Since 1959 many theories have emerged as to what killed these 9 hikers in the Ural Mountains. Some of them are bizarre and stretching while others seem more plausible. Culprits have been suggested as the KGB or Russian Special Forces. Others have asserted the hikers were killed by criminals who came upon their camp. It’s also been suggested that Mansi warriors in the region attacked the camp after having warned the hikers NOT to go to Dead Mountain.
Some have suggested an avalanche caused the hikers to flee their tent resulting in their dying of hypothermia. Some have even suggested that UFOS or Bigfoot killed the hikers. Secret missile launches have also been suggested as the cause of their demise along with infrasound or teleportation phenomena. We will briefly examine each one of these theories now in hopes of arriving at some concrete conclusions about what or who caused the hikers to flee and what resulted in their deaths. Hypothermia as the cause of death was used by the medical examiners but I feel it highly unlikely that was the initial cause of death! These people all had severe injuries and mass trauma NOT caused by hypothermia and that is clear! The examiners I believe used hypothermia as a cover in an effort to cover something up. And that something covered up was who or what actually killed them all and it was NOT hypothermia in my opinion.
Soviet investigators strangely concluded that “some compelling natural force” had killed the hikers but Soviet medical examiners attributed their deaths to hypothermia! Doesn’t seem that the investigators and examiners were on the same page!! Hypothermia is NOT “some compelling natural force.” For 3 years after this incident the area was forbidden to skiers, hikers, and explorers by Soviet authorities!! That in itself is odd enough!! What were they hiding MUST now be the question asked!
The Death by KGB Theory
The KGB was the Soviet Secret Police and there is no doubt whatsoever as to how ruthless they were. They tortured thousands if not millions of people all around the world during the Soviet era! They were cold and calculating and witnessing human pain didn’t even seem to bother them in the slightest. In fact, many of these agents seemed to enjoy inflicting pain.
Author Alexei Rakitin of the book entitled “Dyatlov Pass” came to the belief that 3 of the hikers were actually KGB agents! He named them as being Alexander Zolotaryov, Alexander Kolevatov, and Yuri Krivonishenko. He believed they were on a mission to uncover a CIA cell. Part of their mission, Rakitin believes, was to deliver radioactive samples and then take photos of the American CIA agents so the KGB would know who they were. But something went very wrong, Rakitin asserts in his book, and the CIA agents killed the 9 hikers on Dead Mountain. In the Soviet era such a scenario WOULD be plausible as this was the era of the Cold War between America and the Soviet Union in which a reign of fear ruled on both sides along with a huge amount of paranoia. One “trick” used commonly by the USSR was to put radioactive tainted material in places that had nothing to do with the real location of the radioactive device or weapon!
Some have speculated that the KGB “hired” two or more members of the group to deliver FAKE proof of radioactive clothing to the Dead Mountain area. The rest of the group was unaware of this according to this theory as they were also unaware of the REAL purpose of their little “expedition.” Rakitin’s theory is plausible and logical when it comes to explaining some of the mysterious issues in this case. Such “mysteries” would include the radioactive clothing found on two of the hikers, the use of radiation detectors, the gray foam on Doroshenko’s face, the absence of shoes and upper clothing on some members of the group, and the fact that at least ONE CAMERA known to have been with the group “mysteriously” went MISSING!
There are, in fact, some rather strange details about the hikers themselves. For instance, Semyon Zolotaryov was a 37 year old bachelor and worked as an instructor at a remote tourist center and he mysteriously joined the hiking group at the very last minute. He was also a Soviet military veteran with years of combat experience. He had a rather odd tatoo that spelled out “DAERMMUAZUAYA” which is anyone’s guess as to what the word means as even today it cannot be translated into any known language including Russian! Was it a word or initials?
In the archives of the Ural Polytech Institute there are remarkable details about Alexander Kolevatov in the period before he transferred to the UPI Physics-Technical Department. Prior to this transfer he worked in Moscow as a lab assistant in a TOP SECRET Soviet science facility! The lab was an unnamed Atomic institute known only by its PO Box which was “P.O. Box No. 3394.”
