February 1, 2013

"Have you ever eaten bread?"/"I have. But they have not. They have never seen it."

"At least he was intelligible. The daughters spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation. 'When the sisters talked to each other, it sounded like a slow, blurred cooing.'"
The old man's name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer—a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century....
[In 1936] Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2... had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot. Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family. All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents' stories.....

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them.
Video here

42 comments:

Carol said...

I'm surprised Siberia hasn't turned into some sort of SWPL tourist paradise, like Costa Rica or Nepal.

Or has it - ?

drozz said...

kinda tragic

rhhardin said...

The music announces a drawn out pointless program follows.

SJ said...

It's almost as surprising as the news of Japanese holdouts after WWII.

Except Siberia is a harsher climate. Survival is more challenging.

I wonder how many other people at the fringe of Russian society wandered into Siberia, and died unknown. Or were reconnected to society after many years.

Amartel said...

Better to be lost in the wilderness during WWII Russia.

It's interesting that the father did not believe man had reached the moon but believed about satellites as he had noted that stars were moving more quickly across the sky in recent years. That observed fact allowed him to make the leap and believe.

Also, the attraction of TV. Forbidden and yet they could not take their eyes away.

Discovered in 1978, they chose to remain in their remote home rather than return to the now safe civilization.

Only the youngest child remains alive and she still lives there.

edutcher said...

What homesteading was like, only their East was never really won.

Maguro said...

The ultimate bitter clingers.

KLDAVIS said...

How did these people survive all alone for that long only for most of them to die of (apparently) non-communicable issues within a relatively short period of being discovered? Fishy...

Marshal said...

Maguro said...
The ultimate bitter clingers.


The excerpt might leave the impression this was a religious choice, but in fact the family fled for safety after the patriarch's brother was killed while they were living in a small town.

Maguro said...

But why did the brother get shot? Presumably for resisting the Bolshevik regime.

Original Mike said...

"How did these people survive all alone for that long only for most of them to die of (apparently) non-communicable issues within a relatively short period of being discovered? Fishy..."

Maybe their kidney disease was due to the sudden introduction of salt into their diet.

Sorun said...

The article is very interesting.

"The family's principal entertainment... 'was for everyone to recount their dreams.'"

AllenS said...

I read about this last week. What a story. Siberia is a big place.

AllenS said...

I read about this last week. What a story. Siberia is a big place.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

This sort of thing I find really irritating:

The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages.

People, Chartres is "like something from the middle ages. Durham Cathedral is "like something from the middle ages." This world is full of people who use "medieval" and "middle ages" as epithets, and could not remotely imagine a medieval cathedral, let alone figure out how to build one.

Re: "Old Believers," there is a sizable population of them here in Salem/Keizer. I had always assumed that they were a mythical population existing mostly in Musorgsky's "Khovantschina." Not so.

ricpic said...

They were running away from communists. What else?

Read down aways in the story and you'll find it. Purges. The man's brother was killed by those horrible fucks for the crime of committing religion so he retreated with his family and he's the freak?

Balfegor said...

Re: Michelle Dulak Thomson:

Durham Cathedral may be from the middle ages, but Chartres is from The Thirteenth, Greatest of Centuries.

Balfegor said...

Re: ricpic:

Yes, the Bolsheviks were awful, as communists and their fellow travellers tend to be, but it's not like the Old Believers weren't also persecuted by the Tsars.

Patrick said...

Fascinating story that I will try to read in the next couple of days, but I do wonder a little bit whether this deserves the "I'm Skeptical" tag.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

Balfegor,

Yes, it is. Still "middle ages" for people who don't think civilization proper started until the Reformation.

I have never actually been to Chartres, but Durham I have seen. It's kind of a savage building, and the very lovely college town around it is incongruous. York Minster (which really is an ambiguously medieval structure, since it wasn't finished until well into the 16th c.) is incongruous in a different way. York Minster is about the most beautiful thing I ever saw, and York is in the running for "most hideous."

MadisonMan said...

The story of the single rye plant was their best story.

YoungHegelian said...

In the history of the 20thC Soviet Union there was so much to run from and the taiga is so large, I would be surprised that this didn't happen repeatedly. The exiles died somewhere in the taiga, and were just swallowed up.

Old Beleivers? I'm surprised that didn't find any Mensheviks!

joe said...

Those raskolniki's, and his little rascals. Truly living a life on Bald(St. Johns) Mountain with all those Baba Yaga communist witches trying to exterminate every last rascal family they could find.

joe said...

Obama says he's related to them, in fact he went skeet shooting with Putin, and Agafia in 2010.

rcocean said...

Here's the key passage buried deep in the article after blah blah about the so-called Tsarists persecutions:

Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power. Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization. During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov's brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him. He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into forest.

traditionalguy said...

The cellular service must have been weak. Which is what probably brought them in. Another feather in Steve Jobs hat.

dcm said...

I have the "original" book and I recommend it. titled: Lost in the Taiga. By Vasily Peskov. Published by Doubleday is US in 1994.

dcm said...

15 or so photos. black and white.

dcm said...

At least they didn't have to fight in the civil war or get decimated by Stalin's purges.

mtrobertsattorney said...

There a number of Russian speaking communities of Old Believers in Alaska. One the earliest is Nikolaevsk. Old Believers established this community in 1968.

Original Mike said...

Why didn't they have bread? They had grain.

dcm said...

yeast.

Original Mike said...

I thought yeast was everywhere. Maybe not in the tiaga, however.

Petunia said...

Fascinating article, Ann, thank you for posting it.

Balfegor said...

Re: Michelle Dulk Thomson:

Still "middle ages" for people who don't think civilization proper started until the Reformation.

Yes -- I guess the 13th is considered "High Middle Ages," but I will never pass up an opportunity to intone The Thirteenth, Greatest of Centuries. Chartres is also an opportunity to plug Henry Adams' Mont St. Michel and Chartres, another great American celebration of mediaevalism.

dcm said...

yeast is everywhere. proper yeast for bread is not.

dcm said...

You have never brewed beer or baked bread.

Original Mike said...

I have baked bread. I got my yeast from the store.

Michael said...

You are not,lost when you do not wish to be found.

Michael said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kentuckyliz said...

I think they are remarkable. They showed great genius for surviving their harsh environment.

The last one living alone, refusing to leave, is heroic in a way, and sad in a way. I hope she doesn't get lonely.

How will they know when she has died?

joe said...

RT

24 February, 2010, 13:06


A famous Russian hermit, who lives in an isolated settlement in a Siberian nature reserve, has sent presents to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.
Agafia Lykova is the only living member of a family, which went into seclusion in 1937 to preserve its religious traditions. They were Old Believers, Orthodox Christians who adhere to the teachings of the church prior to its reforms in the mid-17th Century.
A local hunter who visits the 69-year-old from time to time, told her about President Medvedev and his attitude towards Siberia. The woman was so impressed that she decided to send him something as a sign of gratitude, said the presidential press service.
The home-made gifts include a blue traditional skew-collared shirt, a birch bark box with a dedication inscribed and a pouch of cedar nuts.


Lykova asked a visiting party who brought supplies for the old woman to deliver the tokens to the Kremlin, which was eventually done.
The Lykov family is quite famous in Russia. When they were discovered in their Taiga retreat in 1978 by a prospector, there were five of them. Over the years Agafia’s father Karp, two brothers and a sister died.
Lately, Lykova has been accepting more visitors since her health has deteriorated and she doesn’t have enough strength to maintain her household. Nevertheless, she refuses to see civilization even to obtain treatment in hospital. Local authorities supply her with food, livestock and fuel.