Евгений Буянов
Mystery of the Dyatlov group death

A chronology of searching works (? – the dates cannot be defined exactly):

23.02–05.03 – Slobtsov’s group (from 27.03 – master of sports Maslennikov, a leader of composite group of Slobtsov-Karelin-Chernyshov+Moiseev and Mostovoy with dogs);

27.02–10.03 – Karelin’s group

1.03.59 – (12.03?) – Akselrod-Sogrin’s group.

3.03 – 8.03 – a group of masters Bardin, Baskin and Shuleshko from Moscow (Shuleshko left on March, 9).

7.03 – (17.03?) – A.K. Kikoin’s group (alpinists from UPI)

12.03 (?) – 23.03 – the first group of Martushev.

?.03 —?.03 – a group of military students from Ivdellag NCO school under the direction of senior lieutenant Potapov – 10 students.

?.03 —?.03 – a group of sappers with mine detectors under the direction of lieutenant Shestopalov – 7 sappers.

?.03 —?.04 – a group of sappers of railway troops under the direction of lieutenant Avenburg;

25.03–06.04 – Sogrin’s group;

06.04–17.04 – the second group of Martushev;

17.04–25.04 – Blinov’s group (the relocation of the camp from Auspia to Lozva from April 19 till 22.04.59);

25.04–07.05 – a group of Askinadzi and Nicolay Kuznetsov (till the end of the rescue operation and camp evacuation).

Assumptions and versions: a mix from the truth and misconceptions

Different people had numerous assumptions, gossips and misconceptions about the reasons of the accident and the accident itself. They came from the incomplete information, uncertainty of conclusions of the investigation and the general misunderstanding of specific nature of camping trips including environmental conditions.

Dozens of various «versions» are thought up. But in fact most of them were only assumptions which tried to explain some facts and events, but contradicted to other facts and events. These contradictions didn't allow to put all known facts together in an integral scene of events and to explain all unclear facts. To think up your own «version» of events turned out to be rather easy but it was much more difficult to prove it and to connect with known facts. Researchers didn't succeed in it and the accident was still covered with veil of secrets.

Among numerous «versions» there were also «absurd» ones which reflected the opinion of some citizens, authorities and even investigators. Before Dyatlov’s group has been found there were suggestions that the tourists could «run away abroad». "Such versions" could only belong to those who haven’t travelled even one kilometer through taiga with a backpack (to reach the sea Dyatlov’s group would have to cover the distance 4 times more than all their route). There was also an «internal» criminal «version» according to which the accident could happen because of some intragroup conflict, drunken brawl or fight «for girls». Such «assumptions» were met with indignation and resolute rebuff from the experts who knew very well the true worth of these statements.

There were «versions» mocking at obvious nonsense. For example, «Aktrida dwarfs» «versions» which said about «kidnapping of tourists by malicious «Aktrida dwarfs» living underground as well as the «Aryan version». «Aktrida dwarfs» version probably came from the legends about «the people «sikcherty» (сикхерти») who lived in Yamal in dwellings like «dugouts» or originated from stone dolmens a few hundreds of which had been found in the north of Sverdlovsk region and described by regional ethnographers, according to Alexey Slepukhin. These «versions-parodies» are barely laughing at those who take them seriously. Serious «versions» arise from the following statements:

1 – the accident was a «natural» accident caused by strong natural environmental influence and some actions of group on a route in the conditions of environmental pressure.

2 – the accident was a consequence of «technogenic» factors («technogenic accident») resulting from some technical impact from weapon tests – missile, vacuum, radioactive or technogenic actions in the process of mining or from factories activities (explosions, poison or combustible gases, etc.).

3 – the accident was caused by a criminal action ("criminal" accident) such as attack of criminals or a crime committed by authorities which killed the tourist group having mistaken them for a gang or in order to keep some «secrets» or to carry out criminal «experiments». All versions anyhow related to criminal or secrets keeping are «conspiracy» assumptions which connect the tragedy with some «plot» aiming to commit a crime and hide evidences and traces. This is a conspiracy theory.

A conspiracy theory is effective if the «plot» to commit a crime and to hide evidences can be proved by facts but in this case the question is who devised a plot and why. But without these facts the conspiracy versions are baseless and have to be avoided because trying to prove such version one has to give validity facts, i.e. names of conspirators and their motivation. If the elements and motives of crime cannot be proved a conspiracy theory becomes harmful because it distracts from true reasons of the accidents and disturbs to prevent them in future. And sometimes it becomes even dangerous because in this case it gives way to slanderous attacks.

