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'What happens in Sibera stays in Siberia...unless it is covered by The Siberian Times'

Governor seeks to force world's most famous hermit to abandon taiga home 100 km from civilisation

By The Siberian Times reporter
17 November 2017

Agafya Lykova, 73, lives in home her father built when he secretly fled Stalin's religious persecution, vanishing from world in 1936.

Agafya Lykova, now 73 years old. Picture: Nikolay Proletsky

In a dramatic move, Khakassia governor Viktor Zimin has banned flights to the hermit in the Khakassky Nature Reserve in what appears to be an attempt to make her leave her wilderness home. 

This remarkable woman, a devout Old Believer who lives like a peasant from the 19th century rejecting most modern comforts, knows no other home. 

Her family disappeared from Soviet civilisation in 1936 and were found again in the 1978 when Soviet geologists flying over Siberia noticed their wooden home and cultivated hillsides. 

An expedition made contact with them and they had no idea the Second World War had started - or ended.

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova
'Russia's loneliest woman', hermit Agafya Lykova. Pictures: Nikolay Proletsky

Agafya was the fourth child of Karp and Akulina Lykov and for the first 35 years of her life she had no contact at all with anyone outside her family.

The scientists reported that Agafya spoke a strange blurred language 'distorted by a lifetime of isolation'.

As she has aged, Russia's 'loneliest woman' has received increasing help from outsiders visiting her, bring her animals, food supplies and cutting logs for her. 

But now the governor of Khakassia, Viktor Zimin, says this must stop, his ire directed at the governor of neighbouring Kemerovo region Aman Tuleyev and his team who have been the hermit's main lifeline as she became older. 

He is seeking to ban helicopter flights to her hideout close to Yerinat River, some 100 metres up a remote mountain side in the Abakan Range, in south-western Siberia.

'One more flight land there, and that's it, you have violated the country's law,' he said in a radio phone-in. 

'You have no right to fly there and no right to land there. 

'And don't shame us, posing like you are her sole suppliers.' 

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova
Lykovs' house in Siberian taiga, Agafya with her father Karl (L) and in her younger years. Pictures: Nikolay Proletsky

The governor also admitted that he doesn't like Agafya. 

'I take the Old Believers' religion with big respect,' he said. 'Moreover one of my team, a girl, she is from the Old Believers. 

'My attitude towards her is very positive indeed as this is a Russian religion. 

'As for babushka Agafya, she doesn't carry any great deeds linked to religion.'

The hermit has repeatedly to leave her home despite threats from bears. 

She 'has had multiple offers to relocate from the territory of the nature reserve, but she did not agree.'

He objected to her ability to summon help from the nature reserve team at public expense. 

'But to be spending such millions? 'Of course perhaps you can't measure life by money.

'But if every citizen of the republic could have such life free of charge, with food and other supplies delivered....'

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova
The Kemerovo governor said via his press service that he and Agafya 'cherish their long friendship'. Pictures: Nikolay Proletsky

Khakassia governor's blast failed to convince Tuleyev who vowed to continue helping Agafya.

The Kemerovo governor said via his press service that he and Agafya 'cherish their long friendship' - they are the same age - and she will continue to receive help even though she lives in a different region. 

It is unclear how he will provide this assistance if flights are banned. 

'They met 20 years ago and never stopped communicating,' said a spokesman. 

'Several times a year Agafya sends a message via the head of Tashtagol district Vladimir Makuta who visits her while inspecting the taiga. 

'There is a systematic approach to help we provide as it is not just food and presents, but volunteers came to visit her and helped with errands. 

'Rangers protected her from bears. 

'You can't ban friendship.'

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova
'But she is a golden mine of knowledge, experience and culture of Russia as it was five, six centuries ago.' Pictures: Vesti Kuzbass, Vladimir Makuta

TV presenter Andrey Grishakov - who has visited Agafya - said: 'She is not the kind of person who would agree to leave her place and move to the 'big land'. She is scared of everything modern.'

However, she does now have a satellite phone for use in emergencies. 

Living in the intense cold, she has back problems and leg pains. 

Agafya Lykova is not your ordinary elderly woman,' said Grishakov last year.

'Today many people asked me why I was helping, and why so many effort was invested in keeping in touch with her. 

'But she is a golden mine of knowledge, experience and culture of Russia as it was five, six centuries ago. 

'Scientists study her dialect, record her vocabulary and make notes of her habits. I have no doubt that we should be helping her.' 

The nearest village to her is some 100 kilometres away. 

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova
Agafya's father Karl, and his grave in Siberian taiga. Pictures: Nikolay Proletsky

Her father decided to flee normal civilisation in 1936 after a communist patrol arrived at the fields on which he was working and shot dead his brother.

Gathering a few meager possessions and some seeds, he took his wife, Akulina, their nine-year-old son, Savin, and two-year-old daughter Natalia, and headed off into the forest.

Over the years they retreated deeper into taiga, building a series of wooden cabins amid the pine trees.

When their metal pots had disintegrated beyond use, they were forced to live on a staple diet of potato patties mixed with ground rye and hemp seeds.

The Lykovs subsided mainly on trapped wild animals and cultivated potatoes. 

They had no firearms, no salt and did not know how to make bread.

Agafya Lykova

Agafya Lykova 
Agafya Lykova. Pictures: Vladimir Makuta

However a bad winter in 1961 killed off everything in their garden and they were reduced to eating their own leather shoes. The cold weather, and lack of food, tragically proved too much for Akulina who died.

Once the family was discovered they continued to live in the wilderness and, apart from salt, knives, forks and handles, they opted not to adopt any methods or items from the modern world.

Two years after their discovery, three of the four children also died: Savin and Natalia suffered kidney failure and Dmitry perished from pneumonia.

Agafya's father died in his sleep in February 1988, but despite her age and the risks to her health she continues to live permanently in her remote homestead.

Comments (17)

Maybe instead of moving her out to an old people's home and so having to look out for her health, safety and well being, etc, leave her where she is. Maybe she should be the live-in Babcia at a school learning center. Mr Putin is a man who looks to better Russia; that would better Siberia and teach Children of the modern Russia. But at the same time help her situation and let her live out her life where she understands it, for Siberia she is not old -103 is old.
Wendi Ataman, Mirsk Poland
17/11/2017 22:53
People should just leave her alone and let her live out her life as she wishes.
Doc, US
17/11/2017 17:12

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