A Visit with the Doukhobors of Irkutsk

by Nikolai Mikhailovich Astyrev

Nikolai Mikhailovich Astyrev (1857-1894) was a writer who specialized in subjects of Russian folk life. From 1888 until his death, he was a government statistician stationed in Irkutsk. In 1891, Astyrev visited the village of Koty in northern Irkutsk province. The population of Koty was predominantly Orthodox, but the village did serve as the sole point of the weak development of Doukhoborism in the province. His article, originally published as “V Gostiakh u Dukhobortsev Irkutskoi Gubernii” in the Russian journal “Sievernii Viestnik” (St. Petersburg, No. 4, April 1891: 52-65), provides a rare glimpse of a small group of Doukhobors isolated from the main body of Doukhobors in the Caucasus. It is made available for the first time in English translation in this Doukhobor Genealogy Website exclusive. Translation and editorial notes by Jack McIntosh. Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Preface by the Author

According to official statistics, there are, apart from the 212,000-strong rural population of the Russian Orthodox faith in the three southern districts of Irkutsk guberniia (province) (not counting Buddhists and Shamanists, who number 12,000 and 38,000 respectively), 5,800 sectarians of both sexes, that is, 2.2% overall. A substantial proportion of them are first-generation exiles. Many of the convicts, as is well known, have not settled down to married life and thus leave no heirs (this is especially true of Catholics and Lutherans). Of the sectarians who could or might under other circumstances be able to have a marked influence on the Orthodox masses, only two groups are noteworthy: the Dukhobortsy (Dukhobors) and the Subbotniki (Sabbatarians). The remaining sects are represented by only a few first-generation individual exiles, although of course under exceptionally favourable circumstances, on prepared soil, even one Stundist or Shelaput (sic – i.e. Shalaput) could grow many seeds with his teaching. But the soil, I emphasize, is not all that favourable to any kind of ethical doctrine, be it mystical or rationalistic. As for the two sectarian groups mentioned, according to the national census of 1888, they number as follows: Subbotniki – ninety-one families, totaling 653 persons, and Dukhobors – eight families comprising forty-three individuals.

While traveling around Irkutsk Province, I happened to become personally acquainted with these groups of local inhabitants, albeit very fleetingly, unfortunately. Nevertheless, in view of interest in the subject itself, I think that a few pages telling the story of my encounter with people “searching for the Holy City,” will not be squandered uselessly.

In the literature about the Dukhobors I have read many articles, all of which suffer from a casual approach and incomplete observations, or from a narrow and unseemly one-sidedness. Novitsky’s work on the Dukhobors, published back in 1832, deserves to be considered the most substantial contribution to the history of the Dukhobors. It is based on the author’s personal observations and investigations. Plenty of water has flowed under the bridge since then, and perhaps to a considerable extent Novitsky’s prediction of numerous changes in store for the Dukhobors’ philosophy has been borne out. Thus it would be all the more important and interesting now to have a new detailed and disinterested investigation of this subject, tracing the changes in beliefs, rituals and communal life that have taken place during the sixty-year interval during which a significant event for all Dukhobors occurred – the migration of the Dukhobors from the Molochnye Vody (Milky Waters) to the Transcaucasus.

While it is not firmly established when the Molokan/Dukhobor sect emerged, it is commonly accepted that it happened in the first half of the last century in the provinces of Tambov and Kharkov. The sectarians called themselves “Spiritual Christians” and to some extent, this name is still in use. After the death of Siluan Kolesnikov, who gave flesh and blood to this sect, a split formed within it. Some of the sectarians remained loyal to the teaching of Kolesnikov and his disciple, Uklein; the others followed the interpretation of the new reformers, Pobirokhin and Kapustin, as to the significance of the holy scriptures and parted from Uklein’s followers in their understanding of several other questions of essentially secondary importance. Thus there occurred a division of the sect into Molokans and Dukhobors, who differ very little even now in the spirit of their beliefs, but abhor each other with the passion of narrow-minded fanatics. In the last century, the Dukhobors were severely persecuted: they were exiled to Siberia, to Ezel island, and to the Kola Peninsula.

Nikolai Mikhailovich

Nikolai Mikhailovich Astyrev (1857-1894)

In 1802-1804, the sectarians who remained in various localities of central Russia were allowed to move together as a group to the Molochnye Vody area (located in the Melitopol district of Tavria province); later, after becoming personally acquainted with the sectarians, Tsar Alexander I permitted all other sectarians who had been previously exiled to outlying areas of Russia to move there too. The new Milky Waters settlements prospered greatly, especially during their first years. The sectarians laid purely communistic foundations for their mutual relations; but although the rural economy of the peasant village (mir) developed very successfully in terms of material results, the Milky Waters commune did not hold out for long, and by the end of the 1820s no trace of it remained. What took its place was theocratic domination by the “Council of Thirty”, who took it upon themselves to keep a watch on the conduct of their unreliable brethren, acted like St. Hermandad (in medieval Castile, holy “brotherhoods” formed for vigilante purposes) and disgraced themselves with numerous clandestine crimes. When some of those crimes nevertheless came to light, a decree was issued in 1841 forcing the sectarians to be evicted from Milky Waters to present-day Akhaltsykh and Elizavetpol districts in the Transcaucasus. The localities chosen for settlement were unhealthy; the settlers were threatened by constant danger from as yet unsubdued mountain tribes and numerous criminals, but the colonists withstood all these trials and by now have settled whole districts in the area in question.

This has been a brief historical sketch of the Dukhobor sect in Russia. As for the life of the exiled sectarians in Siberia in general and in Irkutsk Province in particular is concerned, almost nothing is known. However, there is some indication that in 1805, exiled Dukhobors in Irkutsk Province petitioned for transmigration to the Milky Waters, but were refused at that time and possibly migrated later after receiving gracious permission from Tsar Alexander I, who personally visited the Milky Waters colonies. As for specifically who among the Dukhobors were subsequently exiled to Eastern Siberia and why, I am also uninformed. In the Oyek volost (rural district) in Irkutsk okrug (larger territorial division), forty versts (Imperial Russian linear measure equal to 3,500 feet or 1.067 km) from Irkutsk and three versts from the large village of Oyek with its 3500 inhabitants lies the village of Koty, perfectly ordinary in outward appearance, land and other economic conditions, with its 150 Siberian old settler homesteads and ten belonging to the recent arrivals. The village has its own parish priest and a church built by a merchant-benefactor from Irkutsk who used to be a peasant in Koty. There is a tavern maintained by another merchant who so far has only said that he intends to build a church somewhere to atone for his sins. There is also a little shop run by “a political exile from the nobility“ (i.e. a participant in the Polish Revolt), who has put about five thousand rubles into circulation at an annual “Christian“ rate of interest of 40-80 per-cent secured by pasture allotments, arable lands, cows, horses and other peasant properties, in return for which they call him a “benefactor”. In a word, as a village, Koty stands out from the rest solely by being the only place of development, weak though it is, of the Dukhobor sect in Irkutsk Province.

Before my arrival there, all I knew about the local Dukhobor community was that it numbers forty persons; in addition, information about the sect’s origin, its growth, and attitudes of the Orthodox towards the Dukhobors was related to me by the local village clerk, a local peasant who bore no resemblance to the usual type of clerk appointed from among the exiled settlers – typically drunk, sneaky and thievish. About twenty years ago, the mother of a Koty peasant who had served her sentence in exile in Yakutsk Oblast, returned to her native village accompanied by “an old man of quiet demeanor”. This guest spent a winter modestly in the village and left for parts unknown in the spring, while leaving lasting traces of his stay in Koty. Some time later, at a village assembly, three or four families among the local old settlers ceremoniously refused to pay their ruga (annual contribution to the local clergy), to supply firewood to the church and the parish priest, or to pay housing support to the sexton. In a word, they declared that they would no longer “carry” any church duties and, as confirmation of their break with Orthodoxy, they returned their home icons to the church. When asked by their surprised fellow-villagers what all of this meant, the dissidents declared that from now on they reject the church, sacraments, rituals and the clergy and had become “Spiritual Christians – Dukhobors”. “Up to now, we wandered in darkness, and only now have we found the true faith and the pathway to salvation,” they solemnly replied.

