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Russian nesting academies
Article published on 16 April 2011

by Irna

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Mr. Osmanagic says that he is opposed to ‘mainstream’ science, that he supports ‘popular’ science (or populist science? See here : “I am not interested in the approval of elite scientists. This project is for the people”), and can use a whole interview to criticize that same ‘mainstream’ science. Nevertheless, he seems unable to refrain from arraying himself in a whole panoply of academic or pseudo-academic degrees [1] – a thirst for ‘mainstream’ recognition that, coming as it does from someone who claims to be ‘independent’ and prepared to overthrow all the certainties of ‘armchair scientists’, might seem more than a little odd.

Needless to say, he proudly flourishes the title of ‘Doctor’, awarded for a ‘sociology thesis’ (bs) on the Maya, defended before the Faculty of Political Science at the University of Sarajevo. The thesis reveals that Mr. Osmanagic’s knowledge of the Maya is based on such sources (bs) as the Reader’s Digest, Augustus Le Plongeon or José Argüelles. To those who might be surprised that a once prestigious university like Sarajevo felt able to issue a doctorate for such a ‘thesis’, I would say that, first, not only should they remember that the Bosnian university system has been in a bad state since the war, plagued by endemic corruption, but that it should also be borne in mind that Mr. Osmanagic’s supervisor, Hidajet Repovac, a recognized Bosnian intellectual, has been a participant - as a project ‘expert’ (bs) - in the ‘work’ of the Osmanagic Foundation from the outset, and was also ‘co-president’ of the ‘international conference’ of 2008 [2].

A university with ‘highly qualified’ teachers

To his title of ‘Doctor’ Mr. Osmanagic can now add that of ‘Professor’, since he recently began styling himself as “Professor of Anthropology at the American University in Bosnia-Herzegovina (AUBiH)”. This private university, established very recently, is in fact a real institution, and Mr. Osmanagic is actually mentioned in the list of teachers [3]. It is expected that, during the summer of 2011, as part of a summer semester, he will run a four-week course on “Bosnian megalithic sites”, part of the session consisting of fieldwork ... you’ll never guess where.

Readers seeking information will find the summer programme here and below:

Sites mégalithiques bosniens, été 2011
Bosnian Megalithic Sites, Summer 2011 - Source

Pyramids, underground labyrinths and megaliths, stone circles, burial mounds... students enrolling for the course will receive a complete cross-section of Osmanagic pseudo-archeology! The bibliographical references provided (page 3), besides, of course, Mr. Osmanagic’s own works, include books by ‘alternative’ archaeology journalists such as Graham Hancock and Philip Coppens, as well as a reference to a web page devoted to Dr. Nabil Swelim (but without any mention, of course, of Dr. Swelim’s latest report on the ‘pyramids’ in Bosnia...). But beware, this course is not a doddle: students face at least one examination a week, plus a final exam, for which they are forbidden to obtain information from unauthorized sources (“Obtaining information from [...] other unauthorized sources, [...] in connection with an examination or assignment is prohibited”, page 5). So, if they want to go home with their credits, they would be well advised not to come up with any speculative theories to the effect that Visocica is an anticline, or that the stone spheres are simple concretions...

I tried to find out from AUBiH their grounds for assessing Mr. Osmanagic as competent to teach anthropology, but so far have not received any reply [4]. Remember that ‘Doctor’ Osmanagic’s academic background was in economics, that his thesis was in sociology, that apparently he has never participated in any archaeological excavation - apart, of course, from the ‘excavations’ at Visoko - and that about all that can be said about his reading on archeological subjects is that, whilst undeniably eclectic (Jose Arguelles, Auguste Le Plongeon, Michael Drosnin, John Major Jenkins, Zecharia Sitchin, Richard Hoagland, David Icke, Edgar Cayce, Graham Hancock, Erich von Däniken ... ), few of these authorities would find much favour in the eyes of reputable archaeologists and anthropologists... Mr. Osmanagic’s appointment as “professor of anthropology”, even if only for a summer session, is all the more astonishing given the fact that AUBiH explicitly states on its website that it is very proud of the “high academic standard” of its teaching staff, all of whom supposedly obtained PhDs from “most-renowned universities in the United States of America”. And, in fact, the teaching staff recruitment page shows that even a lowly assistant professor must have a PhD plus “at least three scientific papers in acknowledged publications”. Those aspiring to professorial chairs must have published no fewer than two books and eight articles, on top of previous experience as an associate professor. Mr. Osmanagic has certainly published more than two books, including his “ambitious cycle of alternative history” (bs), a mélange of the Maya, Freemasons, Atlantis, Nazis, and the Illuminati, but his publications in refereed journals are so far proving rather elusive ...

