In Search Of The Alma and Wild Snowmen Of Russia
“Alma” is the most common name for a primitive, almost-human creature that is said to live in the wildest and most remote parts of Russia and Mongolia. The alma is known by many other names, but seems to be the more refined cousin of America’s Bigfoot or the Yeti of the Himalayas. Where Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman seem to be more ape-like, the alma is almost invariably described as less hairy and more human looking. In some cases, they are even said to possess speech and clothing.
Is it possible that such beings…almost literally cavemen…can still live in the 21st century? In Russia, scientific study of the alma is taken seriously and there are several respected researchers who have devoted their lives to finding out more about the elusive near-men. And the rugged people who have lived in the areas where the alma have been seen regard them as a natural part of the landscape, not much different than a bear or a moose. But sightings have been more and more infrequent since the 20th century. Time may have already run out for the almas!
As long ago as the 15th Century, travelers from the west brought back tales of apemen living in the rugged, untamed lands of the East. Such a traveler was Hans Schiltberger, who’s own story was an exciting adventure. Schiltberger was a German nobleman who was taken prisoner by Mongol warriors but nevertheless treated courteously. While a prisoner, Schiltberger was amazed to see two “animal-men”, a male and female, given as a kind of gift to the warlord who had captured him. They were stocky and covered with hair except for their faces, which were bare. These were “almas” and they were looked at as animals little different than monkeys or other apes. They were supposedly fairly common but becoming rarer at that time.
Almost four hundred years later, the great naturalist Przhevalski included almas in his survey of Oriental animals. He described them as a cross between men and apes. He also described a strange type of horse with a bristly ridge running down its neck. Europeans laughed at Przhevalski’s descriptions of these creatures. But Przhevalski’s Horse was later discovered roaming Mongolia and it has been accepted by science as a separate species of horse. It stands to reason that if Przhevalski was telling the truth about the horse, he was also telling the truth about the almas.
As war and chaos engulfed the Soviet Union in the early days of the 20th century, men began to penetrate into the lonely areas where the almas were seen. In 1925, as Russian Communists fought to purge the last “White Russians” from the land, General Mikhail Topil’skiy thought he had cornered a faction of rebels in a virtually uninhabited section of the rugged Pamir Mountains. The Reds approached a cave where they believed the Whites were holed up. Suddenly, there was a screech and a commotion from within the cave and a hairy figure ran out, either in a panic or a rage. The soldiers instantly shot the strange figure dead.
Topil’skiy studied the body of the odd individual and was shocked to discover that it was not even a man, much less a rebel soldier. The alma was 5 and a half feet tall and covered with greyish-brown hair except for the face, hands and feet. Its skin was dark and rough and its chest was massively built. As far as facial features went, the alma had a bony brow ridge, a sloping forehead, and a flat, puggish nose. The General was struck just as much by the wildman’s humanity as his apishness.
And what became of the body? Stranded hundreds of miles from civilization, in a time of war, Topil’skiy and his soldiers buried it beneath a mound of stones. And there, perhaps, still lies the body of a creature who could revolutionize anthropology if it were ever discovered…
That was not the only time the Russian military crossed paths with the wildmen. In 1941, as the Soviet Union was embroiled in the fury of World War II, Colonel V. S. Karapetyan received a peculiar request to examine a most unusual “spy” who was found lurking in the mountains of Dagestan. The local soldiers did not know what to make of the prisoner, who could not speak. Karapetyan entered the tent where the prisoner was kept…and encountered something that did not seem quite human.
Karapetyan’s description was scientifically exact and he also drew a good sketch of the wildman who sat unblinking in a chair before him. The creature was naked but seemed to have a shaggy pelt on the chest, back and upper legs. The rest of the body was merely very hairy, in a more typically human fashion. The alma was not tall but had an extremely muscular build. “He stood before me like a giant,” noted Karapetyan, ” with his mighty chest thrust forward….On the whole, he was considerably bigger than any of the local inhabitants.” There was little or no sign of intelligence: “His eyes told me nothing. They were dull and empty, the eyes of an animal.”