Of course such a significant fact could not pass unnoticed by “those responsible for keeping watch.” At first, the sectarians experienced hard times. However, they firmly withstood this ordeal and their existence in Koty was finally officially acknowledged. The volost was issued with books to register the births, marriages and deaths of the sectarians and the reprimands ceased or became less persistent. The Orthodox believers began to “carry” church duties and taxes on behalf of the sectarians, in return loading on them cartage duties and other village responsibilities not related to the church.

Over the past twenty years, four more peasant families have joined the sect at various times, so now they number twenty men and twenty-three women. Still, this growth of the sect has to be considered very slow when compared to the incredibly rapid success of sectarian propaganda in Russia. The attitude of the Orthodox toward the sectarians in Oyek and neighboring districts nowadays can be described as reserved and curious: every son of the true church observes the actions of his heretical neighbors with distrustful curiosity at times masked by indifference, as if in constant expectation that all of a sudden they will “pull some kind of stunt.” The Orthodox express their common opinion about the sectarians in approximately the following words: “We have seen nothing bad about them that we don’t do ourselves: they are not used to drinking, they care for the salvation of their souls much more than we do – only in their own way, of course. The bad thing is that they have no respect for the church, icons and all that.”

But if in conversation one brings up the economic relations between these two sides, the Orthodox people inevitably begin to speak in offended tones about the sectarians’ refusal to fulfill their obligations to the church. “But didn’t you pile on them lots of extra obligations in exchange for relieving them of the ruga and church duties?” “That’s right, but it’s still offensive ….”

For their part, the Dukhobors explained that they fulfill extra village duties worth twice as much as all the services to the church that they had rejected. “They are glad to oppress us because they are a force, a whole army, while we are a small handful. Still, we are yet prepared to put up with it for the sake of our faith.”

Among the householders of Koty I spoke to about “the pleasures of the soil” and community affairs, there was a Dukhobor, one who had only recently abandoned Orthodoxy, as the clerk told me. Snatching a moment when no one was paying attention to us, I asked, “You are a Dukhobor, aren’t you?” Suspicious, he gazed at me intently, but hastened to answer in the affirmative.

In the evening, the work being over, I asked the clerk whether he could take me to the recently met Dukhobor and whether it would be acceptable to show up at his place unannounced. The clerk dispelled my doubts and led me through the narrow, winding streets of the village. He stopped at the small, plain hut with a tumbledown fence around the yard. “This is Nikolay Petrovich’s hut. Shall I knock?” “What about you?” I asked, “Will you come in too? Won’t he be embarrassed?” “Don’t worry. He is entirely without formality! They know me.”

Our knock on the gates and the dog’s growling brought the man out into the yard. “Who’s here?” he asked, half-opening the wicket-gate. I stood so that the moonlight fell on my face and asked in return: “Will you welcome unexpected guests, Nikolay Petrovich?” He was somewhat confused at first by our unexpected arrival, but immediately tried to regain his composure and replied in an exaggeratedly calm voice: “There are no two guests alike. There are all sorts!… Please come in.”

The interior furnishings of the hut also turned out to be very poor. A Russian stove, already caving in from decrepitude, took up a quarter of the space. Burning brightly in the small hearth set into the corner of the stove an arshin (Imperial Russian linear measure equal to 28 inches or 71 cm) and a half above the floor were four finely chopped pieces of firewood spreading warmth and light throughout the hut (poor peasants in Siberia warm their homes in such a way all through the winter). Small dark pegs were hanging right over the door; in the corner there was a bed with a torn large felt mat with two soiled cushions instead of a mattress. There was a table in the krasny ugol (“red corner”, a special space in a Russian peasant hut usually decorated with embroidered towels and one or more icons, to form a private chapel); along two walls were benches. There were no icons, but hanging along the walls forming the krasny ugol were several oleographs (a chromolithograph printed from metal or stone plates using oil paint on canvas – in imitation of oil paintings), portraits of the royal family, a group of European emperors, among whom, incidentally, I noticed the Shah of Persia; I noticed “The Broad and Narrow Way”, a painting of a group of ladies and gentlemen in the funniest caftans and dresses passing through the gates of hell, and a group of simple men, pilgrims and monks passing through the narrow gate into the kingdom of heaven. There was also “Christ being tempted by the Devil”, a picture issued by the “Posrednik” publishing house and some others, none of which exhibited the least trace of romantic or humorous content.

