For many, the country of Ukraine may seem exotic and mysterious enough as it is. After all, many may not know much about its culture or people outside of the news stories documenting its various internal conflicts. This European country, long plagued by political turmoil and unrest, is the largest country to be contained entirely within Europe and the region has a long, storied history stretching back to the fist human habitation in 32,000 BC. Ukraine is also notable for its rich biodiversity and its diversity of geological features, as well as for its vast natural resources. Yet, for the most part, Ukraine seems to remain somewhat of a specter to the outside world, an enigmatic place that at times seems to be almost impenetrable to outsiders. Indeed, if one looks carefully and delves past the veil of mysteries shrouding this amazing, faraway land, one can find that there are some things in Ukraine that are even stranger than one might have imagined. From mysterious creatures, to puzzling historical phenomena, to sinister government cover-ups and dark conspiracies, Ukraine has its fair share of weirdness. Let us go forth and travel to this intriguing land to explore some of its more bizarre aspects.
Weird Beasts and Mystery Monsters
Ukraine is not without its menagerie of weird creatures said to prowl its wild places. One such creature is a bizarre lake monster long said to inhabit the depths of Lake Somin, near the village of Lukiv in Western Ukraine, and which has purportedly terrorized the locals here for over a century. The Lake Somin monster is reported to be a huge monster around 30 feet in length, with a head like a serpent and a crocodilian body, which is said to emit a groaning or wheezing sound at night that can be heard reverberating through the darkness. The creature is said to lie in wait within the many karst caves that dot the bottom of the lake, venturing out to pull down prey, including domestic animals such as horses, dogs, cats, and sheep, as well as humans, mostly in the hours of dusk and at night.
Reports of this mystery monster can be traced back to at least the 19th century, when in the days before World War I there was a dispatch from a village leader to Warsaw claiming that the locals had refused to pay fishing taxes due to their deep fear of some strange serpent lurking in the lake, which they claimed voraciously devoured fish and had a habit of lurching onto shore to take various domestic animals and human beings as well. The villagers of the area were apparently terrified of the lake and its sinister denizen, and avoided its shores at all costs. Intrigued, authorities began setting up an expedition in order to venture to the lake to find the alleged abomination, but the onset of World War I caused the search to be called off.
Many years later, during World War II, the stories of a crocodile-like beast lurking in the depths that terrorized the lake area persisted, and another expedition was mounted by the German military. After scouring the locale they could find no trace of such a creature within the lake, but this did little to stop the locals’ insistence that such a foul beast indeed resided there. The legends and tales of this monster still make the rounds today. 84-year-old local resident Ivan Kovalchuk has come forward with one such terrifying account, saying:
The monster assaulted Stepan, a groom. He was tending horses near the lake on that day. Actually, Stepan had too much of a drink so he stretched himself out on the grass and fell asleep. A crocodile-like creature crept on to the bank out of the water, moved up to the guy, and sniffed at him. Mushroom pickers came from the wood at the very moment. They saw that thing and started shouting out loud to scare it off. The monster reportedly opened its month and there wasn’t a single tooth inside.
Ukraine has purported strange creatures roaming the land as well. In the remote, rural region of the village of Chemer, villagers have long described a orange-colored to grayish, hairless dog-like creature said to resemble a cross between a dog, fox, and kangaroo, with a long tail, longish neck, front legs that are shorter than the rear, and prominent fangs. The mystery creature is said to hop about in a fashion similar to that of a kangaroo, and to prowl the wilderness feeding on rabbits, goats, and domestic animals such as chickens, cats and dogs, which seem to show a natural, profound aversion to it. More dramatic reports claimed that the monster is reptilian, and not only kills its victims, sucks the blood from the corpses until they are mere husks.
Stories of this bloodsucking fiend continued in the area for years and remained mostly a myth until a strange animal was killed by hunters in the remote region in 2007. The animal was examined by vets, who were perplexed by its skinny, hairless, vaguely fox-like appearance. The specimen was allegedly sent to the Zoological Museum of Zaporozhye National University, where a baffled director Alexander Korotya stated:
There is something in common with a fox, and a dog, but I cannot identify what kind of animal it is. For example, its canine teeth are similar to a fox, but smaller in size – like a marten. Yet a marten has a different type of skull. If to compare with an otter’s head, then the ears are too small. It has a wide nose and a stretched muzzle. My opinion is that it’s most likely a hybrid animal or a mutant.
