Aleksei Rakitin

The Dyatlov Pass Incident Non fiction. St. Petersburg 2012. ca. 430 pages including illustrations
Foreign rights: Czech Republic, Germany

With an epilogue by Oleg Kashin (author and journalist with the newspaper Kommersant)

The Dyatlov Pass incident resulted in the deaths of nine ski hikers in the northern Ural mountains on the night of February 2, 1959. The mountain pass where the incident occurred has since been named Dyatlov Pass after the group's leader, Igor Dyatlov. The lack of eyewitnesses has inspired much speculation. Soviet investigators determined only that "a compelling unknown force" had caused the deaths. Access to the area was barred for skiers and other adventurers for three years after the incident. Investigators at the time determined that the hikers tore open their tent from within, departing barefoot into heavy snow and a temperature of −30 °C (−22 °F). Although the corpses showed no signs of struggle, two victims had fractured skulls, two had broken ribs, and one was missing her tongue. Their clothing, when tested, was found to be highly radioactive.

This book makes a new attempt to analyse all of the information available up until today about the mysterious deaths of the group of Sverdlovsk tourists on the Dyatlov Pass in the winter of 1959 and to evaluate them for the first time without any of the mystic suppositions that have dogged this unexplained event. In doing so, the author draws on two witnesses still living as well as on archives and on secret files held in Yekaterinburg and elsewhere, files that have been withheld from the public up to now. The book goes as far as naming those responsible in the end. Why their names cannot be revealed, however, becomes clear during the course of the book. Despite, or perhaps precisely because of the rational, strictly documentary portrayal, this book leaves the reader with the impression of experiencing a true nightmare.

A Hollywood feature film has been announced (release 2013) with Renny Harlin as director (Nightmare on Elm Street 1988/ Die Hard 2 1990/ Cliffhanger 1993/ Deep Blue Sea 1999/ Exorzist Beginning 2004/ The Covenant 2006/ 5 Days of War 2011) and Richard Reid (Love, Wedding Marriage 2011/ William&Kate 2011/ Navy CIS/ Hangover) and Matt Stokoe (Hollow 2011/ Misfits 2009) in main roles.

A group was formed for a ski trek across the northern Urals in Sverdlovsk Oblast. The group, led by Igor Dyatlov, consisted of eight men and two women. Most were students or graduates of Ural Polytechnical Institute. All members were experienced in long ski tours and mountain expeditions. Diaries and cameras found around their last camp made it possible to track the group's route up to the day preceding the incident. Only after the relatives of the travelers demanded a rescue operation did the head of the institute send the first rescue groups, consisting of volunteer students and teachers, on February 20. Later, the army and police forces became involved, with planes and helicopters being ordered to join the rescue operation. A legal inquest had been started immediately after finding the first five bodies. A medical examination found no injuries which might have led to their deaths, and it was concluded that they had all died of hypothermia. An examination of the four bodies which were found in May changed the picture. Three of them had fatal injuries: skull damage and major chest fractures. According to Dr. Boris Vozrozhdenny, the force required to cause such damage would have been extremely high. He compared it to the force of a car crash. Notably, the bodies had no external wounds, as if they were crippled by a high level of pressure. The final verdict was that the group members all died because of a "compelling unknown force". The inquest ceased officially in May 1959 as a result of the "absence of a guilty party". The files were sent to a secret archive, and the photocopies of the case became available only in the 1990s, with some parts missing.

In 1967, Sverdlovsk writer and journalist Yuri Yarovoi published the novel Of the highest rank of complexity which was inspired by this incident. Yarovoi had been involved in the search for Dyatlov's group and at the inquest, including acting as an official photographer for the search campaign and in the initial stage of the investigation, and so had insight into the events. The book was written in the Soviet era when the details of the accident were kept secret, and Yarovoi avoided revealing anything beyond the official position and well-known facts. The book romanticized the accident and had a much more optimistic end than the real events – only the group leader was found deceased. Yarovoi's colleagues say that he had alternative versions of the novel, but both were declined because of censorship. Since Yarovoi's death in 1980 all his archives, including photos, diaries and manuscripts, have been lost.
Some details of the tragedy became publicly available in 1990 following publications and discussions in Sverdlovsk's regional press. One of the first authors was Sverdlovsk journalist Anatoly Guschin. Guschin reported that police officials gave him special permission to study the original files of the inquest and use these materials in his publications. He noticed that a number of pages were excluded from the files, as was a mysterious "envelope" mentioned in the case materials list. Guschin summarized his research in the book The Price of State Secrets is Nine Lives. Some researchers criticized it due to its concentration on the speculative theory of a "Soviet secret weapon experiment", but the publication aroused the public discussion, stimulated by interest in the paranormal.
Indeed, many of those who remained silent for 30 years reported new facts about the accident. One of them was the former police officer Lev Ivanov who led the official inquest in 1959. In 1990 he published an article along with his admission that the investigation team had no rational explanation of the accident. He also reported that he received direct orders from high-ranking regional officials to dismiss the inquest and keep its materials secret after reporting that the team had seen "flying spheres". Ivanov personally believes in a paranormal explanation - specifically, UFOs.
The Dyatlov Foundation has been founded in Yekaterinburg, with the help of Ural State Technical University. The foundation's aim is to convince current Russian officials to reopen the investigation of the case, and to maintain the "Dyatlov Museum" to perpetuate the memory of the dead hikers.