of Methodic Field Instructions for Field Work on the Problem of the Relic
By E. B. Zeligman, V.V. Rogov (eds.) and M.-J Koffmann (red.), Selenchukskaja,
Teberda, 1990, 78 pp. (in Russian)
by Karl C. Beyer
500 copies of this booklet were printed in 1990 by Russian Society of Cryptozoologists (RSC) under the redaction of Dr. Marie-Jeanne Koffmann. Editors are Evelina Zeligman and V. V.Rogov.1 With this, it is possible for the first time to analyze in the West an RSC publication that was up to 2006 internal and not intended for the public.2 It must be counted among the basic Russian literature.
In the forward, it explains about the creation of the collection: "This collection was formulated over the years, gradually growing with the experiences of the field research groups. [...] In the present way, it gives basic instructions to the beginning researcher, the experienced field worker, and the casual observer who unexpectedly meets with a relic hominoid." (p. 3)
Dr. Mikhail Trachtenherz describes in the booklet the goal of the fieldwork: "The observation of the relic hominoid in its natural surroundings is the goal and last stage of the major preparation work of the cryptozoologist’s field expeditions." (p. 71) An important part of the booklet contains the attempt to theoretically classify the search methods with the goal of an encounter. One can assume that with the methods described, it came to such observations, some of which were first published by Vadim Makarov in 2002.3
Contributions from 11 authors are contained. Among them are known field researchers like Koffmann, Makarov and Trachtenherz, but also others who are less well-known in the West: Alexander Butaev, Andrej Kozlov and Ilja Treyger. The most complete contribution comes from Evelina Zeligman, after those from Koffmann and Kozlov: "About the methods of the search for the relic hominoid (tactics and strategy)". Zeligman was one of the closest co-workers of Koffmann and has participated in her field work in the Caucasus since the 60s.
According to Zeligman, the search methods described by her were developed by comparing different, perviously applied methods of the researchers, including the "main personality Koffmann". Four methods of the search are described. Each application of such a method should pave the way to the interviews of the local population.
The active search for the object is classified as a "hunting method" - by using dogs, traps, airplanes, optical appliances, and other items. When researchers use the "tourism method", they move around the area as if they were a tourist. He observes his surroundings carefully and attempts to find traces of the hominoid. Zeligman writes that by using this method, it resulted in encounters. In most of these cases, the observer was alone. The basis for this method’s development was "the results of other expedition groups on simply travellers". According to Zeligman, the possibly of an encounter by using either of these methods is very small.
When applying the "zoological method", the researcher lives alone in a biotope for a long time. He must adapt to the lifestyle of the object he is searching for, so that the hominoid gets used to his presence. According to Zeligman., there are very strong fans of this method, who adapt to all aspects of the lifestyle of the hominoid - even in regards to their diet, sleep, and clothing. Among others, works by George Schaller and Jane Goodall is referenced.
The "shepherd’s method" is based on cases of taming hominoids that are known – such as those from herders and guards. For example, the researcher lives in shepherd’s huts. It has been determined that success is more likely to come if there are few researchers there. The researchers should live in groups with no more than three people. A further variation is also recommended: to live singly, with distances of 3 to 10 kilometers between them. In contrast to the zoological method, using fire is allowed. Bait is also used: food, noises, smells, or equipment.
