigrated to the Northern Caucasus starting from 1962 (Makarov 2002: 177) and did her field work “without any material help or support from official organisations, only in her capacity as a active member of the geographical society” (Porshnev 1974: 179). In the former USSR, it was not officially possible to pursue any sort of regular work. It might be that Koffmann was exempted from this rule because of her French citizenship.

Often, the West associates the search for the so called “relic hominoids” in the Caucasus with "wild", sparsely populated regions in the mountains which are difficult to reach. But the main working areas of the researchers were the villages named above and their surrounding areas on the northern foot of the mountain range: an easily assessable, nearly forest-free landscape with a dense network of roads. According to the home district researcher Fedor Chernyshev, Koffmann described the northern part of the republic as a consistent location for the Almasty (Chernyshev 1964). This part of the republic is flat land, mostly clear of trees, used mainly for intensive farming.Today research shows that the northwest part of this flat land also was a main area of the fieldwork. Here, Koffmanns’s name and the subject of her work is well-known by many of the villagers. In most of the villages in the mountains, her name is unknown.

Sarmak-Pasture  
Kurkuzhin1

Mountain pastures. Typical landscape between Sarmakovo and Kurkuzhin village (left). Right: View to the north, over the village Kurkuzhin, about five miles south of Sarmakovo. One can recognize the crossing from the foothills used as pastures to the lowlands. During the field work conducted by Koffman’s team Kurkuzhin was often visited. According to locals, in the Soviet time the researchers attempted for example to lure Almasty on the village edge with flute melodies. According Koffmann, a valley close to the village is called the “Almasty-Valley”. A resident reported that “earlier” there were so many Almasty that they were “almost more” than the village inhabitants. At this time you could meet entire families – up to seven specimens.


In contrast to many of the other research regions in the former USSR, this republic offered very comfortable conditions in which to conduct field work: densely populated, many encounters, and the most important – nearly the whole area is easy to reach (Makarov 2002: 52). The Moscow zoologist N. Akoev, a former co-worker of Koffmann, characterized the working conditions of this so-called “southern division” (meaning the researchers in the south of the USSR, including Sarmakovo) in the following way: “A comfortable climate and an easy style of living meant that a large part of the groups [meant are research groups] were made up of retirees, women, and random people.” (Akoev 1996: 35).

Since the 1960s, Koffmann has been supported in her field work by seasonal volunteers – research colleagues, and above all, students. Most of the Moscow “hominologists”, like Dr Michael Trachtenherz, Vadim Makarov, Maya Bykova, Dmitri Bayanov and Igor Burtsev visited Sarmakovo and participated in the field work. A basic problem in organizing the work was the limited time frame the researchers had. Their vacation time of 3 or 4 weeks was not enough to stay in the field long enough. This short amount of time didn’t offer much chance of “success” (Zeligmann 1990: 18). Koffmann also stressed the importance of month-long stays in the research area (Golovanov 1987: 4). Therefore, students who are interested in the problem are particularly well-suited. In the Soviet time, they had up to three months of vacation. Contact to such people were often made through the Smolin semiar in Moscow.[6]

The majority of these volunteers came from large cities and had practically no experience in the field. Many of them came to Sarmakovo with romantic ideas of having an adventure in the Caucasus. The problem was to use these volunteers effectively for the field work, to coordinate and to control their activities. Because Koffmann’s field work was a purely private initiative, it was necessary to create something like an administrative frame, where the participants had to follow her directions. Therefore she gave the volunteers the impression that she was doing her research as the head of an expedition of the geographical society of the Academy of Science of the USSR.[7] Before the work started in the field, all of the participants had to sign an “obligation”.[8]  In Sarmakovo the participants had to sign a document that they are prepared to follow Koffmann’s instructions, as the leader of the expedition.[9]

The volunteers received instructions and were sometimes also outfitted (Makarov 2002: 178). For the practical fieldwork, they were often divided into smaller groups. Each group had a leader. The groups each had often a specific task – for example, watching certain area or collecting eye witnesses reports. It was remarkable that the majority of this students changed nearly every year.[10]  Often, these groups were pitted against each other in a type of competition to get the best results. There were often conflicts between Koffmann and the students.[11] Some students which started out in Koffmann’s team later became well-known researchers – for example, Vladimir Pushkarev and  Gregory Panchenko. Some of them – such as  N. Akoev and R. Danov - later distanced themselves from Koffmann and worked independently from her, also in the Caucasus.

Because the Caucasus field work was a private initiative, financing was a basic problem under the Soviet and post-Soviet conditions. The volunteers financed their stay themselves. Sometimes, the Smolin seminar participants donated money. Even people who had an interest in the subject donated smaller sums directly to Koffmann. The researcher’s equipment was always inadequate. Koffmann spoke about how the gear was lacking, and that it was necessary to acquire it (Koffmann 1965: 60; Greenwell 1988: 4).

sovkhoznoe   batekh

View from the Sovkhoznoe village, two miles north of Sarmakovo, northeast direction, toward the Kabardinian villages Psynodakha and Batekh. This flatland, used intensively for agriculture, was a main area for the Russian researchers during the summer. According to Koffmann, it was determined that the Almasty have a strong migration to the lowlands in summer and fall, which offers plenty of food sources between June and October. From the literature, only two sightings with named locality from the flatland in the Zolsk district are known: an undated observation of a young female Almasty close to Batekh (right), which 30 independent eye witnesses saw. She had eaten some maize in a field (Shackley 1983: 114). Another Batekh resident reported: In the summer of 1939-40, a female Almasty lived in his vegetable garden for more than a week. Numerous people from the surrounding area came to see it (Koffmann 1965: 61, Porshnev 1974: 183-84).