In the peasant hut, apart from our host, his wife and two children, there were two peasants who had obviously just “dropped in for a minute” and were sitting with their hats in their hands. One of them, an altogether common peasant type in appearance, was smoking a pipe; the other, by virtue of his cleaner clothing and broad, well-fed countenance looked more like a dvornik, (i.e. the proprietor of a coach inn) than a peasant ploughman. When I entered, the hostess started fussing and began to wipe something off the table, though it was clean enough, lit a small blackened lamp, set the logs straight in the hearth and sat up to the cradle where a baby was starting to cry. Our host did not know what to do with his tall self and aimlessly paced the floor near the table, watching his wife’s efforts. Only the man with the full face remained unperturbed. “Look, His Honour wanted to know how you are living, Nikolay Petrovich,” said the clerk as a kind of weak recommendation and sat down on the bed near the man who was smoking. “Well, then, welcome! We are glad to meet a good person.…”

Then there was a pause; naturally, it was up to me to break it. I looked around hoping to find a topic of conversation and soon, fortunately, I found one. I asked them about the price of kerosene and whether it was widely used in the villages. In return they asked me about the price of kerosene in Russia. Then we moved to the prices of other products in the local shop; from here it was easier now to bring up the benefits provided to peasants needing credit from the local “nobleman among the exiles”; then we talked about setting up savings and loans banks in the district, and other matters. We were having a rather lively conversation, though only three people took part in it besides me: the fellow with the full face and the clerk; the others kept quiet almost all the time.

I did not know whether it would be proper to turn the conversation to religious questions in view of the presence of guests whose relationship with our host was unknown to me, but in one of the short lulls in the conversation, the stout fellow asked me: “You are, by all appearances, Russian; have you been to the Kavkaz (Caucasus)?” (He pronounced it “Kapkaz”). “No, I haven’t, but I know something about it from books.” “It seems that’s where our Dukhobors are living. I wonder if life is good there.” “You mean the Transcaucasus, specifically, near Lenkoran in Akhaltsykh and Elizavetpol districts?” “Exactly, so have you had an opportunity to be there?”

I told them everything that came to mind about the climate there, living conditions, and so on. They listened attentively, asked if it was far from St. Petersburg and Irkutsk, how to get there and what would it cost. I could not give any kind of definite answer to the last question, but I described the possible routes in detail. Finally, I asked why they were so interested in life in Transcaucasia.

“Who knows, maybe we’ll have to go there! Our spiritual brethren live there, and here – strangers all around. They are offended at us not paying the annual fee to the church or contributing firewood. They also are threatening to take away a desiatina (Imperial Russian land measure equal to 2.7 acres) of land per head. So how can we live here? We’ve got no place to go: there’s little room here, stony ground stretches from here up to the sea (Lake Baikal): although the land there doesn’t belong to anybody, it’s no good. We also heard rumours that the local officials themselves are going to drive us out of here….” “For years they have been singing the same old song, yet nothing has happened and it looks as though it never will. Where can they exile us even farther away?” remarked our host.

I stood up to take my leave, thinking that my first visit was long enough and counting on seeing these sectarians again the next day. “Why have you sat with us such a short time?” asked Vasily Nikolayevich, the stout one, “We should talk longer, we much enjoy good conversation. Tomorrow – will you still be here?” (I answered in the affirmative.) “So, please come in the evening, if you don’t find our company boring. I live across from here, kitty-corner, two houses over.” “Please, please come and see us,” our host also extended an invitation as he saw us to the gates.

