Washington, DC - Two new skeptic groups have been established in the Soviet Union, according to the current issue (Spring 1990) of THE SKEPTICAL INQUIRER. In a special report entitled "Paranormal Pandemonium in the Soviet Union," Paul Kurtz, Chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), maintains that the purpose of these two Russian Skeptics groups is to counter the rising tide of uncritical paranormal beliefs sweeping the Soviet Union. According to the article, with Gorbachev's perestroika and glassnost has come an enormous proliferation of untested occult and paranormal claims, including psychic healers on national television, astrologers and astrology columns in leading newspapers, Bigfoot sightings, and bizarre UFO reports.

The article focuses on CSICOP's investigation of a reported UFO landing in Voronez, 300 miles southeast of Moscow, last October. The widely circulated account, first released by the Soviet News Agency TASS, depicted 10 to 12-foot tall extra-terrestrials with heads the size of doorknobs roaming the center of the city. These creatures were said to have been viewed by dozens of eye witnesses and confirmed by Soviet scientists. According to information received by CSICOP, detailed examination of the incident revealed it to be a fabrication of three teenagers. Soviet scientists in the area were very skeptical about the visitation after doing follow-up studies. Pieces of rock discovered at the site, were said by Tass to be "unlike anything found on planet earth." These turned out to be hematite, a sandstone very common in the Soviet Union. The Soviet scientists originally quoted by Tass claimed that they had been misquoted.

According to Paul Kurtz and NASA scientist James Oberg, who have both met with scientists in the Soviet Union, "the upsurge of reports of paranormal phenomena has occurred because of the greater freedom of the press and also because of a lack of critical scientific dissent to provide natural causal explanations for allegedly bizarre events."

One of the new skeptics groups is associated with the widely read Soviet journal Science and Religion, published by znaniye (Knowledge Society). The second group, sponsored by the "perspective Scientific Center" In Kiev, expects to translate Western-American skeptical studies into Russian. These two groups expect to work co-operatively with CSICOP and some other 60 other skeptic groups in 20 countries. They will exchange information and provide expertise for careful scientific investigation of paranormal claims.

"What is happening in the Soviet Union is sensationalism in reports by the media, not unlike what is happening in Western countries," stated Kurtz.

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Last update: 22 July 1998