Oh I absolutely do feel a profound sympathy for them. As though I knew them in life! It's crazy. The autopsy photos tend to get to me a little too much and the funeral photos are intensely dreary. It's rather fitting that everything is in black and white because it lends to the difficulty of their time and general despair. In my mind, I like to imagine that had they survived, a group of them would have defected to Norway to escape the USSR.
As far as a preferred theory: Knowing everything that I know right now from months ago, I lean more towards a natural disaster than murder, military, drugs, KGB, dead drop or any other man-made incident or extraterrestrial incident. And I say that with reservation as well. I truly HATE that nothing fits. I really HATE that there are red herrings within our evidence pile and we just don't know what they are in order for one theory to stick here. I've got my money that the beta particle radiation on the clothing is one of those red herrings. I often exclude it when playing around with a theorem. What about you, Marchesk? I don't believe I've seen you married to any particular theorem on the board. Not in the manner of say, Inge who is convinced completely that this is murder anyway.
It is only a well-planned and intelligently executed murder which can explain the deaths and all the injuries.
Many people are understandably misled by some factors like:
Misleading factor 1. No traces of other people at the site were found.
- Of course no traces of others were found. First, almost a month had passed from the night of the death of the hikers to the day when the first search and rescue team arrived. So not only were there any traces of others, there were barely any traces of the hikers themselves. Their footprints when they left the tent were only visible for a short distance. Attackers who can be expected to have moved around on skis - and most likely broad mountain skis - would not leave few if any trails that were visible after nearly four weeks. The absence of traces from others is no proof that there were no others, and judged from the damage and injuries of the hikers it is overstepping the limits of possibility that these could have been the results of natural disasters or accidents.
Misleading factor 2. There is no motive.
- When dead people are found, it is a unscientific approach to assume that if there is no obvious motive there it cannot be homicide. A dead body does not tell about what motives the killer might have had. The correct scientific approach is to use the principle of exclusion, and the most reasonable approach is to exclude the worst possibility first. That means, the possibility of murder. After having excluded all the possibilities, the conclusion of homicide is the one that is left with by far the greatest weight. The question of motive belongs to a later stage, after it has been established what actually happened. There is a motive behind also when we do not know it.
Misleading factor 3. The place was inaccessible.
- The place was perfectly accessible as a matter of course, as the presence of the search and rescue team's helicopter at the site demonstrates. It was accessible by either helicopter or skis, or a combination of these. We are not talking about a murder committed by drunken street thugs or common criminals.
Misleading factor 4. Nothing of the hikers' belongings were stolen.
- Since the target were the hikers and the purpose of the attack must have been to take their lives, their belongings were naturally uninteresting and irrelevant for the assailants. It was not a robbery.
Misleading factor 5. The murder was done in a "clumsy" and irrational way. It would have been much more rational and intelligent to just let the nine students "disappear" or shoot them and then bury them in closed coffins.
- On the contrary, the murder of the nine students were a brilliant and extremely intelligent operation. This is demonstrated by the result: Many people cannot bring themselves to believe that the nine were indeed homicide victims. This must have been exactly what those who planned the killings have reasoned would happen. And the intelligent plan worked. Further: It is a misunderstanding to believe that it would have been "easier" to let the nine "disappear" or to bury them in closed coffins after having shot them. If they had "disappeared" most people would have understood that something criminal had happened. There would have been speculation, as there is speculation now, but a complete disappearance of nine students would most probably have led to more people assuming murder. The same if the victims had been put in closed coffins and buried without anyone having been allowed to see the dead bodies. That would also have been truly suspect.
- To force the nine victims out from the tent badly dressed and let the cold do the dirty work is a very smart way to do it. Since the weather was not excruciatingly cold on the night of February 02, 1959, the nine did not die as soon as the assailants had probably expected. When they routinely hunted them down, almost certainly on skis, the attackers found that their victims were still alive. So they had to be expedited, and those who were better dressed than the others were killed with greater force whereas those who were most badly dressed only needed lighter beatings to ensure their deaths - they must have been severely weakened by the cold. Rustem Slobodin is believed to have died first, and that makes sense since he was very athletic and could be expected to put up a fight - when he probably sensed that the attackers did not want to use the firearms they most certainly carried. But his skull injury tells its tale, as did the severe injuries of Kolevatov with his broken larynx/windpipe which is frightfully consistent with a lethal technique I personally have learned in jiu jitsu, the crushed skull of Thibeaux-Brignolle as well as the crushed breast cages of Dubinina and Zolotarev. It is also more than probable that the injuries of Kolmogorova were caused by a human attack, and the damages to the bodies of Doroshenko and Krivonishenko likewise. Doroshenko and Krivonishenko had so desperately tried to climb the cedar tree that their fingers were completely destroyed, and is not likely that this was done because they wanted to collect firewood. It is far more likely that they made a last desperate and futile attempt to flee from their attackers.
The world history is full of intelligently planned murders which have been carefully performed to look like "accidents," "heart attacks," "suicides" and other non-criminal and natural causes. We have a tendency to think that murder is an act of brutal stupidity and primitivity, but that mindset may often prevent us from seeing clearly when we are confronted with a combination of utter disregard for human life and highly intelligent planning and execution. When we encounter something out of the ordinary, we are prone to ascribe it to stupidity.
For example, the Russian dictator Iosif Stalin is mostly believed to be a half-stupid and limited man because he was so boundlessly merciless in the pursuit of what he saw as the interests of the Soviet Union. But in actual fact Stalin possessed an extraordinary mind that enabled him to excel in everything from singing to poetry to any of the school's various subjects from boyhood on. In his private library he had over 20 000 books, all bore marks of being read. The ruthless Soviet chief prosecutor Andrej Vyshinskij is another example. In the West, the Moscow trials are considered a phenomenon of boundless stupidity, but in actual fact they were brilliant. The Moscow trials deceived many in the West, and they had a strong chilling effect on the opposition to the Soviet government. Significantly, Vyshinskij admitted openly that it could not be avoided that the state's judicial system also condemned innocent people. But when the ends are by principle believed to justify the means, it is natural to sacrifize 99 innocents to eliminate one who might possibly be - or become - guilty. If there was the slightest possibility that an individual could be a security risk to the state for any reason, the way to his death was short. And death could be and was accomplished by countless methods. The most intelligent methods make the result look like natural death, and therefore minimize popular unrest.
I believe that without an understanding of a mentality which is very different from the one that is based on the humanitarian principles, we are blocked from understanding what happened to the nine hikers on the fateful night of February 01-02, 1959.