Saturday, March 1, 2014

Rinchen Y-Byambyn and the Central Asian Wildmen

{ first a preliminary note on workload here: I am immersed in the long task of scanning my UFO files with the intention of making them available broadly someday. This task is long and the "after-task" work with the UFOs and Government book group will be longer, so don't look for them on the internet anytime soon. The relevance here is that this absorbs lots of time away from the blog --- I'll do what I can.}

Now to the matter of today: You know from the last two posts that I, after luckily stumbling upon a rare Russian ABSM reference, have been trying to give some of the content for you. After attempting a data summary of sorts from monograph #2, I cracked open monograph 3 and read something that I thought interesting, and maybe new to some of you. This was an english translation of two items about Central Asian ABSM possibilities by the legendary Mongolian scholar "B. Rinchen." After saying a few words about Rinchen himself, I believe that it will be appropriate to just re-type his whole writing here. Normally I wouldn't do that, but this seems like a primary resource which maybe no one who reads this blog has seen, and few people anywhere. 

This quick thumbnail biography is to indicate why the Soviet Snowman Committee would lead off its "data collection" monographs with information gained from him.

Rinchen was born in 1905 on the borders of Mongolia and Russia to what we'd call middle class parents [his father was a language translator and a public educator.] He "automatically" became proficient in Mongolian, Russian, and Manchu. By the time of the first congress of the Mongolian People's Party in 1921, Rinchen was working there as an interpreter. In 1924 he went to Leningrad to study along with several other Mongolian boys. He, in 1927, graduated [the first Mongolian to do so, I believe] with the degree of "Orientalist", an expert in Eastern Languages and History.

Once graduating, he applied himself to his interests in all-things-Mongolian [literature, ethnography, religion, folklore, and even palaeontology and prehistory.] He became a fiction writer "on the side" and, somewhen between the thirties and forties wrote poetry and novels, one of which is considered essential reading for Mongolian school children in recent times. This book, ZAAN ZALUUDAI, depicts Rinchen's idea of living in the Mongolian prehistoric past. Perhaps I am wrong here, but I see a strain of unity in his interests in how the Mongolian people came to be and his interests in the Mongolian wildman.

In the early 1950s Rinchen studied for and received his doctorate in linguistics --- I believe that I am on stronger ground to suggest that this WAS the first PhD by a Mongolian scholar from a western university. A decade earlier, in 1942, the first Mongolian Russian-language newspaper was published. Its editor: Byambyn Rinchen. [a small point but one creating some confusion now and then: Mongolian is an ethnic group which states the patrilineal name first and the given name second, like we would if we went about calling people "Sanderson Ivan-T" or "Mao Tse-tung". The Russians therefore refer to him, wrongly, just as I have, while his formal name is Rinchen Byambyn --- helps a little when googling. His famous fossil-discovering son is, for instance, Rinchen Barsbold.]

In the intervening years between first graduation [1927] and his PhD [1956], Rinchen pursued many things in his interest to find out everything about his culture and his land. One of these were stories about the Central Asian wildmen. Because he was so highly respected as an all-everything Mongolian scholar, when the Soviet Snowman Committee formed in 1958, they went right to Rinchen for information.

So, here goes with the Committee's "findings" directly from him. He suggested an article that he had just written [1958] on the subject, and followed with a supplementary letter in 1959. The article, the far longer piece, goes as follows:

Title: "Almass, Mongolian Relatives of the Snow Man"

" From time immemorial the Mongolians were aware of wild horses and camels. They also knew of the existence of the wild man whose habitat coincided with areas inhabited by wild horses and camels. The travelers during the Middle Ages who who visited Mongolia mentioned in their accounts that the Mongolians knew of the existence of the wild man who lived on the fringes of the Gobi desert, but somehow this information escaped the attention of scientists.

In Mongolian there is a special terminology for all the wild beasts of the region. The wild horse was known as "takhi", the European scholars knew it under the name of Prjewalski's horse; the wild camel was "khaptagai", and the wild man as "almass". Many toponymical names in these regions where once upon a time lived this (unknown to science, but well known to Mongolians) wild man, bear names which tie in with the Mongolian definitions, like "almasin ulaan khad", red rock of almass.

The late professor B. Baradin was the only scientist who was fortunate enough to meet an 'almass' during his travels .... {at this point either the Committee or the translator decided to omit this story, saying that it had already been covered by Porshnev in an article in Contemporary East} ... booo....