The local tribesmen knew of similar creatures and called them Kaptars…a local variation of the alma. Karapetyan was at a loss for what to do with the “spy”. He knew this was no Nazi or rebel. He could not hold him. With war raging all around and men fighting for their lives, there was no time for scientific study. Karapetyan returned to his post, leaving the Kaptar in the hands of his mostly uneducated captors. Word later came that the wildman was simply shot and buried.
Serious scientific study of almas has taken place, but war and skepticism have taken their toll on those determined to learn more about the elusive humanoids. In 1913, Russian scientist V. A. Khaklov wrote a detailed study of almas, but in the chaos of the Russian Revolution, his papers were lost or destroyed. Perhaps the greatest investigator into the alma was Prof. Zhamtsarano, who spent a great deal of time in Mongolia looking into the creature’s existance. Zhamtsarano was convinced the almas were common and he was said to even have illustrations of them taken from life. But the Professor ran afoul of “Uncle Joe” Stalin and was sentenced to the Gulag, where he died a miserable death. His research disappeared with him.
In more modern times, two women have taken up the search. Marie-Jean Koffman has spent time in the remote Altai Mountains studying the almas. She has never seen one herself, but she has collected footprints, hair samples from an “unknown” primate, and observed rough “nests” of branches which almas used as shelters. Myra Shackley proposed the theory that almas are surviving members of the Neanderthals. Indeed, descriptions of the almas sometimes coincide nicely with the stocky, rugged Neanderthals. But recent research has shown that Neanderthals were much more intelligent and organized than they were originally given credit for. It seems unlikely that they would have become the dull-witted and animalistic almas unless a great degeneration had taken place.
A question regarding Neanderthals has always been: were they able to breed with homo sapiens? A startling story from Russia seems to suggest that the almas are indeed able to breed successfully with normal humans.
The story of Zana
In the 1880s a strange woman – later given the name Zana or Zanya – with features of both mongoloid and negroid extraction was captured in the western Caucausus region. Here hoinoids are known as abnuaaya. Her exotic features were enough to describe her as unusual, but it was her coat of reddish-black hair, which covered her from head to foot and her physically imposing body which made her even more extraordinary. She was powerful enough to actually outrun horses and was able to easily swim swift-flowing rivers.
The region of the globe that the story of Zana comes from is Abkhazia in northwestern Georgia. This region lies east of the Black Sea and borders on the Russian Federation. What is known of Zana occurs in a village called T’khina that lies on the Mokva River (Latitude 42º 51’ 50″ N, Longitude 41º 33’ 08″E) roughly 50 miles from Sokhumi (city of 112,000 people). The map above shows Georgia in light colors with Abkhazia in the northwest quadrant.
Zana was captured sometime in the mid 1800’s. The manner in which she was captured is unclear, some reports have her being accidentally found, others have her being captured by hunters on purpose. It is only needed to be stated at this point that she was captured and eventually became the possession of a nobleman named Edgi Genaba.
She was housed in an enclosure of some type for a period of about three years. In this time she had very little human contact. Her food was thrown to her and she dug holes to sleep in. Eventually she grew calm around humans and was moved out of the enclosure, and was given freedom to roam about the countryside.
In captivity Zana was passed on to a successor of owners commencing with Prince D.M. Achaba, titular head of the Zaadan region, and then ultimately into the hands of a nobleman, Edgi Genaba, from Tkhina on the Mokva River. The bizarre hominoid was well-treated by her master who taught her simple tasks to perform around the farm. It is said that she had a fondness for wine, and this is how her pregnancies came about. The wine would nullify her enough that she would become pregnant on at least six (6) different occasions by possibly six (6) different men of the village. The first few offspring died due to Zana washing them in water after birth, but the last four (4) offspring survived by the help of the village women who took the children.
Of these four children, there were two of each sex. The children grew up to be like the villagers, with some physical differences. Each of these children reproduced and there are now descendants throughout the region. These progeny were fairly normal except all were dark and physically powerful. One son had the power to lift a man on a chair off the ground by means of his powerful jaws. Unlike their mother, Zana’s children turned out to be quite talented with one son an accomplished pianist.
Zana died sometime in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
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