Sacred Texts  Esoteric & Occult   Mysteries
Buy CD-ROM   Buy Books about UFOs
Index  Previous  Next 

Soviet Saucers

                              ³  ³
                              ³  ³
                 Ί   T R U S T   N O   O N E   Ί
                              ³  ³
                              ³  ³
                            /      \               //======//
      ===\\                /        \             //     //
          \\              /          \           //====//
         ==\\            +------------+              ///
Things to beware of in 1997:

New Russian civil strife. 


Soviet Saucers

(Vol. 16, No. 7, April 1994, pp. 68-75, 92)

By James Oberg

Day after day, the waves of UFOs returned to southern Russia. Cossacks on
horseback saw them high in the evening sky. Pilots aboard commercial
airliners and military interceptors chased and dodged them. Astronomers at
observatories in the Caucasus Mountains noted their crescent shape and their
fiery companions.

It was the fall of 1967, and the Soviet Union was in the grip of its first
major UFO flap. The extraordinary tales, described on Soviet television,
reported in Soviet newspapers, and analyzed in a private nationwide UFO study
group soon took on a life of their own.

In one detailed account, an airliner crew from Voroshilovgrad to Volgograd,
flight 104, insisted that a UFO had hovered and then maneuvered around their
plane. According to Soviet UFO enthusiast Felix Zigel, who compiled such
accounts, the plane's engines died and did not start up again until after the
UFO had disappeared, when the aircraft was only a half mile high in the air.

These tales and others were repeated in Western UFO books and presented as
important evidence at UFO hearings in the United States Congress and in
Britain's House of Lords. Then, as suddenly as it had started, the wave of
Russian UFO sightings ceased. Private UFO groups were banned by the Soviet
government, and the subject was dropped from the controlled media even as it
spread wildly in the samizdat, the underground Russian press.

But the phenomenon was not forgotten. Years later, astronomer Lev Gindilis
and a team of investigators from the Academy of Sciences in Moscow assessed
Zigel's UFO files, analyzing statistics from what they said was "the
repetitive motion" of the objects Zigel described. In 1979, the "Gindilis
Report" was released and distributed around the world. It concluded that no
known natural or manmade stimulus could account for these "anomalous
atmospheric phenomena." Something truly extraordinary and truly alien must
have occurred.

But it was too good to be true. Like many other official Soviet government
reports, the Gindilis Report turned out to be counterfeit science. In effect,
and probably in intent, it served to cover up one of Moscow's greatest
military secrets, an illegal space-to-earth nuclear weapon.

What the witnesses really saw back in those exciting days in 1967 were space
vehicles all right, but not from some distant, alien world. They were Russian
missile warheads, placed in low orbit under false registration names and then
diverted back toward the planet's surface after one circuit of the globe. As
they fireballed down toward a target zone near the lower Volga River, they
seared their way into the imaginations of startled witnesses for hundreds of
miles in all directions.

Of course, U.S. intelligence agencies had also been watching the tests, and
they weren't fooled by the UFO smokescreen. Pentagon experts soon dubbed this
fearsome new weapon a "fractional orbit bombardment system," or FOBS.
Government spokespeople in Washington denounced it as a first-strike weapon
designed to evade defensive radars. Since Moscow had recently signed a solemn
international treaty forbidding the orbiting of nuclear weapons, the
existence of this weapon (whose tests alone did not violate the treaty) was a
glaring advertisement of contempt. So when Russian UFO witnesses concluded
that they had been seeing alien spaceships instead of treaty-busting weapons
tests, Soviet military officials were all too willing to permit this illusion
to prosper.

Twenty-five years later, with the FOBS rockets long since scrapped and the
Soviet regime itself on the scrap heap of history, the now-purposeless
deception has maintained a zombielike life of its own. Russian UFO literature
continues to issue ever more glorious accounts of the 1967 "crescent
spaceships." Mainstream Russian magazines, newspapers, and even museum
exhibits contain fanciful drawings of such shapes. Zigel himself is revered
as "the father of Soviet UFOlogy," an icon of reliability and authenticity.

But Zigel's and Gindilis's crescent craft are just one example of the
ridiculous notions and outrageous fictions Russian UFOlogy has spawned. In
1977, for instance, Tass, the official Russian news agency, carried a
dispatch from the northwest Russian port city of Petrozavodsk titled "Strange
Natural Phenomenon over Karelia." Wrote local correspondent Nikolay Milov,
"On September 20 at about 0400 a huge star suddenly flared up in the dark
sky, impulsively sending shafts of light to the earth. This star moved slowly
toward Petrozavodsk and, spreading out over it in the form of a jellyfish,
hung there, showering the city with a multitude of very fine rays which
created an image of pouring rain."

