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Theories and explanations of Dyatlov Pass Incident

Dyatlov Pass Incident

Several theories arose in the last decades concerning the case of Dyatlov Pass Incident. Several sites out there plagiarized this page so we decided to expand it and give you more information on various theories. If you feel some theory was overlooked,  you can leave your name and your theory as well as reasons why it should be considered. We will add them to the main article. Thank you for your input.


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Please help this project rise in Google Ratings by liking us on Facebook, Twitter and etc. It came to our attention that parts of this article was plagiarized word for word by another site that is less than 2 years old. We decided to expand it and provide additional information.

Below left is the plagiarized info and on the right is my site from 2013 (check out the date in the top right corner). Lets beat plagiarism! Thank you




As a prologue to this section we will include words of Yury Yudin. He was a participant of the journey to the Otortenm but he quit due to illness. Later he participated in a search for his friends. In his interviews he repeatedly critiqued the official investigation. This is an exempt of his interview shortly before he passed away in 2013.


Yuri Yudin: I must admit that we guessed right away that the death of guys is a state secret. It was felt right away, we felt it by the behavior of the leaders in the regional party committee, by the interrogations in the prosecutor's office, the KGB ... Chief prosecutor of the investigation  Lev Nikitich Ivanov, who led the criminal case, said to me. "Do not torment yourself and do not blame yourself, if you were with the guys , you would not help them. you would be the tenth ... " I did not have the slightest doubt that this man didn't try to find out what had happened to my friends, his investigation was formal and biased.



Dyatlov Pass Incident has been part of the Soviet folklore for decades. At the end of the Soviet period and after collapse of the Soviet Union it emerged on the pages of all Soviet and later Russian newspapers. Newly acquired freedom of speech allowed people to speak whatever they thought and discuss whatever they felt like discussing. Unfortunately with the demise of the Soviet censure, professional censure also left the building. Investigative journalism virtually disappeared. Instead it was replaced by a low grade journalism that surrounded the Dyatlov Pass Incident with myths and lies. Fake articles went beyond creating "alternative" truths. They often added information that had no ground or proof. Many parts of the diary were twisted and re- invented. Even Wikipedia is still haunted by the remnants of these fake information. As we examine our main theories we will point out some of the misconceptions and lies that surround this case.




Special forces in Dyatlov Pass Incident:



Soviet troops theory in Dyatlov Pass Incident



One of the popular explanations concerning the death of the Dyatlov group are Soviet Special forces. The motif is simple. Nine tourists walked into a forbidden zone so Soviet Special forces got rid of unwanted witnesses. The reason for such cruel fate might involve the fall of some secret ballistic missile or possibly aircraft testing. One of the clues that allowed this theory to surface is the presence of UFOs in the area. They were seen on the day of the incident and they were seen several times over a course of months by the rescue team, Mansi natives, several geologists and students. In fact several first hand accounts will be mentioned in the UFO theories section later on. It is quiet plausible that one of these UFO (either human made or alien) might be a reason to take care of the unwilling witnesses.


If the Soviet troops/ Special forces theory is correct we should assume that it was an accident of some sorts, something unexpected. It couldn't be a secret facility or anything lengthy. For one search team didn't find any remains of army presence in the region. Additionally the trip was planned before hand and a detailed map was submitted to the dean of the university. Soviet officials knew the approximate path of the Dyatlov Group and they could easily divert the planned trip to some other location and some other area. Soviet system might have been cruel at times, but not stupid. Even if we will assume that university dean failed to inform proper authorities about the Dyatlov group, other people were present in the area. None of the native tribes ever reported being stopped or turned away by the soldiers. Every facility has a fence and an area around the fence that you couldn't penetrate. Similarly to Area 51 where you can't even get to the border of the restricted zone without someone stopping you.


This region of the Ural mountains has a very small population density and high presence of the secret military sites. Many secret tests were carried out in this vast expanse of land with very few witnesses around. One of the plausible candidates for a tested weapons might be an air defense system against American strategic bombers. Soviet Union military was still trying out its R- 12 rockets that were(officially) adopted in March of 1959. Although some Western intelligence reports place these advanced surface- to- air missiles as early as October and November of 1958. As part of the defense they were placed around largest cities in the Soviet Union including Sverdlovsk (now Yekaterinburg), hometown of the members of the Dyatlov group. Apparently not all launches were successful and some rockets fell to the ground. Soviet engineers certainly did not want to scream about their failures.


Francis Gary PowersLet's not forget that through much of the 50's Soviet army was basically defenseless against the American spy planes. The first successful shot down actually happened a year later in May of 1960 when Soviet rockets shot down U2 spy plane piloted by Francis Gary Powers just 67 km  (43 mi) west of Sverdlovsk hometown of the Dyatlov Group. When the safety of your country at stake and a chance for a World War III is quite plausible that the forces of Spetznaz took a drastic approach to unforeseen intruders.


Some of the findings that would be explained by this theory are strange marking on the dead. First of all it would explain why the group has left the tent. They were forced to do so. Additionally it is plausible that Rustem Slobodin got into a fight with one of the men and got hit pretty badly. Special forces after all are trained to kill. It is their job. Zina Kolmogorova might have been another victim of the scuffle. While the autopsy report claims that there is no damage to the head, some of the first radiograms sent by the rescue team clearly indicate that her had was bashed with something heavy.


Francis Gary Powers


From that point on it might appear that the group was left to freeze to death. They descendend from a tent to the tree line to look for shelter and develop some survival plan. Foot prints they left shows that the group was organized, walked at a normal pace and didn't show any sign of frantic running around. They picked up a single direction and followed it. Forest was a much better option than barren slopes of the Kholat Syakhl mountain. Meanwhile, the presumed killers decided to keep an eye of the Dyatlov Pass by hiding in the tent. They cut few holes from the inside as the official documents state and waited for the Dyatlov group to succumb to the elements.


However fire under the cedar greatly increased the chances of the group for survival. Once they realized that the Dyatlov group actually attempted to survive and it seemed they they have a good chance, soldiers or special forces have descended and finished off Krivonischenko and Doroschenko, while the other part of the group went to the ravine to dig for a den for the protection. Krivonischenko it seems tried to climb a tree and even stay there. Presence of his skin between his teeth and damaged fingers might be indicative how hard he tried to evade his tormentors. He would have to bide his own hands to get a grip and stay on the tree as long as he could. He probably died from hypothermia and exhaustion either on a tree or after falling on the groun.


