This is a speculative reenactment of the events outside the tent up on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl on Dyatlov group last night alive. This story is based the following facts:
- sightings of light effects in the sky are common for this latitude ***
- Zolotoryov and Thibeaux-Brignolles were wearing felt boots (valenki)
- the camera found around Zolotoryov's neck
- frame from Zolotoryov's damaged film
- Thibeaux-Brignolles and Krivonischenko’s knives were found in their parkas inside the tent
- Kolevatov's Finish knife was found inside the tent in March
- The black plastic sheath of that same knife was found outside the tent in May when the snow started to melt
- Kolevatov was wearing one felt boot on his right foot
- Dyatlov's jacket was found outside the tent, knife in his pocket
- Dyatlov's flashlight was found on top of the tent
- Slobodin's injuries
- Rustem's body was the only one with icy bed under from the hardening of the thawing snow
*** Here is a statement of someone familiar with the region:
"I have lived a number of years above the Arctic Circle. Lights, fireballs, and other strange luminescent events are common. People in the lower latitudes only know about 'the Northern Lights' but there is a whole range of strange and spectacular things that happen at the higher latitudes. And it's not all lights either. Sound events often occur too, with and without lights. I have heard and seen things that I would think were alien ships whizzing by or crashing if I wasn't an engineer with a physics education. The amount of energy deflected and channeled by the earth's magnetic field is enormous and causes all sorts of light and sound shows at the higher latitudes.
Everyone wants to treat the fireball events seen around the time of the Dyatlov tragedy as special. Sorry, that sort of thing is not special at all. Go spend a couple winters up there and you'll see. I have. And I am not impressed at all by the stories. They are as common as hurricanes in Florida. Sure, some are bigger than others and some seasons have few and others a lot. But what was seen was not unique."
Let's read about an incident that happened on March 31, 1959. Sergey Sogrin, 4th year student in UPI, went out of the rescuers tent to relief himself at 4 am and saw a "fireball" (the emergency flight of the R-7 ICBM from Tyuratam to Kur). He went back to the tent and alarmed Meshternyakov, who was the watchman at that time, and who woke up the rest of the rescuers. They all went out to look at the fireball the way they were sleeping or else they will miss the show. They were wearing socks only, and trying to step on branches that were laying around the tent. Does it ring a bell? What if Zolotoryov and Thibeaux-Brignolles put their valenki and went out to relief themselves, saw something in the sky, Zolotoryov might have rushed back to the tent to get his camera and called the rest of the hikers to observe whatever was happening in the sky. I am speculating that whatever got the hikers out of the tent was in the sky and not an immediate threat because they would otherwise try to put on some shoes, clothes, and take their knives. Dyatlov went out in his jacket and there was a knife in his pocket. Kolevatov had his Finish knife in a sheath hung on his belt. They would also have exited the tent through its designated opening, and not cutting through the sides, or else they wouldn't arrange and look up in the sky while Zolotoryov is shooting photos above their heads. Cutting through the sides of the tent would call for running for their lives which did not happen. The footprints show walking in the snow, not running. While they watch the sky something goes terribly wrong. But they are 9 young and physically fit people, 2 women amongst them. Behavior analysis says that it is very probable somebody to try to stand up for the group. If they were threatened with (machine) guns and ordered to strip (Dyatlov's jacket was found outside the tent), Kolevatov must have unbuckled his belt to remove the sheath and throw it in the snow. If Slobodin snatched the blade from the sheath and try to confront the attackers, he would have been beaten to be incapacitated, not just for intimidation. He received several heavy blows to the head, capable of knocking anyone out, he had low foot injury (two well-known abrasions remained on the lower third of the left shin), crack in the skull (on the left side) that looks very much like from a butt of an firearm, bilateral hemorrhages in the temporal muscles, abrasions and scratches on the forehead, abrasions on the left cheekbone and eyelid of the right eye. Rustem had bloody nose too. These injuries are consistent with boxing or wrestling i.e. hand to hand fight. Rustem had bruised knuckles and laceration of the skin in the lower part of the right forearm (like Yuri Doroshenko).
Now lets turn our attention to the black plastic sheath that Yuri Yudin and Rimma Kolevatova identified as belonging to Alexander Kolevatov. The knife was a present from Rimma to her brother and she knew it very well. The knife was found in the tent, and the sheath was outside the tent. What is more interesting is why the sheath was without a belt. The owner had to unbuckle the belt, remove the sheath, and then put the belt back through the loops of the pants - this manipulation itself is rather strange, because a knife suspended in a sheath does not cause inconvenience. You can quickly get used to it and stop noticing it, you can even sleep with it without any problems. But Kolevatov for some reason decided to get rid of the sheath. Apart from this, the knife was removed from the sheath outside the tent. If Kolevatov really saved his friends from under the snow slump and cut his tent with his "fink" from the inside, the picture should have been the opposite - the empty sheath is in the tent, and the knife is outside it. That's not the case though. Something prompted Alexander Kolevatov to remove the knife in its sheath from the belt and throw it into the snow, as if they were unnecessary to him - and this action is completely absurd in the case of any non-criminal scenario of events. A knife dramatically increases his chances of survival in an uncertain environment. The logic in removing the sheath from the belt and throwing out the knife can only be in case of forced disarmament, i.e. execution of the team under threat of reprisal.
Another scenario - there is an avalanche and Kolevatov, the only one with his knife on the belt pulls it out, cuts the tent from the inside to secure an escape route, then throws the knife away to help his friends out. The knife is registered to him and if he loses the "Finn" he can get up to 5 years of imprisonment (Article 182 of the Criminal Code of the RSFSR in the redaction of 1926 with additions from 1933 and 1935). Lets say Kolevatov is not rational. But why stop outside and make the much more lengthy exercise of removing the empty sheath from his belt?
