The New Yorker article on Dyatlov Pass Comments (11)


A well written article came out in The New Yorker on May 10, 2021, titled: Has an Old Soviet Mystery at Last Been Solved? by Douglas Preston.

I, Teodora Hadjiyska, and Igor Pavlov consulted the author with information on the case since Dec 22, 2020. Unfortunately our theory was not included and we were not given credit in the article for the assistance we provided. However, as consolation Douglas Preston left me the following endorsement:

"The Dyatlov Pass Incident is one of the most confounding mysteries of the 20th century. Since it occurred in the Soviet Union sixty two years ago, it has gained world-wide fame and an international following, resulting in dozens of books, articles, and documentary films. Teodora Hadjiyska is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Dyatlov enigma and also the creator of, the most comprehensive website on the subject. I highly recommend her work!"
— Douglas Preston, International bestselling author and journalist

To be worthy of the praise we were compelled to take one final look over the article for fact check. I am keeping the original comments by Igor in Russian for the benefit of our Russian visitors (we have an increased traffic from Russia). The highlighted in blue lines are from the article.

Igor Dyatlov was a tinkerer, an inventor, and a devotee of the wilderness.
He was an ordinary student. Yes, he had hobbies, but he was not the genius that those who knew him turned him into over the years.
Он был обычным студентом. Да, у его были хобби, но он не был гением, в которого с годами его превратили те, кто его знал.

Dyatlov led a number of arduous wilderness trips, often using outdoor equipment that he had invented or improved on.
We only know about the stove, and most likely the idea is not Igor, but his father. And about the standard walkie-talkie. Again an exaggeration.
Известно только о печке, причем скорее всего идея не Игоря, а отца. И о стандартной рации. Опять преувеличение.

on a route that no Russian, as far as anyone knew, had taken before.
Not true. Akselrod group found on Otorten on Feb 27, 1959 the following note left in 1956 by a Moscow hiking group.
Чушь. Как там не было русских, если на Отортене была записка московской группы туристов.

Dyatlov recruited his classmate Zina Kolmogorova
They were in the same faculty but in different groups.
Они учились на одном курсе факультета, но в разных группах.

They were among the élite of Soviet youth and all highly experienced winter campers and cross-country skiers.
They didn't even have official sports grades because their papers were not in order. They were no elite, just ordinary hikers. Check their hiking experience.
У них даже не было официальных спортивных разрядов. О какой элите идет речь?

Lyuda Dubinina, an economics major, a track athlete, and an ardent Communist
There is nothing to confirm this. She didn't stand out as "ardent Communist" but it seem like we have to paint some character on each of them.
Откуда вдруг появилась информация, что она была пылкой коммунисткой? Она ничем не отличалась от остальных.

A couple of days before the group was due to set off, the U.P.I. administration unexpectedly added a new member, much older than the others and largely unknown to them: Semyon Zolotaryov
The UPI administration had nothing to do with the organization of the trek or with Zolotaryov. The whole organization went through the UPI sports club and through the city hiking section.
Администрация УПИ не имела никакого отношения ни к организации похода, ни к Золотареву. Вся организация шла через СК УПИ и через городскую секцию туризма.

Several of them hid under seats to avoid buying tickets.
Only Dubinina, the alleged "stickler to the rules".
Только одна Дубинина.

About a hundred feet downhill, the search party found “very distinct” footprints of eight or nine people, walking (not running) toward the tree line
For the first time the footprints are observed and mentioned in the the testimonies on February 28, which is 2 days after the discovery of the tent.
Первое упоминание об обнаружении следов - только 28 февраля, через 2 дня после обнаружения палатки.

on the trunk bits of skin and torn clothes were found.
There is nothing in the case files about this. Only the emotional words of Ivanov in the "Mystery of the fireballs" published 30 years after the events, where he also speaks about UFOs.
Документальных подтверждений нет. Только со слов Иванова через десятки лет после событий.

In early May, when the snow began to melt, a Mansi hunter and his dog came across the remains of a makeshift snow den in the woods two hundred and fifty feet from the cedar tree: a floor of branches laid in a deep hole in the snow. Pieces of tattered clothing were found strewn about: black cotton sweatpants with the right leg cut off, the left half of a woman’s sweater. Another search team arrived and, using avalanche probes around the den, they brought up a piece of flesh.
It didn't go down quite like that. It sounds like a Mansi hunter accidentally found the den and called the search party. The Mansi only joined the party that was already ordered to dig because of some other traces - pine needles, stubs etc. Mansi didn't discover the den.
Ощущение, что настил случайно нашел охотник-манси и вызвал поисковую группу. На самом деле манси были в составе поисковой группы, которая продолжала поиск и нашла настил.

Many of them wrote to officials, including Khrushchev, demanding a more thorough investigation.
A telegram to Khrushchev was sent on February 27 urging to start looking for their children. Nothing after that and nothing about "thorough investigation".
Хрущеву писали в самом начале поисков, а не после.