Body of Doroshenko and a strange grey foam around his mouth visible also on the photos from the morgue. It might be indicative of the great pressure applied to his chest that caused pulmonary edema and hence death. Young athletic men rarely cause this condition. But exhertion of pressure on the thoracic cavity resulted in an increased hydrostatic pressure of the capillaries causing liquid from the blood vessels to leak into the lungs, thus causing suffocation and death.



Killers went looking for the rest of the group in the forest. Meanwhile seven members returned to the cedar and discovered their friends dead. They cut clothes from the dead and spread them among the survivors. Some of their clothes were later discovered on the last bodies and in the den. Given the circumstances it was a justifiable method of survival. It explains why Doroshenko and Krivonischenko were found half naked.


Three members of the Dyatlov group, Dyatlov, Slobodin and Kolmogorova, attempted to climb the mountain, but froze to death at different distances from the tent. Meanwhile the four members of the group went back to the den that initially hid them from their murderers.


The death of four last tourists found in the den happened late in the night or early in the morning then the killers got cold, tired and sloppy. While death of Doroshenko and Krivonischenko might have been planned and carried out according to plan, death of the last four survivors might indicate the state of mind of the killers. They didn't care about hiding the evidence of their presence anymore. They were tired, cold and really angry at people who kept them all night at the cold.


Soviet special forces/ Soviet intelligence would also explain why many witness testimonies were thrown out and why several unidentified men were following members of the investigation. Soviet government had to hide their guilt and several facts were simply overlooked. It is a common misunderstanding exists that the criminal record was shut and made secret. It is not true. However some of the most interesting evidence pieces and testimonies were simply overlooked, ignored and tossed away.


For example we still don't know what happened to the 'obmotki'  or puttee found on the Dyatlov Pass. This thin long strip of linen was used by the Soviet soldiers in the 1930's to secure the boots. In 1959 this piece of uniform was largely abandoned, but it is possible that some of the old school soldiers still carried them. We certainly know that none of the Dyatlov group carried this piece of equipment. Again this piece of evidence was ignored and thrown out. However the head of the search party at the time Artukov did send a radiogram.

"the presence of puttee I can not explain"


Another valuable eye witness Yury Yudin in his interview about the Dyatlov Pass Incident to Komsomolskaya Pravda on October 17, 2012 said this: "But among all the junk, only one thing was a foreign - a soldier's puttee. I immediately pointed it out to Ivanov, but he, I have seen, for some reason did not record it in his notes." In fact there were two puttees discovered on Dyatlov Pass. One was found near a cedar tree, while another puttee discovered near a tent.


Dyatlov Pass Incident

Some of the examples of puttee on Soviet soldier dating to late 30's and early 40's. It was common other armies as well



People who oppose this scenario point out that none of the rescuers ever reported any unusual footprints. Since most of the members of the group had no footwear on one or both legs, their prints were easily recognizable and distinguishable from the Dyatlov group. However the footprints were never closely examined since no one expected to find the group dead. No one really bothered to check for a presence of other footprints. We have several eye witnesses claimed that they saw a mark of a heel on some of the footprints, indicating that tourists were followed by men in the military boots.


Yury Yudin who was an original member of the Dyatlov Group was also a participant in the investigation of the site of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. He is not a professional in the area of criminal justice, but his subjective opinion should be noted anyway for the sake of full picture. In his interview he noted.


When we found an empty, abandoned tent, Captain Chernyshev, who was an experienced tracker and a taiga man (expression similar to a "mountain man" in American culture) and deputy head of the search party, noted that some of the footprints left by the boots had a heel. This could indicate a army boots. I noted this fact as well as some other other participants of the search. As it is known, the track - is not just a piece of evidence. For the experienced criminalist it is the key to solving the crime. However, this "key" Ivanov did not use.


Another strange inconsistency is seemingly illogic behavior after the death of the Dyatlov Group. No one tried to keep the search party from entering the territory. If the Soviet special forces did kill the members of the Dyatlov Group, they could have easily removed the bodies from the Dyatlov Pass and move them elsewhere. The area was open to the public and if the special forces had to kill members of the Dyatlov pass from revealing some secret information, why leave the bodies of these people on the Dyatlov Pass?








Western spies theory in Dyatlov Pass Incident



Another popular theory lays the blame for the death on western spies and intelligence agencies. Now it might seem like implausible and outright dumb explanation of the Dyatlov Pass Incident, but it has right to be told anyway.


This theory is based on the fact that American and Western spies had hard time working in Soviet Union in the 50's. First of all most of foreign tourists from the capitalist countries were allowed to visit only Saint Petersburg and Moscow along with its surrounding cities. The rest of the Soviet Union was off limits. It is partially responsible for the widely believed stereotype that Russia is cold. Warm and even hot regions of the country were simply off limits to Western citizens and spies alike.


Furthermore Stalin's secret police followed every foreigner that set foot in Russia. So the only way to deliver any information that was crucial was through illegal spy system. This ring of Soviet nationals willing to work for capitalists was especially essential in remote regions of the Soviet Union where nuclear industry was being expanded and developed. Obviously the foreigners were not allowed even close to these sites. So Western intelligence agencies attempted to get Soviet citizens to do all the work for them. There they would pick up needed information that they would deliver back by all means possible.


The race for nuclear weapons put greater pressure on the CIA since there was no quick way to proof or disprove that certain site was working for nuclear enrichment. The only way to verify possible site was by delivering any object that contained radioactive material. For example Tomsk- 7 was correctly identified as a site of Soviet nuclear enrichment program by a single ski hat in 1955. It sound absurd now, but in a state of fear and paranoia this was the only way to spy on Soviet Union. Russians were not stupid either. They repeatedly fooled Western by delivering radioactive- tainted material from places that had nothing to do with it. This brings us to so called theory of Western intelligence involvement. According to this theory two or more members of the Dyatlov group were hired by the KGB to deliver fake proof of radioactive tainted clothes. The rest of the group was probably unaware of the real purpose of their journey.


