By Bronwyn McLaren.

One of Moscow's most offbeat offerings on the conference circuit took place Tuesday and Wednesday at the State Darwin Museum: The International Conference on the Relict Hominoid.

The meeting was an attempt by believers in relict hominoid, or yeti, also known as the abominable snowman, bigfoot or Sasquatch, to convince a skeptical world that the elusive, ape-like beast does exist and is part of the hominoid, or superfamily, of primates. The conference was timed to coincide with the 30th anniversary of American anthropologist Roger Patterson's 1967 landmark footage of what he claimed to be yeti, shot in Northern California.

The first day of the conference was devoted to Patterson's 30-second film showing a nervous-looking creature with large female breasts. The purported bigfoot is seen loping away from the camera, putting one foot in front of the other and leaving a straight line of prints, much as a large human would. The footage has been decried by many as a hoax, but a few swear by its authenticity. Among the stalwart defenders is Dmitry Donskoy, 87, a professor of biomechanics at the Central Institute of Physical Culture. "I am fully convinced there is nothing false in this film," he said from a podium he shared with a small stone replica of the beast captured in Patterson's film.

Donskoy, who specializes in the science of movement, gave his expert opinion on whether a creature 2 meters tall and weighing up to 250 kilograms would walk in the style shown in the film. After studying the grainy footage, which was shot from a distance of 30 meters according to Patterson, Donskoy concluded that bigfoot's beeline was completely congruous with his imposing frame. To prove his point, Donskoy re-enacted yeti's stride, slowly pacing across the stage, one foot before the next. An enthralled audience of mostly anthropologists, geologists and other scientists besieged Donskoy with questions. Some were completely tangential, as in the case of a woman who inquired about the relation between a person's walking style and mood.

To heighten public awareness of Patterson's film, former schoolteacher Dmitry Bayanov recommended that it be included in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first bigfoot documentary. He also suggested assigning the Latin name of "Homo troglodytes pattersoni" to the wild primate and to establish a Porshnev World Institute of Hominology, named after a Russian scientist who specialized in the beast to study the creature's role in the evolutionary process.

The Soviet Union, where yeti was known as Snezhni Chelovyek, or Snow Person, was the first country in which the government backed scientific research of yeti in 1958 during the post-Stalin thaw. But an unsuccessful expedition to the Central Asian Pamir Mountains cast doubt on the creature's existence, and during later times, study of the Snow Person, like religion, came to be regarded as superfluous to the Soviet state.

Some 1,000 sightings of bigfoot have been claimed in the former Soviet Union, including one case that suggested interbreeding with humans. Vazghen Karapetian, an army doctor, claimed to have seen a "strange, hairy man" in the Caucasus in 1941. "It was a totally wild creature," he later wrote. "His eyes had an empty, purely animal expression. I extended my hand to him and even said 'Hello,' but he did not respond."

Grover Krantz, a professor of anthropology at Washington State University and one of two foreign scientists in attendance, said that despite the commonly used term "abominable snowman," snow was irrelevant to bigfoot's existence. "There have been unconfirmed sightings in Guatemala and Mexico," he said. Krantz was initially a skeptic, but two footprints, spotted in California in 1975 and 1993, inspired him to write the article "Anatomy of the Sasquatch Foot."

(c) 1997 Independent Press.

By Nanette van der Laan in Moscow

Lumbering through an open clearing in a forest, an enormous, ape-like creature looks straight into the camera. It is hairy, has no neck and its long arms nearly reach the ground.

After only a few seconds, the creature moves on and is lost. But for an audience of international scientists, that brief shot was enough to support their theory: the Abominable Snowman exists.

Several dozen scientists gathered in Moscow yesterday for a two-day conference to discuss the Yeti, or Abominable Snowman, and its North American counterpart, the brown-haired Big Foot.

Dismissed by some as crazy, the scientists are convinced that the Yeti is alive and provides the missing link in the chain of human evolution.

"Big Foot is real and it concerns every human being on Earth for it pertains to the origin of man," said Dr Grover Krantz, professor of anthropology at Washington State University, one of the conference speakers.

"If you asked me if UFOs exist, I'd say `no way'. But I've studied this creature and I'm 100 per cent sure it is real."

Besides claiming to have found Big Foot tracks all across North America, Dr Krantz, like his colleagues, says the grainy film shot in 1967 as ultimate proof.

"When I saw the film I was sure it was just a man in a suit," he said. "But we've studied that film in every possible way and there is just no way that it's a hoax."

The footage, shot in California by a rancher, is so revered that the conference was organised to coincide with its 30th anniversary.

In the former Soviet Union, where sightings of the "Snow Man" or "Humanoid" are reported on a regular basis, the conference attracted dozens of anthropologists, zoologists and even mathematicians.

One by one, professors hailing from the Arctic North, the Caucasus and the mountains of Tajikistan climbed on to the rostrum to announce their findings. The participants, displaying different alabaster casts of tracks found around the world, believe the Yeti may be a living Gigantopithecus, an anthropoid ape, the so-called link in the chain of human evolution. But John Greene, a Canadian, acknowledges that until a Big Foot is found and properly analysed, he will never be taken seriously.

Dmitri Bayanov, the author of Big Foot - Fact not Fiction, is convinced that it is just a matter of time until he and his assembled Big Foot experts will be respected for their work.

"Just remember this: when scientists found fossil remains and said they belonged to dinosaurs and Neanderthals, they were also dismissed as crazy," he said.

(c) Telegraph Group Limited, London, 1997.

Credit: Paul Cropper