Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family's Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness

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9780385472098: Lost in the Taiga: One Russian Family's Fifty-Year Struggle for Survival and Religious Freedom in the Siberian Wilderness
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In the late 1970s, a Russian pilot flying over a remote, mountainous stretch of the Siberian taiga, the vast subarctic forest, spotted a tilled field hundreds of miles from any known settlement. He could not believe his eyes; in this forbidding part of the world, human habitation was a statistical impossibility. A team of scientists parachuted in and were stunned by what they found: a primitive wood cabin, and a family dressed in rags that spoke, thought, and lived in the manner of seventeenth-century Russian peasants during the reign of Tsar Peter the Great. How they come here, how they survived, and how they ultimately prevailed in a climate of unimaginable adversity make for one of the most extraordinary human adventures of this century.
Acclaimed Pravda journalist Vasily Peskov has visited this family once a year for the past twelve years, gaining their trust and learning their story. It begins in the late seventeenth century, when a community of Russian Orthodox fundamentalists made a two-thousand-mile odyssey from the Ukraine to the depths of the Siberian taiga to escape religious persecution at the hands of Peter the Great, who sought to reform the Russian Orthodox Church. For nearly 250 years, this band of "Old Believers" kept the outside world at bay, but in the 1930s Stalin's brutal collectivization program swept East and threw them from their land. But the young family of Karp Osipovich Lykov refused to abandon the only way of life they knew, and fled even deeper into the desolate Siberian hinterland. By the time Peskov came to know them, they had been alone for more than fifty years, surviving solely on what they could harvest, hunt, and build by their own means. The sole surviving family member, the daughter Agafia, lives by herself in the Lykov family cabin to this day.
In Lost in the Taiga, Peskov brings to life the Lykovs' faith, their doubt, and their epic struggle against an unyielding wilderness, even as he pays homage to a natural habitat that is being despoiled so rapidly it may soon no longer exist. Peskov's account has captured the imagination of the world: published in ten countries on three continents, it is being made into a movie by internationally acclaimed filmmaker Jean-Jacques Annaud. Lost in the Taiga is a lyrical celebration of the Siberian taiga's savage beauty, and a moving testament to the power of the human will.

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Language Notes:

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Russian

From Kirkus Reviews:

Peskov, a correspondent for Komsomolskaya Pravda, tells the story of a Russian religious dissident who, in 1932, took his wife into the remote Siberian Taiga and remained there, effectively frozen in time, until the 1990s. In 1978, while flying over the upper reaches of the Abakan River, a group of geologists spot what looks like a garden in the midst of the wilderness. On landing, they find not only a garden but paths, a house, and--looking like a vision from the previous century--an old man dressed in patched sacking, speaking a strange dialect. The man, Karp Lykov, and his family are members of a fundamentalist sect called the Old Believers, who insist that they are not permitted to ``live with the world.'' The men and women live separately in this tiny primitive colony. We see daughter Agafia climb nimbly up pine trees to knock off the nuts for her father; we see the pitch dark house with no lighting. Later, as the Lykovs become slowly acquainted with the surrounding Russian society, we see their first reactions to horses, modern buildings, trains, and a boxing match, which so horrifies Agafia that she flees from it. Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of this saga is the Old Believers' system of counting time, which they reckon as did people before the time of Peter the Great: by the Psalter and the lunar phases. Given the resistance to modernity among religious fanatics, and given Russia's troubled encounter with modernity and the vastness of the land, Peskov writes, ``it is not hard to imagine many similar retreats cropping up...The taiga has swallowed up many small monasteries, poor huts and grave crosses.'' At the end of his brisk and informative account, Peskov wonders if the Lykovs--who missed the purges, WW II, and all the shake-ups that followed--were happy with their life in the wilderness. ``I think so,'' he concludes. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

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