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Doukhobor women, 1887

The Doukhobors or Dukhobors (Russian: Духоборы, Dukhobory, earlier Dukhobortsy, Russian: Духоборцы; literally "Spirit-Wаrriors of Christ") are a Spiritual Christian religious group of Russian origin.

The Doukhobors were one of the sects-—later defined in terms of a religious philosophy, ethnic group, social movement, or simply a "way of life"—considered to be a part of Spiritual Christianity. The origin of the Doukhobors is uncertain. The first record of them and use of the names related to "Doukhobors" are from the 18th century. However, some scholars believe that the sect had its origins in the 17th or 16th century.[1][2] They relied on the Holy Bible as the key source of their faith, which is evident in the majority of Doukhobor psalms, hymns, and beliefs. The teachings of Jesus Christ have been accepted as their foundational truth. They drew on the characteristics of God, as portrayed by Jesus, to guide their faith as God's peaceful ambassadors.

They rejected the tyranny and oppression of the Czarist Russian government of the late 1800s. They also rejected the Russian Orthodox priests, use of icons, and all associated church ritual. They came to believe that the Bible alone, as a supreme source, was not enough to reach divine revelation, and that doctrinal conflicts can interfere with their faith. Their goal was to internalize the living spirit of God so that God's spirit would be revealed within each individual. Their pacifist beliefs and desire to avoid government interference in their life led to an exodus of the majority of the group from the Russian Empire to Canada at the close of the 19th century.

The modern descendants of the first Canadian Doukhobors continue to live in south-eastern British Columbia, southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, where their ancestors settled. Today, the estimated population of Doukhobor descent in North America is 40,000 in Canada and about 5,000 in the United States.


  • History 1
    • Early days 1.1
    • Transcaucasian exile 1.2
    • Religious revival and crises 1.3
    • Migration to Canada 1.4
    • Canadian prairies 1.5
    • British Columbia 1.6
    • Staying behind 1.7
  • Current status 2
    • Canada 2.1
    • Georgia and Russia 2.2
  • Historical sites and museums 3
  • Popular culture 4
    • Non-fiction 4.1
    • Music 4.2
    • Television 4.3
  • See also 5
  • Notes 6
  • References 7
  • Bibliography 8
  • Further reading 9
  • External links 10


Early days

The origin of the Doukhobor movement dates to the 17th- and 18th-century Russian Empire. Believing in God's presence in every human being, these people concluded that clergy and formal rituals were unnecessary. They rejected the secular government, the Russian Orthodox priests, icons, and all church ritual, holding that the Bible was the supreme source of divine revelation. They believed in the divinity of Jesus. Their practices and emphasis on individual interpretation as well as opposition to the government and church, provoked antagonism from the government and the established Russian Orthodox church. In 1734 the government issued an edict against ikonobortsy (Iconoclasts).[3]

Siluan (Silvan) Kolesnikov (Russian: Силуан Колесников) was the first known Doukhobor leader, active 1755–75. He came from the village of Nikolskoye in Yekaterinoslav Governorate in what is today south-central Ukraine.[3] He was thought to be a well-read person, familiar with the works of Western mystics such as Karl von Eckartshausen and Louis Claude de Saint-Martin.[4]

The early Doukhobors called themselves "God's People" or simply "Christians." Their modern name, first in the form Doukhobortsy (Russian: Духоборцы, Dukhobortsy, 'Spirit wrestlers') is thought to have been first used in 1785 or 1786 by Ambrosius, the Archbishop of Yekaterinoslav[3] or his predecessor, Nikifor (Nikephoros Theotokis).[5][1]

The archbishop's intent was to mock them as heretics fighting against the Holy Spirit (Russian: Святой Дух, Svyatoy Dukh); but later on (around the beginning of the 19th century, according to SA Inikova[5]) the dissenters picked the name, usually in a shorter form, Doukhobory (Russian: Духоборы, Dukhobory), implying that they are fighting not against, but along with the Spirit.[3]

As pacifists, the Doukhobors also ardently rejected the institutions of militarism and wars. For these reasons, the Doukhobors were harshly oppressed in Imperial Russia. Both the tsarist state and church authorities were involved in the persecution of these dissidents, as well as taking away their normal freedoms.

The first known use of the spelling Doukhobor is attested in a government edict of 1799, exiling 90 of them to Vyborg area, which was already part of the Russian Empire at the time) for their anti-war propaganda.

