The air is cool and crisp, snow is in the air (for at least some of you dear readers), and for the Illuminerdy, the dying of the year means it’s time to talk about monsters. There are few more famous than the abominable snowman of the Himalaya — the Yeti. Also called the Meh-teh, Mi-go, Mirka, Kang Admi, and the Jobran, the Yeti has been part of the Western monstrous lexicon since at least the late 19th century, though legends of large, hairy humanoids were widespread among pre-Buddhist cultures in the Himalaya, many of whom venerated the creatures they called “man-bear snow-men” as gods of the hunt.
Reports of the creature first filtered into the West from the mountainous reaches of Nepal and Tibet as early as 1832. However, the Yeti’s popularity didn’t peak until the 1950’s, when several different cryptozoological expeditions combed the Himalayan foothills for irrefutable proof of the beast’s existence. None of the resulting discoveries proved substantial enough to convince the scientific establishment to accept that the Yeti was a reality. Not in any way that they’d admit publicly, anyway.
Although solid evidence of the Himalayan yeti remains elusive, reports of similar creatures are widespread in Russia’s Siberian coal country, where the creature is — conveniently — usually referred to simply as the Siberian Snowman. There were at least two separate attempts to find the Siberian Yeti in the latter half of 2011, including one led by a Russian heavyweight boxer. It is perhaps not totally surprising that the boxer’s expedition was not successful; however, a separate scientific expedition has also mounted a search for the creature, and initial reports suggest that they may have found proof of the Yeti’s existence.
There’s certainly a story to be told about an international scientific expedition hunting monsters in the Siberian wasteland. But what if the monster they were hunting is not, in fact, the Yeti?
Apparently unacquainted with the future struggles of both Mark Walberg and Charlton Heston, a desperate Soviet politburo started considering distinctly nontraditional methods to rebuild the Red Army in the aftermath of at least two bruising wars: specifically, creating ape-human hybrids to serve as an army of super soldiers. Josef Stalin approached Ilya Ivanov — a Russian scientist renowned for his work in breeding thoroughbred racehorses — to design a breeding program for these hominid chimeras; according to one (admittedly questionable) source, Stalin told Ivanov that…
“I want a new invincible human being, insensitive to pain, resistant and indifferent about the quality of food they eat.” [Meanwhile], in 1926 the Politburo in Moscow passed the request to the Academy of Science with the order to build a “living war machine”. The order came at a time when the Soviet Union was embarked on a crusade to turn the world upside down, with social engineering seen as a partner to industrialisation: new cities, architecture, and a new egalitarian society were being created.
This author is decidedly unsure as to how the creation of emotionless subhuman ape-drones was going to create an “egalitarian society” that any regular human would want to live in, but I guess that’s why we had a Cold War. Questionable motivations and sourcing aside, there’s little reason to doubt that Ivanov was actually working on a hybridization program at the behest of the Soviet government until at least 1929. Ivanov had set up a lab on Russian coast of the Black Sea after an attempt to find unwitting subjects in Guinea had failed.
According to Skeptoid.com,
By 1929, the plan was to have five women be artificially inseminated [with genetic material derived from an Orangutan named Tarzan], and then live at Ivanov’s institute with a gynecologist for one full year. But just as the first woman volunteer was secured, known only to history as “G”, Tarzan died. Ivanov ordered five male chimps [to replace Tarzan], but just as they were delivered, his life suddenly turned in a new direction, driven by the constant turmoil of philosophies and favoritisms in the Soviet Union. Ivanov was accused of sabotaging the Soviet agricultural system and various political crimes, leading to his arrest a few months later. G never visited the Sukhum station, and no sperm was ever harvested from the new chimps.
At least, that’s what the Soviets wanted the world to believe.
Success Gets Away From You
According to the official account, Ivanov died after two years of exile in Kazakhstan…adjacent to the modern province of Siberia. Of course, it’s probably a coincidence that the region is now a hotbed of hairy hominid activity. However, the USSR was hardly well-known for the accuracy and honesty of its official press, and the then-fragile regime would have had ample reason to hide Ivanov’s triumph. The simple fact that an army of hairy Soviet supermen never conquered the USSR’s Fascist and Capitalist oppressors would seem to suggest that Ivanov’s experiments did not yield the results he had hoped for. Still, not all monsters make good soldiers, and it may simply be that the resulting creature was unmanageable as a warrior; too inhuman even for Stalin.
Apemen and You
There’s a great game to be played centered around Ivanov’s then-secret experiments, a pulp 1920’s spy vs. spy scenario in which your heroes can oppose, track, and eventually stop Ivanov from refining his breeding program. If they fail, of course, you’ve got the start of a highly interesting post-apocalyptic scenario in the vein of an authoritarian communist Planet of the Apes, or an alternate WWII featuring competing, secret transhuman programs sponsored by both the Allies and the Axis. It’s certainly not hard to imagine the Nazis getting in on the super-soldier business with rather less scientific ethics than their comrades in the USSR.
The recent search for a Siberian Yeti is perfect fodder for a survival horror game in which your scientists become prey for the sinister hominids, or even a kind of naturalist mystery as they attempt to determine whether the legendary ape-men are a natural missing link, or one of the lost descendents of “Subject G.” Of course, the whole scientific expedition could just be a cover, a ruse meant to hide the efforts of a mysterious, wealthy patron (or patrons) to locate and trap the beast for a secretive menagerie, or even just a multi-national black op hunting for al-Qaeda operatives in neighboring Kazakhstan. Of course, when the operation finds out that the “cover” for the op is real, and hunting them…
…well, that’s a game I’d like to play. What about you?