The Balkan Nostradamus who predicted Chernobyl and 9/11

Baba Vanga in 1994
Did Baba Vanga predict the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl and 9/11? | Image: Baba Vanga in 1994 | CC BY-SA 3.0 CC BY-SA 3.0

On 5th March 1953, Soviet leader Joseph Stalin passed away a few days after suffering from a stroke. On 26th April 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. On September 11th 2001, al-Qaeda conducted a series of plane hijackings, leading to the worst terrorist attacks in modern US history.

Three very different historical events that don’t seem to have any obvious connection. However, there’s a thread running through each occurrence, one that has befuddled scientists and historians alike. The link is a blind woman from Bulgaria known as Baba Vanga, or more prophetically as the ‘Nostradamus of the Balkans’.

Supposedly gifted with mystic capabilities, Baba Vanga became globally famous due to the eerie accuracy of her predictions. Even though she passed away in 1996, people continue to wait with bated breath to hear her prophecies for each coming year. How is this possible? Before her death, she left behind predictions for every year until 5079, at which point she believed the universe would cease to exist.

Born prematurely in 1911, Baba Vanga’s real name was Vangelia Pandeva Dimitrova. She lived with her family in the city of Strumica in modern-day North Macedonia, which at the time was part of the Ottoman Empire. Within a couple of years of her birth, the area had come under Bulgarian rule when the Ottomans were driven out during the First Balkan War.

Vanga’s family was very poor. Her father fought in the Bulgarian army in World War One and her mother passed away while she was still very young. However, she still managed to lead a relatively ordinary life during her early years. That would all change at the age of 12 when a mysterious event robbed her of her sight.

Baba Vanga in 1994
CC BY-SA 3.0

During a large storm, a tornado supposedly lifted her high into the air and dropped her into a nearby field. Her eyes were so badly damaged that she could no longer open them without suffering excruciating pain. She lay in the field undetected for several days as her family members desperately tried to find her. When they did, her eyes were sealed shut, encrusted with a thick layer of dirt and sand. Her eyesight was lost forever.

Vanga later claimed she experienced her first prophetic vision during those days lying alone in the field. She believed she had gained abilities beyond our mortal realm and could not only predict the future but heal people as well. She later credited her paranormal powers to ‘invisible creatures’, although she struggled to fully understand who or what they were.

In 1925, she attended a school for the blind where she learned to read Braille. However, she was unable to write and so everything she said and predicted was captured and documented by those around her. Sceptics cast doubt over the validity of her predictions since Vanga never wrote them down directly. Such cynicism didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of those who believed in her. As her reputation spread from the local area, thousands began to flock to gain insight from the Balkan Nostradamus.

From Tsars to peasants, political leaders to movie stars, Vanga was visited by everyone who made the pilgrimage to her home in the Kozhuh mountains to seek her foresight. One visitor became a future husband when she tied the knot with Bulgarian soldier Dimitar Gushterov in May 1942. They remained married until he died in 1962. Widowed, Vanga continued to meet as many people as she could. Lines of visitors queued outside her humble abode, hoping for just a few minutes with the famous mystic.

Stories abound of times when people went to her and received no advice but simply a refund and a request to come back in a few months. Those people were said to have then passed away in the coming weeks and months. Vanga had supposedly predicted their deaths but didn’t have the heart to tell them, so she simply asked them to visit again soon; a request she apparently knew they couldn’t fulfil.

As the 20th century progressed it became clear, even to her sceptics, that Vanga held an uncanny ability to predict major world events. In 1989, she claimed “American brethren will fall after being attacked by steel birds…innocent blood will be gushing”, which many attributes to the 9/11 terror attacks.

She was also said to have predicted the sinking of the Kursk, the Russian submarine that went down in 2000. 20 years earlier, Vanga claimed that in 1999 the Kursk would be “covered with water and the whole world will weep over it”; she was one year out. She also predicted that the 44th President would be Black, a prophecy that was fulfilled when Barack Obama took office. Some even believe her stating that Europe would “cease to exist” by 2017 was a reference to the 2016 Brexit vote.

Baba Vanga predicted her own death, stating she'd die on August 11th 1996 at the age of 85. On that day, she passed away from breast cancer and her funeral attracted vast crowds.

Many Bulgarian and Soviet scientists studied and tested Vanga throughout her life, determined to dissect and understand her abilities. They concluded that she was so accurate in her predictions that she had an 85% success rate. Luckily for us, the nuclear war Vanga predicted would occur from 2010 to 2014 ended up amongst the 15% she got wrong.

Although she’s been gone for over a quarter of a century, the name Baba Vanga is still revered the world over. She holds a special place in the hearts of many Bulgarians, plenty of whom have stories of family members who went to see her and were mesmerised by her abilities.

Only time will tell whether her predictions for our future will pan out. If they do then we should expect the arrival of aliens via an asteroid at some time in 2022, world hunger to be eradicated in 2028, and a Martian colony to gain independence from Earth by 2256.