In 1979, a group of Soviet geologists studying the Siberian wild stumbled upon a family of six lost in the swampy, coniferous forest. They later found out that this Russian family had been cut off from civilization for 42 years! They were even unaware of World War II.
In 1979, a Russian helicopter dropped off a team of geologists in a little clearing on a mountainside. The spot was around 150 miles from the nearest human settlement. There they discovered the Lykov family who had been surviving in the brutal Siberian taiga without any other human contact for the past 42 years.
The Siberian taiga has a dangerous reputation of its own. The forest is comprised of miles and miles of pine and birch trees. Summer is short and the climate is cold and harsh. Moreover, hungry wolves and bears are a common sight throughout the forest. This makes the Siberian taiga almost impossible to support human settlements. So, when in 1979 a Russian helicopter pilot witnessed a human settlement in the middle of the taiga, he was speechless.
The helicopter pilot was searching for a place to drop off a team of geologists. This was when he saw a small clearing in the woods. The ground had dark furrows that could only have been made by humans. The pilot didn’t know at that time, but he had just discovered the Lykov family. This family went into the wilderness in 1936 and have remained there away from civilization for the past 42 years.
The Lykov family were “Old Believers” and in 1936, their religion was under threat with the Bolsheviks in power. When a communist patrol shot Karp Lykov’s bother dead, he decided to flee into the forest with his wife and their two children. They found a secluded spot about 6,000 feet up on a mountainside and made it their home.
The Lykov family were “Old Believers.” This meant that they were members of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect. This particular religion had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great in the 18th century. Following the Russian Revolution of 1917 when the Bolsheviks came into power, the Old Believers were at risk again. Stalin’s terrors in the 1930s made matters worse with numerous religions being outlawed. Many Siberians fled the country to avoid religious persecution.
They kept going deeper and deeper into the forest over the next few years. Finally, they landed upon a secluded spot on the mountainside and established their home. They built a cabin almost 6000 ft on the mountaintop.
In 1940, Karp and Akulina gave birth to their son Dmitry. Two years later, their youngest daughter, Agafia, was born. The family remained in the secluded forest with no human contact for the next 42 years.
Having cut themselves off any civilization since 1936, the Lykovs had to survive on the food they found in the forest. Once during a harsh winter, they had to resort to eating leather shoes. When the team of geologists who found them requested to help them come out of the forest, the family refused.
The team of geologists on hearing about the pilot’s observations decided to investigate. They put together some gifts for the humans they might encounter and set out for the clearing. As they reached the spot they started noticing human activities such as a small path and logs across the stream. Finally, they reached the home of the Lykovs.
Upon seeing people arrive, an old man came out of the hut, barefoot and wearing clothes made out of sacks. He first didn’t reply to their greetings but then invited them inside. The geologists recalled that the hut consisted of a single room that was lit by a small window. There were lumps of burnt wood scattered around the filthy floor. Upon seeing guests enter the hut, the women, Agafia and her elder sister Natalia, were terrified.
Slowly the geologists were able to pick up bits and pieces of the Lykovs survival story. Karp told them that they had brought with them few utensils and clothes. But over the years, they wore out. Their diet was mostly potatoes mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds. When a harsh frost hit in 1961, all of the plants in their garden perished. They had to eat leather shoes to satisfy their hunger. That year Karp’s wife, Akulina, died due to starvation.
Tragically, in 1981, not long after they had been discovered, three of the four Lykov children lost their lives. The deaths might have been a result of the Lykovs coming in contact with modern diseases for which they had no immunity. The Lykov’s Agafia, the youngest daughter and now well into her 70s, continues to live on her little family plot even today.
A few years after their discovery, three of the Lykov children lost their lives. Savin and Natalia both suffered from kidney failures. Dmitry suffered from pneumonia and lost his life to it. When the geologists found Dmitry’s health deteriorating, hey offered a helicopter to take him to a hospital. But Dmitry refused and said, “We are not allowed that. A man lives for howsoever long God grants.” It is believed that the Lykovs discovery and their connection with modern people had put them at risk of modern diseases. Their bodies were unable to fight the diseases as they had not built up sufficient immunities.
Karp and Agafia were asked by the geologists to come out of the forest and join their relatives, but they were steadfast in their decision to never leave the forest, their home. Karp finally breathed his last on February 16, 1988.
Agafia, now in her 70s, continued to live on her family plot even after her family passed away. She has only ventured out of the family settlement six times in 70 years. The first was in the 1980s when the Soviet government paid for her to tour the Soviet Union for a month. She saw planes, horses, cars, and money during her tour for the first time in her life. After that, she has only left the forest to seek medical treatment, meet Old Believers, and spend some time with some of her other relatives. In 2014, she wrote a letter that was published online requesting people to come and help her as her health was deteriorating. Volunteers regularly visited her to help her with the housework. In January 2016, she was airlifted to a hospital due to leg pain. It was said that she would be returned back to the wilderness once she recovers.