Modern photographic technology, night vision goggles, and other items were extremely hard to get a hold of, and practically not even available, under the Soviet conditions. One of the most important pieces of equipment were suitable cars for the field work. Since the 1960s, Koffmann had been using a small Russian passenger car. Later, she had a Russian off-road vehicle, and sometimes also two motorcycles. These vehicles were extremely valuable for the field work. Maintaining the vehicles, as well as finding and financing replacement parts and conducting repairs was extremely hard under the Soviet conditions.

For material support, such as petrol, Koffmann often turned to local authorities with her request, such as the head of the Kolkhoz (Collective Farm) of Sarmakovo. Such private initiatives like Koffmann`s fieldwork were not supported by public finances in the former Soviet Union. Therefore, she also made sure that it seemed to others that she was conducting her field work in partnership with the Geographical Society of the Academy of Science.[12]  The Academy of Science enjoyed much respect as the top scientific institution of the Soviet Union. This has led to the fact that even today, villagers in the region are convinced that Koffmann is searching for Almasty under the direction of the Academy. In the mid-1970s, Koffmann reached retirement age. The retirement benefits in the Soviet Union were very small for regular people. It was impossible to finance field research and an off-road car with such a small benefit payment. After her retirement, Koffmann, worked as a translator in Moscow.[13]

Another basic problem of the field research was and is that the subject is taboo among large part of the village populations (Koffmann 1990: 22). Therefore, the natives were not willing, in many cases, to help the researchers with their knowledge. This societal taboo is motivated by religion, but likely goes back to pre-Islamic times. On the one hand, a majority of the local people don’t care about the existence of the Almasty at all. On the other hand, when asked about the subject, it is uncomfortable for them to talk about it in many cases. There is much superstition connected to the subject. Often, there is also an inter-family taboo. The taboo is stronger among the older generation that the younger one. Today, it is easier to find more people who will talk openly about the subject among the younger generation. One can often meet natives who apparently have no taboo. However, in many cases it later appears that they are only talking about general and unimportant parts of their knowledge, and will not talk about an own encounter, for example.

dzhamankul  
kichmalka

Typical landscapes, pastures and rock areas with thousands of caves, in the North of Zolsk district where the main part of field research has been done: Upper Dzhamakul valley next to Kamenomostkoe (left). Here, in the 60s and 70s, Koffmann often investigated caves together with her local helper, the Kabardinian Miza Balagov from Kamenomostkoe. Right: Between the villages Kamenomostkoe and Kichmalka with the southern slope of Dzhinal mountain range.


Quite often, it is clear that the locals are scared that people will laugh at them if they talk about their knowledge or an encounter with an Almasty. This is significant in this culture, where personal reputation holds a central value. Usually, the motivation for the researchers interest in the subject is not understood, which results in distrust towards him. In these situations, other goals are suspected, such as the search for gold. Therefore, since the early 60s, Koffmann has been trying to explain and enlighten the local population about the research work and to fight against the taboo. For this purpose, handmade information posters were hung out in the village, among other items. These posters called for the villagers to report any observations to the researchers. Koffmann visited the schools in Sarmakovo and talked about her work.[14]  Information boards about Almasty were displayed in the public buildings in the village: they included among others photos of local eye witnesses who had reported their encounter. This was supposed to encourage other residents to share their encounter with the researchers.

In the 1990s, during talks with the authors, villagers in the Zolsk district sometimes claimed that Koffmann had previously published information about  Almasty in the local press. These claims were not taken seriously, because Koffmann stressed in France in preparation of her expedition in 1992 that the Soviet researchers could never use the local media: “But the main reason for their [the Soviet-Russian researchers] bad luck is that they never had access to the local media, to explain the goal of their work to the locals and ask for their help.” (Koffmann 1992b: 11).[15]  In 2005, a member of the German study group, working in the Caucasus, coincidentally found an unknown article by Koffmann from the Soviet time on her fieldwork in Kabardino-Balkaria -published in Zarja Kommunisma (Red Sky of Communism), the newspaper of the Zolsk district.[16]  This discovery opened up additional investigations. From this, currently eight additional publications from Koffmann in local Caucasus newspapers from the Soviet time have been found. Their existence is probably unknown outside of Russia. There are hints from the Russian "Snowman" scene that further Russian publications, unknown in the west, by Koffmann exist.[17]  The main purpose of the found articles is to explain the existence of the Almasty to the villagers in plain language. Two of these articles only contained basic explanations on human evolution and nothing about field work (Koffmann 1980a,b). On the other hand, the natives were supposed to be informed about the field work and its results, which some of the villagers knew a bit about. They were supposed to be inspired to help in this manner. They were asked to get in contact with the newspaper redaction of Zarja Kommunsima with any observations. Koffman (1980a): “Often, 'Zarja Kommunsima' gave us access to their pages to explain about our research.”