The "visitation" unleashed a torrent of rumors. People later reported being
awakened from deep sleep by telepathic messages. Tiny holes were reportedly
seen in windows and paving stones. Cars were said to have stalled and
computers to have crashed, and witnesses smelled ozone.

Soviet UFO enthusiasts rushed to embrace the case. "As far as I am
concerned," claimed science-fiction author Aleksandr Kazantsev, "it was a
spaceship from outer space, carrying out reconnaissance." According to Dr.
Vladimir Azhazha, "In my opinion, what was seen over Petrozavodsk was either
a UFO, a carrier of high intelligence with crew and passengers, or it was a
field of energy created by such a UFO." Zigel, the dean of Soviet UFOlogists,
agreed it was a true UFO: "Without a doubt--it had all the features."

Sadly, the cause of all this mindless panic was a routine rocket launching
from the supersecret military space center at Plesetsk in northwest Russia.
The multiengined booster's contrails, backlit by the dawn sun, seemed to
split into multiple glowing tentacles.

In 1981, a midnight rocket launch from Plesetsk lit up the skies of Moscow
itself and sent the capital city's residents into a blitz of unconstrained
creativity. UFO expert Sergey Bozhich's notebooks contain reports of numerous
"independent" UFO encounters during this ordinary launching. "Pilots of six
civil aircraft reported either a UFO in flight or a UFO [attacking] their
aircraft," he wrote. "At 1:30 a UFO attacked a truck along the Ryazan Avenue
in Moscow." One witness even reported waking from a deep sleep to see a
"scout ship" with a glass cupola and small alien pilot cruising down his

The pattern is clear. Time and again, secret launchings of Russian rockets
have unleashed avalanches of classic UFO perceptions from the imaginative,
excitable witnesses and their careless interviewers. And consistent with its
origins, Russian UFO literature is still characterized by fantastic tales and
an utter lack of research into possible explanations. "I have no doubts" is
the most common figure of speech in the lexicon of Russian UFOlogists, and
they are doubtlessly sincere, if arguably deluded. "Are UFOs real?" one was
asked not long ago by American documentary filmmaker Bryan Gresh. "My
colleagues and I don't even think that's a question," he responded. "Of
course they are real!"

This sort of quasi-religious fervor just helps to fuel the skepticism of the
cautious observer. After all, if Russian UFOlogists cannot or will not
recognize the prosaic stimulus behind these phony crescent UFOs of 1967 and
the UFO "jellyfish" of 1977, they may be incapable of solving any of the
other hundreds of ordinary (if rare) causes that account for at least 90
percent (if not 100 percent) of all UFO perceptions. Dozens of major stimuli,
and hundreds of minor ones, are constantly giving rise to counterfeit UFO
perceptions around the world. Filtering out the residue of true UFOs from the
pseudo UFOs poses enormous challenges for investigators. Most Russian
UFOlogists appear unwilling to face this challenge.

And the writings of prominent Russian UFO experts give ample ground for more
anxiety. Vladimir Azhazha, probably the leading Russian UFO expert of the
1990s, is an undeniable enthusiast of UFO miracle stories. Some years ago,
his favorite Western UFO story involved a UFO attack on the Apollo 13 space
capsule, which he "disclosed" was carrying a secret atomic bomb to create
seismic waves on the moon.

But it was carrying no such thing. The April 1970 explosion, which disabled
the craft and threatened the lives of the three astronauts, was caused by a
hardware malfunction. When challenged recently by UFOlogist Antonio Huneeus,
Azhazha made a candid admission: "When I gave the lecture, I was a teenager
in UFOlogy and was intoxicated by the E.T. hypothesis and did not recognize
anything else. I would retell with pleasure everything I read."

Supposedly reformed, Azhazha then published a new book with a glorious new
Apollo-astronaut UFO story based this time on forged photographs published in
American tabloid newspapers. The pictures show contrast-enhanced fuzzballs,
photographic images that had been sharpened in the photo lab. A fabricated
"radio conversation" in which the astronauts exclaim surprise at seeing alien
spaceships in a crater near their landing site later appeared in another
tabloid; it was patently bogus, too, based on grossly misused space jargon.
The story was long ago abandoned by reputable Western UFOlogists, but Azhazha
still loves it and presents it as true.

