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A woman who recently agreed to join the last surviving member
A woman who recently agreed to join the last surviving member of a Russian Old-Believer family in the wilds of the Siberian taiga will be unable to do so on 'medical grounds,' officials said on Thursday.

The woman, another Old Believer, 73-year-old Polina Illarionova, said last month she would move to the taiga to stay with Agafya Lykova, 63, following her request to the governor of southwest Siberia's Kemerovo Region to send someone to help her around the house.

However, a spokesman for the local administration said doctors had warned Illarionova

against the move, saying that the "harsh living conditions in the taiga could pose a threat to her life and health."

Agafya Lykova has been living in the taiga of the Siberian republic of Khakasia since 1937, when her father took his family to the wilderness to "purge their souls of the modern world."

The Lykovs subsequently lived for decades in self-imposed isolation, without any modern conveniences, some 300 km (186 miles) away from civilization. They were eventually discovered by a group of Soviet geologists in 1978, but resisted efforts to return them to modern society.

The Old Believers split from the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th century in a dispute over liturgical practices, including a disagreement over the correct number of fingers, two or three, to cross oneself with. They also consider shaving to be a grave sin.

Agafya's siblings - Savin, Dmitry, and Natalya - died one after another in 1981 from what is believed to have been a virus, and her father, Karp, died seven years later. Nevertheless, Agafya still refused to leave the taiga.

However, in her request to the governor of the Kemerovo Region, Aman Tuleyev, last month the hermit asked him to send her "wood for the roof and hay - as the summer was too rainy," as well as "grapes, pomegranate, pears, nails, envelopes and candles."

Agafya made the acquaintance of Tuleyev in 1997, when he visited her home in the wilderness. Since then the two have been exchanging letters.


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