Mystery of the fireballs by Stanislav Bogomolov

"Uralskiy Rabochiy", 8, 10, 11, 12 July 1990

Mystery of the fireballs

The dead group

This is what the description of the expedition of the group of I. Dyatlov looks like, compiled by E. Bazyaeva, V. Ryabkov and A. Koskin. In January 1959, a group of 10 UPI hikers set off on a hike in the Northern Urals. Declared route III (at that time the highest) category of difficulty. The route is quite difficult, but generally normal for the Northern Urals. In our time, many groups go through much more complicated routes every year. The hike area is a huge uninhabited space covered with taiga. There is a lot of windbreak in the taiga, in winter there is deep snow, frost up to -40° (sometimes it can be up to -50°). Mountains are treeless ridges. The slopes are mostly gentle, characterized by the presence of large flat snowy fields at the top. In winter, the prevailing wind direction is from west to east. Constantly blowing wind compacts snow on the ridges or blows it down. The closest settlement to the scene is the colony settlement of Ushma. In the forest occasionally can be found hunting huts. Mansi hunters live in the area now. This place is not easy to find on the map - Mount Otorten is located almost in the northernmost point of the Sverdlovsk region, where the borders of our region, the Komi ASSR and the Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Area converge. I. Dyatlov's group was quite prepared for the trek - this is testified by everyone who knew the guys. They had been in North before this hike many times. Dyatlov himself is characterized as an experienced, strong-willed, resourceful leader. Of the shortcomings - a very tough authoritarian leadership. But since he was really the most experienced in the group, this can be considered to be normal. In an extreme situation, the group most likely obeyed the order, even if someone had doubts about the need, for example, to leave the tent. This could be done purely automatically, since in extreme conditions during a camping trip collective actions of the group are the key to safety. They had the following plan for the trek. Leave some of the things and products in a cache and go light to Otorten, return and continue south. It is feasible. They went to the upper sources of the Auspiya river in the evening and, as they lagged behind the route schedule, tried to climb the ridge between the peaks "1079" and "880" immediately and cross it, but due to bad weather they did not succeed. They spent the night in the upper reaches of Auspiya, in the morning they began to make a storage (it was necessary to protect the food from the animals!), busied themselves until 15.00 and only then started going up. In principle, they could go down into the forest in the Lozva valley, but spent the night above the forest (it was about 1.5 km before it), obviously so as not to lose time in the morning to climb the ridge (and it is optimal to move to Otorten along a treeless ridge rather than below, because the snow through the forest there is very deep). This decision confirms that the group was strong, because spending the night above the forest border is quite difficult and cold. The group set up the tent on the ski (for thermal insulation, so that the snow does not melt and does not wet the bottom of the tent, blankets). Very competently. And then something happened that made them urgently escape from the tent in panic. We don't know when did this happen - in the evening, at night or in the morning. The coroner report says that they ate 6-8 hours before death. It could be both lunch and dinner. Rather, dinner, as they were undressed, they had already gone to bed.

Force of nature?

Next, it's probably better to turn to the dry language of the protocol, or rather, to the decision to close the case (ed. - In 1990 when this article was published the text of the resolution was not known to the public):


"...On 31.I.1959 going back in the valley of Auspiya river and knowing about the difficult conditions of the relief of the height "1079", where the ascent was supposed to be, Dyatlov, as the leader of the group, made a gross mistake allowing the group to begin the ascent on 1.II.1959, only at 15-00.

Later, on the ski trail, which was preserved at the time of the search, it was possible to establish that the hikers, moving to the valley of the fourth tributary of the Lozva River, were 500-600 m to the left and instead of the pass formed by the peaks "1079" and "880" they went up on the eastern slope of height "1079".

This was Dyatlov's second mistake.

Using light day time to rise to the top of the "1079", in conditions of strong winds which are usual in this area, and a low temperature of the order of 25-30°C, the Dyatlov group found themselves in precarious conditions for spending the night and decided to pitch the tent on a slope of height "1079" so that in the morning of the next day, without losing altitude, go to Mt. Otorten, which is still about 10 kilometers away as the crow flies.

In one of the cameras the last frame shows the moment of excavation of snow for the installation of the tent. Considering that this frame was shot with an exposure of 1/25 seconds, with a diaphragm of 5.6 at a film sensitivity of 65 Un. GOST, and taking into account the density of the frame, we can assume that the hikers started the installation of the tent around 5 pm 1.II.1959. A similar picture was taken with another camera.

After this time, no records and no photos were found.

According to the protocol of the route committee, the group leader, Igor Dyatlov, 12.II.1959, was to telegraphically inform the sports club of the UPI and the Committee of Physical Education (comrade Ufimtsev) on arrival of the group in the village of Vizhay.

Since the deadline of 12.II.1959 passed, and no information was received from the group, the hikers who knew Dyatlov closely demanded a search to start, and on 20.II.1959 the Institute's leadership on the Dyatlov route sent a search team, and then several more groups. Subsequently, soldiers and officers of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, planes and helicopters of civil and military aviation joined the search operation.

On February 26, 1959, on the eastern slope of the peak "1079" the group's tent was found with all the equipment and food in it. The tent and all that was in it were well preserved.

Inspection of the tent showed that it was set correctly and provided accommodation for the hikers. In the tent there were 2 blankets, backpacks, storm jackets and trousers. The rest of the blankets were crumpled and frozen. On the blanket were found several loin pieces.

Location and availability of items in the tent (almost all shoes, all outer clothing, personal belongings and diaries) indicated that the tent was abandoned suddenly by all hikers at the same time, and, as it was established in the subsequent forensic expertise, the lee side of the tent, where hikers usually laid their heads, it was cut from the inside in two places providing a free exit of the person through these cuts.

– 2 –

Below the tent, for up to 500 meters in the snow, traces of people walking from the tent to the valley and into the forest have been preserved. The traces were well preserved and there were 8-9 pairs. Inspection of the tracks showed that some of them were almost barefoot (for example, in one cotton sock), others had a typical footprint of felt boots, legs covered in a soft sock, etc. Prints of tracks were located close to each other, converging and again separated one from another. Closer to the border of the forest, the footprints were covered with snow and disappeared.

