Felix Ziegel

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Felix Yurievich Ziegel
Zigel felix.jpg
Born March 20, 1920
Moscow, Soviet Russia
Died November 20, 1988
Moscow, USSR
Citizenship Soviet
Fields astronomy
Alma mater Moscow University
Known for 43 books on astronomy
Being a Soviet ufology pioneer

Felix Yurievich Ziegel (Russian: Феликс Юрьевич Зигель, born March 20, 1920, Moscow, Soviet Russia, - died November 20, 1988, Moscow, USSR) was a Soviet researcher, Doctor of Science and docent of Cosmology at the Moscow Aviation Institute, author of more than forty popular books on astronomy and space exploration, generally regarded as a founder of Russian ufology.[1][2] Ziegel, co-organizer of the first ever officially approved Soviet UFO studying group, became an overnight sensation when, on November 10, 1967, speaking on the Soviet central television, he made an extensive report on the UFO sightings registered in the USSR and encouraged viewers to send him and his colleagues first-hand accounts of their observations, which resulted in barrage of letters and reports.[3] Having lost the final of his many battles with detractors in 1976, Ziegel continued his studies unofficially. He died in November 1988, leaving unpublished 17 volumes of his research in his daughter's archives.[4]


Felix Ziegel was born on March 20, 1920, son of a lawyer, Yury Konstantinovich Ziegel, a Russian-born ethnic German.[3] Ziegel often spoke (as his daughter wrote in her memoirs) of how he would start his future autobiography with the words: "I was sentenced to death before I was even born". In March 1920 Yury Ziegel's 22-year old wife, Nadezhda Platonovna, found herself on the Cheka's death row, waiting to be put before the firing squad for alleged "counter-revolutionary activities". According to her granddaughter's memoirs. the sight of a "doomed young beauty in her last days of pregnancy" made such a disturbing effect upon a senior investigator officer that he promptly opened the door and let her go. One week after her miraculous release Nadezhda Ziegel gave birth to her son. The parents called him Felix, although not after Dzerzhinsky, the infamous "iron man" of the early Soviet revolutionary justice, as some of the family's friends half-seriously suggested, but after Prince Felix Yusupov, the man behind the Rasputin murder, whom husband and wife hero-worshipped, praising his "patriotism and unique courage."[4]

Nadezhda and Felix Ziegel. 1925

Felix Ziegel, born a weak and sickly child, was sent to the family's countryside dacha in Tarusa to be there literally milked back to life. It was here in Tarusa that a six-year-old constructed a primitive telescope and started his first journal of astronomical observations. Regardless of the post-1917 hardships, Yuri Ziegel managed to give his son fine education, both technical and humanitarian. Young Felix, apart from being a fanatical astronomy enthusiast, showed deep interest in (and later - academic level knowledge of) history, philosophy, Russian Orthodox Church architecture and theology, the family being a very religious one. Influenced by his spiritual tutor, Alexander Vvedensky, whose sermons he attended regularly, Felix seriously considered the possibility of devoting himself to religion. Love for astronomy prevailed, though, and in 1938 he joined the Moscow University's Mekhmat (Mechanics & mathematics) faculty.[4]

Two years earlier 16-year-old Felix Ziegel took part in his first ever scientific expedition: along with the team of senior scientists he traveled to Kazahstan to observe the total eclipse of the Sun. It was there that Ziegel got acquainted with a member of an US expedition camped nearside. The name of the American was Donald Howard Menzel, the one whose book some years later would change his life.

In 1939 Felix Ziegel, a 2nd year student, was expelled from the University after his father's arrest; the latter was falsely accused of plotting the destruction a factory in Tambov. It soon transpired that the anonymous report was compiled by a neighbour, motivated by the prospect of moving into the jailed man's flat. Yuri Ziegel was freed, but not until he spent two years in prison. According to Tatyana, his grand-daughter, Ziegel Senior returned physically and morally broken man. His leg had to be amputated – a direct consequence of so-called zhuravl ("the Crane") torture which involved causing a prisoner to stand on one leg during the interrogation.[4]

In 1941, as the war broke out, Ziegels were deported to Alma-Ata. That was taken as a kind of favour, almost, since Felix, as an ethnic German, might have ended up easily in a labour camp or the much feared shtrafbat ranks. Soon he even managed to return to the University which he was graduated from in 1945. The same year his first book "Eclipses of the Moon" was published. In 1948 after three years' work in the USSR Academy of Science Felix Ziegel got his Candidate of Sciences degree in astronomy and started lecturing in Moscow institutes.