Zolotarev and Krivonischenko might have been the best candidates for this delivery. Krivonischenko worked for a closed facility that was involved in the development of the Soviet nuclear capability. It would be logical to assume that a young and promising student was approached at some point by agents of the Western intelligence agency. If he was "touched" by the spies he might have reported this to an "osobist", a KGB agent working on the site. This would make Krivonischenko a pawn in a false delivery of radioactive material. But he needed a man who could spot him in a difficult situation.


Many supporters of this theory point to Zolotarev as a possible second agent. He had an experience in a war. He presented himself under a different name to a group. Even today many sites devoted to the Dyatlov Pass Incident call him "Alexander" rather than his real name of "Semen". If we look at his official biography it becomes even stranger. He mentions serving in the military engineer unit. They usually were first to clear enemy defenses and fell an easy prey to hostile fire. Their losses were simply horrific. Some units lost up to 80% of the their soldiers in just few days of battle for Konigsberg and Berlin. They were offered metal breast plates to reduce casualty rate, but it had little effect in an overall picture. These were basically suicidal units. And Zolotarev managed to serve in one. But here is where normalcy of his resume ends. We start to get peculiarities and questions about his previous life.


Soviet military engineers in action

Dyatlov Pass Incident


He joined the army in October of 1941, but reached the frontlines on May 10th of 1942. In the time then officers were trained for only 3 months and solders got only few days (if they got lucky) of basic training, Zolotarev get full 6 months. He should have been rushed to the front and killed like 97% of all men born with him in the same year. But this does not happen. Furthermore we know that he received 4 medals. This is a lot for a Soviet soldier. Most did not live that long or did not fit the qualifications to receive one. Additionally there were a lot of reasons in Soviet Union not to get a medal. This included nationality for example. Beginning from 1944 Chechens were not granted any signs of distinction. Chechen families were deported to Kazakhstan beginning on February 23rd, 1944. Giving medals to their sons, brothers and fathers would raise too many question on a legitimacy of such harsh treatment.


Another reasons why you couldn't get distinguished by the government was your social background and the region of the country. Zolotarev was a Cossack (a Russian subculture of professional soldiers/ peasants from the Southern Russia) and he was son of a doctor. Cossacks were too religious and too independent and automatically raised eyebrows in Kremlin. This automatically reduced his chanced to receive any medals. And yet he managed to pull through. He mentions four signs of distinction in his official biography- resume, but he doesn't describe the circumstances or even location of military actions which yearned him these distinctions. The official biography had its guidelines and were very important before someone would get hired on a job. You had to write down the exact number of the medal in an official document. If you didn't, the paper would be returned to you with subsequent inquiry with the army. You didn't want to lie about receiving military distinction without actually earning them. This could result in very serious consequences for Semen "Alexander" Zolotarev. And what do we see? Serial numbers are not mentioned, units are not mentioned, location is not mentioned and yet the paper is accepted and filed despite numerous omissions on behalf of Semen Zolotarev. It would be logical to assume that inquiry that was started might have been cancelled due to KGB involvement.


Victory Parade of 1945. Notice the number of medals on these soldiers. One- two at the most.

Dyatlov Pass Incident

This brings us to the trip itself. Let's assume that Krivonischenko met with the Western agents who convinced him to transfer clothing tainted by radiation. Western intelligence officers would be dropped somewhere in Siberia and rendezvous with a group of Krivonischenko and his friends. The clothes would be given by an KGB agent before the group would set on the skiing trip. As you might remember Krivonischenko gets arrested for singing and pretending to beg for money. He gets arrested, but than immediately let go. Some might see a normal person who didn't want to cancel the trip for a minor transgression. Or it might have been a planned excuse to leave the group and accept radioactively stained clothes. As I mentioned before Krivonischenko was present at Kushtumkoy Accident two years earlier then radioactivity leaked. However being a young professional he certainly would not keep any of the old clothes. Even helicopter pilots refused to fly bodies when they heard that radioactivity was present. So it would be illogical to suggest that Krivonischenko could keep his clothes all that time.


The rest of the trip was planned out. Somewhere along the way they were supposed to met "lost tourists" and share clothes as a token of good will. Then they would depart. Something went terribly wrong and these "tourists" simply killed the whole group. They forced young tourists from their tents, made them take their shoes off. Rustem probably tried to defend his group and got in fight with the agents. This explains the damages he received in the area of the skull. This would also explain why someone cut the tent from the inside. The recipients of dangerous cargo needed a simple view of the mountain slope while they were searching for any evidence of their presence. As you remember Kolevatov diary and a third camera went missing and there is still no answer of its whereabouts. That would also explain the deaths of first five members. Special forces simply left them to die in the cold to hide their presence. As it was mentioned earlier tourists had at least two pairs of footwear. One was used for a trail and another was used during cold nights. Most of the members had nothing on their feet except for socks. Minor injuries could be overlooked and deaths could easily be ignored. However something went wrong and instead of freezing to death the remaining tourists showed stamina and a will to live. Thus the special forces unit descended down the mountain and killed the remaining group in a state of panic and furious anger.


First victims were Doroshenko and Krivonischenko who were left by the cedar to keep the fire going. Doroshenko as you remember had strange grayish foam around his mouth. A pulmonary edema is common in drug addicts, but since none of the members of the group had any drugs or alcohol we can make another suggestion. He was actually tortured. And this involved putting weight on a man's chest thus increasing hydrostatic pressure of blood in his capillaries. This would produce exudate that filled the lungs and appear as a foam around his lips. Krivonishenko has several injuries that are also very interesting. It seems that he bit palms of his hands for some reason. We can assume that he tried to escape his enemies by climbing a tree. His frozen hands were too weak to hold his body so he tried to bite them, leaving marks on the hands and epidermis (skin) behind his teeth. Eventually he fell down, judging by the bruises on the lower extremities, was beaten (injuries in the head area) and left to die. Having experienced a severe shock it wouldn't take long. They might have looked for the Dyatlov Group in the forest, so they missed the return of the tourists to the cedar, but once they heard voices they probably came back and finished off the remaining students and young professionals. They retreated a missing camera, Kolevatov's diary and left clothes since it became evident it was a set up. Although seemingly as improbable at first, a course of history of KGB- CIA relations knows of such "deliveries" made by KGB to fool their American and British partners. Sometimes they succeeded, sometimes they were revealed as falsifications by the Soviet side.