Neither traces of a struggle nor presence of other people were found in the tent or near it.

26.II.59 in 1500 meters from the tent, at the forest boundary, the remains of a fire are found, and near it were the bodies of Doroshenko and Krivonischenko, stripped to the underwear. At 300 meters from the makeshift fire, in the direction of the tent, was found the body of Dyatlov, 180 meters away from him the body of Slobodin, and 150 meters from Slobodin was Kolmogorova's body. The last three bodies were located on a straight line from the fire to the tent. Dyatlov lying on his back, his head in the direction of the tent, his hands clasping the trunk of a small birch. Slobodin and Kolmogorov lay face down, their pose testified that they were crawling to the tent. Money and personal effects (pens, pencils, etc.) were found in the pockets of Kolmogorova, Dyatlov and Slobodin. On his left hand pointing outwards Slobodin was wearing a watch that stopped at 8:45. Dyatlov's watch showed 5:31.

Forensic medical examination found that Dyatlov, Doroshenko, Krivonischenko and Kolmogorova died from exposure to low temperature (froze), none of them had physical injuries, not counting minor scratches and abrasions. Slobodin had a crack in the skull 6 cm long, which had spread to 0.1 cm, but Slobodin died from freezing.

May 4, 1959, 75 meters from the campfire, in the direction of the valley of the fourth tributary of Lozva, i.e. perpendicular to the way of the hikers from the tent, under a layer of snow 4-4.5 meters, the bodies of Dubinina, Zolotaryov, Thibeaux-Brignolle and Kolevatov were found. On the bodies, as well as a few meters from them, Krivonischenko and Doroshenko's clothes were found - trousers, sweaters. All clothing has traces of smooth cuts, as already photographed with the bodies of Doroshenko and Krivonischenko.

The dead Thibeaux Brignolle and Zolotaryov were found well-dressed, worse dressed Dubinina - her jacket made of artificial fur and a cap were found on Zolotaryov, Dubinina's naked leg was wrapped in Krivonischenko's woollen pants. Near the bodies, Krivonischenko's knife was found, which cut off the young firs near the fire. On Thibeaux-Brignolle's hand there were two watches: one showing 8:14, the second showing 8:39.

Forensic evidence of bodies revealed that Kolevatov's death had come from the effect of low temperature (frozen), Kolevatov had no physical injuries. The death of Dubinina, Thibeaux-Brignolle and Zolotaryov was the result of multiple physical injuries. Dubinina has a symmetrical fracture of the ribs: on the right 2, 3, 4, 5 and left 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7. In addition she has extensive hemorrhage in the heart.

Thibeaux-Brignolle has an extensive hemorrhage in the right temporal muscle - corresponding to him - a crushed fracture of the skull bones measuring 3x7 cm, with a bone defect of 3x2 cm.

Zolotaryov has a broken ribs on the right 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 along the parasternal and midaxillary lines, which caused his death.

The investigation did not establish the presence of other people on February 1 or February 2, 1959 in the area of the height "1079", except hikers from the Dyatlov group. It is also established that the population of the Mansi people, living in 80-100 km from this place, is Russian friendly, offers hikers accommodation, assistance etc. The place where the group died is considered to be unfit for hunting and reindeer breeding in the winter.

Considering the absence of external injuries to the bodies or signs of a fight, the presence of all the valuables of the group, and also taking into account the conclusion of the medical examinations for the causes of the deaths of the hikers, it is concluded that the cause of their demise was overwhelming force, which the hikers were not able to overcome.

For the shortcomings in the organization of sports work and weak control of the bureau of the Sverdlovsk GC the CPSU punished in party terms: the director of the Ural Polytechnic Institute Siunov, the secretary of the party bureau Zaostrovsky, the chairman of the trade union UPK Slobodin, the chairman of the city union of voluntary sports societies Kurochkin and the inspector of the union Ufimtsev. The chairman of the board of the sports club of the Gordo Institute has been removed from work.

Given that between the actions of the above-mentioned people who have committed shortcomings in the formulation of sports work and the death of hikers there is no causal connection and, not seeing in this case the corpus delicti, guided by paragraph 5 of Article 4 of the RSFSR Code of Criminal Procedure, ruled: The criminal case on the death of the group of hikers and further proceedings are to be terminated.

Prosecutor criminalist Jr. Adviser of Justice (Ivanov),
Deputy Chief of the Investigative Department Adviser of Justice (Lukin)"


I intentionally cited almost the entire resolution and the two signatures at the bottom, since in the future one of these investigators helped clarify a lot of the “blank spots” both in the case and in this whole tragedy.

So, the cause of death is an overwhelming force. We will return to what kind of force of nature it was, but let's read between the lines of the protocol. The reader will later understand why we needed to recreate a more or less complete picture of the searches. Here's how G. Grigoryev, the Uralskiy Rabochiy's own correspondent at the time recalls these alarming days that stirred up not only the north, but the whole region:

– 3 –

"Khrushchev and the case"

