Document Type: 
Document Number (FOIA) /ESDN (CREST): 
Release Decision: 
Original Classification: 
Document Page Count: 
Document Creation Date: 
November 4, 2016
Document Release Date: 
January 9, 2014
Sequence Number: 
Case Number: 
Publication Date: 
February 13, 1975
Content Type: 
PDF icon CIA-RDP79-00999A000200010073-5.pdf159.3 KB
/ Declassified and Approved For Release 2014/01/09: CIA-RDP79-00999A000200010073-5 .P V Soviet notebook Crackdown on parapsychology I Moscow parapsychologist Eduard K. Nau- mov, sentenced to two years hard labour last March, was reportedly beaten in prison in December. Two weeks ago, it was reported that parapsychologist Lar- issa Vilenskaya, who had previously been permitted to visit Naumov in jail, had herself been arrested. Naumov's trial and the dismissal from their posts of others who had been active in parapsychology in Russia in the 1960s marks the end of a phase during which free and indeed spirited discussion of parapsychological topics was permitted throughout the Soviet Union, and during which a fair amount of informal and unofficial East-West contact was at least tolerated. Naumov was apparently convicted of taking fees for his lectures without the permission of the appropriate authorities. According-to reports- from Russia, the fees seem to have been collected in the normal way by the club's director and his assistant. However, both were subse- quently declared psychologically unfit to testify, certified schizophrenic, and re- ferred for some unspecified form of involuntary treatment at the Serbsky Institute of Forensic Psychological Ex- pertise. This institute's director, Dr Andrej Snezhnevsky, is widely known for his psychiatric zeal on behalf of ideo- logical orthodoxy and for his opposition to parapsychology. At the trial Snezhnevsky himself gave evidence to the effect that parapsychol- ogy was a pseudo-science based on ideal- ism and mysticism. Although 40witnesses said they had bought their tickets from the club's director or his representative, Naumov was found guilty and sentenced to two years in a camp. According to Lev Regelson, a Moscow physicist, Naumov's offence was twofold: first, despite reiterated .warnings from the KGB be had "maintained free, per- sonal, human contacts with foreign scholars..." and made use of the mater- ial lie received for disseminating infor- mation on parapsychology in the USsIt. Nauntov's second fault is ideological. Up to most. recent times parapsychology has been looked on in the Soviet Union as "mysticism" and "pseudo-science." shar- ing the fate of the theory of relativity, quantum mechanics, cybernetics, genetics etc. The official Soviet attitude towards psychical research has fluctuated exten- sively. In 1924, A. V. Lunakharsky, Com- missar for Education, took the initiative in forming a Soviet Committee for Psy- chical Research. Extensive work was financed at the University of Leningrad at the Institute for Brain Research. as a result of Academician V. M. Belchterev's enthusiasm for the subject. L. L. a former student of Belchterev's demon- strated to his own satisfaction that tele- pathic influence at a distance may indeed occur. The research was then discontinued, 397 and the official Soviet attitude hardened against parapsychology. Telepathy was treated as a mystical and anti-social superstition and nothing further was heard of parapsychology in Russia until the late 1950s. Then, as a result of French newspaper articles, rumours began to circulate that American researchers had disproved the "brain-radio" theory as a result of ship-to-shore telepathy experi- ments involving the US atomic submarine Nautilus. The Nautilus "experiments" probably were mythical. But the claims had one tangible consequence: the Soviet author- ities permitted Vasilev, then professor of physiology and holder of the Order of Lenin, to publish his own earlier work which decades previously had ostensibly demonstrated that whatever mediates . telepathic influencing, radio-type brain waves apparently do not. Vasilev was also allowed to open a unit for the study 4'*. of parapsychology at the Institute for '- Brain Research. Vasiliev's work first reached the West with an English translation of his mono- graph Experiments in Mental Suggestion in 1963. The result was instant inter- national interest. Numerous Western researchers travelled to Russia and found a fair amount of activity and interest in the paranormal, although the focus was frequently different from that in the West. Russian workers tended to be far more preoccupied with physical and biological effects than with the so-called "mental" phenomena of telepathy and clairvoyance, on which Western re- searchers have concenti ated in recent times. Russians, for example, pioneered Kirlian photography (see New Scientist, vol 62, p 160). Dr J. G. Pratt was among the first ? parapsychologists to visit the Soviet Union nfter the publication of Vasillev's work, lie described the differences in atmosphere pervading two conferences in 1963 and 1968, both organised and chaired by Naumov. During the first, free and cordial exchange of views was possible; the second was overshadowed by an article in Pravda attacking para- psychology which, in Pratt's words, "largely wrecked the formal plans for the programme". Most of the Russians declined to speak, Western visitors were pressed to deliver impromptu lectures, and the House of Friendship withdrew its invitation to hold further meetings or allow films to be shown there. From this time onwards, with certain fluctuations, official hostility towards parapsychology increased in the Soviet Union. Russian authorities took the strongest possible exception to Schroeder and Ostrander's best seller Psychic Dis- coveries behind the Iron Curtain, based on the author's visit to the USSR in 1968. Naumov is cited throughout as the two ,e ? 398 journalists' guide and mentor. Unfortun- ately, the Voice of America beamed a radio programme into Russia discussing the Schroeder and Ostrander book, a broadcast that was construed as a poli- tically motivated attack using para- psychology as a weapon. . Apart from this episode, 'it is not en- tirely clear why Soviet officialdom should have taken such fierce exception to a frankly popular, sensational, and rather chaotic book, which is not likely to be taken seriously by Western scientists. The most plausible interpretation seems that the Russians are worried that they might be believed by the world's scien- tific community to be self-proclaimed champions and leaders of parapsychology, as expounded by Schroeder and Ostran- der. In fact, Soviet scientists are just as divided among themselves concerning parapsychology as scientists elsewhere. In October 1973 a long and ,detailed paper entitled Parapsychology: fiction or reality? was published in Questions of Philosophy, an official publication of the Soviet Academy of Peclogogical Sciences, by four eminent members of the Moscow Academy of Pedagogical Sciences. They explicitly set out "to express the view- point of the USSR Society of Psycholo- gists towards parapsychology." "Ob- viously" they write, "some so-called parapsychological phenomena do happen; however, the main obstacle to the accep- tance of their existence is ignorance of the basis of their operation." It is not clear from this paper just which parapsychological phenomena "obviously do happen"; the only ones which the authors unambiguously support as authentic, such as Kirlian photog- raphy and Rosa Kuleshova's "dermal- optical vision"?the alleged ability to "see" colours by touching them?are explicitly stated not to be parapsycho- logical. A large portion of the paper is in fact devoted to a denunciation of "militant parapsychologists," popularr;. credulity, fraudulent practices, physi- cists who quite unnecessarily change r their " jobs ??? to Investigate paranormal. phenomena.' sensationalistic Journalist; and institutions such -as the- indattute for Technical Parapsychology (which is cited by name). It seems plain that the authors are anxious to discredit as a myth any idea of a "parapsychological movement" in Russia, and to ensure that no such profes- sion as that of parapsychologist should emerge: "there is no need for parapsy- chology to exist as a separate discipline." Anita Gregory ermsasmemosimmimossiftmememima, Declassified and Approved For Release 2014/01/09: CIA-RDP79-00999A000200010073-5