In 1978 a Russian helicopter was flying over the Abakan region…

In 1978 a Russian helicopter was flying over the Abakan region of Siberia, scouting for a landing spot for a team of geologists, when they saw a clearing and signs of human habitation on a mountainside 150 miles from the closest settlement.

When the geologists landed and approached the location, they came upon the cabin pictured above. In the words of one of the scientists:

The low door creaked, and the figure of a very old man emerged into the light of day, straight out of a fairy tale. Barefoot. Wearing a patched and repatched shirt made of sacking. He wore trousers of the same material, also in patches, and had an uncombed beard. His hair was disheveled. He looked frightened and was very attentive…. We had to say something, so I began: ‘Greetings, grandfather! We’ve come to visit!’

The old man did not reply immediately…. Finally, we heard a soft, uncertain voice: ‘Well, since you have traveled this far, you might as well come in.’

The old man was Karp Lykov, and he had been living in the one-room cabin in the wilderness with his wife and their four children for over forty years. Members of a devoutly religious sect, the family fled into the woods during the Bolshevik purges of the 1930’s, after a patrol shot Lykov’s brother as he and Karp worked in the fields outside their village. They never returned to civilization.

The two younger Lykov children had never seen human beings other than their family members. They subsisted on berries, pine nuts, and other food gathered from the forest; Dimitri, the youngest child, could pursue game across the taiga until his prey dropped from exhaustion. They wore shoes and used buckets fashioned from birch bark. Akulina, Karp’s wife, had died of starvation in 1961.

The Lykovs were unaware that World War II had happened, and Karp refused to believe that men had landed on the moon.

After their discovery, the family declined. Three of the four children died in 1981. Karp lived until 1988. And Agafia Lykov, the youngest child, refused to leave the family’s Siberian cabin; as of 2011, she was still there.

The Smithsonian’s website has more on this incredible story.

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