At a UFO conference in Albuquerque in 1992, Azhazha told astonished Western
colleagues that he had proof that 5,000 Russians had been abducted by UFOs
and never returned to Earth. When asked to defend this number, he disclosed
that he took the reported number of ordinary "missing persons" in the entire
Soviet Union, plotted the regions over which major UFO activity had been
reported, and then allocated those population proportions of "missing" to the
UFOs. It was simple, sincere, and senseless, but the embarrassed American
hosts (who had paid his travel expenses) couldn't disagree too publicly lest
their waste of money be obvious.

Russian UFOlogists claim to be careful. Azhazha himself has written: "Nothing
on faith! One must check, check, and eleven times check in order to find an
error!" But he doesn't seem to know how, and neither do any of his
colleagues. While their sincerity and enthusiasm are not in doubt, their
judgment, balance, and accuracy should be.

Why are people like Azhazha the best that Russia can offer? Russians are
heirs to a great, creative civilization, but they are also emerging from a
social era that has had profound effects on their habits of thought. Today's
Russians have lived in a reality-deprived and judgment-atrophied culture for
generations. Once they were sufficiently brain benumbed by a repressive
communist regime to accept any and all propagandistic idiocies fed to them,
they were intellectually defenseless against infections of other brain bunk
as well.

UFO enthusiasm prospers in this nurturing environment. And it's not just UFO
sightings that get conjured up by this fuzzy thinking. Historical figures,
preferably dead ones who cannot disagree, are now constantly being portrayed
as "secret UFO believers."

For example, in 1993, a slick new UFO magazine called AURA-Z appeared in
Moscow. Continuing the trend of tying now-dead space heroes to UFO studies,
the magazine featured two separate interviews with contemporary experts
concerning the role played by Sergey Korolev, the founder of the Soviet
missile and space programs. It didn't bother the magazine at all that the two
stories were utterly inconsistent.

In one article, rocket expert Valery Burdakov presented a detailed account of
how back in 1947 Stalin had ordered Korolev to assess Soviet intelligence
reports on the Roswell, New Mexico, UFO crash. Korolev had reported back that
the UFOs were real but not dangerous, the article "revealed." Yet just seven
pages earlier, another expert named Lev Chulkov had written: "As early as the
beginning of the 1950s, Stalin ordered Korolev to study the phenomenon of
UFOs, but Korolev managed to avoid fulfilling this task." Of course, both
claims can't be true. Besides, Burdakov was a recently rehabilitated
political prisoner in 1947 and was thus hardly the type of trusted expert
that Stalin would have consulted.

Behind all such distracting noise, the UFO problem remains a fascinating and
elusive puzzle, worthy of serious research. But weeding out true UFOs from
the overwhelming mass of "IFOs," or identified flying objects, is a
difficult, time-consuming task, as Western UFOlogists have learned in the
past half century. Their new Russian colleagues so far show no indication
that they have even begun.

"I haven't seen too much effort at that job," admits Antonio Huneeus, one of
the West's most perceptive pro-UFO observers of Russian UFOlogy. "The
Russians themselves keep knocking on my door," Huneeus states. "They want to
sell their stuff here." In fact, given today's economic crisis in Russia,
thousands of people of all classes, but particularly from the military
services, are desperately seeking--or deliberately creating--anything they
can sell to Western buyers with bucks. UFO files are one of the few
exportable raw materials with a market in the West, so there should be no
surprise that there are suddenly so many bizarre items now available and so
few Russians willing to be cautious or critical about them.

If these Russian UFO delusions only affected their own research, the
silliness would do no worldwide harm. But the intellectual infection has
spread far beyond borders and polluted UFO studies in other countries as
well. These new commercial conspiracies between Russian tall-tale sellers and
Western tall-tale tellers in the entertainment and pseudodocumentary industry
will make it much worse.

The more serious Western UFOlogists, for instance, are particularly
embarrassed by their colleagues' naive, unbounded enthusiasm for the 1967
"crescents" and the subsequent so-called Gindilis Report, with Soviet
thermonuclear weapons tests masquerading as true UFOs. Dr. James McDonald,
probably America's top UFO expert of the 1960s, testified that the crescents
"cannot be readily explained in any conventional terms." Dr. J. Allen Hynek,
dean of American UFOlogy in the 1970s, reviewed the sightings and crowed, "It
becomes very much harder--in fact, from my personal viewpoint, impossible--to
find a trivial solution for all the UFO reports if one weighs and considers
the caliber of some of the witnesses." They were scientists, pilots,
engineers, and fellow astronomers, and Hynek was absolutely certain they
couldn't have been mistaken.

