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Tuesday, November 23, 2021

The Dyatlov Pass Incident: Theories and Conjecture - Part 4

So, just what happened to the 9 hikers on that mountain? There are many theories out there. Some based on facts, others that take one statement and run with it. Let's take a closer look at some of them.

1 ) There were KGB agents in the hiking party.


In 2016, Yuri Kuntsevich, Head of the Dyatlov Group Memory Public Fund made the following statements to the press.

"It turned out that there were two KGB officers in the Dyatlov group. Quite possibly, they were carrying out a mission to provide support for a technology-induced experiment. The tourists [term used to describe hikers/skiers in the wilderness] were carrying a large batch of photo equipment, which was completely atypical of highly complex expeditions that require maximally alleviating their load.

"Most likely, the tourists reached their intended destination and waited for a technology-induced moment, which they were apparently expected to capture with photos. But it went off in an unplanned and extraordinary way, which was possibly the cause for the death of the group's members. They, of course, courageously held on to the last and didn't run away or panic."

Kuntsevich also stated that the ties to the KGB were enforced because only 4 of the [alleged] 10 rolls of film remain in evidence and it's unknown what happened to the rest. He further stated that every member of the party kept a journal and only 3 or 4 of the diaries survive. And that it is also confirmed by the authorized ID held by "the group's head". [Igor Dyatlov?]

Aleksei Rakitin also favored a KGB theory in his book "Dyatlov Pass". He alleges that three of the hikers were KGB agents : Semyon Zolotaryov, Aleksander Kolevatov, and Yuri Krivonischenko. His version is that the mission was to uncover a cell of CIA agents active in the area. They were to deliver radioactive samples and take photos of the CIA agents as they received them. Something went wrong during the exchange and the CIA agents killed all the hikers.

The alleged radioactive tainted clothing was faked. The rest of the group did not know they had KGB agents among them. The meeting took place on February 1st. A fight ensued and the CIA agents overpowered the hikers. After torturing them all, they then killed the students.

He goes on to speak of Zolotaryov, who at age 37, was older than the others in the group. He further alleges that Zolotaryov joined the party at the last minute. His military background, the mysterious tattoo ["Daermmutzuaya", a word that is said to remain un-translated into any known language], and that he worked at a "secret laboratory" upon graduating from school are all suspicious.

So, let's look at these theories. First Kuntsevich's statements. The rolls of film. If some of the rolls of film had not been used, no pictures taken, there would be no reason for them to come into evidence. Also, some of the film which made it into the Den in the ravine was water logged and damaged beyond technology known back then to extract any information from the film.

The "large" number of cameras. It seems that there were a total of 4 cameras among the 9 hikers. They belonged to Krivonischenko [No488747], Dyatlov [No55242643], Zolotarev [No55149239], and Slobodin [No486963]. This is the "official" count. An additional camera was found on Zolotaryov's body, which makes the deduction that he carried two cameras on the trip. They further allege that there were two more cameras. That Thibeaux-Brignolle and Kolmogorova also had cameras that were not found either with the bodies or in the tent.

We cannot know why or why not people would take cameras on a hiking trip. Some of the cameras were not expensive, top of the line cameras, but less expensive ones that one might purchase to capture a more difficult hiking/skiing trip on film. A camera does not make one a spy.

The missing diaries. There are 6 diaries in evidence. There is the group diary in which members took turns recapping the days events. Kolmogorova, Dubinina, Slobodin, and Yudin [the student who returned after becoming ill], kept diaries. There also appears to be a diary kept by someone unknown, which was mistakenly labeled as Kolmogorova's.

Not every person is comfortable or desires to write in a diary. It, to me, is a large leap to call it suspicious if there was not a diary from each member of the hiking party presented for evidence.  Perhaps some of the members considered the group diary all that would be needed and declined to put any of their personal thoughts into writing.

As for the "authorized ID" held by the group's leader : I found no evidence of a "special" ID held by any member of the hikers. And the article left out the name of who he was calling the group leader. Is Kuntsevich referring to Igor Dyatlov as the leader of hiking/skiing expedition? Or to another member of the group as the leader of the (alleged) spy ring?

Both Kuntsevich and Rakitin allege that members of the hiking/skiing party were KGB agents. [Kuntsevich claims 2 but does not name them to the press]. It is difficult to believe that the KGB would recruit agents ages 21-24 for any sort of interaction with CIA agents, who would [back in the 1950s] have most likely been older with more years of training and experiences behind them.