In short, I’m not sure that this situation will do much for the reputation of which the American University of Bosnia and Herzegovina is so proud. One might also wonder what AUBiH’s partner institution, the SUNY Canton (State University of New York at Canton), might have to say on the subject. Is this august American university likely to appreciate seeing its partner institution’s logo appearing on the Osmanagic Foundation site, sandwiched between an advertisement for a book by Mr. Ahmed Bosnic (Book of Secrets, an encyclopedia of mystical and secret knowledge), and another for the Croatian Association of “natural energy and spirit medicine”? [5]

Capture d’écran réalisée le 23 mars 2011

A pseudo-Academy?

But the title of which Mr. Osmanagic is obviously proudest of all, so much so that he never neglects an opportunity of mentioning it, is that of “member of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Russia” (RANS in English, or RAEN in Russian) – or sometimes even “the youngest member” of this “distinguished” or “prestigious” academy. It should immediately be noted that, despite a similarity of name which probably owes little to coincidence [6], the academy of which Mr. Osmanagic is a member has nothing to do with the Russian Academy of Sciences (RAN), which, given its history and the number of Nobel Prizes awarded to its members, is evidently an institution of great distinction. The Academy of Natural Sciences of Russia (RAEN), on the other hand, is a private organization, founded in 1990, and claiming, according to various sources, between 4,000 and 5,000 members. Of these members, however, some also belong to RAN, which allows the confusion to flourish. Even if better known than some, however, it is in fact only one of many ‘academies’ that have proliferated in Russia over recent years:

  • International Academy of Sciences in Ecology and Security of Man and Nature
  • Russian Academy of Education
  • Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after the K.E. Tsiolkovsky
  • Academy of Information and Physics of Vacuum
  • International Academy of Authors of Scientific Discoveries and Inventions
  • International Academy of Information
  • Academy of New Consciousness
  • International Academy of Biotechnologies
  • Academy of Global Astrology and Metainformation (sic !)
  • International Academy of Informatics
  • International Academy of Energy Information Sciences
  • International Academy of Non-linear Diagnostic Systems
  • Saint-Petersburg Astrological Academy (sic again!)
  • Russian Ecological Academy
  • Russian Academy of Encyclopedia...

Most of these ’academies’ [7] have closer links to pseudo-science than to science proper, and the RAEN is unfortunately no exception. Let us be clear, though: very likely, there are amongst its members some perfectly serious scientists, doubtless including foreign correspondents who probably did not bother carrying out any pre-membership checks, or who, having seen the names of a few famous scientists, concluded that this must be a reputable organization. But its membership also includes many rather singular individuals, amongst whom Mr. Osmanagic would seem to be very much at home.

Let’s start with some of the more striking examples. Amongst this list (ru) of the RAEN members listed by Russian Wikipedia (Google translation here), we find for example a certain Vladimir G. Azhazha (ru), UFOlogist; a Pyotr Petrovich Garyaev (ru), author of a theory about “the genome wave” (?); and, a particular hoot, one Valery A. Chudinov (ru), epigraphy and palaeography specialist: a supporter of a theory about the Slavic and ‘Vedic’ civilization being the oldest in Europe, he discovers traces of it everywhere in the form of mysterious inscriptions in Russian on all kinds of media: walls, cave walls, drawings by Pushkin, and even the surfaces of the Earth, the Moon and Mars... Some other prominent members of the Academy of Natural Sciences Googled at random:

- Mirzakarim Norbekov, a healer and practitioner of martial arts; claims to be able to cure any sight-related disease or defect, and has successfully treated himself for an incurable disease.

