What was a Human Intelligence Collector doing on the pass searching for the missing hikers?

Kp.ru special correspondents continue investigation of the Ural tragedy

All rights reserved Komsomolskaya Pravda. Authors Nikolay Varsegov and Natalya Varsegova

Military in search of missing hikers
In the course of our investigation of the tragedy at the pass, another mystery appeared. It is the participation of the military in search of missing hikers.

In the winter of 1959, nine ski-hikers disappeared in the mountains of the Northern Urals, having gone on a hike under the leadership of Igor Dyatlov. A month later, rescuers found their tent cut open. 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 naked and half-naked. Some had fatal injuries. It is still not clear why the students fled to the bitter frost and to their death.

In the course of our investigation of the tragedy at the pass, another mystery emerged. This is the participation of the military in the search for missing hikers. Almost all civilian rescuers are known to us. Many have actively collaborated with us. But as for the military rescuers, to whom we appealed more than once, inviting them or their relatives to share their memories of that time, for some reason not a single person from the military side responded. They even began to be tormented by doubts - were there military men there at all?

But the military is mentioned in the criminal case. For example, in the report of the Moscow Masters of Sports:
“Later arrived:… a group of cadets from the Ivdellag sergeant school under the leadership of senior lieutenant Potapov - 10 people;
a group of sappers with mine detectors under the leadership of Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov - 7 people.

Or in radiograms: «In addition to the two military groups of Chernyshev and Shestopalov, a group of civilians was organized"," The mine detectors give nothing comma the lieutenant colonel immediately switched to the probes"," The Shestopalov group passed the cedar section 300 by 120 meters."

Excerpt from the report of Moscow hikers
Excerpt from the report of Moscow hikers sent to the pass.

For a long time we could not understand from which military unit Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov, Senior Lieutenant Avenburg and sappers were sent to the pass. The fact that the guards of Ivdellag under the command of Chernyshev took part in the search is not surprising. They served near the site of the tragedy. But where did the sappers come from? And the lieutenant colonel is with them! It would be enough to send the senior lieutenant as platoon commander.

Every morning the search began from the boot rock
Every morning the search began from the boot rock.

- 2 -

Call to the astronaut

In the late 1950s, a railway was being built near Ivdel. The main work was carried out by the soldiers of the 5th separate railway Poznan Red Banner brigade (military unit 01662). The brigade's headquarters was in Serov. We assumed that Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov could serve in it. And we were right. In the archives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, it was possible to find the affairs of that brigade. According to the personnel, Lieutenant Colonel Mihail Fyodorovich Shestopalov served in it from June 1950 to February 1960. After he was transferred to Moscow, where he lived near the Frunzenskaya metro station until his death.

Mihail Shestopalov
Photo of Mihail Shestopalov from the archives of the Ministry of Defense

Shestopalov at the pass

In the book of orders for 1959 it appears that on January 2 of same year, Lieutenant Colonel M.F. Shestopalov was appointed Human Intelligence Collector of the brigade control headquarters. The person in this position was obliged to investigate all military emergencies related to the unit itself - from the lack of footcloths in the warehouse to the leak of military secrets.

Future cosmonaut of the USSR №50 and cosmonaut of the world №100, the hero of "Salut-7" Viktor Savinykh in 1960 he worked on a railway in the Northern Urals as part of the 5th brigade. In 1959 he was drafted into the army. First he served in the training unit in Sverdlovsk, and then transferred to Ivdel.

Viktor Savinykh
Cosmonaut Viktor Savinykh (left) served in Ivdel in 1960. Photo from his personal archive.

Viktor Petrovich does not remember Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov, because in February 1960 the investigator was transferred to Moscow. But he well remembers Lieutenant Colonel Tatter Vladimir Ivanovich, the same age and colleague of Shestopalov.

- As for the investigators of the brigade, we did not know them in person, - says Viktor Savinykh. - We, privates, were not disclosed to this information. They were appointed in secret from the personnel.

- Did you know then that the officers of the 5th brigade participated in the search for the missing Dyatlov group? We asked.

- No. Surprisingly, in those days we did not talk about this case at all. I first heard about it much later on TV.

