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Tuesday, January 29, 2013

90

The Lykovs of the Siberian Taiga

But, peering intently through his windscreen in search of a landing place, the pilot saw something that should not have been there.

Smithsonian magazine, by way of Jason Kottke (who also points to a short documentary), has an incredible article about a Russian family that lived in complete isolation for 40 years.

A few questions go unanswered.



90 Comments / Post A Comment

DullHypothesis

Honestly, having just been sexually harassed on the way to work, my own cabin in the Taiga with a garden sounds quite nice. Once they got knives, salt, etc, it doesn't sound so bad. I'd miss showers, I wouldn't miss cubicles and men trying to touch me on the L. I'm headed off to Siberia to meet up with Agafia.

This may also be related to my childhood obsession with the boxcar children.

JanieS

@DullHypothesis it all seems remarkably similar to my bad-day-at-work daydream of moving to a cabin in the Rockies, surrounded by snow and wolves, and living in quiet forever.

Valley Girl

@DullHypothesis My life-long dream is to drink milk that was chilled behind a waterfall. And I don't even like milk!

HoliandIvy

@JanieS
My office is in a very small town in the rockies, and it's pretty dreamy.
No wolves, but coyotes, bears, and mountain lions (in descending order of frequency) all make passes through town.

carolinaclay

ugh I love this@y

zeytin

I actually was just coming to the 'Pin to suggest that someone cover this, and here it is! <3

My question was, is the last remaining daughter still living?

DullHypothesis

@zeytin As of the writing, it appears so!

zeytin

@DullHypothesis

When I read it it seemed to me like the last person who saw her was the geologist who helped her bury her father in 1988. There was no information about anyone visiting her since then, was there? And the book written by Peskov was published in 1992, so unless someone else has done research since then, how would we know?

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

Russian people doing bad-ass stuff in far-away places! It's kind of my favorite thing! Ian Frazier mentioned this in 'Travels in Siberia,' but I'm glad to read a fuller version. Thanks!

Derbel McDillet

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll Then you've probably already read this:
http://www.themorningnews.org/article/twilight-on-the-tundra
Still awesome, though!

fruiting body

My husband sent me this article this morning and I had a feeling it would end up on the 'pin. I can't believe Agafia is still living out there completely alone! How often do you think people check up on her? SHOULD people check up on her?

fruiting body

@Nicole Cliffe I'll bring snacks!

MilesofMountains

@fruiting body Apparently people do check up on her! And they bring her food and animals and supplies according to this. That makes me feel so much better.

MilesofMountains

@MilesofMountains And it sounds like one of the geologists moved out to live a couple of kilometers nearby.

teaandcakeordeath

@MilesofMountains
Someone interview her for '8 days alone in Siberia'. She sounds great!

laurel

Is one of the unanswered questions about incest? 'Cause my prurient brain immediately wondered about incest.

Nutmeg

@laurel Is it bad that that was my first thought? For some reason my brain associates "isolated family" with incest (I have been reading way too many post-apocalyptic novels lately).

MandyMcAwesome

@laurel Actually, I thought "too bad those kids died never getting laid" and then I thought "well, maybe not". Are we sickos or have we just seen the Blue Lagoon too many times?

laurel

@Nutmeg Whether it's bad or not I cannot say, but "One was in hysterics, praying: 'This is for our sins, our sins'" did nothing to disuade my suspicions.

zeytin

@laurel Well, the daughters didn't have any children. Not that that proves anything, but it's a good sign, as disgusting as that is. (Thinking of that monster in Austria who imprisoned his daughter in the basement)

Oopsensdasies!

@laurel Right there with you. Though as @zeytin pointed out, no other children came into the family, so maybe not? Especially given their extreme and extremely adhered-to religious views.

laurel

Prompted by the reports of famine-based cannibalism out of NoKorea yesterday--ugh, nevermind. My thoughts are going bad places today.

SarcasticFringehead

@TheRobyn Yeah, I'm guessing any sexual...weirdness would have been in the no-sex direction, based on the religious-fundamentalist aspect. Or maybe it was same-sex incest. Or maybe they were really good at getting rid of unwanted pregnancies. All fun options!

iceberg

@laurel Nope, that's where my brain went too. Thanks for shaping my thought processes, VC Andrews.

nature_morte

@laurel Yeah, er-hem, I actually kinda assumed that the sins in question were eating their mother. And I'm probably a terrible person for even thinking that, but I didn't find the single grain of rye very convincing as the "miracle" that saw five other people through a winter of starvation...

Anne Helen Petersen

This story is so bonkers and gripping and EVERYONE SHOULD READ IT.