However even this theory also has its weaknesses. For example a number of extra eye witnesses that accompanied the two alleged KGB agents (Krivonischenko and Zolotarev) raises questions. Why would they take civilians to a dangerous rendezvous with the foreign agents? Although it is known that many Western intelligence officers were of ethnicities that came from Russia (Russians, Ukrainians, Estonians, Latvians and many others), it is highly unlikely that they could have hidden their foreign accents or lack of knowledge about simple facts of Soviet life. This could have easily slipped in a conversation and become evident. Once the agents were revealed they would almost certainly try to get rid of unnecessary witnesses. Taking extra people with you meant increasing risk of failure to the whole operation. Secondly the last four tourists were killed in a state of panic and obvious loss of the situation. Their initial plan to let everyone freeze didn't work as agents expected to. Members of the Dyatlov Group were beaten and killed and yet even this gruesome procedure would require time and energy that is necessary to survive in the harsh climate. It would have been easier to shoot unwanted witnesses rather than waste time on them. It seems that people responsible for the murders forgot to take any weapons with them. Even hunting rifles that are legal in this region of Russia were ignored. Could it be that a different group of people might have committed as an act under similar scenario?



Criminals/ Former inmates theory in Dyatlov Pass Incident



Siberia at the time of the tragedy of Dyatlov Pass Incident was still a land of Gulag. Many political prisoners were released in 1953- 56, but criminals were still behind bars. Many small concentration camps were dispersed all over the region. The closest such facility to the Dyatlov Pass was Ivlag situated just few miles from a site of a tragedy. Although it is true that there were no escapes around the time of Dyatlov Pass Incident it doesn't mean that it never happened before. History knows many examples then prisoners would escape and go into hiding for years and even decades at a time. They could have easily missed death of Stalin in 1953 and subsequent amnesty to all political prisoners.


Soviet Concentration Camps were increased significantly at the end of the Great Patriotic War (aka World War II). Thousands of soldiers and officers who wrote or said something against Stalin and the country were arrested upon completion of the military actions. While many men and women were at the front and faced death they often expressed their opinions without fear. You can get killed in a few seconds. Who cares if your political officer recorded your words? And the party did nothing until the end of the war. But once it was over Stalin told his henchmen to get everyone who was unhappy or too honest about Soviet rule. Thousands were send to cut forest in Siberia instead of coming home to their loved ones. It is plausible that these people knew how to kill and were open to the idea.


One of the facts that could tie veterans to this case is the fact two "obmotki" or puttee were discovered at the cedar and near the tent as we mentioned earlier. They were widely used among the soldiers in the 40's and later among the prisoners of Stalin's concentration camps. No body knows how it got here and no body knows how it disappeared from the evidence room or during transportation from Dyatlov Pass. But it did. Given the scenario described above it is plausible to assume that a group of former soldier or officers that were wrongfully accused of crimes against the state (infamous article N58) at the end of the World War II. Using their war experience they might have escaped from prison and they could have lived in Siberia for years. It is also plausible that once they encountered the group of your students, former inmates assumed that getting rid of eye witnesses is better than being reported and chased by the police.


This theory would exaplain the manner and a motif for killing tourists on the Dyatlov Pass. However it doesn't explain presence of radiation on clothes. And aside of puttee we have no evidence of their presence on the Dyatlov Pass or around it.




Mansi, Knanty natives in Dyatlov Pass Incident



In the course of investigation local Mansi tribes natives also appeared as suspects in the Dyatlov Pass Incident. In fact only Mansi were ever detained under suspicion in the deaths of the Dyatlov Pass Incident. The reason for this was not racist profiling. In fact Soviet Union at the time was very liberal toward other nationalities and races. Peoples' Friendship University of Russia, for example, was opened on February 5th, 1960. It was specifically catered for students from Third World countries. Similar student exchange programs were later opened in many other Soviet universities.


Soviet anti- racial posters

Dyatlov Pass Incident
People of Africa will defeat colonization
Dyatlov Pass Incident
Don't extinguish the dawn of freedom
Dyatlov Pass Incident
Dark child, dark souls
Dyatlov Pass Incident


The reason for suspecting Mansi native was religious in nature. Some even remembered a story from the 30's when a woman geologist ventured into sacred lands of this proud unconquered nation. She was subsequently tied and thrown in the lake. However upon closer examination this legend doesn't have factual support. It was probably invented later to justify the arrest of the Mansi hunters. Common diary as well as a second diary (unknown author) that was found in the tent also talked about the Mansi and their presence in the region. Other native tribes by the way were not seen by the Dyatlov group, search party or anyone else for that matter.


Mansi were an easy target for suspicion. They were part of a hunter gatherer society that were never part of the mainstream society. They kept their way of life, traditions and most importantly their religion intact despite over 400 years under rules of Russians. Nikita Khrushchev who ruled Soviet Union at the time started the second wave of anti- religious campaign in the country. Anyone who pursued or was interested in any form of religion was ridiculed and discriminated against. Thus pagan Mansi were initially perceived as easy targets for a scape goat in this mysterious and unusual case. Several hunters even became suspects in the criminal investigation into the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Natives themselves didn't hide a fact that were camped out not far from the site of the Dyatlov Incident, thus they were quiet close. Brilliant scientists killed by religious backward religious fanatics. This narrative was too good to pass for the Soviet propaganda, yet this theory quickly hit a wall and fell apart.


Soviet anti religious posters from the time period


Dyatlov Pass Incident
The poster says: "There is no God". Poster was made shortly after a flight of the first man in space in 1961. It allegedly "proved" that there is no God cause Yury Gagarin, first man in space, didn't see him. Ironically Yury Gagarin was a deeply devout Christian who had to keep his religious views in secret.
Dyatlov Pass Incident
"Religion is poison, save the kids"

Dyatlov Pass Incident
"Down with the church holidays"
Dyatlov Pass Incident
"Enough with the lies"



Mansi theory was quickly abandoned for the lack of evidence or any possible initiative to kill. Soviet propaganda simply could not sell the idea that Kholat Syakhl was somehow important to the natives in the area. Everybody knew that it was a lie. Mount Kholat Syakhl was never viewed a sacred place. It was feared and it was avoided, but no one considered it important for the beliefs of the native people. If the Soviets could sell the idea about sanctity of the region, they would have arrested Mansi, give them lengthly sentences and the case would be closed.


