A couple enjoy each other and a light show at a Moscow Art Festival in Ostankino Park, Moscow.
Image Credit: Photograph: Maxim Zmeyev/AFP/Getty Images
Slowly, over several visits, the full story of the family emerged.
The old man’s name was Karp Lykov, and he was an Old Believer–a member of a fundamentalist Russian Orthodox sect, worshiping in a style unchanged since the 17th century.
Old Believers had been persecuted since the days of Peter the Great, and Lykov talked about it as though it had happened only yesterday; for him, Peter was a personal enemy and “the anti-Christ in human form”—a point he insisted had been amply proved by Tsar’s campaign to modernize Russia by forcibly “chopping off the beards of Christians.”
But these centuries-old hatreds were conflated with more recent grievances; Karp was prone to complain in the same breath about a merchant who had refused to make a gift of 26 poods of potatoes to the Old Believers sometime around 1900.
Things had only got worse for the Lykov family when the atheist Bolsheviks took power.
Under the Soviets, isolated Old Believer communities that had fled to Siberia to escape persecution began to retreat ever further from civilization.
During the purges of the 1930s, with Christianity itself under assault, a Communist patrol had shot Lykov’s brother on the outskirts of their village while Lykov knelt working beside him.
He had responded by scooping up his family and bolting into the forest.
That was in 1936, and there were only four Lykovs then—Karp; his wife, Akulina; a son named Savin, 9 years old, and Natalia, a daughter who was only 2.
Taking their possessions and some seeds, they had retreated ever deeper into the taiga, building themselves a succession of crude dwelling places, until at last they had fetched up in this desolate spot.
Two more children had been born in the wild—Dmitry in 1940 and Agafia in 1943—and neither of the youngest Lykov children had ever seen a human being who was not a member of their family.
All that Agafia and Dmitry knew of the outside world they learned entirely from their parents’ stories. The family’s principal entertainment, the Russian journalist Vasily Peskov noted, “was for everyone to recount their dreams.”
Read on via For 40 Years, This Russian Family Was Cut Off From All Human Contact, Unaware of World War II | History | Smithsonian.
A festival to celebrate red hair is held regularly in Udmurtia
Russia is home to people from at least 190 ethnic groups and counts more than 20 different republics within its borders.
The Udmurts are said to possess the reddest hair in the world.
The Tatars and Bashkirs descend from the Golden Horde.
The Mari worship animist spirits amid their sacred forest groves.
The connection between these different ethnicities is that they all have their own republics inside the Russian Federation.
I travelled 500 miles (750km) east of Moscow to the Middle Volga lowlands, where six of these republics cluster together to see how they are run.
There have been claims that they are the “most red-headed” people in the world.
The members of the long-extinct Budini tribe, who are said to have been precursors of the modern Udmurts, were described as being predominantly red-headed by the Ancient Greek historian Herodotus .
It’s been compared to the Eiffel Tower and is celebrated by architects around the world, but after a century of looming over Moscow the Shukhov Tower may be destroyed.
Built from 1920 to 1922 after a design by Vladimir Shukhov, the 525-foot radio tower was commissioned by Lenin to broadcast into distant Soviet territories.
Also known as the Shabolovka Tower, it was originally meant to be much taller — 1,150 feet — and was curtailed by a steel shortage due to the Civil War.