Today's successor to McDonald and Hynek is retired space scientist Richard
Haines, American director of the joint United States-Commonwealth of
Independent States working group on UFOs, the Aerial Anomaly Federation.
Concerning the 1967 sightings, he confidently wrote that "the reports
represent currently unknown phenomena, being completely different in nature
from known atmospheric optics effects or technical experiments in the

Another famous Russian pseudo-UFO case, called the "Cape Kamenny UFO," has
long been foolishly championed by Western UFO experts. Top American UFOlogist
Jacques Vallee cited this encounter in a 1992 book as one of the best in the
world. His casebook coding scheme gave it the highest marks: "Firsthand
personal interview with the witness by a source of proven reliability; site
visited by a skilled analyst; and no explanation possible, given the

A graphic account of this UFO was given by American UFOlogist William L.
Moore based on casebooks compiled by Zigel. "On December 3, [1967] at 3:04
p.m.," wrote Moore, several crewmen and passengers of an IL-18 aircraft on a
test flight for the State Scientific Institute of Civil Aviation sighted an
intensely bright object approaching them in the night sky." Moore reported
that the object "followed" the evasive turns of the aircraft.

But years later I discovered that the aircraft, passing near Vorkuta in the
northern Urals, had by chance been crossing the flight path of the Kosmos-194
spy satellite during its ascent from Plesetsk. The crew had unwittingly
observed the rocket's plumes and the separation of its strap-on boosters. All
other details of maneuvers were added in by their imaginations. Yet this
bogus UFO story is highlighted as authentic by nearly every Western account
of Russian UFOs in the last 20 years.

Of course, not all Russian UFO reports spring from missile and space events.
Far from it! But those specific kinds of stimuli are extremely well
documented, unlike other traditional pseudo-UFO stimuli such as balloons,
experimental aircraft, military and police helicopters, bolide fireballs, and
so forth. Thus, they can provide an unmatchable calibration test for the
ability of Russian UFOlogists to find solutions for these pseudo UFOs.

The Russian UFOlogists have failed. The ultimate test of the Russians'
ability to perform mature, reliable UFO research is how they treat "the
smoking gun" of Russian UFOlogy, the Petrozavodsk "jellyfish" UFO of 1977.
The "jellyfish" was a brief wonder in the West before being quickly solved
(by me) as the launch of a rocket from Plesetsk. Western UFOlogists readily
accepted the explanation, but now it turns out that Russian UFO experts never
did. They have assembled a vast array of miracle stories associated with the
event, including reports of telepathic messages and physical damage to the

But all this proves is that ordinary Russians love to embellish stories and
that Russian UFO researchers haven't a clue on how to filter out such
exaggerations from original perceptions. If they cannot do it for such
obviously bogus UFOs as Petrozavodsk, how can they be expected to do it for
less clear-cut ones?

If the UFO mystery is to be solved, there is adequate data from the rest of
the world outside of Russia. Serious UFOlogists will have to quarantine the
obviously hopelessly infected UFO lore from Russia and disregard it all. Some
valuable data might be lost, but the crippling effect of unconstrained
crackpottery would be avoided. Every decade or two, the question can be
reconsidered with a simple test: Do leading Russian UFOlogists still insist
on the alien nature of the 1967 crescent UFOs and the 1977 "jellyfish" UFO?
If so, slam the door on them again.

Yet the temptation may be too great, especially for those who are into what I
call the "fairy tale mode" of modern UFO study--those who believe the best
cases are ones that happened long ago and far away, and thus are forever
immune from prosaic solution. Russian UFO stories have turned out to be
exactly those kinds of fairy tales.

And if the purpose of modern UFOlogy is only mystery worship and obfuscation,
only mind-boggling tall tales and mind-stretching theorizing, then it will
continue to feed on the baseless bilge coming out of Russia while being
insidiously and unavoidably poisoned by it. The reality test, then, is not of
Russian UFOlogy, which has already failed, but of non-Russian UFOlogy, where
the issue remains in doubt.

Editor's note: James Oberg, author of RED STAR IN ORBIT and many other books,
is an internationally recognized expert on the Soviet space program.

Transmitted:  94-05-20 14:14:35 EDT

Next: Swedenborg Ornithopter