The possibility of an encounter is greater with the zoological method and the shepherd’s method then with the first two methods. The observers must stay as long as possible and alone in the area. It should be stressed that using one of the methods for a month is not adequate for a hominoid to come close to a researcher. According to Zeligman, the shepherd’s method is based on a string of cases that led to an encounter between hominoids and researchers. The corresponding descriptions should be "in the diaries of the field research groups". At any rate, there are no encounters described in the booklet which resulted from one of the named search methods. However, it can assumed that Zeligman’s own encounter in the 70’s in a shepherd’s hut in Kabardino-Balkaria in the northern Caucasus was as a result of applying the "shepherd’s method" . 4
The last part of Zeligman’s contribution is about people who work independently of the Moscow 'hominologists' in the known fieldwork areas: "One must note that at the present time some people (sometimes even the visitors of the seminar 5) do utilize the nonprofessional character of the search. They are allowed as tourists to go into the known search areas. [...] They are not concerned that they are violating the rights of those who were examining the district earlier and are carrying out search and interview work. The activities of such 'non-coordinated' groups are damaging, not only because the ethical norms, which are valid for all research work, are broken. They are in particular damaging because, with their clumsy - and sometimes simply not allowed - actions, they could damage the relationship between the researcher and the locals in the area [...]. [...] It is obvious that presently the fight against this disorganization can only be done with the help of the public’s opinion. For this, one could use the help of the Society of the Cryptozoologists, as well as the organizations with which these search participants are active." (pp. 18-19)
This viewpoint of the RSC of other, private researchers possibly explains the numerous conflicts between the Moscow 'hominologists' and other research groups, who also accompanied the field work in the Caucasus.6 They were also put down in Russian publications: According to the Moscow biologist N.N. Akoev, Koffmann for example in 1988 attempted to deter the work of the independent research groups of N.P. Avdeev, M.A. Gass, and N.N. Akoev.7
Koffmann’s most extensive contribution to the booklet is "About Interviewing the Population about the Problem of the Relic Hominoid." 8 In this, she gives basic tips about the correct behavior towards the locals during an interview. Difficulties in relationship to the taboo are explained. A collection of noteworthy questions for the eye witnesses and the form of an interview-protocol are presented. In an excerpt: "Formulation of the Protocols" (of the Interview) Koffmann writes:
" 1. The discussion should be written down carefully. But one can not always do that immediately. A notebook could startle the speaker. […] 4. If the conversation can not, for any reason, be written down at the interview location, one should write it down as soon as it is possible; but it must be on the same day. [...] 5. The protocol should be as similar as possible to the statements of the speaker. The notes should be as similar as possible to the story of the eye witness. [...] 6. The notes must be written in the first person style: "I went …" , "I heard…’ " (pp. 27-28)
If Koffmann’s own notes from the stories of the eye witnesses follow these rules, than they are retold stories. According to the mentality of the locals, such stories are usually incomplete. They are often not a timely and logical. In particular, this is the case in the Caucasus population. Significant dates are first learned by asking further questions. Gregory Panchenko, one of Koffmann`s coworkers, gives typical examples of such dialogues in the Caucasus.9 Therefore, one can assume that the literal speech of the eye witnesses in the reports published by Koffmann in the west not happened in that form.
Koffmann also points out problems that can occur during the translation of oral eye witness reports: "I was lucky enough to be there for the ‘Birth of the Legend.’. Right before my eyes, the translator added details which were not very believable – which I sensed – and which the eye witness had not said (which proved to be true). `But this way is much more interesting!' he later defended himself." (p. 25) Even today, the researcher is confronted with this problem. Usually neighbors or relatives are pulled in as a translator, if the eye witness has no, or only basic, knowledge of Russian. This is the case in the Caucasus, particularly in the former Soviet- Middle Asian republics.
The contribution from Ilja Treyger "Some special features about the behavior of the photographer" contain, in addition to other items, detailed instructions about how to photograph footprints. Treyger mentions the use of photo traps. In connection with the opinion of other researchers that the hominoid orientates itself on carnivorous birds, he describes using dead animals as bait for photography purposes. The technical notes about photography techniques and film materials that are given are out-of-date.
Another article from Koffmann and Andrej Kozlov deals with the "Determination, measurement, and fixating of the tracks of the life activities of the relic hominoid. (Added to by A. Danilov and V. Makarov)".10 The authors give tips on how to properly document hand- and footprints. The special features of the foot and the stride in comparison to man is also described. It is also mentioned that some ethnic groups of the former USSR used to walk around barefoot. Therefore it can be assumed these "strange features": a wider foot and unusually thick calluses.
A further contribution from Andrej Kozlov: "Working with other traces of life activities." Working with fingerprints, teeth marks, hair, traces of blood and excrement is explained. The contribution contains drawings of various bear tracks. This is intended to help the field work beginner to minimize confusion.
Alexander Butaev writes about "Contact with the local population (based on his experience searching in the republics of the northern Caucasus.)". This contains tips about how to behave when making contact with the local people. The meaning of the guest in the Caucasus is explained, and what this means for the rules of behavior for the researcher. Butaev stresses that "much is lost" in field work because the social rules weren’t known.