The animal doesn’t look like a fox or a wolf, or a raccoon. It cannot even be a marten. I have never seen such animal before. But, judging by the fangs, I can definitely say that it is a predator.
Theories on what the mystery animal can be vary from the somewhat plausible to the more far-out. For some, it is merely a fox or dog with a bad case of mange, which is a skin condition that causes an animal to dramatically loose chunks of its hair or even all of it, significantly altering its appearance to seem more mysterious. Another theory points to the creature being some form of mutant fox that has been twisted by the ravages of radiation from the Chernobyl disaster. Other more fringe ideas speculate that the creature is an escaped specimen from some top secret government biological weapons lab, an alien of some sort, or even a wayward specimen of the fabled Chupacabras, or “goat sucker,” a fabled vampiric beast which has long been a staple of cryptozoology, primarily in Puerto Rico or Latin American countries. Since the corpse seems to be no longer available for analysis, we will likely never know for sure what it was or what relation it had, if any, with sightings reports of the dog monster.
With all of the radioactivity within the immediate area of the disaster, it is perhaps no wonder that tales of strange, mutated beasts have become a fixture of local lore ever since. Particularly, the lakes and waterways have become wellsprings of tales of abnormally large, mutated fish that lurch through the depths here. The phenomenon was most famously brought to public attention when Jeremy Wade, star of the popular Animal Planet TV show River Monsters, travelled there to fish its waters in search of the elusive creatures. Wade received special permission to enter the disaster zone and ventured to the Chernobyl area to try his hand at trying to catch one of the monstrous, outsized mutated catfish said to prowl the cooling channels of the Chernobyl reactor, armed with sophisticated radiation monitor devices.
Perhaps even more bizarre than lake monsters, Ukrainian Chupacabras, or mutated monster fish is a rather odd account that was making the rounds on the Internet back in the 1990s. The tale starts with the discovery of an unidentified man slumped over dead within a bleak, dilapidated tower block. The man was allegedly found sprawled out in an elevator, and an examination of the corpse found that there were two, yellowish blue bruised puncture marks to the neck and that it was a rather unearthly shade of pale. When the corpse was brought in to be examined, it was found that the cause of death had been an extreme amount of blood loss, with the body practically sucked dry, yet no sign of bloodstains had been found in the vicinity of the body when it had been found. There were also found no signs of foul play or forced entry. The story allegedly immediately caught on among the local residents of the tower block, who began to speak of some foul vampire killer on the loose, a rumor which authorities were eager to squash.
The rumors of some sort of vampire on the loose continued to swirl, and the panic increased until one month after the first killing residents of the apartment block heard the frantic screams of a girl emanating from the elevator and contacted the police. Horrified authorities would discover the corpse of a 13 year-old girl trapped within an elevator that was stuck between the 4th and 5th floors of the building. Once again, the body of the girl was found drained of blood, and with bruised, yellowed puncture marks on her breast. Eerily, it was the very same elevator that the previous victim had been found in.
This second death reinvigorated rumors of a vampire killer, human or otherwise, and panicked residents shunned using the elevator. For their part, the authorities purportedly tried to downplay the incident, claiming that the girl had died of a heroin overdose despite the fact that no syringe had been found in the vicinity and that the victim’s parents denied that she had ever used drugs. Locals were unconvinced, and insisted that some maniac or supernatural creature was on the loose.
In order to try and curb the sinister rumors, quell the growing unrest that the crimes were causing, and put everyone at ease, a detective and police sergeant were allegedly assigned to spend several days regularly riding up and down in the crime scene elevator at all hours. It is said that on one such patrol the elevator suddenly stalled between the 5th and 6th floors and the lights went black, forcing the two men to use their flashlights. Even at this point, the policemen were not particularly alarmed, thinking that the very old elevator had just broken down and would be back in operation before long. They used their two-way radios to inform their colleagues of the development and waited for rescue.
Apparently, the two men became alarmed when they heard an odd clicking noise from above them and trained there flashlights upwards to catch a glimpse of a dark square where a roof panel had become dislodged. It was from here that the strange sound was coming, and after a moment of training their flashlights on the hole they supposedly noticed a furry head about the size of a man’s fist peering in at them. The sergeant allegedly drew his weapon but was ordered not to fire yet, as the thing seemed to be cowering from the light.
