May 15, 2020

Lykov Family Isolated for Over 40 Years

Genevieve Montague

ometimes it is true that life can be stranger than fiction. This was certainly true with the story of the Lykov family that was found living in complete isolation in one of the most uninhabitable areas of Siberia. That they had survived was amazing in itself. How they responded when they were eventually discovered was even more fascinating.

Lykov family surroundings in Siberia – Source

The true wild

Most people would imagine the normal parts of Siberia to be a pretty extreme place to live. The Lykov family was found living in an area of Siberia that is simply not suited to human habitation.

The Siberian taiga is one of the most isolated places in the world. The terrain is incredibly difficult to traverse and the climate is unyielding, with very short summers followed by winters that must feel like they last forever.

The average temperature in the Siberian taiga is -5 degrees celsius. Aside from the extreme weather, the Siberian taiga is also home to wild bears, foxes, and wolves.

Members of the Lykov family – Source

How did the Lykov family get there?

The Lykov family was led by their patriarch, Karp Lykov.

Karp and his family were Old Believers, a hardcore offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church that maintains the liturgical and ritual practices of the Eastern Orthodox Church as they were before the reforms of Patriarch Nikon of Moscow between 1652 and 1666.

In 1936, Karp and his wife and children were living in a Siberian town 150 miles from the wilderness they were eventually discovered in 40 years later.

At this time, and for reasons unknown, Karp’s brother was shot and killed by a Bolshevik patrol, and it was after this incident that Karp decided to take his family out into the wilderness.

One part of their sparse possessions were prayer books and an old family bible which is what the new children would use later to learn how to read and write.

Lykov family home – Source

A fight for survival

Karp his wife Akulina and their children Savin and Natalia made the wilderness their home and in the years after their departure to this isolated place, Karp and Akulina had two more children.

The whole family survived on berries and the little food they could grow for themselves. And their clothes were also homemade and came from the hemp fabric they produced themselves.

Savin became an expert hunter so that the family could on occasion enjoy some meat. His resistance to the extreme environment became so pronounced that he could go out hunting for days and weeks on end in the depths of winter without any footwear.

Unfortunately, life was still always a constant fight and Akulina died in the 1950s, leaving Karp alone with his four children.

Members of the Lykov family – Source

The Lykov Family Was Eventually Discovered by a Helicopter

In 1978 a helicopter pilot taking some geologists into the taiga spotted the Lykov’s camp.

The strangers were astonished to find these bedraggled looking people living in such conditions, but Karp was not at all wary of his guests.

The family welcomed the newcomers but refused to take anything from them other than salt.

Over time, the Karps accepted the geologists, and Karp was fascinated by things they brought with them, including such simple things as transparent cellophane.  And all the family was transfixed by the TV.

Although curious and welcoming of the visitors, the Lykovs had no intention of returning to normal life.

Sadly, 3 of the children died within days of each in the 1980s, but still, Karp and his surviving daughter Agafia refused to leave their isolation.

Karp Lykov died of old age in 1988 and even then Agafia refused to leave the family compound.

Lykov Graves – Source

Over the years, the wider world became aware of the Lykov’s story and Agafia became a little bit of a celebrity. Several documentaries and books have been made about the family and Agafia have even been interviewed by Vice.

Agafia continues to live until this day, alone in the deep reaches of the Siberian taiga.

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