THE DEVELOPMENT OF UFOLOGY IN RUSSIA
UFO AND POLITICS
Several Episodes in the 40-Year History of Soviet UFOlogy
by Lev Chulkov
Lev Chulkov was born in Moscow on May 5, 1938. In 1962 he graduated from the Moscow Aviation Institute. Ph.D. Chulkov specializes in Mechanics and applied mathematics. He heads the Department of UFOlogy at the Interbranch Scientific and Technological Centre of Venturing and Nontraditional Technologies "Vent." He has taken an interest in ufology since 1960. His book "The Sons of the Stars" was the first in this country to lay down the Extraterrestrial concept of UFOs.
"We notice a bright object high in the sky. The object is moving from north to south. We fetch three powerful binoculars from our tents. We observe a large spheroidal object glittering in the sun. It is seen clearly against the blue sky. It moves very quickly. Then we notice that the object changes its direction and moves to the Southwest where it disappears beyond the snowy Humboldt Ridge. The whole camp follows this unusual phenomenon...." (N. Roerich, "The Heart of Asia")
One may think that one such sighting is a good enough impetus to start serious investigations into UFOs but academic science in this country would not study these phenomena. The position of military and civilian authorities made this kind of investigation impossible.
Let us follow the course of development of ufology in this country during the last four decades.
As early as the beginning of the 50's J. Stalin ordered S. Korelev to study the phenomenon of UFO but S. Korolev managed to avoid fulfilling this task.
Meanwhile some enthusiastic scholars took an interest in the problem. Among them were: Yu. Fomin, A. Kazantsev, Yu. Roszius, V. Rubtsov, A. Tikhonov, P. Stolyarov, F. Zigel and others. We must make a special mention of the late Felix Zigel who died on November 20, 1988. He was an astronomer who started investigating UFOs as early as 1955 and continued these investigations courageously and productively until his very last days. He had authored over ten large volumes on ufology, none of which came out during his lifetime. He brought together informal groups of investigators, arranged expeditions to UFO landing places when the very subject was unrecognized and banned, organized collection and analysis of primary ufological data conducted a broad exchange of information with foreign scholars and appeared to a lot of different organizations and authorities trying to prove that the problem of UFOs was real and extremely significant. On November 10, 1967, Professor F. Zigel, Air Force General P. Stolyarov and Navigator V. Akkuratov were given a chance to state their case on National Television.
Thousands of people from all over the country responded to that programme. Letters from eyewitnesses, often with drawings and photographs enclosed, poured into the contact address.
The authorities of official bodies chose a different course of action. For instance, reports from civil pilots of UFO sightings were directed to the State Scientific-Research Institute of Civil Aviation. Lots of telegrammes came to the chief Administration of the Hydrometeorological Service. Packages of reports arrived at the Astronomical Council of the USSR Academy of Sciences. But each boss was much too fond of his chair, so all information of this type was safely stored at the bottom of drawers and in king-size vaults.
During those years the Moscow Planetarium took a very negative stand on the problem of UFOs. They had a ready-made printed letter to answer numerous requests. It ran as follows:
The phenomenon you observed must be connected with one of the experiments aimed at measuring the density of atmosphere at high altitudes and with launching a sodium cloud (of the type which was formed during the flights of space rockets).
On January 8, 1961, the newspaper "Pravda" carried an article entitled "Myths of Flying Saucers" which expressed Academician Artsimovich's opinion of UFOs. The article dealt the problem a crushing blow and gave a start to ridicule and persecution of UFOlogists. The noted investigator Yu. Fomin was one of the victims. He was struck off the Register of the "Znaniye" (Knowledge) Society's official lecturers.
On May 17, 1967, the Initiative Group of UFO investigators (45 persons) had a meeting at the House of Aviation and Cosmonautics in Moscow. They elected Major-General P. Stolyarov their President and F. Zigel - his Deputy. In October 1967 the Manager of the House, Major-General L. Reino assisted in establishing the UFO Department of the All-Union Committee of Cosmonautics. 350 people including representatives of the mass media attended the first session of the Department on October 18, 1967.
However, the Department was disbanded by Army General A. Ghetman's order late in November 1967. The State dealt ufologists a second blow.
