I think the first time I read about the Lykovs was in a Cracked.com article titled “6 Isolated Groups Who Had No Idea That Civilization Existed” about a year go while randomly “Stumbling Upon” on a boring day at work.
It was the story of this Russian family of 6 that had lived away from any form of civilization in the unimaginably cold and harsh Russian taiga in Siberia for wait-for-it 42 FRIGGIN YEARS!!!. I was immediately fascinated and started reading up more about them.
They were a family of “Old Believers“. The Old Believers are a breakaway faction who separated from the Russian Orthodox Church in 1666 as they were against the reforms introduced by the then Patriarch of the Church, Patriarch Nikon. Since then, they were constant victims of persecution and revocation of civil rights right uptil 1971.
The Old Believers fled to the remotest parts of Russia to escape persecution and many succumbed to nature’s harshness but some survived and continued to live as small isolated communities.
Karp Lykov lived with his wife Akulina, son Savin and daughter Natalia in the old Believers’ town of Lykova. Karp’s brother was killed by a Communist patrol in 1936 and that’s when he decided to flee all civilization with his wife and children. They roamed between dwellings until they finally settled in the Abakan river basin. During this time, two more children were born to them, a son named Dmitry and a daughter named Agafia.
In 1978, their rundown hut or izba was spotted by a group of geologists flying over the area in a helicopter. They landed and met with Karp and his family. The Lykovs had fought hardships and were almost always at the verge of famine which had also claimed Akulina as a fatality. There had been a harsh winter in 1961 in which they could hardly procure anything to eat which usually consisted of stuff that they grew on their own and animals that they hunted. The meagre amount of food they were able to accumulate just wasn’t enough. So Akulina starved herself to death so that her husband and children wouldn’t die of hunger.
Their discovery by the geologists turned out to be a boon for the Lykovs at that time. Their plates had holes in them, their clothes were falling apart and their tools were largely unusable because of overuse. Even so, Karp and his family refused to leave their present dwellings. The geologists supplied them with foodstuff, cloth, new tools and helped them build a new izba. The family had lived in such utter isolation that they were unaware that the Second World War had even happened. News spread about this strange family, living in utter isolation of the taiga that didn’t know about the World War and people started visiting them from all over Russia out of fascination.
That brings us to the sad part of the story. The Lykovs had never interacted before with any other humans and had no immunity to the diseases that these people carried. Savina and Natalia died of kidney failure because of the food that they weren’t used to eating and Dmitry died of pneumonia, all in 1981. Karp Lykov passed away in 1988 leaving Agafia Lykov as the sole survivor of the family. The families discovery did end up being a curse for them after all.
Agafia continues to live where she has lived all her life, in the taiga. She’s 70 years old now.
There was a documentary made on the Lykov’s but it was in Russian so I couldn’t understand it. If you can understand Russian then you can watch the documentary here. Fret not if you don’t becuase fortunately, Vice TV decided to do a 30 min feature on Agafia a week back which you can watch here.
Here‘s the most descriptive article that I read on the Lykovs.
The thing that excites me the most is the possibility that there may be other families out there like this one which may still be living, completely isolated from any human contact, yet to be discovered.
Hope you enjoyed reading this post and were fascinated by the Lykovs’ story as much as I was. Adios.