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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 – Jul 1994


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Product details

  • Hardcover
  • Publisher: Doubleday; Reprint edition (July 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385472099
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385472098
  • Product Dimensions: 1.9 x 16.5 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,517,675 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Ian Millard on 16 Feb. 2010
Format: Hardcover
In order to understand this book, one has to understand that, in the time of Peter the Great, there was an associated schism in the Russian Orthodox Church between the followers of Patriarch Nikon, Peter's favoured cleric and the Old Believers who thought that the reforms instituted in society and the Church by Peter and Nikon were evil. The outward signs of schism, such as whether to make the sign of the Cross with one, two or three fingers, were just symptoms of this inner ideological or theological struggle. The Old Believers separated themselves from mainstream Russian society and went to live, most of them, in the forests and steppes. A few wealthy families of merchants stayed in the cities, mainly in Moscow, where they were always supporters of any kind of opposition to Tsarism. an example of this tendency was the Morozov family, who went so far as to support Lenin (Ulyanov) in the early 20th Century.

In the time of Stalin, most of the Old Believers were rounded up and sent into labour camps or were otherwise repressed. A few fled to the more remote virgin forests (taiga) of the Russian Far North or to Siberia. In 1947, in Stalin's last great round of purges, a remnant here and there managed to escape official surveillance. A few of these survived into contemporary times. solzhenitsyn notes, in Gulag Archipelago, that one such settlement was discovered from the air in 1968 and removed (in his understandably harsh judgement, into the manacles of the KGB).

This book covers the lives of one family, who formed a small settlement on their own in remote south-western Siberia.
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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
27 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Robinson Crusoe / Rip Van Winkle awaken deep in the Siberian forest... 27 April 2010
By John P. Jones III - Published on Amazon.com
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.

As Peskov investigation of the family unfolds, he describes their bare subsistence living since prior to World War II. The family lived in hovels, had no salt, watched as their few iron tools rusted and broke, cultivated potatoes (ironically, one of the forbidden items in the 16th Century), eschewed the use of matches to start fires (the sulfur was also forbidden), relied upon the forest (taiga) to supplement their meager fare, and maintained the various "fetishes" of their fundamentalist beliefs. Naturally they had no health care. A spectra haunted this group, as well as other remote old believers - incest! Peskov never can definitely state this is the reason why the two brothers established separate dwellings six kilometers from the main housing unit, but certainly it is high on the speculation list.

Peskov uses the English term "Robinsons" to describe them. In 1961 they were almost overwhelmed by famine, due to snows in June which killed their meager crops. The mother Lykov died shortly thereafter, no doubt weakened by inadequate food. Over the course of Peskov's contact with them, in the `80's, all died except the daughter Agafia. Would she elect to return to "civilization", or maintain her ways as a hermit of the forest? This is an excellent book, with insights into a radically different way of life, and is highly recommended in order to find the answer to that question, as well as numerous others. It also provides a "distant mirror" view of other fundamentalist groups.

Note: This review is a re-post of the one at: Ermites dans la Taïga
23 of 25 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating but puzzling read 18 Nov. 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Fascinating account, great survival reference. 23 July 2012
By Aglaecwer - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Astonishing Tale of Isolation and Survival 10 Sept. 2013
By Roberta Nordheim-Wallace - Published on Amazon.com
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.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Off the grid in the most hostile place on earth 8 Mar. 2013
By LiveInHoth - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is an interesting book about a family surviving in one of the most inhospitable places in the world. Interesting how they missed all the bad parts of soviet history and stayed out there all by themselves. Their long term issue was population base that just continued to dwindle.

As a guy living in Alaska I am always curious to read about people living off the land in harsh climates successfully. There isn't a long growing season, bad winters can really set you back and s forth.

I'm surprised the Soviets who encountered them in the 80's left them alone.
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