Indeed, one has only to wonder that in a military unit located in the wilderness, where every minor incident like the captain's drunken flight to the commandant's office is discussed for a long time and by everyone, the tragedy at the pass was concealed. But why?

- 3 -


On March 1, 1959, a radio message leaves the search headquarters for the pass to the civilian head of the search Maslennikov: “There is a proposal to send you sappers with mine detectors. Give your opinion. Zaostrovskiy Sulman "

Military and civilian searchers lived shared a tent
Military and civilian searchers lived shared a tent.

On March 2, an order appears in the order book of the 5th Railway Brigade for personnel:

"The officers named below shall be deemed to have departed on a business trip:

Colonel engineer A.K. Romanenko in Ivdel from Mar 2 to Mar 6, 1959

Engineer-colonel A.I. Svitov in Ivdel from Mar 2 to Mar 6, 1959

Major E.N. Pepelyaev in Ivdel from Mar 2 to Mar 6, 1959

Major S.M. Dorozhkin in Ivdel from Mar 2 to Mar 6, 1959

Lieutenant Colonel M.F. Shestopalov in Ivdel from Mar 2 to Mar 15, 1959

Major A.A. Maksimov in Ivdel from Mar 2 to Mar 15, 1959

Signature: Chief of Staff of military unit 01662 Colonel Chugunov."

So, Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov, along with other officers, left Serov for Ivdel. It is not known if all six people went to the pass. These names are not mentioned either in the criminal case or in other documents. But on March 3, a radiogram was sent from the pass to the headquarters:

"For Sulman: A group of sappers arrived. 8 people safely reached the camp. Chernyshev Nevolin."

Military at the pass
Military at the pass. In the foreground - sappers, on the back - convoy men from the Ivdellag.

March 5th another radiogram:
«Yesterday Shestopalov group passed a section of cedar 300 by 120 meters. Today the detachment worked especially tensely, covered 500 meters from 250 to 150 meters wide. On half of the distance between Kolmogorova and Dyatlov, a fifth corpse was found under 15 centimeters of snow. This is Rustem Slobodin dressed warmly on his head a ski cap wearing a black cotton sweater pants underpants three pairs of socks on one leg black felt boot."

The moment when Rustem Slobodin's body was found
March 5. The moment when Rustem Slobodin's body was found

- 4 -

Maslennikov's diary

There are entries in the diaries of the head of the search, Evgeniy Maslennikov:

- March 5 - "Senior Lieutenant Avenburg will lead a group of sappers, Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov must returned back",

- March 6 - "Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov may return tomorrow with a helicopter".

Maslennikov's diary

Maslennikov's diary

But Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov returned to headquarters only on March 13.

On March 18, he again leaves Serov for Ivdel. Returns to headquarters on March 23.

On March 31, another order for a business trip:

"Lieutenant Colonel M.F. Shestopalov to the city of Ivdel from March 31 to April 30."

The lieutenant colonel frequented Ivdel. And this time for a whole month! Could the alarming radiogram from the pass from Senior Lieutenant Avenburg on March 31 at 9.30 am caused this month's trip?

«On March 31.3 4am in the southeast direction, the attendant on duty Meshcheryakov noticed a large ring of fire, which for 20 minutes moved towards us, then hid behind the height of 880. Before disappearing beyond the horizon, a star appeared from the center of the ring, which gradually increased to the size of the moon, became falling down separating from the ring. The unusual phenomenon was observed by the entire personnel, raised by alarm. We ask you to explain this phenomenon and its safety, as in our situation it makes an alarming impression."

- 5 -

Avenburg radiogram

Was Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov sent as an interrogator to study "this phenomenon" and explain its nature to the personnel? Unfortunately, reports on any business trips are not available to ordinary people and are in the secret section. Therefore, we do not know anything about the results of that trip.

But if we assume that the ring of fire is the trail of a rocket, then on March 31, 1959, an R-7 rocket was launched from Baikonur to the Kura training ground (Kamchatka). According to the Ministry of Defense, the launch was on a regular basis. The range was more than 6300 km. We do not know the exact launch time, but it is known that, basically, it happened early in the morning.

