Koffmann´s materials and results   Some comments.

The results of her work consist of the following parts:

  • more than 500 transcripts of statements from eyewitnesses
  • material traces (foot and finger traces, excrement, hair, bite marks and other), photographs
  • Knowledge of the landscape, the people and their changes since the 1960's
  • Knowledge about the relationship between people, wildmen and their history
  • Knowledge about the anatomy, behaviour and ecology of the species

All of these results are part of Koffmann's great monograph. Already in the 1970´s, she said in Moscow that her monograph was finished. Only the key chapter (obviously with the final evidence) was missing (Gris and Dick, 1978, p. 197). This monograph has not been published to date and probably never will. To correctly interpret the selection of her material which Koffmann published, it is necessary to be aware of some inaccuracies, omissions and distortions which it contains.

Her transcripts of the reports of eyewitnesses and information which comes from them are the basis and the main element of her published work. It is not possible to see which eyewitness reports have been published unedited. The original transcripts exist in written form in Russian (Mahuzier, 1982, p. 88). From the published material itself, the reader must come to the conclusion that the literal speech of the eyewitness is faithfully reproduced. The six years experience and investigations by members of our group suggests that in many cases this is not true. Koffmann did not use a tape recorder for the witness's statement. (A transportable tape recorder was difficult available for people in the Soviet Union.) Because of the psychology of the local inhabitants it is usually not possible to write down, word for word, the witness's statement. 

For the majority, the subject is taboo and an attempt to write down what is being retailed causes distrust. The story-teller was never in such a situation before. His story is not logically constructed and does not take account of the details of taking minutes. It is often impossible for him to understand the researcher's motivation. Probably the simple villager finds the process of taking minutes sometimes like an administrative measure. In a country which was for decades ruled by Stalinism, this can cause anxiety. Sometimes it is possible to write down single points. Often, even that is not possible. The report of the eyewitness must be later recalled from memory when being written down. How many subjective and objective factors can influence the later reconstruction need not be enlarged upon.

A further problem is the fact that many native people of the older generation speak only very bad Russian, if at all. Koffmann speaks none of the Caucasian languages. In the sixties and seventies, when Koffmann collected many of her reports, the share of those eyewitness's born before the Revolution was high. The questioning of this generation which is not alive today is perhaps the most valuable part of Koffmann's work. Frequently, the statements were made in very bad Russian. Often, translators were necessary when the story-teller spoke in a Caucasian language and younger family members or neighbours of the eyewitness were used for the purpose.

Since these translators have the same cultural background and know about the taboo, in our experience, they often change the content of the report in accordance with their own estimation. We comes to this conclusion with help of tape records of reports and their tranlslation by local people. In most cases the researcher cannot check the quality of the translation. When this translation is then written down as literal speech, changes of sense often take place and important parts of the story are misrepresented. We do not know how many of Koffmann's transcripts were made in this way. Indications as to how the reports of the eyewitness's were recorded by Koffmann are missing completely.
The published reports from eyewitness's and Koffmann's commentary give the impression that all reports have the character of a sober and realistic portrayal. Because of this arose, also by other scientists, the wrong impression that the Almasty played no role in the mythology and folklore of the indigenous people. Shackley (1983, p. 109), wrote, for example: "(...) These Caucasian reports describe hominides.., they have no place in fairy tale or fable, being thought of as rather a mundane part of the Caucasian fauna."

That is not correct. The hundreds of years of coexistence between wildmen and man brought forth, here as in other parts of the world, a richness in popular belief. These beliefs are an integral part of the folklore and mythology of the native people, as well as the regional folklore literature on this subject. Elements of reality and the fantastic are often mixed in the reports of the eyewitness's. For example, it is said about the wildmen that they have fantastic abilities. Certain legends are so deeply embedded in people's beliefs that one hears them again and again from natives, even from those who do not believe in the existence of the Almasty.

For these aforementioned reasons, one must suspect that a large part of Koffmann's transcripts were taken down from memory. The importance of particular details in the report could have been unknown at the time it was written down. Perhaps that would explain why the folklore element is not noticeable in her publications. Against this, she stresses the natural science character of the reports, but that does not apply to many of them. The writing of minutes for reports requires precisely then the highest exactitude when they are to be used to convince sceptics inside the scientific community, as Koffmann tried to do in the Soviet Union (Koffmann, 1965, p. 58).

