«back to Mainsite«

The Koffmann-Pallix-Expedition  Almasty 92  in 1992

This expedition is so significant because it was supposed to be the first in the history of Russian research into the question of relic hominids which was jointly organised by the RSC and a western partner and financed by French companies. A dream of the RSC seemed to have been realised. The West was supplying finance for Russian research. The complaint about having to work without any financial or technical help runs, like a red thread, through Koffmann's accounts and publications (Koffmann, 1965 and 1968; Greenwell, 1988). Bayanov (1996, p.145), also let his readers know that financial help was wanted. One must always bear in mind that Koffmann's research, after the time of the Snowman Commision, has always been on her private initiative and has been carried out on the orders of either scientific or governmental agencies.

Everyone, who knows the statements and publications about the expedition must have recognised the obvious contra- dictions. In the Autumn of 1992, the French journalist and film maker, Sylvain Pallix, co-organizer of the expedition, held a press conference in Paris where he reported the expedition's findings. Many newspapers published these conference. The film which Pallix made, Almasty 92 was shown several times on French television. Koffmann appeared several times in the film. Koffmann, however, claims in cryptozoological circles, "This expedition was a fraud; it never took place!" How can one explain these contrary statements and how did the expedition come into existence?

At the start of the inflation in 1990, Koffmann, who had lived for more than 50 years in Russia, went back to France where the pension was better. There she published, as early as 1991, carefully selected material from her collection in the French popular science magazine Archeologia (no. 269, 1991). Naturally, most readers got the impression that here and in her following articles was a digest of her current knowledge. But, there are some reasons to believe that this is not the case. Important aspects and results of the research results were never published. It is conspicuous that Koffmann used the sensational title  LŽAlmasty, yeti du Caucase  for this article, which received a lot of attention in France, since the Yeti of the Himalayas has nothing to do with the Almasty of the Caucasus.

It can be assumed that Koffmann's article was intended to create sponsor interest, since without sponsors the continuation of field research in the face of the prevailing economic crisis in Russia was impossible. And, in fact, half a year later, in KoffmannŽs second article LŽAlmasty du Caucase, mode de vie dŽun hominide (Archeologia, no.276, 1992), one can read that a French-Russian expedition was being formed and that sponsors were needed. Koffmann selected the French journalist and film maker Sylvain Pallix as partner and together they organised the expedition. They intended to start in May, 1992, a very short time in which to organise a project, which in her second article was written to be a huge, long-term, scientific operation of the highest standard. Michel Raynal (1993, p.14), point out on this very short preparation time. Pallix was responsible for obtaining the money and the technical equipment. Koffman was in charge of the organisation, visas for the French participants, determination of the project length, accommodation, selection of the research area and work plan. She was the head of the expedition.

One has to ask why Koffmann chose a journalist and his helpers for this meaningful cryptozoological project, that had apparently been planned over many years. She must have known that he was totally unqualified for the field-work demanded in the Caucasus. Pallix and his French helpers had no knowledge of Russian or any Caucasian language. They had no cryptozoological or biological qualifications and no expedition experience. Raynal (1993, p.14), also realised this. Koffmann later explained this contradiction by saying, Pallix had pushed her for so long into making an expedition that, in the end, she gave in. But those who know Koffmann's personality, particularly some of her Russian helpers, know exactly that she could never be pushed into doing something against her will, especially anything to do with Almasty.

Organisational problems delayed the departure of the French group from Paris. In the Summer they drove in cross-country vehicles, via Moscow, to the Caucasus. Koffmann accompanied them from Moscow. She reported that it was necessary for her to accompany them in view of the dangerous situation on Russian road, particularly for foreigners. Russian researchers, who were to take part in the expedition, were already waiting in the Caucasus. Due to the very long delay, the Russians had already left by the time the group with Koffmann arrived in the Caucasus. Because of this, the expedition could not take place in the form Koffmann had planned. She lodged the French group in the house of her friend, the Kabardinian Muaed Mysyrjan, where previously Bayanov, Bykova and other researchers had stayed.

Mysyrjan reported, "... But, already after some days there was conflict between Koffmann and the Pallix group". As a result of this conflict Koffmann demanded, as head of the expedition, that Mysyrjan throw the French guests out of his house. They should receive absolutely no help. But Mysyrjan refused. He said, "I cannot do that to my guests. It is the first foreign expedition in our region. I cannot treat them like that. Why should I throw them out just because you have an argument with them?" And he asked her, "Who was it that brought the French here?" At this question Koffmann became furious and left without answering.

What would it have meant if Mysyrjan had thrown his guests out? There was already then a critical political and social situation in the Caucasus. The war in Abkhazia had just begun and also Kabardinians from the region were taking part. Abkhazia is only 150 kilometres away. The French were not capable of communicating with the local people. They knew nothing about existing dangers and necessary precautions for self-protection. As leader of the expedition, Koffmann would have placed them in incalculable danger by putting them out. We consider such action in the Caucasus to be irresponsible.

Koffmann broke off all co-operation with the Pallix group. He was then in a difficult position. The French sponsors had given money, equipment and the vehicles. In return they wanted a film of the expedition. Pallix had signed agreements, with Koffmann's consent, which would ensure an effective media marketing of the expedition. For the film, recordings had been made in France of an interview with Koffmann, which can be seen in the film. Without Koffmann's assistance the film and the expedition were doomed to failure. But now, against Koffmann's will, Mysyrjan helped his French guests.

As guide and interpreter - he speaks French - he helped the French group to achieve their objective. He knew the methodology of field-work and how to record eyewitness accounts. As a local person, he knew the locality. Under his leadership, an expedition could still be carried out but, without Koffmann and quite differently to what she had planned. The group spent more than two months in the mountains in their cross-country vehicles. With Mysyrjan's help, they were even able to find a trace of a wildman. When Koffmann heard about this, she had another of her fits of rage.