Sappers with probes

We did not find Senior Lieutenant Avenburg in the personnel lists of the 5th Railway Brigade (military unit 01662). But other military units were reporting to it: 31962, 12664, 24594.

We had to shovel a lot of documents before we met this phrase in the book of orders for the personnel of military unit 24594, located in Serov:

"Appoint Senior Lieutenant Avenburg as duty officer of the battalion in the outfit on January 6, 1959."

Avenburg on duty

It is known from Evgenиy Maslennikov's diary that Avenburg arrived at the pass together with 6 servicemen. Here is a list of sappers that Evgenиy Polikarpovich compiled at the beginning of his search in his notebook::
- Avenburg
- Savelyev
- Kudin
- Golubev
- Vasilchenko
- Mordovin
- Tymkov

List of search groups
List of search groups

- 6 -

In the order of January 16, 1959 on the appointment to positions and distribution to divisions, we read the following:
"Corporal L.P. Tymkiv - senior sapper-demolition of the 1st branch of the mine-blasting platoon (MBP),
Private M.P. Mordanov - sapper-demolition 1 squad MBP,
Junior Sergeant Y.N. Saveliev - commander of the 2nd squad MBP,
Private V.M. Vasilchenko - sapper-demolition 2 squad MBP,
Private V.A. Kudin - sapper-demolition 2 squad MBP,
Private N.G. Golubev - rifleman of the 1st squad of the commandant platoon."

Excerpt from the order
Excerpt from the order

Excerpt from the order
Excerpt from the order

The dates of the business trips of Senior Lieutenant Avenburg and his subordinates coincide with the business trips of Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov, which means that the latter personally supervised their participation in the search for Igor Dyatlov's group.

Order dated March 2:

"Consider senior lieutenant Avenburg on a business trip to the city of Ivdel from 2 to 7 March 1959. The basis is the order of the commander of military unit 24594.

- a business trip of Sergeant Savelyev and five people with him. The basis is the order military unit 01662."

Excerpt from the order
Excerpt from the order

Note that the basis of the order for Savelyev is an order from the headquarters of the 5th railway brigade (military unit 01662), as a requirement of a higher unit to send sappers to the pass. Isn't that who calls the shots for the search? On March 7, the sappers' mission is extended until March 13.

And here is some food for conspiracy theories. The order of return is issued on the basis of a telephone message dated February 14, 1959. Most likely, this is a mistake. But if you remember the controversial Tempalov's note from February 16, the date on the case files cover – February 6, aren't there too many mistakes in this tragedy?

Excerpt from the order
Excerpt from the order

- 7 -

On March 19, the whole company leaves for Ivdel again. Avenburg, Savelyev with sappers. Only instead of Kudin, privates Hisamutdinov, Faizov and Petrosyan are sent to the pass.

On March 29, they are supposed to return, but their trip is extended again.

Excerpt from the order
Excerpt from the order

The search for the last four hikers continues. And the people at the pass are so needed! Working with probes on a wind-blown slope is challenging and tedious. By that time, civilian searchers were no longer very eager to search, so they couldn't do without the military. Avenburg and the sappers will return to Serov only on April 9th.

On April 14, senior lieutenant M. Starikovsky leaves for the pass for 10 days, along with him, as it is written in the order "for the producing of the search", junior sergeant Zamirailo, privates Minulin, Krishtafovich, Mirgorodskiy. They return on April 28th.

Excerpt from the order
Excerpt from the order

And the order of May 15, based on the report of Senior Lieutenant Starikovskiy, reads: "write off the spent ammunition and signal cartridges when searching for dead students: 7.62 mm pistol cartridges - 45 pieces, 26 mm green smoke signal cartridges - 5 pieces, 26 mm signal cartridges red smoke - 5 pieces."