For decades, the families and the Dyatlov Group Memorial Foundation pressed for a new investigation; two years ago, elderly relatives of several victims finally succeeded in getting the case reopened.
The case (investigation) was never reopened. A prosecutor's preliminary check was carried out on the materials of the 1959 case. The Foundation has nothing to do with this procedure. It was held on the initiative of Komsomolskaya Pravda, whose correspondent (Varsegova) represented the interests of Zolotaryov's relatives.
Дело (расследование) не было вновь открыто. Проводилась прокурорская проверка по материалам дела 1959 года. Фонд не имеет никакого отношения к этой проверке. Она проводилась по инициативе Комсомольской Правды, корреспондент которой (Варсегова) представляла интересы родственников Золотарева.

As Kuntsevich wrote to me sarcastically, Kuryakov was shunted off to “felling trees.”
Not sure if it is evident from the text in the article that Kuntsevich made a very unceremonious remark on Kuryakov's current position as director of the forestry department. In the late 1950s, the Soviet counterpart of this department was engaged in logging (Ivdellag). We think Kuntsevich meant that Kuryakov is now felling trees i.e. logging, meaning sent to the Gulag.
Мне кажется, что ДП скорее не понял Кунцевича. Курьяков же теперь директор департамента лесного хозяйства. В конце 50-х годов советский аналог этого департамента занимался лесозаготовками (Ивдельлаг). Думаю, что Кунцевич говорил, что Курьякова перевели на вырубку деревьев=лесозаготовки, имея в виду исторические аналогии.

Note from the authors of "1079 - the Overwhelming Force of Dyatlov Pass"
There is no need to turn the members of the Dyatlov group into martyrs. Finding the truth about their tragic death will remain a cause worth fighting for without presenting them as perfect, virtuous individuals. We have long lived in countries where there was a constant impetus for people to be turned into exemplary statues. This is like burying a broken body in a golden sarcophagus. Let's remember the Dyatlov group as normal, ordinary, young people, not monuments.