In the late 1940s Ziegel made his debut as a public lecturer, speaking mostly in Moscow's Geodesic institute and The Planetarium, to a hugely favourable popular response. Ziegel's Life on Mars and Tunguska spoken-word shows were all-round favourites; one-kilometer queues of avid ticket-buyers stretched out to the venues. Ziegel's lectures were staged in the manner of modernist theater productions. The Tunguska show, based on the Alexander Kazantsev's sci-fi short story "Vzryv" (The Blast) had a soldier protagonist played by a professional actor; the latter sauntered all around the place, theoreticising about how the Tunguska disaster might have been the result of an atom bomb explosion akin to that of Hiroshima or an alien spacecraft crash, enthralled audience members gradually being involved into a discussion.[4]

It was Ziegel who's put forward the first ever mathematically justified hypothesis for Tunguska blast having been the result of an alien spacecraft crash (which, according to the author, made a curve-like maneuver 600 kilometers in diameter before exploding in the air).[5] The concept jarred with the official "meteorite theory" but a decade later the evidence was found proving the object indeed went off in the air, without contacting the Earth. The discovery was a result of numerous expeditions to the region in the 1960s made by enthusiasts who, in their own turn, cited early Ziegel's lectures as an original inspiration.

In 1963 Ziegel, now a co-author (with V. P. Burdakov) of the first ever Soviet university textbook on cosmonautics and space exploration became the astronomy docent in the Moscow Aviation Institute. The same year he read Donald Menzel's book Flying Saucers published in Russian. Having seen through (as he later stated) the author's dismissive rhetoric, Ziegel became intrigued by the book's factual aspect. It reignited his old interest in all things extraterrestrial and, in retrospect, put an end to what looked like a highly promising academic career.[4][6]

Ziegel and the UFO studies[edit]

In the early 1967 the first official Soviet UFO Study Group was formed. Its first meeting was held on May 17, 1967 in the Moscow ЦДАиК (Aviation and Cosmonautics Center). Major-general P. A. Stolyarov was the group's leader, F. Ziegel his first deputy. In October The DOSAAF Cosmonautics Committee became interested enough to let the Group function under its auspices.[7]

Preceding this was the publication of Ziegel's article in Smena Magazine where he wrote:

We have seen these UFOs over the USSR; craft of every possible shape: small, big, flattened, spherical. They are able to remain stationary in the atmosphere or shoot along at 100,000 kilometers per hour. They move without producing the slightest sound, by creating around themselves a pneumatic vacuum that protects them from the hazard of burning up in our stratosphere. Their craft also have the mysterious capacities to vanish and reappear at will. Besides, they are able to affect our power resources, putting to a halt our electricity-generating plants, our radio stations, and our engines, without, however, making any permanent damage. So refined a technology can only be the fruit of an intelligence that is indeed far superior to ours.[1]

The article caused furore in the USSR and regarded in the West as the first ever evidence that the Soviets were aware of the UFO phenomena too.

By this time Ziegel completed his section in the book called Naselyonny Kosmos (The Inhabited Cosmos) where he compiled a huge bulk of data collected over the three years, including numerous Russian pilots reports drawn from the Ministry of Civil Aviation archives. The work on it was started in 1963 by the team of well-known Soviet scientists. The extensive, ambitious volume devoted entirely to the question of extraterrestrial intelligence search was due to be released by the USSR Academy of Science’s Nauka Publishing House in 1968. The project's Editor-in-chief was Boris Konstantinov, the Academy's vice-President, famous academics Vitaly Ginzburg, Anatoly Blagonravov, Vasily Parin heading the team of scientific reviewers.[8]

In order to promote the book and get the informational flow a boost, on November 10, 1967 Stolyarov and Ziegel went on air and, speaking on the Central TV, encouraged viewers to send their first-hand accounts in. The response was astonishing: it showed, Ziegel later wrote, that the UFO phenomena was indeed widespread. But before the Committee (by this time comprising more than 200 scientists and high-level professionals) could even begin to work on the information received, its work was abruptly and without explanation cancelled. To Ziegel this was a heavy blow.