Witness report by Pavel Makhtiyarov (Mansi native)

"Everyone goes to this mountain: Russian men and women, Mansi. There is no special prohibition to climb the mountain"


Additionally natives in the Ural mountains and most of Siberia are practical people. Their harsh environment forces them to take the best opportunity of what they have. If the Mansi were involved in the murder of the tourists they would probably steal many valuable possession that are so important to survival in the harsh climate of Siberia. However all the items in the tent were left as is. Nothing was stolen, nothing was taken. Furthermore, Mansi natives helped in search of bodies. It would be fairly dumb to leave bodies on top of the "sacred site" if you knew dozens of Russians will descend on the mountain in search of their dead friends. You probably would want to move them somewhere else. Criminal investigation clearly points out that Kholat Syakhl was never considered sacred. All the participants of the search also reported on numerous times that the Mansi never showed any anger or concern for the presence of the Russians in this area. In fact native tribes were willing to help in a search party.



Svetlana Oss: "Don't go There" and Khanty killers


Dyatlov Pass IncidentThe Khanty killers theory. It was first stated in a book by a Russian investigative journalist Svetlana Oss in her book "Don't go There!". While her analysis of an autopsy report and witness testimonies point to a reasonable assumption of violent deaths of the tourists of the Dyatlov group, her attempt to blame the murder on Khanty natives, explain their motifs and methods of accomplishment has significant gaping holes that she fails to address.


So lets start with the Khanty people. This is another native Siberian tribe that lives to the east of the Ural mountains. However, they never lived in the area of the Dyatlov Pass Incident and they certainly never had any sacred sites on the Mansi lands. All sacred lands are located within hunting grounds. These are usually very beautiful lands with plenty of game and sources of food. Good spirits that protect the tribe provide this source of food as a present to the people who worship them. Forbidden mountains on the other hand (like Kholat Syakhl or Otorten) are barren. These lands are inhabited by bad spirits and hence they don't offer any source of food. Furthermore bad weather makes human presence on the mountain very dangerous.


To the left is a map of a region. Blue color shades the area that historically inhabited by the Mansi people, while the red is the area inhabited by the Khanty natives. Red dot is a location of the Dyatlov Pass. While both cultures share similar traditions, lifestyles and even have languages that resemble each other these are two distinct groups of people.


But why would Svetlana Oss make such a redicolous claim if the lands of these tribes don't overlap? The answer is simple. She sites police investigator Oleg Vasnin who interviewed a 72- year old Russian hunter Anatoly Stepochkin who in turn sites some unknown Khanty hunter who made a claim in 1981 that he was behind an attack on the Russian tourists. This is his alleged testimony taken from a book "Don't there!".


Dyatlov Pass IncidentWe don't know the name of the Khanty hunter who made this claim, we can't prove his whereabouts in 1959, we don't know what state he was in when he made this claim and we don't know why he made this claim. We can only guess, yet this testimony is the key proof of the Khanty theory. Needless to say this testimony would be dismissed in any court. First of all we have no evidence that Khanty people have the technology to create such tear gas agent. Secondly the area of Kholat Syakhl is extremely windy. Despite weeks of snowfall very little snow remains on its slopes. Strong winds blew the snow into the valleys. It is partially a reason why footprints of compressed snow were visible and it is also the reason why use of any gas is futile. It won't stay at a desired concentration.


And finally if the Khanty hunters had weapons (as Svetlana Oss claims) they could have shot the tourists and took back the loot. The book doesn't explain why the natives didn't use axes or knives the tourists carried with them. They were found in the tent and left as is. Native Khanty hunters could easily finish off the Dyatlov group using weapons that the Dyatlov group braught with them. Instead they spent an entire night killing students, thus risking being discovered or seen by the Mansi who owned this land. Again nobody saw any Khanty hunters in the region, but it will be addressed below.


A major problem with this theory is a fact that no one in the group was ever charged or suspected of stealing anything ever. Stealing fur and gold from the natives is more than just taking stuff that doesn't belong to you. Natives depend on this land and if their deer herds would die out or if they simply couldn't find any game in the forest they wouldn't have anything to trade for food. Stealing gold and fur from the natives can ultimately mean killing these people.


Svetlana Oss certainly worked with the documents of the official criminal investigation, but she doesn't give full translation of the documents including autopsy report, witness testimonies and etc. Instead she cherry picks few statement to support her theory, while completely omitting others.


Svetlana Oss mentions an eye witness Igor Gorbushin who quotes Mansi hunter Kourikov. In his testimony Gorbushin claimed that Kourikov have seen several Ostyaks (or Khanty as we know them) several years ago. These people were not very friendly with Russians and Mansi alike and didn't really communicate with anyone. The book leaves readers regret that we don't have a testimony by Kourikov. Certainly he would elaborate on the Khanty hunter he have met in the region. Right?


For some reason Svetlana Oss completely overlooks the fact that Kourikov gives his testimony and it is included in the investigation. But his testimony doesn't fit the picture of the Khanty killers so it was not included in the book. Major oops. So let's see what the Kourikov said about alleged Khanty hunters.


"No one is guarding our sacred mountain. Russian people are allowed to go there. I never claimed that five hunters of the Mansi tribe or non- Mansi tribe that the Mansi feared ever lived around the sacred mountain. Mansi never saw any outsiders in the area in question. If a member of another tribe would venture into the region some Mansi hunter would encounter them and we would know. No Mansi hunter ever mistreated a Russian before. Why and how did the tourists die I have no clue"


It is possible that Kourikov did tell Gorbushin that several years ago Khanty passed through a region, however in the months preceding to the Dyatlov Pass Incident no outsiders were seen in the Mansi land.


The book goes further and mentiones testimony of the Mansi hunter Petr Bachtiyarov who was sick in the winter months, but remembers how some unknown tourists passed through their village. The testimony is brief and lacks details, but it is probably included to show Dyatlov group as being friendly with the Mansi. For some reason Mrs. Oss doesn't mention other testimonies of other members of the Bachtiyarov clan who had were not sick and had better recollection of the tourists that passed through the region. Pavel Bachtiyarov claims that there wer 12- 13 tourists and they passed their village on January 1st, long before the Dyatlov group even started their journey. Again, another oops that the book "Don't go there!" overlooked. Diary of the Dyatlov Group never mentioned meeting Mansi people, but only seeing the signs of their presence.


