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Fact check on The New Yorker article

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A well written article came out in The New Yorker on May 10, 2021, titled: Has an Old Soviet Mystery at Last Been Solved? by Douglas Preston. I, Teodora Hadjiyska, and Igor Pavlov consulted the author with information on the case since Dec 22, 2020. Unfortunately our theory was not included and we were not given credit in the article for the assistance we provided. However, as consolation Douglas Preston left me the following endorsement: "The Dyatlov Pass Incident is one of the most confounding mysteries of the 20th century. Since it occurred in the Soviet Union sixty two years ago, it has gained world-wide fame and an international following, resulting in dozens of books, articles, and documentary films. Teodora Hadjiyska is one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Dyatlov enigma and also the creator of Dyatlovpass.com, the most comprehensive website on the subject. I highly recommend her work!"
— Douglas Preston, International bestselling author and journalist To be worthy of the praise we were compelled to take one final look over the article for fact check. I am keeping the original comments by Igor in Russian for the benefit of our Russian visitors (we have an increased traffic from Russia). The highlighted in blue lines are from the article. Igor Dyatlov was a tinkerer, an inventor, and a devotee of the wilderness.
He was an ordinary student. Yes, he had hobbies, but he was not the genius that those who knew him turned him into over the years.
Он был обычным студентом. Да, у его были хобби, но он не был гением, в которого с годами его превратили те, кто его знал. Dyatlov led a number of arduous wilderness trips, often using outdoor equipment that he had invented or improved on.
We only know about the stove, and most likely the idea is not Igor, but his father. And about the standard walkie-talkie. Again an exaggeration.
Известно только о печке, причем скорее всего идея не Игоря, а отца. И о стандартной рации. Опять преувеличение. on a route that no Russian, as far as anyone knew, had taken before.
Not true. Akselrod group found on Otorten on Feb 27, 1959 the following note left in 1956 by a Moscow hiking group.
Чушь. Как там не было русских, если на Отортене была записка московской группы туристов. Dyatlov recruited his classmate Zina Kolmogorova
They were in the same faculty but in different groups.
Они учились на одном курсе факультета, но в разных группах. They were among the élite of Soviet youth and all highly experienced winter campers and cross-country skiers.
They didn't even have official sports grades because their papers were not in order. They were no elite, just ordinary hikers. Check their hiking experience.
У них даже не было официальных спортивных разрядов. О какой элите идет речь? Lyuda Dubinina, an economics major, a track athlete, and an ardent Communist
There is nothing to confirm this. She didn't stand out as "ardent Communist" but it seem like we have to paint some character on each of them.
Откуда вдруг появилась информация, что она была пылкой коммунисткой? Она ничем не отличалась от остальных. A couple of days before the group was due to set off, the U.P.I. administration unexpectedly added a new member, much older than the others and largely unknown to them: Semyon Zolotaryov
The UPI administration had nothing to do with the organization of the trek or with Zolotaryov. The whole organization went through the UPI sports club and through the city hiking section.
Администрация УПИ не имела никакого отношения ни к организации похода, ни к Золотареву. Вся организация шла через СК УПИ и через городскую секцию туризма. Several of them hid under seats to avoid buying tickets.
Only Dubinina, the alleged "stickler to the rules".
Только одна Дубинина. About a hundred feet downhill, the search party found “very distinct” footprints of eight or nine people, walking (not running) toward the tree line
For the first time the footprints are observed and mentioned in the the testimonies on February 28, which is 2 days after the discovery of the tent.
Первое упоминание об обнаружении следов - только 28 февраля, через 2 дня после обнаружения палатки. on the trunk bits of skin and torn clothes were found.
There is nothing in the case files about this. Only the emotional words of Ivanov in the "Mystery of the fireballs" published 30 years after the events, where he also speaks about UFOs.
Документальных подтверждений нет. Только со слов Иванова через десятки лет после событий. In early May, when the snow began to melt, a Mansi hunter and his dog came across the remains of a makeshift snow den in the woods two hundred and fifty feet from the cedar tree: a floor of branches laid in a deep hole in the snow. Pieces of tattered clothing were found strewn about: black cotton sweatpants with the right leg cut off, the left half of a woman’s sweater. Another search team arrived and, using avalanche probes around the den, they brought up a piece of flesh.
It didn't go down quite like that. It sounds like a Mansi hunter accidentally found the den and called the search party. The Mansi only joined the party that was already ordered to dig because of some other traces - pine needles, stubs etc. Mansi didn't discover the den.
Ощущение, что настил случайно нашел охотник-манси и вызвал поисковую группу. На самом деле манси были в составе поисковой группы, которая продолжала поиск и нашла настил. Many of them wrote to officials, including Khrushchev, demanding a more thorough investigation.
A telegram to Khrushchev was sent on February 27 urging to start looking for their children. Nothing after that and nothing about "thorough investigation".
Хрущеву писали в самом начале поисков, а не после. For decades, the families and the Dyatlov Group Memorial Foundation pressed for a new investigation; two years ago, elderly relatives of several victims finally succeeded in getting the case reopened.
The case (investigation) was never reopened. A prosecutor's preliminary check was carried out on the materials of the 1959 case. The Foundation has nothing to do with this procedure. It was held on the initiative of Komsomolskaya Pravda, whose correspondent (Varsegova) represented the interests of Zolotaryov's relatives.
Дело (расследование) не было вновь открыто. Проводилась прокурорская проверка по материалам дела 1959 года. Фонд не имеет никакого отношения к этой проверке. Она проводилась по инициативе Комсомольской Правды, корреспондент которой (Варсегова) представляла интересы родственников Золотарева. As Kuntsevich wrote to me sarcastically, Kuryakov was shunted off to “felling trees.”
Not sure if it is evident from the text in the article that Kuntsevich made a very unceremonious remark on Kuryakov's current position as director of the forestry department. In the late 1950s, the Soviet counterpart of this department was engaged in logging (Ivdellag). We think Kuntsevich meant that Kuryakov is now felling trees i.e. logging, meaning sent to the Gulag.
Мне кажется, что ДП скорее не понял Кунцевича. Курьяков же теперь директор департамента лесного хозяйства. В конце 50-х годов советский аналог этого департамента занимался лесозаготовками (Ивдельлаг). Думаю, что Кунцевич говорил, что Курьякова перевели на вырубку деревьев=лесозаготовки, имея в виду исторические аналогии. Note from the authors of "1079 - the Overwhelming Force of Dyatlov Pass"
There is no need to turn the members of the Dyatlov group into martyrs. Finding the truth about their tragic death will remain a cause worth fighting for without presenting them as perfect, virtuous individuals. We have long lived in countries where there was a constant impetus for people to be turned into exemplary statues. This is like burying a broken body in a golden sarcophagus. Let's remember the Dyatlov group as normal, ordinary, young people, not monuments.