In 1802, Tsar Alexander I encouraged resettlement of religious minorities to the so-called "Milky Waters" (Molochnye Vody): the region around the Molochnaya River (around Melitopol in today's southern Ukraine). This was motivated by the desire both to quickly populate the rich steppe lands on the north shore of the Black and Azov Seas, and to prevent the "heretics" from contaminating the population of the heartland with their ideas. Many Doukhobors, as well as Mennonites from Prussia, accepted the Tsar's offer, coming to the Molochnaya from various provinces of the Empire over the next 20 years.[7]

Transcaucasian exile

The village of Gorelovka in southern Georgia, the "capital" of the Doukhobors of Transcaucasia (1893)
The Doukhobor worship place in Georgia

As [9] Later on, other groups of Doukhobors — resettled by the government, or migrating to Transcaucasia by their own accord — settled in other neighboring areas, including the Borchaly uyezd of Tiflis Governorate and the Kedabek uyezd of Elisabethpol (Ganja) Governorate.

After Russia's conquest of [9]

The leader of the main group of Doukhobors that arrived in Transcaucasia from Ukraine in 1841 was one Illarion Kalmykov (Russian: Илларион Калмыков). He died in the same year, and was succeeded as the community leader by his son, Peter Kalmykov (? – 1864).

After Peter Kalmykov's death in 1864, his widow Lukerya Vasilyevna Gubanova (? – December 15, 1886; (Russian: Лукерья Васильевна Губанова); also known as Kalmykova, by her husband's surname) took his leadership position.[10]

The Kalmykov dynasty resided in the village of Gorelovka, one of the Doukhobor communities in Georgia (shown on one of Jonathan J. Kalmakoff's maps).[9] Lukerya was respected by the provincial authorities, who had to cooperate with the Doukhobors on various matters. The number of Doukhbors in the Transcaucasia reached 20,000 by the time of her death in 1886. By that time, the Doukhobors of the region had become vegetarian, and become aware of Leo Tolstoy's philosophy, which they found quite similar to their traditional teachings.[10]

Religious revival and crises

The death of "Lukerya," who had no children, was followed by a leadership crisis. She had planned that leadership should pass to her assistant, Peter Vasilevich Verigin. But only part of the community ("the Large Party"; Russian: Большая сторона Bolshaya Storona) accepted him as the leader; others, known as "the Small Party" (Малая сторона Malaya Storona), sided with Lukerya's brother Michael Gubanov and the village elder Aleksei Zubkov.[10][11]

While the Large Party was a majority, the Small Party had the support of the older members of the community and the local authorities. On January 26, 1887, at the community service where the new leader was to be acclaimed, the police arrived and arrested Verigin. He was sent into internal exile for the next 16 years in Russia's Far North of Siberia; some of his associates were sent into exile as well. The Large Party Doukhobors continued to consider him their spiritual leader and to communicate with him, by mail and via delegates who traveled to see him in Obdorsk, Siberia.[10][11]

At the same time, the government applied greater pressure to enforce the Doukhobors' compliance with its laws and regulations. The Doukhobors had resisted registering marriages and births, contributing grain to state emergency funds, and swearing oaths of allegiance. In 1887 Russia enforced the universal military conscription required in the rest of the empire into these Transcaucasian provinces as well. While the Small Party people cooperated with the state, the Large Party, reacting to arrest of their leaders and inspired by their letters from exile,[12] only felt strengthened in their desire to abide in the righteousness of their faith. Under instructions from Peter V. Verigin, they stopped using tobacco and alcohol, divided their property equally among the members of the community, and resolved to adhere to the practice of pacifism and non-violence. They would refuse to swear the oath of allegiance required in 1894 by the new Czar Nicholas II in 1894.[3][11]

Under further instructions from Verigin, the Doukhobors of the three Governorates of Transcaucasia destroyed their weapons and refused to serve in the military. As the Doukhobors gathered to burn their guns on the night of June 28/29 (July 10/11, Trinity, and the literal interpretation of heaven and hell. Some avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco, and animal products for food, and eschew involvement in partisan politics. Doukhobors believe in the goodness of man and reject the idea of original sin.

The religious philosophy of the Doukhobors is based on the ten commandments including "Love God with all thy heart, mind and soul" and "Love thy neighbor as thyself." The Doukhobors have several important slogans. One of the most popular, "Toil and Peaceful Life," was coined by Peter V. Verigin.