“That man, the fat one, he is chief among the brethren,” said the clerk as we walked down the street. “Oh, how clever they are at talking! He’ll talk your ears off, you won’t be able to get a word in edgewise in response.” “Do they live peaceably among themselves?”

“Didn’t you see? They visit each other every evening, read holy books and sing psalms, but in life you wouldn’t notice anything that makes them different from us. Remember, you mentioned that Polish exile; there are those among them who would buy hay fields from their own brethren at half price and take the land in pawn. At Nikolay’s place, where we were, consider – there is nothing to eat, while at Vasily’s house – you’ll see tomorrow – it’s like a merchant’s mansion! So with them it’s “live and struggle, every man for himself,” just as it is with us…. Well now, as for the women, we’ve also noticed something about them: it’s hard for a young woman to live in a family with an old man…. We have seen enough of them – sweet singers, indeed!…. Well, here are your digs. Will you excuse me now? Good night!”

The next evening, I entered the clean, spacious house where Vasily lived. My hopes were realized. Obviously a prayer gathering was about to begin, because five or so of the “brethren” had gathered in the sitting-room; members of Vasily’s family were also there: his wife, already quite an old woman (however, he appeared no more than forty-five, although he was actually approaching sixty), his two daughters, both in their early twenties, and a son about twelve years old. They greeted me as a friend, without reserve. Immediately we were given brick tea with milk, warmed up hard-boiled eggs and some kalachi (wheatmeal loaves) baked from homemade flour. The tea was served to me first, and then to the “brothers”, the wife handing each person a loaf and a lump of sugar. Most of them had only one cup of tea – out of delicacy, I suppose.

During tea we had a conversation on scientific topics. Somebody recalled the eclipse of the sun on August 7, 1887; another mentioned some lunar eclipses: a whole series of questions gave me an opportunity to give a sort of lecture about the reasons for eclipses, day and night, and the seasons. Using a lamp and two small shan’gi (round loaves) as visual aids, I described how the earth goes around the sun, how the moon goes around the earth, and so on. Everyone listened with great attention and acceptance, without making skeptical comments. Their questions were sensible; I even found myself unable with total accuracy to answer from memory some of their questions about numbers. In our conversation it turned out that some of them had their own ideas as to the reasons for the phases of the moon: they thought that some kind of dark “planetoid” orbiting the Earth is hiding the moon from our sight. In general, this whole episode made a very favourable impression on me; clearly, mental gymnastics are not foreign to these people, they possess a certain inquisitiveness, and if they are wandering in the semi-mystical labyrinths of Dukhobor teachings it is not their fault that life has not given them anything better, has not led them to strive for self perfection in another, more rational direction. I recall my three-year stay among peasants in one of the “black soil” provinces of Russia: not once there did I ever have occasion to carry on such a long scientific discussion and never did I have such attentive and inquisitive interlocutors. With regard to the waning and waxing of the moon, my friends in the black soil areas had virtually no interest; I never once heard from them any sort of even childishly naïve interpretations of these phenomena, not even of a sort such as “angels are crumbling the moon into stars”; there I would always receive the same answer to my questions: “Who knows!… We don’t have a clue!…

Of course, a small group of Dukhobors cannot be assumed to represent the state of mind of the Siberian peasantry in general: the latter, as I have already pointed out in a previous essay, are little interested in abstract ideas, let alone religious matters; however, more practical questions affect even the average Siberian deeply. Everywhere, for example, the rumour of a railway creates a virtual sensation and everyone with whom I discussed that topic was interested in what exactly a chugunka (Russian archaic term for railroad train, comparable to “iron horse” in English) is like, how powerful it is, what quantity of goods it can transport, how far it can travel in a day, and so on.

The Dukhobors thus appear, by virtue of their inquisitive nature, to be the cream of the local peasantry: they are interested not only in the chugunka, which will one way or another affect the pocketbooks of the whole population, but also in issues more remote from everyday life.

