Lykov Family

A reclusive Russian family who lived in complete isolation in the Siberian wilderness for over four decades.

Religion: Christianity
Denomination: Old Believers
Founder: Karp Lykov
Founded: 1936
Ended: 1988 (last surviving member died)
Location: Taiga region of Siberia, Russia
Size: 6 members (at peak)
Other Names: Lykovs, Old Believers of the Taiga

The story of the Lykov family is an extraordinary tale of survival and isolation deep within Siberia’s unforgiving wilderness. Fleeing religious persecution after the Bolsheviks’ rise to power in 1917, which saw the murder of Karp Lykov’s brother by a Soviet patrol in 1936, Karp Lykov, alongside his wife Akulina and their two children, sought refuge in the vast Siberian taiga. There, they lived in seclusion for over 40 years, enduring the harshest conditions with no contact with the outside world until their discovery by a helicopter pilot in 1978, who was flying geologists into the region​​​​​​.

The family, devout Old Believers, a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, survived by relying on rudimentary tools, foraging, and farming. They constructed a simple log cabin, which became their shelter, living a life marked by the rhythm of the seasons and the relentless challenges posed by their environment​​​​. Their diet consisted largely of foraged berries, nuts, roots, and whatever meager crops they could cultivate in the harsh Siberian climate. Clothing and footwear were fashioned from whatever materials nature provided, primarily birch bark and hemp. The family’s only reading materials were prayer books and an ancient family Bible, which Akulina used to teach her children to read and write. Despite their isolation, the Lykovs maintained a rich spiritual and inner life, deeply rooted in their Old Believer traditions. The family expanded during this period, welcoming two more children, Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943, neither of whom would encounter anyone outside their family for decades.

Tragically, Akulina passed away in 1961 during a severe food shortage, choosing to starve so her children could eat. However, their seclusion was inadvertently ended in 1978 when Soviet geologists, surveying for iron ore in the region, stumbled upon the family’s homestead. The Lykovs were initially wary of these outsiders but gradually accepted their presence, exchanging stories and receiving modest gifts, including salt, which they had sorely missed. This interaction with the outside world, however, was not without consequences. The sudden introduction of foreign germs and the disruption of their secluded lifestyle led to the deaths of three of the Lykov children—Savin, Natalia, and Dmitry—in 1981, due to kidney failure and pneumonia. Karp Lykov also died in 1988, leaving Agafia Lykova as the sole surviving member of the family. Despite the hardships and the opportunities to leave, Agafia chose to continue living in the wilderness, adhering to the lifestyle and beliefs passed down by her parents​​​​.

The story of the Lykov family was popularized by journalist Vasily Peskov in his book Lost in the Taiga, offering a glimpse into the lives of people who had vanished from society only to preserve their faith and way of life in one of the world’s most inhospitable landscapes​​.

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