Four students were still missing and the community was extremely agitated and upset by this fact, understandably. Officials were angry and embarrassed, so they sent more search teams to find the other bodies and fast.
While that was happening, the first 5 students were buried. People put up flyers inviting everyone to come to the memorial, but authorities tore the flyers down. The students of UPI succeeded in spreading the word so on the day of the funeral, a huge crowd appeared. The funeral was accompanied by police escort until they reached the cemetery. They weren’t allowed in the main entrance.
Not giving up, the crowd went through a big hole in the fence surrounding the cemetery and the students were finally buried. Four were buried in that cemetery, while the fifth student, Krivonischenko was buried elsewhere per his parents’ wishes.
A monument was erected eventually to memorialize the students.
Back to the four missing students. Determined to put this story to rest, the KGB launched an all out search for the other missing bodies. In one area they saw a bunch of pine saplings pushing through the snow which was unnatural as there wasn’t a grown tree there.
So they dug down through the heavy snow and found a blanket of pine needles that had been placed there as a barrier to the cold below. That’s where they found the other four bodies.
The Other Four
Vladimir Korotaev reported back to the office of the prosecutor in Ivdel that this group had been injured in strange ways. The local officials told him they had died of hypothermia, and he told them they had better see the bodies for themselves.
Turns out at least one of them had a fractured skull that was fatal. They all had broken bones and internal bleeding. Back at the morgue, only Lev Ivanov was allowed to enter. Everyone else stayed well away from the morgue and that made Vladimir even more suspicious that something strange had happened.
Then to top it off, anyone who handled or went near the bodies had to immerse themselves in a drum of alcohol as they left to “cleanse” themselves. Vladimir said none of the officials would explain why, but he now had his suspicions.
During the late 1980s, Russian underwent Glasnost which opened a bunch of previously classified documents to the public. So in 1987, the forensic documents were released. The Russian program covered highlights from the documents about the bodies of the last four campers found which I’ll list below:
Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolles: From the file, “A dented break about at the right base of the skull, 3.5 x 3 inches (9.7 cm) with multiple shards. The break progresses through the right temple to the front of the cranial skull above the right eye socket.” In all, a break of 6.5 inches (17cm). All agreed, the fractured skull killed him because it caused major internal bleeding. The forensic expert, Vozrozhenny concluded the cause of death was, “Death by force.”
Lydmila Dubinina: “Symmetrical rib cage break. On the right, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th [ribs]. On the left, 2nd through 7th [ribs]. “Death by force.” Was there no mention on this report that her tongue had been ripped out? I guess not.
Alexander Zolotarev: “Second through 6th ribs are broken on right side from center to under armpit with hemorrhaging into the chest muscle. Cause of death: multiple breaks of the front rib cage caused by a great pressure caused by either a fall, compression, or blast. Death by force.”
Alexander Kolevatov: Had no major injuries. Died of hypothermia.
Yuri Kinosevitch (not sure of this spelling; it’s different in several references) investigated this story almost from the beginning. He was twelve when the incident occurred. Yuri said that in the forensic document, they did mention one of the campers was missing a tongue. But they don’t speculate how that may have happened.
Yuri further reported that all the “cloak and dagger” behavior of the officials involved made Lev Ivanov very suspicious. So he requested the levels of radiation on the students’ clothing be analyzed. The results stated, “a higher than normal background [radiation] rate was found.” The report continues, “The radioactivity is not caused by neutron rays or concentrated radioactivity but by radioactive contamination of beta radiation emitting particles.”
Unfortunately, due to the limitations of the Sverdlovsk radiological laboratory, they couldn’t determine the radio-chemical make-up of the contamination nor the strength of the radiation.
The criminal case file contains a transcript of a conversation between the radiology expert and the investigator (Ivanov). The radiologist said, “Yes, the garments are contaminated with either radioactive dust that dropped out of the atmosphere or these garments were contaminated during work with said radioactive materials.” Dropped out of the atmosphere? In a known missile test range? Hmmm.
The program said some of the student’s clothing (of the ones found in the “snow den” on the pine needles) were washed in a stream running below the mat of pine needles. The water would have carried away some of the radiation contaminating their clothes, so it was impossible to say just how strong an amount they received, but the amount would certainly have been higher than at the time the clothes were officially tested.
At the same time of the Dyatlov incident, a Russian scientist from the village of Palunochny (near Ivdel) who was part of the USSR Geographic Society wrote, “On 31st March, 1959 at 4:10 AM, observed the following phenomenon – from SW to NE above the village observed a fast moving spherical glowing object. The glowing disk was approximately the size of the moon. Color was blue-white and was surrounded by a blue aura. At times the aura would flash similar to lightning. When the object disappeared behind the horizon, the sky was still bright in the area for several minutes.” (Generic rocket trail in photo above right.)
Moisei Axelrod elaborated saying that the various groups still located in the original search area also saw this phenomenon and that it was a rocket that flew over the valley early in the morning. It happened at the time that people in the camp were rising and starting the day.
He added that the radio operator spat an angry message to their superiors saying, “Nine dead aren’t enough?!” You need more?!” Moisei said these kinds of aerial phenomenon continued to be seen through February 1959.
On February 17, 1959 two reports were found in the recently released Russian documents that proved two separate witnesses saw the same thing and corroborated their accounts.
According to a Serviceman named Savkin, “2/17/59 6:40 AM. Sphere of bright light that was slowly surrounded with fog. Inside this glowing cloud was a brightly glowing dot approximately the size of a star. It moved North and was observed for 8-10 minutes.”
This next report was sent by Meteorologist Technician Tokareva to Ivdel’s Chief of Police, from 2/17/59, 6:50 AM. “A phenomenon appeared in the sky. Movement of a star with a trail. Tail appears to be cirrus clouds. Then the star separated from its tail, became the brightest star, and started flying. Then it slowly started to expand and turned into a large sphere surrounded by a fog which then formed a half moon. Then a smaller sphere, just as bright. The large sphere started to fade and turned into a blotched spot. At 7:05 AM it completely disappeared.”
Meanwhile, people were still trying to blame the Mansi for killing the students. Their reasoning seems to have been that the tent was cut open and the students scattered. At the time Vlad Ivanovitch was mulling over the case, an experienced seamstress came into his office and noticed the tent. She told Vlad that there was no doubt about it, the tent had been cut from the inside.
So he sent the tent for testing in Leningrad and sure enough, the seamstress was right. So it finally became clear that the students cut themselves out of the tent and ran. But why?
Pressure from Above
Lev Ivanov was under constant pressure from authorities in Moscow to keep the investigation moving and moving quickly. Lev believed this was an attempt to keep his team from delving too deeply into all the possibilities. In other words, in the opinion of the Russian program producers, the government wanted to put the story to rest ASAP and get it behind them.
In his conclusion, Ivanov wrote that Dyatlov, the group commander, made a gross error because they started to summit the pass at 3 PM on 2/1. From the ski trail it was concluded that while moving toward the valley of the river Loz’va they accidentally veered 1600-2000 feet (500-600 m) to the left, missing the pass. They got to the eastern slope of mountain 1079. That was Dyatlov’s second mistake. In daylight they made it to this mountain slope in strong winds and low temperatures, between -13 and -22 F (-25 to – 30 C). They set camp there so as not to lose altitude.
Ivanov mentioned that the last two photos taken by the group were of them setting up camp around 5 PM that evening. This has me wondering, then. Where did the picture with the two glowing orbs in the sky come from? And the photo of the purported Menk in the forest?
According to Ivanov’s report, the students went as one unit over to the tree line, near the big cedar. He said the footprints were well preserved until they got to the treeline because it had snowed in that area since the tragedy occurred.
He wrote, “There are no tracks or indications that a struggle took place or that others other than the group were there. Considering that there are no external injuries or indications of a struggle, the presence of everything valuable, and taking into consideration the conclusion of forensic autopsies, it is concluded that the cause of death was some extreme natural force which the campers could not overcome.”
Afterwards a few minor officials were reprimanded and the case was closed.
As I mentioned previously, people who knew Ivanov said that he personally felt that the students had been killed by a UFO. Clearly, something was going on in the skies overhead that night.
Also, given the political climate of the era and the location, he had to be very careful what he said, and he had to play along with the authorities to safeguard his own life. Interestingly, the report, dated May 28, 1959, was never signed by Ivanov and someone had crossed out every page with blue pencil. A not so subtle sign from the investigator himself? Perhaps.
Also interesting, anyone that was in any way shape or formed involved in the tragedy had to sign a non-disclosure agreement. But rumors persisted and the people kept their own counsel.
In an improbable scenario, the story goes that in the late 1980s a young woman happened to find a big case file sitting on a windowsill that contained the story as you’ve heard it, up to this point. Prior to this, as the new open records policy of Glasnost took hold, many researchers had gone looking for this case file and were unable to find it. So how did it find itself sitting on a windowsill in broad daylight for his woman to find? We’ll never know.
Tomorrow I’ll post the third and final installment reviewing what this important Russian program has shown us.
Here’s the second half of the Russian program from 1997.
Next and final article in this series can be found here: