The original mystery was reported in Russian. By looking at these and comparing them to English versions we have identified quite a number of components that seem to have been lost in translation. These “facts” may-or-may not be true but are as follows:
The Mansi Natives Abduction Theory
This was the first theory to emerge but was quickly discredited by the Russian authorities. In this theory the skiers, who are inside their tents, are surprised by Mansi native intruders. The intruders cut open the sides of the tent and force the partially clothed skiers down the hill to the forest. It is the intruders that build a fire for skiers and force them to wait in the freezing cold. After a while two of the skiers die from hypothermia. Dyatlov and two companions make a run for the tents (perhaps to get the rifle?) but exhausted before they even start, they collapse on the way and die. The remaining survivors are forced to march into the woods and made to stand at the edge of a convenient ravine but not before they take what clothes they can from their fallen comrades. Nicolas Thibeaux-Brignollel is struck over the head with a weapon crushing his skull. Dubinina keeps shouting at the attackers to stop so they force her to the ground and kneel on her chest thus breaking her ribs they then rip out her tongue. Half dead, they throw her into the ravine. They attempt the same on Alexander Zolotarev but only succeed in breaking his ribs. Alexander Kolevatov doesn’t wait but jumps after them and tries to save his injured companions. The attackers leave them all for dead.
This was a theory apparently suggested at the time and dismissed. The reason for this was that according to the investigators there was no evidence of any other people in the vicinity. This is a dubious assessment as the whole area would have been walked over and examined by the rescuers before the investigation began. In addition, almost 23 days had passed before the discovery of the first set of victims. Snow and wind could have concealed many things during this time.
One proponent of the abduction theory suggests that the Russian authorities knew that the Mansi had been involved but covered this up so as to avoid yet another tribal and ethic issue. In short, they wanted to avoid internal unrest and possibly low-grade military fighting. There is a very good reason for doing this – oil. A little known fact about this case is that in 1957 and 1958 the Soviet Union was desperately seeking increased oil production and had secretly decided to exploit the rich reserves in the Khantia-Mansia region. In 1960, the year after the event, one of the biggest oil exploitation projects began in this district. It is easy now to see what motivation the Russian authorities would have to avoid internal conflict. In addition, now that the USSR has broken up it is clear that many of the components of the Soviet Union were not that friendly – Ukraine, Georgia, etc.
This theory discounts the orange lights, strange tans, grey hair and radiation as actually unrelated to the main event.
Comment: This theory has some considerable merit and is not dissimilar to actual recorded events where tourists have been abducted merely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. However, there is one major flaw in this theory. The victims do not appear to have been robbed and the campsite had clearly not been ransacked. Many of the items that the ski-team had with them would have been highly valuable by Mansi standards and would have almost certainly been taken. They were not. (Additional footnote: We have received a suggestion from a Russian reader of this article that has pointed out that to the Mansi (Vogul) code, killing intruders might have been acceptable, but robbing them would not.”
The Weapons Testing Theory
This theory proposes that on the night of the 2 February 1959 certain military tests were conducted very close to the where the ski-team had camped. The authorities conducting the tests were probably unaware that the ski-team was even in the vicinity. The weapon, if it exists at all, was probably an air burst concussion device with a possibly chemical warfare component. Whatever happened, it panicked the skiers who fled for the safety of the forest. They stayed under the pine tree until Dyatlov and his two companions decided to venture back to the camp where they die and freeze on route. Under the pine tree two further members die. The survivors try to wait it out but a second device is detonated overhead severely injuring three of them. Once again they are panicked into moving. After stumbling through the woods they reached the ravine. They clearly tried to survive but in the end all four died and were covered with snow. Dubanina’s tongue is later taken by a scavenger.
Comment: This theory covers everything raised as a question by the evidence – just not very convincingly. Why test a weapon in this place when they had far better sites that they could use? Why did this weapon inflict such serious damage to some of the group but not others? Surely a blast sufficiently strong to crush a skull and break multiple ribs would have damaged the tents and or parts of the trees? Surely toxicology tests would have shown up evidence of chemicals sufficiently strong to change the victims’ skin colour? This list could go on and on.