The third one came soon after, before the investigators could regain their senses: late in 1967 Academician Artsimovich initiated a resolution passed by the Department of General and Applied Physics which he was heading. The resolution condemned investigation of UFOs in this country. The leading newspaper "Pravda" followed up with the article "Flying Saucers Again?" on February 29, 1968.
On February 5, 1968, the problem of UFOs was discussed at the Journalists Club in Moscow. On February 16, 1968, 13 leading designers and engineers - members of the Initiative Group - addressed a letter to A. Kosygin, Chairman of the USSR Council of Ministers. In their letter they reasoned that the problem of UFOs was real and global in its essence and proved its scientific and strategic significance.
Of course the letter never reached the Prime-Minister, like none of thousands of other letters. The answer came on March 11, 1968, from Academician A. Shchukin. Each sentence in his response was a lie, and that is no exaggeration.
Zigel and those who shared his ideas made another attempt to break through the "wall of silence" surrounding the problem of UFOs. They compiled a voluminous book "Inhabited Cosmos" which contained articles by the best Russian and foreign scholars on the problem. The book was being compiled at a printing house when its publication was interrupted. Academician Artsimovich interfered and 32 "seditions" articles on ufology were excluded. The manuscripts were not returned to Zigel in spite of his insistent requests. The castrated "Inhabited Cosmos" came out in 1972.
In December 1976 another ufologist R. Varlamov, an ex-official of the State Committee for Science and Technology, appealed to A. Kosygin once again and suggested that scientific investigation of UFOs be organized in this country. The letter was passed over to the Expert Commission of the Department of General and Applied Physics of the USSR Academy of Sciences. The answer was an excellent example of the Soviet scientific administration's attitude to everything new. It is worth citing verbatim:
"Your materials were transfered to the Department of General Physics and astronomy of the USSR Academy of Sciences. We inform you that as early as 1961 the Department's Bureau stated that:
Lately, Soviet newspapers and magazines have carried reports of so-called "flying saucers," meaning various objects emitting light, which are passed for phenomena unknown to Science or for space vehicles launched from other worlds. These speculations have no scientific basis, and phenomena observed are of a well known nature. The Bureau of the Department of General Physics and Astronomy passed the following resolution on this matter:
1. to entrust the General Council of the All-Union Astronomic and Geodesic Society to intensify explanatory work concerning "flying saucers;"
2. to condemn the unhealthy sensationalism, being fraudulent in its character, as it deceives the population of this country;
3. to request all members of the Department to fight against this unhealthy sensationalism;
4. to publish an Open Letter on behalf of the Department to expose fabrications concerning "flying saucers."
ACADEMY OF SCIENCES
May 10, 1977
In the same year the magazine "Zemlya i Vselennaya" (Earth and the Universe) carried an article by Professor D. Martynov of the Moscow State University called "Flying Saucers - a Test for Intellect" in which he stated "all that was based on profit, circulation, royalties, cheap renown etc." The professor tested his own intellect and failed the "examination."
Meanwhile life went on. At 4 a.m. on September 20, 1977 the most spectacular unidentified object appeared over Petrozavodsk City, Russia. It gave a 12-minute show of surprising transformations. The newspaper "Sotsialisticheskaya Industriya" (Socialist Industry) wrote on September 23, 1977:
"...a huge star shone brightly against black skies sending clusters of rays earthwards. The star was floating slowly towards Petrozavodsk and then spread medusa-wise over the city. It hovered continuing to pour a multitude of the finest rays over the city; it all looked like a very heavy rain. Yu. Gromov, Director of the Petrozavodsk Hydro-Meteorological Observatory told a TASS reporter that the meteorolgical service of Karelia had not observed anything of the kind before... Yu. Gromov went on to emphasize that to his knowledge no technological experiments were being conducted in those parts at the time..."
Reports from people who had sighted unusual phenomena came in large numbers from other parts of the Soviet Union and from foreign countries, as well.
F. Zigel wrote at that time: "On September 20, 1977 strange phenomena in the sky were sighted from Helsinki to Petrozavodsk and from Pskov all the way to Murmansk... from 3 a.m. til dawn." Later he arrived at the conclusion that several dozen objects were sighted that night.