The newly found articles are important, because they gives many tips about the field situation at that time. They contain a number of field results, which are probably unknown outside of Russia. Koffmann also used this articles for special question to the villagers. For example she asked to give attention to the wooden comps, used by Almasty – with the purpose to receive such combs (Koffmann1965a). Koffmann also fought against the taboo in these articles. Porshnev categorizes the special relation between natives and Almasty as the “largest barrier in researching the problem” (Porshnev 1969). She wrote “The main difficulty, I tell you, lies in the fear of Almasty for a certain part of the population.” […] We know many cases where people could help us, the scientists, but they are afraid of Almasty’s revenge.” (Koffmann1965b). Even in the 1960s, there was a strong anti-religion mood in the Soviet Union. The local Mullahs negatively influenced the villagers, in the researchers point-of-view (Koffmann 1968: 91). “But the Mullahs keep this fear alive. The Mullahs are convinced that the Almasty is a devil, a jinn. But we know that the Mullahs are lying to the people and that there is not a devil.” (Koffmann 1964b).

mjk-house  
mjk-rooms

The house on the main street in Sarmakovo with Koffmann’s former rooms today (2005). They were used since the 1980s. In 2002, the house was cleaned out and has been empty since then. Since than Koffmann has been using the house of her old friend and informant Khadzhimat Vindisheva in the close neighborhood.


According to Koffmann the Mullahs try to intimidate the people. They claim that the Almasty is an “unclean power”. One should not insult him. He will get his revenge (Koffmann 1964b, 1965b). This has had the following effect on the local people, for example: “Comrade K. from Kamenomostkoe answered our request for help, and told us that he really knew a lot about our problem. But if he tells us something, his elderly father will throw him out of the house.” (Koffmann 1965b). Another villager wanted to help the researchers, at first, but then he declined: “I’m afraid that Almasty will suffocate my children.” (Koffmann1965b). Locals demanded that the search work should stop because of “religious propaganda.” (Koffmann 1968: 91)

Questioning the local population in the research area was and is the basis for the field work (Koffmann 1990: 21). The goal of the questioning was always to first determine if the area is good for field work. It was possible to gain knowledge about the various species, their number, ecology, etc. from the information gained. Since the 60s, Koffmann and her colleagues have built a network of informants, which exists even today: Village residents who give reliable information about encounters and other significant events. It was also possible to find some locals who also actively sought information. People to help with the work were recruited from the local population, sometimes for pay. In areas with a good perspective, clues to the presence of the Almasty was sought: tracks, footprints, camps, etc. Certain localities were chosen based on questioning and observed. For this, uninterrupted day and night observations were organized for a lengthy time. The observers lived in tents or huts. It can be assumed that the researchers were also about to go into the field to observe specimens.

Among others, a goal was to conduct these observations for a long period of time – up to one year – to have contact with an Almasty (Koffmann 1965c: 60, Zeligman 1990: 18). This could not be carried out, though, because none of the volunteers could stay at the location for so long. With the exception of the summer months, there was often too less or no co-worker present. As the locals report today, Koffmann was often out and about at night, on foot: even in the villages and their yards, in the close surroundings, and also in the mountain plains. Many villagers remember this even today because it was so unusual. Bait was laid again and again in different places – for example, in herder’s huts. Sometimes these were connected to a primitive photo trap.[18]  Koffmann mentioned the use of such a photo trap (Koffmann 1992b: 11). According to current informations from the locals, Koffmann offered sometimes people sums of money during the decades of her field work. These were people who she believed could make an contact with Almasty. This probably also included those who had a direct relationship to Almasty, the so-called “Kontaktler” (contactees).[19]  Today, it can be assumed that the encounters of the researchers is also based on these cases. According to Porshnev and Zeligman, a random meeting with the Almasty is nearly not possible (Porshnev 1969: 130, Zeligman 1990: 14).

kuruko1  
kuruko2

In the middle part of the completely forestless Kuruko valley (about 13 miles long), three miles south of Sarmakovo. View to south (left) and to northeast (right) from the same spot. Many encounters have been registered here since the 1960s. Two encounters by researchers from Koffmann’s team were published: Evelyna Zeligman´s night observation in a shepherd’s shelter at the beginning of the 1970s and a night observation in a barn by Gregory Panchenko in 1991.[20] Unpublished sightings were in this valley in the weeks before Panchenko’s encounter, at least two Almasty were observed by the locals multiple times: A dark specimen and a large specimen with “silver-gray” fur. These observations (has been said) came from four sources independent of each other. Also in August 1988, a (likely) young specimen was observed, also with light fur (Panchenko 1992). From Sarmakovo residents it became known that in 1992 Panchenko placed syrup baits on several locations in this valley. Also Dmitri Bayanov mentioned his "...own vigils in Kabarda, including that very ravin of Kuruko." (Bayanov 1996: 60).


In 1965 Koffmann offered also in the Zolsk district newspaper a “large price” for them, who would capture an Almasty or for those who offers the possibility to photograph a specimen (Koffmann 1965a). Offering money was also used in the Koffmann-Pallix-expedition in 1992: In the local newspaper Severny Kavkaz (Northern Caucasus) the residents were asked to help the researchers. A Russian passenger car was offered as a prize for significant help.[21] Since the 60s, the researchers have had tranquilizing equipment, intending to use it to paralyze an Almasty (Koffmann 1968: 91) Also in the 1980s Koffmann had such equipment in Sarmakovo.[22] A goal of the Koffmann-Pallix-Expedition in 1992 was also to transquilize an Almasty. The expedition brought this equipment with them. It is said that in the 80s, Koffmann placed metal spring traps, usual used for bears, on paths that were thought to be used by Almasty, to catch a specimen. Apparently, this method was not successful. [23]

Since the late 1970s – and possibly even earlier – Koffmann has focused her field work in the winter months. Each year, she came from Moscow in November and stayed in Sarmakovo until March or April. [24] During an interview, Koffmann said that in winter, the Almastys often come closer to
the villages (Sidorenko 1965). In February 1980, she published: “Right now is the most important time of the year.” […] “In summer the search is more complicated, and practically hopeless” (Koffmann 1980d). "Now is the most important period of our work, the wintertime […] There is only the chance to meet Almasty in the winter.” (Koffmann 1982).