"In February 1959, upon arrival in Ivdel, I found out that a I. Dyatlov's group of hikers from UPI did not return from the mountains. I saw how the search started. More than 40 ski hikers were dropped off with helicopters from Ivdel airfield to the region of Mt Otorten. Most of them were UPI students. Earlier, a Mansi group left the village of Suevatpaul on reindeer sleds with a walkie-talkie and a radio operator. It was led by a deputy of the Ivdel City Council, Stepan Kurikov. The search began on February 21, and five days later terrible news came from the mountains. The Slobtsov and Kurikov's group found a tent covered with snow on the slope of the mountain "1079". When they dug it up, they realized that it was cut with a knife. Inside they found the outerwear, boots, backpacks, and skis of I. Dyatlov's group. Where are the hikers themselves? And terrible rumors started in Ivdel that the hikers climbed the sacred mountain of the Mansi, and they killed them and hid the corpses. The next day it was reported that the bodies of G. Krivonischenko, Y. Doroshenko, and I. Dyatlov were found. Members of the commission investigating the death of hikers flew into the mountains. They reported no signs of violent death. Later the  bodies of Z. Kolmogorova and R. Slobodin were found. A medical expert concluded that they died from hypothermia. But why? And other rumors raised in Ivdel. They said that there were new atomic weapon tests in the Northern Urals, and the group died from radiation. Telegrams with requests were sent to Moscow - is that so? The commissions had at their disposal rolls of  film and diaries of the dead. All this and much more suggested that there was no radiation there. In addition, hikers died just 50 km from the village of Suevatpaul. In the war I was a ski trooper, and this helped me to take part in the search. There were four still missing. We lived in a tent by the river Auspiya. Here, in the night before their last, the group of I. Dyatlov set up their tent. From here, having hidden part of their equipment and products in the cache, on February 1, 1959, they went to the foothill of Otorten. They had to climb the pass, cross it, go down to the valley of the Lozva river, put up a tent and spend the night there. Experienced hikers took part in the search, they have been to the mountains with I. Dyatlov not once, but they were not very fond of him: "He is a good reliable hiker when he is an ordinary member of the group. If he leads a group, he commands and does not consult with anyone." This matches Z. Kolmogorova's entries in her diary. They climbed a slightly sloped pass at dusk and lost their way. From the north they turned to the northwest and they began to climbing mountain "1079" thinking is the continuation of the pass. 300 meters from the its flat top, exhausted, they decided to setup the tent and spent the night. ...Then, prosecutors, investigators, mountaineering masters of sports stood at this place, and everyone said that putting up a tent on the mountain was a gross mistake. This with a strong wind, a snowfall can result in death. And the winds here, in a funnel between mount "1079" and Otorten, in the winter are such that, as the Mansi say, even animals do not come here. Why did they leave the tent? The masters of sports firmly stated that there was only one reason: a flash blizzard that broke out at night. It raved, tore up the old tent and woke up hikers. Waking up, they were afraid that they might find themselves under an avalanche, which is often occurrence in the mountains. A. Gubin, in his article in the Uralskiy Rabichiy from January 21, 1990, writes that the hikers were frightened by the missile stage burning in the sky. I doubt it. And that's why. He writes there were 10 holes in the tent with a diameter of up to three centimeters: this is most likely from falling fragments of the burning missile stage on top of the tent. I saw the tent when it was taken down from the mountains to Ivdel. They set it up there, at the airport, and I could see it: if the holes were from fragments, then the shrapnel had to hit the tent not only from above, but also from all four sides. In addition, if 10 fragments pierced the thick fabric of the tent, they would have seriously injured the people inside. This wasn't the case. The tent was old, patched many times. It was repaired during the last trip, as Z. Kolmogorova wrote in her diary on January 28. From February 1 to February 28, the tent stood on the mountain, in the wind, and it all dishevelled. The threads of the closures parted, and the holes became even larger. The tent was damaged when it was dug out of the snow. Like everyone who took part in the search, I have my own version of what happened: in a panic, jumping out of the tent, the hikers rushed down the slope of the mountain. In the dark and with a blizzard winds they were falling down on the stones. The winds blew the snow around them so that the stones stood as if in craters of compressed iced snow. Even a sniffer dog fell into one of these holes during the search, damaged his paw and limped. In the forest, a mile and a half from the tent, the hikers came to their senses, and here they began a courageous battle with death. They fought so much for life that, standing on the spot where a fire had been burning a month ago, I involuntarily recalled the front, when we were sneaking on skis behind the Germans, and we were on our own, couldn't expect help, and we fought to the death. The hikers were in an even more difficult and hopeless situation. After all, they were in underwear, sweaters, woollen socks, in light knitted hats, some without them. This is during a blizzard wind and a 20-degree freezing cold - weather forecasters recorded then. By the way, hikers came running almost to the place where they were supposed to come the day before. But it got dark, they made the mistake of camping up the mountain that they paid with their lives. I listen to the faint noise of stocky cedars, look at the long-extinct firebrands, at the white cuts from the thick knives in the bark of one of the cedars and imagine how young strong people fought against the elements, until their death. It seems like even here in the forest the winds were strong that night. They made a fire and a jacket taken from one of them was used to fend off the wind from the fire. We found it near the fire scorched by a flame. Two large branches, cut high on a cedar, were blown away by the wind about ten meters from the tree, and they were not found and used that night. Several tops of low pines and other threes were thrown into the fire. All this suggests that in the beginning all or almost all hikers fought with death near the fire. After realizing that the fire would not save them, I. Dyatlov, Z. Kolmogorova and R. Slobodin rushed back up the mountain into the blizzard, to go to the tent for clothes. The other four went deeper into the forest, where the wind was quieter and there was more firewood. Maybe they rushed to look for the Mansi chum? Mansi hunters sometimes used it in the winter. The chum is indicated on topographic maps, and it always has not only a stove, firewood, matches, but also food. Z. Kolmogorova was best dressed. She was wearing a ski suit, a checkered shirt, woollen socks with insoles, two hats on her head. She apparently put on something during the panic in the tent. And when going back to the tent she covered most distance. The courageous girl froze three hundred meters from the tent. A dog found her body under a thin layer of snow compressed by the wind. Zina froze in the position in which she crawled up the mountain like a plastun in a headwind. I. Dyatlov, protecting his open head with the hand, froze five hundred meters from the tent. On the way to her, R. Slobodin also died. G. Krivonischenko and Yu. Doroshenko, who remained at the fire, did their best to keep it from going out. Frozen guys lying around the fire. Their corpses, half-carried by snow, were found first. A. Kolevatov, L. Dubinina, N. Thibault-Brignoles, A. Zolotaryov, apparently stiff from the cold, took refuge from the wind under the high bank of the river and also froze. They were covered in so much snow that their bodies were found only in early May, when the snow began to melt. I related by phone the detailed material about the tragedy in the mountains to the editorial office of the Uralskiy Rabochiy. But the First Secretary of the Central Committee of the CPSU N. Khrushchev, having received telegrams from the parents of the victims, took control of the searches in the mountains. He suggested that the press prints the material when they find everyone. The last four hikers were found after almost two months. I reminded the editors of the Uralskiy Rabochiy about this and updated my material. But in order to publish it, one had to turn to N. Khrushchev. This could be done only by the first secretary of the regional party committee Kirilenko. He did not want to remind N. Khrushchev of the tragedy in our area. In the editorial office I was told that a lot of time has passed after the death of the hikers, and is it worth it to stir up the tragedy all over again?"

– 4 –

This is one version. E. Bazyaeva, V. Ryabkov and A. Koskin disagree with him in many ways. They consider, in particular that Dyatlov’s mistakes are clearly exaggerated. S. Sogrin is a student of the UPI at that time, here is part of his testimony from the case files: “On March 4, I, Akselrod, Korolev and three Muscovites went up to the place where Dyatlov’s tent was. All of us here came to the unanimous opinion that the tent was set up according to all the hiking and climbing rules. The slope on which the tent stood was not dangerous. The steepness of the slope is 15-18 degrees." As for the "opinion of the masters", the tent setup obviously worked - the incident was blamed on the blizzard and bad weather, and this was fixed in the official report.

"I think they died from suffocation..."

N. Tokarev, a member of the search party has a different opinion. He says: "This is how we searched for them. We lined up two meters apart and pierced the snow with probes. We started from the place where their tracks ended, that is, 150 meters from the tent. They were well preserved. On the first day, I noticed a broken-down little fir tree on the edge of the forest, where the last four were subsequently discovered. I told about this to the student leader Kikoin, but he waved it off. The broken branches were nowhere to be seen - they were found in the hole dug in the snow, where the four bodies were. I think it all happened like that. At night, one of the hikers left the tent and saw something that terrified him. He raised the alarm, and everyone left the tent, ran down. One of them, R. Slobodin, fell and was injured. Having reached the valley, they began to think what to do next. And apparently, they decided three of them go back to the tent for clothes, the rest to make a fire and wait on the spot. I think they died from suffocation, but did not freeze. The fact is that the snow near Kolmogorova’s face was bloodied, apparently, it was bleeding through her nose or throat. Further, the guys failed to make a fire - birch bark and twigs were only charred. I think from a lack of oxygen. It turns out that three died on the way to the tent, two - near the unburned fire, and four dug up a hole, broke branches from fir trees, lined the bottom of the hole and went down into it. After some time, they sent one to find out what happened to the bonfire. He came to the fire and found his comrades dead. To warm the rest, he took their clothes and went back. But the clothes of the comrades did not save the four..."

I intentionally reproduced these two personal versions as fully as possible, although it may have turned out a bit long. I must say that almost everyone who responded had their own hypothesis. But all the authors proceeded from the fact that R. Slobodin had the only injury, the rest simply froze. Now we have already familiarized ourselves with the decision to close the case, where it says that the death of Dubinina, Thibeaux-Brignolle and Zolotaryov came as a result of multiple injuries. It seems that only two knew about this circumstance - the criminal prosecutor A.* Ivanov and forensic expert B. Vozrozhdenniy. True, many search participants and eyewitnesses recalled the unnatural color of the skin of the dead. They even called it orange. But few people paid attention to this circumstance - snow, sun, and they couldn’t find the guys for a long time... And even more so no one knew about the tests for radiation analysis  carried out later at the insistence of L. Ivanov.
* most probably a typo - there is no prosecutor with initial A., should be L.

When studying criminal case №659, we, of course, drew attention to the fact that the table of contents said that there was a radiation examination, but it was not in the case itself. There was a laconic inscription in the corner of sheet №369: "Case sheets 370-378 are removed and stored as irrelevant in a special sector of the regional prosecutor's office 10.VII.59 Prosecutor criminalist Ivanov (signature)." From a special sector these nine sheets have already migrated into an envelope glued to a cardboard cover, where they were stored along with a dozen faded photographs. Why was the examination seized and what made the investigator do it at all? Partly the answer is in the content of the examination.

Where did the radiation come from?

"Samples of solid biosubstrates and clothes... were submitted to the radio-isotope laboratory of the Sverdlovsk Sanitary epidemiological station and were analyzed for presence of radioactive materials. Preliminary dosimetric measurements were taken from the clothes that showed excessive radioactivity over the natural background. Further investigation allowed maximum contamination to be established on different areas of the clothing:

  1. Brown sweater - 9900 cpm on 150 cm2 (5200 after washing)
  2. Bottom part of pants - 5000 cpm on 150 cm2 (2600 after washing)
  3. Belt of sweater - 5600 cpm on 150 cm2 (2600 after washing)

Experimental washing of the clothes showed that the pollution is reduced, the percentage of decreasing varies from 30% to 60% (clothes were washed in running cold water for 3 hours). When determining the type of radiation, it is established that the activity takes place due to beta particles. Alpha particles and gamma quanta were not detected. The absence of appropriate instruments and conditions in the laboratory made it impossible to perform radiochemical and spectrometric analysis to determine the chemical structure of the emitter and its radiation energy.".

Clothing and tissue from Kolevatov, Zolotaryov, Thibeaux-Brignolle and Dubinina were examined. "Expert conclusions:

  1. The content of radioactive materials in analyzed solid biosubstartes is within the natural level (and is due to the presence of isotope K-40).
  2. The analyzed samples of clothing carry slightly excessive amounts of radioactive substances being the source of Beta-emission.
  3. The detected radioactive materials or radioactive substance show a tendency to washing-off in the course of clothing samples washing, i.e., they are not due to a neutron flux or induced radiation, but rather to radioactive contamination with Beta-particles.

Chief radiologist of the city of Levashov.
The studies were performed in the radiological laboratory from 18/V-59 to 25/V-59."