In order to test out this theory, the detective allegedly turned off his flashlight and whatever it was shifted and moved, revealing itself to be an enormous spider with legs 3 feet long. This supposedly sent the sergeant into a panic and he dropped his flashlight, which went out. Now bathed in darkness, the creature is then said to have descended into the elevator and proceed to attack the sergeant, biting him over and over again until the detective managed get his flashlight back on and to fire off his weapon, scaring the creature away and allegedly shooting one of its legs off. According to the story, the emergency response team arrived to find the sergeant dead from blood loss and the spider’s leg quivering on the floor.
This whole account is a wild tale to be sure, and it is hard to know just how much truth it has to it. According to the stories, the whole incident was supposedly covered-up by the authorities but it managed to leak to a Turkish newspaper, which allegedly first broke the news. This newspaper account apparently mentioned that the spider’s lair was subsequently destroyed and that large eggs had been found. The theory as to its origin was that it was a giant spider mutated by the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant disaster. Since this outlandish tale is all based on a rumored report by a Turkish newspaper that could have very well been a tabloid, and considering that fact that any official source on the matter seems to be lacking, it smacks of a spooky tale generated by the Internet and is probably best taken with a grain of salt. Nevertheless, it is certainly creepy.
Strange Artifacts and Ancient Mysteries
Ukraine is steeped in numerous historical mysteries as well. A mysterious ancient artifact with its origins in Ukraine is the controversial Book of Veles, a perplexing manuscript on ancient Slavic history and religion spanning between the 7th and 9th century BC, which has baffled many who have attempted to study it and stirred considerable debate as to its authenticity. The book was purportedly discovered in an ancient, looted Ukrainian castle in 1919 by a Russian Lieutenant named Fedor Arturovich Izenbek. The strange, cryptic text was allegedly carved into a series of rotting wooden planks measuring 38 cm wide, 22 cm tall and about 0.5 cm thick, which had uneven edges and were joined at the top by two holes. The planks had apparently been scrubbed before carving, after which they had been painted with some sort of dark substance that had faded over the centuries. The text was comprised of bizarre, unintelligible letters and a variety of shapes such as suns, bull heads, and numerous animals.
Izenbeck purportedly unsuccessfully tried to sell the planks to a museum during a stay in Belgrade, but ended up storing them away in a cardboard box when he settled in Brussels. For years he thought nothing more of the planks until they caught the attention of a Russian emigrant and scientist by the name of Yuriy Mirolyubov, who would be the first to study them, and would go on to spend over a decade transcribing, photographing, and attempting to translate the manuscript. Bizarrely, during this course of study Izenbeck refused to allow them to be brought out of his house or to be studied at a proper lab, forcing Mirolyubov to conduct his work within the confines of Izenbeck’s home.
Mirolyubov would continue his study of the Book of Veles until the Nazi invasion of Brussels and Izenbek’s death in 1941. It is unknown what became of the book after this time, and it has become lost. The only remaining material is what Mirolyubov brought with him when he immigrated to the United States and passed them on to a professor A. A. Kurenkov in 1953. From there the book became a controversial and hotly debated topic, with various researchers agreeing or disagreeing with its authenticity, and it has strangely been banned in Russia.
Skeptics have pointed out that in-depth linguistic analysis of the language used in Book of Veles has show that it seems to be a mish mash of bits and pieces of several modern Slavic languages, with no regular consistent grammar, portions that seem to be completely made up, and numerous linguistic errors such as vocabulary misuse, spelling errors, haphazard phonetics, and grammar mistakes. This has led to the conclusion that the book is written in an invented, artificial Slavic language made up by someone with a passing knowledge of Slavic languages, that was then intentionally “aged” to make it seem ancient.
Another perplexing historical mystery of Ukraine is that of the enigmatic Cucuteni-Trypillian culture, which once inhabited a vast area of Eastern Europe, including portions of modern day Moldova, Romania and Ukraine somewhere between 5400 and 2700 BC before mysteriously vanishing. The culture gets its name from the village in which its remains were first discovered, a place called Cucuteni, in Romania, where pieces of pottery and strange terracotta figurines were found in 1884 by a Teodor T. Burada. Eventually, ancient ruins of the culture would also be found in Ukraine, near the village of Trypillia, in 1893 by a Vicenty Khvoika. As archeologists explored these mysterious ruins it became evident that this culture had built extremely large cities for their time, some of the largest in Neolithic European history in fact, displaying incredible architectural know-how and ingenuity for their time.
