Almastu

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The Almastu (in Mongolian, "Almas"; in some Turkestani dialects, "Albastı") is to Turkestan what the Yeti is to Tibet. However, there are several differences between the general descriptions of the two creatures.

For a start, where the Yeti is thought to inhabit the high Himalayas, the Almastu's home range encompasses the Altaı and Ala Tau mountains through the Pamirs of Tajikistan and the Köpet Dağ of Turcomanistan, sometimes even as far west as the Caucasus.

Secondarily, the physical descriptions are of two different creatures. The yeti is described as a large anthropoid ape, perhaps walking on its hind feet, but definitely an ape, covered with dark hair. The Almastu is described as smaller than the yeti and covered with reddish hair. It is often portrayed as being "a man" without clothing or language or any of the trappings of civilisation; certainly it is a lot more man-like than the yeti of the high Himalayas. Some theorise that the Almastu are a remnant population of some earlier form of human; perhaps Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, or even Homo erectus. Reputable scientists, of course, discount the existence of the creature altogether.

Sightings

Reported Almastu sightings are rare, but like other strange creatures – the Sasquatch of North America or the Loch Ness Monster of Scotland – public interest and belief far outstrips anything actually concrete. Debate continues to rage over whether the handful of photographs and other assorted "evidence" are real or faked, with members of the Central Asian scientific community asserting that they are hoaxes and attempting to debunk the idea of relic proto-humans in popular consciousness.

Meanwhile, certain sectors of the public go on "Almastu-hunting" trips to the wilds of Turkestan, and devour the available literature and "eyewitness reports". In certain parts of Turkestan, particularly the wilder parts and the high mountains, tourists are regaled with tales – some real, some made up on the spot – of sightings of this elusive creature.

Almastu in Popular Culture

In Central Asian popular culture, the Almastu holds some of the mystique and aura of such beings as the Owl Man or Wendigo, but without a lot of the supernatural trappings. There have been several fantastic novels that have either referred to the Almastu in passing or made them the central theme of the book.

Most recent of these is a novel written in the format of a naturalist's journal, purporting to detail a year with the creatures as observed by a scientist studying them. A Year with Almastu (Kermente Press, 2008) by "Dr. Ibrahım Razov" – a pseudonym used for this novel by the Turkestani writer Mırjaqıp Bolat-ulı – has become something of a runaway success, and has been translated into Russian and Persian, with French and Butuņhua translations reputedly in the works. Despite its marketing as a novel with the usual work-of-fiction disclaimers, there have been reports of people treating the book as a serious scientific work, even claiming to have met Dr. Razov in person.

Several of the superhero comics of the Tiger Comics line have introduced the Almastu as a race of humans akin to the Neanderthals. In these stories they are not devoid of language as some suppose, but actually telepathic among themselves and having strange mental powers.

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