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Russian Family Lived Alone For 40 Years,

There’s an absolutely fascinating account in Smithsonian magazine of a Russian family that lived in a remote part of Siberia with no contact with other people for 40 years from the mid-1930s  until they were discovered in 1978:

The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother’s Bible stories. “Look, papa,” she exclaimed. “A steed!”

But if the family’s isolation was hard to grasp, the unmitigated harshness of their lives was not. Traveling to the Lykov homestead on foot was astonishingly arduous, even with the help of a boat along the Abakan. On his first visit to the Lykovs, Peskov—who would appoint himself the family’s chief chronicler—noted that “we traversed 250 kilometres [155 miles] without seeing a single human dwelling!”

Isolation made survival in the wilderness close to impossible. Dependent solely on their own resources, the Lykovs struggled to replace the few things they had brought into the taiga with them. They fashioned birch-bark galoshes in place of shoes. Clothes were patched and repatched until they fell apart, then replaced with hemp cloth grown from seed.

The Lykovs had carried a crude spinning wheel and, incredibly, the components of a loom into the taiga with them—moving these from place to place as they gradually went further into the wilderness must have required many long and arduous journeys—but they had no technology for replacing metal. A couple of kettles served them well for many years, but when rust finally overcame them, the only replacements they could fashion came from birch bark. Since these could not be placed in a fire, it became far harder to cook. By the time the Lykovs were discovered, their staple diet was potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

More at the link

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. ernieyeball says:

    Compared to the Lykovs, the “doomsday prepper-survivalists” of today are a bunch of pussies!

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/01/02/doomsday-preppers-ammo-weapons-video_n_2394540.html

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    It is a great and sad story.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  3. Moosebreath says:

    Does this count as proof that a society can live under libertarian principles? : -)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 11 Thumb down 0

  4. wr says:

    And they still understood more about the American political system than Jenos, JKB and the Tsar…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 1

  5. Dan says:

    Any society can live under libertarian principles but how is it going to affect access and quality of education and health? How is it going to effect productivity and competitiveness in a global economy? Think about it. A country that can successfully adopt libertarian principles is probably Switzerland, where inequality is low. But even there, libertarianism is not the best option for them.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  6. CB says:

    Really, really remarkable story. One little tidbit that stuck out to me was that they lived through WWII in the Soviet Union…and never even knew it. I guess Siberia is a pretty big place…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  7. tps says:

    @CB:

    Think of an area the size of the US with the extant of ‘civilization’ that could fit into something like the state of Arkansas. The rest of it is woods, rivers, marsh, mountains….

    That’s Siberia.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  8. grumpy realist says:

    Showing exactly why the libertarian idea of going off into the wilderness with your trusty gun and recreating civilization is just so much hogwash.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  9. Liberal Cap says:

    Yep… read the Smithsonian link yesterday.

    I STRONGLY urge you to take the time and read the complete article.

    .

    Forwarded it some of the “loyal 28%” I know…

    I suggested that next time they say that they will “Go Galt”, they should be ready to eat their shoes, and choose to die of starvation to ensure their kids live.

    To paraphrase Hobbes: Life in the natural state is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.

    F’kers don’t get to take the Lexus down the highway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  10. Dixon says:

    oh wow. if they were in the U.S. i’m pretty sure their children (if of age) would be taken away. the adults would be arrested for trespassing. they would be taught what they were doing was wrong. then the media would exploit them, an attorney/manager would prosper from their sudden celebrity, reality show and then they get dropped like a rock when americans find something else to concentrate on………………..all in 15 minutes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  11. L C says:

    @Dixon:

    oh wow. if they were in the U.S. i’m pretty sure their children (if of age) would be taken away. the adults would be arrested for trespassing. they would be taught what they were doing was wrong. then the media would exploit them, an attorney/manager would prosper from their sudden celebrity, reality show and then they get dropped like a rock when americans find something else to concentrate on………………..all in 15 minutes.

    You know… I have to pause, stand up and applaud.

    This is some world-class trolling, there.

    With all that.. IN ONE paragraph !! WHOOO-BOY…

    Man, that is some funny shite… I have to wipe a tear of laughter from my eye.

    After all, NO ONE could be THAT stupid.

    (… amIrite ?)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 2

  12. Just nutha' ig'rant cracker says:

    @Liberal Cap: indeed! And may I add–word!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. wr says:

    @L C: I think you’re being a little harsh on the troll. After all, doesn’t this describe almost exactly what happened to the Palin family once they were discovered living in the wilderness?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  14. Doubter4444 says:

    M. Renolds –
    The Lykov children knew there were places called cities where humans lived crammed together in tall buildings. They had heard there were countries other than Russia. But such concepts were no more than abstractions to them. Their only reading matter was prayer books and an ancient family Bible. Akulina had used the gospels to teach her children to read and write, using sharpened birch sticks dipped into honeysuckle juice as pen and ink. When Agafia was shown a picture of a horse, she recognized it from her mother’s Bible stories. “Look, papa,” she exclaimed. “A steed!”

    Sounds like the start of another Newberry Award short list. (JK, of course!), but it did make me think of the novel your wife wrote and the extraordinary (and extraordinarily harsh) lives these children lived. And the extraordinary that exists around all of us. The article is really worth the read.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. aFloridian says:

    @wr:
    @L C: I think you’re being a little harsh on the troll. After all, doesn’t this describe almost exactly what happened to the Palin family once they were discovered living in the wilderness?

    It may or may not be trolling, but I think his flight of fancy IS somewhat accurate. If these folks HAD been in America, no doubt about it they’d be on the Today show, Leno, everywhere, if someone could coax or coerce them to do so.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. dixon hard says:

    @ L.C.

    You libs have a great attitude. So nice an pleasant. Guess if I told u I were a minority and I was offended you would be going to great lengths to apologize.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  17. C. Clavin says:

    You need to read that story in it’s entirety…then watch this epic take-down of Glenn Beck’s Libertarian Dream World by Jon Stewart. It will put everything into perspective for you.

    http://www.salon.com/2013/01/31/jon_stewart_destroys_glenn_becks_utopia/singleton/

    I’ve heard Doug has already made a down-payment.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0