Yuri Krivonischenko also had worked for one of those many mysterious Soviet P.O. Boxes! In fact, he worked at one of the more notorious ones known as “P.O. Box.” This was the plant at Mayak in Chelyabinsk number 4010. There was a MASSIVE NUCLEAR DISASTER in 1957 at this plant at one time and second only to the famous Chernobyl incident later.
Rakitin is certain that Krivonischenko did not become a member of the group by accident or chance! He believes the shadow of the notorious KGB can be seen behind each of these three group members. He believes that the true objective of the adventure was to deliver radioactive material to a group of American CIA agents and photograph the agents and report back to the KGB with the photos. He believes the meeting between 2 or 3 of the hikers took place on 1 February 1959 but something went horrible wrong when the American agents realized the 2 or 3 hikers were playing a double game. Some sort of conflict occurred involving a physical fight Rakitin surmises. This was followed by torture and the brutal slaughter of the entire hiker group carried out by American CIA agents, Rakitin believes. This theory of his, however, was not well received as some believe it to be a “red herring.” Friends and families of the three group members note that they three were TOUGH GUYS and did not scare easily. They said something astonishing and extraordinary would have had to have happened to scare them! Confrontation with American CIA agents on Soviet soil was NOT one of them! Further, I might note that Rakitin’s conclusion fits in nicely with the typical Soviet rhetoric heard during the Cold War. The American CIA was blamed for anything and everything by the Soviets and they even were blamed for doing things that the Soviets THEMSELVES had done!! I HIGHLY DOUBT these 9 people were killed by CIA agents spying in the Soviet Urals!
Just to be fair to Rakitin, however, it is also plausible that some of the group members were KGB agents or at least under their hire. This would have been common practice among the KGB in those days to have agents and/or snitches in certain groups the KGB took “interest” in for whatever reason.
The Criminals Theory
At some point some private investigator spoke with former Russian soldiers in the area and he concluded that the hikers could have been killed for being mistakenly taken as escaped prisoners from some nearby Gulag prison camp. But, he also said they could have been killed as part of some “clean up operation” after some secret military exercises were conducted. In this case the Soviet military might have feared that the hikers seen something they didn’t want anyone to see. Perhaps the testing of some sort of “secret weapon.”
In the days of 1959 Siberia was well known as the Gulag Area! Prison camps were many in the area and anyone whom the Soviets wished to punish or simply silent quickly found themselves in one of those Gulags often for the rest of their lives. These included political prisoners even though many of them were released between 1953-56 BUT some were not released and new ones were imprisoned. Mostly, the Gulags were small installations or concentration camps. In relation to Dead Mountain the nearest Gulag would have been Ivlag which was situated just a few miles from the site where the 9 hikers met their demise.
It must be noted that during the time that the hikers were in the area of the Gulag no escapes were reported from the Gulag. Of course, this doesn’t mean there wasn’t an escape as Soviet officials often covered up “undesirable circumstances.” Some escapees would escape and go into hiding for decades and they may have never known that after Soviet leader Josef Stalin died in 1953 amnesty was granted to all political prisoners in the Gulags. It is plausible that prisoners escaped long before the arrival of the hikers and they could have killed the hikers but then the question is why didn’t they take the hikers provisions? Investigators found none of their provisions missing during their search. And also there is the issue of the cameras. No prisoner would risk having his photo on one of those cameras. One camera was missing but I’m pretty sure escaped prisoners would have taken ALL cameras for this reason.
The lone hiker that was forced to return home due to illness, Yuri Yurdin, discovered a piece of clothing that he claimed belonged to NONE of the hikers! This piece of clothing is known as a “Obmotki.” It is a wide piece of cloth used to wrap around ones feet and legs to keep them warm. They have a distinct shape and are made of a distinct material. Soviet soldiers frequently used them in the 1940s and later Soviet prisoners used them in the Gulags. This mysterious piece of clothing “disappeared” from the EVIDENCE ROOM! Wasn’t that convenient?
Soldiers from the nearby Gulag could have been searching for unreported escaped prisoners and assumed the hikers were such. The soldiers could have inflicted the injuries we see on the hikers but why didn’t they hunt them down and return them to the Gulag? Or, at least, why didn’t they take the bodies back to the Gulag for identification? Perhaps if this was the case the soldiers realized their mistake and simply left the hiker bodies to the elements thinking no one would ever discover them but that is kind of risky. I think the soldiers would have at least buried or burned the bodies or stacked them in a deep ravine one atop the other to hide them. But none of this happened and there is no proof that this theory was the fact of the matter in the death of the 9 hikers on Dead Mountain.
