self-sufficient

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Over the years they retreated deeper into taiga, building a series of wooden cabins amid the pine trees. Pictures: Igor Nazarov, Igor Shpilenok, Vladimir Makuta

Over the years they retreated deeper into taiga, building a series of wooden cabins amid the pine trees. Picture: Igor Nazarov, Igor Shpilenok, Vladimir Makuta.

 Lost in the Taiga

Agafia Karpovna Lykova is a Russian Old Believer, part of the Lykov family, who survived alone in the Taiga for most of her life. Agafia became a national phenomenon in the early 1980s when Vasily Peskov published articles about her family and their extreme isolation from the rest of society. Agafia is the sole surviving member of the clan and has been mostly self-sufficient since 1988, when her father died.

Lykova was born in a pine trough in 1944 to Karp Osipovich Lykov and Akulina Lykova. She was their fourth child, and the second to be born in the Taiga.

Agafia lives 500 feet (150 m) up a remote mountainside in the Abakan Range, 150 mi (240 km) away from the nearest town. For the first 35 years of her life, Lykova did not have contact with anyone outside of her immediate family. Information about the outside world came from her father’s stories and the family’s Russian Orthodox bible.

In the summer of 1978, a group of four geologists discovered the family by chance, while circling the area in a helicopter. The scientists reported that Lykova spoke a language “distorted by a lifetime of isolation” that sounded akin to a “slow, blurred cooing.”This unusual speech led to the misconception that Lykova possessed little intelligence. Later, after observing her skill in hunting, cooking, sewing, reading and construction, this original misconception was revised.

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