In the end of 1967 the Soviet Academy of Sciences' Physics department led by L. Artsymovich, passed a resolution denouncing studying of UFOs as such. Nevertheless, in February 1968 a high-level discussion was held in Moscow, academics Leontovich, Mustel and Petrov attending, Ziegel making the report. In a few days time he received a letter from Edward Condon, director of the University of Colorado UFO Project, suggesting that the Soviet and the American groups should cooperate, beginning with the information exchange. Figuring that such a cooperation would be possible only on the official level, Ziegel and twelve other members of his group wrote a letter to the Soviet government to make an official request for creating the state-sponsored organization that should coordinate all the UFO research in the country. Next month he received the official response: it was negative.[9]

The Inhabited Cosmos book was already in print, when sudden Boris Konstantinov's death in July 1969 made the whole thing's prospects bleak. Academician Lev Artsimovich demanded that the book should be immediately confiscated and be brought before Academician Vasily Fesenkov for further scrutiny. In May 1970 the almanac's two editors, Ziegel and V. Pekelis, received by post a resume signed by Artzymovich and Fesenkov. It said among other things: "Along with articles based on strong scientific evidence we found there some pseudo-scientific scoops (UFOs, Tunguska meteorite, etc) more akin to fables, which can in no way be published under the Academy's guidance".[10]

Ziegel and Pekelis made an official protest. It was upheld by Academician Parin, the almanac's new Editor-in-Chief, but rejected by M. D. Millionschikov, the Academy's vice-president. All in all, 32 pieces were cut. The 1972 edition, according to Argumenty i Fakty, "shook the general readers profoundly"[3] but there was not a mention in it of the UFOs and Tunguska event. "Our efforts to introduce the truth about UFO phenomena to a wide scientific community failed completely," Ziegel later admitted.[10]

In the early 1973 I. F. Obraztsov, the then MAI rector (later the Education minister of RSFSR) asked Ziegel to give him a general picture of (as he put it) "the current situation around the UFO problem and suggest scientific methods of resolving it." Impressed by researcher's report, he reacted sympathetically to the idea of restarting the project, but when it came to providing the organizational help, could promise only moral support.[11] His letters to the Russian Academy of Sciences President Mstislav Keldysh and the governmental Science & Technology committee having brought no response, Ziegel decided to take another course of action. He called the special meeting of Academy's Radio astronomy Council, with venerable scientists like Vsevolod Troitsky and Nikolai Kardashev present, among others. Ziegel's lecture made an impact: in a carefully worded resolution the Council proposed that the "data exchange process should be maintained" between the radioastronomers' Council and the UFO investigators.[11]

As a result in the late 1974 Ziegel formed another UFO Study Group, this time based in MAI. He compiled a major study called "The Preliminary Study of anomalies in the Earth's atmosphere" and initiated the ambitious UFO-77 symposium, twenty reports having been already prepared. All this time Ziegel continued his public lecturing; this was to be the cause of his next major trouble.

F. Ziegel in Sharapova Ohota, Moscow region, 1977. The drawing, made according to witnesses' reports depicts a UFO, allegedly seen at this very place

In July 1976 one of Ziegel's lectures, made in the secret Moscow Kulon plant (and, as he later made a point to stress, KGB-sanctioned), amateurishly shorthanded and full of mistakes (but bearing the author's – name, credentials and even the home telephone number), appeared in samizdat.[12] Then followed what Ziegel later referred to as his "days of nightmare." His phones at home and in MAI were ringing continuously, driving him to the point of nervous breakdown. Detractors saw their chance. On November 28, 1976, sci-fi writer Yeremey Parnov published in Komsomolskaya Pravda an article entitled "The Technology of Myth-mongering". Referring directly to Ziegel and his studies, he called for "this whole UFO business to be sorted out," labeling ufology "pseudoscience".[3] Ziegel, who's always made the point of conducting his research on strictly scientific basis, responded by "The Technology of Lie" article but none of the central press wanted to publish it. Ziegel tried to sue Parnov for libel, but, as he later said, "in those times such a thing was all but impossible."[12]

Ziegel's UFO Study group was disbanded, the 1977 symposium cancelled. What Ziegel saw as "the libeling campaign aimed at the UFO studies as a whole," commenced. Not only the MAI authorities lost all interest in the UFOs, but what they did was open the so-called "Ziegel's case", forming two commissions aimed at "re-evaluating" him and his work. While one of them found Ziegel's professional activities in the institute flawless, another took a deeper approach, involving studies of his family history, notably his parents' pre-1917 "behavior". According to this second commission's verdict, Ziegel's work was non-scientific and entirely "self-promotional", its motivation being "getting the West interested in his own persona."[13]

According to the two commissions' joint communiqué, Ziegel's mistakes were the result of his "poor knowledge of the principal postulates of Marxism-Leninism," which prompted him "taking upon the subject far beyond his scientific qualification and scope of knowledge". Researcher's demand for this verdict to be openly discussed at the Institute's Communist party committee has been left without unresponse. Ziegel, though, had influential allies (who he later mentioned, but never specified). In The Brief History of the UFO Studying in the USSR he wrote:

.So I had to forward letters to our country's highest quarters. I informed them of how important it was that the UFOs should be studied in the USSR, of how serious and significant this problem was and of this press campaign's sheer absurdity. And this time my voice was heard. These higher quarters interfered and made sure no repressive sanctions would be put against me.[13]

Indeed, it was only from the Znaniye (Knowledge) society that was had been employing him as lecturer for more than thirty years, that he was expelled. Otherwise Ziegel's professional career at MAI continued as if nothing happened. Detractors had other ideas about his future. Among Ziegel's harshest critics were physicists V. A. Lashkovtsev and B. N. Panovkin (his former student). And, of course, - "Y. I. Parnov was not to be left behind. As A. P. Kazantsev informed me, speaking at the Writers' Union special Science fiction authors' congress on February 23, 1977, Yeremei Iudovich insisted that "Ziegel's lectures were the act of foreign ideological subversion. Their direct result was our industry's labour efficiency 40 per cent drop!",[13] Ziegel wrote.

Despite all this, in 1979 he managed to form another group of the UFO investigation enthusiasts. The group was unofficial and functioned under different conspiratorial guises, almost underground. It compiled, though, thirteen type-written volumes of classified UFO sightings evidence, complete with fresh theoretical works: studies on new methodics and original theories concerning the possible nature of the phenomena, all summed up in the extensive thesis entitled "The Introduction to the Future UFO Theory".[4]


It all ended in 1985 when Ziegel suffered his first stroke. Once back on his feet, he returned to the institute full of ideas and lecturing plans, but those would remain unfulfilled. Felix Ziegel died of his second stroke on November 20, 1988. T. F. Konstantinova-Ziegel was sure his death was the result of the heavy stress that had been dogging Ziegel for decades. Speaking to AиФ in March 2010, she said:

For my father Stalinism was a never ending affair. As the War broke out he, an ethnic German, had to be deported to Alma-Ata. After the War he had difficulties because his second name sounded too Jewish to many. And in the years of Thaw, when the whole country started to shake itself off this horrible catatonia, in science the domination of "the one and only correct point of view" was still regarded a norm. Obscurantism and common ignorance, unveiled malice from one group of people and secret jealousy of another – those were the reasons that prevented him from bringing his ideas to the general public's awareness.[3]
Для папы сталинизм так никогда и не кончился. Сосланный в начале войны в Алма-Ату как этнический немец, после войны он испытывал притеснения из-за своей якобы еврейской фамилии. А в годы оттепели, когда страна сбрасывала с себя оцепенение страшных времён, в науке так и продолжалось доминирование единственно правильной точки зрения. Невежество и мракобесие, открытая неприязнь одних и тайная зависть других не позволили ему донести свои мысли до широких масс.

According to ufology.net at least 50,000 UFO reports collected by Ziegel have been left stored in the MAI computers.[1] T. F. Konstantinova-Ziegel claims she is still in a possession of 17 huge type-written volumes of her father's unpublished work.[3]


  1. ^ a b c "UFOs A-Z. Ziegel, Felix". www.ufologie.net. Retrieved 2010-10-13. 
  2. ^ "Ф. Ю. Зигель". Энциклопедия непознанного. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f С. Кашницкий. "Феликс Зигель: он начал изучать НЛО еще при Сталине". АиФ. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Т. Ф. Константинова-Зигель. "Кто такой Ф. Ю. Зигель". ufo.far.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  5. ^ Зигель, Ф.Ю (1993). "Из истории изучения HЛО в СССР, cтр 1 / From 'The History of UFO Studying in the USSR'". tululu.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  6. ^ Зигель, Ф.Ю (1993). "Из истории изучения HЛО в СССР, cтр 2 / From 'The History of UFO Studying in the USSR'". tululu.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  7. ^ В. Сурдин. "Уфология". Энцикопедия «Кругосвет». Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  8. ^ Зигель, Ф.Ю (1993). "Из истории изучения HЛО в СССР, cтр 7". tululu.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  9. ^ Зигель, Ф.Ю (1993). "Из истории изучения HЛО в СССР, cтр 6". tululu.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  10. ^ a b Зигель, Ф.Ю (1993). "Из истории изучения HЛО в СССР, cтр 8". tululu.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  11. ^ a b Зигель, Ф.Ю (1993). "Из истории изучения HЛО в СССР, стр. 10". tululu.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  12. ^ a b Зигель, Ф.Ю (1993). "Из истории изучения HЛО в СССР, cтр 11". tululu.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13. 
  13. ^ a b c Зигель, Ф.Ю (1993). "Из истории изучения HЛО в СССР, cтр 13". tululu.ru. Retrieved 2010-08-13.