Georgia and Russia

Peter Kalmykov's house in Gorelovka, Georgia

Since the late 1980s, many of the Doukhobors of Sameba, etc. According to various estimates, in Ninotsminda District, the Doukhobor population fell from around 4000 in 1979 to 3,000–3,500 in 1989 and not much more than 700 in 2006. In the Dmanisi district, from around 700 Doukhobors living there in 1979, no more than 50 seem to remain by the mid-2000s. Those who do remain are mostly older people, since it is the younger generation who found it easier to move to Russia. The Doukhobor community of Gorelovka (in Ninotsminda District), the former "capital" of the Kalmykov family, is thought to be the best preserved in all post-Soviet countries.[11]

Historical sites and museums

Leo Tolstoy Statue at Doukhobor Discovery Centre

In 1995, the Doukhobor Suspension Bridge spanning the Kootenay River was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[26] The sites of Community Doukhobors' headquarters in Veregin, Saskatchewan, was designated a National Historic Site in 2006, under the name "Doukhobors at Veregin."

A Doukhobor museum, currently known as "Doukhobor Discovery Centre" (formerly, "Doukhobor Village Museum") operates in Castlegar, British Columbia. It contains over a thousand artifacts representing the arts, crafts, and daily life of the Doukhobors of the Kootenays in 1908–38.[27][28]

Although most of the early Doukhobor village structures in British Columbia have vanished or been significantly remodeled by later users, a part of Makortoff Village outside of Hardy Mountain Doukhobor Village, was purchased by The Land Conservancy of British Columbia in March 2004, while the museum collection was acquired by the Boundary Museum Society and loaned to TLC for display.[29]

The Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa has a collection of Doukhobor-related items as well. A special exhibition there was run in 1998–99 to mark the centennial anniversary of the Doukhobor arrival to Canada.[30]

Popular culture

  • O'Neail, Hazel (1962), Doukhobor Daze, Gray's, Evergreen .
  • Parry, Nerys (2011), Man and Other Natural Disasters, Great Plains .[31]
  • Plotnikoff, Vi (2001), Head Cook At Weddings and Funerals, And Other Stories of Doukhobor Life (novel), Raincoast Books .
  • [32]. 


  • Holt, Simma (1964), Terror in the Name of God: The story of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors .
  • .  
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J (2002), Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living, Legas .[25]
  • .  


  • . Pete Seeger) is about the Doukhobor nude protests. The song was recorded by The Doukhobor Do (originally  
  • The title character in the song "Ferdinand the Imposter," on the album Music from Big Pink by the Canadian roots-rock group The Band, is alleged to be a Doukhobor.[33]


  • Woodcock, George (1976), The Doukhobors (film), CBC/NFB . Two parts: The Living Book and Toil and Peaceful Life.[34]

See also


  1. ^ Nikifor was styled "Archbishop of Slavyansk and Kherson" (Славенский и Херсонский), while his successor, Ambrosius, was "Archbishop of Yekaterinoslav and Kherson," because the diocese was renamed in 1786.[6] The seat of the archbishops was actually in Poltava.