- Boris Boyko, another practitioner of martial arts, besides being an astrologer, is also a founder of one of the ‘academies’ mentioned above, the Academy of Global Astrology and Metainformation (ru). According to this website, AGAM is collaborating with the RAEN to form a “Scientific Council for receiving degrees in astrology” ...

- Dario Salas Sommer, the inventor of “Moral Physics”, has been recognized by half of the ‘academies’ mentioned above for his demonstration that “morality is an objective reality based on the laws of quantum physics” [8], and that “the physical mechanism of morality is connected with the feminine form of Nature”, or else that “just like a cosmic womb, Nature produces photonic pulses that are emitted by humans” [9].

- Another notable member of the RAEN: Yuri Kuklachev, professional clown and director of a cat theatre. However, it is not clear whether it was because he was a clown that he was received into the academy, or because he was a friend of other pseudo-academics, including the healer Mirzakarim Norbekov mentioned above, and one Viktor Petrik, of whom more below.

- On a rather less way-out note, the ranks of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Russia include assorted politicians, most notably Ramzan Kadyrov, president/dictator of Chechnya, who will more probably be remembered for the murders carried out by his armed militias than for his contribution to science ...

- Johann Grander, inventor of the “Vivificator”. This is a pseudo-scientific gadget capable of purifying water through a “phenomenon of resonance” with “informed” water. While possibly not a member of the RAEN, Grander has nevertheless been awarded a “Silver Medal of Honour”, and has witnessed the efficacy of his “Vivificator” being demonstrated by a Vice-President of the RAEN...

- Another water purification specialist, the ‘academician’ Viktor Petrik. He is in a somewhat different league to those previously listed, in that he claims to be an expert in all sorts of areas, and the inventor of various special devices and revolutionary techniques, which according to him, should have been worth at least one Nobel Prize. But the invention of which he is proudest is a filter capable of purifying water and removing all conceivable residues, even to the point of eliminating radioactivity. This invention has enabled Petrik to achieve no less a feat than saving America – even if some unkind souls quibble over the reality of the accomplishment... In similar vein, the effectiveness of his magic filter apparently failed to convince the various laboratories where it was tested out. At any rate, it seems that Mr. Petrik has many political friends, particularly within Vladimir Putin’s ’United Russia’ party, which would have enabled him to obtain orders from several regional governments for the installation of the filter in schools and hospitals.

- Also closely related at one stage to political and military areas were two other RAEN ‘academy members’, Gennady Shipov and Anatoly Akimov. They it was who, in the 1990s, were the originators of a gigantic fraud based on a “torsion fields theory”, or “physical vacuum” theory, a fraud that allowed them to obtain millions of rubles from the Soviet government and army for off the wall experiments. Denounced as quacks by the Academy of Sciences (the real Academy of Sciences this time!), the two ‘physicists’ morphed into private enterprises such as Uvitor, and, more particularly, into a series of pseudo-research institutes with sonorous names: International Institute of Theoretical and Applied Physics, International Academy of Non-linear Diagnostic Systems, Academy of Information and Physics of Vacuum, Institute of Practical Psychophysics, all promoting various pseudo-scientific and pseudo-medical gadgets... These ‘institutions’ and ‘academies’ form a whole network, the same names keep cropping up (see, for example, the list of academies of which Gennady Shipov is a member), and these people are all members of the Academy of Natural Sciences ...

Given that the ‘Academy’ of which Mr. Osmanagic is so proud to be a member is positively seething with pseudo-science practitioners, one could carry on ad infinitum. But there is more to this than a mere assortment of individual cases: for, behind the façade of a learned institution devoted to science, the entirety of the Academy of Natural Sciences of Russia apparently conceals a whole other aspect, an aspect that is not very scientific at all.

