Investigator Okishev: The deaths of the Dyatlov group were full of secrets.

"We knew the truth, but we told fables to relatives" – the investigator frankly spoke about the tragedy at the Dyatlov Pass

July 1, 2023. Copyright Komsomolskaya Pravda. Authors Nikolay Varsegov and Natalya Varsegova

One of the last photos of the group
One of the last photos of the group. Break on the Auspiya River - (from left to right) Nikolay Thibeaux-Brignolle, Lyudmila Dubinina, Semyon Zolotaryov, Zina Kolmogorova

Recall that in the winter of 1959, nine hikers disappeared in the mountains of the Northern Urals: a fifth-year student of the Ural Polytechnic Institute (UPI), the head of the group Igor Dyatlov, as well as Yuri Krivonischenko, Yuri Doroshenko, Rustem Slobodin, Zinaida Kolmogorova, Lyudmila Dubinina, Aleksander Kolevatov, Nikolay Thibeaux-Brignolle and Semyon Zolotaryov. For 16 days, the participants of the trek had to ski in the north of the Sverdlovsk region for at least 300 km and climb two peaks of the Northern Urals. The expedition belonged to the third (highest) category of difficulty.

A month later, rescuers found they abandoned tent of the group... And within a radius of one and a half kilometers from it - five frozen bodies. The bodies of the rest were found only in May. Almost all the hikers were barely clad and shoe less. Some had fatal injuries. According to investigators, the hikers died on the night of February 1-2. But it has not yet been figured out why the guys ran away from the tent into the bitter cold and to their death. Because of this understatement, dozens of different versions of the tragedy have appeared in our time: from an avalanche to a Yeti attack.

Four versions

In 1959, Evgeniy Fyodorovich Okishev worked as deputy head of the investigative department of the prosecutor's office of the Sverdlovsk region. He was one of the chiefs of the forensic prosecutor who Lev Ivanov mentioned in the recent article we published.

Evgeniy Okishev during the Great Patriotic War
Evgeniy Okishev during the Great Patriotic War

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We first met Evgeniy Okishev in 2013. Then they visited him a few more times. In May 2016, we recorded his last interview for our Komsomol film "Dyatlov Pass. End of story?" directed by Alexander Abramenko. Then Okishev was 96 years old, and his physical health, undermined by front-line wounds, was getting worse. Realizing that life was running out, Evgeniy Fedorovich frankly told us about those events, no longer being particularly cautious, as in his first interviews.

Extract on awarding Evgeniy Okishev the rank of Junior Counselor of Justice
Extract on awarding Evgeniy Okishev the rank of Junior Counselor of Justice. Photo: Natalya Varsegova

– According to the distribution of duties between the head of the investigative department and me, I was entrusted with the leadership of the work of the forensic prosecutor Lev Ivanov. Therefore, all information was focused on me. In particular, we solved various complex issues together.

– How did you find out about the incident in the mountains of the Northern Urals?

– Investigator of the Ivdel prosecutor's office Vladimir Korotaev called our regional investigation department and reported that skiers had disappeared in the mountains of the Northern Urals. There was a search and the first corpses were found.

Prosecutor Evgeniy Okishev
Prosecutor Evgeniy Okishev

– When the first bodies were discovered, were there theories about their death?

– Initially, there were suspicions that they were killed by Mansi - local residents. But this version was dismissed when they studied the customs of the locals. According to their religious beliefs, they were forbidden to encroach on a person. And meeting with people of European appearance promised good luck on the hunt. This is a short explanation.

Then there was a version about an animal attack. You know that the tent was cut open, that they were leaving their camp in a panic. But we did not find any traces of animals on the spot. And the hunters said that the animals in this area do not appear at all due to the fact that the ridge is constantly blown by a strong wind.

We checked whether there were any prisoner escapes. There were camps all around in those years. The convicts could run away and attack the hikers to take money, clothes from them - to change from the prisoner's uniform, which would make them an easy target. But the version was not confirmed with any runaways.

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– Did you, Ivanov, and your other colleagues think then that some kind of military incident could have been the cause?

– It was one of the versions that was put forward immediately among others. This is a deserted place, and there could only be military personnel from the nearest units.

Evgeniy Okishev and his wife Galina Isaakovna
Evgeniy Okishev and his wife Galina Isaakovna. Photo: Natalya Varsegova

– By the way, did the military take part in the search?

– There were great difficulties in finding the bodies. I contacted the commander of the guard regiment and asked him to provide soldiers.

"I was called a fascist"

– Was there any control over this case on the part of the regional party committee?

– Everyone was controlled by the Party as if it was God himself. The regional committee of the party took an active part in the investigation. In my opinion, someone from the Central Committee of the CPSU came or they constantly reported there by phone about the details of the investigation. I also remember that when I was about to go to the scene, I got a call from the Prosecutor General's Office and was told that "our worker urgently flies to you, wait a bit with the departure to the location".

– As far as we know, you then requested a radioactive examination?