Mansi behavior is interesting in its own right. Not only they claimed that the land was not sacred to their tribe, they actively participated in a search on the Dyatlov Pass and its surroundings. If we hypothetically assume that this land did not not belong to Mansi, but to Khanty, their behavior is incredibly risky. They could have easily walked in the same trip as the Dyatlov group. Yet they showed no concern in exploring so- called "sacred lands". Subsequently no acts of violence was reported against Mansi hunter or any other tourists group that walked through these lands. It seems that Dyatlov Pass was sacred for a very brief period of time.


Here we need to make a footnote about some confusion of the territorial divisions among the native Siberian people. Every tribe has their area for hunting. These boundaries are usually geographical features like ranges, rivers and etc. Most natives stay within these boundaries. However people are allowed to travel through other lands without limitations. As long as they don't hunt and don't fish you can visit any place. If you do hunt on other tribes lands you need to give something in return to get a safe pass. Otherwise local tribe can attack you.


To a certain extent this rule still persists in many parts of Siberia. Russians never conquered most of Siberia, they merely claimed it and decided not to break the bad news to the local population. However local tribes never minded Europeans in the area. They traded and exchanged valuable items like guns, medications, tools for fur and food. They had no reason to attack people who merely traveled across their lands without taking anything from the land. In fact no murder was ever committed on or near the Dyatlov Pass before the Dyatlov Pass Incident and no murder have occurred since then. If the mountain was so sacred it is very strange that native tribes selected Dyatlov group for a merciless killing. It is also strange that while the natives had incredible knowledge in forensic medicine (as Svetlana Oss claims) and they didn't have a brain capacity to remove the tent, the bodies or anything that would draw search party and subsequent investigation to the site. Instead they left all these evidence on their "sacred land" as a big welcoming sign: "come here, please desecrate our mountain even further". So by killing 9 people they apparently wanted a whole lot of Russians and non- Russians to descent on their "sacred mountain" in search of bodies. Brilliant plan.


And finally in this scenario radioactivity was blamed on uranium ore that the tourists accidentally picked up along the way. Unfortunately no hard evidence for this theory was ever presented in the book. It is simply a guess. No one ever found presence of any ore in the bags or the tent of the Dyatlov group despite careful examination and analysis by the investigative group, search part and Yury Yudin who helped identify all the items found on the site of the Dyatlov Pass. Given his background and interest in geology it is highly unlikely that he could overlook a presence of any minerals or other geologic speciments found on the site.


Khanty people in a case of a Dyatlov Pass Incident is something that comes from a left field. No one ever blamed them for the murder of the tourists and no one ever accused them of anything. None of the members of the search party team ever made claims that Khanty were involved in the case. Thus this theory should be deemed as a journalist fake, invented with an attempt to sell books and gain fame. While the death of the tourists might be indicative of violent and premeditated death, the nature of murders is highly unorthodox for these people.


With this said we are open minded and will accept any evidence that supports this theory if you can provide us with the proof.


P.S. Mount Otorten is a mountain that the Dyatlov Group tried to climb. Many journalists claimed that its translation means: "Don't go there". However it an artistic invention. Nothing more. In Mansi language this names sounds as Vot-tar-tan and it is actually a name for another mountain few kilometers to the North of Mount Otorten, however first Russian geographers made a mistake and called this mountain Otorten. The actually name of  Mount Otorten is called Lunt- Chusap or a Goose nest. Mansi legend claim that after the Great Flood a single goose survived on top of the mountain. We couldn't find the first use of the translation "Don't go there". However it is a pure fiction and has nothing to do with the Mount Otorten or any other mountains in the area. But the name "Don't go there" certainly sells more books than a Goos nest.



Avalanche in Dyatlov Pass Incident

Danger of avalanche in the region of Dyatlov Pass Incident is not common. The Kholat Syakhl mountain is not very tall and it is certainly not very steep. Furthermore the opponents of this theory suggest that tourist diaries report a fairly thin snow cover. However these facts doesn't exclude the possibility of a small avalanche in a small area of Dyatlov Pass. A portion of the upper layer of snow could simply shift and role over the tourists as a slab of snow. This could damage the tent and create havoc among tourists who were suddenly trapped underneath several feet of snow. It would certainly explain why the tent was cut from inside. Further retreat from Dyatlov Pass would be necessary if the tourists were worried a second avalanche can strike again. According to the supporters of this theory Dyatlov Group tried to make their way back to the Auspiya river and instead made a fatal mistake by descending into a valley of the Lozva river. After 4 weeks the snow that was rushed down the slope of the mountain was simply blown off by the strong winds that are common in the region. This would erase all signs of a natural disaster.


However this theory about Dyatlov Pass Incident has its gaps. From what we can tell from the naked footprints left by the group everyone seemed to descent with relative ease. It is highly unlikely that three people with broken ribs and flail chest would be transportable at all. And here we see several badly damaged men and a woman walk without problems or even help from any of the members of the group. Secondly these men and women were experienced and well trained. They knew that chances of freezing to death is more likely than getting killed by an avalanche. Although the removal of the damaged tent from an exposed mountain side of Dyatlov Pass was out of the question, they had to retrieve all their warm clothes. And finally if you see on the pictures on February 1st on the left and February 26th (according to Vadim Brusnicin who is sitting on a slope of the mountain with his back toward the camera man) on the right you can see part of the tourist gear that kept its vertical position on the slope weeks after the tragedy stroke. Furthermore the entrance of the tent is clearly elevated. Only the middle portion collapse probably due to hasty escape or weigh of snow simply collecting here.


Dyatlov pass incident  Dyatlov Pass Incident

Secret launches/ UFO in Dyatlov Pass Incident

Occasionally some of the conspiracy theorists claim that UFO scared the group away and thus caused Dyatlov Pass Incident. Although seemingly incredible this claim might have some base to it. Pulsating orbs were seen repeatedly in January, February and March by students, geologists, natives and even local military at the Dyatlov Pass and its vicinity. Mansi hunters that camped out near Kholat Syakhl and Dyatlov Pass claimed to have seen flying orbs near the mountain on the night Dyatlov group saw its gruesome end. Their testimonies were later stricken from the record by Moscow officials (according to Ivanov). Additionally several geologists  and tourist from the Blinov group (they traveled with the Dyatlov group part of the way as it was mentioned in the diary) located 70 km from the mountains saw some glowing and pulsating orbits flying in the direction of the Kholat Syakhl/ Dyatlov Pass on a day of tragedy (evening of February 1st). These testimonies were also ignored.