Human nature seems directed toward elevating those who die.  When I had a close, sudden loss twenty years ago, it was hard not to fall into the trap of putting him on a pedestal; I think we often feel guilt for speaking ill of the dead, yet we are all fallible and we all make mistakes.  He was not perfect, lol.  But he became a martyr in my eyes for many years after. 

It is always good to be reminded that the Dyatlov group wasn't elite in the sense that we try to paint them to be.  They were (with the exception of Zolotaryov,) young adults.  In 1959 Soviet Siberia, that may come with more responsibility than modern day USA, but I do look back at my early twenties and often wonder how I survived, lol! 

Thank you for the clarification on this article!  The untruths that pervade Dyatlov research, even today in 2021, just cloud the situation, which is why fact checking is so vastly important! 

I subscribe to the New Yorker magazine, so I was, of course, very excited and interested when I came across Douglas Preston's article! However, it ultimately was a disappointing read for me - for a couple of reasons.

Given the timing of publication, it was a serious omission of the author not to give even a passing mention to Teddy's/Igor's publication, especially as both acted in a capacity of consultants to Preston's piece - I guess this must be put down to the competitive nature of journalistic-style authoring?!?  nea1

As Teddy mentions (I am very new here (2nd post) - so I hope that it is OK to be calling you by "Teddy" - after all - we hardly know each other  bow7 ), this article shows just how easy, even in small ways, it becomes to distort & embellish facts ... and I understand that Teddy has done a phenomenal job (here, as well as in her published book) to present DPI "facts" as clearly and accurately as possible.

I have been following the DPI mystery for about 10 years now, the "Somerton Man" mystery (which is VERY local to me) since the internet was a baby, and the investigation of the Romanov massacre since the late 1970's - reading thousands of pages on all of these topics it becomes very apparent that, especially with time, so many "facts" are, in fact, just a collection of generally agreed-upon half-truths, embellishments and inventions.

Despite the finished New Yorker article, bravo to Teddy's & Igor for their contributions to Preston's piece.

Hi Teddy,

I’m truly sorry they cut out the section about you, the website, and the tree theory. Quite a bit had to be cut.

As for Eichar, I did criticize his theory, which is quite ridiculous. I am sure he is not happy today. The rest of his book is good, in the sense that he went to Russia and interviewed a lot of relevant people and gathered important information.

I know you don’t accept the Kuryakov theory. But I have to say that the more I read about the mystery, the more I thought about it, the more I came to believe that the Kuryakov explanation, and Shkryabach’s before him, is the only one that fit the facts. The problem with all the theories that involve “staging” the scene, is that there was no evidence in the snow of the people and vehicles that would have left a trace if such a thing had happened. Also, the staging itself, with bodies scattered about the landscape, clothes cut off and put on other people, branches broken, snow den built, makes no sense and is far too complicated to have been done without leaving major traces in the snow. I grew up in northern New England and have a lot of winter camping, winter mountain climbing, and cross-country skiing experience. There is no way a group of people could have staged the scene and left no or few traces in the snow.

I greatly appreciate your help with the piece and the website, which is a tremendous reference for anyone working on Dyatlov. I am sorry they cut out what I wrote regarding all that.

With best wishes,

... and here is a perfect tale as to why you should never jump to conclusions without be adequately informed of the facts!

Thank you for sharing, Teddy. I had assumed that it was the author's own choice to exclude your book from his New Yorker article, but his explanation as to the true reason seems valid - and clearly something ended up being out of his hands.


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