The psychic predictions for 2023 are slowly rolling in and the 16th century seer Nostradamus has predicted his usual doom and gloom for the world. An interesting interpretation of one of his 942 quatrains concerns a “monkey of fortune with a twisted tongue” who will show up next year to “raise up the Church militant.” The prognostication seems to be warning of a human-monkey soldier that Nostradamus predicts will be created by the masterminds who run the Russian military, which is running out of soldiers due to its war with Ukraine. Some of you may remember learning about Josef Stalin’s alleged quest in the 1920s to cross humans with ape to build super-warriors for his army. It was assumed that his mad scientist never accomplished that task. Could one or more have survived? Are the plans still around … waiting for a new mad scientist with better technology? While this sounds like a project that needs modern reproductive doctors and gene editors, it turns out there is a story of a similar group of human-ape hybrids in ancient Sri Lanka who are credited with building a bridge. Has a cross between Brave New World and Planet of the Apes already existed? Let’s find out.
“I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat.”
According to reports from 1926, Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin ordered the Academy of Science to build him a “living war machine”. The project was assigned to Ilya Ivanov, a leading Soviet biologist credited with perfecting artificial insemination to use in for horse breeding. His success in fertilizing hundreds of mares with the sperm of one stallion caught the attention of the megalomaniacal Stalin who saw this as something that should be used on humans … but with a twist. Instead of creating super humans through selective breeding, Stalin proposed creating super hybrids by mating humans and apes. The leader had a friend in Ivanov, who in 1910 had given a presentation to the World Congress of Zoologists meeting in Graz, Austria, where he described creating ape-human hybrids through artificial insemination.
"The biggest problem is to catch living females."
Ivanov actually obtained funding from the Pasteur Institute in Paris to go to what was then French Guinea in West Africa to capture female chimpanzees – a task he found unexpectedly challenging. Nonetheless, he managed to artificially inseminate three female chimpanzees with human sperm – unlike in the movies, none became pregnant. Figuring he must be doing it the wrong way, the records indicate he took the next horrific step of impregnating African women with ape sperm - again with no success. Returning to the Soviet Union, Ivanov was said to have switched to orangutan males but was unable to continue because his last healthy ape died. As immoral and unethical as it sounds today, Ivanov was arrested after a political regime change but allowed to continue his work and experiments in primate research at the Kazakh Veterinary-Zoologist Institute until his death in 1932. To show how respected Ilya Ivanov was by his peers, his obituary was written by Russian and Soviet physiologist and psychologist Ivan Pavlov (of salivating dog fame) wrote an obituary for him.
Could Ilya Ivanov have been successful had he been aware of a mysterious civilization of humanoid monkeys believed by many to have lived 18,000 years ago in Sri Lanka? The ancient Hindu epic Ramayana tells the stories of the vanara – a species of human-monkey hybrids who were said to have built the Rama Setu, a bridge across the ocean between Rameswaram, an Indian island city, and Lanka, which is now Sri Lanka. The 24.9 mile (40 km) structure was built by varanas under the management of Nala, a varana who is also described as the creator of the varanas.
According to the Ramayana, an army of vanaras or half-humans/half-monkeys (‘vanara; comes from the Sanskrit vana ("forest") and nara ("man")) defeated the Sri Lankan demon king Ravan and rescue his wife Sita from captivity. They was said to have strength and agility far beyond that of humans, and had fur and tails. Were they the result of an ancient experiment? The Ramayana says Hanuman, the most powerful of the vanaras, was the son of the wind god Vayu but also had monkey-like features and abilities. In order to rescue Sita from the island, the huge vanaras built a bridge from mainland India to Lanka out of stones and boulders. According to the legend, the bridge resembled a mountain range and took the superhuman-monkeys only five days to complete. This bridge, known as Ram Setu (Adam's Bridge), actually exists – it is a chain of natural limestone shoals between Pamban Island off the south-eastern coast of Tamil Nadu, India, and Mannar Island, off the north-western coast of Sri Lanka. Geologists believe Ram Setu was once a solid land connection between the two countries across the Gulf of Mannar. Parts of it are above water and the rest is rarely under more than three feet (one meter) of water, making it a severe hazard to boating. There are reports that Ram Setu could be traveled on foot until the 15th century when a cyclone broke it, deepened the channel and submerged parts of it.
"The images reproduced on the websites may well be ours, but their interpretation is certainly not ours. [...] Remote sensing images or photographs from orbit cannot provide direct information about the origin or age of a chain of islands, and certainly, cannot determine whether humans were involved in producing any of the patterns seen."
Ram Setu and the varanas were back in the news in 2007 when NASA satellite images clearly showed the bridge connecting the two countries. Arguments arose between believers of the vanaras and believers in geology – the dispute created tensions between religions and both governments over the origin of the bridge and the effect the photos had on religious beliefs and religious tourism.
Are there still varanas in the world? That would require them to have existed 18,000 years ago and somehow become the monkey hybrid offspring of a god - no fossil evidence of them has been found. Did Ilya Ivanov secretly succeed in his ghastly experiments and create human-monkey hybrids or at least the blueprints for masking them when medical science and genetics were better? It is unlikely that Soviet and Russian leaders would have kept this a secret and not used them for Stalin’s original purpose of super-warriors. There is no known evidence of a ‘humanzee’ existing – suspects like Oscar the human-looking chimp turned out to be real chimps with odd faces. However, there is evidence that the experimentation continues.
In 2021, American geneticist Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte and a team of researchers in China announced they had successfully injected 25 human stem cells into developing five-day-old macaque monkey embryos, 103 pf 132 human-monkey chimera embryos were still alive after 10 days, and 3 survived for 20 days before they were destroyed.
Or were they? Any more predictions, Nostradamus?