When we had finished sipping our tea, the host’s daughters, after clearing away the dishes, sat down right there with their needlework. The boy went over to the front corner and took out two rather worn books from a drawer. The brothers were sitting on the beds and benches; our host himself was sitting almost squatting – whether intentionally or without forethought, I do not know – at the doorway from the main room out leading out beyond a partition; he thus occupied the lowest position in line with the others. “Shall we read, brothers?… Well, then, Senia (diminutive form of the Russian men’s name Semen, Ksenofont, etc), read chapter 13 from the Epistle to the Romans”, he said.

None of the rituals that researchers who have studied this sect say are performed before a prayer session did I observe; the men and women even remained sitting alternately without separating into two groups; everybody continued to sit in the most natural postures just as before the reading; one man was even unhurriedly finishing smoking his pipe. The boy began reading rather animatedly. After he finished reading, everyone repeated, “Lord, save us!” in a low voice. They repeated the same words after each subsequent reading or singing.

“This is what the Christ’s apostle passed on to us,” explained our host, “Every person should be subject unto the higher powers.” And then, “render to all their dues: custom to whom custom is due; honour to whom honour is due. That means the rulers are God’s ministers. That’s why we show respect to them and obey them; we also pay all taxes prescribed by the officials, except those prescribed by others. We honour the powers that should be honoured, but not everyone who desires to be honoured.”

It was clear that all this and much of what followed was addressed directly at me. “Now, then, Senia, read chapter 23 from Matthew!” “But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren…” Senia went on reading: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in. Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye devour widows’ houses, and for a pretence make long prayer… . ye also outwardly appear righteous unto men, but within ye are full of hypocrisy and iniquity”… . Again, “Lord, save us” with commentary: “And this we consider to mean authorities in the world other than our village powers. We do not honour the former ones and we want nothing to do with them. We acknowledge only one Teacher and Guide, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

“I remember reading somewhere that the Dukhobors supposedly do not recognize the Holy Scripture, as they consider one tradition to be sufficient, that is, the fruit of inner revelation or enlightenment from God the Word, and that for you people the Bible and its Gospel have been replaced by a “book of life”, i. e. a collection of altered psalms of David?” I asked. “Possibly that is so in other places, but we read both the Gospels and the Epistles.” “Do you acknowledge any later prayers and the writings of the holy fathers?” “We accept only the Lord’s Prayer given to us by the Lord and the beginning of ‘I believe in one God, the Father Almighty…’. And that’s all.”

When I asked why they use only the first words of the Apostles’ Creed, our host answered “we don’t need anything beyond that.” With that he indirectly acknowledged that they conceive of the divinity of Christ with great reservations.

But just then I was astonished by the following answer to my question about baptism. “Of course we baptize our children ‘in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit’ and name the child right then.” “Surely isn’t that just what the Orthodox do?” “We don’t make up our own names. We name children according to the church calendar. Only when we come to the names of bishops or priests, we skip them.”

“Then do you bury and marry people yourselves?” “Yes, on our own. We announce the marriage before all the brethren; we consider that sufficient. Only we also recite Psalms that are appropriate.”

“But look here, with respect, you all surely were Orthodox once. Do you remember what beautiful prayers there are? For instance, take just the burial ceremony. Why did you reject them and recite nothing but the Psalms? Does it matter who composed a prayer if it speaks to the heart?” “I know them all very well. I used to go to church often thinking I would find the true way to salvation. The only thing is, all that was not to my liking; the prayers themselves are good, but the way they read them!? So let them have them!”

“Why do you not recognize icons?” “An icon is the work of man’s hands, sometimes a vile man; how can we worship it? We only worship God alone, as the Gospel says: ‘Where two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in the midst of them.’ We gather as often as possible in His name so that He will be in our midst as much as possible. Let’s recite some psalms, brothers.”

He started reciting the 10th Psalm “In the Lord we trust”. After that, an old woman who had been sitting all the time motionless, but with clear signs of fanaticism on her wrinkled face, solemnly recited the 90th Psalm “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High….” Then our host’s elder daughter laid her needlework down on her lap and recited the 113th Psalm; then all those present, with the sole exception of the peasant sitting next to me, recited various psalms in turn. They all distinctly pronounced the words, though their diction was monotonous and sluggish. Whether they deviated at all from the text, I was unable to tell, as I didn’t have the book in hand to check on it.

