I have two topics to discuss today: First, a story is making the rounds about a man who was allegedly the first Soviet ancient astronaut theorist. The second is the upcoming MUFON UFO Symposium and its claims about the media.
The First Russian Ancient Astronaut Theorist?
You may have seen a story making the rounds on UFO websites about a Soviet scientist who supposedly investigated ancient astronauts in the 1920s and 1930s before being imprisoned in a Stalinist work camp as a result of his work. According to the story, published in a Russian magazine in 2011 but only now being discussed in English, Genrikh Mavrikiyevich Ludvig gained special access to secret Vatican archives, which revealed the arrival of ancient astronauts. He then correlated this with Maya hieroglyphs, which he said depicted space beings in spacecraft.
I originally thought the story was a fake, now I think it is a bit more complex than that. I think it has a kernel of truth.
The article attributes to Ludvig architectural plans for a proposed Soviet embassy in Turkey, and Selim Omarovich Khan-Magomedov’s 1983 book Pioneers of Soviet Architecture contains references to Ludvig under the spelling Genrikh Lyudvig, calling him one of the country’s “most original” architects and noting his training as an engineer. The book confirms that he did in fact design the embassy plans shown in the magazine. He really existed! I was unable to find any confirmation, however, that the man was a leading ancient astronaut theorist of the 1920s. That is where things start to get interesting.
The details of the story don’t make much sense. According to the story, Ludvig took photographs of the Vatican’s secret extraterrestrial manuscripts, though these conveniently disappeared sometime in the 1960s. Here is the English summary-translation from the link above, but note that the writer uses photocopies where the original implies photographs.
…Professor Ludvig showed his students photocopies of the Vatican’s ancient manuscripts (containing information about extraterrestrials that had visited our planet) with drawings, described to them the hidden essence of ancient myths; he told them of the Fiery Pillar that destroyed an advanced ancient civilization; he showed the students photos of the fortress walls discovered in Babylon, melted with the horrendous temperature and believed that nuclear blasts could cause this.
The claims attributed to Ludvig were more famously made by Soviet mathematician Matest M. Agrest in the 1950s. It’s unclear that anyone would have been discussing the vitrifying power of nuclear weapons in the 1920s or early 1930s, and it took a little reading to figure out that these claims were apparently made in the 1960s, not the 1930s.
Ludvig doesn’t seem to actually have been an ancient astronaut theorist in the 1920s and 1930s. Instead, the article talks about his belief in lost civilizations (the Sumerians, he said, were like a book whose first pages had been pulled out) and that ancient monuments had esoteric spiritual energy. The Pyramids, he said, could be activated with meditation. He spoke of astral projection and ascending to meet God in the spheres beyond earth. In other words, he sounds more like a Theosophist rather than a nuts-and-bolts ancient astronaut theorist, much like his contemporary, the émigré occultist Nicholas Roerich. Ludvig had an interest in primitive magic and complained to the Soviet government that they failed to return his copy of The Golden Bough after his release from internment in the late 1950s.
The only evidence that he believed in spacemen or that there was a nuclear bombing of Babylon comes from one of his former students, who recalled Ludvig talking of such issues much, much later—in the 1960s, the height of the Soviet ancient astronaut craze, when Matest M. Agrest, Alexander Kasantsev, and I. S. Shklovskii had popularized the idea. So, if I take the evidence at face value, it sounds like Ludvig had typical Theosophical-style esoteric ideas about ancient history in the 1930s and later converted to ancient astronaut beliefs in the 1960s, like many of his generation who saw parallels between the esoteric and ancient astronauts. As for the Vatican material, that is probably a combination of exaggeration, secondhand memory, and wishful thinking based on “interpretations” that the Russian scholar imposed on the source materials—source materials that are conveniently not cited by the only person to claim they existed, a student of his 50 years ago.
MUFON UFO Symposium
Earlier this week a representative of Consulting Arts Management, working on behalf of the Mutual UFO Network, contacted me to promote MUFON’s upcoming symposium in Cherry Hill, New Jersey next month. The topic of this year’s symposium is going to be media coverage of UFOs. The press release had the usual typos and assorted errors, and it was especially funny in the disconnect between the professed purpose of MUFON’s 45th symposium and the actual content of the planned lectures.
Here is what MUFON executive director Jan C. Harzan said about the upcoming conference according to the press release:
Historically mainstream media has kept its distance from professional coverage of UFOs. And the little coverage it does receive is riddled with tired ‘little green men’ references and other old techniques. We’ll discuss the profound effect of the media and how the media can sway or control perception and our plans to effect change for realistic coverage in the future.
Harzan did not answer the question of how MUFON’s Hangar 1: The UFO Files, airing on H2, fits into this inquiry into media coverage of UFOs. That program, as I demonstrated earlier this year, included such “fresh” and “new” techniques as recycling National Enquirer stories about celebrity UFO sightings and fabricating government documents from re-edited material drawn from Stanton Friedman’s books. Similarly, it was unclear how MUFON sees a lack of UFO coverage in a television universe where at least 100 hours of UFO programming air across the cable dial each week on channels such as H2, Destination America, the Science Channel, the Biography Channel, the National Geographic Channel, Syfy, and more.
Stanton Friedman will be on hand at the Symposium to discuss “laziness and misrepresentation” in coverage of UFOs in the media, but I’ll bet dollars to doughnuts he won’t mention MUFON’s own misappropriation and misrepresentation of his work in its Hangar 1 cable series.
Harzan is concerned that the media focus on “old” techniques, yet the keynote event at the Symposium is a celebration of the 25th anniversary of the so-called Area 51 whistleblower. And since Harzan is deeply concerned that the media want to belittle serious UFO research as wacky people talking about little green men, he may want to rethink having Ancient Aliens pundit Linda Moulton Howe deliver a lecture on whether the stone monuments of Göbekli Tepe in Turkey are “alien terraforming” devices. You know, the scientific, serious research!
The press release stated that “speakers are available for interviews in advance,” and the PR agent suggested I could interview Linda Moulton Howe. However, when I asked the PR agent to set that up, she came back the next day and told me that she wouldn’t be able to do that and instead directed me to Howe’s Earth Files website. Translation: Howe doesn’t want to speak to me. Apparently my coverage of ancient astronauts doesn’t meet her high standards for professionalism.
I think that about says it all: One of the star attractions at a conference dedicated to complaining about the lack of quality media coverage of UFOs and ancient astronautics won’t talk to me even to publicize the event. Can’t she handle even a few challenging questions about her extraordinary claims?
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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