Tuesday 2nd November 2021



For centuries people living in what used to be Soviet Central Asia have been reporting encounters with something called the almasty, a huge, hair-covered, wild man which can reach a height of seven and a half feet. The almasty is only supposedly aggressive when provoked, and appears to eat a wide range of foods, having a similar diet to the European brown bear. However, it is most certainly not a bear, because it exhibits very primitive tool use, and evidence of a higher intelligence, such as one would expect from an ape.

This week the British-based Centre for Fortean Zoology [CFZ] have received a fascinating, potentially game-changing, sample from German Cryptozoologist Hans Jorg Vogel. He was lucky enough to acquire what has been touted as the toenail and attached tufts of hair from an almasty that had been collected in the mid-1940s in the Altai region of Russia. Vogel generously decided to have the specimen divided into a number of smaller parts, and distributed them to researchers around the world for them to examine and test.

This morning, the CFZ specimen was parcelled up again, and sent to Danish zoologist Lars Thomas who has been working with the CFZ for many years and who has examined many specimens on their behalf. In 2009, for example, he examined hairs brought back from Sumatra by an expedition searching for the fabled Orang Pendek, an upright walking ape. Thomas discovered that they were from an unknown primate related to, but distinct from, an orangutan.

CFZ Zoological Director Richard Freeman states that although the specimen was probably originally carved from a hoof, and was a hoax from a sideshow. He also stated that “we would not be doing our job properly if we didn’t investigate this specimen fully”.

This intriguing specimen is not the only piece of almasty-related news for the CFZ recently. Firstly, in 1957 at the height of the Cold War, the government of the USSR created the Snowman Commission, a group created specifically to investigate reports of wild men or relic hominids known as the almasty in Russia. It was perhaps also in response to British expeditions to search for the ‘yeti’ in the Himalayas or the hunt for the sasquatch in the USA and Canada.

The Snowman Commission was the only known operation of its kind, with government backing, known to have taken place. It was based at the Darwin Museum in Moscow and carried out expeditions to the Pamir Mountains and the Caucasus. Members consisted of the cream of Soviet science such as Pyotr Smolin, curator of the Darwin Museum, Dr Marie Jeanne-Koffman surgeon and mountaineer, biologist Dimitry Bayanov and headed by Dr Boris Proshnev of the Soviet Academy of Sciences.

The group was disbanded after a few years but continued to meet and research, Marie Jeanne-Koffman carrying out four decades worth of expeditions herself. In 1963 Dr Porshnev published the findings of the Commission, both from its official and unofficial searches. It was called ‘The present state of the problem of relic hominoids’. Only 180 copies were ever printed and then the book was forgotten. It was never translated or read outside of Russia, until now.

The Centre for Fortean Zoology, the world’s largest cryptozoological research organization is now presenting Porshnev’s lost work in English, for the first time. With the help of the late Dimitry Baynov, of the Snowman Commission, cryptozoologist Richard Freeman was able to track down Dr Porshnev’s great-grandson Boris Ovchinnikov, now living in the USA. Boris had a first draft of his grandfather’s work and gave the CFZ his blessing to re-publish it in English.

Now Dr Porshnev’s book, hardly read even in his own country, is available to the world.

Translated by the Danish zoologist Lars Thomas and edited by Dr Chris Clark the book contains masses of information never seen by researchers outside of the USSR. Richard Freeman states that “This is a goldmine of lost information never before seen by western researchers. It contains accounts taken from across the former USSR, Central Asia and the Himalayan region. CFZ Press hopes to publish other ‘lost’ works like these and bring the forgotten work of other researchers to light. Renamed with the catchier title The Soviet Sasquatch, the book is now available from CFZ Press.


Richard Freeman is available for interview on 07954634919

Jon Downes is available for interview on 01237431413

Pictures and review copies of The Soviet Sasquatch are available on request.

Jonathan Downes
Cryptozoologist, naturalist, musician, singer, composer, poet, novelist and Director of the Centre for Fortean Zoology since 1992. Jon was born in Portsmouth in 1959 and spent his infancy in Nigeria and his childhood in Hong Kong. His wife Corinna died of cancer in 2020, leaving him with two stepdaughters and a six year old granddaughter called Evelyn.