The reclusive family who didn't see another human for 40 years

 

Ellen E. Jones
Wednesday 30 January 2013 18:10
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Gold prospectors at home at Dillman Creek, Alaska.
Gold prospectors at home at Dillman Creek, Alaska.

Those with an interest in 20th century history will be familiar with the stories of famous recluses like Howard Hughes or the Vietnam vets who emerged from the jungle some 20 years after the war had ended, but the Lykov family beats them all.

When a team of Soviet geologists accidentally stumbled across the family in a remote part of Siberia, they were so isolated that they were unaware that the second world war had even started, never mind finished. It was 1978.

This fascinating piece on the Smithsonian website tells the story of a family whose religious beliefs led them to retreat from contact with other human beings in 1936.

"The old man's name was Karp Lykov, and he was an 'Old Believer' —a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century."

The families extreme isolation meant that two of the four children (born in 1940 and 1943) had never seen another human being outside their immediate family. Their self-reliance also brought them dangerously close to starvation on several occasions.

"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."

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