Needless to say, the examination revealed a very unexpected and alarming fact. But, for example, for some time, far from the problems of radiology (though they unceremoniously invade our lives - but somehow, I didn’t have to ...), it’s completely incomprehensible: beta radiation is worse than alpha or gamma radiation? 9900 decays per minute on a sweater - how bad it is? Is it worth treating a person or is it too late? The investigator, apparently, was also troubled by these questions. In addition, he tried to grasp the connection between radioactivity and the injuries of the last four found. Hence, in the case, the expert’s additional interrogation:

"Question: Should there be (can it be) increased contamination of clothing with radioactive substances under normal conditions, i.e., without being in a radioactively contaminated environment or place?
Answer: Definitely not.

Question: Was there any contamination of the objects you are researching?
Answer: The brown sweater at the time of the study had 9900 beta-particles decays per minute at 150 cm2, and after washing (for 3 hours in our room), he gave 5200 decays per minute of beta particles with 150 cm2. According to the sanitary rules that exist in our country, the contamination in beta particles from 150 cm2 per minute should not exceed 5000 decays per minute, and after cleaning (washing) there should be only the natural background. This is the norm for workers with radioactive substances (for residential areas is much lower - S.B.).

– 5 –

Question: Is it possible to consider that this clothing is contaminated with radioactive dust?
Answer: Yes, clothes are contaminated or radioactive dust dropped from the atmosphere, or this garment has been exposed to contamination when working with radioactive substances, or on contact. This pollution exceeds, as I have already indicated, the norm for people working with radioactive substances.

Question: What do you think, what could be the degree of contamination of individual objects, if you take into account that prior to research they had been in the running water for about 15 days?
Answer: It can be assumed that the contamination of individual garments was many times greater, but here one must take into account that clothes could be washed unevenly..."

Where did the radioactive dust come from on the clothes of four hikers? The case file does not answer this question. It is most logical to assume that tests of new military equipment with nuclear weapons were involved. Recall that ten years ago an atomic bomb was created in the USSR. The Cold War is in full swing and there is enhanced nuclear weapons on both sides. Under such conditions, such tests are a perfectly anticipated. However, judging by the publications of recent years, such tests were carried out in the south - near Semipalatinsk - and in the north - on Novaya Zemlya. The northern training ground, of course, could be related to the Ivdel tragedy. But according to the recently published reports "Radiation. Doses, Effects, Risk", precisely in 1958 and the beginning of 1959 the peak of nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere all over the world falls.

"Inside, a star caught fire..."

Here are some documents from the investigation: "To the Chief of the Ivdel Police Station 17. II. 59, 6 h. 50 m. local time in the sky appeared not unnatural phenomenon. Moving star with a tail. The tail looked like dense cirrus clouds. Then the star was freed from the tail, became brighter than the stars and flew away. It gradually began to swell, forming a large ball, enveloped in a haze. Then inside this ball the star caught fire, from which first a crescent was formed, then a small ball formed, not so bright. The big ball gradually began to fade, became like a blurry spot. At 7 h. 05 m. it disappeared altogether. A star moved from the south to the northeast. Meteorological technician Tokareva"

Another report: "On February 17, 1959, at 6.40 am, while on duty, I watched a bright white ball appear from the south, periodically enveloped in fog, inside - a bright dot - star. It moved north; it was visible for 8-10 minutes. Serviceman A. Savkin". Same observation was reported by Novikov, Avenburg, Malik.

Another fireball was seen on March 31 same year, but they saw something similar on the night of the death of the group, that is, from the first to the second of February, students-hikers of the geological faculty of the pedagogical institute. Then there are G. Atamanaki’s testimonies about the light ball over Otorten on February 1. Along with testimonies, the investigator filed a clipping from the Tagil Worker about the same white balls. There was a reason why he collected this data, carried out the radiation examinations. However, in the final resolution, which has already been cited, these searches were not reflected in any way. Moreover, an interesting detail was revealed. In the case file, either due to oversight, or according to the procedures of that time, the first, apparently, version of the decision to dismiss the case was filed, and there was a paragraph in it about the presence of radioactive contamination of hikers' clothes and that none of them was in contact with radioactive substances at his work or study. The date is May 28, but there are no signatures, the entire resolution, sheet by sheet, is crossed out crosswise with a blue pencil. There is nothing about fireballs or radiation in the final resolution. Only an overwhelming force - that's it.

On a business trip to Kostanay, I find out quite by accident that S. Lukin, whose signature is under the resolution to close the case, is alive and well and now works as a legal adviser in the Sverdlovsk city executive committee. I call:
- Stepan Petrovich, do you remember the Ivdel case of the death of hikers in 1959?
- Oh, of course. But I can hardly help you, Ivanov was leading, I only represented the leadership of the investigative department of the prosecutor's office. You better ask him yourself, he is currently working in the advocacy, in Kostanay...

Needless to say, after a few days I was already in Kostanay, and we spent the whole evening talking late with Lev Nikitich about this still mysterious case. He got straight to the point:
- I have my own explanation for what happened. You can put in the headline, "The forensic prosecutor believes that UFO killed the hikers!"...
- Is that what you think now, when the UFO theme is open and in fashion, or did you think so in 1959? In fact, this is not directly stated, except for a series of testimonies about light balls and a note about them from the "Tagil Worker".
- Then I assumed it, and now I am sure. I can’t pretend to say what kind of balls they are — whether they are weapons, aliens or something else, but I’m sure that this is directly related to the deaths of the hikers.
- But how do you imagine it? The pilots, geologists who traveled and flew these lands, they all say that there are no signs of an explosion near Otorten and the surrounding area.
- It wasn't in the usual sense an explosion of a shell or a bomb. It was different, as if a balloon had burst. The fact, that at the edge of the forest, where the hikers so hastily ran away from the tent, the tree branches were as if singed. Not burnt, not broken, but singed. I suppose it all happened like this: the guys had dinner and went to bed. One of them came out of natural need (there were traces) and saw something that made everyone leave the tent and run down. I think it was a light ball. It caught up with them, or it happened by chance, at the edge of the forest. Explosion! Three get severe injuries. The case must contain the testimony of the forensic expert Vozrozhdenniy. In his opinion, it was something like a strong shock wave or blast, as in a car accident. Well, then ... The struggle for survival has begun. You know, thirty years have passed, I’ve seen all sorts of cases in my practice as a prosecutor’s, but I can’t forget this case. I have never met a more vivid manifestation of courage, such a fierce struggle for their own and their comrades' lives. But force breaks strength... I don’t remember the names, unfortunately. Two who were found under the cedar... They tried to light a fire, climbed onto the cedar for twigs, and scraps of their skin and muscles remained on its bark... Their comrade, who was lagging behind due to illness, helped a lot. Yudin, if I remember. He knew who was dressed in what, and helped establish who ended up wearing what. All clothes were mixed up. They stripped the dead to save the living. I’m guilty, I’m very guilty before the guys’ relatives - I didn’t allow them to the bodies. Well, it would not be easy for them to endure this. I only made an exception for Lyuda Dubinina's father - I set ajar the lid of the coffin to show that his daughter is dressed properly. He lost consciousness. I insisted and carefully monitored that they were all decently clothed according to the Christian custom. I have one excuse - I was under orders.