Oleg Povetko 29-05-2021 03:34 (GMT)
Errata on my message on mantles. The mantles are not mentioned in Donnie Eichar book. Mr. Eichar’s expert explains elevated levels of radioactivity by fallout from atmospheric tests on Novaya Zemlya. The mantles are mentioned by New York Times here:
“And the radiation? During the 1950s, many of the lantern mantles used by campers contained a radioactive element called thorium, says Paul Frame, a retired health physicist with Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Tennessee. “When you handled these mantles,” he says, “especially if you were replacing old ones, you couldn’t avoid picking up radioactive material on your hands.”
I maintain full respect to Dr. Frame whom I know personally and doubt he would have made such a case specific comment after seeing results of an expertise. It appears that he made rather general comment that hikers used lanterns and mantles soaked in thorium back then, which is true statement.
Carl Nordberg 26-05-2021 21:44 (GMT)
Oleg Povetko, this is all very interesting. If any story needs fact-checking, it's this one. Good that someone is going through the trouble of verifying what we have been fed with. This article is slanting from investigative down into "based on true events".
Oleg Povetko 26-05-2021 17:38 (GMT)
Regarding the lantern mantles mentioned as source of radiological contamination in the article. First, tourists did not seem to use this type of mentioned lanterns back then. Neither the mantles, nor the lanterns needed for their use were mentioned in the case files. Case files however list several flash lights found in group’s inventory used as light sources. Second, Th-232 that is embedded in these mantles is a pure alpha emitter, its daughters also emit alphas, gammas and betas. The radiological analysis found only beta emissions, it specifically mentioned that it did not find any gamma or alpha emissions. The radiological analysis was performed by the Chief Radiologist of the city of Sverdlovsk, sixth largest city in Russia at the time. The equipment used in the expertise is listed in the case. Listed probes might or might not have difficulty detecting emitted from mantles gammas but those radiation probes would have easily detected alphas emitted by Th-232 chain. I own several of those lantern mantles contaminated by Th-232 decay chain progeny, so I specifically checked that alpha detection capability inside lead cave using rather old radiation probes. Using those probes one could easily tell that all three components, betas, gammas and alphas are present in the mantle. And such analysis is on the level of college lab work, no specialized expertise is required. NY’s author likely picked this idea on lantern mantles from Donnie Eichar’s book on the tragedy “Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident” without even checking the facts. I know the expert who consulted Mr Eichar and given his qualifications, the expert would have not made that statement about lanterns if he knew details of the expertise, list of tourists’ equipment listed in the criminal case and especially results of radiological expertise. That fact that the radiation expert has not likely been provided information in its entirety, cast doubts in my mind on the other expert opinions, specifically of Dr Greene’s. He might not have been provided all the facts, either.
Carl Nordberg 26-05-2021 09:13 (GMT)
I was surprised that this article came out like that. The New Yorker is known to have a fact-checking procedure in place. Nothing is published unless every single fact is thoroughly checked. And here the facts are so many that at least I should run through someone that knows the case. This article sounds like „easy science“, which is not necessarily bad as it is meant for the public without prior knowledge, but the article is also based on case files, diaries, and a scientific paper. How hard is it to get the facts straight?
Oleg Povetko 26-05-2021 04:12 (GMT)
While either 608 or 1,000+ would be quite unpleasant landing on a person in the middle of the night, there is a big difference between them in terms of causing potential injuries. Trying to sound more scientific, NY referenced paper of Swiss scientists. Checking their paper, one can find that even 608 pound slab is way outside what Swiss scientists considered in their analyses. Swiss considered two potential (and quite high) snow slab densities, 300 and 400 kg/m3 (506 and 674 lbs/yrd3) and three possible slab volumes that could possibly impact a single tourist, 0.125 0.25 and 0.5 m3. These values would yield the range of 85 – 441 lbs of dense snow per person considered by the authors. Even the high end estimate, 441 lbs, is almost three times smaller than the slab weight claimed by NY: “…more than a thousand pounds...”
Oleg Povetko 26-05-2021 04:08 (GMT)
I need to say that my previous experience working face-to-face with the other NY reporter was positive in terms of his journalistic skills. This experience was quite negative, so I sent these and some other comments to the NY editor at
Oleg Povetko 26-05-2021 04:07 (GMT)
Such creative arithmetic causes a false conclusion further down the NY article: “…The massive weight prevented them from retrieving their boots or warm clothing and forced them to cut their way out of the downslope side of the tent…”. 441 pounds or 18 cubic feet (volume of a small IKEA desk) of snow can be cleaned off the tarp by a young student within 10 minutes using a ski, an ice ax, found outside the tent, and his own legs as instruments. If three people were injured and could not work, six remaining skiers could complete the cleanup within 10-15 minutes with some work organization. Russian researcher, twice older than an average Dyatlov group tourist, wearing the same clothes and using the same instruments as they, demonstrated this at the same location during his test on snow cleaning.
Oleg Povetko 26-05-2021 04:01 (GMT)
After checking their editing, I decided to check their arithmetic.
NY provided following parameters: slab density of 670 lbs per cubic yard, slab thickness of 3 ft and claimed: “…each skier’s body would have been covered by more than a thousand pounds...”
The length of a tent, according to the case files, is 4.33 m. About two feet of the southern part of the tent were found free of snow and when found were still elevated by the front bamboo ski pole. That leaves the potential slab length at about 12.2 ft. The height of the tallest tourist, Doroshenko, was 6 feet. There were nine tourists in the tent. Assuming entire slab covered entire tent as one piece, the mass of snow per the tallest tourist in the tent would have been about 670 x 12.2 x 6 = 608 lbs. This is way below what NY claim of “…more than a thousand pounds...”
Oleg Povetko 26-05-2021 04:00 (GMT)
While Kouryakov counted 75 theories of Dyatlov group tragedy, New Yorker (NY) came up with three different titles for exactly the same article. Here’s their editorial equilibristic:
May 17, e-version: "Has an Old Soviet Mystery at Last Been Solved?"
May 17, paper version, Table of Content: "Cold case. A new solution to a famous Soviet mystery."
May 17 issue, actual title on Page 24: "Cold case. A new solution to the mystery at Dead Mountain."
Ren 11-05-2021 20:21 (GMT)
Human nature seems directed toward elevating those who die. When I had a close, sudden loss twenty years ago, it was hard not to fall into the trap of putting him on a pedestal; I think we often feel guilt for speaking ill of the dead, yet we are all fallible and we all make mistakes. He was not perfect, lol. But he became a martyr in my eyes for many years after.

It is always good to be reminded that the Dyatlov group wasn't elite in the sense that we try to paint them to be. They were (with the exception of Zolotaryov,) young adults. In 1959 Soviet Siberia, that may come with more responsibility than modern day USA, but I do look back at my early twenties and often wonder how I survived, lol!

Thank you for the clarification on this article! The untruths that pervade Dyatlov research, even today in 2021, just cloud the situation, which is why fact checking is so vastly important!
Roger Scott Cathey 11-05-2021 19:16 (GMT)
The author's use of the phrase "celebrated mystery" turned me off and struck me as insensitive if not callous. It is a NOTORIOUS, a confounding mystery, but no one, NO ONE celebrated this mystery stupid. But then, as if finding the whole topic onerous, he lightens to gush, "perhaps the most entertaining theory.." as I felt my stomach churn at such a jejune interjection. Hello? It is a TRAGEDY, whatever the specifics of how it actually played out. Is the New Yorker hiring high school senior pups now?
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