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Mysterious Deaths of 9 Skiers Still Unresolved

Published: February 19, 2008 (Issue # 1349)



  • From left, Lyudmila Dublinina, Rustem Slobodin, Alexander Zolotaryov and Zina Kolmogorova posing in early 1959.
    Photo: infoDjatlov.narod.ru

  • Yuri Yudin hugging Lyudmila Dublinina as he prepares to leave the group due to illness in late January 1959, as Igor Dyatlov looks on.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • A photo developed from a roll of film found at the camp showing skiers setting up camp at about 5. p.m. on Feb. 2, 1959.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • Igor Dyatlov
    Photo: infodjatlov.narod.ru

  • Yuri Yudin
    Photo: infodjatlov.narod.ru

  • A metal fragment from Igor Dyatlov’s Pass that Kuntsevich believes to be evidence in the case.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

  • A view of the tent as the rescuers found it on Feb. 26, 1959. The tent had been cut open from inside, and most of the skiers had fled in socks or barefoot.
    Photo: For The St. Petersburg Times

Nine experienced cross-country skiers hurriedly left their tent on a Urals slope in the middle of the night, casting aside skis, food and their warm coats.

Clad in their sleepwear, the young people dashed headlong down a snowy slope toward a thick forest, where they stood no chance of surviving bitter temperatures of around minus 30 degrees Celsius.

Baffled investigators said the group died as a result of “a compelling unknown force” — and then abruptly closed the case and filed it as top secret.

The deaths, which occurred 49 years ago on Saturday, remain one of the deepest mysteries in the Urals. Records related to the incident were unsealed in the early 1990s, but friends of those who died are still searching for answers.

“If I had a chance to ask God just one question, it would be, ‘What really happened to my friends that night?’” said Yury Yudin, the only member of the skiing expedition who survived.

Yudin and nine other students from the Ural Polytechnic Institute embarked on the skiing expedition to Otorten Mountain in the northern Urals on Jan. 28, 1959. Yudin fell ill near Vizhai, the last settlement before the mountain, and was left behind.

What happened next has been reconstructed from the diaries of the rest of the group and the photographs they took. Copies of the diaries, photos and investigators’ records were reviewed for this article.

The skiers, led by Igor Dyatlov, 23, set up camp for the night of Feb. 2 on the slope of Kholat-Syakhl, a mountain next to Otorten. They pitched their tents at around 5:00 p.m., investigators said, citing photos that they developed from rolls of film found among the abandoned belongings.

Why the nine skiers picked the spot is unclear. The group could have detoured just 1.5 kilometers down the mountain to a forest, where they would have found shelter from the harsh elements.

“Dyatlov probably did not want to lose the distance they had covered, or he decided to practice camping on the mountain slope,” Yudin said by telephone from Solikamsk, a town near Yekaterinburg, where the institute, now named Ural State Technical University, is located.

When the group left the institute for the expedition, Dyatlov promised to send a telegram as soon as they returned to Vizhai from Otorten Mountain, which he said would be by Feb. 12.

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ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Dec. 19


Test your mastery of parlor games during Game Evening at the British Book Center. Learn how to play a variety of classic, mentally challenging games and use your newly acquired skills to crush weaker opponents. The event beings at 5 p.m.



Saturday, Dec. 20


The city’s Babushkina Park on Prospekt Obukhovskoy Oborony will be invaded by dozens of rocking-and-rolling Santa Clauses during today’s Santa Claus Parade. Not only will they parade through the park but there will also be competitions amongst the festively-clad participants and a musical master class. There will also be a prize for the best-dressed Santa Claus.


Stock up your record collection during the Vinyl Christmas Sale at the KL10TCH bar on Konyushennaya ploschad today. Spend the afternoon perusing the records for sale while listening the classic, clean sound of records spinning out hits from a variety of musical genres and time periods.



Sunday, Dec. 21


The Zenit St. Petersburg basketball team returns to the northern capital this evening for a matchup with Krasny Oktyabr, a Volgograd-based basketball club. Tickets for the game, which tips off at 6 p.m. this evening, can be purchased on the club’s website or at their arena, Sibur Arena, on Krestovsky island.


Satisfy your sugar cravings during Sweet New Year, an ongoing seasonal festival at the Raduga shopping center. Each weekend of December will welcome hungry visitors to taste hundreds of different kinds of desserts made from a plethora of sweet treats. Workshops are open to visitors and seasonal gifts can also be purchased for those rushing to finish their New Year shopping.



Monday, Dec. 22


Pick out the latest fashions as holiday gifts for loved ones or as early presents for yourself during the Christmas Design Sale at Kraft on Obvodny Kanal, starting on Dec. 20 and continuing through Dec. 27. Designer clothes will be on sale every day of the week or you can buy something more festive to decorate the home while sipping on hot coffee and perusing the various master classes.



Tuesday, Dec. 23


Meet Arctic explorers Fedor Konukhov and Viktor Simonov during SPIBA’s and Capital Legal Service’s event “Arctic Expedition” this morning in the Mertens House business center at 21 Nevsky Prospekt. The meeting will discuss the explorers’ ongoing eco-social project and how companies can use the project as a unique marketing opportunity. Email office@spiba.ru by Dec. 22 if you wish to attend.



Wednesday, Dec. 24


The Anglican Church of St. Petersburg we will be holding a Christmas Eve service at 7 p.m. led by Rev Wm. Shepley Curtis of the Episcopal Church. The service will be held at the Swedish Church at 1/3 Malaya Konyushennaya Ulitsa.



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