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Author Topic: Did Dyatlov suffer a schizophrenic break?  (Read 1753 times)

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April 13, 2020, 11:53:59 AM
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kmai19


Welcome to any and all corrections- I'm spinning this off the top of my head from what I've read, so I could be misremembering some stuff.

My current going theory is that Dyatlov suffered a violent schizophrenic break that lead to the group abandoning the tent and their eventual demise. It's the only thing I can come up with that answers some seemingly at odds facts (them leaving without shoes, but in an orderly fashion, etc).

First, a piece of cultural context that drove the development of this theory.

1.) At the time, and in large extent to this day, mental illness in Russia is a taboo and even shameful subject. Had Dyatlov been experiencing a slow decline, neither he nor those around him would have had the knowledge to pick up on it; in fact, they may have just ascribed any eccentricity to his 'stalwart' and strict character. Schizophrenia in particular can be a creeping disorder that even those around the schizophrenic sufferer may not notice; it often develops into a full blown illness under extreme stress and right around the mid 20s. 

I believe a schizophrenic explanation also accounts for the government's weirdly close-lipped account and awkward handling of the case; at the time, in the Soviet Union, mental illness was often used as an excuse to imprison the politically inconvenient. Soviet investigators would probably not have even approached the topic, since good Soviet youth (as all the Dyatlov team members were, no moreso than Dyatlov himself) never, ever got schizophrenia (this ties into the Soviet belief that they were creating a "new man" free from things like mental illness, and that many mental disorders were simply the effect of oppression under capitalism, etc.)

On to my best attempt at a blow-by-blow account of what happened.

Schizophrenia may present in different forms and it is often exacerbated by stress; in Dyatlov's case, a couple of different incidents prior to the final hiking trip hint at this. His bizarre, strict "wash your feet" policy, is one item that stands out (perhaps he had a fear of pathogens). That he had previously given fellow hikers the silent treatment when they refused to obey his orders, and even started a hunger strike for the same reasons, indicate an already suspicious amount of paranoia and desire to exert control (infamously, untreated schizophrenics can starve to death because of their delusions- check out the harrowing documentary God Knows Where I Am).

Much was riding on this trip for Dyatlov. He was leading a group of eight other people (themselves experienced outdoorsmen), one of whom was significantly older and a WWII veteran, in an attempt to gain a master sportsman certification. The area was exceedingly remote, as well.

I think circumstantial evidence points to Dyatlov beginning to crack under the strain at least from the day before the team died. They left extremely late that day- 10 am- and when they set up their tent, it was in an odd manner (with ski poles instead of stakes, iirc), and in an odd location (why not closer to the tree line, where they would be sheltered from wind).

We know from prior accounts that Dyatlov was a strict, commanding leader. His team would likely have been following his orders-- from the late start, to the odd set up, to the odd location. I believe that Dyatlov was suffering disordered and paranoid thinking by this point, which is typical of schizophrenics; they'll do strange things or alter their normal behavior in order to confound those "pursuing" them in their delusions.

At this point, as they began to settle in, I think someone confronted him. Perhaps Zolotaryov, who certainly had the experience and age to realize that something wasn't quite right (this may also explain why he and Thibo had remained dressed). This argument rapidly brought Dyatlov to his boiling point, and he snapped- ordering them out of the tent immediately and in a bizarre fashion (ie cutting through it rather than exiting normally, suggesting some sort of irrational paranoia about the regular exit). Perhaps he held the missing knife on them, and perhaps the team, too young and too enamored of their leader (with the exception of Zolotaryov) to resist, followed his orders, thinking he'd quickly come to his senses in the cold.

The team headed to the tree line, where Dyatlov ordered Doroshenko and Krivonischenko to make a fire and to create a sort of "duck blind" from the cedar so they would watch the tent (again, a symptom of paranoia; perhaps he believed something dangerous was within the tent and hunting for them). Eventually, they built a fire, but by that time, Doroshenko and Krivonischenko were dying of hypothermia, having exerted themselves gathering wood (getting sweaty) and then that sweat freezing. They lay close to the fire as possible (leading to the superficial burns seen on their bodies), but in the end, succumbed. Perhaps Dyatlov, still in charge and paranoid, ordered the team to flip Doroshenko so he could not "see" Dyatlov (the fear of being watched or judged is extreme with schizophrenia).