Meanwhile persecution of ufologists did not stop for a day. I recall an incident I witnessed directly. The people's University of Scientific and Technological Knowledge was established in a Moscow club. Its curricula included lectures on problems of UFOs. You know what happened? Soon plain-clothed KGB agents called on the club manager - a woman, and nearly frightened her to death. The doors of the hospitable club closed forever on ufologists soon after.
Eventually state authorities realized that the problem of UFOs could not be dealt with that easily. In 1982 the Commission on Paranormal Phenomena was established. It was headed by the academy Corresponding Member V. Troitsky. Twice Hero of the Soviet Union, Pilot-Cosmonaut, Air Force Major-General P. Popovich, the USSR Academy of Sciences Corresponding Member N. Zheltukhin and Academician G. Pisarenko were appointed his Deputies. Unfortunately the Commission completely failed to carry out its tasks.
Neither did ufologists get the right to officially sponsored research nor did reporters get the right to cover these topics in newspapers. Simultaneously, experts from the USSR Academy of Sciences were authorized to become censors. All manuscripts concerning UFOs were to be submitted to them. No editor-in-chief could publish a ufological article without their clearance. The General Censorship, known both in this country and outside it as Glavlit, observed this order vigilantly.
Yet, there's many a slip, and the censors overlooked a sensational article in the newspaper "Trud" on January 30, 1985 entitled "At 4:10 Sharp". The article reported an episode when a UFO with a lighted outline the size of Pskov Lake followed a TU-134A passenger plane (Flight No 8352) till it landed in Tallinn. The object was clearly seen on the radar screen.
At the same time another TU-134 plane was flying from Leningrad (St. Petersburg) to Tbilisi and the Control Tower informed its crew that there was a strange "tandem" right on their course. When First Pilot V. Gotsiridze, the Commander of the Tbilisi plane, noticed the object he decided to approach it and have a better look at it. That cost him his life.
The Unidentified Object shot a scanning ray which travelled over First Pilot Gotsiridze and partially over Second Pilot Kabachnikov. Several days later Gotsiridze was taken to the hospital where he died of a disease which resembled myeloma. A similar disease made Kabachnikov an invalid for life. (These facts are documented with medical conclusions.)
Soon after the writer of the article V. Vostrukhin and the paper's Science Editor were sacked, and the Editor-in-Chief followed them.
V. Psalomshchikov, Ph.D., Scince Consultant of the Leningrad Commission on Paranormal Phenomena in the Environment commented on the episode: "when the investigation conducted by the Leningrad Commission on PP was drawing to an end the question of publishing its conclusions arose. Correspondents of central newspapers took a vivid interest in them but they all handed the materials back. The rumours of severe punishment which had befallen the newspaper "Trud" were much too fresh in their memories."
What men dared not to do, a woman-journalist Ms. S. Omelchenko did. The impossible thing happened. In a Leningrad hotel she ran into Flight Engineer Murman Gvenetadze - the only member of the crew from Tbilisi who still worked in civil Aviation after the accident with the UFO. Ms. Omelchenko reported that Engineer Gvenetadze reaffirmed all the known details of the accident. A recollection of his own sensations is worth quoting: "What I felt? Nothing except curiosity and admiration of the strange object's performance. It maneuvered easily, changed its course and speed or hovered. We did not think of danger at all. It was just interesting. Now I would be scared after what has happened to my friends. I am eager to know what scientists think about it all." ("Vozdushny Transport" newspaper, February 25, 1989).
Writes V. Psalmoshchikov: "I am not entitled to speak for others, and that is strictly my own opinion, but suppose the reports of both crews and radar readings were trustworthy, taking all the data into consideration. I admit that the object discovered on September 7, 1984 is not a product of terrestrial technologies." ("Trud" of July 22, 1990, the article "At 4.10 Sharp and Five and a Half Years Later")
Early in 1989 the Committee on Problems of Energy-and-Information Exchange in Nature headed by Academician V. Kaznacheyev was established with the Union of Scientific and Engineering Societies. It was another attempt to coordinate the activities of different researchers. Time will show what will come out of it.
We are glad to mark at least one thing: all bans on ufological information have been lifted in this country.
Summing up we can say:
1. The policy of authorities and academic science on the problem of UFOs in this country does not differ from what we see in other countries.
2. Despite all difficulties and defamation, our ufologists have worked, conducted investigations and achieved results they can be proud of.