Investigator Lev Ivanov unknown letters

May 20, 2023. Copyright Komsomolskaya Pravda. Authors Nikolay Varsegov и Natalya Varsegova

Dyatlov group on a break
The beginning of the fateful trek. Dyatlov group on a break.

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), group leader 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 trip 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.

In 1959, the forensic prosecutor of the Sverdlovsk regional prosecutor's office, Lev Nikitich Ivanov, was investigating the death of the group. The man is incredibly scrupulous, meticulous and accurate. Where are such conclusions from? Firstly, this is how his colleagues with whom we spoke, Evgeniy Okishev, deputy head of the investigative department of the prosecutor's office of the Sverdlovsk region, and investigator Leonid Drapkin spoke about him. Secondly, Lev Nikitich meticulously kept a household diary almost to the end of his life. The last entry in it was made 2 weeks before his death. The author recorded the weather, prices and events taking place in the country.

Lev Ivanov
Lev Ivanov was a meticulous investigator, but something made him distort his own investigation

But it is strange that there is not a word about the events of 1959 in the diary. Even when, in the 1990s, journalists visited him, he did not note this in his diary.

But there were his letters to journalists on television and other memories. Unfortunately, they did not reach us in their entirety. The surviving pages were donated to the Dyatlov Foundation by his youngest daughter Aleksandra. But even on their basis, very interesting conclusions can be drawn. So, we bring to your attention (in a small reduction) these letters with our comments.

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Page written by Lev Nikitich Ivanov
Page written by Lev Nikitich Ivanov. Photo: Personal archive

How it all began

IVANOV: "In the Urals, they still remember the death of a large group of students of the first graduation from the Faculty of Physics and Technology of the Ural Polytechnic Institute. In the 50s, the entire Urals spoke about this tragedy, and I had to investigate the case, find out the reasons for the circumstances of the their demise.

Events played out in the Arctic at the northernmost point of the Ural Range. A group trekked there, a very large group of students, amateur hikers, and when they did not reach the checkpoint, and all the deadlines for their return passed, the regional party committee and the Sverdlovsk regional executive committee organized an expedition to search for them.

I must say that the expedition was organized perfectly, we were given sappers, planes and helicopters, masters of sports, pathfinders, Mansi hunters, we had tents, but the investigation had to be carried out and I, a person unprepared in sports terms, had to participate in this expedition.

The story of the beginning of the investigation
The story of the beginning of the investigation. Photo: Personal archive

FROM THE AUTHORS: It is strange that hereinafter Ivanov points to the Arctic, although the events took place in the Northern Urals. It is also strange that the investigator calls Igor Dyatlov's group amateur hikers. What kind of amateur performances are we talking about if it was an organized team from the hiking section of the Ural Polytechnic Institute with an approved route, a trek schedule and the qualifications of each of the participants. It is all the more surprising that Lev Nikitich immediately writes that the order to search for "amateurs" came from the very top - from the regional authorities. Why all of a sudden? Is it because then in 1959, and more than 30 years later, the forensic prosecutor makes the dead guilty. What's with the dead demand?

Four months in the mountains

IVANOV: "I felt something was wrong from the moment I entered the office of the regional prosecutor and was invited to sit down. It was not customary for us to sit down during ordinary visits to the regional prosecutor for the simple reason that we did not have to linger in the office. Among the 60 people of the regional apparatus every day there were many who wanted to get an appointment personally with the regional prosecutor.

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I was given 30 minutes to get ready. New felt boots, a hat with ear flaps and the same brand new sheepskin coat were handed to me by the head of the administrative department right there in the office of the regional prosecutor, and after another 30 minutes I was sitting on a plane, which a few hours later took me on a special flight to Ivdel. I was given an order to establish a base camp for the search group.

What could I do but go? The regional prosecutor explained to me that he hoped for the ability to investigate the case and for the hardening of the front-line soldier. Are you a paratrooper? - Yes. "I am entrusting you with a difficult task. Trust had to be justified.