4 – the accident was «abnormal», i.e. caused by the «unusual» event which has not been connected neither with «usual» natural, nor technical nor «criminal» events. The "UFO version", «versions» about the unusual (paranormal) natural phenomena ("infrasound", «fireball», «cold plasma») or the accidental poisoning «version» are considered to be these ambiguous and unsupported assumptions.

But ambiguous versions have not been proved by specific explanation about the cause of the accident and whether «UFO» or a "toxic substance» or an «anomaly» took place as well as under what circumstances it happened. As long as neither UFO traces nor any traces of poisoning, nor the evidence of the abnormal phenomena have not been found. The belongings, food and the first-aid kit of the lost group didn’t contain any chemicals which could «stir up their minds».

Since then the opinions of many (but not all) researchers about causes of accident divided into two main directions: natural accident or "technogenic and criminal" accident (conspiracy version). Supporters of natural accident said that Dyatlov’s group accident is a failure usual for tourists and it wasn't connected with secret weapons tests or any crimes. There were attempts to unite «natural» and «technogenic» versions but such attempts didn't succeed. Supporters of «natural» accident also didn’t come to complete agreement.

The master of sports on tourism Moisey Abramovich Axelrod proposed a version about an avalanche being a main cause of accident. He has built a connected scene of events and pointed to many peculiarities in behavior of Dyatlov’s team and details of events. His «avalanche version» also included the steps describing loss of equipment and subsequent freezing of Dyatlov’s group under the conditions of cold weather, wind and snowstorm. Axelrod thought that after descent of an avalanche and having been injured Dyatlov’s group were rescuing the wounded and tried to return to the camp but lost their way because of the dark and snowstorm. Their attempts to come back to the tent on the mountain opened to wind appeared to be doomed. Axelrod didn't refuse the «technogenic» causes of the accident believing that the descent of an avalanche could be externally stimulated by weapons tests or military maneuvers.

But some aspects of his «avalanche» version met questions and objections which had no answers. There were objections according to which the mountain slope was not rather steep and there was no trace of avalanche. Evidences of searchers and tourists also showed that there were no signs of the avalanche in this part of the mountain. They said that Northern Ural is a region that is not known for avalanches and there were no accidents caused by avalanches. It seemed that the «avalanche» version obviously didn’t correspond to the conclusions of forensic examination. After all, it looked like Dyatlov's team was so heavily injured that couldn’t go down. And the presence of 8–9 pairs of footprints on the slope proved that all group or almost everyone were going down in a file joining hands.

All in all Axelrod was not able to overcome all objections and explain all events of the accident up to the end and his «avalanche» version with avalanche and snowstorm hasn’t had any supporters among skilled tourists for a long time. The theory appeared in 1991 (was written and then published in 1993 in the article of the book by N.A. Rundkvist «Hundred days in the Urals», 1993), much later criminal case had been closed and wasn't considered like an «official version» of the investigation. This version didn't have sufficient evidences and strong protection against attacks of opponents that’s why it was necessary to work on it to strengthen it or to give up.

The versions about «infrasound» influence or attack of a rogue bear were put forward as «natural» versions. Actually these natural versions are versions about some «unusual», abnormal phenomena. And even now in TV programmes they try to explain that the accident was caused by «cold plasma» and some special type of «fireball», «infrasound» or other anomalies. These «versions» have always been and remain only assumptions which have no evidences and direct influence. The same can be said about «criminal» causes of accident, while there are no evidences there is no subject matter. After all, it is possible to think up everything. But it is necessary to prove only what actually took place and what is based on reliable facts and evidences.

So a number of natural and «criminal» versions got hung up without support because they failed any evidences and didn’t have any confirming facts. Criminal «versions» fell into this «hopeless» group: «mansiyskaya», «household quarrel» (a conflict in the team). And also acute alcoholism or any other substances poisoning, including toxic «gases» and «propellant fuel». As well as assumptions about «death squads or escaped convicts» along with attack of "special forces" or criminals and all kinds of such options. Obvious weakness of all «criminal» versions consisted in absence of motives of crime. All things belonging to Dyatlov’s group have been found, there were no irrelevant things at the place of the accident and nothing of Dyatlov’s group belongings, including valuable ones, disappeared from the Tragedy scene.

Many searchers of Dyatlov’s group and a lot of skilled tourists supported the «technogenic» versions (including «UFO version»). It seemed that they had solid validation by way of facts about «fiery spheres» flight and the fact of radiation found on clothes of Dyatlov’s group. But these facts were weak because they lacked any explanation: what kind of phenomenon these «fiery spheres» were and where this «radiation» came from. There was no explanation how these strange phenomena affected the accident, whether there was a direct link or any influence and its importance. At the place of the accident there were no signs of these influences: neither traces of falling «rocket» nor increased radiation have been found. Therefore in order to analyze the role of these facts in the accident they were to be checked and explained. Below we give these explanations and they show the real worth of these facts and how they were connected with the accident and with legends about it.