Nicole Cliffe

I AM READING IT RIGHT NOW AND WOW

laurel

@Anne Helen Petersen It is in fact bonkers. It's like they've been shipwrecked by political violence, religious faith and stubbornness.

NotBlairWaldorf

AAAAHHHHHHHHH but soooo intrigued simultaneously. The Old Believers! I have trouble believing only one of the three deaths was caused by the sudden appearance of the geologists. I am literally sitting here, baffled, trying to imagine knowing only a few members of your immediate family and then meeting an equally large group of UTTER STRANGERS. WITH SCIENCE. How could your brain even deal!?

NotBlairWaldorf

@NotBlairWaldorf Seriously Karp kudos on the satellite theory though that's pretty much my understanding of how things work too.

DullHypothesis

@NotBlairWaldorf This reminds me of reading about the first time American scientists visited some tribes in the Amazon to find pharmaceuticals. They explained germs to the people there, and they immediately understood it, because when they took drugs (the pharmaceuticals the scientists were looking for) they could see unseen things, so they figured the microscope was just like taking drugs, it lets you see unseen things.

Nicole Cliffe

"Dmitry built up astonishing endurance, and could hunt barefoot in winter, sometimes returning to the hut after several days, having slept in the open in 40 degrees of frost, a young elk across his shoulders."

Sometimes I get take-out so I don't have to microwave my leftovers.

SarahDances

@Nicole Cliffe Also, I feel compelled to point out that "40 degrees of frost" is probably a literal translation from Russian, meaning "40 degrees BELOW ZERO."

TheRisottoRacket

@Nicole Cliffe My boyfriend is actually Russian American, and this morning he was whining in bed because he was thirsty and didn't want to get up yet.
...
I feel like I need to send this to him to show him what he's made of.

Nicole Cliffe

Okay, I feel better now that they, too, intrinsically appreciated that television was amazing.

New Hoarder

@Nicole Cliffe Television is a sin if I ever saw one!

Actually... it is my religion.

MilesofMountains

40 years?! The whole thing just sound unimaginably harsh. I can't understand how Agafia would be able to survive out there as an old woman, since she wouldn't be able to fell a tree or hunt an animal down. Shouldn't someone check on her?!

New Hoarder

@MilesofMountains I keep thinking she went back out to die in peace. =-/

New Hoarder

Dmitry >>> Bear Grylls

iceberg

@New Hoarder Dmitry sounds hot. And imagine being a chick scientist out there, no matter what you looked like you would have been the hottest piece he's ever seen because he's only ever seen his sisters and mum.

Nicole Cliffe

"Hey, I have boobs and this ham and swiss panini for you, let's get busy."

Nicole Cliffe

Not to, like, ignore their decades of privation and misery, or anything. Jesus Christ.

iceberg

@Nicole Cliffe Oh come on, you offered him the sandwich first! I think a ham and cheese sandwich would probably taste like orgasms after decades of frozen potatoes and shoe leather.

teaandcakeordeath

@Nicole Cliffe
I think that's a solid line regardless.

itiresias

@iceberg I mean, he had to get pneumonia somehow.

New Hoarder

@iceberg His portrayal just screams " ALL MU-HAY-EN!" to me. Does anyone else get the feeling the article's author was a little bit in love with him...?

Nicole Cliffe

I have just spent thirty minutes watching the unsubtitled documentary in Russian, which I speak not at all, so I could see if Dmitry was cute.

NotBlairWaldorf

@Nicole Cliffe have you seen the film Anastasia? Imagining him like that.

iceberg

@Nicole Cliffe WELL?!

Nicole Cliffe

Depends on your stance on facial hair. I think he would have cleaned up nicely.

SarahDances

@Nicole Cliffe Yeah, depends. Look here, at 5:14. According to the guy, he looked like Jesus Christ in profile.

iceberg

@Nicole Cliffe I'd hit it.

itiresias

@SarahDances That beard looks just fine.

New Hoarder

@Nicole Cliffe I keep imagining Frank (red shirt) from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (1954). HOT.

Actually, despite my anthropological fascination with this story, I really am just imagining most of it as 2/7 Brothers Needing Outside World 2/7 Brides...

rangiferina

@New Hoarder hear, hear, re: Frank from "Seven Brides." yowza.

Brunhilde

@New Hoarder I would hit every single one of those brothers. Well, maybe not Gideon, becuase he's what, 15?

*by hit I mean "hit that" but now it looks wierd and I'm to tired to come up with a more coherant sentence. I mean, I guess I could just replace "hit" with "fuck", but...