The SOVIET Special Forces Theory
Another theory asserts that the 9 hikers were killed by Soviet Special Forces in the area in an effort to simply get rid of witnesses who saw something they weren’t suppose to see. However, there is the lack of evidence of soldier boot prints in the area. However, apparently the footprints were ASSUMED to be those of the fleeing 9 hikers BUT the footprints were never closely examined either by the investigators or medical examiners! Apparently, no one expected to find the hikers remains.
Soviet officials were apparently aware of the general route the hikers took but an accident would not have been uncommon in the region. During this time, 1959, the Soviets were still testing the R-12 rocket which was put out in March 1959. Not all launches were a success as is no 100% test launch. Soviet scientists did not readily admit their failures as did not Soviet authority or soldier in those days!
It must also be noted that the home of the hikers was Sverdlovsk which is now Yekaterinburg. This town was encircled by several Soviet military anti-aircraft units. It was near this Ural town that the Soviets finally managed to shoot down a US spy plane in May 1959. That plane was piloted by the American named Francis Gary Powers only 43 miles from the town. The Soviets kept almost everything secret in those days and to a large extent modern Russia still does! The Russian government still has not given out any information on the Dyatlov Incident that occurred in Feb 1959.
Additionally, during the Cold War the Ural Mountains were known to house numerous Soviet Military bases and operations so it would not have been unusual for the hikers to have encountered Soviet troops during their trek. Also just as a side note, Yekaterinburg was the site where the last Russian Tsar, Nicholas II, and his family along with some servants were executed after being ousted from power by Vladimir Lenin and his Bolsheviks in July 1918.
During the Cold War between the West and the Soviet Bloc tensions ran high and so did paranoia. Most foreigners were suspected of possibly being spies for the other side or double-agents. No one was trusted on either side completely. In the 1950s American spies had a rather hard time carrying out their assigned operations inside the Soviet Union. Stalin’s secret police followed foreigners around constantly and that means EVERY foreigner just not Westerners. They were all suspected of being spies and as far as the KGB was concerned they WERE spies until they proved otherwise! Thus, the environment inside the Soviet Union and Eastern Bloc was not simply one of paranoia bordering on the psychotic but it was also HIGHLY DANGEROUS.
Not all Soviets were loyal to the regime in Moscow. Some helped Western spies carry out their operations inside the USSR. These people were critical for gaining information on the nuclear and military capacities of the Soviet Union. Foreigners were strictly forbidden to get near Soviet military sites and this is where the “friends” of American CIA agents came into play because they could get closer to these off-limits sites. They would gain the needed information and then report back to their Western directors and such information was invaluable to the West and the USA. Don’t forget that this was the time of the “Arms Race” between America and the USSR. The Soviets routinely fooled the American spies by moving radioactive material to places that had nothing to do with nuclear weapons or military sites at all!
This theory about Western Special Forces and the 9 hikers postulates that two or more of the hikers were hired by the KGB to deliver radioactive samples (ie: radioactive clothing as was found on 2 of the deceased hikers remains) to the region they were hiking in and the rest of the hikers were completely unaware of their mission. Many who hold to this theory believe Zolotaryov was one of those hired by the KGB to carry out such a mission or maybe he was even a KGB agent himself. He was an experience former soldier with combat experience. He also used aliases! His records indicate that in the military he served with an engineering unit who were typically considered as easy prey for the enemy. Such units suffered horrific casualties with some losing as much as 80% of their men! Basically, these engineering units were charged with clearly enemy defenses before the main troops marched in which means they were basically cannon fodder! Yet, somehow Zolotaryov survived which is curious but not unheard of.