Some of the Moscow “hominologists” methods of fieldwork, which were also applied in the Caucasus, are described in the publication Collection of methodic field instructions for field work on the problem of the relic hominoid, edited by Zeligman and Rogov (1990). One of the methods described there and applied in the 1970s, apparently led to the observation of an Almasty, by Evelyna Zeligman who saw it at a close distance (Makarov 2002: 179).[25] The fieldwork was conducted in the described manner up to the end of the 1980s. As a result of Gorbachov’s new policies, there was a fundamental economic crisis in the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 90s. Because of this, fieldwork as it was done previously with volunteer helpers could not be continued. In 1990, Koffmann returned to France. She found sponsors through her publications in the French journal Archeologia. In 1992, together with the French filmmaker Sylvain Pallix she organized a French-Russian expedition to Kabardino-Balkaria. The fieldwork was supposed to be continued in the following years with financial help from France. This did not come to be. Koffmann continued her fieldwork. In 1992-96, 1998, 2000, and 2005 she spent several months in Sarmakovo. Whether she worked there also in other yeras is currently not known. Some of her research colleagues as for example Anatoly Sidorenko, worked also there in the 1990s and later.[26]

kenzhal  
uppermalka

Typical mountain pastures in the alpine zone in the South of Zolsk district: View to South from 2500 m on the slope of Mt. Kenzhal (2829 m) to plateau Kudenetjajla (left). Right: Upper Malka valley next to Mt. Kenzhal, the largest forst territory in the district with frequent encounters.


The total number of the tracks that have been found until now, as well as the number of footprint casts and photos of tracks, is not published.
1963: In winter, Koffmann was shown footprints in the Zolsk district. According to her, these were old and not suitable for photographs. The locality was not named (Koffmann 1964b: 4).
1964: A trail of footprints was found on a mountain plateau towards the Malka-valley (Koffmann 1991: 26,27).
1966: Discovery of footprints from “flat, crooked, bare feet” of a young female Almasty in a maize field (Koffmann 1968: 90).
1976: Found of a footprint. Koffmann photographed it. The location was not mentioned (Makarov 2002: 180).
1976: Discovery of a chain of footprints through Dr Andrej Kozlov, a coworker of Koffmann, following an experiment which used pheromones. Additional details were not shared (Makarov 2002: 176).
1978: Discovery of a trail of tracks in the part of the Khazaut valley called “Dolina Narzanov.” According to Koffmann, there were 12 footprints (Koffmann 1980d: 4). Makarov wrote  that  it  was 23  tracks  (Makarov  2002: 180).  Discovery of five  footprints on the Mushta river in the Mushta valley [27].
1981: Between the villages Zalukodes, Malka and Kichmalka, tracks from a large female Almasty were found. A local woodsman observed this female at a distance of 10 meters. “On the forest path, on damp, soft ground, there hundreds of tracks made – and they were very clear.” (Koffmann 1982). In mid-May the discovery of “a large number” of footprints in a 500 square kilometer area in the Ekipzoko valley, next to Sarmakovo.They were the tracks from two specimens. According Koffmann the characteristic of the walk was clear to see. She spent an entire day measuring and photographing these footprints (Koffmann 1982).
1992: Discovery of multiple footprints in a drained pond in the Ekipzoko valley [28];
In 1980, Koffmann published that she found tracks on the Malka river and in the Kuruko and Akkhebeluko valleys. These places are all located in the Zolsk district. Additional details about the discovery were not shared (Koffmann 1980d: 4). In a Russian TV documentation in 2005, Koffmann shows a place on the Malka river close to the Sarmakovo village where she, according to her, found two very good footprints. The year of this discovery was not mentioned.[29]

The number of hair samples which have been found and likely come from the hominoids is not published. In 2008, it was published that “earlier” Almasty “camps” could be found. Experts claim to have determined that hair found there came from a large primate.[30]  No additional details were provided. The discovery of a single hair found from the Dzhinal mountain range was published.[31] Makarov published that two hairs from the Caucasus were examined. The date and location of these discoveries was not provided (Makarov 2002: 230). Dr Andrej Kozlov, named the location for the discovery and examination of a single hair, found in a footprint, to be 1978 in the Mushta valley.[32]  Based on literature, there are currently
known twoconcrete discoveries of excrements in the Caucasus during the Soviet time: in the Zolsk district, but the year is not named. It was mentioned in an interview by Igor Burtsev (Polozov 2002). A description of excrements was published by Koffmann (1992: 58). In 1971, a tooth from a primate was found near the Balkarian village Kichmalka, but the species could not be determined (Danov 1996: 40-46).

Since 2005, multiple discoveries of organic materials by Panchenko and his colleagues have been shared: a shin bone, a collarbone, tooth fragments which could come from Almasty (Panchenko 2005: 53). A British group, who worked with Panchenko, listed skull fragments, finger bones, hair, excrement, and more as discoveries from their 2008 Caucasus Expedition. It is thought that these could originate from Almasty (Downes, Freeman 2008).