Bloodrocuted

@Nicole Cliffe
"...who knew all of the taiga's moods..."
"...astonishing endurance..."
"...spent days hand-cutting and hand-planing each log..."
"We are not allowed that," he whispered just before he died. "A man lives for howsoever God grants."
So noble and woodsy!

New Hoarder

@Nicole Cliffe I knew I'd finally use those 4 semesters of Russian for something... this documentary is just what I have been waiting for.

SarahDances

I have to say I kind of take issue with the broad characterization of Siberia as a desolate wilderness with "a population, outside a handful of towns, that amounts to only a few thousand people." Yeah, okay maybe, but when you include that "handful" of towns, we're actually talking about ~25 million people.

Although having lived there briefly, I can say that the relationship people there have with the wilderness is bananas. Like, I once had a woman tell me, "Oh, we don't worry about war or other major world crises here. If anything like that happens, we'll all just fade into the taiga and nobody will ever find us."

RK Fire

@SarahDances So what you're saying is that it's the ideal place to be in case of a zombie apocalypse?

SarahDances

@RK Fire That is precisely what I'm saying. The bears, the bugs, and the elements would take out those zombies long before they troubled the rest of us.

Nicole Cliffe

You know, if it turns out the the Old Believers are right, she's totally going to have the last laugh on the rest of the world.

RK Fire

I'm now in a wikipedia wormhole about Siberia, the indigenous people of Siberia, and learning what exactly a taiga is. THANKS, HAIRPIN.

seriously, thanks!

laurel

@RK Fire Did you get to the Tunguska Event yet?

RK Fire

@laurel Not yet but I have come across before during previous wiki wormhole adventures.. mostly of the paranormal variety.

teaandcakeordeath

Ok. This is my new favourite story.
Is it sick that I loved their reactions to technology? The cellophane as crumpeled glass! Poor Dmitry seeing a saw. Argh I want a documentary of them just seeing different stuff. Dumplings! Disneyland! Mentos in diet Coke!

laurel

@teaandcakeordeath I love that the old guy was fine with satellites. Ah yes, sputnik makes perfect sense!

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

This is incredible, and was made even more fun because I was pronouncing "taiga" like I imagine someone with an accent saying "tiger" and things like "he knew all of the taiga's moods" were funnier.

New Hoarder

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose ... is that not the correct way? In my head, I like to take it even further, with an AhhOOOga! kind of inflection: Ty-EEE-guh!

SarahDances

@I'm Right on Top of that, Rose That's more or less correct. Sounds like "TIE-guh." The first syllable exactly like the thing you wear around your neck.

I'm Right on Top of that, Rose

@SarahDances Toight like a taiga

cherrispryte

Doomsday preppers ain't got nothing on this family!

(Doomsday preppers really freak me out and the guy I date is very intrigued by them, which is also disconcerting.)

Miss Maszkerádi

I really really want to hear how the children spoke. The article mentions their odd "dialect" from being in complete isolation and I am a huge language dork. AAH THIS ARTICLE IS AMAZING.

ETA: I have been griping and feeling poor for days because I have a miniscule grocery budget and I'm getting sick of ham and cheese sandwiches for lunch every day all week. I'm....going to stop complaining, after reading this article. A single sprout of rye, YIKES.

nature_morte

@Countess Maritza They spoke like this! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ayWPnm0JWG0 (at 16:47)

Reginal T. Squirge

"The family's principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, 'was for everyone to recount their dreams.'

Ok, that's what would break me. Having to listen to those assholes recount their dumb dreams.

Miss Maszkerádi

@Reginal T. Squirge I just wonder what happened when somebody had an awkward sex dream.

Verity

@Reginal T. Squirge To quote Pauline Mole: "There is only one thing more deadly boring than listening to other people's dreams, and that is listening to other people's problems".

laurel

@Verity To quote Built to Spill: No one wants to hear what you dreamt about unless you dreamt about them

Rozebekistan

Karp was a total crazy person for isolating his family in that manner! I'm an Old Believer (was, I guess) from Oregon and believe me when I say that I have FEELINGS about this story. Poor Akulina dying of starvation, and all the rest...all of the unnecessary deaths! Ugh, ugh, ugh! Now all I want to do is scoop up Agafia and take her home!

redfox

@Rozebekistan But it was because his brother was SHOT DEAD right next to him. It's not like they fled to the taiga because the Communist purges were too friendly and accepting.

Rozebekistan

@redfox That wasn't lost on me at all. I have relatives that died in gulags. I feel sorry for the Lyskovs, but their dad was infinitely awful for keeping them there. For so long. To die.

frigwiggin

Not gonna lie, I read the first two paragraphs of that essay in a David Attenborough voice. "The taiga."

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