– 6 –

The first secretary then was Kirilenko, but he did not interfere in the case. Eshtokin, the second secretary, "supervised" me. Several times during the investigation he called me to the regional committee. Listened to reports, gave instructions. Game, of course, by today's standards. But now it's easy to judge, and then... I didn't even have any doubts about the legitimacy of his intervention. then everything was done that way. They said and they meant it: "You are a communist!" And so the investigation was terminated. I did not work out the version about the light balls. I only managed to conduct a radiation examination. Even had to carry on location a device in a large wooden box.
- Geiger counter?
- Yes, it looks like it. It was clicking a lot... I am sure there was radiation. But nobody told me how much, and I didn't find out.
- Lev Nikitich, and you did not send requests - to the military, scientists?
- What are you talking about, what requests... and in such a situation surrounding the case. No, I didn't send anything.
- Who and why classified the case?
- I did it myself, I withdrew the radiation test report. I was told to "remove everything that is irrelevant".
The meeting with investigator L. Ivanov clarified a lot, of course. For example, it became clear why the investigation was so quick and strange. But one circumstance still remains a mystery - where did the radiation on the clothes of the three come from?

"Guest" from Novaya Zemlya?

There are several options, generally speaking. First, was the whole area infected there? Remember, the Geiger counter literally screamed at Ivanov. Unfortunately, only the clothes of three were subjected to examination. It is possible that it was contaminated on others too. The appearance of radioactivity in these remote lands, by the way, is quite likely. As it is now known, a nuclear test site on Novaya Zemlya has existed since 1954, and from Otorten to Novaya Zemlya there are about one and a half thousand kilometers. A trifle for a radioactive cloud. Chernobyl, for example, having drifted through Eastern Europe, returned to the country and even affected the Urals at the edge. Kyshtym was smaller, but it was strong enough make a corridor through three regions - Chelyabinsk, Sverdlovsk and Tyumen. This version of the appearance of radioactivity is one of the most likely, according to radiologists at the regional sanitary and epidemiological station V. Zabolotskih and V. Semenov. They carefully read the examination data and shared the following considerations:

  1. Most likely, this is from Novaya Zemlya. Then it’s easy to check whether it is enough to take samples of the earth, water, maybe even core samples from the trees. Surely traces remained. But there is no evidence of the presence of radiation ever in these parts. Who collected them then anyway, and later too?
  2. It is unfortunate that then, in 1959, it was not possible to establish which isotope was found on the clothes of the hikers. That would clarify a lot. In the conclusion it is said that is detected beta radiation. But, most likely, the whole spectrum of alpha, beta and gamma radiation was in there. After all, the Geiger counter recorded the presence of radiation as such, but analyzing the type was not possible on the spot. Only in the laboratory it was found that this is beta radiation, which in its pure form, as a rule, does not happen. It’s just easier to measure it. Apparently, the source could be isotopes of phosphorus, tritium, strontium. The latter, by the way, is interesting in that it is used in power supplies. There are such strontium power supplies. In those years, they were quite widely used at automatic weather stations. Perhaps somewhere a battery of this type was damaged or lost, and strontium somehow got into these area. This variant of contamination is possible, but unlikely. The power of such batteries and the dose on the clothing are not correlated. Let me remind you that the highest level is 9900 decays per minute, double the sanitary norm for workers with radioactive materials, but the clothes on the dead bodies were washed with running water for at least 15 days. Ivanov, by the way, believed that it was even more — he called this figure in the interrogation of radiologist Levashov approximately. It is difficult to say what was the initial dose, but it is obviously much higher.
  3. Another, but unlikely assumption. The fact is that in those years there was a theory that radioactive substances can be used as weapons of mass destruction. Maybe some failed trials, if not in the Northern Urals, then on the same Novaya Zemlya?
  4. The hypothesis of an atomic explosion in the vicinity of Otorten does not stand up to criticism - people would have seen and heard the explosion itself, and even more so you cannot hide its traces. Then I asked the radiologists - could the radiation found on the clothes not have a natural origin from isotopes, but an artificial one, say, from some installation? Radiologists shrugged - unlikely. Now, if you somehow get a powerful neutron flux ... But it seemed like there was no synchrophasotron near anywhere... True, a plasma variant is possible, but in any case, a terrible amount of energy is needed. Yes, and with plasma there is still a lot of obscurity. But the most important thing, and the examination confirms it, there is radioactive contamination on clothing, and there is no induced radiation, that is, resulting from a powerful neutron flux. The simplest proof is that the radioactive dirt was washed away... And then I told them about the light balls. “Maybe,” they answered without enthusiasm, “but everything looks so painfully “fantastic". It would be nice to take samples...”

Was there a flash?

