CIA officials believed that Soviet scientists took part in ‘several successful Extra-Sensory Perception (ESP) experiments’ in the 1980s, according to a recently-declassified document from the time.
The U.S. spies wrote in an April 1991 memo that they thought the Russians had made remarkable progress in understanding ESP – reception of information not gained through the recognized physical senses, but sensed with the mind.
They reported back that one Soviet scientist, Konstantin Buteyko, ‘had perfected his method in the early 1980s’.
A second Soviet scientist, Vlail Kaznacheyev, was described as ‘a well-known authority on ESP’.
Konstantin Buteyko (left) and Vlail Kaznacheyev were described by the CIA as ESP experts
The documents were obtained by John Greenewald, a researcher who runs the website The Black Vault and specializes in Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
On Monday he published his latest finding: a CIA report, which was declassified in November.
The four-page report is a memo sent from the U.S. officials, looking both at Soviet research into the chemicals found in Agent Orange, and at ‘psychic medical treatment at USSR Clinical and Experimental Medicine Institute’.
In institute, IKIEM in its Russian acronym, was based in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk, the third largest city in Russia.
Buteyko, who died in 2003 aged 80, was the head of the Laboratory of Non-Traditional Treatment at IKIEM.
He is known for his research into deep breathing and asthma: according to the declassified document, he was also researching ESP.
Buteyko’s method, the CIA wrote, was one by which ‘a medical specialist attempted psychically to transmit bioenergy to patients to enable them to control or cure asthma, sinusitis, allergies, chronic bronchitis, pulmonary inflammation and heart disease’.
The U.S. spies noted that Buteyko ‘had perfected his method in the early 1980s’.
Volunteers would sit in the middle of a room, positioned between two concave mirrors, while the scientists tried from afar to ‘transmit psychic energy’ to the patient.
They believed the mirrors ‘focused psychic energy’.
The Americans wrote that, in the mid 1980s, two labs – IKIEM and a second one in Leningrad, now St Petersburg – ‘took part in several successful ESP experiments’.
Kaznacheyev, who the CIA described as being affiliated with IKIEM, and who is known for his work as a biologist, told the memo authors of work in which scientists ‘attempted psychically to relay to one another images of geometric shapes such as squares or circles’.
The memo concludes that Kaznacheyev did not say whether the Soviet military were interested in the research.
The CIA declassified the April 1991 memo in November in response to a FOIA request
The declassified document gives further context to the study of the USSR’s ESP experiments.
The Soviet fascination with ESP has been known about for decades: in the late 1960s Nikolai Khokhlov, a former KGB agent who defected to the West in 1954, spoke extensively about Russia’s experiments.
In September 1966 he told a conference, according to Atlas Obscura, how ‘in Soviet Russia considerable interest has been aroused in research in parapsychology.’
Khokhlov said Russian psychology made the people ‘specifically sensitive to matters relative to the mystical side of the human psyche’ and ‘to a world beyond the sober reality of sense.’
He then lectured the group about Russian scientists who had undertaken studies of ESP dating back to the late 1800s, telling them that the Soviet government actively encouraged such study.