Sunday, January 12, 2014

Surviving in the Siberian Wilderness for 70 Years (Full Length)

The incredible story of Agafia Lykov and the Lykov family, in the Siberian taiga, 150 miles South of the city of Akaban.
The Lykovs voluntarily disappeared out of the known world in between 1936 and 1942, at a time of tumult in the former USSR: Stalin's purges and the Nazi invasion that ended with USSR's participation in World War 2 and the Cold War.
The Lykovs had been fleeing East since 1653. They are "Old-Believers", Orthodox deemed heretics by Alexey Romanov (the first tsar of the dynasty) and Patriarch Nikon who wanted to reform the Orthodox Church by returning to the Greek texts, whose many translations since the Baptism of Kievian Rus in 988, had suffered many incoherences. Alexey and then his son, Peter the Great, persecuted the Old Believers, boyars and peasants alike, at best forcing them into exile or cutting their sacred long beards, at worst executing them.
The Lykovs fled East like many other Old-Believers, and eventually disappeared in the taiga to be found again totally unexpectedly by geologists in... 1978. In 1982, a journalist from the Komsomolskaya Pravda, the late Vassili Peskov, started to write a few articles about the two surviving members of the family: Karp Ossipovitch and his daughter Agafia. The mother, Akulina, had died back in 1961, the result of a famine and of self-sacrifice to ensure the survial of her four children. The two sons, Dmitri and Savvine and the other daughter, Natalia, died between 1978 and 1981, and to this day one does not know whether it was the encounter with the geologists and therefore the potential exposure to unknown microbes that may have precipitated their demise, like what happened to the Native-Americans when they first met the White Explorers.
Karp Ossipovitch died of old age in his 80s and his daughter, Agafia, is now 70. She still lives in the wilderness, but she has made concessions to "the century". One of the earlier geologists who helped her family, Erofei, now a victim of post-sovietization and a leg amputee, lives on the estate with her. Relationships between the two friends are not as amiable as they were when Erofei was a foreman, as the documentary reveals.
Vassili Peskov fell sick in 2010 and died in 2013. His articles were compiled into 2 books, Lost in the Taiga and News from Agafia, covering 1982 -his first visit to the hermitage- to 2009. I highly recommend reading them, even before watching the 2013 documentary. I am not sure what to make of Agafia's surprising revelations regarding Erofei's behavior, especially in the light of all he had done for her before joining her in the taiga as an amputee. Is Agafia telling the truth or is she not?
A full review of the two books appear, in French, on my other blog:  Exercices de Plume: