The Utopian Project of the Late-Soviet Waterbirth Movement: Its Interactions with the Global New Age, and Nowadays Inheritors

Researcher: Ozhiganova, Anna

Research Project: The Utopian Project of the Late-Soviet Waterbirth Movement: Its Interactions with the Global New Age, and Nowadays Inheritors

Region: Russia/USSR

Followers of the so-called “Russian Method of Home Waterbirth and Active Infant Raising” or the “Aquaculture Project” (AP) are practiced nowadays in various countries – in the USA, Thailand, France, Israel, and of course, Russia. They are distinguished by the lack of formal medical education, radical practices (giving birth underwater, ideally, in the ocean; cold strengthening via swimming in ice holes; infant swimming, diving, and gymnastics from the first hours of life), and a specific discourse about ‘baby-dolphins’ possessing supernormal abilities such as clairvoyance, telepathy, and metaphysical connections with dolphins. These spiritual midwives, infant swimming instructors, birthing coaches, and other alternative perinatal specialists are successors of a utopian project that originated in the Soviet Union in the 1970s and reached the peak of its popularity in the 1980s–1990s. The aim of the project, developed by the charismatic teacher and psychic Igor Charkovsky (1936–2021), was the creation of a “new human being” called a “sensitive” or a “baby-dolphin.” According to Charkovsky, dolphins could provide necessary assistance in the human adaption to water and thus contribute to the evolution of humans as aquatic mammals. Such futuristic ideas were enthusiastically embraced by members of the grassroots parental movement for a healthy lifestyle and alternative methods of child-raising. 

Members of the home waterbirth movement © Anna Ozhiganova


Igor Charkovsky and dolphins © Anna Ozhiganova


Birgit Menzel, in her overview of occult and esoteric dimensions of the Russian New Age, describes a specific phenomenon of Soviet culture “when during the proclaimed ‘cosmic era’ borders shifted between science and science fiction, certain disciplines, for example, telepathy, hypnosis, and parapsychology – three topics traditionally connected with spiritual and occult thought – all experienced a boom” (Menzel 2012: 16). Nevertheless, in the case of the late Soviet movement for a home waterbirth, the problem should have been clarified: To what extent was this movement part of a global New Age, and how was it genealogically and essentially linked to the tradition of early Soviet utopia and visionary science?

I plan to study further three main issues of this controversial and ambiguous movement:

1. Its connections and distinctions with the global New Age.

2. Its role in the history of alternative knowledge and visionary science in the late Soviet Union and the Perestroika years.

3. Evolution and transformation of the Soviet home waterbirth movement in the 1990s–2000s, and its current esoteric manifestations.