Encounters with Almasty by researchers: The total number of these encounters is not published. In the following paragraph, a few encounters will be mentioned, as long as they have been published or are known in other ways.
Probably in the 1970s or 80s: Observation of a female Almasty with two juveniles by A. Danilov and his group during the day, and at a relatively close distance. The year and location are not published (Makarov 2002: 179-180).[33]
Early 1970s: An observation at night by E. Zeligman of a creature thought to be an Almasty at a shepherd’s hut in the Kuruko valley, about three miles south of Sarmakovo (Makarov 2002: 179).[34]

1980s: Observation of an Almasty by Anatoly Sidorenko at a distance of four meters at an abandoned house “near Nejtrino” (Downes, Freeman 2008: 18). This refers to the area of the former Balkarian village Kyzgen, about a half mile away from the current settlement of Nejtrino. According to Chris Clark, Panchenko apparently had another encounter at this location.[35]  The year was not named (Downes, Freeman 2008: 63).
1980s: According to a statement by a local, Panchenko had an encounter at night in the late 80s. In the evening, he hid himself in a garbage dump at the edge of the Balkarian village Bylym. It has been said that he observed two specimens there, which were probably searching for food.
1991: A nighttime observation by Panchenko of an assumed Almasty, maybe a young specimen, at night in a sheep stall in the Kuruko valley (Koffmann 1992: 62)
1992: Sighting of an assumed Almasty by Koffmann, obviously by day, probably in the Zolsk district. More details was not messaged.[36]
1994: The sighting of an Almasty “in summer”, apparently during the day, by Koffmann and two of her colleagues, probably in the Zolsk district. The exact location is not shared (Makarov 2002: 181).
2005: A nighttime observation of an Almas, which was lured with wine by Anatoly Sidorenko. Apparently this took place in Kabardino-Balkaria. The exact location was not shared (Zhukov 2005).

According to Makarov, Koffmann had numerous encounters, obviously also during the day. It is claimed that she saw beings, which, “based on their appearance, couldn’t be anything other than an Almasty” – but from such a distance “that it was impossible to photograph them.” (Makarov 2002: 179). One of these encounters - in 1994 - he described in detail (Makarov 2002: 181). Additional unnamed researchers from Koffmann’s team were able to see the Almasty several times – even during the day. Several times at night, red eyes were reported, about 1.5 meters above the ground. The number of these observations, year, and location are not published (Makarov 2002: 179).
In 2007, it was published that Panchenko had four encounters all in all. [37]
In 2008, Anatoly Sidorenko, a participant in Koffmann’s fieldwork since the early 1980s, explained in an interview:
[…] I participated in Caucasus expeditions for 25 years. We found a large volume of material, and not a single year went by when we didn’t have an encounter or observation of this being […]" (Beloborodov 2008).
The researchers had the opportunity to photograph the Almasty several times. Koffmann: “Various chances to photograph the hominoid were missed because there was no film or batteries; the last time was August 25, 1991” (Koffmann 1992b: 11).

Village residents in the Zolsk district claim today that Koffmann was able to photograph Almasty already in the 1960s. It is also known in the Russian “Snowman” scene that Almasty have been photographed by the researchers. It has been possible to find tooth marks (Koffmann 1968:90). Several times it has been possible to take fingerprints from the hominoids. Such a case was published (Koffmann 1995: 60). The researchers have heard the screams, though to be from Almasty, multiple times. It is not published how often this happened. In 1979, a series of screams were taped in Koffmann’s presence, which probably came from Almasty.[38]  In 2007, Panchenko declarded, that he himself has heard the screams of the Almasty four times. The years and circumstances were not shared.[39]

Dzhinal  
malkastreet

Lower Malka valley between the villages Kamenomostkoe and Sarmakovo, on the border between the flatlands and the mountain pastures. In the background Dzhinal mountain range, 16 miles long and about 1000 m over sea level, western of Sarmakovo. According to Koffmann, in the 1960s a tall, thin, male specimen of an Almasty with black hair has been seen over several years in this mountain range (Koffmann 1968: 90) (left). Right: Between the villages Malka and Sarmakovo with Malka river. The small forest is the locality of many encounters. In the background Dzhinal mountain range.


Camps assumed to be from the hominoids have been found many times. The number of these discoveries is not published. One of these camps, found with food, was described (Koffmann 1968). In a TV movie from 2005, Koffman shows the place where one of these camps was previously discovered close to Sarmakovo. The year of this discovery is not named.[40]  It is claimed to have been determined that Almasty prefers small caves; 90% of these types of winter camps were only used during the cold period and abandoned in spring (Sidorenko 2008). It has been possible to lure Almasty multiple times with food used as bait. Such a case from a village garbage dump was published (Koffmann 1995: 60). In 2005, it seems to have been possible to lure Almasty with wine (Zhukov 2005).

The number of the documented encounters in the Caucasus is thought to be "more than 500" (Koffmann 1996: 19). Yet this number is not accurate when considering that Koffmann and her colleagues have found some more than 500 eye witnesses during their decades of field work. After two years of fieldwork, in 1964, there were 200 protocols of reports from natives who claimed to have seen the Almasty themselves. The largest part of these reports were about encounters from the years 1958-62 (Koffmann 1964a). This numbers were also named by other authors whom Koffmann had been in personal contact with during these times (Opryshko 1964; Kudrjavzev, Petrov 1964: 61). In 1968, it was published that approximately 300 protocols existed (Koffmann 1968: 87). Over the years, the number of experienced field researchers grew. Because of this large body of experience, newcomers could be trained in faster. Because of the increased knowledge stand, the search for eye witnesses as a main part of the work became more effective.

