The Den


When in May the snow started melting a Mansi native Kurikov with his dog noticed some cut branches that were forming sort of trail which they followed. According to case files 341-343 the den was made from 14 fir tree and 1 birch tops. Yuri Yudin later noticed the discrepancy that there were only spruce trees that were cut near the den. Another strange fact is that there is no mentioning of a knife found at the scene, only a bakelite sheath, but the tree tops were cut. In Lev Ivanov's resolution to close the case it says "Near the bodies, Krivonischenko's knife was found, which cut off the young firs near the fire." Finding a knife is not documented anywhere and is not reflected in any of the memories of search participants. The same Krivonischenko's knife was not presented to relatives and was not returned to them. Unlike all other knives of the group.

Spruce trees cut near the den

50 m from the cedar the searchers found black cotton sweat pants, the right leg cut off with a knife. Cedar branches, a young fir tree was missing its top, another piece of clothing was found - the left half of the women's light-brown wool sweater, right half and sleeves cut off. Sweater was presumed to belong to Lyudmila Dubinina.

Dyatlov Pass: The Den
15 m up the bank from the stream, they found half of a beige sweater and the other half of the ski trousers.

The area was previously searched with avalanche probes but the snow then was deeper than expected. Vladimir Askinadzi and Boris Suvorov, both UPI students, were key players in the rescue team. Kurikov followed some small fir tree branches in the snow till 50 m (164 ft) down from the cedar they led into the snowdrift. Rescuers began to dig and at a depth of 3.5 m they found cut branches covered with clothes. The bed of branches consisted of 14 fir tree branches and one birch, and on top were belongings and clothes.

Dyatlov Pass - The Den
The clothes on a bed of cut branches made 4 seats

The clothes included:

  • One leg of a pair of black ski trousers;
  • A thick brown woolen sweater;
  • A white woolen jumper, made in China; and
  • A pair of brown trousers tied at the ankles but flared open with a tear to widen them.

15 m from the den, they found a spoon and a knife sheath. Official criminal investigation, Decision to dismiss criminal case:

"The bodies were found few meters away from the clothes found of Krivonischenko and Doroshenko - pants, sweater. All clothes had been cut when they were taken from the bodies of Doroshenko and Krivonischenko. Bodies of Thibault-Brignoles and Zolotaryov were better dressed, Dubinina’s fur jacket and hat were found on Zolotaryov, her leg was wrapped in woolen trousers that belong to Krivonischenko. Krivonischenko's knife was found close to the bodies, it was used to cut off branches of young fir trees."

Here is a very strange fact – knife was never found in the area, only a knife sheath. Lead investigator Lev Ivanov could not have mistaken a sheath for a knife. The branches were cut with tool, that could not be misinterpreted, but the absence of this tool could not be explained without having somebody taken the knife from the crime scene, and that meant that the case could be closed as a "calamity or overwhelming force".

Dyatlov Pass: Dying place of Lyudmila Dubinina
Dying place of Lyudmila Dubinina

20 m from the den, a probe 4 m deep came out with a fragment of flesh. They started to dig. Dubinina's body was found in the ravine on may 5th, 1959. From the official record of the discovery of the bodies:

"On the northwest slope of Hill 880, about 50m from the cedar, in the stream, we have discovered four bodies: three men and one woman. The body of the woman has been identified as Lyudmila Dubinina. The bodies of the men cannot be identified without removing them from the water. They are buried in snow 2.5 m deep. The men are lying with their heads facing north and downstream, and the body of the woman is lying facing upstream. She is dressed in a small skullcap and a yellow sleeveless shirt. Then a flannel shirt; two sweaters, one gray the other dark; and on her legs are leggings and brown ski trousers. On one foot are two woolen socks and, on her right foot is bound half of a beige sweater. On the back of her head and on her back there are traces of damage from our probe. Her body is decaying.

The first man is dressed in a khaki-colored windbreaker, and on his wrist he has two watches, one a Pobeda and the other a Sportif. The Pobeda had stopped at 8:38, and the Sportif showed 8:15. It is not possible to see the head and legs of this body, because he is not completely exposed. The other two bodies lie in a kind of hug, both with nothing on their heads, and some their hair missing. They are both dressed in windbreakers, but it is hard to say what else, and it will have to wait until we get them out of the stream. The bodies are decaying and we have photographed them. They need to be taken out of the stream immediately because they are decaying fast and will soon be lost in the stream, which is very fast."

It was Vladimir Askinadzi's probe that damaged Dubinina’s neck. In 2013 Askinadzi published a letter in Ural Stalker 2013 №1 magazine, in which he recalls that the distance between all the heads of those found in the brook was about 30 cm (about 11.5") – they were all very close to each other.

As for Dubinina, he says her head was laying down on a kind of a natural ledge with water rolling over it. Her mouth was open. Dubinina was laying on a kind of a natural ledge with water rolling over it. Her mouth was open. There are claims that the tongue was ripped, or eaten, or whatnot. The medical records simply that "the tongue is missing". Vozrozhdenniy describes missing hypoglossal muscle as well as muscles of the floor of the mouth.