  1. ^ Sussex, R (1993), "Slavonic Languages In Emigration", in Comrie, B; Corbett, GG, The Slavonic Languages, Routledge .
  2. ^ Rak, J (2007), The Doukhobor Problem: Media Representations of Sons of Freedom Women, 1952–1960, Equinox .
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Campos, Élisabeth (2005), Les Doukhobors, "Lutteurs de l'esprit" (in French), ERTA TCRG . Includes extensive bibliography of mostly English-language sources.
  4. ^ "Духоборцы",  
  5. ^ a b Inikova, Svetlana A (October 22–24, 1999), Spiritual Origins and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History, Doukhobor Centenary Conference,  ; Doukhobor Genealogy Website (
  6. ^ "H Orthodox Russian Ekater", Hierarchy (in Russian),  .
  7. ^ Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., "Doukhobor Resettlement to Tavria, 1802–1822", Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( (map) .
  8. ^ "Russians in Georgia", Geogen (in Russian),  .
  9. ^ a b c Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., "Doukhobors Settlements in the Georgian Republic", Doukhobor Historical Maps, Doukhobor Genealogy Website .
  10. ^ a b c d e f Shubin, Daniel H (2006), A History of Russian Christianity III, Algora, pp. 141–48,  .
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lohm, Hedwig (November 2006), Dukhobors in Georgia: A Study of the Issue of Land Ownership and Inter-Ethnic Relations in Ninotsminda rayon (Samtskhe-Javakheti) ( .
  12. ^ Pozdnyakov, Vasily Nikolaevich (В. Поздняков) (1900s), Правда о духоборах в Закавказье и в Сибири [The Truth about the Doukhobors in Transcaucasia and Siberia] (in Russian),  
  13. ^ a b c Ashworth, John (1900), Doukhobortsy and Religious Persecution in Russia, Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( .
  14. ^ "Doukhobor Immigrant Shiplists", Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( .
  15. ^  .
  16. ^ a b c d e Hardwick, Susan Wiley (1993), "The Doukhobors", Russian Refuge: Religion, Migration, and Settlement on the North American Pacific Rim, University of Chicago Press, pp. 80–,  .
  17. ^ a b c Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., "Saskatchewan", Maps, Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( .
  18. ^ Report of Royal Commission on matters relating to the sect of Doukhobors in the province of British Columbia, CA: SFU, 1912 .
  19. ^ "Bomb Blasts Rail Bridge in Kootenay".  
  20. ^ Torrance, Judy (1988). Public Violence in Canada, 1867-1982. p. 34.  
  21. ^ Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., "Doukhobor Historical Maps", Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( .
  22. ^ USCC Doukhobors .
  23. ^ a b "Religion", Census Data 2011, Canada . The census numbers are actually based on extrapolating a 20% sample.
  24. ^ a b Postnikoff, Dr John I (May 1978) [1977], Doukhobors: An Endangered Species (16), Grand Forks, BC: MIR magazine; Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( .
  25. ^ a b Tarasoff 2002.
  26. ^ Doukhobor Suspension Bridgey. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  27. ^ Doukhobor Discovery Center .
  28. ^ Jackson, Kristin (10 July 2010). "Doukhobor heritage lives on in southeast BC".  
  29. ^ "Hardy Mountain Doukhobor Village Historic Site", Conservancy, BC, CA .
  30. ^ The Doukhobors: "Spirit Wrestlers", Canada: Museum of Civilization, January 18, 1996 – September 7, 1998 .
  31. ^ Parry, Nerys (2011-12-18), Straddling the divides: fact, fiction and Freedomites .
  32. ^ Wiersema, Robert J (January 5, 2008), "Doukhobor novel does more than tell a good story",  .
  33. ^ "Ferdinand the Imposter lyrics". Retrieved 27 August 2014. 
  34. ^ "Lost Childhood: Doukhobors". 16:9. Global Television. Retrieved 10 March 2013. 


  • Elkinton, Joseph, The Doukhobors: their history in Russia; their migration to Canada .
  • Freisen, John W; Verigin, Michael M, The Community Doukhobors: A People in Transition .
  • Hamm, James ‘Jim’ (2002), Spirit Wrestlers (documentary video)  about the Freedomite Doukhobors.
  • Hawthorn, Harry B, The Doukhobors of British Columbia .
  • Kalmakoff, Jonathan J, Doukhobor Genealogy Website .
  • ———, Doukhobor Historical Maps, Doukhobor Genealogy Website .
  • ———, Doukhobor Google Maps, Doukhobor Genealogy Website .
  • ———, Doukhobor Place Names, Doukhobor Genealogy Website .
  • ———, Doukhobor Stories & Articles, Doukhobor Genealogy Website .
  • ———, Doukhobor Research Sources, Doukhobor Genealogy Website .
  • ———, Guide to Doukhobor Names & Naming Practices, Doukhobor Genealogy Website .
  • Peacock, Kenneth (ed.), Songs of the Doukhobors: an introductory outline .
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J, Plakun Trava: The Doukhobors .
  • ——— (2002), "Overview", Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living, Ottawa: Legas (published 2006), .  
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J; Klymasz, Robert B, Spirit Wrestlers: centennial papers in honour of Canada's Doukhobor Heritage, .  
  • .  

