Russian hermit experiment

An article in the Daily Mail (UK) describes the experiment of 24-year old Pavel Sapozhnikov living in a wilderness farm in Russia as a medieval hermit, meaning that he uses only the technology of the tenth century. The eight-month experiment will end in May. Here are some details of the project:

At the start of the project, Pavel Sapozhnikov was given the chance to document a day in the life using a camera and notepad, and this was posted on the project’s blog. According to this blog, Sapozhnikov spends the morning milking his goats and eating breakfast. He then chops wood for the fire and collects water from the well. The rest of the day is spent either hunting for food, or carrying out manual labour on the farm. This includes insulating the house with manure, maintaining his house and outbuildings, and other tasks around the farm. To prepare for the mission, Sapozhnikov spent months learning how to prepare animals, including chickens. He also became skilled in using the ancient tools and familiarised himself with ancient fire-building and washing techniques. He is only allowed to leave the farm to find food, and is forbidden from any form of communication.

The theory behind the experiment is “to trace the social and psychological changes in personality and learn how important the support of others is to modern humans.” With help from expert archaeologist, Alexander Fetisov, the farm was built using only materials and techniques that would have been used by ancient Russians. Sapozhnikov must also furnish his home in the same way. This includes fire lights that burn on linseed oil, wooden beds, animal fur clothes and bedding and a calendar scratched into the wall of the house. Construction on the farm began at the start of 2012, and Sapozhnikov moved in at the start of September 2013; the project is expected to run until May. During this time, temperatures in the region can drop as low as minus 30°C and this time period was deliberately chosen to highlight exactly how difficult Russian ancestors would have found living and hunting in the conditions.


Earlier URLs:

Agafya updates

Succeeding reports about the Old Believer Siberian hermit Agafya Lykova have recently appeared on the web. News agency Interfax indicates that she

has written a letter to the newspaper Krasnoyarsky Rabochy, asking for help. According to the letter, which was four pages long and was couriered over to the paper, Lykova is looking for a person to help her about the house. “I need help with firewood, about the house, with my garden, to mow hay. I am old, sick, and I feed giddy. I have a lump on my right breast. I have become very weak. I don’t know if God will let me live through the winter,” Lykova said in her letter. The hermit says she is feeling poorly and is freezing. “There is no firewood in the house, I need to log firewood every day, and I read psalms when I do it. I get short of breath, and I get very cold in the frost, my hands and my feet are cold. And I also have work about the house, in addition to the firewood,” Lykova said in her letter.


The web site Focus-Fen follows up with news that

Russian authorities said they will dispatch a helicopter with food and other supplies to an elderly dweller of the Siberian taiga who had no contact with civilization until she was 33, RIA Novosti reported. Agafya Lykova, 68, pleaded for help in a letter she managed to send out from her riverside hut to the Krasnoyarsky Rabochy regional newspaper. The letter is written in block letters and employs obsolete pre-revolutionary orthography, according to a photocopy on the newspaper’s website. Lykova claims in the letter that her health is deteriorating, which made it hard for her to prepare supplies for another cold season in the taiga. Temperatures in the area of the Abakan Ridge in the republic of Khakassia average minus 19 degrees Celsius (minus 2 degrees Fahrenheit). A helicopter will fly next week to Lykova’s residence, carrying food, thread, 20 bales of hay and other necessities, the press service of Kemerovo Governor Aman Tuleyev said


The governor of the province dispatched a helicopter with food, seeds for spring planting, and nature reserve personnel. The personnel hauled forest logs closer to Agafya’s home. An accompanying doctor examined Agafya but could not persuade her to visit a hospital for more thorough testing. Although usually reticent, the 68-year old hermit was pleased to receive the visitors and smiled a lot.


RSM on 21st century “hermits”

A curious piece in the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dec. 2012, is titled “Taking refuge from modernity: 21st century hermits.” The article describes some contemporary individuals as fleeing society due to “idiopathic, environmental intolerances, such as ‘multiple chemical sensitivty’ and ‘electrosensitivity'” and searches for possible analogies with historical hermits. The abstract shows the direction of the research and point of view:

Idiopathic environmental intolerances, such as ‘multiple chemical sensitivity’ and ‘electrosensitivity,’ can drastically affect the quality of life of those affected. A proportion of severely affected patients remove themselves from modern society, to live in isolation away from the purported causal agent of their ill health. This is not a new phenomenon; reports of hermits extend back to the 3rd century AD. We conducted a literature review of case reports relating to ancient hermits and modern day reclusion resulting from idiopathic environmental intolerance, in order to explore whether there are similarities between these two groups and whether the symptoms of these ‘illnesses of modernity’ are simply a present-day way of reaching the end-point of reclusion. Whilst there were some differences between the cases, recurring themes in ancient and modern cases included: dissatisfaction with society, a compulsion to flee, reports of a constant struggle and a feeling of fighting against the establishment. The similarities which exist between the modern-day cases and the historical hermits may provide some insight into the extreme behaviours exhibited by this population. The desire to retreat from society in order to escape from harm has existed for many centuries, but in different guises.

The historical hermits studied (and named) are just four: Noah John Rondeau, Roger Crab, St. Simeon Stylites, and St. Anthony. The article concludes controversially that with the diminished influence of religion in the modern world, the motive of those who are deemed intolerant of modern society may include the pretext of idiopathic medical conditions referred to in the article and abstract.