After Kolevatov put his "Finn" in the sheath on the snow, someone tried to use the knife. There is no other explanation why the sheath is empty outside the tent. Alexei Rakitin in his article "Why Rustem Slobodin froze first?" ("Почему Рустем Слободин замёрз первым?") in his online edition "Death is not far behind... " (my friend Andrei Andreev gave me this loose translation of "Смерть, идущая по следу…") makes a very good speculative reenactment of the events surrounding the first encounter of the group with their attackers. Because of Rustem Slobodin's character, background, type of injuries and how he was found - Rakitin believes that Rustem Slobodin was the person who pulled the "Finn" out of the sheath and try to resist. The moment when he must have tried that would be when he bent to remove his felt boots. He was found with only one felt boot on his right foot. Slobodin remained in the same felt-boots: the first he took off himself before grabbing the knife, and after the beating no one began to pull off the second felt from the unconscious body.
The other two hikers wearing felt boots were Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles and Semyon Zolotaryov. In my scenario they have their boots on because they went out to relief themselves while the rest of the hikers were called out to look at "fireball" in the sky. Even if the attackers did not care about their boots and marched the hikers down the slope after Rustem caused the commotion, I cannot explain why they didn't "loose" Zolotoryov's camera. No matter who they were, the perpetrators must have known what a camera was for and that there could be incriminating photos that will survive the ordeal. In Rakitin's scenario Nikolai Thibeaux-Brignolles and Semyon Zolotaryov were out when the tent was attacked and they hid or ran in the dark, and joined their friends later on when they were already marching down the slope. I have it difficult to adhere to this version because the hikers were stalked before the confrontation. I don't see a way that Thibeaux-Brignolles and Zolotaryov will come out unnoticed. They couldn't have been out in their felt boots for more than 5-10 mins, and the traces of urine were not far away from the tent. Nobody goes to pee in the untrampled snow.
The beating of Slobodin was the climax in the scene at the tent. Suppressed by all seen and heard, not understanding the essence of what is happening, the hikers have already obediently performed the last command of their tormentors: "Get out of here while you can!" Having picked up Rustem Slobodin, who was not yet fully come to life, the tourists pulled down the slope, intuitively realizing not to go in the direction of the labaz (cache), so their attackers would not vandalize the provisions they have left there.
The hikers did not run, the attackers told them to scram. Their first reaction to the incident was quite understandable - they were relieved that the extremely shameful, disgusting and senseless scene of their general humiliation and beating had ended. The weather was relatively warm -5°С to -7°С - and compared to the stress such cold did not seem prohibitive or even dangerous. Very soon - literally a few dozen meters from the tent - the group was joined by the Thibeaux-Brignolles and Zolotaryov. While going down the slope the reunited group was engaged in a animated discussion of the incident, a discussion that must have been very polemical and even conflicting. Zolotaryov knew more than others and had the most extensive life experience, it he must have offered a plan, perhaps even imposed it on the rest of the group. What this action plan was, we will never know and can only guess.
We know that the tracks down the slope converged, then parted, but kept a common direction, and the hikers were always within a earshot. They certainly talked on the move, adrenaline high, vigorously proving and convincing each other of one thing or another. So, what does it prove? Objectively, nothing, or rather, just that the hikers descending the slope had the intention of sticking together. However, for a psychologist this "swarming of the footsteps" ("Human Swarming and the future of Collective Intelligence") there is considerable meaning. Hikers intuitively divided into groups "according to preferences" - when someone suggested a reasonable plan of action, supporters moved closer to him, when another reasonable proposal followed - people went to him. This does not mean that the hikers ran from one leader to another, this is unconscious movement.
Unfortunately the tracks were not photographed and studied by the investigators. If this were the case, after the discovery of the corpses, prints on the snow could have been matched to a specific person. Imagine being able to say: here Lyudmila Dubinina walks for 150 m along with Dyatlov, and then moves closer to Zolotaryov and continues descending beside him; Kolevatov always remains near Semen Zolotaryov; Rustem Slobodin moves a little apart from the rest of the hikers and in a general does not seem to be involved in the conversation ... We could have followed each of the group members down the slope and their body language could have said a lot about the last hours of their lives, about the clustering from the cedar in particular.
Rustem Slobodin was suffering from the cerebral trauma he received stumbled behind the group. At a distance of about 1 km from the tent he fell into the snow. Rustem lost consciousness and the ability to move about 20 mins after the attack. It is well known that people who have suffered the heaviest knockout and who received a severe closed brain injury can recover and for some time demonstrate satisfactory condition (until the intracranial hemorrhage begins to put pressure on the meninges). Soccer players can continue the game, the boxer can break into a fight ... well-known video recordings of athletes who received death craniocerebral injuries during the competition, but at the same time show complete self-control and external well-being for a while. After 10-20 minutes, it ends with a call to the team physician first, and then - the paramedics. This phenomenon of the seeming vigor of an already actually dying person is sometimes very accurately called "deferred death". The speed of development of the process is significantly affected by the motor activity of the victim and the temperature of the environment - both slow the growth of hemorrhage.
No one noticed the disappearance of Rustem Slobodin in the dark - the group went ahead leaving their mortally wounded friend lagging behind. Rustem was the first to die, this is clearly indicated by the high temperature of his body at the time of the fall in the snow. Underneath was discovered the so-called "bed of the corpse", a layer of melted snow that forms from the warmth of the body. Such a "bed of the corpse" was present only under Slobodin's body, the rest of the hikers found on the slope and at the cedar were already very cold by the time they fell to the ground.