Pavel Sapozhnikov is a typical 24-year old from Russia. His life is filled with all the modern conveniences, including mobile phones, digital organizers, sophisticated technologies and constant stimuli. But something is missing. He decides to embark on an eight-month social experiment that will plant him on an isolated farm under grossly antiquated 10th century conditions. Will he be able to summon the skills and willpower he needs to survive this formidable test, and what will he learn about himself along the way? Alone in the Past is the enthralling document of his journey.
This unique endeavor is the brainchild Project Hero, an organization devoted to studying the links between history and social psychology. In constructing the conditions of this experiment, they've created a reality far removed from our own. For 240 days, Pavel is forced to exist in the same conditions as his Russian ancestors from centuries ago. His homestead consists of a well, a rustic toilet, a stable of goats and hens, and a bare bones cabin devoid of heating and air. He must hunt and fish for his food, and he's armed only with the tools and weapons of the period. He must unearth a spirit of self-reliance that he has never before known in order to survive a harsh winter season. Cut off from all communications with the outside world, he will only be permitted an escape if he suffers a life-threatening injury such as a broken limb or severe infection.
Once a month, he is able to record a progress report for the study's organizers. These confessional vignettes are raw and revelatory. We observe the psychological impacts of boredom, restlessness, loneliness and the aggressions brought on by moments of intense despair and defeat. Under these conditions, seemingly simple activities like starting a fire, insulating shoes from the elements, and finding proper nourishment become Herculean tasks. It is not uncommon to experience cabin fever, hallucinations and extreme fatigue.
Alone in the Past exposes the nearly insurmountable challenges that our ancestors faced on a daily basis, and sheds light on which of their strengths we may still harbor deep within us.