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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

IQ Brings Diverse Minds Together

What could bring together a housewife and a magazine executive, a diplomat and a student to sit around a Moscow kitchen table once a month and debate the issues of the day? Their membership in Mensa, a society for people with a high IQ, or intelligence quotient.

"It's amazing to think here we sit f a group of total strangers. Mensa enables us to get together and meet people we would not normally meet," said Mensa member Martine Self, a housewife and writer from South Africa.

Originally a member of a British Mensa group, Self moved with her husband to Moscow, where she started a Mensa group 10 months ago. Since then she has found 10 Moscow-based members of the intelligence society representing a rainbow of nationalities: Swedish, Finnish, British, South African, American, Ukrainian and Russian.

Founded in England in 1946, Mensa today unites about 100,000 people in 100 countries worldwide. The cutoff point for membership is a score of 148 or above on the Stanford-Binet IQ test, which measures intelligence. The strict requirement allows in only 2 percent of the population.

"The beauty of Mensa is its diversity," said Christian Gronroos, 42, from Sweden. Gronroos used to work as a lumberjack, but currently is a student of Russian at Moscow State University. "It doesn't matter what background you come from, what your occupation is, whether you are rich or poor, what religion you belong to or what the color of your skin is. Mensa is open to all, and you know you will feel at home on the level playing field of a Mensa meeting."

So far there is only one Russian member, Viktor Solodkov, a computer specialist who heard about Mensa when he was still a student at the Moscow Aviation Institute. He was drawn by the idea of speed thinking, and decided to take an IQ test.

The word mensa, in fact, means table in Latin, and represents what is intended to be a round-table society in which race, color, creed, nationality, age, politics and educational or social background are irrelevant.

It's for this reason, Self believes, Russia would benefit by having its own national Mensa. "This society is so divided along the lines of wealth and poverty," Self said. "It is so steeped in cronyism that only the well-connected or those who can pay the price for advancement can get ahead."

"Mensa would give, in theory, some 2.8 million Russian people a chance to hold their heads up high and have a reason to consider themselves exceptional. It would also be a tool for identifying a pool of talent in a country where the mentally gifted were routinely culled by Stalin's regime, thus creating a potentially skewed population and gene pool," she added.

One way in which Mensa could be particularly effective, Self said, is to identify extraordinarily intelligent children in their school years and foster their intellectual development. Many gifted children are not recognized in school and their teachers don't know how to deal with them.

To form its own national Mensa group, Russia must pool at least 200 members. To become a Mensan, one needs to pass a test or submit proof of eligibility.

"One thing is certain," said Ulf Bystrom, a 37-year-old Swede who lives in Moscow with his Russian wife. "You can't buy your way into Mensa. Not even a million dollars will secure membership. This is an organization where both oligarchs and tram drivers can rub shoulders and swap ideas on an equal footing in a way that they would ordinarily never be allowed to."

Ideas don't have to be connected to "advanced theories, physics or mathematics," said Bystrom, drifting into a conversation about sexual equality.

"You have to show that you are not stupid," Bystrom said. "If you sound stupid the first second, they [the Mensans] listen to you. If you still sound stupid for the first half hour, then they will think you are stupid."

"And they will tell you," Self added with a smile.

For more information about Mensa membership and testing, please e-mail