It was a difficult expedition. We lived in the Arctic, in the mountains, for four months without a break. Frankly, by the end of this period I had already pulled myself up as an athlete, but and at the beginning I lived with some curios misconceptions. On the first day of skiing in the mountains, I usually had breakfast and could not go along with everyone. It turns out that it was necessary to eat very little, but high-calorie food."

FROM THE AUTHORS: Unbelievable! Amateur hikers went to the mountains and vanished. The prosecutor of the region personally equips the investigator, and even emphasizes that it is difficult! Hard to believe. Further Ivanov writes even about fairy tales. It turns out that he was on an expedition without a break for 4 months. I just want to exclaim - how did we miss this! Ask any of the surviving searcher how long was investigator Ivanov on the pass. The answer is - a few days. According to the radiograms in the criminal case Ivanov flew away from the pass on March 3. If we assume that he arrived at the place on February 27, after the discovery of the first corpses, then he spent on the pass 5 days. What 4 months?!

It is true that he reappeared on the pass, when the bodies of the remaining four were pulled out from under the snow. But, as the searcher Vladimir Askinadzi said, Lev Nikitich did not show any particular interest in the bodies at that time. If on his first visit Ivanov was too energetic and proactive, now from his indifferent state one could assume that the investigator was no longer interested in solving the case.

No one knew

IVANOV in a letter dated March 8, 1991: "Unfortunately, I am the only one left of those who know the true circumstances of this tragedy. A few words about my credibility as the source of this information. From 1951 to 1962 I worked as a forensic prosecutor at the Sverdlovsk Regional Prosecutor's Office. My job was to help investigate the most complex cases, and I took on some cases of particular complexity. In 1959 I investigated this case on behalf of the regional prosecutor Klinov.

In addition to Korotaev, the former investigator of the Ivdel prosecutor's office, who started this case, there is no one else. No one in the prosecutor's office knew anything about this case, and those who knew did not say anything about it. In those days, it was not customary to talk about issues that were not entrusted to you."

FROM THE AUTHORS: Here Lev Nikitich is wrong. The leadership of the regional prosecutor's office was well aware of the investigation into the death of the Dyatlov group. Here, for example, is our interview with one of Ivanov's colleague, Evgeniy Okishev, deputy head of the investigative department.

Who is to blame, officials or UFOs?

IVANOV: "But there were those who benefited from silence. First of all, the director (or whatever he was) Gordo kept silent. He was one of the culprits in the accusation that the group made a lot of mistakes. The head of the city sports committee was silent (I don’t remember his last name), because he was also guilty of the fact that the group went "semi-savage", moving into the stage of "savagery" at the final stage.

I was quite surprised that these two absolutely guilty people in the death of the guys were lightly punished at the bureau. Seems like they were given a reprimand. And this meant that it was impossible to bring them to criminal liability, because they were members of the CPSU, and until very recently, until 1986, the instruction of the Central Committee of the CPSU and the instruction letter of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks and the Council of People's Commissars of the USSR, signed by Stalin and Molotov in 1939, were in force on the elimination of serious distortions in the fight against enemies of the peoples. This letter stated that many cases of unjustified bringing people to criminal responsibility are allowed in the localities, abuses are allowed in the bodies of the NKGB and the NKVD in this case, and it was proposed that a member of the CPSU(b) could be prosecuted only with the consent of the party committee, and it was possible to arrest them only with the sanction of the first secretary personally. So, the city committee and the regional committee did not give such consent to the involvement of these two people. And that's it, the issue was solved."

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Recollections of the diaries
Recollections of the diaries. Photo: Personal archive

FROM THE AUTHORS: Quote from the decision to terminate the criminal case: "For shortcomings in the organization of tourist work and weak control, the bureau of the Sverdlovsk Civil Code of the CPSU punished in the party order: the director of the Ural Polytechnic Institute Siunov, the secretary of the party bureau Zaostrovskiy, the chairman of the trade union committee of the Criminal Procedure Code Slobodin, the chairman of the city union of voluntary sports societies Kurochkin and union inspector Ufimtsev. The chairman of the board of the sports club of the Gordo Institute was fired."