To explain the accident «technogenic» and «criminal» versions were trying to be united. These attempts have resulted in «elimination» and «imitation» versions. The «elimination» version means intended extermination of Dyatlov’s group to keep «privacy» of some «tests», what participants of group witnessed accidentally. The «elimination» was also suggested as a result of mistaken extermination of escaped criminals. Except that the elimination was quite strange without any evidences of weapon impact. This difference was eliminated by «imitation» versions. The «imitation» was described as a special murder with evidences fabrication on the crime scene which led to that uncertain picture at the place of the accident. But all arguments about «elimination» and «imitation» nevertheless were unconvincing because of the absence of motive for the crime. They became solid and valid only together with «technogenic» version. Otherwise there were no explanations for authorities’ cruelty towards ordinary group of tourists and for the presence of criminals in this god-forsaken place. It is impossible even to reach this place without necessary winter equipment and marching skills, products and terrain knowledge saying nothing of surviving there. To prove «elimination» and «imitation» versions there were also different «arguments» and «evidences» which reduced to the proof of presence of outsiders in the zone of the accident. All these «additional» facts didn't pass the verification that is told in the article «Destruction of unchecked facts and misconceptions. Why and how the accident traces have been lost».

For the correct understanding of the accident we had to collect all relating to the investigation information with the unchecked and false facts and to explain these facts in a proper way. It was necessary to remove all «dust» of misconceptions collected for 49 years which didn’t let to understand the accident correctly. And then to explain the accident on the basis of the verified facts, evidences of witnesses and the conclusions of skilled experts.

When building a working version of events it must be kept in mind that the major events of the accident always have their logic and integrity, their cause and effect. If cause-and-effect relations cannot be put together that means the absence of the version and there is only unconfirmed assumption. And in fact, there is no «version» if it is based on the unchecked facts. The working version cannot be based on gossips. When building the authentic version of events external factors proving «possibility of events» should be enforced by the facts from the accident scene proving that the «accident» really took place. And the authentic version should also give a consistent explanation to all accompanying facts. Every accident is developing according to the same scenario with only one cause and effect chain. That is what the authentic version should explain. If the investigation pretends to be complete there cannot be any «parallel chain» and any «other» explanations. Some facts certainly can contain some kind of ambiguity and blind spots. But all major events of the accident and the causes of group death should be definitely explained by the authentic version. Any «polysemy» and break of cause-and-effect relations means that investigation has just begun and tries to make up a working «version» and this «version» is rather ambiguous.

Besides, in the process of any investigation a «version» is considered to be valid only if it was found to be corresponding to the similar versions and explanations from investigative practice. In this particular case it was necessary to find analogies to some other «tourists’ accidents» or «crimes» if there were any crimes. As well as analogies to the accidents caused by some «other» reasons (e.g., technogenic or anomaly) similar to the reasons of this Tragedy.

A statement: «All versions have the right to exist» can be true only at the beginning of investigation. Those «versions» which are not based on established facts, don't explain a course of events and don’t have similarities with other tragedies should be rejected as doubtful. Only people who understood almost nothing and made no certain conclusions can speak about «equality of versions». Only having proved by reliable facts a «version» can have the «right to exist». The process of investigation is rather deep and developed only when the main version resolutely «presses» all the rest versions or uses them to explain some fragments of events. And the «non-specific» position means incompleteness and misunderstanding of events. We believe people are mistaken if they think that the version of serious accident can be based only on one «occasional» fact. There should be a lot of such facts which have to explain a course of accident as a whole. And first of them just «puts on the right track» of the accident. Injuries of Dyatlov’s team and damage of their tent are becoming «suggestive» and «key» facts in Dyatlov's accident. Any «version» doesn’t cost anything if it cannot reasonably explain an origin of injuries and a cause of death.

Our way to Dyatlov's accident (digression by Evgeny Buyanov)

Active studying and investigation of the tragedy of Dyatlov’s group for us (for me and for the experts who helped me) began at the end of December 2005 when being at the meeting of climbers in St. Petersburg I have accidentally bought a book «Dyatlov's Pass» by Anna Matveeva. The book was both a «harlequin novel» and a nonfictional narration of Dyatlov’s group story containing a lot of details which I hadn’t known before. But I knew very well the other book that I’ve already read in the 70s – this is a novella «The difficulties of highest degree» written by Yuri Yarovoy. I was surprised that a story about search of Igor Dyatlov’s group gave rise to this novella. The summary (synopsis) of this novella is given in the appendix B; it is possible to read it and a full text can be found on the Internet (see Appendix A). Unfortunately, Yarovoy and his wife were lost in the car accident in 1980, – at night driving at great speed he ran into the sand dune on the road and lost control of the car Volga.