Further reading

  • Burnham, Dorothy K (1986), Unlike the Lilies: Doukhobor Textile Traditions in Canada, Toronto, Canada: Royal Ontario Museum, .  
  • Donskov, Andrew; Woodsworth, John; Gaffield, Chad (2000), The Doukhobor Centenary in Canada: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective on Their Unity and Diversity, Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa, .  
  • Holt, Simma (1964), Terror in the Name of God: The story of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, Toronto/Montreal: McClelland & Stewart .
  • Janzen, William (1990), Limits on Liberty: The Experience of Mennonite, Hutterite, and Doukhobor Communities in Canada, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, .  
  • Makarova, V (2013), Doukhobor nudism: exploring the socio-cultural roots. Culture and Religion .
  • ——— (1–29 February 2012), "The use of Russian in contemporary Doukhobor prayer service", ]Current issues in philology and methods of teaching foreign languages [Международнaя научно-практическая Интернет-конференция "Актуальные проблемы филологии и методики преподавания иностранных языков", 1 февраля - 29 февраля 2012 года (International scientific research Internet conference), Novosibirsk, Russia 
  • Makarova, VA; Usenkova, EV; Evdokimova, VV; Evgrafova, KV (2011), "The Language of Saskatchewan Doukhobors: Introduction to analysis. Izvestija Vysshix uchebnyx zavedenij [The News of Higher Schools]. Serija Gumanitarnyje nauki [Humanities]. Razdel Lingvistika [Linguistics section]", Philology & linguistics ( .
  • Mealing, Francis Mark (1975), Doukhobor Life: A Survey of Doukhobor Religion, History, & Folklife, Kootenay Doukhobor Historical Society .
  • O'Neail, Hazel (1994), Doukhobor Daze, Surrey, BC: Heritage House, .  
  • Rak, Julie (2004), Negotiated Memory: Doukhobor Autobiographical Discourse, Vancouver: UBC Press, .  
  • Rozinkin, W. M. The Doukhobor Saga. [Nelson, B.C.: News Publishing Co.], 1974.
  • Schaarschmidt, G. 2012. Russian language history in Canada. Doukhobor internal and external migrations: effects on language development and structure. In: V. Makarova (Ed), Russian Language Studies in North America: the New Perspectives from Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. London/New York: Anthem Press.pp 235–260.
  • Sorokin, Stephan Sebastian, and Steve Lapshinoff. Doukhobor Problem. Crescent Valley, B.C.: Steve Lapshinoff, 1990.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J (1977), Traditional Doukhobor Folkways: An Ethnographic and Biographic Record of Prescribed Behaviour, Mercury, Ottawa: National Museums of Canada .
  • Tracie, Carl. Toil and Peaceful Life: Doukhobor Village Settlement in Saskatchewan, 1899-1918. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina, 1996. ISBN 0-88977-100-6
  • Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ. Hospitality: Vegetarian Cooking the Doukhobor Way. Grand Forks, B.C.: USCC Centennial Cookbook Committee, 2003. ISBN 0-9732514-0-9
  • Woodsworth, John. Russian Roots and Canadian Wings: Russian Archival Documents on the Doukhobor Emigration to Canada. Canada/Russia series, v. 1. [Manotick, Ont.]: Penumbra Press, 1999. ISBN 0-921254-89-X

External links

  • Doukhobor Genealogy Website (doukhobor genealogy and history), Canada .
  • Gjerstad, Ole (2002), My Doukhobor Cousins (documentary film) , 71 minutes.
  • Official website of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ
  • ISKRA (bilingual Doukhobor magazine), Canada .
  • Spirit Wrestlers 
  • L, John, Doukhobor Russian Paintings, Comcast  — Original artwork depicting Doukhobor culture, heritage, and spirit.
  • Doukhobor Museum .
  • The Doukhobors (exhibition), Canada: Museum of Civilization .
  • Doukhobor bomb blast ignites fear in the Kootenays (archive), CBC .
  • Ivan Sysoev , prolific and well-known Doukhobor poet and hymnist.
  • "Explosion on the Kettle Valley Line: The Death of Peter Verigin", Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History .
  • Multicultural Canada , including Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection and James Mavor's personal and professional papers documenting Doukhobor immigration to Canada.
  • "The Doukhobors Arrive in Canada", The Canadian encyclopedia .
  • "Leo Tolstoy and the Doukhobors: Conscientious Objection", Online exhibition created in 2010/2011 by the Gandhi Information Center (Berlin, Germany) .
  • "Taking the Cure: How a group of British Columbian anarchists inspired democracy in Russia", The Walrus 
  • "Doukhobors and Democracy", The Quinnley Stand 
  • "The Last Days of Tolstoy’s People", 

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the  

Canadian Doukhobors no longer live communally. Their prayer meetings and gatherings are dominated by the singing of

Of course, the number of Canadians sharing Doukhobor heritage is much higher than the number of those who actually consider themselves members of this religion. Doukhobor researchers made estimates from "over 20,000" people "from [Doukhobor] stock" in Canada[24]) to over 40,000 Doukhobors by "a wider definition of religion, ethnicity, way of life, and social movement."[25]

Census year Self-identified Doukhobor population
1921 12,674
1931 14,978
1941 16,898
1951 13,175
1961 13,234
1971 9,170
1981 ?
1991 4,820
2001 3,800
2011 2,290