Indeed, the officials were slightly punished, and a year later the reprimands were canceled, Gordo was reinstated at work. But there is more. In 1990, an article by Lev Ivanov about the case of the Dyatlov group was published in one of the Kazakh newspapers (read the article). In it, Lev Nikitich unambiguously hints that the mysterious fireballs - UFOs - were the cause of the death of the group. Why, in a letter dated 1991, does the former investigator insist on the guilt of some officials in the death of the Dyatlov group? How is Gordo responsible if the group was attacked by aliens?

New details

IVANOV: "I had to take apart every thing of each deceased, conduct a wide variety of examinations, go many times along the path that turned out to be fatal for the group, and only after that I managed to clarify the tragedy in its details. We also managed to develop all the films found in the hikers' tent. As always, personal presence at the autopsy gives a lot. All this helped establish the truth. During a hurricane wind on the top of the mountain, where the hikers were caught by a storm and where they were forced to stay for the night, their tent was demolished and they were scattered along the slope. They were unable to overcome wind speeds up to 40 meters per second and died in the cold. The high morale of these courageous people is striking. The guys gave their last shirt off to the girls in order to somehow warm them, and when one died, they took him aside so that it would not break the will of the still alive to resist their fate. Working on this case, I saw with my own eyes how great the friendship and camaraderie among our people are."

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FROM THE AUTHORS: But this is serious. Why did investigator Ivanov present such a detailed story about how the guys died only 30 years later? Why are these details not in the criminal case? Let's say Lev Nikitich could add something about the "last shirt". But the wind at a speed of 40 meters per second where did it come from ... There is not a single meteorological report in the criminal case. Probably, the version of the hurricane could be fictitious, and the synoptic service could not officially confirm the hurricane. That's why there are no references.

The prosecutor scolded himself

IVANOV: "There was such an episode. The snow storm did not subside for several days, our tent was blown through, food was running out, and the helicopters could not help us in any way due to bad weather. We received a radiogram from the search headquarters: to prepare for a ski crossing to the nearest settlement, which is 100 km from us. The regional prosecutor, who, along with the commission of the regional committee, remained at the headquarters, told me later that he scolded himself many times for sending me to the search. And in such an environment, the headquarters again and again sent military pilots to drop food for us. Not only in books, but also in life, there are many difficult situations that end successfully. So it happened with us. One of the helicopter crews somehow managed to fly over and brought us food. The expedition continued.

For all the time, experienced hunters from the Mansi people did not leave us. They gave reindeer at our disposal and supplied us with fresh meat. The work of the group was monitored by a special headquarters consisting of senior officials of the regional party committee, the regional executive committee, and the military district. The headquarters included the regional prosecutor, who boarded the plane and participated in the search."

FROM THE AUTHORS: New sensational details. It turns out that in early March, a hurricane raged for several days in the pass area. And the investigator with the searchers prepared to ski to the nearest village. A beautiful story, especially about the regional prosecutor who reproached himself, but it is not true. Dozens of searchers testify to that.

Lev Ivanov's handwritten notes
Ivanov's daughter handed over several pages of this manuscript to the researchers. Photo: Personal archive

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Determined the time by this photo

IVANOV: "It was not a big deal. Not even a murder, but an accident. Therefore, one should not be surprised that the films of the hikers and their other documents have not been preserved. The films of the hikers themselves were developed and studied. By the way, I used them to calculate the time of the last stop - the last shot in one camera was taken already in the conditions of a strong snowstorm and poor visibility. If the sensitivity of the film is known (indicated on the boxes which were preserved), the aperture and shutter speeds are known, the density of the negative, the length of the day, then it is not difficult to determine the time when the picture was taken."