Yuri Yarovoy and his book

Anna Matveeva and her book

Note: Yuri Evgenievitch Yarovoy (born Kosobryukhov). He was born on April 11th, 1932 in the Far East (a station Mezha in Far East Region), his father was a railway worker (his brother Oleg Evgenievitch was born in 1936). Before war a family lived in Aktyubinsk When he was a schoolboy he finished part-time courses of junior geologists and during summer vacations worked as a collector in Mugodjarsk geological gold mining expedition. From 1949 till 1956 he has been a student of power plant faculty of Leningrad polytechnic institute named after M.I. Kalinin (graduated with a degree of mechanical engineer in «Combustion engines»). In November 1955 he changed his last name having married with Zoya Alekseevna Yarovaya, a student of Moscow Aviation Institute. After graduation he worked in many factories in Sverdlovsk, then took up another job in Komsomol (as a work-free secretary of plant All-Union Lenininst Young Communist League (VLKSM committee) and then went to journalism: worked as a head of department in the newspaper «Let’s take over!», an executive editor in the newspaper «The young of Altay», a special correspondent of Sverdlovsk television and radio broadcasting committee, a head of department in the newspaper «Ural searcher». In 1959 he became a member of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (KPSS). He was keen on tourism, took part in mountain and water tours around Ural and Altay. In 1959 he was a participant of one of the searching teams which were created as a result of Dyatlov’s group lost. Stanislav Meshavkin, Vitaliy Bugrov and Yuri Yarovoy were one of the fathers of Russian science fiction festival «Aelita». «Aelita» award is designed from Yarovoy’s scratch. Since 1979 he had been a member of the USSR Union of writers, he was also a member of a board in Sverdlovsk regional writers’ organization. On August 7th, 1980 he was lost in the car accident in Dagestan, together with his wife Svetlana Leonidovna, a teacher of Journalism faculty in Ural University. Their son Nikita Yurievitch Yarovoy suffered a serious craniocerebral injury. Yuri Yarovoy and his wife were buried in Dagestan village Kochubei. In this village there is a monument made and transported at the expense of family’s friends. Yarovoy had published his works since 1959: his first novella «Down Volga river» was published in the newspaper «Let’s take over!». His first book «The difficulties of highest degree» came out in 1966 in Sverdlovsk and was based on the story about Dyatlov’s group death and the searching operation (in 1971 the book was published in Perm). The first science fiction short novel «A crystal house» was published in 1978 in the yearbook «Science fiction». Yuri Yarovoy has written novels, novellas, short and feature stories, science fiction stories. In 1986 his novella «A special case» was scenarized and filmed by Odessa film studio, a film «Wingspread». The science fiction works include: «Snow smell» (novella), «A crystal house» (short story), «Green blood» (novella), «A town for a present» (novella), «Your passion» (novella). Popular scientific and fiction works include: «No wrath and passion» (novella), «Varka’s pit» (short story). «Helicopter pilots» (short story), «The difficulties of highest degree» (novella), «A house built on dogs’ bones» (short story), «A road accident» (novella), «Steep banks» (short story), «A reindeer stone» (short stories), «A special case» (novella), «Reporting from the Training Centre», «Pankratov’s heart» (short story), «Tagil metals», «Coloured eyes of the earth».

After reading Matveeva’s book I was overcome with a desire to investigate a cause of the accident in order to prevent similar cases in the future. The book of Yarovoy encouraged us to begin an investigation of this accident. I also had an experience in expeditions, rescuing operations in mountains and in destroyed Leninakan in 1988. I also investigated several accidents and I still have pain for the lost companions from my last mountain tours. In 1990 on Elbrus a group of 5 tourists was died from cold. Among them there were my companions Sergey Levin and Sergey Farbstein. Being skilled tourists they couldn’t escape «cold death» that is a bit similar to Dyatlov's accident. Seven years of thoughts and studying documents made me understand its reasons and facts. But it was impossible to answer only one question. I can’t say whether I was also lost together with them in that accident or not. There is no answer because such serious initial changes in group structure bring us back to initial uncertainty of the situation as a whole.