Mikhail Trachtenherz’s contribution to the booklet is: "How one should behave when meeting a relic hominoid." Behavior recommendations are given for three types of encounters: "A) Meeting man to man. The researcher goes to a place where tracks of the hominoid were found earlier and where he possibly has been seen by a local. […] Sometimes after leaving, the hominoid blocks the road again. Then it is necessary to walk purposefully in the direction of the village or the expedition camp. One shouldn’t allow himself to be pushed into unknown places. This is, of course, not a comfortable situation. B) The researchers are in groups of two or more, in a compact group. […] The main rule of behavior in this case is to always stay in the group and never separate, if you feel that you are near a hominoid. C) A local leads the researcher to the place where the hominoid stays." During this, the observers should pay attention to the advice of the locals, since the being is "often the object of cults and worship." (p. 73)
To make contact with a hominoid, Trachtenherz names feeding as a method rich in perspective. In her following commentary to Trachtenherz’ report, Koffmann describes him as an "experienced hunter and knowledgeable in the Taiga and the northern areas of the areals of the relic hominoids." She gives other recommendations for behavior during an encounter. For example, the observer should start to sing and dance in such a situation. Other recommendations are given on how to photograph in such a situation.
The booklet stimulates again the questions for the quantity and quality of the results of the Soviet-Russian field work since the 60s. With its in-depth experiences from 30 years of field work it is of particular importance for present and future field research.
1 "V.V. Rovov" is most likely Viktor Vjacheslav Rogov, RSC member, who participated in Maya Bykova’s fieldwork on the Kola Peninsula since 1988.
(see: A wild, almost animal-like fear)
2 The search for Russian literature about the so-called "relic hominoid" is a necessary component of the work on this problem. Because of this, a scientist in the Caucasus, Dr. Dshapar Salpagarov, who was previously in contact with Dr. Koffmann, was sought out during the field work in the Caucasus from a member of our study group in 2005. It was thought that he had possession of literature that is still unknown today. This assumption turned out to be true. Following numerous conversations, he was prepared to give a look into the here reviewed booklet, a publication up to 2006 unknown in the west. As the directore of the Teberdinskij zapovednik (Teberda Nature Reserve) in Karachajevo-Circassia Dr. Salpagarov made the publication of this booklet possible. He said that Dr. Koffmann gave him the instruction not to show the publication to anyone without her permission. During one of the talks with Salpagarov, he phoned with M. Polivanova, director of scientific work at the Teberda Nature Reserve, to ask her for other "Snowman" literature. M. Polivanova is one of Koffman's local informants and friendly with Koffmann since many years. Therefore, one could expect that Koffmann would learn from M. Polivanova that foreigners knew of the booklet. Through this, a publication of the booklet's contents from the Moscow 'hominologist' seemed to be possible. In 2006, Dr. Mikhail Trachtenherz, one of the vice presidents of the RSC, published the complete text of the booklet in his website www.alamas.ru in Russian language.
3 Makarov, Vadim. 2002. Atlas of the Snowman. Mocow: Sputnik Company+, 177-213 (in Russian)
4 op. cit. (note 3), p.179
5 The Smolin Seminar of the Moscow Darwin Museum, of which Dmitri Bayanov is the chair, is meant here.
6 Even today, the Moscow 'hominologists' are a purely private initiative without any governmental help.
7 Akoev, N.N. 1996. Systematics, ecology and problems of the search of the relic primate of the family Pseudohomo', 35, in: Sapunov, Valentin (ed.) 1996. Leshij: ecology, physiology, genetics. St. Petersburg: Rivera (in Russian).
8 The contributions from Koffmann, Questioning and Necessary steps when the body of a relic hominoid is found are reprinted in the appendix of Gregroy Panchenko’s book Catalogue of Monsters, Mocsow, 2002, but without any reference.
9 Panchenko, Gregory. 2002. Catalogue of Monsters. Moscow: Olma Press (in Russian), 120-136.
10 It can be assumed that "A. Danilov" is the same A. Danilov whose group had an encounter with three Almasty in daylight in the Caucasus. It was a female specimen with two youths, which could apparently be observed at a relatively close distance. This was probably for the first time published by Vadim Makarov in 2002 in Atlas of the Snowman.