Rakitin names Semyon Zolotaryov, Aleksander Kolevatov, and Yuri Krivonischenko as the KGB agents.

Yes, Zolotaryov was 38 and much older than the others. Conspiracy theorists like to make his joining the group mysterious and suspicious. Let's look at this logically. First off, he was a member of a sporting club, of which there were several. Members could join up together to go on expeditions and to get advice and other information from the other members. There were several other expeditions out in the general area when Dyatlov was organizing his party. Zolotaryov was a ski/tour instructor. He may have simply been trying to find a group going on that level of expedition in order to add performance points to his degree. He would have to have done this in order to achieve a promotion to "Master" or Expert Instructor. It was and still is a common practice in Russia.


Having "mysterious" tattoos seems a silly reason to designate someone a spy. It may happen in the movies or on TV. A tattoo is great evidence for a forensics expert to chase down in a two hour movie or hour long TV show.  In addition to his "Daermmutzuaya" tattoo, he had several more which would not be unusual for someone who served in the military during war time.


Kolevatov appears to be chosen as being a spy because he worked in a "secret laboratory". This was a career choice made for him by the university he attended and served as what we would term an "apprenticeship" in the U.S. With this job, he was paid, and it appears paid well. He lived in a fairly well-to-do neighborhood while he worked at the laboratory. As for being a "secret" lab, most labs around the world tend not to make their work known publicly. And in post-war Russia, one would expect them to keep all their laboratories "secret".


Krivonischenko. His claim to spydom seems to come from the fact he once worked at a "secret" nuclear facility. His parents were well-educated and rich and influential; his father being a construction engineer of the Beloyarski Hydo-Electro Station. Krivonischenko was one of the team sent in to clean up a radioactive leak from the Kushtumkoy Accident in Chelyabinsk. He was most likely considered some sort of "expert" concerning radioactivity.

2 ) The hikers were mistaken for escaped prisoners from a Gulag [prison].

A private investigator decided that the hikers were killed after being mistaken for escaped prisoners from the local Gulag prison camp. Many of the political prisoners were released from 1953 to 1956.  But many criminals still remained in prisons. There were small concentration camps still in existence all over the region. "Ivlag" was one of them and was located just a few miles from the pass.

There were no reported escapes at the time in question.

3 ) Escaped prisoners attacked the hikers.

Or perhaps there were escaped prisoners who managed to evade recapture and who had gone into hiding in the area. Being out of touch with civilization, they would have had no knowledge of Stalin's death in 1953 and how amnesty was given to political prisoners. If the hikers had accidentally run across them, the prisoners would have considered them a threat to their continued freedom and therefore murdered them to keep their existence secret.

It is said that Yuri Yudin discovered an article of clothing that he claimed did not belong to any of his friends. It appeared to be an "obmotki" -- a long piece of cloth that is wrapped around feet and legs to keep them warm. It has a distinct shape and is made of a certain fabric. Obmotki were widely used by soldiers in the 1940s and later among prisoners [of which many were formally soldiers] of Stalin's concentration camps. No one seemed to know where it had come from or even what happened to it, as it is said to have disappeared from the evidence room.

The one piece of "evidence" to support the prisoner theory. Well, Zolotaryov had been a soldier during the war. Perhaps he brought the obmotki with him to bind over his shoes to help keep his feet warm. And maybe the "evidence" disappeared because his family wished to have it, asked to have it given to them. And seeing no reason to refuse the request, the authorities handed it over to them.

4 ) The Mansi Natives

These indigenous peoples were the government's first "solution" to the disappearance and death of the group. The Soviets were ready to blame them for their traditions and religion made the [atheist based] government nervous. However, there is evidence that the hikers were on good terms with the Mansi, even traveling with some of the natives on their way to the mountain. The photo of the alleged Yeti was first identified by the authorities as a Mansi hunter stalking the young hikers. With no evidence to support the stalking to murder theory, the authorities abandoned it. The local Mansi even assisted search parties in trying to find the hikers.

Newer theories include that "evil hunters" of the Mansi stalked the hikers because they dared to camp in the area of the pass [an alleged 'holy' area]. So they killed them on February 1st. Another one claims that the hikers were killed because they entered the Mansi hunting ground. The Mansi had the skills needed to hide their own ski tracks and hunted the hikers into the woods where they killed them. And there are those who say that the Mansi are a proud and a secluded people. They consider the area their private hunting grounds. If the Mansi had told the hikers to leave, perhaps they misunderstood and a verbal confrontation took place. It then escalated into a physical fight and the hikers were killed.