E.g., 28% of the self-identified Doukhobors in 2001 were over 65 (i.e., born before 1936), as compared to 12% of the entire population of Canadian respondents. The aging of the denomination is accompanied by the shrinking of its size, starting in the 1960s:[23][24]

Age groups Total 0–14 years 15–24 years 25–44 years 45–64 years 65–84 years 85 years and over
All Canadians, 2001 29,639,035 5,737,670 3,988,200 9,047,175 7,241,135 3,337,435 287,415
Self-identified Doukhobors, 2001 3,800 415 345 845 1,135 950 110
Self-identified Doukhobors, 1991 4,820 510 510 1,125 1,400 1,175 100

During Canada 2011 Census,[23] 2,290 persons in Canada (of which, 1,860 in British Columbia, 200 in Alberta, 185 in Saskatchewan, and 25 in Ontario) identified their religious affiliation as "Doukhobor." As the age distribution shows, the proportion of older people among these self-identified Doukhobors is higher than among the general population:

CCUB, the Orthodox Doukhobors organization or Community Doukhobors, was succeeded by the Grand Forks, British Columbia.[22]


Today an estimated 20,000–40,000 people of Doukhobor heritage live in Canada, some 4,000 of them claiming "Doukhobor" as their religious affiliation. Perhaps another 30,000 live in Russia and neighboring countries. About 5,000 live in the northernmost continental U.S. along the US-Canada border.

Current status

Of the Doukhobor communities in the USSR, those in South Georgia were the most sheltered from the outside influence because of the sheer geographic isolation in the mountainous terrain, their location near the international border, and concomitant travel restrictions for outsiders.[11]

The Soviet reforms affected greatly the life of the Doukhobors both in their old villages in Ukraine. The state anti-religious campaigns resulted in the suppression of Doukhobor religious tradition, and the loss of books and archival records. A number of religious leaders were arrested or exiled; for example, 18 people were exiled from Gorelovka alone in 1930.[11] On the other hand, Communists' imposition of collective farming did not go against the grain of the Doukhobor way of life. The industrious Doukhobors made their collective farms prosperous, often specializing in cheese-making.[11]

In 1921–23, Verigin's son Rostov Oblast in southern Russia and other 500 into Zaporizhia Oblast in Ukraine.[11][21]

Those that remained Doukhobors were required to submit to the state. Few protested against military service: for example, out of 837 Russian court martial cases against conscientious objectors recorded between the beginning of World War I and April 1, 1917, merely 16 had Doukhobor defendants—and none of those hailed from the Transcaucasian provinces.[10]

After the departure of the more zealous and non-compromising Doukhobors and many community leaders to Canada at the close of Elisabethpol Governorate (Azerbaijan); the former Doukhobor villages now were mostly populated by Baptists. Elsewhere, some Doukhobors joined other dissenter sects, such as Molokans or Stundists.[10]

Staying behind

Many of the independent and community Doukhobors believed that the Freedomites violated the central Doukhobor principle of nonviolence (with arson and bombing) and therefore did not deserve to be called Doukhobors. However, rifts generated during the 20th century between the Sons of Freedom and Community and Independent Doukhobors have largely been laid to rest.

In less than a half a century, Sons of Freedom acts of violence and arson rose to 1,112 separate events costing over $20 million in damages (bill to taxpayers) that included public school bombings and burnings, bombings of Canadian railroad bridges and tracks,[19] the bombing of the Nelson courthouse,[20] and a huge power transmission tower servicing the East Kootenay district resulting in the loss of 1200 jobs.

But W. A. C. Bennett's Social Credit government, which came to power in 1952, took a harder stance against the "Doukhobor problem." In 1953, 174 children of the Sons of Freedom were forcibly interned by the government agents in a residential school in New Denver, British Columbia. Abuse of the interned children was later alleged.

In 1947–48, Sullivan's Royal Commission investigated acts of arson and bombing attacks in British Columbia and recommended a number of measures intended to integrate the Doukhobors into Canadian society, notably through the education of their children in public schools. Around that time, the provincial government entered into direct negotiations with the Freedomite leadership.