Dyatlov Pass: Dying place of Kolevatov, Zolotaryov and Thibeaux-Brignolle
Kolevatov's body (upper left) was found right next to Zolotaryov's as if the latter was carrying or protecting him. Tibo's body was positioned 30 cm lower downstream.

Vladimir Askinadzi recalls that when they dug them out one of the bodies had a notebook in one hand, and pencil in the other. Colonel Ortyukov grabbed the notepad, looked at it, cursed and said: "He’s written nothing." He seems to be the only one that has seen the notepad. The whereabouts of this notepad is unknown, it was never filed in evidence or seen by anyone else. On the other hand we hear only from Askinadzi about the whole episode with the pen, notepad and Colonel Ortyukov, and that 59 years after the fact in a recent letter of Askinadzi to Ural Pathfinder magazine.

Georgiy Ortyukov, the Army Colonel in charge of logistics and helicopter support, was the only one who saw the notebook in Zolotaryov’s hand. Vladimir Askinadzi recalls that it was hard to identify the bodies as they found them, and it was Colonel Ortyukov who was ordaining who was who. ‘We were surprised,’ Askinadzi said, ‘because it was really hard to see, and no one could object or disagree.’

Askinadzi also mentioned that while he was present during that period, he felt very strongly that those in charge were not really interested in a proper investigation. He remembers that the lead investigator Lev Ivanov ‘did not even approach the pad of branches, didn’t take pictures, it seemed they already had a theory’. Askinadzi extends this accusation to Ortyukov, who was in charge of the whole rescue operation. He wrote: ‘If it was really so important to get this right, why didn’t they call for Yuri Yudin? He was the only one that knew them all, and could say for sure. I only knew Zina.’

The whole search operation was rushed. This pressure was from someone above – from Moscow, Sverdlovsk, or Ivdel. The atmosphere was very tense. Everyone was anxious for answers and awaiting for news.

Ortyukov and some soldiers took all the bodies from the stream, carried them up the bank and placed them on special stretchers to drag them across the snow, then took them up to the pass to the helipad. It was hard work, and they repeated the same process four times. A helicopter met them on the pass, but the pilots refused to take the bodies onboard, complaining this was outside their official duties. It has been said that the pilots knew the bodies were poisoned with radiation and, for this reason, didn’t want them in the aircraft. Ortyukov sent the following radiogram:

This is a scandal! I and fourteen other people brought these bodies on our shoulders and they refused to take the bodies in spite of me insisting. As a Communist I am outraged by the behavior of the crew and ask you to inform the Communist Party leader about it. And I have to mention to you for clarity, these bodies are frozen.

We packed them for transportation and there was no reason to refuse to take them. The medical expert refused to examine or to cut the bodies here on site. It is absolutely not dangerous from the point of hygiene. They are folded and covered in special impervious material. The crew said they would not transport them until they are in Zinc coffins.

At this point Colonel Ortyukov reached the limits of his desperation. He took out his pistol and threatened the crew. Vladimir Askinadzi intervened, after which the medical expert reorganized how the bodies should be packed for transportation, and they were finally airlifted for transportation to Ivdel.


Autopsy reports of the hikers found in the Den »


Photos of the den and bodies found on 5 May 1959

May 1959 Radiograms

These documents belong to an archive called the Center for Documentation of Public Organizations of the Sverdlovsk Region (TsDOOSO), Fund 191 (Archival party documents of the Ivdel Civil Code of the CPSU), Inventory 11 (Book of orders of the Civil Code of 1956-59), case 51 (Correspondence of the secretaries of the Civil Code of the CPSU with the prosecutor's office, the people's court of the city of Ivdel), page 1 - plan of the search work, pp. 2-12 - radiograms. The radiograms are listed in a contextual chronological order, they have numbers in the upper right corner that differ.


Radiogram №4 from May 5, 1959

To Prodanov Sulman
5/5 at 9 h 30 minutes with Kurikov 50 meters southwest of the cedar in the place of a chopped spruce grove at a depth of 10 cm were found black cotton sports trousers without a right leg from the back of the burned right trouser leg cut off with a knife stop also found the left half of the female light brown worsted wool sweater second half with a right sleeve cut off with a knife is not yet found. Sweater belongs to Dubinina stop at 11 am was decided to excavate a trench to the southwest from the cut spruce forest in 10 m excavated portion in area of 20 m2 to a depth of 2.5 m stop


Radiogram №2 no date

At the bottom of the excavated plot, they discovered a flooring from the tops of chopped fir trees three square meters in size. On top of the flooring, in a crumpled state, turned inside out, the following items were found: sleeveless gray woolen China made sweater; insulated brown trousers with fleece inside. The upper and lower elastic bands of the trousers are torn. A warm brown woolen sweater with lilac thread; the right leg of the earlier discovered pants; one soldier's puttee* made of junior enlisted military cloth with a stitched webbing about one meter long. I cannot explain the appearance of the foot binding stop

* A long strip of cloth wound spirally around the leg from ankle to knee for protection and support, usually used in the army.