Recently I had to meet with several specialists in the field of radiology. Each time I started the topic of the relation between the light balls, the deaths of the hikers and the radiation on their clothes. Nevertheless, the isotopic origin of radioactivity seemed more real to everyone. But the director of the special enterprise for the disposal of radioactive substances "Radon" N. Chemeris offered a very interesting turn: "Beta radiation, beta radiation. You know, if after all there was an explosion of something and beta radiation - and strong, then the guys could go blind. Was their skin burned? Did the medical examiner pay attention to their eyes?" Once again, I discussed this point with radiologists. Of course, radioactive radiation could affect the eyes - like the whole body, but the dose for such damage would not go unnoticed by experts: medical and radiological. Most likely, the radioactive contamination did not at all relate to the circumstances of their death. Random coincidence. But finally this can be confirmed only after studying samples from this place and the area.
- Could these light balls be something like a ball lightning that exploded and...
- It could be anything. We are judging from the perspective of what we know, we are trying to stick a new phenomenon into the Procrustean bed of existing knowledge and ideas. But maybe this ball lightning wouldn't be enough.

– 7 –

We only assume its plasma nature, because it is a lot, but it does not explain everything ... Indeed, what if they were blinded? If not from an atomic explosion, then from a flash of unknown origin? This then explains a lot - why they could not return to the tent, for example. Or to light a fire properly. Or why they tried to cut the same branch for a fire in several places. Many of their meaningless actions, which were previously explained by shock, cold, and a blizzard, can also be explained. This is why the researchers couldn't agree on one picture of what happened. But there is nothing about this in the forensic examination report. Moreover, apparently, they suffered from the explosion to varying degrees, since Kolmogorova, Slobodin and Dyatlov started to the tent, however, for some reason separately. There are still many such unanswered "why" in this story. (Well, for example, why the bodies of the last four hikers were not found in the den nearby?) Ivanov’s version is attractive in that it gives more or less distinct answers to the main questions: what scared them, where did the radiation come from, how were three hikers injured? But frankly, not everything fits in. I am far from fashionable thoughts about the alien origin of this UFO, rather, a phenomenon simply unknown to science and researchers. For me personally the interest in the subject started from the story of one of the most respected UFO scientists V. Listratov from the Institute of High Temperature Physics, who told the newspaper about his encounter with a strange UFO. I contacted him in relation to Ivanov's speculations.

I asked for help, to clarify two points through his channels: the degree of probability of military involvement in this tragedy, and, secondly, did he encounter in his practice that UFOs left a radioactive trace? The answer was negative on both accounts. But I remain a supporter of Ivanov’s theory. The fact is that in the case files and in general, there are confirmed sightings of light balls or fireballs flying at that time and in that place. The geologist Y. Ilyashin, who called us, said that he had seen such light balls in those places more than once in the Northern Urals. They are also called tori (ed. - plural of torus). Тhe description of the effect is practically one to one as set out in the case. One more evidence. Several years ago, in the village of Polunochnoe near Ivdel, I had the opportunity to meet an interesting person - a member of the Geographical Society of the USSR, a great lover and explorer of nature O. Strauh. For many years he has been researching, and, of course, I turned to him with a request. And here is what he answered me, citing data from his diaries:

"31.III.1959 4:10 a.m., the following phenomenon was observed: a spherical luminous body passed rather quickly from the southwest to the northeast over the village. The luminous disk almost the size of a full moon, bluish-white, was surrounded by a large bluish halo. At times, this halo flashed brightly, resembling flashes of distant lightning. When the body disappeared beyond the horizon, the sky in this place was illuminated for several minutes. A similar phenomenon was observed by the residents of the Polunochnoe on 17.II.1959 at 7:10 a.m. After the luminous body remained a trace in the form of a haze... 02/16/1979 at 8:15 p.m. in the north-west, a bright bluish-white flash appeared on the horizon, it turned into a rapidly growing circle of blinding light, which then stretched into an ellipse. In the center of the flash appeared a purple-smoky ball the size of a full moon, quickly rose upward and melted before reaching the zenith. The light spot-ellipse scattered into segments, like slices of orange, and gradually faded away, leaving a faintly luminous trace in the sky. Everything lasted 6-10 minutes, after which it all faded away... Eyewitnesses spoke of similar phenomena in other years, but they were not written down. Objects of a different type flying over the village were obviously missiles, and I did not mark them..."

In favor of the "rocket" version

There are two other reports in favor of the rocket theory. First one is form from A. Epanechnikov at the same village of Polunochnoe . He said that he had found a metal (duralumin) fragment of "obviously rocket origin" in the upper reaches of the Khozya river, near the place of death of the hikers. He even sent a sketch, since he threw out this fragment as garbage. In the drawing is a piece of duralumin with rows of square recesses. Later from the village of Polunochnoe came a whole parcel with almost the same pieces of duralumin from same area. Maybe this is really a fragment of a rocket or other aircraft. To find this fragment in a pile of scrap metal is not surprising, but to find it the upper reaches of the Khozya River? When and how it got there, whether it is related to the death of the group is unknown. V. Korotaev, an investigator for particularly important cases, who then worked in the Ivdel prosecutor’s office in 1959, said that he had also taken part in the investigation before the investigator arrived from Sverdlovsk. In particular, he interviewed local residents. As a lawyer, he was very surprised by the quick investigation deadlines - March, April, May - while such a case required a more detailed and lengthy investigation. In addition, no one came back to this case, but they should have at least looked at these places, and in the summer, perhaps, there would be some traces.

Mansi Stepan Kurikov, who took part in the search, told Korotaev that he had found some strange piece of iron in those places shortly after the tragedy, but they could not find it when he and Korotaev went on a semi-legal expedition by helicopter to look for it. Thus, the rocket version also has a right to exist and is not fully developed. Something could well have flown from Novaya Zemlya, or even from the south of the country, where they were testing. Indeed, only now we will find out that the formation of our strategic missile forces was not so flawless. It is enough to recall the circumstances of the death of Marshal Nedelin and many other people during one of the unsuccessful launches. But there is no way the military will openly admit to anything. We must give them their due - they took an active and selfless part in the search for the dead. I must say that the rumors about the involvement of tests of some new weapons in the deaths of the group were founded. Knowing all the newly discovered circumstances in connection with the declassification of the criminal case, Aleksey Koskin collected clippings from military magazines, “trying on” various types of weapons for the Ivdel tragedy. It is a very interesting selection. It is, of course, about foreign examples. Military parity is achieved mainly through parallel scientific developments. And tests, of course. Ammunition volumetric explosion. Sometimes they are called fuel-air, overpressure, vacuum. A volume explosion is understood to mean the explosion of a pre-formed cloud of a finely dispersed combustible mixture capable of detonation.