Photo of allegedly setting up a tent
Photo of allegedly setting up a tent. In fact, it is impossible to establish who is in the photo and where it was taken. Photo: Personal archive

FROM THE AUTHORS: Let's dwell on this moment in more detail. We are talking about the famous photo in which the hikers are digging in a snowdrift to flatten a place for a tent. The investigation could not establish which of the hikers is captured in the photo. In the decision to close the case, Ivanov writes: "In one of the cameras, a frame (taken last) was preserved, which shows the moment of excavation of snow to set up a tent. Considering that this shot was taken with a shutter speed of I/25 sec, with an aperture of 5.6 at a film sensitivity of 65 units GOST, and also taking into account the density of the frame, we can assume that the hikers started setting up the tent at about 5 pm on Feb 1, 1959. Let's pay attention to the exact time that Ivanov determined. In early February, in the Northern Urals, twilight begins at three o'clock in the afternoon. At 5 pm it is already very dark. It looks like investigator Ivanov is wrong again in his official conclusions. But why?

The story of the last photo
The story of the last photo. Photo: Personal archive

About the traumas and the diaries

IVANOV: "I absolutely do not understand the version of some kind of murder by some soldiers. I do not get it. What soldiers, who killed whom? First, there were no soldiers there at the time. Secondly, they do not have external bodily injuries, indicating an attack."

FROM THE AUTHORS: Yes, how so? Many external injuries are described in the acts of the forensic medical examination. It can be assumed that Lev Nikitich forgot the details after three decades. But back to his article written in 1990. In it, he clearly lists which particular ribs were broken in Dubinina and Zolotaryov and the amount of radiation "dirt" on the clothes of the hikers. How can he forget that the skulls of Thibeaux-Brignolle and Slobodin were broken? I don't believe it.

IVANOV: "About the diaries. I don't remember all. The most important. If they were, then they did not contain any information of interest to us. And then - until the penultimate point, there remained a living witness."

FROM THE AUTHORS: Hello again. Ivanov wrote himself "I managed to read their diaries, although then it took a lot of time, because everything was severely damaged."

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Recollections of the diaries
Recollections of the diaries. Photo: Personal archive

IVANOV: "It was Doctor Vozrozhdenniy who helped me understand the mechanism of the origin of the injuries, and taking into account the materials of the case and my specialty, he helped to establish exactly who died and in what sequence."

"Now I have nothing left"
"Now I have nothing left" Photo: Personal archive

FROM THE AUTHORS: Why is this important information not in the criminal case, neither in the interrogation of Vozrozhdenniy, nor in the autopsy reports?

IVANOV: "About radiological expertise. You write that it didn't show anything. I checked for radiation objects from the area and they did not show radioactivity. But the tests on the internal organs and clothes gave a significant reading, which indicated directed radioactive guidance. The impression is that they were irradiated with a fairly wide beam."

FROM THE AUTHORS: Radiologist Levashov's conclusion says: "The results of the studies do not exceed the averaged data on the content of radioactive substances in human organs." (Case files 374)


I would not like to suspect the respected forensic prosecutor and experienced investigator Lev Ivanov of official forgery. But his statement alone about the exact time of setting up the tent already raises doubts. It is known that the direct boss of Lev Ivanov, Evgeniy Okishev, was a supporter of the rocket version, as the cause of the tragedy. And this version of Okishev followed from Ivanov's investigations. Not without reason, in the criminal case known to us, a lot of importance is given to the "fireballs" that witnesses talk about. However, this assumption of the investigation, as Evgeniy Okishev himself told us, was rejected by the highest authorities.

Lev Ivanov died in 1997
Lev Ivanov died in 1997. Photo: Natalya Varsegova

When the hype about UFOs began in the media in the 1990s, Lev Ivanov, who apparently was haunted the cold case, suddenly "reshaped" the rocket into a UFO. This is a very convenient version, which is unrealistic, to say the least.



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