According to the data collected by the late Professor Jamtzarano from 1890 to 1925, the area of the habitat of the wild man became much smaller in size and roughly coincided with the area inhabited by wild horses and camels in the South-Eastern Mongolia.

Brief information on the materials collected by Professor Jamtzarano was published recently in the bulletin prepared by a committee charged with the responsibility of studying the 'snow man'. In the same bulletin was also a brief compilation of the data I was able to get together in 1927. "

{ I wonder if Rinchen collected this wild man data as part of his graduating degree the same year? Seems too much of a coincidence.}

... at this point the committee or the translator shifts into a third party mode for some reason... but I'll still quote it.

" Dr. Rinchen goes on to tell how he met three different witnesses who claimed that they had seen dead  and live 'almass'.

One was an elementary school teacher in Gobi-Altai who saw in 1929 or 1930 a dead almass girl who was killed inadvertently by a hunter. He also saw a live male almass.

The second witness was a member of the border patrol who saw three almass and mistook them for refugees from beyond the border.

The third witness is a man who is at the present time working in a pharmacy in Ulan Bator. This man describes how together with three hunting companions, in the mountains of Burkhutoo, in the upper basin of the Deelum-Gol river, they came upon footprints of naked feet in the soft snow. Following these footprints they came within 100 meters of a tall powerfully built man with a shock of gray hair, whose body was covered with dark short hair. His wide shoulders, muscular body, and height [not less than two meters] astonished the hunters. The natives reacted to this apparition differently -- 'Albast -- the spirit of the mountains!' -- they exclaimed.

For the witnesses -- Nagmit and Joltaiev -- this encounter with the albast [as the kasakhs call the Mongolian almass] was a most interesting experience. They hailed him and he stopped, looking at the people with interest. They offered him food and clothing. Noticing that he did not understand them, they folded the clothing and foodstuffs and walked away. It became apparent that the almass had no desire to come over. Then they made a move toward him. The almass moved away, keeping his distance and not allowing the people to come nearer to him. When they stopped, he stopped; when they moved, he moved away. Nagmit and Joltaiev fired a few shots at him from a small caliber gun, but were not able to hit him. {thank the Lord --- we are a real bunch of jerks}. At this point the local hunters protested the shooting and they had to stop."

... at this point the translator seems to shift back to Rinchen's own words [though much of the previous could well be quoting too...]

" One is able to meet at the present time many old men living around Gobi who claim that they saw footprints of almass on wild paths, and also their silhouettes at early dawn. They all agree that at the present time, the almass is seen less and less.

Old female almass are called by the people of Gobi 'zageen-emgen' - { here the translator admits defeat on the phrase --- the feeling is for the term to indicate a very old female creature who lives among rocky places }. According to the description, the almass are slightly stooped in posture, have bent knees, and arms longer than humans. They have long hair on the head, and their bodies are covered with short darkish hair. The females have long hanging breasts. The almass are not familiar with fire or firearms.

In the northern part of Mongolia, the name almass is almost unknown, as well as the names of the wild horses and camels. In the central part one may sometimes hear tales which were derived from lama folklore about almass being demonic creatures.

In the southern regions of Gobi, even though they have no wild horses, or camels, or almass, one may hear tales about chance meetings with them. In other regions, however, where all three species lived at the turn of the century, the stories are of a more concrete character. The rare instances where the almass was seen in 1930-1938 supports the idea that the creature is close to extinction now, and that a close relative of the Himalayan 'snow man' actually did live in the south-east of Mongolia during the early decades of this century, and is perhaps still existing in the far and remote regions seldom visited by people.

At any rate, these chance encounters with the almass in Mongolia support the thought that this close relative of the snow man inhabited Gobi and the mountains around it, and probably survived to the present time.

Accumulation of material in the places and regions of the ever-narrowing area of almass habitat will help in the study and clarification of this question. The tales about the hairy almass and the saxatile grand mother are so realistic, and the description of the few eyewitnesses are so vivid, that it is impossible to deny the existence of this distant relative of ours, who fell behind in his development, and at the present time is at the last stage of his existence. Like the wild horse 'takhi', and the wild camel 'khaptagai', the 'almass' is retreating before encroachment of the man who is gradually taking over large portions of the vast Gobi desert. "

Rinchen, writing in Contemporary Mongolia 1958.

I find that there is no way to read this without feeling, concurrently, optimistic that almass recently existed, and sad.

And now to his letter to the committee:

"I was so crowded with work that it was impossible for me to leave Ulan-Bator, nevertheless I have much interesting information.

A worker at the local fruit experimental station by name of Chimidorji, who was born in the south Gobi district, gave a student of mine, Badra, some interesting data about things which took place 20 or 25 years ago.

A monk by the name of Dambaiorin, a resident of south Gobi, was traveling by camel to Sudgin Gobi, and saw a naked child. Thinking that the child may have been lost, he came nearer and noticed that the child was covered all over with red hair. The monk realized that he was seeing a little almass, and in panic turned and ran for his life, because Mongolian monks consider the almass a supernatural creature.

About the same year and in about the same region of East Gobi, a local woman met, not too far from an ancient stone burial place, a naked almass child. She likewise turned and ran.

Also the same year, a man who was driving a herd of horses through the Nomogan pass was set upon by an adult female almass, but was able to get the best of her.

Another local woman who was tending sheep in about the same region, saw a little almass approaching her sheep and ran away abandoning her flock. The next day a neighbor of hers whose turn it was to tend sheep also saw apparently the same little almass.

In the eastern Gobi near the pass of the High Blue Mountains -- Undur Khukhu -- a local farmer was attacked by a male almass, but managed to gallop away, leaving behind one of his boots. A similar attack took place to the northeast in the Sumburin Pass.

According to Chimidorji, in all the above mentioned regions there is an abundance of information about numerous meetings between local residents and the almass. One may also find some residents who saw the almass, or were attacked by him.

According to Chimidorji, local trackers could find, in the regions once inhabited by the almass, their remains. How true it is, I don't know, but there is no doubt that the local farmers remember the almass who inhabited their region at the turn of the century.

I was told that the father and grandfather of one of the workers of the local base, in the general store, met with the almass in the Gobi regions.

Dorgisirun, an archaeologist of the historical institute told me recently, that in the late thirties of this century at his birthplace in northeast Mongolia, once in early spring, a naked hairy man wandered in and was driven away by the dogs. The women of the settlement decided that he was a cannibal. The farmers who attempted to pursue him followed his footprints and noticed that he stopped from time to time on elevated places. But they were unable to catch up with him. The footprints showed that this creature had widely spread toes. The spring of that year was a 'hungry' one and, because of lack of food, there appeared around the settlements many wild animals from Gobi not previously seen in those parts."

Ulan-Bator, March 8, 1959.

So... those were the direct inputs to the Snow Man Committee by the great man. Rinchen obviously believed the Almass to be real and his hypothesis was that it was a distant relative of humans dying out. He buttressed his views intelligently by integrating what he knew about palaeontology and biology and linguistics --- his Almass were a species which had grown in an ecology also containing the wild horse and camel, and he saw those connections as tight and beyond coincidence.

Generally, I've grown to like Rinchen --- a true in-the-heart Fortean, following a mystery in everything he did. Was he "right" about Almass being a different species rather than a dying micro-culture?

... hmmmm.... who knows ... there are some pretty impressive Mongolians.

Till next time ... maybe not for a while with this scanning project going, but I'll try.

Peace, folks.


  1. This is such fascinating material, Michael! It's exciting to get this close to original source material of such a compelling story. I hope you won't take too long to give us another post.

    1. Hi Mark. I'll try. My life is complicated more than usual just at the moment, mainly because I have someone in 5 days a week scanning my files, and for some diabolical reason am having some [mild I hope] health issues [this day in particular --- I'm hoping it's just bad food of some kind.] When I feel good, I can prep the files for scanning [a big task] AND get some reading in for possible blogging. When any little extra burden comes along, the blog goes a'wanting. I'm optimistic, though. Maybe this weekend.....

  2. I've always found the Wildman /almas to be a fascinating subject, much more interesting (to me, anyway) if only because the descriptions sound like homo erectus...

  3. because the Russian Committee found a fairly ordinary height distribution in the reports they got, this raised the odds favoring something like homo erectus or neanderthal in my mind --- vs the more "sexy" gigantopithecus. ... but we REALLY need some modern physical evidence, even if that means recent bones all dried up but datable in a cave or sinkhole. If we NEVER get that, then my primary hypothesis goes [reluctantly] back to Yeti as a paranormal critter or [the lesser hypothesis] a conglomeration of errors and folklore tales.

    1. That's the part (the lack of physical evidence) that gives me pause when I consider the wildman/almas/Yeti/hairy man reports. On the one hand I can understand that bones, teeth, etc aren't exactly easy to discover, but on the other hand I would have thought we'd have more than a few dubious hair samples by now. It's almost as if there's more physical evidence for UFOs than ABSMs.

      The eyewitness accounts are consistent enough to describe a living animal. I hope it's true.



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