– 8 –

If the test is conducted in the dark, there is a bright flash, and then a powerful shock wave. Among the damaging factors of a volume explosion, experts also include high temperatures, oxygen burnout in the explosion area and the formation of highly toxic combustion products, hence the nature of the injuries. Incendiary weapons. The principle of its action is an incendiary substance is sprayed at the target and burns in the air, forming a fireball. It can be shells, grenades and bombs. Temperature up to 2400 degrees Celsius. (We already talked about luminous balls). Cruise missiles. In the late 1950s, an air-to-ground cruise missile was developed. But they were not widespread, since then there were no effective guidance systems. This means that the missiles could well have flown away completely not where they were headed.

Another interesting point. In the book of V. Gubarev "Utro kosmosa. Korolev i Gagarin."(en. "The morning of space/The dawn of space. Korolev and Gagarin.") (Molodaya Gvardiya, 1984) mentions in passing such an episode. Korolev was approached for data on the study of sodium clouds. These clouds were launched from missiles to study the movement of air masses for their possible influence on the trajectory of the missiles. As it turns out during the conversation, these tests were kept a secret for some reason. The sodium clouds mentioned also glowed. Korolev remembered the report of the meteorologist observing an unusual phenomenon (the report of the meteorologist Tokareva) and concluded that is not relevant ... I think, sodium clouds are unlikely to be related to this story - the speed is not comparable.

Twisted pines

There is another interesting version. Sverdlovsk resident V. Sergeev writes about it: “According to rumors and stories of Mansi hunters, there are very strong winds in the areas of the Otorten and Chistop mountains, accompanied by fantastic sounds. In the summer of 1966, I saw a strange picture in the forest: pine trees twisted into several pieces, uprooted and scattered in the woods. The guide explained to me that recently a strange roar was heard here, similar to the roar of a giant furious bull. It pulled them out of the ground and dropped them back nearby. If people happen to be in this outbreak..." The version is worthy of attention, as it explains the origin of the injuries. Plus the assumption that the hikers got radioactive contamination from Novaya Zemlya, as well as the whole area. The problem with this theory is that there were no apparent traces of violent activity of the elements in this place. And here is something else on this subject, almost from the realm of the mystical. There is such a book - A.K. Matveev, "The Tops of the Stone Ridge. The Names of the Mountains of the Urals", page 129: "Kholat-Syakhl, a mountain (1079 m) on a watershed ridge between the upper reaches of Lozva and its tributary Auspiya 15 km south-east from Otorten. In Mansi "Kholat" is "dead", that is, Kholat-Syakhl is a mountain of the dead. There is the legend that nine Mansi once died on this peak, is sometimes added that it happened during the flood, according to another version hot water flooded everything except the place on top of the mountain, enough for a person to lie down to a person. But the Mansi, who took refuge here, died anyway, hence the name of the mountain...

Sergeev says he have climbed Kholat-Syakhl more than once, and he has to admit that there is no more severe and gloomy mountain in this part of the Northern Urals... "I must say that the hasty investigation and the secretion of its results under pressure from the party authorities played a bad role in all this story. As usual, the lack of information was compensated with wide variety of rumors. An unconditional priority among them belonged to the version about the testing of a new neutron, vacuum, psychic... unknown and terrible weapon ... Well, for example, such a story that reached us through third parties (or language?). As you know, the military helped to find the guys. А young lieutenant with a group of soldiers set their tent near the last campsite of the Dyatlov group. One night the attendant woke him up, and together they watched as a white luminous ball was approaching them. The closer it came, the more deadly horror gripped their souls. He felt like fleeing. But the lieutenant was ambitious and did not want to lose face in the eyes of his soldiers... In the end, the ball lost interest in them and retired about its business. In a word, there is no shortage of hypotheses and assumptions, and all this represented an extensive field of activity for an inquisitive researcher, but a tragedy occurred - nine young people in their prime died. I happened to see photos from the funeral of the guys. I was struck by some stern determination on people's faces. Yes, grief is infinite, sorrow, but fists are clenched, stare is hard. The atmosphere, according to eyewitnesses, was very tense. Rumors circulated around the city, one worse than the other. Parents, students demanded an answer - what happened to the guys? Angry letters were sent to the prosecutor's office, the regional party committee, to Moscow, to Khrushchev. Troublemakers were appeased through party committees at various levels. They say that there were summons in the KGB too. The fact that they were trying to "smooth out some wrinkles" intensified passions even more, it meant that not everything is clean here. That is why they were not allowed to carry the coffins along the central streets, and they carried them to the Mikhailovsky cemetery along side streets. Some of them were buried in closed coffins.

There were many people, there were many police. There is a reason for this - people thought. In the UPI sports club they remember the Dyatlov group. A memorial plaque is installed on the pass where they died. The pass is named after the leader - Dyatlov. Whatever the reason for the death of the guys, one thing is certain - they took a rare battle with unknown force and showed immense courage. They have become a legend. And it is all the more insulting and painful to see the monument in the Mihaylovskoe cemetery falling apart. Often unknown bastards knock down, break off stars from monuments. The hikers are not spared either ... Of course, we are not trying to claim any truth with these notes. It is somewhere deeper than we were digging. The goal is different - maybe, if this whole story has an earthly, completely explainable, but secret basis, then those who have a relation to it will respond. After retirement, it is known that people become much bolder. If Ivdel’s tragedy has nothing to do with military secrets, then undoubtedly all newly discovered facts are of interest to science and researchers. For myself I have the task to visit this summer or autumn the altitude of 1079 and take samples.


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