If this were such an important "holy" area for the Mansi, tourists, hikers, skiers would not enter the area consistently. Or there would be many, many more deaths and/or disappearances in the area. As Pavel Makhtiyarov, a Mansi native, stated : "Everyone goes to this mountain. Russian men and women, Mansi. There is no special prohibition to hike the mountain."

It is also suggested that the Mansi attacked the hikers because they passed too closely to a 'chum' on January 30th. The claim is that the chum was a place of sacrifice, asking God to protect the reindeer from wolves and disease, to provide plenty of food for the reindeer. And the students were killed and offered as a sacrifice.

Mansi chum. framework for a tent constructed by the Mansi.The long pole to the left is usually removed and taken away with the tent cover. Colorized by TCC

The Mansi do offer a sacrifice to God for that purpose. However, they commonly use a rooster. They do not practice human sacrifice. And there are no sacred places surrounding Kholat Syakhl. The claims that the pass was a prohibited area was part of a misinformation and anti-Mansi propaganda program. That was a government attempt to show how religion and a belief in God affects the mind and causes crimes in the name of false idols and/or causes.

The hikers property was not stolen after they abandoned the camp. Life in Siberia is harsh and deadly. The boots, clothes, coats, the food, pens and notebooks, money, cameras and other valuables, and especially the alcohol would have been extremely useful to the Mansi. But all those items remained in the tent for three weeks -- untouched.
Kholat Syakhl: said to mean "mountain of the dead". The rumors are it is so named because of the Mansi hunters who have died mysteriously there. Or disappear from there, never to be found.
Actually, it means "Dead Mountain". Slightly different. Literally translated it is said as "Lack of Game".  Kholat can mean "dead" or "meager". So the name tells the hunters it is no use to go there. They will not find any game. The name could also encompass the bare slopes of the mountain.

Mount Otorten: said to translate as "Don't go there". The claims of it being a sacred and dangerous area for travelers was addressed above.

Otorten is a Mansi name.  It comes from this phrase : "Woot-Taaratane-Syachi" meaning "The Windy Mountain". And there are strong winds that come through the pass and over and around the mountain.
5 ) Shrooms

Here we are talking of Fly agaric [Amanita Muscaria]. These are known to grow under pine trees. Shamans often hang them on the lower branches of pine trees in order to dry them out before taking them back to the village. Some times they are placed inside a sock and then hung over a fire to dry.

Svetlana Oss in her book "Don't Go There" states that she believed the Mansi hunters took fly agaric to induce a killing mood. They then attacked the hikers. Slobodin was killed by being kicked in the head. The hunters then either jumped or "bounced" on the chests of Doroshenko, Dubinina and Zolotaryov, causing their injuries.

The natives were skilled and covered up their tracks with the snow that was around the tent to hide their invasion of the campsite. They also made the cuts in the tent. The hikers were forced to discard their clothing and footwear. The infamous "yeti" photograph was claimed to be one of the hunters stalking the group. Thibeaux-Brignolle was able to snap the photo when the hikers remained silent, causing the tracker to come into view. The photo was snapped before he could duck back into the woods. Oss claims this is why the camp was set up away from the tree line.

The Mansi hunters interpreted "lights" in the sky as permission from the spirits to remove the strangers among them; especially the women as women were forbidden to even look upon the mountain.

Oss also offers an alternative to the slits in the tent. That perhaps the hikers cut them knowing that they were being stalked and sought to keep a look-out in this manner. She finishes her theory with a possible "clue". She talks of someone who buys a rifle from a Native who implied, while drinking, that he witnessed the entire incident.

The second version of the mushroom theory suggests that the hikers themselves ingested the mushrooms, either intentional or by accident. This caused delirium  and sweating and therefore would account for the unusual behavior of the hikers; i.e. removing their clothing and walking away from the safety of their tent and campsite.

Next : Even more theories and conjectures (Part 5)


"I'll spark the thought; what you do with it is up to you."
 "Those that know, need no further proof. Those that don't, should not demand it from others, but seek it for themselves."

This Post By TCC Team Member Nancy Marietta. Nancy has had a lifelong interest in the paranormal and cryptids. Nancy is also a published author and her book, The Price of war, has been met with great reviews.

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