The Abnauayu is the Russian analog of Bigfoot/Sasquatch, said to roam the lands around the Caucasus mountain range. Like other potential relict hominid habitats, the Caucasus is heavily forested and sparsely populated in many areas, allowing plenty of room for both a large creature to roam and legends to grow.
Most prominent among these legends is that of Zana (alternately Zanya), the name–which may mean “black” in local dialect–given to a “wild woman” of alleged Abnauayu stock. This woman appeared rather mysteriously in the region around 1850, when she was captured by hunters. According to lore, she was dark of skin and hair, extremely strong, and completely uncivilized. After passing through a series of owners, she ended up with a man called Edgi Genaba, with whom she remained until her death in 1890.
Zana, the tale goes, never did learn language or most other human niceties, despite living among humans for forty years. She was, however, eventually “tamed” enough to perform simple chores, and even gave birth to human children (fathers unknown), four of which survived into adulthood. The most well known of these children was Khwit (1884-1954), whose skull was exhumed in the 1970s and determined to be human by famed anthropologist and Bigfoot researcher Grover Krantz. Despite repeated attempts by Russian archaeologists and others, Zana’s bones have never been found in spite of the fact she was allegedly buried in the family graveyard near Khwit.
Eyewitness and family testimonies collected by Russian professors Alexander Mashkovtsev and Boris Porshnev during the 1960s seem to indicate, at least, that the story of Zana was well known among the local population, if not entirely factual. Igor Bourtsev eventually took over the case, as it were, and in 2009, in conjunction with the filming of an episode of the National Geographic series Is it Real?, brought Khwit’s skull (along with another female skull discovered earlier and thought to be that of Zana’s daughter) to New York for DNA analysis. The analysis revealed both Khwit’s skull and that of his sister to be 100% homo sapiens.
The origins of Zana, the wild woman, remain unknown.
National Geographic Is It Real? Episode: “Russian Bigfoot”