At this point, I think Zolotaryov finally took action. They stripped the dead for their clothes, and then he and the others bound a violently-resisting Dyatlov (which explains the symmetrical abrasions on Dyatlov's ankles) and left him. Perhaps Zina and Rustem stayed behind, unwilling to leave their friend and leader. Exhausted and reasoning that they'd only survive an attempt to get back in the tent come morning, Zolotaryov lead the remaining three members to a ravine, where they worked to construct a snow shelter.

At some point, Dyatlov either wiggled free or got Zina and Rustem to untie him. He then, deeply paranoid, hunted down an exhausted Zolotaryov and his group, killing them rapidly and in short succession with a blunt object (possibly a rock)? He then lead Zina and Rustem back towards the tent; I think here Rustem finally may have snapped and fought Dyatlov, and shortly after, they all perished from exhaustion and exposure.

Some things I can't account for:
1.) The weird camera on Zolotaryov's neck.
2.) Zolotaryov's group all died of extreme trauma and very close together (almost as if they were struck while asleep) and I do question that a man suffering from the effects of extreme exposure could have done it (although there's something to be said for the strength of someone dangerously mentally ill).
3.) Why did Zina and Rustem (Rustem specifically, since he was so experienced) stick with Dyatlov for so long in this potential scenario?

So... give me your thoughts!
 

April 13, 2020, 01:04:04 PM
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mk


Interesting idea--how did you develop this theory?  I'm curious about the background and your lines of reasoning.  Does his behavior remind you of people you've personally known who suffer from schizophrenia?  Are there people in Dyatlov's family history who were "eccentric" or who might have had mental illness of some kind?

It seems to me that these ideas could fit into a broader category of psychosis rather than trying to nail it down to schizophrenia.  Psychosis can occur with a number of different mental illnesses or merely be a brief psychotic disorder triggered by some kind of internal or external event.  Obviously, drugs can cause a kind of psychosis as well. 

When it comes to Dyatlov theories, we generally have two broad categories: 1) Their seemingly irrational behavior was really very rational given the external situation; we just have to discover what that very unique situation was (avalanche, murderers, ball lightning, yeti, etc.) or 2) Their irrational behavior was caused by something which altered their ability to reason well (fear, infrasound, drugs, poison, mental illness, etc.)  Psychosis of one of the hikers falls into the second category, with the rest of the rational hikers responding to their very unusual situation (first category).

Is there a particular reason you theorize that Dyatlov is the one who suffered from psychosis--other than the fact that he was the leader and thus his behavior might be supposed to have a greater impact on the situation?

As a mental health therapist myself, I have to admit that Dyatlov doesn't seem to have the "flavor" of schizophrenia. I'm not saying I couldn't be convinced, but his behavior as we know it certainly doesn't have much in common with other cases of schizophrenia I've known. 
 

April 13, 2020, 01:39:42 PM
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kmai19


Interesting idea--how did you develop this theory?  I'm curious about the background and your lines of reasoning.  Does his behavior remind you of people you've personally known who suffer from schizophrenia?  Are there people in Dyatlov's family history who were "eccentric" or who might have had mental illness of some kind?

Is there a particular reason you theorize that Dyatlov is the one who suffered from psychosis--other than the fact that he was the leader and thus his behavior might be supposed to have a greater impact on the situation?

Thanks for your reply!

