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In the Caucasus. View to the main range in Karachaij
In the Caucasus: Main range in Karachay

The grande dame of the Caucasus Almas*

Dr Marie-Jeanne Koffmann is an almost legendary figure in Cryptozoology. She is the president of the Russian Society of Cryptozoologists and honorary member of the International Society of Cryptozoology. There is hardly a book about the world-wide phenomen of unknown hominids where she is not mentioned.

She is French and was born, 1919, in Paris. During Stalin's 'Reign of Terror' against his own people, with the infamous 'Show trials', her family moved, probably on political grounds, to the Soviet Union. It was during that time that 'Stalin made Lenin's metaphers a reality' (Sinjavskij). She took part in the Second World War as a volunteer. After the war she was interned for several years in one of Stalin's punishment GULAGS, the horrors of which Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solschenizyn revealed to the world in his books. Later she worked as a surgeon in Moscow. In 1958 she took part in the great soviet snowman expedition among the leadership of  professor Kyril Stanjukovitch to the Pamir and later worked independently in Azerbaijan.

She became aware of the north and central Caucasus through the results of the field work of  Prof. A. Mashkovtsev in 1960, a member of the Soviet Snowman Commission. "Ses recherches sont à la base de toute notre Odyssée caucasienne" Porchnev wrote in 1974 (p.162). Since 1962 Koffmann worked with some breaks in this area (Opryschko, 1964; Porchnev, 1974). In 1975 she retired and has, since then, spent many months every year in the Caucasus. Her work has been financially difficult because the old-age pension in the Soviet Union was very small. Expenses, such as vehicle repairs, spare parts etc., created serious problems under the prevailing soviet conditions. She received no official support for her work.

The Russian Society of Cryptozoologists (RSC) was founded in Moscow in 1987. This was possible due to Michael Gorbatschov's new political initiatives. Koffmann is the president of this organisation. The economic situation in the Soviet Union got worse at the end of the 1980's and inflation caused great hardship, particularly for those on fixed incomes such as pensioners. Due to the better pension rights, Koffmann returned to France in 1990.

Russian research into relic hominids has for decades been under the influence of this difficult and inconsistent woman. "Almost all hominologists of the second generation, Bayanov and Bourtsev included, did their <<apprenticeship>> in Koffmann´s self-funded expeditions." (Bayanov, 1996, p. 83). Porchnev (1963, 1968 and 1974), pointed out that the value and importance of Koffmann´s work cannot be stated too highly. As with other Russian research findings, her material is generally undervalued in the West. The fault for this lies in the publication methods of RSC researchers and we will highlight some aspects of this. Porchnev (1974, p.178), wrote: " (...) La science soviétique et même la science mondiale le doivent à Marie-Jeanne Koffmann qui, depuis 1962, a transporté en Kabarda sa base de recherches et d´étude.(...)". Today it must be qualified, that this material, belonging to world science, is not available and much of the RSC research material is locked away.

The Russian researchers deserve great credit for their very interesting material, collected and published sometimes under difficult conditions which are hard for westerners to appreciate. In the Soviet Union, where it could be very dangerous to state a personal opinion that differed from the official position, the fact deserves great respect. At the first meeting in early 1995 between two members of the german study group and Koffmann in Paris, she said: "I know more about these creatures than anyone else in the world" - this is probably true.

* Shackley in Wavell,  1992

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