Peter V. Verigin's son, Peter P. Verigin, who arrived from the Canadian Parliament responded in 1932 by criminalizing public nudity. Over the years, over 300 radical Doukhobor men and women were arrested for this offense, which typically carried a three-year prison sentence.[16]

Peter V. Verigin was killed in a still-unsolved Canadian Pacific Railway train explosion on October 29, 1924 near Farron, between Castlegar and Grand Forks, British Columbia. The government initially (during investigation) had stated the crime was perpetrated by people within the Doukhobor community, although the Doukhobors' customary refusal to cooperate with Canadian authorities due to fear of intersect violence culminated in no arrests being made. To date, it is still unknown who was responsible for the bombing. Thus, while the Doukhobors were initially welcomed by the Canadian government, this assassination controversy, as well as Doukhobor beliefs regarding communal living and no child education, and other beliefs considered offensive or unacceptable, created an air of mistrust between government authorities and Doukhobors which would last for decades.

Verigin Memorial

The Sons of Freedom, meanwhile, responded to the Doukhobors conflict with Canadian policy with mass nudity and arson as a means of protesting against materialism, the land seizure by the government, compulsory education in government schools and, later on, Verigin's supposed assassination. This led to many confrontations with the Canadian government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (continuing into the 1970s).

As the Community Doukhobors left Saskatchewan, the "reserves" there were closed by 1918.

To take his followers away from the corrupting influence of non-Doukhobors and Edinolichniki ('individual owners') Doukhobors, and to find better conditions for agriculture, Verigin, starting in 1908, bought large tracts of land in south-eastern British Columbia. His first purchase was near the US border around Grand Forks. Later, he acquired large tracts of land further east, in the Slocan Valley around Castlegar. Between 1908 and 1912, some 8,000 people moved to these British Columbia lands from Saskatchewan, to continue their communal way of living.[17] In the milder climate of British Columbia, the settlers were able to plant fruit trees, and within a few years became renowned orchardists and producers of fruit preserves.

1900s photograph of Sons of Freedom nude protest.

British Columbia

Of these groupings, the Independents integrated the most readily into Canadian capitalist society. They had no problem with registering their land groups, and largely remained in Saskatchewan. Much later on (in 1939) they definitively rejected the authority of Petr Verigin's great-grandson, John J. Verigin.

  • The edinolichniki ('Independents'), who constituted by 1907 some 10% of the Canadian Doukhobors. They maintained their religion, but abandoned communal ownership of land, rejecting hereditary leadership and communal living as non-essential to it.
  • The largest group—the Community Doukhobors—continued to be loyal to their spiritual leader Peter V. Verigin. They formed an organization known as Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB, now USCC).
  • The more radical Sons of Freedom group (also called the "Svobodniki" or "Freedomites," which emerged in 1903, embraced Verigin's writings in a zealous manner.

The crisis resulted in a three-way split of the Doukhobor community in Canada:[3]

Another problematic issue raised by Oliver involved the requirement that the Doukhobors would now have to become naturalized citizens (i.e., British subjects) and to swear an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown—something that had always been against their principles.[18] A new crisis would develop just a decade after the conscription crisis in Russia.

Due to the aversion which the leaders of the Doukhobors expressed towards private ownership of land, Petr Verigin (who had served his sentence and came to Canada in 1902) managed to have land registered in the name of the community. But by 1906, the Dominion Government, in the person of Frank Oliver, the Minister of Interior, started requiring registering the land in the name of individual owners. Many Doukhobors' refusal to do so resulted in 1907 in the reverting of more than a third (258,880 acres (1,047.7 km2)) of Doukhobor lands back to the Crown.

The settlers found Saskatchewan winters much harsher than those in Transcaucasia, and expressed particular disappointment that the climate was not as suitable for growing fruits and vegetables. Many of the men found it necessary to take non-farm jobs, especially in railway construction, while the women stayed behind to till the land.[16]

Peter Verigin, the Doukhobor leader, induced followers to free their "brethren" (animals) and pull their wagons and plows themselves. On the lands granted to them in the prairies, the settlers established villages along the same lines as back in the old country. Some of the new villages received the same Russian names as the settlers' home villages in Transcaucasia (e.g., Spasovka, Large and Small Gorelovka, Slavianka); others gained more abstract, "spiritual" names, not common in Russia: "Uspeniye" ('Dormition'), "Terpeniye" ('Patience'), "Bogomdannoye" ('Given by God'), "Osvobozhdeniye" ('Liberation').[17]

Doukhobor women pulling a plow, Thunder Hill Colony, Manitoba

At the time of settlement (1899), all four "reserves" formed part of the Northwest Territories: Saskatchewan (Rosthern) Colony in the territories' provisional District of Saskatchewan, North Reserve, straddling the border of Saskatchewan and Assiniboia districts, and the other two entirely in Assiniboia. After the establishing of the Province of Saskatchewan in 1905, all reserves found themselves within that province.

