What's World War II? Siberian Family Lived Isolated for 40 Years

Smithsonian recounts tale of geologists finding them in 1978

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Jan 29, 2013 5:03 PM CST | Updated Feb 2, 2013 7:40 AM CST

(Newser) Smithsonian has a fascinating story about a family of six that lived deep in the Siberian wilderness for 40 years with zero contact from other humans until geologists found them in 1978. Meaning they missed, among other things, all of World War II. The father, who belonged to a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, moved them there in 1936 to avoid religious persecution. Some snippets:

  • "The sight that greeted the geologists as they entered the cabin was like something from the middle ages. Jerry-built from whatever materials came to hand, the dwelling was not much more than a burrow—'a low, soot-blackened log kennel that was as cold as a cellar,' with a floor consisting of potato peel and pine-nut shells."
  • The two daughters "spoke a language distorted by a lifetime of isolation." It sounded "like a slow, blurred cooing."

  • The family would sometimes visit the geologists' camp, and one invention in particular sucked them in: television. "(T)hey would invariably sit down and watch. Karp sat directly in front of the screen. Agafia watched poking her head from behind a door. She tried to pray away her transgression immediately—whispering, crossing herself. ... The old man prayed afterward, diligently and in one fell swoop."
  • Only one member of the family survives, daughter Agafia, now in her 70s, and she still lives in isolation in Siberia.
Read the full story here.

A sunset in Siberia.
A sunset in Siberia.   (Shutterstock)
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