The number of eye witnesses in the 1960s and 1970s was much higher than it is today. Trustworthy locals, including those with higher education, said in the 1990s: Among the people older than 80 today, the majority of the villagers – above all, the men – had seen Almasty themselves. Because of the taboo, these elders often do not talk about their encounters, particularly with outsiders. But family members and neighbors often know about them and in many cases they are anxious to report them. Research by the author since the 1990s in Sarmakovo and neighboring villages confirm this. The number of eye witnesses found by ex-Soviet researchers must be estimated to be significantly higher than 500. In his lecture in the UK in 2007, Panchenko said: “All the stories about Almasty in the Caucasus is more than 2,000. More than 2,000 men saw him, had contact with Almasty […]”.[41]  It hasn’t been said what the number of the documented encounters is.

In the literature known today, there are only a few statements about the size of the assumed population and the number of the individuals in particular areas of the work zone. Igor Burtsev, a participant in Koffmann’s fieldwork, estimated the total number of individuals in the Caucasus in the 1970s to be less than 200 specimen. Koffmann confirmed this estimate (Dick, Chris 1978: 197). In 1979, when asked about the size of the population, Koffmann answered: “I decline to answer this question, because confusion about the number would be impossible to avoid. It is, at least in the northern Caucasus, a few dozen individuals.” (Mahuzier 1982: 84). In 1980, Koffmann published: “I think that in the entire territory of the Zolsk district [about 2000 qkm] there are not more than five or six Almasty who live there.” (Koffmann 1980d: 4). In 1984, it was published that five specimens could be determined in a territory about 250 qkm (this territory is Sarmakovo village and its surroundings). After six years, two of these specimens were still present. This is based on the later 1960s (Koffmann 1984: 82). It has been determined that the specimens who were identified in the sixties were then – in the end of the 80s – replaced by others (Koffmann 1992: 63).

Panchenko quoted Koffmann in 2002: “We don’t know anything about the number [of individuals], but we are very familiar with the gender differentiation of the population.” (Panchenko 2002: 119-120). In 2008, an expedition took place in Elbrus-district, Kabardino-Balkaria. Two of the participants, Anatoly Sidorenko and Gregory Panchenko, co-workers of Koffmann, were quoted on the estimated number of specimens in the area. Sidorenko: “[…] That was in Balkaria. [Meant is the mountain part of Kabardino-Balkaria]  Currently, we are conducting our search there, because the population is the most stable there.  Based on our calculations, there are 12 specimen there.“ (Beloborodov 2008). One of the British participants of this expedition published on Panchenko: “Grigoriy speculates that there are  some 100-300 [specimens]  in the area we were operating in, and the figure doesn’t seem at all improbable, given the mountains and sparsely populated terrain we were in.”  (Downes, Freeman 2008: 71).

The field situation, which the researchers have experienced since the 1960s can be partly reconstructed today based on Koffmann’s publications, but mostly from the current stories of the locals. Even in the 60s, in Sarmakovo and the surrounding areas, there were consistent encounters. The Almasty appeared in alleys and yards, and also in stalls. Sometimes they forced themselves into the homes. Groups were also observed close to the village. This close co-existence allowed the researchers the chance to observe the hominoids themselves. Koffmann: “Absolutely, we had many chances to meet them, but it never worked out, which we were very sorry about.” (Sidorenko 1965: 5). In the 60s, there were so many encounters that single specimens could be identified out of the mass of the observed Almas: in the nearby surroundings of Sarmakovo and also in the village itself (Mahuzier 1982: 88). The reports about these observations sometimes reached the researchers with only a few hours delay. The observation of two different specimens at locations far away from each other, but at the same time, was also published (Koffmann 1982: 4). Encounters also happened very close to Koffmann's house in the village center.

Sarmakovo-Caves  
Sarmakovo-Winter

In Sarmakovo (2008). There are a number of caves there, such as the one pictured in the photo. According to the locals, some times Almasty could be observed in these caves, even during the day, from the village. This occurred until the 1950s – and some claim also later (left). Typical side street in the village. Sometimes at nights there are encounters with Almasty in these types of streets also today (right).


The case of Khabaz Kardanov from Sarmakovo, who had a close relation to an Almasty, published by Porshnev, appeared to be unique (Porshnev 1968: 120). Yet, in the 1960s, a direct relationship between Almasty and humans in the Kabardinian villages does not seem to be rare. The intensity of their relationships varied greatly from one another. For example, there were some locals who would regularly place food for the Almasty at a specific location every night. But to some extent, they didn’t know themselves if a hominoid or an animal took this food.