Geographically, North and South Colonies, as well as Good Spirit Lake Annex (Devil's Lake Annex, to non-believers) were around Yorkton, not far from the border with today's Manitoba; the Saskatchewan (Rosthern) Colony was located north-west of Saskatoon, quite a distance from the other three "reserves."

  • The North Colony, also known as the "Thunder Hill Colony" or "Swan River Colony," in the Pelly and Arran districts of Saskatchewan. It became home to 2,400 Doukhobors from Tiflis Governorate, who established 20 villages on 69,000 acres (280 km2) of the land grant.
  • The South Colony, also known as the "Whitesand Colony" of "Yorkton Colony," in the Canora, Veregin and Kamsack districts of Saskatchewan. Some 3,500 Doukhobors from Tiflis Governorate, Elisabethpol Governorate, and Kars Oblast settled there in 30 villages on 215,010 acres (870.1 km2) of land grant.
  • The Good Spirit Lake Annex, in the Buchanan district of Saskatchewan, received 1,000 Doukhobors from Elisabethpol Governorate and Kars Oblast. Russia settled there in eight villages on 168,930 acres (683.6 km2) of land grant. The annex was along the Good Spirit River, flowing into Good Spirit Lake (previously known as Devil's Lake).
  • The Saskatchewan Colony, also known as the "Rosthern Colony,"[16] "Prince Albert Colony" or "Duck Lake Colony," was located along the North Saskatchewan River in the Langham and Blaine Lake districts of Saskatchewan, north-west of Saskatoon. 1,500 Doukhobors from Kars Oblast settled there in 13 villages on 324,800 acres (1,314 km2) of land grant.

The land for the Doukhobor immigrants, in the total amount of 773,400 acres (3,130 km2), came in three "block settlement" areas ("reserves"), plus an "annex," within what was to soon become the Province of Saskatchewan:[17]

Even more importantly, by passing in late 1898 Section 21 of the Dominion Military Act, the Canadian Government exempted the Doukhobors from military service.[16]

In accordance with the Dominion Lands Act of 1872, Canadian government would grant 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land, for a nominal fee of $10, to any male homesteader able to establish a working farm on that land within three years. Living on single-family homesteads would not fit Doukhobors' communitarian tradition. Fortunately, the Act contained the so-called Hamlet Clause, adopted some 15 years earlier to accommodate other communitarian groups such as Mennonites, which would allow the beneficiaries of the Act to live not on the actual land grant, but in a village ("hamlet") within 3 miles (4.8 km) from their land.[16] This would allow the Doukhobors to establish a communal life style, similar to the Hutterites.

Doukhobor pilgrims leaving Yorkton to evangelize the world, 1902
Vosnesenia ('Ascension') village, NE of Arran, Saskatchewan (North Colony). A typical one-street village, modeled on those back in the Old World.

Canadian prairies

The Quakers and Tolstoyans covered most of the costs of passage for the emigrants; writer Leo Tolstoy arranged for the royalties from his novel Resurrection, his story Father Sergei, and some others, to go to the emigration fund. He also raised money from wealthy friends. In the end, his efforts provided about 30,000 rubles, half of the emigration fund. The anarchist Peter Kropotkin and James Mavor, a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto, also helped the emigrants.[15]

Some of the emigrants went first to Cyprus, but did not like the climate. The rest of the community accepted an offer from Canada to resettle there, believing its isolation and peacefulness would be good. Around 6,000 emigrated there in the first half of 1899, settling on land granted to them by the government in what is now Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The Cyprus colony and others joined them, with a total of 7400 emigrants by the end of the year, [13]—about one-third of the total Doukhobor population in Transcaucasia. Several smaller groups joined the main body of emigrants in later years, directly from Transcaucasia or other places of exile.[11] Among these late-comers were some 110 leaders of the community who had to complete their sentences before being allowed to emigrate.[13]

  • the emigrants should never return;
  • they had to emigrate at their own expense;
  • community leaders currently in prison or in exile in Siberia would have to serve the balance of their sentences before they could leave.[3]

The resistance of the Doubokhors gained international attention and the Empire was criticized for its treatment of this religious minority. In 1897 the Russian government agreed to let the Doukhobors leave the country, subject to a number of conditions:

The port of Batumi as it was in 1881. Here the Doukhobors embarked on their transatlantic journey in 1898 and 1899[14]

Migration to Canada


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