The Kabardinian teacher Muaed Mysyrjan in his national clothes.

Obviously because of the argument with Koffmann, when the French departed in the Autumn, they took the vehicles and equipment back to France. Nothing was left be- hind for Koffmann. An expedition with interesting results, documented on film, had taken place against Koffmann's wishes. This was an unbearable situation for her. One can guess that Koffmann never had a real interest in making a film despite having sig- ned an agreement. She knows that film production and practical field-work do not mix.

For that reason, she later made an effort to discredit Pallix, sometimes with grotesque arguments. So she said, in Paris, the French had insulted the local people in the Caucasus. That is hard to believe since the French had absolutely no knowledge of either the Russian or the Caucasian languages. She did everything she could to discredit the film, in which she herself appears, and to stop its distribution.

For this reason, she claimed that Pallix had faked the trace of an Almasty which can be seen in the film. Raynal (1993, p.15), also published this version. Communications with local people, by a member of our group, lead to the conclusion that the traces in all probability were real. Their word is more to be trusted than that of Koffmann. Particularly difficult to believe, for those who know the area and local situation, is Koffmann's claim that Pallix paid for false eyewitness accounts.

Interesting in this connection is also the following fact: The Belgian cryptozoological society A.B.E.P.A.R., whose chairman is Eric Joye, owns the film Almasty 92. Written requests from Germany about obtaining a copy of the film have never been answered by Joye. Probably, he is following the advice of Raynal, who is influenced by Koffmann. Cryptozoologists under the influence of Koffmann consequently wrote incorrectly about the expedition. Bayanov (1993 and 1996, p. 215), wrote:

         „ (...) In the April/June 1992 Co-op I wrote of a pending Russian-French expedition in Kabarda, in
         the Northern Caucasus, under Marie-Jeanne KoffmannŽs leadership. I did take place, but after a
         delay and on a much modest scale than had been expected due to funding problems. By the time
         a useful feedback from the locals had appeared, winter had set in in the mountains and fieldwork
         was suspended. Koffmann has returned to Paris to acquire more equipment and is expected to
         return to Kabarda in a couple of months, accompanied by her Russian and French assistants.

Nevertheless, his readers never did hear anything more about the expedition, not even in his book published in 1996. It is absolutely unlikely, because of his position in Russian cryptozoology, that four years after the expedition he did not know what had happened. His readers did not hear about the existence of the film either. Raynal (1993, p.14), wrote about the preparations for the expedition:

   "...Hélas, préparée à la va-vite par une reporter dont les compétences zoologiques, anthropologiques
       et cryptozoologiques sont discutables (on lui doit essentiellement un film sur une vedette de rock !),
       cette expédition ét ait dŽavance vouée à lŽéchec. (...)

His account gives the impression that Koffmann had nothing to do with the really hasty preparations. In this way he avoids in this connection the vital question: Who selected Pallix, who had no qualification for cryptozoological field-work, for co-operation? The answer is, "Koffmann". As leader of the expedition, she was directly engaged in the preparations and in planning. She obtained visas and other documents for the Pallix group, for example, and must have known which people were taking part in the expedition. Travel plans, how long the expedition would last, project methodology and many other things were her responsibility. Why did she particularly choose to co-operate with Pallix? In Koffmann's publication in Archeologia in 1992, the readers were told about scientific co-operation, over an extended period, was announced between Russian and "French researchers". But, we must ask today, who were these "French researchers"? Were they scientists who were qualified and ready to spend several months some years in Russia? Their names were never mentioned. Koffmann must have known who they were because she arranged the visas for the expedition's French participants. Today, one must suspect that really researchers never existed. The "researchers" were in reality Pallix and his helpers, whose only qualification was their ability to raise money and equipment.

There are many grounds for believing that Koffmann never really planned to co-operate with the French journalists in the Caucasus. Her interest lay in obtaining the necessary equipment (cross-country vehicles, for example). She selected Pallix because, as journalist, he had the connections to find sponsors for the expedition. The marketing rights to the expedition were the reason for the investment. The vehicles and equipment would remain in the hands of the RSC. That was written into their agreement and was probably the deciding factor for Koffmann. She knew exactly that she could easily provoke a conflict with journalists on the spot and later point out their unsuitability and poor quality. This would have been hardly possible with French scientists.

Because Pallix wanted to sell his film, he was not interested in publicising the scandal with Koffmann. As journalist, he used the subject for his own purposes. Today, Koffmann poses as the naive victim. She had known nothing about the methods of French journalists and had been cheated. But, if that is the truth, one has to ask why neither Bayanov or Raynal mention this cheating. Why do the published communications of these well informed colleagues of Koffmann contradict each other?

The attempt to obtain money and equipment through Pallix failed but, in 1994, Koffmann tried again with another potential source. She applied to the Swiss firm  'Rolex' for a sum of money to support her research. This was turned down on the grounds that projects in the crisis area of the Caucasus could not be supported. A short time later she saw in the German study group a new possibility of getting what she wanted. In doing so she did not want to incur any moral responsibility. The Germans were invited to co-operate, just like Pallix. We think, Koffmann's real intentions were obviously quite different. The foreign researchers themselves were unwanted and would be treated appropriately. The experience of the SGP is that Koffmann used information obtained through contact with the Germans, wherever possible, to discredit them.

Koffmann worked for more than thirty years in the field, always badly equipped and often alone. This deserves great admiration and respect, particularly for a woman in an Islamic society. But the foregoing and other experiences lead necessarily to questions about her working methods, results and exhibits. How did these come about and what do they consist of? Here are some comments.

For further informations on that expedition see: Almasty 92: New findings, additions and corrections