In early April Tempalov gathered several testimonies of local soldiers who claimed to have seen UFO over Dyatlov Pass on 17 February around 6:40am. They all described slow moving orbs that were moving from South to North in a strange cloud of dust or a fog. The event was witnessed for 5-15 minutes by different soldiers at a considerable distance from each other. In fact locals even reported their sightings to the local newspaper "Tagil Worker" (Тагильский Рабочий) that published an article about strange events in the region.


Rescue party that was send to discover bodies of the Dyatlov group also witnessed these pulsating lights several times. Valentin Yakimenko who volunteered to join the group describe these events that happened on March 31.


"It happened early in the morning while it was still dark. Viktor Mescheryakov who stood guard that night left the tent and saw a large glowing sphere in the sky. He woke up everyone. We watched this orb (or a disk) for about 20 minutes until it didn't disappear behind the mountain. We saw it in the South- East direction from our tent. It was moving in the Northern direction. This event freaked everyone. We were sure that this event was somehow involved in the death of the Dyatlov group".


One of the explanations for these bizarre events over Dyatlov Pass might be launches by the Soviet military of space program. About the same time Soviet armed forces did launch several space rockets from Baykanur base, chief base for Soviet Space program that is still in use today. However military claimed the rockets landed in the north Ural mountains far from the site of the Dyatlov Pass. Another possible explanation might be establishment of R- 12 rockets around Sverdlovsk. These rockets were officially delivered in March of 1959, but American intelligence claimed their bases were established as early as November of 1958. Additionally the region contained several S- 75 rocket bases. These rockets shot down U- 2 piloted Francis Gary Powers just south of Sverdlovsk in 1960. So there were a lot of things that could explain these strange orbs. As part of technological theory there have been suggestions that an infrasound might have been responsible for sudden unpleasant feelings among the tourists. It forced them to panic and leave the site of the tent in a hurry. However this explanation has its own draw backs. Orbs didn't fly in a single trajectory. They often changed path of their flight. Sometimes they just hovered over mountain peaks. It is somewhat strange behavior for a flying rocket.


Lev Ivanov, a man who was in charge of the investigation at the Dyatlov Pass Incident, lived a long life. In the early 1990's in an interview to a local journalist he made a statement that during his investigation he and E.P. Maslenikov both noticed that the pines in the forest were burned at the top. He also claims that A.P. Kirilenko, member of the Soviet Congress, along with his advisor A.F. Ashtokin forced Ivanov to take out all references to the unknown flying objects or other strange phenomena. This included pictures of flying spheres drawn by the Mansi hunters and other testimonies. It is true that Soviet Union experienced a boom of interest on everything unknown in the late 80's. Skeptic might also add that Ivanov gave this interview to make some money. However we have to mention that Kirilenko became obsessed with UFO theme after the Dyatlov Pass Incident. Starting in the early 60's he filed several requests to gain access to the KGB archives. We don't know what was found in the documents, but it is undeniably strange that a political figure in USSR paid such keen interest in this subject. UFO was not investigated by the official science so it deemed as a pseudo- religious phenomena. Atheist Soviet Union obviously prohibited any interest in the subject, especially among members of the highest legislative body in the country.


Sharavin, one of the members of the search party in his interview (in 2013) claimed that he discovered a wide circular area where snow was distinctly more shallow than the area around. He noticed this strange fact and compared to similar circular spots left by the helicopters. While the pattern and appearance seemed similar, these initial circle much larger in diameter and could be made by any Soviet helicopter available at the time. Unfortunately all drawings of Sharavin were taken away by the officials and Sharavin merely remembers general appearance. There is no documents or personal notes to support this. Nothing taken from him was found in the Criminal investigation.



Yeti, snowman, sasquatch and etc. in Dyatlov Pass Incident

I had to add this theory thanks Alex Lewis who brought up interesting points about
Dyatlov Pass Incident. Now it might seem like an episode from X- files or horror movies, but certain oddities about this trip might be explained by an attack of a wild animal known indifferent places as an abdominal snowman, yeti, sasquatch, bigfoot and etc. Now we should start discussing this plausible theory from the point of view of the native Mansi population that lived near Dyatlov Pass for centuries. They do believe in angry and somewhat violent human like animals known as menkvi that roam the mountains of the Ural. The legends claim that their behavior and aggression toward the humans is the reason why gods punished the World with a great flood I mentioned earlier. Very few menkvi survived on top of the mount Luv- Syakvur near Dyatlov Pass. Others drowned. These few creatures are left to walk in solitude across empty land. They die, but they are later reborn in the same shape and appearance. Interestingly enough Menkvi are reported as migratory creatures which is consistent with the testimony of Natives in North- west USA. Additionally menkvi are supposed to smell pretty badly. This is also consistent with some reports of a bigfoot. In fact it is called Skunk Ape in Florida and South Eastern part of United States for this unflattering feature.

We should start exploring the possibility of an animal attack by stating that we are not the first to suggest this possibility. Several members of the search party in the Dyatlov Pass later remembered the state of shock that some of the native experienced once they found the bodies. Some of them believed that death of young Russian tourists in Dyatlov Pass might have been caused by a menkvi who killed several caribous or reindeer that belonged to a local Mansi herder just few weeks prior to the accident. Their bodies were left in place, but they too showed strange signs of internal damage. Mansi were somewhat uneasy about possibility to encounter once of these flesh eating monsters on Dyatlov Pass.

Let’s start examining the facts that we know. We know that the group started fairly late and walked for only 2.5 miles. We still don’t know what took them so long to collect their things and take the trail. They did spent time constructing Labaz, basically storage for extra food and clothes that they would pick up on the back. But this still doesn’t quiet explain a strange pace of a group as they walked across Dyatlov Pass. People who believe in a possibility of Yeti attack explain this delay by a creature that might have scared them. Once it was gone tourists picked up their things and went to a place where they felt was safer. And given their few options they could have assumed that side of an empty mountain would give them certain advantages. And that brings us to a subject of odd choice for location of the last base.

