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The Russian Navy’s UFO Files, Then and Now: A Retrospective

The subject of UFOs has undergone a bit of a renaissance in recent weeks, following a landmark New York Times report that detailed the Pentagon’s ongoing interest in the phenomenon. However, these recent revelations are not the only government information that has been released on the subject in the last few years, nor are they by any means the most perplexing.

And to wit, neither is the United States the only country to have revealed documents that detail its interest in UFOs. Among the most unusual UFO disclosures that have occurred since the new millennium were the release of a series of Russian Navy files in 2009, detailing a number of bizarre underwater encounters with the strange objects.

“At last!” exclaimed Phil Ewing, writing at Navy Times‘ Scoop Deck blog. “Some post-Soviet documents the world can really sink its teeth into! Enough of this people-who-the-KGB-tried-to-assassinate nonsense: The Russian Navy has declassified its records of encounters with UFOs.” According to one naval intelligence officer quoted after the release, “[The objects] are most often seen in the deepest part of the Atlantic Ocean, in the southern part of the Bermuda Triangle, and also in the Caribbean Sea,” prompting former Russian navy officer Vladimir Azhazha to claim the documents “are of great value.”

So looking back, just what did the documents have to say on the subject, and how does it contrast with more recent dialogue on the subject of UFOs, following the release of information about a (possibly ongoing) Pentagon UFO program?

“On several occasions the instruments gave reading of material objects moving at incredible speed,” one sub commander was quoted by Wired. “Calculations showed speeds of about 230 knots, or 400 kph. Speeding so fast is a challenge even on the surface. But water resistance is much higher. It was like the objects defied the laws of physics. There’s only one explanation: the creatures who built them far surpass us in development.”

Russian language users on the popular Above Top Secret forum also managed to post translations of some of the relevant portions of the document, which included reports of strange lights that appeared to emanate from deep below the lake, which some observers had likened to light produced by electric welding:

(There is) very impressive data on the observation of a UFO in Baikal lake. (Within) the depths of the lake sailors repeatedly observed luminescence resembling searchlights and flashes similar to electric welding, as well as in the lake radius in the form of unexplained bright luminous silver discs and cylinders.

However, the most tantalizing incident that the report detailed, and one that was widely reported coinciding with the release of the Russian documents, involved an alleged incident that occurred in 1982, during which several divers were killed during a training exercise under mysterious circumstances:

In summer 1982 military divers, during their training, dived in the water of Lake Baikal several times and almost came face-to-face with underwater swimmers in their body-fitting silver jumpsuits. They looked similar to normal people, only about three meters tall. In addition, at a depth of 50 meters, (the beings) had neither an aqualung, or any other devices, but their heads were concealed in spherical helmets. Attempting to catch (the) unidentified divers ended tragically. From seven people trying to do this using a net, four became disabled and three died.

Laik Baikal as seen from satellite imagery, featuring an unusual circular area of think ice believed to have been caused by convection.

These incidents, and in particular the 1982 account involving divers that were injured or killed, are very unusual, to say the least. In truth, they have perplexed many of us for years; are they an early instance of Russian “fake news” and propaganda, which media in different countries–America in particular–bought hook, line, and sinker? Or, to the contrary, had the odd nature of the Russian releases been due to the fact that the tone of the information differed from the way U.S. government agencies might have dealt with similar disclosures (which have traditionally maintained secrecy toward the UFO subject)?

On an interesting side note, Lake Baikal has long been associated with strange phenomena and, yes, even UFOs. In 1946, Russian science fiction writer Alexander Kazantsev wrote a fiction short story titled “A Visitor From Outer Space” which offered an imaginative explanation for the 1908 Tunguska Blast: it was caused by the explosion of a Martian spacecraft’s nuclear engine, as it attempted to gather water from the lake.

The U.S. Navy has also disclosed information pertaining to incidents that seem to have involved UFOs. One widely reported case involved the USS Princeton, which according to a 2004 report had been tracking mysterious objects for several weeks. Popular Mechanics reported of the incident that “two F/A-18F (twin seater) Super Hornets from the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz were flying 100 miles off the coast of San Diego when a nearby U.S. Navy guided missile cruiser, the USS Princeton, contacted them and asked what weapons they were carrying.”

Still image from footage of one of the responding Super Hornets during the famous 2004 USS Princeton incident.

At the time, the Super Hornets were carrying unfirable AIM-9 Sidewinder “dummies,” to which the USS Princeton responded by saying, “Well, we’ve got a real-world vector for you,” which led to an interception attempt with a pair of objects, one of which had been located directly below an area of churning water, the other hovering approximately 50 feet above the surface. Neither of the unusual objects, detailed in the Popular Mechanics article, were able to be intercepted or identified. The fighters from the Nimitz were able to document parts of this interception on film, parts of which were publicly disclosed last year coinciding with the December 2017 New York Times article.

For many who ignored UFO reports such as these, and dismissed them as being far-fetched, the December 2017 New York Times article on Luis Elizondo and the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. program (along with accompanying video purporting to show the objects) was indeed revelatory. However, as such naval records obtained from both U.S. and Russian sources listed above have shown, the Times article was only the most recent installment in a long, confusing narrative involving unusual phenomenon in our skies–and our seas–for which no conclusive explanation has yet been offered.


Micah Hanks is a writer, podcaster, and researcher whose interests cover a variety of subjects. His areas of focus include history, science, philosophy, current events, cultural studies, technology, unexplained phenomena, and ways the future of humankind may be influenced by science and innovation in the coming decades. In addition to writing, Micah hosts the Middle Theory and Gralien Report podcasts.
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