Zolotaryov joined the military in 1941 during October but he didn’t reach the frontlines until the 10th of May in 1942! Officer training at that time only lasted 3 months and training for regular troops only lasted a few days if at all. So
where was Zolotaryov during these 6 or 7 months? He should have been quickly pushed to the front to fight the Nazis during WW2 like most other Soviet men but Zolotaryov was not. Additionally, during his military career he was awarded 4 medals by the Soviets which was a lot for any regular Soviet soldier. Zolotaryov was a COSSACK which is a Russian sub-culture usually used for soldiers and peasant work. They come from Southern Russia and are not liked by many Russians. Zolotaryov’s father was a doctor in might also be noted. Cossacks were viewed with suspicion in the Kremlin in Moscow because they had a long history of being seen as too independent minded! This fact alone would have made it hard for him to receive ANY medals at all from the Soviet government but he got four!
Somehow Zolotaryov made it through but he never discussed where or for what he got his four medals for which is odd for a “war hero.” If one lied about receiving such medals one would get a “visit” from the military and typically those visits did not end well for the person of interest. On Zolotaryov’s resume barely anything is mentioned about the military. It’s void of serial numbers, the units he served in and where, and the reason for his medals having been awarded YET he is accepted into the Polytech Institute and an inquiry that seems to have been started concerning him appears to have been stopped by none other than the KGB!! What better give away?
Kirvonischenko is the other group member some suspect of having been in the hire of the KGB or an agent himself. He actually got arrested at one point for singing and pretending to beg for money! However, he was quickly
let go from custody. Was this a pre-planned excuse to get away from the group for a short time in order to be given radioactive clothing? Some suspect so. He was present at the Kushtomkoy Incident two years before which was said to have been an accidental release of radioactivity in the Soviet Union. It’s doubtful he kept any of his clothing afterwards and everything would have been contaminated.
Promoters of this theory hold that somewhere along the line of their trek the hikers would encounter “lost tourists” and share clothing with them as a sign of goodwill. Was that encounter at the tent camp on the slope of Dead Mountain? And did something horrible go wrong that ended in the “lost tourists” killing the 9 hikers? Promoters of this theory believe this explains why the hikers cut their way out of the back of the tent as the “lost tourists” were inside the tent blocking the doorway and the only way out was by cutting open the back of the tent. Also, it must be noted that the diary kept by Kolevatov and a third camera that we know the group had mysteriously went “missing” and neither has ever been found to date!
Promoters of this theory believe that the “lost tourists” were not tourist nor lost at all but were Soviet Special Forces pretending to be lost tourists! They say this explains the deaths of the first 5 group members and they were left to die in the cold by the special forces soldiers. Most of the hikers had no shoes on at the time they fled the tent sometime after dinner. Perhaps the special forces were surprised by the groups stamina to survive and they had to then go hunt the rest of the hikers down and ensure they were dead so their special mission would never be exposed, whatever it was.
This theory IS plausible in my opinion as such intrigue was common during the Cold War between the Soviets and the Americans. This could have simply been a mission to plant radioactive clothing in the area of Dead Mountain to fool the Americans once again that is, until, something went BADLY WRONG.
The Theory That Mansi Natives Were the Killers
Another theory holds that natives from the local Mansi tribe may have killed the 9 hikers. In fact when the official investigators arrived on the scene the Mansi were their first suspects! The Mansi did not like people trekking across their sacred lands and it is know that they warned the 9 hikers not to go to Dead Mountain. The Mansi post warnings on trees in their language warning people to stay away. One of the diaries found in the tent spoke of the Mansi but this theory was abandoned due to lack of evidence or eye witnesses.
The Avalanche Theory
Avalanches in the Urals are common so investigators suspected that the group might have been caught in one and killed or at least mortally injured. Dead Mountain (Kholat Syakhl) is a mountain that is not very steep nor tall in particular, however. Dairies kept by the hikers and later recovered by investigators show that snow fall in the area was rather thin but that doesn’t rule out an avalanche as the top layer could have shifted and come rolling over the hikers while in their tent. If this was the case the tent and its occupants would have been covered with several feet of snow and they would have to first cut their way out of the tent and then dig themselves out of the snow covering. This could explain why the hikers cut slits in the tent’s sides and why they cut their way out of the back of the tent. And most of that snow could have melted or blown away by strong winds common in the area by the time investigators arrived four weeks later.
