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Published 2022-05-10
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A Russian Family Had Lived In Isolation In Siberia For Decades. By Choice Or Were They Forced?

Can you imagine life without smartphones and computers these days? Well, today we're going to tell you the incredible story of a Russian family who spent 42 years in complete isolation and without contact with other people, completely unaware of the changes taking place in the world! Everything happened in the cold mountains of Siberia, in Khakassia to be exact. How did it happen that for so many years a group of people had no contact with the outside world? How did they cope away from civilization? And how come they decided to live in such inaccessible regions? And who found them? Read on to find out the story of this family.

When Did This Happen?

Probably when you read the introduction to the episode, about a family living far away from civilization, you thought about some very ancient times, but you couldn’t be further from the truth. Because it was 1978 when four Soviet geologists involved in the search for iron ore decided to land by helicopter on a site in the mountains of Khakassia. Near the Mongolian border and not far from a tributary of the Abakan River, in the middle of the taiga, at a location about 200 kilometers from the nearest human settlement, they spotted a clearing and a human-like building standing nearby. The researchers could not believe that someone lived there, so they decided to stop to investigate and confirm it. The geologists first landed in the nearby territory to settle in and then went exploring. As they approached the mysterious house, they discovered more human signs of life, such as paths, a crib with potato supplies, and a bridge over a creek.

When Did This Happen?

First Meeting With The People There

When they approached the hut the first person to greet them was an elderly man who, according to the geologists' account, looked "like from a fairy tale. He was barefoot, scared, but kind." After a while, he also invited them into his house. Inside there was only one room with a tiny window the size of a palm. The room was very cramped and dirty. And there were two frightened women in it. One, at the sight of the scientists, started screaming hysterically, and the other sat with terror in her eyes. Then the geologists realized that they had to leave the house as soon as possible.

First Meeting With The People There

They Developed Their Own Language

So they moved away from the hut and took out their meal. Half an hour later the old man appeared at the doorstep, and after a while, he and the girls approached the researchers. They asked them if they had ever eaten bread, to which the old man replied, and we quote: "I have, but they have never seen it." The language he used was understandable, but the women spoke in their own way and you could hear that their speech was distorted by long years of isolation. But this is how it was possible to get to know the Lykov family.

Who Was The Lykov Family?

The head of the family was Karp Lykov, who with his wife Akulina and two children - 9-year-old Savin and 2-year-old daughter Natalia, settled in the taiga. As time went on, their family expanded and another two offspring were born - son Dmitry and daughter Agafia. One of the things that surprised geologists the most was the fact that they managed to survive for so many years in one of the coldest areas of Siberia, where temperatures can drop to -40 °C. The researchers were puzzled as to why the family decided to live forever in a place where winters are long, frosts come in September, and snow lies until May. But these people were used to living in isolation and had no intention of moving closer to populated areas.

Why Did The Family Live In Isolation?

And how was it that they found a home there and decided to flee civilization? Well, the family fell victim to brutal religious persecution. The father of the family, Karp Lykov was an Old Believer and a member of a fundamentalist Orthodox sect. Such believers had been persecuted since the times of Peter the Great, and the repressions against them intensified when the communists came to power. That's why Old Believers, fearing for their lives, often fled to Siberia. Thus, when in 1936 a communist patrol shot Karp's brother on the outskirts of their home village, Lykov and his family fled to the taiga. As they entered deeper and deeper depopulated areas, they chose where they decided to settle and that is when their 42-year-long isolation began.

Unaware Of The Changes Around Them

For over 4 decades they lived without contact with civilization. They had no telephones, radio, or television. Nor were they visited by anyone. They did not even learn about such major events in history as World War II or the arrival of man on the moon. When they were told about all that had happened during the time of their retreat, they were very impressed and found it hard to even believe some of these things. It was only through the visits of the guests, as we will tell you more about in a moment, that they gradually learned things about the outside world that until then had been foreign and unknown to them.

How Did They Survive So Long

So how did they manage to survive and solve the problems of everyday life? Since they retreated from civilization their lives have never been the same again. What they had taken with them when they fled was destroyed, so they had to find new ways to survive. They walked in clothes made of skins from hunted animals, old rags, and hemp. They wore shoes made from birch bark. At first, they had no hunting tools, so they invented traps for animals and sometimes dared to chase and catch them with their bare hands. Over time, they developed new techniques, skills, and tools, and with these, they adapted to their environment. Even so, their diet was always very simple. The family told of difficult times during the great famine and how they survived the hard times by eating tree bark.

They Developed Their Own Language

They Still Educated Their Kids

Despite such a demanding life, parents cared about their children's education. They learned to read and write. Although the only things they could read were the Bible and prayer books. And everything the children knew about the outside world came from their parents' stories and descriptions. And so they were aware that there were large cities outside where many people lived in tall buildings. They also knew that there were countries other than Russia, but it was all a total abstraction for them. Like some fantasy stories or fairy tales for us. Interestingly, despite the discovery of geologists, the family did not decide to move...

Being Sought Out By The Media

In 1982, Vasily Peskov, a correspondent for the Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper, came to visit the Lykov family. When he arrived at the household he found only the father, Karp, and one of his daughters Agafia. Akulin's mother had died back in 1962, long before any meeting, and the cause of her death was most likely starvation. The other three children were also already dead. Son Savin and daughter Natalia died of kidney failure to which the strict diet probably contributed, while second son Dmitry died of pneumonia. It is thought that exposure to civilization and viruses they had never encountered before may also have contributed to their deaths. Meanwhile, thanks to articles published by the aforementioned journalist Peskov, who often visited the Lykov family hut, their case became popular throughout Russia. People were queuing up at newsstands, waiting for the newspaper in which the reporter told more about his visits along with anecdotes and details of this amazing story.

Who Was The Lykov Family?

Life of Agafia After Father's Death

The father of the family, Karp Lykov, died in 1988. He became ill with pneumonia and refused to be transported by helicopter to the hospital. The only survivor of the family is the daughter Agafia, who despite suggestions to move to more populated centers, refused for a long time and eventually chose to continue living in isolation. Agafia, who is now about 77 years old, therefore lives alone in the mountains with twelve cats and a dog. She once admitted that she does not feel lonely and is always accompanied by God. She does not request visits from strangers, but she also stated that people have helped her a lot and perhaps without them she would have died much earlier. She is grateful that God sent all these people to her. Since her first contact with geologists, after 42 years of total isolation and visits from journalist Vasily Peskov, Agafia has received many more visitors who wanted to learn more about her family's history and their life in isolation.

Inspiration For Movies

Her stories have been the basis of numerous publications and films. Peskov, the journalist who had the most contact with the family, collected several of her articles, which in 1994 were published in the book "Lost in the taiga: a Russian family's 50-year struggle for survival and religious freedom in the Siberian taiga", translated into several languages. And in 2005, the RT news network published the documentary "Agafia - a hermit who survived 70 years in the Russian wilderness".

A Documentary About Agafia

The case of the Lykov family shows that human beings are capable of adapting to unimaginable ways of life. Their story transcends all fiction. In 2015, director Rebecca Marshall, accompanied by her technical team, visited Agafia to make a documentary about her life entitled "The Forest in Me". Because interest in her story has not waned. The hermit shared her testimony with journalists, filmmakers, volunteers, and doctors who decided to go deep into the forest and visit her at home.

The Story Is Still Shocking

The story to this day is shocking to many who hear it for the first time. It also brings the question of whether most of us would be able to adapt to such a life if we had to make such a sudden move into the wilderness. But what do you think? Have you heard of the family before? And do you think you could live like that?

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