– Yes. In this connection, this case was later taken away from us and they said that there should be less talk around it. I began to explain to the relatives that it could have been an accident, as I was ordered by this comrade from the Prosecutor General's Office. It was an accident and no talk of any kind of murder! I had to dodge. Tell fables to relatives. Because for me and the rest of the operational workers, it was known that it certainly wasn't an ordinary accident associated with the natural elements, as we told the relatives.

– That was not true...

– Not true, of course. How many cases in the practice of each investigator was that he was forced on duty to hide the real circumstances of the crime? Or until there is clarity, or the crimes are directly related to military secrets.

Evgeniy Okishev reads a copy of the criminal case
Evgeniy Okishev reads a copy of the criminal case. Photo: Natalya Varsegova

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– When you were instructed to wrap up the case, did you and Ivanov think that you were faced with some kind of military secret?

– What to tell you... We ourselves put forward this version. And when they asked Moscow whether there were any such things connected, for example, with the testing of new weapons, the case was immediately taken away from us.

– How did the relatives react?

– One of the mothers of the victims called me a fascist. She knew that we are covering up. In fact, it is very difficult to tell some legend instead of the truth. This story sounds unconvincing when you know that this was far from being the case. Relatives wrote complaints and received all the same answer - your children became victims of the elements, it was an accident. This is what we were told from above to say.

– Were you ashamed then?

– There was an internal resistance. We worked and resented. Together we were looking for a wording that would sound more or less convincing, and at the same time, that there would be some kind of hidden subtext. Because we knew the truth...

Order from above

– Evgeniy Fyodorovich, who came up with the wording that they allegedly died from force an overwhelming force? (In the decision to terminate the criminal case, literally: "... the cause of the death of hikers was a natural force, which the hikers were not able to overcome").

– We were given an order.

– That is, you were given the wording from above?

– Yes Yes. Explain this way - either an accident, or natural circumstances that led to an accident. And Ivanov and I came up with this wording.

– Did the KGB investigate in parallel with you?

– They always had all the information about the investigation either from me, or they reported to the regional prosecutor, and he informed one of them. They also had an investigation department.

– Shortly after closing the case, Ivanov was sent to Kazakhstan, and you were sent to Moldova. Is this somehow connected with the investigation into the death of the Dyatlov group?

– I do not know who initiator this relocation. But I came to Chisinau in 1960 with the following wording: "To strengthen the cadres."

– What do you think happened there?

– I can only gues. Apparently, these were some activities related to the defense of the country or the development of new types of weapons. The hikers have become casual victims. In general, their deaths were connected with some secrets, because otherwise why hush it up, take away from the prosecutors the cases that is in the midst of an investigation, and tell them to lie to the relatives?

– In your opinion, is there a file that contains truthful information about the causes of death?

– I think so.

– And that criminal case, which is stored in the archives of Yekaterinburg, could be cleaned up in favor of those who hid the causes of death of nine people?

– It could, of course. Moreover, in order not to violate the integrity of the case, they could replace important documents with some insignificant ones. Not even relevant.

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The work record book of Evgeniy Okishev
The work record book of Evgeniy Okishev, confirming his work in the prosecutor's office of the Sverdlovsk region. Photo: Natalya Varsegova

The work record book of Evgeniy Okishev

From the authors

Why didn't we publish this candid interview right away? Because then there was a hope to get documents confirming this version in the relevant archives. And the interview could disturb other archival workers. And block our access. Alas, the archives on this topic turned out to be already inaccessible. Therefore, it makes no sense to keep this interview on the back burner.

Draw your own conclusions from everything said by Evgeniy Okishev. He clearly knew what exactly happened there, but until the end of his life he remained faithful to the secrecy of the investigation and a non-disclosure agreement. However, due to the deep sense of shame that has not left him since the termination of the criminal case, he gave us direct hints about the cause of the death of nine hikers. Pointed out in which direction to pursue the search for the truth.

We will continue to piece together a complete picture of the incident, and if you have reliable information about the tragedy, write to: vars@kp.ru, konata@kp.ru.


Fireballs flew across the sky

During the search for the missing hikers in the Urals, strange phenomena occurred. Fifth-year student of the Ural Polytechnic Boris Sychev in the second half of March 1959, among other hikers, also went in search of his missing comrades. One night he happened to observe something mysterious in the sky.

– There was a very strange incident, which not only me, but everyone remembered, - he recalled. - One night, the hikers on duty woke everyone up whispering: "Guys, get up, get dressed, all go out one at a time." When we got out, we saw a large fireball floating across the sky. Outwardly similar to the disk of the moon. But not the moon. This ball was larger in diameter. And so it moved away from the ridge, passed a little away from us. We did not observe a bright glow. Then it disappeared over the horizon. We were all puzzled. What it is? No one had seen such a thing before.

Such phenomena in January-March 1959 were observed by many local residents. There is evidence of this in a the criminal case, but there are no official explanations about the nature of these balls. There are only assumptions that these were rocket launches from the Kapustin Yar test site to Kamchatka.



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