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At the «taiga dead-end»

Geography (Locations)   |   Names and places of interest   |   Souvenirs

This story became a sensation of the “late stagnation period”. The year is 1982. People line up at newsstands at four o’clock in the morning to get a new issue of “Komsomolskaya Pravda” with an article about the Lykov family. The newspaper’s circulation skyrocketed to 21 million issues.

For more than thirty years, the family of old-believers had lived in isolation from the rest of the world, on the bank of the taiga river Erinat. How can one survive in a wild forest and bear children in primeval conditions? Readers found the answers in essays written by Vassily Peskov, a columnist of “Komsomolskaya Pravda”. “Now I carry moral responsibility for Agafya [the last survivor of the family],” says Peskov. “I visit her every year to see if she needs anything.” His next trip is planned for August 2007. Vassily Mikhailovich will bring greetings to the taiga recluse from the motherland of her ancestors – the village of Lykova, located in the Uporov district of the Tyumen region.

A family of old-believers, the Lykovs hid from the rest of the world behind the spurs of Sayan Mountains: the old Karp Osipovich and his four grown children, two sons and two daughters. Every day of their life was a continuous fight for survival in the severe taiga conditions. They were supported by their faith, by praying together. Contact with the modern world turned out to be fatal for the Lykovs. Over just a few months, they were bombarded by an overwhelming amount of new information. They had not known about electricity, television, space missions. In 1981, three of the Lykovs died one after another.

It is believed that the Lykovs are originally from the Lykova village. On the bank of the Borovaya River stands a sturdy log cabin that once belonged to a family of old-believers. What could have forced the Lykovs to leave this land?

In 1982, grandmother Nenila – who was pushing ninety at the time – told the story that she had heard from her own grandmother: the village was founded by the Lykov brothers. Their kin was prevailing here. They owned five mills on the southern side of the village. They were old-believers who prayed at home. It was a solid family. But then the revolution struck. First the white army would enter the village, then the red army. The Lykovs grew tired of the hectic life. They loaded their belongings into carts, left their house and mills, and set out in search of a better fortune.

However, Vassily Peskov has a different version. The Lykova village was founded by old-believers who had fled from the Russian North. Later, other peasants came here and built houses of their own. The Sorokina village was formed. It is from these neighbors that the ancestors of the taiga Lykovs fled. And those Lykovs that left in the 1920s were the last representatives of the kin. Perhaps they didn’t leave out of their own will – they could have been dispossessed by the communists.

Peskov is hard to disagree with. Now he is enthused with a new idea, to put together a present for Agafya: a scutcher for flax, a spindle, an earthenware pot, a letter from Galina Kolunina (a historian who has researched the origins of the Lykov family), and a lestovka. A lestovka is an old-believer’s rosary, which is used to count bows to the ground. Instead of beads, it has tight-rolled slips of paper containing texts of prayers. Coincidentally, this lestovka belonged to another Agafya: Agafya Zoteevna Yartseva, born in 1896. This coincidence dismisses all doubts: the Lykov family has originated here! The journey to the “taiga dead-end” started in the village of Lykova in Tyumen region. The old-believers fled to protect their faith. Now there are no Lykovs here, no keepers of the “faith of the elders”. Children and grandchildren of Agafya Yartseva no longer know in which hand to hold a lestovka and how to perform the sign of the cross. But even the escape to taiga did not safeguard the old ways. The 62-year-old Agafya is the last branch of the mighty Lykov family tree that still sustains the faith. What feelings will be stirred in her by the old lestovka, a spiritual bridge to the homeland of her ancestors?

G. Kramor
Employee of the Yershov museum
Photos taken by the author



The legendary lestovka: from Agafya to Agafya

The legendary lestovka: from Agafya to Agafya // [ Enlarge ]

Galina Kolunina tells about the history of the village // [ Enlarge ]

A bridge across the Borovlyanka River in the Lykova village // [ Enlarge ]

Albert Goltsman describes the generous Lykov land // [ Enlarge ]

Peskov presented this picture of Agafya Lykova to the city of Ishim // [ Enlarge ]