Surviving In The Siberian Wilderness For 70 Years: Agafia’s Story

Some people’s lives take them to strange and isolated existences, to the very edges of extremes of challenge, hardship, endurance, great beauty and isolation. Here is an example of that…a family better known as the Russian Hermits. This is Agafia Lykov’s story…and this is her home. Living life in its rawness and I wonder…do we in our “civilised modernity” have room for the Agafia’s of this world?  Can we honour their beliefs and allow them to be- those who tread gently on our world? Because if we cannot be prepared to listen to their wisdom and honour their beliefs, whether we agree with all they say or not…I believe we are all the poorer for it. Stephanie

In 1936, a family of Russian Old Believers journeyed deep into Siberia’s vast taiga to escape persecution and protect their way of life. The Lykovs eventually settled in the Sayan Mountains, 160 miles from any other sign of civilization. In 1944, Agafia Lykov was born into this wilderness. Today, she is the last surviving Lykov, remaining steadfast in her seclusion. In this episode of Far Out, the VICE crew travels to Agafia to learn about her taiga lifestyle and the encroaching influence of the outside world.


8 thoughts on “Surviving In The Siberian Wilderness For 70 Years: Agafia’s Story

  1. meetonline says:

    Reblogged this on Meet Online and commented:
    Thank you for the share.

  2. julienmatei says:

    “400 years ago came this horrible godless science. Soul crushing science…”
    Amazing, what a serene smile this woman has. My God, such strength…

    After seeing this there are not many words left to utter…

    • Stephanie says:

      Yes, you know those few words really hit me too…’soul crushing science’. She is such a very special woman, such depth and wisdom. I am glad you liked it too. I think I shall watch it several times and find something deeper in it each time I do.

      • julienmatei says:

        I was raised in the Greek Orthodox faith.
        I am though, what you may consider, a mystic.

        I don´t take anything for granted. I question every religious creed.

        I definitely don´t ascribe any sense to any dogma – the exoteric sense of every religion is to me totally futile.

        Now…I have pondered deeply over all these years.

        I believe in Christ but not in Christianity. Intuitively I would totally discard this faith if it wasn´t for certain mystics like Meister Eckhart, Teresa of Avila or John of the Cross.

        I am rather intimate with their writings and have found
        meaningful answers in their words.

        But all these years, in the worst moments of crisis, none of them have been of any real avail.
        I had to face darkness on my own. The Christian precepts couldn´t save me. Zen, and above all Krishnamurti, have been my trustworthy companions in this dark night of the soul which – imagine – has been going on since I was 21.

        First now, at 50, I am slowly coming out of it.

        Now, when I think of the Cathedral in Chartres, or, for that matter, other magnificent achievements in art or music in Europe ever since, I cannot possibly dismiss the very fact that the great spiritual legacy of Europe has directly derived from the Christian faith.

        Undeniably, Europe and its culture is Christianity.

        Yet Christianity – I mean the very breath of it – is dead. Had it been alive, I wouldn´t have encountered this harsh darkness in my soul all these years.

        Despite living in the “modern world”, never renouncing it, I somehow lived like a recluse, and God knows how I made it through. As I said, there was no one there to guide me.

        Now, faith is nothing you word about. It is a vivid breath, an ineffable emanation of sorts. A presence…

        And here I come to what I want to point out:

        This Russian woman is overwhelming: her simplicity, her strength and endurance, her smile, depth and wisdom…really, it was overwhelming, I have never somehow seen this kind of Light anywhere…except maybe in certain paintings of the grand masters.

        She is a vivid evidence that Christianity, beyond its dogmatic flaws, is not
        some kind of superstitious concoct, but something very “real”.

        And it is here that I come to bluntly disagree with Krishnamurti who claims that man has invented churches, rituals and gods, as being nonsense.

        The deep essence of Christianity is indeed no figment of some deluded minds, even if, more often thahn not, it appears to be that way.

        The difficult task is to dig so deep into its primordial “breath” without turning into a hermit.

      • Stephanie says:

        I think that deserves a post all of its own on your blog Julie. Have you read any of Matthew Fox’s work? I find resonance in his “Cosmic” Christ, the Christ for all, regardless of religious creed…because it is true I feel that when religion becomes organised and structured, it does three things that come to mind for me. 1]It provides a platform for people searching to find their own inner light and connection…which is good…we all need some kind of ‘starting point’, 2] then becomes so tight and rigid that when people do find and experience connection, the rules can serve almost as a prison warder/dictator, denouncing what people’s true experience is, as heretical and tightening more and more, forbidding this that and the other…and 3] it sees others outside of its creed being wrong/deluded/and to be converted. And this is what stifles and kills its very breath and life. I am forever grateful that I am mystical, and find others who transcend dogma in all faith systems and speak a common language of the heart, of the breath, of peace, of transformation. Because the faith of the mystics is rich, full, loving, alive, breathing, revelatory in the present, past and future…and is the common thread that links us all together. And the Cosmic Christ does the same. There are so many that lift me with their words, I am very partial to Thomas Merton, when I read him in the way of contemplation which I do everyday, I can hear him reading alongside my own voice, his presence is so close, so near, so present with me. There is always two of us present in the same space/time/place when I read him, and of course the ever present one who prays within, which we Christians call the Holy Spirit. Merton broke the rules, merging Christianity with Zen – he found that Cosmic Christ behind the Jesus Christ. Richard Rohr is the same, as is Father Thomas Keating. Julian of Norwich, Rumi, Teresa of Avila, the Dali Lama, Sufi’s such as Llewellyn Vaughn Lee, one of my absolute favourites…see this post here…

      • julienmatei says:


        Thanks for your response.

        Just to let you know. My name is JULIEN 🙂

      • Stephanie says:

        Aah, almost like my dear friend Julian of Norwich.x

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