Russia’s “Forest Boy” Says He Spent 16 Years in the Siberian Wilderness

The mysterious man claims to have never attended school, received any vaccinations and to have met only a few people throughout his life

Belokuriha prosecutor’s office

Last week, a 20-year-old man named Odzhan (“great soul”) wandered out of the Altai region of Siberia—where he has supposedly spent the last 16 years of his life in the wilderness, the Siberian Times reports. He claims to have never attended school, received any vaccinations and to have met only a few people throughout his life. Nevertheless, he speaks Russian and a bit of English.

Odzhan arrived at the local police station after a local woman found him wandering through the woods near their village and brought him into town, believing he might need some help, the Times writes. He said that his parents left him on his own around May, but that he was doing fine and preferred to return to the forest to wait for them. Authorities are respecting his decision, but insist upon issuing him a birth certificate and identity card. “‘We don’t aim to bring him back to civilization. I think the way he lives in the woods can perhaps be even better than the lives some of us lead. I also think that none of us would be able to sustain their life conditions even for two weeks,” the town prosecutor told the Times.

Odzhan said his father supports the family by occasionally selling mushrooms and paintings, though he and his mother stay away from town. His parents educated their son at home, and he uses dictionaries and books in his studies. “I’m living well thank you,” he told the Times. “We are living well. This is the reality we have that we live here, and its quite a good reality.”

This isn’t the first time a “forest boy” has wandered out of the European wilderness, however. In late 2011, another 20-year-old emerged from the woods near Berlin, claiming to have lived in the wilderness for several years. As ABC reports, however, that story turned out to be a complete fabrication; the “forest boy” was actually a Dutchman trying to weasel out of his impending duties as a father.

On the other hand, families living out their days in the Siberian wilderness is not entirely unheard of. In 1978, a family of five was discovered living deep in the taiga and had had no contact with the outside world for some 40 years.

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