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Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family's Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness Hardcover – June 1, 1994


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

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. Photos not seen by PW . Film rights to Jean-Jacques Annaud.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Russian journalist Peskov here expands his Komsomolskaia Pravda reports of a family of Old Believers-members of a fundamentalist sect that seceded from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century-who moved to the remote Siberian forests in 1932 to escape the modern world. It may be difficult for readers without a background in Russian history to appreciate this book. Though a cursory explanation is given of the Great Schism in the church, additional information about the Old Believers would have been useful. The sequence is problematic, the style can be awkward and repetitive, and using footnotes to clarify the Russian words dispersed throughout the text would have been helpful. Nevertheless, the Lykovs' story is memorable and should appeal to anyone interested in wilderness survival and in lives governed by faith. Although the "discovery" of the Lykovs inspired international interest and assistance, in 1991 the surviving daughter, Agafia, was still determined to remain in the taiga rather than accept invitations to live "in the world." This book was a best seller in France, and film rights have been purchased by Jacques Arnaud. Libraries with Soviet/Russian collections should purchase, and public libraries should consider.
--Donna L. Cole, Leeds P.L., Ala.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 254 pages
  • Publisher: Doubleday; Reprint edition (June 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385472099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385472098
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6.5 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #919,725 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 11 customer reviews
I would have rated this book 20 stars if that was possible.
Wacky Wiccan
Most amazing, they succeed to the point that the single survivor, a woman, continues to live in that unforgiving environment by choice.
Roberta Nordheim-Wallace
It is a story I won't forget, and I am sure I will read the book again, now that I finally own one.
Alice Kline

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
This is truly a fascinating story of six "old believers" who found sanctuary for their strange beliefs deep in the Siberian forest. They cut their ties with "civilization" in 1938, lived quite primitively in a remote area of Siberia just north of the juncture of Mongolia and China. They had absolutely no contact with others until they were discovered by miners, using helicopters to survey this inaccessible region in 1982. One of the miners conveyed his findings to the Russian journalist, Vassili Peskov, who has written this book, which is in part a detective story uncovering the lives of the lives of these six, who composed the family Lykov.

There are numerous "fundamentalists" among the monotheistic religions, be they Christian, Jewish or Muslim. Not often discussed are the fundamentalists of the Russian Orthodox Church. Peskov explains that there was a major schism in the church in the 16th century, in part due to a "reinterpretation" of the Greek sources by Czar Peter the Great. Beliefs changed, and suddenly it was important if one made the sign of the cross with three fingers or two. Peter also decreed that beards be shaved. The fundamentalist opposed these innovations, as well as the use of tobacco and alcohol, games, and songs. They also opposed much of the authority of the state, including its laws, military service, money and passports. As with other fundamentalists, be they those who are concerned about events on the plains of Karbala, or the ownership of land on the West Bank, the "old believers" are motivated as though Peter the Great was still alive. They followed the dictum of their 16th Century leadership, fleeing and hiding. None seems to have done it better than the family Lykov.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 18, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This story about a journalist who meets with a family that has lived for 50 years all alone in a tiny primitive shack in the Siberian wilderness is fascinating. It appeals to our human fascination with "lost people" or people who have shut themselves away from the world. The descriptions of the family and their lives is an astonishing read. The reader comes off still very puzzled, however, at why they did that. Understandably, even the author did not find the true answer, but after our fascination with the situation is over, we have more questions than are answered. When three of the five family members suddenly die within a month of each other there is little explanation and it takes up only a page of story. I recommend this book, but I should warn that after the story is over, you will have many unanswered questions. The book does not give those of us untutored in Russian history sufficient explanation of the facts of people like this family.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Aglaecwer on July 22, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Religious schism and persecution are widespread in Old World's history. In the West many set off for then unknown America looking for freedom; it is only natural than in the East many marched to the remotest parts Siberia for the very same reasons. This book narrates an extreme case of withdrawal from the world, that of a family living on its own for 50 years in the taiga with no contact at all with the outside. The relate is extremely interesting on its own as a lesson on human nature. It is structured as yearly accounts of the encounters between the family and a Russian journalist.

As a survival reference the book is priceless: this people managed in an extremely harsh environment, completely on their own for decades. From a survivalist's point of view, it is the real deal. Sowing and harvesting your own hemp, spinning its fibers and then weaving your own clothes; then surviving Siberian winter on those clothes. Supplementing a monotonous diet of potatoes and pine seeds with very primitive hunting and fishing, even reaching the point of eating tree bark and leather when starving. Making almost all your utensils out of birch bark, wood or stone. Fire making with flint and steel. The book covers many interesting survival topics, tried and tested by real people in a hellish environment.

I also found of interest the very slow immersion of the family into civilized comforts as they got back in contact with society, and how their faith acted as a counterbalance in such situation. If you are familiar with the degeneracy of many natives after such a contact, you will come to be interested in this particular situation.

A must read for survivalists, and an excellent book overall.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Roberta Nordheim-Wallace on September 9, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is an absolute must-read for anyone who thinks they know something about wilderness survival. The story would be crazy if it weren't true... a family of "Old Believers" chooses the harshest, most difficult possible existence in the wilds of Siberia over continuing to live in the modern world. Most amazing, they succeed to the point that the single survivor, a woman, continues to live in that unforgiving environment by choice. The translation is solid and it's tough to put this one down, it's that compelling a read. I cannot say enough about it--I read a copy loaned me by a friend and was so moved I had to order my own copy. This one's a keeper.
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