Excerpt from the order
Excerpt from the order

- 8 -

From the authors

It is too early to put an end to the participation of the military in the case of Igor Dyatlov's group. Today, these are all archival documents from the Central Archives of the Ministry of Defense concerning the search for the hikers. Unfortunately, many of the files of the Ural Military District of those times were classified. And of those that are in the public domain, this is still the maximum information. Although it is possible that we could have missed something. Nevertheless, we will continue to work in this direction and ask for your help. Below are the names of servicemen who might have known anything about the tragedy at the pass, as well as a list of all the sappers that took part in the search. If you know someone from these military men, please write to us: vars@kp.ru, konata@kp.ru.

List of military personnel of the headquarters of the 5th separate railway Poznan Red Banner brigade (military unit 01662):
Colonel Chugunov Yakov Nikiforovich born in 1914
Engineer-colonel Romanenko Alexander Kuzmich born in 1912
Engineer-Colonel Aleksey Ivanovich Svitov born in 1915
Lieutenant Colonel Mihail Fyodorovich Shestopalov born in 1916
Lieutenant Colonel Novikov Aleksey Andreevich born in 1921
Lieutenant Colonel Mitrofanov Georgiy Aleksandrovich born in 1923
Major Maximov Aleksander Alekseevich born in 1912
Major Pepelyaev Evgeniy Nikolaevich born in 1918
Major Viktor Vayner born in 1912
Engineer-major Potakh Genrih Grigorievich born in 1915
Major Iof Moisey Izrailevich born in 1923
Major Grek Ivan Yurievich born in 1918
Major Leonid Hristoforovich Vorotnikov born in 1917
Captain Mihail Gavrilov, born 1920
Captain Demin Nikolay Nikolaevich born in 1927

V.A. Avenburg
V.M. Vasilchenko
N.T. Golubev
Kudin Vladimir Andreevich, Krasnodar Territory, Beloglinsky District, Beloglinskaya village
M.P. Mordanov
Y.N. Savelyev
L.P. Tymkiv

- 9 -

From Galina Sazonova (researcher)

You probably remember that Lieutenant Colonel Shestopalov led the sappers. Nobody knew anything more about him (not even his name), but it was always surprising that he ran around the pass with probes himself. He had a high rank, we found out that Shestopalov was a Human Intelligence Collector. There is an order from January 1959 confirming this. This is the army. I think that in all countries of the world the army has its own rules. They are not subordinate to civilians and they have their own system of investigation, military prosecutor's office and military tribunals. An interrogator of a military unit is a person who conducts a preliminary investigation in cases that a crime was committed 1) on the territory of the military unit 2) by an employee of the military unit, or 3) against an employee of the military unit. This is a prerequisite - the crime must somehow concern the military unit.

What is this part? 5th railway brigade, military unit №01662. All orders for Shestopalov go to the brigade headquarters in Serov and at that time is building the Ivdel-OB railway line.

A brigade is a very large military unit. It includes several military units, including military unit 24594. We were trying to figure this out for a very long time. All the other sappers were not from the same place where Shestopalov came from, but from this military unit. We found all the orders for their business trips. What is interesting - they always talked about only one group of sappers, and there were several of them and they worked there right up to mid-April. And Lieutenant Avenburg is then replaced by another lieutenant. Searchers from other groups never said that sappers were with them. In the article you will see a document, how the sappers then write off the cartridges and signal flares used in the search.

And now one point that I want to explain in more detail: the military are always subordinate to someone and act on the basis of an order. The chain of command is: commander of a specific unit - brigade commander - chief of staff of a military district - ministry. The head of a specific military unit can issue an order personally for his unit. Sometimes he himself is given an order from above and then on this basis he will issue an order. Each order has a basis and it may look like this:
— on the basis of the order of the unit commander...
— on the basis of a telephone message from the brigade headquarters - orders of the district chief of staff...

We dug up all the orders for 1959 and each one looks the same. Notice that the sappers are sent to the pass "on the basis of the telephone message of military unit 01662", i.e. telephone messages of the brigade, the higher management of a large formation. This was not the initiative of the commander of military unit 24594 himself, he was ordered from above. Look at the date... I believe that we actually found a smoking gun. Firstly, the very fact that Shestopalov is investigating something at the pass, and secondly... February again. Will they say again "well, this must be another mistake".

Excerpt from the order

Railway line Ivdel-Ob
Railway line Ivdel-Ob



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