Radiogram №3 no date

During excavation, items were found at a depth of 2 m 30 cm from the top of the snow cover and 30 cm above the ground stop
In place of dyatlov group tent is found the sheath from a dagger 18 cm long made of textolite and one spoon the sheath assumed to belong to kolevatov stop


Radiogram №6 no date

I decided to continue the excavation of this trench although it is very difficult to do this since the snow is very hard stop I request to assign to me 6 very strong engineering sapper shovels with a strong nozzle and two miners picks stop I think that the dead are nearby the excavations will require physically strong and hardy sodiers of which I want to warn the commanders stop At 17 00 we leave for excavation --------- your suggestions and instructions please relate to Nevolin so I can execute Ortyukov


Radiogram №5 no date

18 40 while digging the ditch at the bottom of the streaming creek was found a corpse in a gray sweater excavation of which continues the work has to be done in the water and I ask you to prepare tomorrow for departure by helicopter departure from here for prosecutors and investigation it is desirable to contact tomorrow through the хххххххх "rim" [Ivdel call sign] at 9 am if there are questions Ortyukov
* The word "rim" is first misspelled and crossed out.


Radiogram №8 no date

Received: Temnikov
Ivan Stepanovich [Prodanov]
it is outrageous that myself, along with fourteen comrades, had carried the corpses to the helicopter in our arms, but the crew, despite my insistent requests, refused to take the requested onboard. As a communist, furious with the behavior of the crew, I want to inform the party city committee and the commander of the military district, Colonel-General Leliushenko, twice Hero of the Soviet Union. For you personally. Corpses are frozen in the state in which you saw them in. This concerns the open body parts. Detailed examination has demonstrated that they are in a frozen state. The forensic expert refused to perform a resection, saying that it was impossible to do. At your request, he will report to you in person about it.


Radiogram №10 from May 7, 1959

To Sverdlovsk, the regional committee of the CPSU, for the attention of Ermash. The regional executive committee for the attention of Pavlov.
The Ivdel city committee of the CPSU, for Prodanov. Captain Potyazhenko, the helicopter commander, has refused to evacuate the deceased, explaining his refusal with the order received from com. Gorlachenko, which [order] prohibited any evacuation without zinc boxes. According to the finding of the regional forensic expert, the corpses are frozen. Any expert examination at the site of the accident is ruled out. In the opinion of the same expert, from the hygienic point of view, the evacuation of the corpses is absolutely safe. The corpses have been wrapped and sewn into waterproof tarpaulin covers, which exclude any infection. Asking to request instructions from the Air Force Directorate on the immediate evacuation of the corpses, which have been delivered to the area of the helicopter landing site.
Ortyukov 7/5


Radiogram №12 no date

То Ortyukov
I will try to report but it is unlikely that without coffins they will agree to transport stop there will be more questions Prodanov


Radiogram №11 no date

To Ortyukov Ivanov
Today ordered galvanized coffins tomorrow promise to send backpack stop flight by helicopter at noon in the parts where to bury since the issue is not yet resolved said Pavlov he informed Sverdlovsk city committee is ordered to contact the parents to make external inspection advice sizes of coffins


Radiogram №7 no date

To Prodanov
Asking to inform Klinov: the corpses are frozen. For this reason, any detailed examination is impossible. The corpses have been appropriately prepared for transportation to Ivdel, coated with spruce branches and sewn up into tarpaulin. They will decompose if not transported tomorrow. In case of burial at the height, it won’t be possible to perform an autopsy, given the absence of any adequate facilities. I have sent Vozrozhdenniy to Ivdel to wait for the arrival of the corpses. There are no traces of any violence. The clothes were cut by the hikers themselves. I am staying in the camp to search for any small items.


Radiogram №9 no date

To Prodanov
The data from the external examination was reported in the radiogram of Ivanov, the dimensions of the coffins are 180 cm, the remaining dimensions are of the actual height. I am outraged by the behavior of the crew, which, in response to my categorical demands, did not take the cargo specially prepared for transportation, about which I ask you to inform the commander of the Urals twice to the hero of the Soviet Union, Colonel General Lelyushenko. Ortyukov.
Received by Temnikov


The usual confusion with the dates in the case files

The Radiogram that reports the discovery of the bodies comes after one dated 5/5, another one that is contextually following the one that is dated 5/5 and then the discovery of the bodies. Please refer to Radiograms 3-4-5 above.

Protocol of inspection of the scene where the bodies were found is made on May 6th. Prosecutor Tempalov arrived the next day and dated his report. Link to the case files →

Dyatlov Pass: Templaov report
Templaov report for inspection of the scene where the bodies were found

Resolution to close the case says the last 4 bodies were found on May 4th. Too many discrepancies in this document...
Link to the case files →

Dyatlov Pass: Resolution to close the case
Resolution to close the case


3D model for the ravine by Vasilii Zyadik

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