In comparing the publications of Grover S. Krantz and Koffmann, the following is particularly noticeable: Krantz argumentation for the existence of the Sasquatch rests in the main upon material evidence, like, for example, footprints.
Eyewitness accounts, of which there are thousands in North America, play a small role. Koffmann's publications on the other hand are based mainly on reports from eyewitness's and discoveries which come from them. Her collection of material traces is not discussed. The existence of some material collectors objects were never mentioned. That led to the wrong conviction among some scientists that such traces were never found, like Thomas (1994, p.134). In Koffmann's much noted articles in Archeologia, which exclusively deal with the Almasty in the Caucasus, she published no footprint of the caucasian wildmen.

Instead, she published a photograph of a footprint from the Tienschan, Middle Asia. The original photograph shows a footprint from a hominid with extremely unusual, long, thin claws and was previously published in the old Soviet Union several times, for instance, by Bourtzeva (1978, p.53),  Koffmann (1968, p.86) and Porchnev (1964). Professor Kistyakovski (1969, p. 71) has already justifiably criticised this photograph. It is not suitable for convincing scientific opponents.
Why didn't Koffmann publish a footprint of the Caucasian Wildman from her own collection? She possesses a number of excellent casts and photographs from the Caucasus. Bayanov (1996, p. 40), published at last a very small photograph of such a trace. But, even he wrote in this connection:

    " (...) Marie-Jeanne Koffmann´s achievement in 1978, in fact her major achievement over the years, was the finding of a set of good tracks which she photographed and made casts of. (...) Regrettably, Koffmann has not published her photographs or any description of them yet, and this prevents others from doing anything about her findings. (...)"

It is established that Koffmann's main achievement is not these tracks. Her main achievement is the great knowledge about the species which she collected during more than thirty years of field-work.During the field-work of  SGP members in the Caucasus, the local people reported a few interesting details of Koffmann's work. Porchnev (1968 and 1974, p. 168), reported that Koffmann was with Merezhinski when he shot at a wildman. She was only a few meters away. Therefore the following report from local people is particularly surprising: Previously, Koffmann often visibly carried a pistol on her belt. Some say she had always carried a pistol. It is particularly astonishing that she carried this pistol in the Caucasian villages when she went to ask questions about the Almasty. It must be realised that that time, contrary to today, was peaceful, safe and politically stable. It was not necessary for self-protection in the villages. Then, it was possible to meet an Almasty at close quarters at the edge of a village. Who can know how they would react if they were suddenly face-to-face with a wildman?

Because of her manner, sometimes everyone was taken aback by her behaviour in the Caucasian villages. The appearance of this small, energetic and armed woman in a Muslim patriarchal male society was quite unusual. In addition to the pistol, she carried a knife, the length of which caused merriment among some locals. "She looks like a man and she is dressed like a man." said an old shepherd. Some local people are, to this day, convinced that Koffmann wanted to shoot an Almasty so that she could examine him. This is probably because she was armed and everyone knew what she was looking for.

Previously, Koffmann was occasionally helped in her field-work by Russian students and other people. Sometimes there must have been a strange atmosphere between her and her helpers, certainly related to Koffmann's character. In Paris she retailed that she was once in the mountains with a young helper in winter. She slipped on the ice of a frozen stream and presented a funny figure. "My helper wanted to laugh, but he was afraid to. I gave him permission to laugh."
The fact that she told this openly shows that she obviously found such a working atmosphere to be normal: Fear between the expedition participants. Local people reported that there were often arguments and problems between Koffmann and her young Russian helpers. Some of these simple and honest Caucasians were not blind to Koffmann's two faces. To many local people she was exaggeratedly friendly while she ordered some of her young Russian helpers about.We ask today whether the character of important representatives of Russian field-research do not stand in contradiction to the high moral standards required of someone seeking our nearest relatives. This also seems to apply to Maya Bykova, who met a wildman face-to-face. Even Bayanov (1996) wrote about this woman who was already more than 50: " (...) By character, she is independent and unpredictable, the pussy-cat that walks by herself (...)" .

Muaed Mysyrjan, in who's house Bykova lived in the Caucasus, said about her, "She had the character like a small child." Bykova's own description of her meeting with the wildman, "Mecheny", seems to support this (Bayanov, 1996, p.134). After many years of field-work, she was given the chance to establish direct contact with the wildmen. She waited for a meeting in Wolodja's hut. Her reaction at the appearance of the wildman showed that she obviously had no plan whatsoever: she ran out ofthe hut and then asked, "What next?" She had not even thought about the dog in the hut, which 'Mecheny' chased out.

We must ask ourselves a principle question: Are researchers such as Koffmann - and perhaps also Bykova - suitable due to their character, to work on a problem which demands high moral standards of the researcher? It requires great sensitivity, patience and self control. Perhaps, that is precisely the reason why Koffmann, after thirty years of field-work, failed to have the final great success.

Caucasian sheepherds









    Caucasian sheepherds