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

By 0 and 0 and 0
17 November 2017


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)

She is a rare and true soul of the earth, and that cannot be taken from her. I agree with comments above.
Leslie, NJ/USA
05/01/2018 23:27
It would be too much of an emotional shock to remove her from the home she has known since she was a child. I cannot understand why those who are happy to support her in her older years are being banned legally from doing what any caring human would do. As others state she has a wealth of knowledge that is all too quickly being eroded from today’s society.

Let her live the way she wants to live and allow those that care continue to care and support.
Elizabeth, New Zealand
18/12/2017 02:24
My best wishes for Agafya Lykova who spent all her life with wild animals and cold weather without necessary tools and equipment to survive leti us hope that Wladini Putin makes the necessary arrangements for Agafya so the rest of her life could be spent in better cinditions
liguori leclerc, Trois-Riviéres (QUEBEC). Canada
23/11/2017 00:28
My best wishes for Agafya Lykova, I hope president Putin will take care for her future years to live and get used to our modern world around Moscow.
Liguori Leclerc, TROIS-RIVIÉRES QUEBEC (Canada)
22/11/2017 02:17
Shouldn't this headline be;

"Insignificant little bureaucrat is hateful and jealous of simple living old woman's success in nature."

I have news for this guy.

Billions of people on Earth live pretty simple with little access to health care etc.

Let that idiot go help the poor and the homeless instead, who did not choose for it and suffer in cities.
Forest, Amersfoort
21/11/2017 10:55
Frist, I am impressed - but not astonished - by the Russian good heart, respect and solidary. How the same situation would have been "treated" in a lot of other countries is easy and painful to imagine.

Second, I have another feeling to all the other commentators; I think she should be taken care of, but with respect to what her life and religion is. If her friends could find some younger people who would like to learn her skills and knowledge and live with her in her final years, it would be great. If no one is found to do so, she should be "relocated" in a monastery of the Old Religion; a lot of them live with minimal modern devices and she could adapt there and taken
Marina, E.U.
21/11/2017 05:03
I am very inspired, by her inspired individual social life choices. I am also very psyched, by all the social comments ,on this wonderful page. I rad recently, that not so long ago, while the subject was still open for social discourse, many Siberian Asian folks, would have been very happy to join in a federal republic, with the USA. I love the facts of the little known Siberian Asian social & natural world's gorgeous beauty.
JohnPaulGettelman, Milwaukee,Wisconsin,USA
20/11/2017 14:55
Let her stay. It may cost but she is a treasure. If we could only save what she knows, that's priceless.
Scrat335, United States
20/11/2017 08:10
Honor such bravery. Provide some help and preserve the family history Brace to live such a life As we destroyed the world that family lived a touch but beautiful individual real life A film would wake up some people to stop whining about their misfortune Live and make a life people Be proud of such a long life well lived.
Patricia Gothard, Laguna Woods USA
20/11/2017 03:11
I remember when geologists found them in taiga, in 1978. It was news all over the world. I was small boy but very much impressed with their life. I am sory to hear that Agafya's health is deteriorated. She needs dentist. I can see it. Bad teeth caused her back problems and leg pains.
Dushan , Amsterdam Netherlands
20/11/2017 03:04
strong woman, live well
t silver, sweden
19/11/2017 11:10
Let her to live there. In the wilderness. Do not bother her, please.
Gyorgy, Budapest/Hungary
18/11/2017 22:30
why politics and the penpushers have to meddle into everything. let the old lady live there in peace the few years she still has in this beautiful part of Russia. help her when and with what is needed.
Benedikt MORAK, Moscow
18/11/2017 10:10
I would love to spend a week with her learning things. I am an avid outdoorsman and cannot fathom enduring what she and her family have not only survived- but thrived. It would be an honor to meet her.
Brian Erdrich, Alaska, USA
18/11/2017 09:05
She is a national treasure and should be left alone and help when needed.
jo6pac, USA
17/11/2017 23:55

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