Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Book Review- Lost In The Taiga

I've just finished reading this book called Lost In The Taiga, a true story of a Russian family that lived in the Siberian Wilderness, without plumbing, electricity, or even simple things such as matches and soap, and endured harsh winters, fires and bear attacks, just to name a few of their difficulties. The family of two grown sons, and two grown daughters, lived with their father and practiced the old and very strict ways of their religion. They believed that the only way to salvation was to live in the wilderness without modern conveniences.
At this time, the only survivor of the family is Agafia Lykov, who is now over 60 years old, and after the passing of her father, refuses to leave the taigan wilderness permanently, but does take some plane and train rides to visit some distant relatives.This is an amazing story of survival!
I first read this book about ten years ago. I liked it so much that I read it twice. Then, when I went to go dig it out to read for a third time, I couldn't find it. I think I loaned it to someone and it never got returned. So, I had to get it from the library this time. If you like adventure and wilderness stories, you will love Lost In The Taiga.

Agafia Lykov

Below I have copied some reviews of the book.

Lost In The Taiga
In 1932, a Russian named Karp Ossipovitch Lykov took his family, who were members of a sect of the Russian Orthodox Church called Old Believers, to live in the Siberian Taiga. The purpose of this self-imposed exile was to purge their souls of the modern world. Over 50 years later, journalist Vassili Peskov came across them still living on what they could harvest, hunt and build themselves, without relying on industrial or technological means
Communicants of the Old Believers persuasion--a Russian Orthodox sect dating from the mid-l7th century--the Lykov family lived so removed from the world in the Siberian taiga that only in 1978, when a party of geologists happened upon them, was their self-imposed isolation, going back to the early days of Stalinism, shattered. By the time Peskov, a Moscow journalist, made their acquaintance in 1982 on the first of what would become annual visits, only 37-year-old Agafia and her 81-year-old father Karp were still alive. Karp's sons, 54-year-old Savin and 38-year-old Dmitry, and his 44-year-old daughter Natalia all died in 1981, his wife in 1961. The story of how the Lykovs had provided for themselves, then accommodated to the incursions of the modern age is an amazing, poignant drama that Peskov reconstructs with delicacy and respect. The gift-bearing world that knocked on their door was welcome company, even as Karp and Agafia resisted efforts to return them to materialistic society. They gratefully accepted presents that eased their taxing self-sufficiency, like goats, chickens and proper footwear, but rejected such products as canned food: "We are not allowed that." The Lykovs expressed their thanks by reciprocating with gifts of pine nuts and potatoes. When Agafia journeys to newfound relatives for a month's visit, readers are perplexed with mixed emotions, at once hoping and fearing that she'll be enticed by the conveniences she's introduced to, like train travel, shops, electricity. And we are even more torn when she determines to stay on alone in her taiga fastness after her 87-year-old father dies.

Tashtagol ( about 30 thousand inhabitants ) is a town located in the very south of Kuzbass in 310km to the south from its capital: city of Kemerovo ( about 560 thousand inhabitants ) located on Tom river in 3482km from Moscow.

There, in those mountains, there are some places where it is still possible to live hiding from the civilization for dozen of years. Thus, the family of Russian peasant Lykov who belonged to Russian Old Believer Orthodox Church hermited in the wilderness just in 150km south from the southernmost Kuzbass town of Tashtagol for more than 50 years ( to be precise, they resided not on the territory of Kuzbass, but on the territory of neighboring region of Khakasia ).
In hermit cabin The hermit Lykov family was uncovered in taiga in the end of 1970's. When uncovered, the hermits know nothing even about the World War II. They explained that they had fled the Communist regime and settled in the primitive mountain cabin almost never venturing outside it. The 60 years old Agafia Lykova, the last surviving member of that hermit family is still residing in her cabin in taiga although accepting some assistance providing by Kuzbass administration as well as leaving from time to time her residence to get the necessary medical help.


In 1978, a team of exploratory geologists in a remote area of Siberia happened upon the existence of the Lykov family: father, 81 at the outset of the story, two sons aged 54 and 38, and two daughters, aged 44 and 37. They lived in complete isolation from civilization in the cold forestland called the taiga.
The subtitle of the book, "One Russian Family's Fifty-year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness," is a perfect summary. The Lykovs were adherents of the Old Belief, clinging to a strict observance of Christianity predating the eighteenth-century religious schism in Russia. The Lykovs had fled the chaos of Russia - and the world - in the 1920's and had been alone every since. As the historian who met them first recounted to the journalist-author, it was "like something halfway between Peter the Great and the Stone Age!"
They get their fire from a tinderbox. They use a torch for light. They go barefoot in summer and wear birch-bark shoes in winter. They have been living without salt. They don't know bread. ... Recent events are unknown to them. Electricity, radio, and satellites are beyond their imaginations.
Author Peskov offers vivid, often touching, portraits of daily life in his annual visits to the Lykovs over ten years. He chronicles what they grew (potatoes, turnips, carrots) and foraged (acorns and berries), how they clothed themselves in hemp and birch-bark, how they kept their hut in frigid winter, how they related their history in accounts of the past. The details make a fascinating narrative, and the glossy plates of photographs and a couple of maps are very useful.

Some reviewers have wondered what has happened so many years later. Peskov saw the deterioration of the elder Lykov, who died within a season of his last visit; only the elder daughter Agafia was alive at the 1991 publication of the Russian edition of this book. At forty-nine, she had refused to leave. "I shall live as we have always lived," are her departing words to Peskov - and the rest of us. "This," remarks the author, "may be the greatest solitude on the earth today."


lime said...

wow, that sounds really facinating! gotta add that to my reading list for sure!

Bsoholic said...

Very interesting sounding! I couldn't imagine living in Siberia... especially without things like matches and other important things. Yikes that would be rough.

ShyRocket said...

Thanks for the book recommendation!

Continuing on from our last exchange. If you like, let me know when you head to India and if you go through a major city (Mumbai, Delhi or Bangalore) I'll plan a business trip at the same time and buy you a Masala Tea! (I go to India about once/quarter.) We can take a pic of us sitting on a tuk tuk and use it for HNT.

Just a thought!

The Village Idiot said...

interresting title...sounds like they weren't lost, they knew exactly where they were. Harsh life, totally off the grid.

You wanna get a group together and try it..but i vote for somewhere warm and with beaches!!

CozyMama said...

wow!!! amazing what people go thru and we complain about the silliest things.

Lelly said...

How intriguing! Thanks for the review, always need new titles for my book club, and we could do with reading something really different!

Logophile said...

not the life style for me,
but an amazing story.

Anonymous said...

I read this book also,and yes, it is good. But, if you want to read and even more (and true) astonishing life in the Taiga, go to www.ringingcedarsofrussia.org.

You can read the first chapter of every book in the series, on line, free. The first book is Anastasia. As the editor of Nexus Magazine said, If you only read one book in your life, read Anastasia.

Anonymous said...

The facts thats matters for science is not wether a family could live in harsh climate conditions( the history of early homosapiens, neanthertals and other different humanoids proved that a longtime ago)looking carefully at tht severe father that alienated himself so well and strictly forbade their owns to prosper and built their family out of him.. :)
Dmitry and sivan couldnt do that
The surviving lady is a miss,a coctel of religion and neurosis is clear.im not critisising his brave desition to flee in 1936..im critisizing the complex result that happened under estrict religious faith and so were to look and compare other education...im afraid of God