There were also direct relationships to a specimen which lasted over years. The people involved in these almost never talked about it to others. Koffmann's coworker Anatoly Sidorenko who started his Caucasus fieldwork in the early 1980 declared in 2008 in an interview: "I asked two Caucasians who lived with females [of Almasty]. They came to the humans themselves, because the people fed them, and tamed them, and then lived together with them." (Beloborodov 2008). Seasonal contact – for example, between herders and Almasty in the mountain pastures – were frequent. Koffmann: “And the farmers who met them [Almasty], knew where they wandered around and sometimes even fed them.” (Koffmann 1964b). According to Panchenko, the last generation of Almasty who found contact with humans “pretty normal” died out in the late 1960 (Panchenko 2002: 96).

koffmann  
ekipzoko

Dr M.-J. Koffmann during her fieldwork in Progress village, Zolsk district, Kabardino-Balkaria (August 2005). Right: In the lower Ekipzoko valley, about two miles west of the Sarmakovo. This valley is about six miles long and, next to the Sarmakovo, the only one where several relatively small forested areas exists. It is the location of frequent sightings. An encounter in this valley recorded by Koffmann was published in 1964: A shepherd observed how a female Almasty came into his hut at night and ate some potatoes there (Chernyshev 1964).  Here, in 1981, she found many tracks from two specimens spread out over an area of 500 square meters (Koffmann 1982). The Koffmann-Pallix-Expedition in 1992 also found tracks in the mud of a pond in this valley. [42]



In the 1980s, the number of field researchers grew. Because of the broader knowledge base and experience, the work was more effective than the work from the 60s. The last decade before the end of the Soviet Union was the most economically stable time. The field work during this period took place in a politically stable environment. The living conditions in this region had, compared to the 60s, significantly improved. This made the organizational work, acquiring equipment, and more, much easier. Based on current questionnaires, the number of encounters in the 1980s was less compared with the 1950s and 1960s. However, Almasty were still regularly confirmed: not only in and around Sarmakovo and in the remaining Zolsk district. In 1980s, Koffmann published that in her opinion there were observations of Almasty each month in the Zolsk district (Koffmann 1980). From the 1960s to the present, Sarmakovo and its surroundings remained the center for fieldwork, although since the end of the 60s, more intensive farming has worsened the ecological conditions for the species. In a film about Koffmanns work, in and around the Sarmakovo together with Koffmann, the village is described as an “ecological niche” for Almasty.[43]

Because of the extraordinarily favorable field conditions in Kabardino-Balkaria, one can assume that this type of knowledge and material collected over the last 40 years is unique in Eurasia today. A large part of this information can not likely be, now or in the future, generated. Their main source, the generation of the natives who often lived in close contact with the assumed recent non-sapiens hominoids, no longer exists. The knowledge about the Caucasus field work and their results outside of Russia is, even today, in large parts only fragmentary. It is fundamental for effective fieldwork in the future. It can be expected that additional research will complete this body of knowledge.

zolskmap



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Grenwell, R. 1993. Almasty Man. BBC Wildlife, December.          
Koffmann, MJ. 1964a. Almasty. Is that a devil? (part 1) Zarja Kommunisma. 72 (188) June19 (in Russian).
Koffmann, MJ.1964b. Almasty. Is that a devil? (part 2) Zarja Kommunisma. 73 (189) June 20 (in Russian).
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Koffmann, MJ. 1965b. The search is continued. Zarja Kommunisma, February 11 (in Russian).
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Koffmann, MJ. 1980d. Wild ancestors. Do they exist? Zarja Kommunisma 25 (2579) February 28 (in Russian).
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 1    For a detailed description of this changings see: Hans-M. Beyer. 2008. Notes on the current field situation of an assumed population of recent non-sapiens hominids in the northern        central Caucasus.
 2    Reserach groups and single researchers which worked independently of Koffmanns group during the Soviet time are not subject of this article.
 3    Boris Mosgachev, Pjatigorsk, personal communication with H.-M. Beyer, October 2005 (tape recording).
 4    For more information on this see: Relations between man and a “Wild man” in the Caucasus: Khabaz Kardanov and his relationship to an Almasty.
 5    This house was torn down in the 80s. Thereafter, she moved into three rooms in a neighbouring house. This house was in 2002 cleared out, and since then has been empty. Koffmann        has been using another house in the close neighbourhood since 2005: the house from her old friend and informant Khadzhimat Vindisheva.
 6    Monthly session of people interested in “relic hominoids” at the Moscow Darwin Museum.
 7    For example several of her articles in Zarja Kommunisma she signed with: “Zh. Koffmann, Chief of the expedition of the Geographical Society at the Academy of Science of the        USSR."
 8    Evelyna Zeligman (1990: 18)  wrote in the booklet with field instructions for field work  that all the participants of the expeditions had to sign a  covenant. This contained the “rights        and responsibilities” of the participants.
 9    The wording of this document was: “Application: To the head of the expedition of the geographical society of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR, Mrs. M.-J. Koffmann, from Mr./ Ms        …  Herewith, I would like to apply to become a member of the expedition which deals with the Snowmen  in the Caucasus. I am aware of the regulations of the expedition. I promise that I        will follow these regulations.”
10    op. cit. (note 3).
11    Muaed Malzurgenov, Sarmakovo, personal communication, 2000.
12    For example she signed letters to such local authorities with her name and “G. O. Akademija Nauk” (Academy of Science) – “ G. O.”   means 'Geogravicheskogo Obshestvo'         (Geographical society).
13    Bayanov, Dmitri. 1976. Letter to Bernard Heuvelmans. February 29 (unpublished), Bernard Heuvelmans archives, Musèe de Zoologie, Lausanne, Switzerland.
        Mosgachev, Boris, op. cit. (note 3).
14    Khabaz Birmamitov, Sarmakovo, personal communication, 2000.
15    These tips from the locals were at first considered to be confusing: reprints of the article on the “Snowman” from large Soviet journals in the local newspapers. Koffmann’s statement in        1965 on publications of regional media was also understood in this way (Koffmann 1965: 60).
16    Boris Mosgachev, a former Russian coworker of Koffmann, showed H.-M. Beyer in October 2005 a folder with a collection of known “Snowman” articles from the Russian press. The         folder also contained this unknown article from Koffmann in Zarja Kommunsima. When asked about it, Mosgachev explained that Koffmann had published many times in local Caucasus          newspapers about her field work.
17     Gregory Panchenko`s book Catalogue of Monsters (2002)  also contains suggestions that additional Russian publications of Koffmann on fieldwork, unknown to the West, exist. The          book contains about 20, sometime very long , text passages – quotes of Koffmann. These quotes do  not come from the newly discovered or other known publications. Only for one of          these quotes gives Panchenko a source: Lecture on morphology of the relic hominoid, December 1988 (p. 147). Two other passages in Panchenko’s book, which are not identified as          quotes, can be determined to be from Koffmann: A Russian translation of a passages from one of Koffmann’s articles in the French journal Archeologia and the reprint of a text from          her from 1990 - a chapter from the booklet edited by two coworkers of her, E. Zeligman and V. Rogov: Collection of methodic field instructions for field work on the problem of the relic          hominoid (1990, in Russian).
18     Nikolaj Vindishev, Sarmakovo, personal communication, 1997.
19     For more information about such "contactees" see: op. cit. (note 4).         
20     The Moscow chemist Evelyna Zeligman was a senior researcher in the Caucasus. She participated in Koffmann’s field work since the 1960s and was one of her most important                  co workers. She led the fieldwork in Koffmann’s absence. In the Kuruko valley, there was a herder’s hut, among the researchers known as “Evelyna Borisovna’s hut” where Zeligman          had a close encounter in the early1970s (Makarov 2002: 179). For this and other informations we are thankful to Muaed Malzurgenov, Sarmakovo.
21     Severny Kavkaz, 41 (92), October 10, 1992, p. 8.
22      Zamir Didanov, Sarmakovo, personal communication, 2005.
23      H.-M. Beyer`s personal communication with Boris Mosgachev in October 2005 (tape recording). Mosgachev, a Russian Radio Engineer from the city Pjatigorsk, about 3 miles northwest          from Kabardino-Balkaria, had a close encounter with an Almasty in the 1970s. Therefore, he participated in Koffmann’s fieldwork since the late 1970’s. Researchers in the former Soviet          Union, often meet outsiders - especially foreigners - interested in the problem with great distrust. Asking for the fieldwork and literature one finds often an atmosphere of conspiracy.          Sometimes such people claim to know absolutely nothing about the subject. Therefore, during his visits with the couple Mosgachev, H.-M. Beyer presented himself as a layperson          interested in the problem. He said he was interested because he wanted to write an article about Koffmann. He didn’t mention his personal knowledge of Koffmann. The couple were          friendly with Beyer, but also somewhat cautious and sceptical. After a long talk about “harmless” subjects like the history and beauty of their hometown, a spa resort, they became          increasingly less sceptical. After being posed concrete questions about Koffmann’s fieldwork, Mosgachev started to haltingly explain some details. It seemed that he had a type of          romantic memory of this time. Therefore, he opened up more and more during the talk. Among other things, he mentioned the bear traps. According to him, Koffmann had  put these          traps on the assumed paths of the Almasty and checked them while he was present. In Mosgachev’s opinion, no specimens could be caught because Almasty can smell metal and          humans. They only thing  they caught with these traps was a fox, once. Three weeks after the first talk, Beyer visited the Mosgachevs a second time, as planned. This time, the          couple seemed to be very sceptical and  distrustful. This  distrust didn’t subside during the talk, either. Mosgachev did not show the film clips with Almasty tracks, which he had made          together with Koffmann in the winter, as promised. He said, he couldn’t find it. When Beyer asked about the traps again, now Mosgachev replied, “Koffmann didn’t set these traps, rather          students from Moscow! She only found  these traps and threw them in the Bakasan river!”  According to him, he had his last contact with Koffmann in 1995.
24      op. cit. (note 3).
25      op. cit. (note 20).
26      Panchenko, Gregory. 2002. Catalogue of Monsters. Moscow: Olma Press. p. 181.
27      TV documentation Almasty. Yeti du Caucase.1992 (in French).
28      op. cit.  (note 27).
29      TV documentation Madam and theSnowman. 2005 (in Russian). 
30      Panchenko, Gregory. 2008. The expedition of the Journal 'Ochevidnoe I Neverojadnoe'. In:  www.alamas.ru  (in Russian).
          See: Two Russian Publications on an Expedition in the North Caucasus in 2008.
31       Makarov, Vadim. 2002 Examination of a relic hominoid hair. www.alamas.ru.
32       op. cit.  (note 27).  
33       A. Danilov has participated in Koffmanns field work since at least the early 1970s, according to other sources since the 1960s.
34       Vadim Makarov (2002: 179) does not name any specific year, just that this happened “nearly 20 years” before Panchenko’s encounter (1991) in the same valley.
35       The British group worked in exactly this location and described it as an “abandoned farm”.
36       op. cit. (note 29).
37       British scientist hunt living cavemen in Russian mountains
38       Screams of Almasty?
39       Panchenko, Gregory. 2007. The Russian Snowman. Lecture in the UK.
40       op. cit. (note 29).
41       op. cit. (note 38).
42       op. cit. (note 27).
43       op. cit. (note 29).  
                                                                                                                                                     
                                                                               
                                                                                                                     K. C. Beyer © 2009