This was already intriguing enough, as until this discovery it had been thought that there were no particularly major or significant contributions made by ancient Eastern Europe to the advance of civilization in Europe as a whole, making it a groundbreaking archeological discovery at the time. Yet the mysteries of this ancient civilization were just beginning. One of the big mysteries is that evidence suggests that the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture regularly and deliberately burned their own settlements to the ground. It was found that many settlements were built directly on top of earlier sites which had been razed with fire, with one displaying 13 separate habitations in this manner, all while keeping with the basic layout and style of what had come before, and that each cycle lasted about 60 to 80 years. No one is quite sure what would compel these ancient people to raze their own villages to the ground, and much debate has ensued on the matter, but one thing that is for sure is that whatever they were doing was intentional.
Finally is the most baffling mystery of all. Where did these people go? One theory is that they met a violent end at the hands of the encroaching, invasive Kurgan culture. Another idea is that there was some sort of Dark Age or cataclysm, in which the Cucuteni-Trypillian people scattered out throughout the landscape and basically dissolved into the populaces of other areas of Europe. Yet another theory is that the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture experienced a devastating impact on their farming dependent society due to profound climactic changes that were gripping the region at the time, and subsequently were unable to continue their way of life. Again, no one is certain what happened to them, and they have left behind nothing but bleak ruins and mysteriously burned down settlements. It will likely continue to remain a point of debate and a stubborn historical mystery.
Bizarre Conspiracies and Cover-Ups
Ukraine is not above some serious political intrigue and conspiracy theories. One of the most widely covered incidents in the news in recent days had to do with the death of Oleksandr Peklushenko, former head of Zaporizhzhya, who had been governor of the southern Ukrainian region from 2011 to 2014 and was found dead in Kiev in 2015 with a gunshot wound to the head in an apparent suicide. The death was quickly linked to a string of other such deaths that seemed to revolve around deposed former President Viktor Yanukovych, whose election was fraught with charges of fraud and voter intimidation, and who was eventually ousted after numerous mass demonstrations calling for closer ties with the EU, which had erupted into violence as protesters clashed with police special forces units in Kiev’s Independence Square. Yanukovych was a pro-Moscow supporter before his government was overthrown and he took refuge in Russia. It was then that Russia moved in to claim the region of Crimea, sparking intense fighting in eastern Ukraine.
Indeed, Peklushenko was the eighth mysterious death of ten to be uncovered under suspicious circumstances within just a month. Adding to the list of deaths was Oleh Kalashnikov, MP of the Party of Regions (POR), who was found shot. Then was Olexiy Kolesnyk, former governor of Kharkiv region, who was found hanged in his residence. After that soon followed the death of Olexandr Bordiuh, who was oddly found dead of apparent hypertension. There was also Stanislav Melnyk, 53, an ex-MP, who was found shot to death in his apartment. Former party deputy chairman Mykhaylo Chechetov, who had been accused of abuse of office, was also found dead not long after, apparently from jumping from the 17th floor of his flat. Mayor Serhiy Valter was also found hanged soon after, having been accused of abuse of office. This was followed by the death of the Deputy chief of the police in Melitopol, Oleksandr Bordyuh, who was also heavily linked to Valter, and was found dead in his home. There was also Serhiy Melnychuk, a former Odesa prosecutor, who also jumped to his death, Mykola Serhiyenko, former first deputy chief of Ukrainian railroads, who died of a gunshot, and Russian journalist and writer Oles Buzyna, who was also found dead of a gunshot wound in the courtyard of his building. Most of these deaths seem to have been suicides, but some, if not all, are thought to have been murders, wherein the victims were forced to kill themselves or were killed in a way to make it look like suicide.
The suspicious circumstances of the deaths and their close proximity have caused many to point at some sort of sinister pattern. There have been many accusations that these deaths are assassinations that are the result of some political agenda or act of revenge. Indeed, Viktor Yanukovych had many enemies in high places, and had given plenty of reasons for someone to want to orchestrate a series of “accidents” involving those who had worked with him or been linked to him. Russian authorities have of course strongly denied this while at the same time mysteriously granting Yanukovych Russian citizenship by an alleged “secret decree” of Vladimir Putin, which has been subsequently mysteriously denied by Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov. Meanwhile, supporters of former President Yanukovych say they’re being targeted, and the ousted leader remains on an Interpol wanted list as he hides out in Russia. Amazingly, Yanukovych has long continued to proclaim himself President of Ukraine even as he remains in exile, and it was not until June of 2015 that he was officially stripped of the title. The case of the unsolved deaths surrounding him remains unresolved.
Besides supposed covert assassinations, there are other weird things going on in Ukraine. In early 2015, it was reported in a Ministry of Defense situation report that large numbers of Ukrainian military personnel in the field were falling seriously ill over a short span of time, with ultimately 20 reported dead and around 200 hospitalized due to a mysterious flu-like sickness which caused high fevers and dire respiratory complications that was said to aggressively kill within days and did not respond to any form of treatment. At first doctors didn’t have a clue as to what was causing the mysterious sickness and death, but the Donetsk People’s Republic intelligence went on to make a statement that an illness that they called “California flu” had accidentally leaked from a top secret private research lab staffed by scientists from the U.S. and located near the city of Kharkov, where the dangerous pathogen was allegedly being studied. Ominously, it was also reported that this strain was immune to all medication and was essentially incurable, corroborating the reports from medical personnel in the field.
Although tragic, this seems straight forward enough at first glance. After all, it seems perfectly reasonable that a research lab for viruses might have a leak, yet things get more bizarre when considering that the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) has no listing for an illness called California flu, nor is it mentioned in any medical journals or textbooks. Even so, regular situation reports continued to report the spread of the disease and the defense ministry continued to insist that it was the mysterious, seemingly nonexistent California flu.
All of this was made worse by the heavy fighting going on in the region at the time between Ukrainian separatists and the Ukrainian military allied with Russian forces moving in for the purpose of trying to annex Crimea. Considering this turmoil and fighting going on, it has been theorized that this “California flu” may have been an engineered biological warfare weapon that was intentionally unleashed only to spread out of control, rather than a simple leak of a naturally occurring virus being studied, although it is unclear who would have released it or who the intended target might have been. For now, the mystery of the California flu remains unsolved.
If covering up a top secret bioweapons program seems intriguing, how about the cover-up of a mysterious earthquake? On February 13, 2015, at 19:16:02 UTC , scientists at the Los Alamos National Laboratories recorded a strange, inexplicable 6.8 magnitude earthquake on the border between Russia and Eastern Ukraine, near the border with Belarus. The weird part is that not long after this quake was recorded, all official records of it simply vanished, and it was removed from the data banks as it quietly disappeared from the US Geological Survey page that had reported it. Interestingly, although the US Geological Survey initially reported that a quake had indeed occurred in the region and posted the information on its site, they quickly did an about face and subsequently claimed that the earthquake had in actuality not happened there at all. USGS Geophysicist Paul Caruso claimed that the agency’s sensors had made a mistake with the location of an earthquake that was occurring in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, around 700 miles (1,100 km) south of Greenland.
Many were not convinced. How did such a strong quake managed to get “unreported” and swept under the carpet? Indeed, how could the US Geological Survey make such an egregious mislocation of an earthquake? If the conspiracy theorists are to be believed, it is because the quake was intentionally covered-up. The prevailing theory is that it was not an earthquake at all, but rather a secret nuclear detonation that was subsequently intentionally erased from the records. Perhaps a secret agency or even the CIA stepped in and told the Geological Survey to get rid of the records, causing the sudden vanishing of the report. Another theory is that the quake was the result of an explosion caused by a mishap during some secret experiment or even the result of someone testing an “earthquake machine,” a theoretical weapon designed to trigger quakes in enemy territory. The true reason for why this earthquake was reported then unreported and erased remains a mystery.
Another odd mystery of a possible top secret experiment is the discovery of a series of dozens of strange structures found on a remote, secluded hillside near the town of Katsiveli, on the coast of the Black Sea in Ukraine. The odd structures appear at first glance to be merely rusted old Soviet era satellite dishes that have been painted with bright colors, yet on closer inspection one can see that they are in fact covered in a myriad of hundreds of mirrors that seem to have been installed by hand. The weird, mirrored dishes and the buildings accompanying them are all different, which seems to suggest that each was used for a different purpose, but what?
As we have seen, Ukraine is a land full of not only natural splendor precariously coexisting with political unrest, but also populated by strange mysteries that may forever remain unsolved. What lies at the heart of these enigmas that weave through this land as surely as its history and culture? What can we make of these mysteries? We may never know. For now, Ukraine remains as enigmatic and intriguing to the outside world as it always has, and perhaps always will.