The Hikers

Semyon “Alexander” Zolotarev: Born in 1921, 37-year-old Zolotarev stands out like a sore thumb in our group of tourists. He was the oldest of the hikers and the only one who wasn’t at the time and had never been a student at UPI. Introducing himself as “Sasha,” a nickname for Alexander, he spent time in the Russian military during WWII, between 1941-1946. He apparently impressed enough that he attained the rank of sergeant. In 1946, he transferred to the Leningrad Military Engineering University. Later, he moved to the Minsk Institute of Physical Education. He then began working as a guide at the tourist base Artybash in Altai in Southern Siberia. Later, he became an instructor at the Kourovskaya Tourist Base. There is some speculation that he quit this last job right before the trip that claimed his life, but I have been unable to verify this. Zolotarev was originally supposed to trek across the Urals with a different group, but his mother had fallen ill and he wanted to go visit her. His first group’s itinerary didn’t suit him, so the leader of that trip introduced him to Igor Dyatlov, who welcomed the seasoned tourist into his group with open arms. Many people suspect him of being a KGB agent due to his connections with the military, his constant and seemingly random moving around, his giving of the name “Sasha,” and/or his switching to Dyatlov’s expedition when the itineraries between the two groups only differed by a few days. Although his involvement with the KGB remains unproven, it is a definite possibility. He died on the eve of his 38th birthday. 

February 2, 1921-February 1959. 

Yuri “Georgyi” Krivonischenko: In 1959, Krivonischenko was doing pretty well for himself. Even though he was only 26, he had graduated from UPI and was working as an engineer at Chelyabinsk-40, the secret, closed nuclear city south of Sverdlovsk. He was a hard and diligent worker. He was part of a group involved with the cleanup after the Kyshtym nuclear accident on September 29, 1957, when a plutonium plant experienced a radioactive leak. Additionally, Krivonischenko was musically inclined and played the mandolin. He had a lively personality and a volatile temper. 

February 7, 1935-February 1959.

Alexander Kolevatov: “Kolya,” as he was known to his friends, is another character who arouses suspicion. Though he was only 25 years old at the time of the incident, he had already worked for years for a secret laboratory in Moscow – a most impressive feat considering his age and social status. In 1956, when he was only 22, he left his cushy job in the big city and transferred to UPI to study technical physics. He wanted to join the military, leading many to suspect that he, like Zolotarev, had ties to the KGB. He was a diligent, methodical, and pedantic young man. The girls on the expedition, Dubanina and Kolmogorova, found him “boring.” He was known to keep meticulous notes on all of his trips, but his journal for his last expedition was never found. 

November 16, 1934-February 1959. 

Nicolai Thibeaux-Brignolle: Thibeaux-Brignolle did not have the most promising start. His father was a French communist who had been executed during Stalin’s reign of power. He was even born inside a prison camp. Despite his not-so-great beginnings, he was adventurous and had a good sense of humor. He had just graduated from UPI with a degree in civil engineering at the time of the incident, and he was working as a foreman for a company in Sverdlovsk. 

June 5, 1935-February 1959.

Rustem Slobodin: The wealthiest member of the group, Slobodin was another UPI graduate. At just 23 years old, he had landed a job as an engineer. Known as “Rustik” to his friends, he, like Krivonischenko, was musically inclined. He even brought his mandolin along on the expedition; it was one of the items found by a rescue team in the cache. He was the son of a university professor, but he was known to be down to earth and humble. He particularly enjoyed running marathons. 

January 11, 1936-February 1959.

Igor Dyatlov: At the time of the incident, Dyatlov was 23 years old and a fifth year in UPI’s radio engineering program, scheduled to graduate later in 1959. He was very into radios – he built many short-wave radios himself despite them being illegal in the Soviet Union at the time – and photography – he was selling his photographs to newspapers by the time he entered high school. He was also drawn to tourism. He had a profound appreciation and respect for nature, and he was an avid tourist in the most Russian sense of the word. He was a star at UPI, so much so that they had asked him to stay on as an experienced ski tourist after his graduation later that year. Dyatlov was the leader of the 1959 expedition, the one for whom the pass later became named. He helped design and build both the stove and the tent that the group used on their journey. 

January 13, 1936-February 1959. 

Zinaida Kolmogorova: “Zina,” as she was known to her friends, was a 22 year old tomboy in her fourth year at UPI, studying radio engineering like Dyatlov. She was well-liked by nearly everyone she met. Even the children the tourists met in Serov begged her to stay with them and head their children’s group. She had formerly dated Doroshenko, another of the tourists in the group. Their relationship had been quite serious, but they had broken up by January 1959.  She was once bitten by a viper while on a hike and she refused to let the others carry her load because she didn’t want to inconvenience them.

January 12, 1937-February 1959. 

Yuri Doroshenko: At 21, Doroshenko was still a student at UPI. He had at one time dated Kolmogorova – their relationship had been serious enough that he had visited her parents in Kamensk-Urals – but they had broken up some time before the expedition in 1959. Their breakup was said to be amicable. He was modest and reserved, keeping his emotions to himself for the most part.

January 12, 1938-February 1959. 

Lyudmila Dubanina: “Lyuda,” at 20, was the youngest of the group. She was a third year student at UPI, studying engineering and economics. She enjoyed singing and photography. She was a petite, friendly blonde who was known for being outspoken and, perhaps overly, opinionated. Friends recalled that she sometimes got herself in trouble with her words. She had been shot in 1957 when, during a hike in the Eastern Sayan Mountains, another tourist had mishandled a rifle and injured her. She became the group’s medic after Yudin turned back. She was also the official photographer of the group.

May 12, 1938-February 1959. 

Yuri Yudin: Yudin was the only surviving member of the group. He had suffered from a lifelong illness and a former injury, and he turned back at the second severny while the rest of the group journeyed on. Some report that he was a geology student, while others claim he studied engineering. Donnie Eichar, author of ‘Dead Mountain: The Untold True Story of the Dyatlov Pass Incident,’ had an interview with Yuri Yudin not long before Yudin’s death. Eichar, in his book, states that Yudin was a geology student, so I tend to believe that. Yuri Yudin didn’t do many interviews, so Eichar’s interview is one of the most reliable, in my opinion. 

July 19, 1937 – April 27, 2013

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