The last sentence in the diary of Dyatlov group was an entry written by Igor Dyatlov himself on the night of the 31st of January. As you remember the group reached the treeless area on top of the mountain, but returned to spend night in a safety of a forest. The next night they basically had to repeat the ascent. In the last entry Igor stated: “It is hard to imagine such a comfort somewhere on the ridge, with a piercing wind, hundreds kilometers away from human settlements.” Yet ironically the next day he leads his friends to that same ridge and establishes a base there. Looking at the last pictures from a trip we can only imagine how hard it was to climb this mountain and establish a tent on a side of Kholat Syakhl. Additionally search and rescue party found only one log in the tent. If you were to spend a night in cold conditions you would probably take more. But the tourists didn’t take much firewood with them and didn’t even try to assemble a furnace to keep warm. Such experiments are common during training for trip, but certainly look odd during an actual track.

Cuts on the side of the tent were made from the inside, but the holes visible on the pictures were increased by the members of the party that ripped them open, greatly increasing the size for entrance. If we take a possibility of an animal attack we can assume that the holes were not made so much for the escape as much for the surveillance of the mountain. Something threatened them and they needed a view toward the forest. We can only assume the fear that they might have felt if they saw the dark figure approach their small tent. It is unlikely that they would spend much time on the tent gathering their things. Instead they ran down the slope. It is possible that they tried to make their way back to the Labaz where they left their clothes and food. They took the wrong valley and missed their path to possible escape. The rest of the scenario is quiet dramatic. Several tourist freeze, others are simply attacked by this creature. If you look at the picture of a body of Zolotarev you can notice a camera that hangs around his neck. It was damaged by the melting water so we don't know what are the pictures he made. But it is certainly strange that a man leaves a tent with this seemingly useless item. It seems that he had something important to photograph. That "something" completely ignored the camera and left it around his neck.

We should make a clarification on a popular misconception that exists among sites devoted to the fate of Dyatlov Pass tragedy. Several people claimed Dyatlov once stated:


“Now we know that the snowman (yeti) exists”


It is a fictitious statement that is still commonly found on many sites including some very respectable ones. As we said before it is an example of fake journalism. Some Russian journalist simply invented this phrase. We couldn't find the direct source for this line. It doesn't come from a diary, it wasn't found in the personal notes and in fact no document exists that either makes this claim or describes such a discovere. But we came up with a possible inspiration for this lie.


Rescue members discovered a newspaper made by the group that was called an “Evening Otorten”. It was dated on 1st of February, although many believe it was written either late 31st of January or early 1st of February when the group slept in the forest. Firstly the group diary had no entries on this date which suggest the group was either too tired or too scared from their trip.

Secondly one of the articles stated that there was a competition in furnace assembly between Doroshenko and Kholmogorova in the Sport section. The furnace was not assembled by the group on February 1st so it is possible to assume that the newspaper was done before the final ascent to the Kholat Syakhl. This paper does mention Yeti in its Science section. Its exact translation goes.


“An existence of a snowman is hot topic for the debate among the scientific community. According to last testimonies it lives in the Northern Urals, around mount Otorten”.


It is possible that some of the locals warned the group against going into a forest, especially after an attack on the reindeer herd by an unknown creature or creatures. Yury Yudin remembers pissed off Igor Dyatlov after his conversation with the local. Although he didn’t heard the subject of the conversation he guessed a local man tried to talk him out of going to Otorten. This might be a reason why a snowman was mentioned in the Evening Otorten by the group.


Another proof of an Yeti encounter is a blur picture, last shot in the film 3. Some sites claim that no one in the group wore these clothes or that the figure doesn't look like anyone in the Dyatlov group. But lets see at the last 4 pictures of this film. All four picture Thibeaux- Brignolles about the same time. In the second to last picture he walks away into forest. It is very likely that in the last photo he comes back.


Dyatlov Pass Incident  Dyatlov Pass Incident  Dyatlov Pass Incident  Famous photo of the Yeti Dyatlov Pass Incident


Interestingly, the American Embassy in Nepal sent a document to The Department of State, Washington entitled 'Regulations covering mountain climbing expeditions in Nepal - Relating to Yeti'. It contained three regulations for that climbers must abide by should they encounter a Yeti. Interestingly, the date shown on this document is December 20, 1959.


These are only few of the theories concerning Dyatlov Pass Incident. Many are more bizarre, strange and quiet frankly dumb ideas that circulate out there. Some blame the spirits others blame the paradoxical undressing that lead to hypothermia. All these theories ignore the fact that only two bodies showed signs of undressing after they left the tent. And it was the first two bodies found under the cedar. Their clothes were removed after they died. We can assume the bodies were beginning to show first signs of rigor mortis or stiffness after death. The clothes of dead victims were cut off and later found near the bodies in the den. This proves that people were aware of the danger of hypothermia and tried everything they could to save themselves. Why did they leave the tent with all the clothes and boots inside is still a mystery. Many other theories about Dyatlov Pass Incident surfaced in the past decades. Few of these, however, explain a wide range of physical injuries that the group experienced. So there is no much point in mentioning them.


Unfortunately these were not the last victims of the Kholat Syakhl and Dyatlov Pass. From 1960-61 several airplane crashes took away lives of nine pilots and geologists who were sent to Dyatlov Pass. For a time flights were totally canceled in the region. Among more recent victims of the mountain was a crash of Mi-8 in 2009. Pilots ignored long standing unofficial no- fly zone. Fortunately they survived the cash, but they couldn't explain why their helicopter went down so quickly and without any warning. Tourists today repeat the track of the Dyatlov group, but none of groups ever contain 9 people. In the early 2000's a group of 9 volunteers under supervision of rescue crew repeated the same descent down the slope of Kholat Syakhl. Despite snow cover and night time none of the participants got any significant bruises or cuts. Those who observed the students did not report any difficulty in locating members on the mountain side. None of the group members were lost and vocal/ eye contact was constant between group members at all times. This only adds to the mystery of what really happened on Dyatlov Pass that night. The case of Dyatlov Pass deaths remains open.



Further Reading and alternative takes on theories

Keith McCloskey site








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