Richard Freeman is a good friend, a former zoo-keeper in the U.K., and someone who has undertaken numerous expeditions around the world – all in search of what are often referred to as “Cryptids,” but which many would likely call “monsters.” You can see the huge list of his expeditions at this link. It’s Richard’s work in the field of what we might call the “Russian Bigfoot” (the Almasty) that I’m focusing on today. Indeed, if you want to know all about the legendary Russian equivalent of Bigfoot, then Richard is definitely someone to approach for answers. After all, in 2008 he spent significant time in Russia, seeking out the Almasty. With that all said, let’s see what Richard says about the matter of the beast(s). Richard tells us: “Russia, or the one time Soviet Union, always seemed to be a step ahead of the west scientifically. They did, after all, get the first satellite into orbit, and the first man in space. They seemed to be forward thinkers and less hidebound and arrogant. In the 1950s, when the interest in the Himalayan Yeti was at its peak, most (though certainly not all) had more or less written off the creature. Not so the Soviets. Russian polymath Dr. Boris Porshnev seriously considered the existence of such a creature. Unlike most western scientists, he thought the creature might be a relic hominid – a relative of the ancestors of man – rather than a great ape.”
Photo taken by Nick Redfern
Richard continues: “Here I must personally disagree with him on the nature of the Yeti, but that is beside the point. He was a scientist with an active interest in the subject. Porshnev also found out that there were sightings of superficially similar creatures in the Soviet Union. In the Caucasus, the Pamirs, the Tien Chen and other areas were reports of hairy man-like creatures variously known as almasty, almas, dev, gul and many other names. There were records of encounters with such creatures. These seem smaller and more man-like than the classic ‘giant Yeti’ of Tibet and the Himalayas. These could, indeed be relic hominids.” Richard has more to say: “In 1958, the USSR Academy of Sciences, on Porshnev’s initiative, set up a special Commission on the ‘snowman’ question and launched an expedition to the Pamirs. Although it did not find a Yeti or almasty, the Snowman Commission was in existence for three years. It is hard to imagine any other government being so forward looking as to back a cryptozoological organization. During its three years, the Commission amassed a huge amount of information on sightings both modern and historical. As far back as the time of Carl Linnaeus the creature had been given the scientific name Homo troglodytes.”
And, there is more to come: “During the three years, Porshnev compiled and published yearbooks of information on the ‘Snowman.’ After the Commission was abolished he continued to compile information. Sadly, none of his books have been translated into English and even in Russia his books are rare, one having a print run of only 180. I have tried to get an inter-library loan of this book from Moscow Library with a view to photocopying it for translation, but I never did receive an answer. In 1960, Pyotr Smolin began a seminar on the subject at the Darwin Museum in Moscow. This encouraged a second generation of researchers including Dmitri Bayanov, Igor Bourtsev, Alexandra Bourtseva, V.Pushkarev, Maya Bykova, V.Makarov, M. Trachtengerts and Gregory Panchenko.”
“Fifty-one years after the Snowman Commission was disbanded, the Siberian Government set up a research institute based at Kemerovo University dedicated to the study of relic hominids. Officials of the Kemerovo administration in western Siberia have said that organizing an institute or a scientific center would be a logical continuation of research into the Yeti.” Richard is someone still very active in expeditions (aside, of course, from right now, as a result of the pandemic we’re all under), and, no doubt, one day more data on the matter of the Russian wild thing will surface. Keep a look out!