Scared and disoriented they would have feared a second and possibly bigger avalanche so they tried to get down to the Auspiya River but they were going the wrong direction! They, instead, made the mistake of going into the valley of the Lozva River and that mistake would prove fatal for all of them! BUT footprints of the barefoot hikers seem to indicate they left the tent camp with relative ease! It is highly doubtful that those with broken ribs, major skull fractures, and flattened chests would have been able to escape the tent under the snow at all. Keep in mind these hikers were NOT amateurs but were well-trained, experienced, and in excellent physical shape! Surely they knew there was a greater danger of freezing to death than death by avalanche. Further, some of their gear that was positioned on the slope in a vertical position as seen in one of the photos taken by the hikers was still there when investigators arrived and still in the same position. Surely an avalanche would have wrecked this gear! As for the tent only the middle portion was collapsed. The front entrance was still elevated when investigators arrived. The mid section likely was collapsed due to a rather hasty get-away by the hikers or was due to collection of snow on that section of the tent.
The UFO Theory and the Secret Launches Theory
Reports of UFOs were common in the Urals during this time and still are today, in fact, but sometimes these “UFOs” are not UFOs at all but missile and rocket launches by the Russians/Soviets. It was about this same time that they hikers were camped in the area that the Soviets DID in fact launch several rockets from the Baykanur Base. The Soviet military claimed at the time that the rockets landed in the northern part of the Ural Mountain range which may or may NOT have been so. It must b noted that several geologists 70 KM from the Urals witnessed glowing and pulsating lights going in the direction of Kholat Syakhl (Dead Mountain) on the very day of the hikers demise during the evening which was Feb 1.
The man in charge of the investigation was named Lev Ivanov a Soviet Prosecutor and in the 1990s he stated during an interview with local reporters that he and co-investigator E.P. Maslenikov both noticed that the tops of the pine trees were BURNED! Ivanov also claimed that he was forced by Soviet Congress member A.P. Kirilenko and his adviser A.F. Ashtokin to remove any reference in his final report to UFOS or “other strange phenomena”! This demand included any and all photos of flying objects drawn by Mansi tribal hunters and their testimonies about seeing such objects! Ivanov was paid for this interview it must also be noted. These demands by the Soviet Congress member may have simply been out of fear that the hikers took photos of the rockets being launched that evening and the Soviets did not want those photos getting into US hands.
Ironically, in 1990 Ivanov published an article entitled “The Enigma of the Fireballs” in which he admitted that in the Spring of 1959 under pressure from members of the Soviet Congress he had to remove certain materials (read EVIDENCE) from the case that indicated the truth about what caused the hiker’s demise and deaths! This included any material pertaining to these “fireballs” or “UFOs.”
In his publication Ivanov stated, “When E.P. Maslennikov and I examined the scene in May we found that some young pine trees at the edge of the forest had burn marks, but those marks did not have concentric form or some other pattern. There was no epicenter. This once again confirmed that heated beams of a strong, but completely unknown, at least to us, energy were directing their firepower towards specific objects (in this case the hikers) acting selectively.”
The search party sent a telegraph (Radiogram) to Sulman on March 2 1959 at 18:30 hours stating:
“…the main mystery of the tragedy remains the exit of the entire group out of the tent….The reason could be any extraordinary phenomena such as the flight of a meteorological rocket OBSERVED ON THE 1ST OF FEBRUARY IN IVDEL and by Kremlin’s group (stop). Tomorrow we will continue the search (end).”
Who was the “Kremlin’s group” being referred to in this message?
There were “rumors” in the area where the hikers remains were found of secret Soviet military training camps. Locals in the area spoke of encountering Soviet military patrols in the area and they also spoke of holes in the hillsides sealed with concrete! They also spoke of the sound of a train THAT COMES FROM UNDERGROUND in the woods!!
A 2008 conference at the Ural State Technical University along with the Dyatlov Group Memorial Foundation concluded military testing was the blame for the hiker’s deaths. The response of the successor to the KGB, the Russian Federal Security Service, took it upon themselves to respond to this conclusion by saying all those involved in the case had long since died! How convenient!
Three more theories exist about what actually happened to the hikers. They are the Teleportation Experiment Theory, the Bigfoot Theory, and the Infrasound Theory which I shall outline in Part 5 next.
To be continued……………………..
Part 1: https://sonoranorte.wordpress.com/2016/08/04/solving-a-mystery-the-dyatlov-pass-incident-pt-1/