A few things drew me in the schizophrenia direction specifically:
The Soviet/Russian discomfort with mental illness/refusal to countenance it, which would explain the government's weirdness about it
Mentions of Dyatlov's weird quirks (ie the foot cleaning, temperamental behavior when disobeyed)
The weird exiting of the tent with no reason to not exit normally, combined with the lack of rushing once they were out (that, combined with the lack of footwear, suggests to me that they were leaving under the control of someone inside the tent, who had for some reason a fear of exiting normally). 
The hand injuries on Rustem and Dyatlov, suggesting a fight
The twin abrasions on Dyatlov's feet, suggesting being bound (why would you bind a friend...unless they were dangerously unstable?)
The separation of the groups
The "duck blind" facing the tent, which suggests they were watching it for some reason. The tent was undisturbed, as far as we know, aside from having collapsed, which suggests no one was actually there; however, if Dyatlov was delusional, he may have feared something malevolent inside the tent, hence keeping an eye on it. Being followed/pursued is a common delusion of schizophrenics.
The deterioration over the previous day; the late leave, the weird camp site/tent set up- all to me suggest that they were following the whims of a leader who was mentally unwell.
The age of the people involved. Schizophrenia often presents in the mid to late 20s, and can arrive earlier with stress. It's my belief that Dyatlov was already developing schizophrenia, but the stress of this trip tipped him over. I too would be curious to know if there is a family history, but knowing the Soviet Union and Russians, if there is, it hasn't and likely will not be talked about.

When you apply the lens of "we're being followed/pursued by an evil force" to the group, and realize that only some of the group 'bought it' in the end (ie, those who didn't end up in the snow shelter), it suggests to me that one member of the group--the one in charge-- was leading the bizarre abandonment of the tent (no actual threat has ever been linked to the tent). I think the snow shelter itself, as a WWII survival tactic, is an indicator as well- it shows that Zolotaryov, the eldest and most life-experienced, was the one to break away and try to lead people to survival. Zolotaryov didn't have the emotional/friendship ties to Dyatlov that the others did.


Why I think it was Dyatlov:
I think if anyone else had suffered from delusions, Dyatlov himself wouldn't have tolerated it/would have made the decision to deal with it immediately. But when your leader is the one who is suffering-- the one you trust-- it goes against the grain, particularly in a precarious situation (and these were all Soviet kids, so they had a great respect for authority and chain of command) to ignore or turn against your leader.

I also think it's worth noting that it is very common in Russia to sort of hagiography the dead. Dyatlov's family would NEVER have shared something odd or strange about him, and likewise with his surviving friends. The fact that the feet thing and some of his other moments of petty control got out suggests a much larger, hidden pattern. It's important I think to remember that these were also early 20 somethings, from a culture which stresses the importance of authority and group effort. They just didn't have the knowledge or cultural background to resist their friend and leader (at first).

 

April 13, 2020, 03:28:42 PM
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Nigel Evans


hi there. i'm not a fan of the "mental aberration" theories, be it from drugs or otherwise. You make a lot of washing feet. Afaik this was common military practise in this era as the footwear wasn't waterproof and trench foot was a real concern.


 

April 13, 2020, 03:43:12 PM
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Jean Daniel Reuss


I am not convinced because the interest and the safety provided by a group of 9 individuals is that if one is injured or goes crazy there are 8 people left to do something about it judiciously.

 " were leaving under the control of someone inside the tent, who had for some reason a fear of exiting normally."   
It's impossible to get normal people out of a tent in minus 20 degrees Celsius in windy conditions because that would be asking them to commit suicide.


"a great respect for authority and chain of command) to ignore or turn against your leader."
If Dyatlov had gone mad the other eight would have neutralized him because it says that Dyatlov was physically less athletic than Doroshenko or Slobodin.
The Soviets seemed submissive to the authorities because they were afraid to go to the gulag (or worse).

" They just didn't have the knowledge or cultural background to resist their friend and leader (at first)."
No, the other eight had as much knowledge and character as Dyatlov.

Before discussing this in more detail I invite you to read my scenario N°1.
It's a little long, but it should interest you with the Capgras' syndrome intervention...
https://forum.dyatlovpass.com/index.php?topic=411.0
Altercation on the pass

February 03, 2020, 02:04:13 PM Reply #15
To complement Eduard Tumanov's ideas, here is something to read:

February 11, 2020, 01:59:24 PM Reply #16
Errata

The beginning of my scenario N°2
March 24, 2020, 04:07:07 PM Reply #18
"the hikers took part in a fight with outsiders."



Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
Jean Daniel Reuss

Rational guidance =

• There is nothing supernatural and mysterious about the injuries suffered by the Dyatlov group. They are all consistent with an attack by a group of professional killers who wanted to take the lives of the nine  [Per Inge Oestmoen].

• Now let us search for answers to: WHO ? WHY ? HOW ?

• The scenario must be consistent with the historical, political and psychological  contexts.

• The solution takes in consideration all known findings.
 

April 14, 2020, 08:47:14 AM
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MDGross


Jean Daniel, Your scenario misses the mark I think. Dyatlov's expeditions were popular because he was a terrific planner and organizer, and conducted his hikes in a professional manner. By most accounts, he had a sense of humor and was an easy person to like. Even he did flip out, the others wouldn't blindly obey him especially had he ordered them to walk down to the forest, which was almost certain suicide as ill prepared as they were. Surely, he would have been quickly subdued and restrained. He was not a military commander whose bizarre order might have been followed by his troops. He was a well-liked college student and popular expedition leader.
I think a mass hysteria theory is more plausible and could explain their irrational behavior.
mk: I believe your broad categories are a great way to consider their behavior: They acted rationally given the irrational circumstances, or they acted irrationally because they lost their ability to think rationally.
In an earlier post, I had written that DPI theories seem to fall into two categories: Acts of Nature – avalanche, snow slab, hurricane, infrasound, etc. and Acts requiring Human Intervention: exploding missiles or bombs, murder, execution and so forth.
 

April 14, 2020, 10:49:56 AM
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sarapuk

Case-Files Achievement Recipient
Well I have never come across any information that ever suggested that Igor Dyatlov suffered from Schizophrenia. All the indications that I have been aware of suggest that he was a level headed young man capable of leading other people.
DB
 

May 06, 2020, 03:58:29 PM
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Jean Daniel Reuss


..................
 His bizarre, strict "wash your feet" policy, is one item that stands out (perhaps he had a fear of pathogens)
..............................

 • I would like to add a supplement to this "policy" which is a further proof of Dyatlov's competence and good sense.

The habit of looking after his feet every evening is not " bizarre ", but on the contrary very reasonable and even indispensable.

It is clear that the hikers' shoes, gaiters and ski binding systems were of average quality.

By moving all the day in the snow with the feet possibly a little too tight in the shoes, the only risk is that the toes will start to freeze , without the owner of the toes piercing them.

Even if an incipient frostbite does not systematically lead to amputation, an incipient frostbite, which is easily detected by a simple visual examination, can lead to complications and health problems of varying degrees of severity, if not detected in time.


 •• Furthermore, all the information that can be read indicates that Dyatlov showed no signs of mental fragility.

Until the evening of February 1, 1959, the hike had gone without any difficulty:
moderate altitude, gentle slopes, no crevasses, no cliffs, short stages done at slow pace, sufficient sleep and food. In other words, despite the cold and wintry winter wind, there was a very large safety margin for this journey through cow mountains.

From the photos we can assume that the 9 hikers were a harmonious team and there is no reason for dispute.

For the 9 hikers, until the evening of February 1, 1959, it was a very joyful holidays without any stress,
 (except possibly a diffuse uneasiness of Dubinina after the passage to Vizhay on which I will return in my hypothesis N° 2 still in preparation).
 
Jean Daniel Reuss

Rational guidance =

• There is nothing supernatural and mysterious about the injuries suffered by the Dyatlov group. They are all consistent with an attack by a group of professional killers who wanted to take the lives of the nine  [Per Inge Oestmoen].

• Now let us search for answers to: WHO ? WHY ? HOW ?

• The scenario must be consistent with the historical, political and psychological  contexts.

• The solution takes in consideration all known findings.