By Anna Rudnitskaya
"Did you hear the latest? A Snowmans footprint has been found in the Altai. They say its size 36. Ridiculous. Some people are worse than children."
Yes, I did hear that one. Also, I heard a report that Japanese mountain climber Makato Nebuka recently unraveled the Abominable Snowman mystery. Evidence that he has gathered shows that the so-called Yeti, who is periodically sighted in different parts of the world and leaves traces that have for decades been agitating the minds of an enlightened mankind, is but a brown Himalayan bear, called Meti in a Tibetan dialect.
True, according to a more recent report by another Japanese explorer, all of Nebukas evidence proves nothing: The Yeti and the Meti are two different creatures while the Abominable Snowman is an indisputable fact.
To make the picture complete, it should be added that in the past half century such reports have been coming in with the frequency of traffic accidents at a busy crossroads. But there are several dozen people in the world who follow them especially closely, and at the same time with complete equanimity. They do not need any new evidence of the Snowmans existence while flatly refusing to believe in evidence to the contrary. Such people are called hominologists. Not so long ago, they held their first international conference in the town of Willow Creek, California, USA.
The Lubyanka Trail
A popular Russian weekly also contributed to clearing up the Snowman mystery. "Where has the Snowman gone?" E. Sidorov, an Omsk resident, asked the editors, who thus replied to the readers letter: "It has not gone anywhere because it has never existed in the first place. According to former KGB officials, Operation Snowman was planned and carried out by the KGB in the mid-1980s, when the Soviet people were spending hours lining up for foodstuffs and consumer goods. It was critical to find some way to divert the nation from day-to-day hassles."
Dmitry Bayanov clearly restrains himself when he shows me the newspaper clipping, but from his face I can see that if he were to meet that confidant of the former KGB officials in a dark alley... Dmitry Bayanov is the main rapporteur at the Californian forum, Russias leading expert on Abominable Snowmen, and head of the Moscow hominological seminar, based at the Darwin Museum. The seminar is regularly attended by about 15 people of various ages and professions. Dmitry himself makes a living as a translator. There are teachers, engineers, and artists. But there is not a single holder of a degree in hominology. Maybe because there is no such science as hominology. The name is there all right, but there is no science. At least, the rest of the learned world refuses to recognize it as a science.
"They will yet kick themselves for that," Dmitry Bayanov warns. "Cybernetics and genetics were also called bourgeois pseudo-sciences, but see how it has turned out in the end. Our day will come."
As a matter of fact, hominologists have not always been so derided. At one time there was even an Academy of Sciences commission on Snowman studies. It was led by Boris Porshnev, a philosopher, who should be recognized as the father of hominology, if there really is such a science. He wrote a short novel, Fighting for Troglodytes - based on facts. Carolus Linnaeus applied the term to some creatures in the primates order that stood halfway between ape and man (Homo troglodytes). Also, Porshnev wrote an article in the Voprosy filosofii journal, posing the question: "Maybe this breakthrough is of purely speculative interest and has nothing to do with the pressing needs of contemporary science? Some people say: After all, modern man does not carry any rudiments of his origin. But what if he does? The sheer raising of this question opens a new perspective on scientific revolution."
But while the revolution anticipated by hominologists has yet to materialize, the article changed at least one persons life completely. Dmitry Bayanov devoted 40 years to the unrecognized science. When the commission was disbanded, hominology declared a pseudo-science, publication of Porshnevs next book banned while he himself died of a heart attack, his faithful disciple gathered a handful of followers and started up a seminar at the Darwin Museum. They launch expeditions to the Pamir and Himalayan mountains, gathering anecdotal and documentary evidence, occasionally publishing thin brochures with the results of their studies under the title of Vestnik gominologii, or Bulletin of Hominology, and dreaming if not about state support, then at least about a rich sponsor.
"Do you happen to know an oligarch who might take an interest in this problem? What they tell us is this: Catch and bring one over for us to see, and then well believe you. But how can we possibly catch a Yeti? You cant even hunt a bear bare-handed. Theoretically, the Russian branch of hominology is by far the strongest, but our foreign colleagues are likely to make a breakthrough in the practical sphere sooner than we."
Despairing of ever getting support at home, several years ago Dmitry Bayanov wrote a letter to Bill Clinton. He did not drop it in a mail box in Moscow but sent it along with an American he knew. In an opening paragraph, he congratulated Clinton on his election as president of the United States, paying tribute to his hard-won victory, and in the next 15 paragraphs describing the plight of Russian hominologists and the importance of their studies for the future of mankind: "It is impossible to build a humane society without knowing exactly the origin of man, his predecessors."
Much to President Clintons credit, he replied to Bayanovs letter. Dmitry keeps the sheet of paper with a signature, stamp, and three lines of text in a special folder. "Thank you for your attention. We value your involvement in the problem and wish you success in your work," the president wrote.
A Man with a Sneer
Nonetheless, Dmitry Bayanov bears a grudge against some of his American colleagues. He does not care for their methodology:
"They even chase him with a gun. But this is a human being. We opt for photo traps. But it is very difficult to take photos. The fact is that he feels that he is being filmed and can simply smash up the trap. In the United States, one explorer complained to me: Bigfoot regularly visits his farm. All he needs to do is set up 30 traps, and the following day we will have high-resolution photographs. But each trap costs $400, and he does not have the money. He has only bought five, and is now waiting."
In 1967, Roger Patterson and Robert Gimlin filmed a creature that in the United States is known as Bigfoot (Yeti specialists from across the world were invited to Willow Creek to attend the inauguration of a museum dedicated to that event). No one has yet disproved the films authenticity, but hominologists are still distrusted.
"You have a film, there are footprints, and there are numerous reported Yeti sightings, but you are still not taken seriously. Do you think that the situation could turn around?"
"First of all, we hope that the generation of scientists who call us liars will be replaced by a new generation. This is how it happens in science: A new generation comes and makes a breakthrough. Second of all, there is the last straw effect. All the knowledge that we have accumulated must at long last become public property and then a fact of science. The Snowman has been branded with a sneer. We will remove it." "You see, when I once saw Brezhnev on a rostrum, I realized that human nature still contains unfathomed mystery," Dmitry said.