In the same way as the “Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after K.E. Tsiolkovsky”, or the “Russian Academy of Education”, the Academy of Natural Sciences of Russia in fact forms part of an entire network of organizations whose purpose is apparently that of promoting ‘Russian cosmism’. A combination of mysticism and scientistic utopianism, seasoned with a little occultism and pan-Slavism, this philosophical movement developed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century under the influence of the Orthodox philosopher, Nikolai Fyodorov, the mineralogist Vladimir Vernadsky, and the astronautics theorist, Konstantin Tsiolkovsky. Despite being rather neglected during the communist period (even though some aspects of it were eventually to tie in quite neatly with Soviet utopianism), the collapse of the USSR allowed cosmism to resurface in Russia, albeit in somewhat different guise.

Michael Hagemeister is the author of a chapter entitled “Russian Cosmism In The 1920s and today” in the collection The Occult in Russian and Soviet culture [10] edited by ​​Bernice Glatzer Rosenthal. According to Hagemeister, even if “… the cosmists have always shared points of contact with occult and esoteric thought and tendencies” [11], modern cosmism presents a rather indigestible combination: “Much of the syncretic ideology currently propagated under the label of ‘cosmism’ appears to be a Russian variant of Western New Age thinking, since both are rooted in the same traditions of pseudoscientific utopian and occult and esoteric thought” [12].

References to cosmism pervade the RAEN every bit as much as they do the nebulous ‘academies’ of which, to a greater or lesser extent, it is composed. For example, there are repeated references to the concept of the ‘noosphere’ developed by Vernadsky (whose portrait adorns the RAEN logo), along with a “subdivision for noosphere-related knowledge and technology” (ru) that concerns itself equally with “alternative energy” and with “non-toxic cancer therapy methods”. However, the RAEN is also very active at the heart of a group that expounds a cosmism bastardized by theosophy, the group’s principal driving force being the “International Centre of the Roerichs - Museum by name of Nicolas Roerich”.

Nicolas Roerich (or Rerikh) was an esoteric artist and mystic who had an absorbing interest in Tibet. He explored that country whilst engaged in searching for the supposed common origin of Russians and Indians, and for the ‘lost kingdom’ of Shambala and ‘underworld’ of Agartha. His wife, Helena Shaposhnikov, translator of the ’inventor’ of Theosophy, Madame Blavatsky, also shared Madame Blavatsky’s ‘masters’, one of whom was ‘Mahatma Morya’. During the 1920s, Nicolas and Helena Roerich together became the founders of a quasi-theosophical doctrine called “Agni Yoga” or “Living Ethics” [13]. So what is the relationship between an esoteric movement of the 1920s and an Academy of Natural Sciences? It so happens that, in post-Soviet Russia, the Roerichs have again become flavour of the month, and a whole network of organizations based on their ‘teachings’ has sprung up:

It is now fairly evident that the “Academy of Natural Sciences of Russia” is consistently associated with the activities of those organizations. Together with the Roerich centre, and the Academy’s sister pseudo-academies, the latter has co-organized an entire series of lectures. I leave the reader to form his or her own estimate of the value of the various topics:

The same organizations also joined forces to finance various funds, such as the “Charitable Fund of Cosmic Thinking Support”, whose stated goal is the spread of a new mode of thought (the “cosmic mind”) amongst young people and children in particular [14]. Also with seats on the Board of Directors of this Fund are various members of the RAEN and of other pseudo-academies, one example being the clown and cat-trainer, Yuri Kuklachev.

In short, at the end of a survey during which, with monotonous regularity, we keep encountering the same people, the same pseudo-academies and the same pseudo-institutes, there is really no longer any possible room for doubt. Contrary to what I thought on first learning that Mr. Osmanagic was to be received as a member of the RAEN, he does belong in this ‘academy’. It is increasingly clear that his RAEN membership is by no means a ‘validation’ of any scientific quality inherent in his work. It is simply further confirmation – if any were needed – of the fact that Mr. Osmanagic and his entire project are securely lodged in the world of pseudo-science, something for which his peers have accorded him commendable recognition!