Matveeva's book gave me a large volume of documentary materials concerning Dyatlov's accident and I was able to begin my research based on them. Later I have found many facts on the Internet, in June 2007 I obtained a part of the closed criminal case over investigation of Dyatlov’s group accident and according to reports of evidence and results of examinations I specified with the experts the facts of the accident. I tried to receive an access to the file of «closed criminal case over tourists death near mountain Otorten, Ivdel, Sverdlovsk region». For this purpose at the beginning of August 2008 I sent to prosecutor’s office of Sverdlovsk region a letter of inquiry asking to give me an access to the case. The letter also contained the first printed edition of this book. The letter was declined as happened earlier with other visitors’ inquiries including relatives of victims. But a year later in October 2009 suddenly a prosecutor office gave me permission: a first deputy prosecutor of Sverdlovsk region V.P. Vekshin has read my book and ordered to give me an access to the case. In November 2009 I managed to obtain prosecutor's office permit, to study the whole case in the archives of prosecutor's office of Sverdlovsk region and to copy missing files of volume 1 of the case for the analysis. It turned out that visitors could review only a copy of the case but I have also seen an original of Volume 1. In February 2010 I was able to study and copy the original of volume 2 of the case after what I became the owner of a complete copy of the case. I found that the case was kept by the prosecutor’s office in full. In comparison with the original a copy of Volume 1 failed several odd-sized sheets with schemes on pages 76–80. A copy of Volume 2 differs from the original in that the copy fails 70 sheets of secondary documents: first of all, notices confirming receipt of several belongings of Dyatlov’s group by their relatives and some photos of searching operation. Besides two volumes of the case there are 13 envelopes with photos of searching operation and their legends which were kept in the archives of Sverdlovsk region separately from the case. The sheets in the envelopes are numbered. I have studied all these documents; I had all photos except several unimportant pictures of the upper reaches of the Auspia. But I handed a written warranty over the prosecutor’s office that I shall not use the documents for commercial purposes and shall not cause moral and material damage to the victims’ families.

In the process of the accident analysis I had to meet a number of unclear facts, explanation of which involved experts with unique knowledges. First of all, for verifying conclusions we invited a skilled skier (and a "mountaineer ") Valentin Nekrasov: master of sports, the USSR champion and medalist in camping tours of various complexity and for 28 years he has been occupying the position as chairman of the ski commission of Leningrad and St. Petersburg Federation of tourism. He became the first strict «examiner» of our version. Without his approval I wouldn't be so confident in conclusions: it was not only «mine» conclusions but «ours». The conclusions of Axelrod, Popov, Nazarov, Buyanov, Nekrasov who definitely pointed to «avalanche» as a «trigger mechanism» of Dyatlov's accident. But it was still necessary to find out what kind of avalanche it was, why and what happened, in details.

Slobtsov B. E., master of sports in climbing, joined our investigation in September 2006. He and his friends Sharavin and Brusnitsin helped to reconstruct the events of the accident. With time he has understood and accepted our version. If to evaluate his real contribution to the book, he is its co-author. Though, all experts who really helped us in an investigation can be called «co-authors» in certain issues.

Initially we looked at all «versions» of Dyatlov’s accident. But we rejected all versions which could not be proved by reliable facts. In order to verify versions we were looking for checked facts, clarified conditions of camping tours and rescue operation events. As well as we analyzed the actions of the team in an emergency. We saw that nature of injuries of Dyatlov’s group definitely indicated their avalanche origin. But we also checked carefully other possibilities of course of events according to the conclusions of the experts. While we work creatively trying to build and describe a scene of events we had also to destroy all doubtful facts and versions.

It is necessary to understand that all publications and films which contain numbers of versions of the tragedy don't answer questions. A complex investigation leads only to one version of the tragedy which shows the most objective scene of events. An objective scene of events doesn't allow any ambiguity because all these events were moving according to the same cause-and-time chain. We could and should specify separate details of the objective version changing into the description of events if the events are explained from beginning to end. And on the road to understanding of events you should avoid «haughty» judgements and «disapprovals»; you should «put yourself into these events skin», not only understand them, but also try to experience. In particular, one should understand and experience all the weight of current situation. If you don’t understand the seriousness of the situation and events you will not be able to see the real reasons of the accident. Among other things it would not be possible to understand why the group had to abandon a tent if you didn’t realize the real power of nature at this accident.

Later on the book follow the «lines» of investigation each of which led to complete summaries and conclusions regarding the facts of Dyatlov’s accident. These conclusions allowed us to build up a base for the version, to offer an explanation to the unclear facts and to give up false ideas, i.e. misconceptions that prevented to understand it.

Our way to understanding of the facts and events was not a highway. We had to struggle against mistakes. The way of investigation follows. For a better understanding we offer our readers to conduct an investigation with us because if to present only the «heart» of the case would be dry, boring and obscure.