“But all of you, it would seem, cannot read: how then did you learn those long Psalms?” “This is how: Senia reads and the rest repeat after him; that’s how we learn them.” “For others, it is awfully easy,” remarked my neighbour, “It’s enough for her (pointing to the girl) to hear a psalm two or three times and she’s ready: she knows it to the last little word. My memory is poor, or the Lord is not letting me: I just can’t memorize! I try and try, but as soon as I learn one verse, I forget another.”

“How many Psalms do the rest know?” “That girl over there, it seems, knows over forty.” “Forty-two,” said the girl, not taking her eyes off her work. “Well, brothers, let’s sing something: these folks will listen.” They sang several psalms. Every time the old woman and our host would start the singing and the rest would join in after the third or the fourth word. “I’m not in good voice today,” said one of the brethren, coughing and spitting. Their psalm singing was extremely doleful; some of them exuded sincerity as they sang. I was especially taken with their singing of the 99th Psalm “Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands.”

It was already eleven in the evening when I said good-bye and thanked them for their trust and cordial hospitality. “We thank you most humbly for paying us a visit, and thank you for not looking down on us. But how are we to address you and remember you?” asked our host. I gave him my visiting card and again shook hands with everyone. “If you ever happen to visit our region, don’t pass by, do us the kindness!” “Come visit us again, we humbly beg you! We’ll be glad,” said the others also.

However, I was not to have an opportunity to see any of them again. Recently I have found out from the newspapers that on such and such a day, “a provincial court considered the case of a peasant from the village of Koty, a Dukhobor charged with uttering blasphemous words at a village meeting…” and so on. The accused was that silent and gloomy recent Dukhobor convert, the one I had once visited late at night uninvited. Why was it specifically he who was put on trial? Was it because long-repressed indignation at pressure from the community had boiled up in him and exploded in a stream of reproachful and abusive words, or had he during this interval of time become, owing to outside influence, a fanatic who had decided to “suffer for the true faith,” to strengthen thereby the unity of the commune and call sympathetic attention to it from wavering members of the surrounding population? The dry newspaper account reported only that the accused had been deemed by the judge to have acted without clear understanding and had, therefore, been sentenced to a light punishment. However, some time later I read in another paper a report about a severe drought in the northern district of Irkutsk okrug and that the Koty community regards it as punishment sent down on the Orthodox folk for the indulgences granted by them to the Dukhobors, and they then decided to take away from each of them one desiatina of arable land.

What brother Vasily feared has come to pass. Thus, for this small group of Dukhobors, a new period of ordeals has begun. The reasons for this onslaught are difficult to gauge from afar, some six thousand versts away: it all may come down to the fact that there has been some change unfavourable for the Dukhobors in the personnel of the volost or higher ranking administration. Or, possibly, due to scarcity of land, the rural community intends to expel entirely from their nest these local renegades to somewhere “beyond the ‘Kapkaz’” (Transcaucasia), to where even the Dukhobors themselves would apparently not be averse to resettling were they not apprehensive about the vast distance separating them from their “brothers in spirit”.

Such is life for the group of Dukhobors with whom I chanced to become slightly acquainted in one of the remote frontier areas of Russia. However slight this acquaintance, it would seem possible that on this basis it may be concluded that the beliefs of the Irkutsk Dukhobors differ in many respects from the more fixed Dukhobor doctrines in Russia proper. This difference in dogma and rituals is considerably favoured by the isolation of Koty’s semi-mystical, semi-rationalistic Dukhobors from their Russian brethren.


Throughout nineteenth century Russia, a number of small, isolated groups of Doukhobors existed, separate and apart from the main body of Doukhobors in the Caucasus, in places such as Samara, Orenburg, Irkutsk, Amur, Kamchatka and elsewhere. Unfortunately, little is known or documented about them. In this regard, Astyrev, who displays considerable knowledge of Doukhobor history and historiography, provides us with a rare, valuable glimpse of one such group.

Astyrev traced the origins of the Doukhobors of Koty village, Irkutsk to a wandering Doukhobor, an “old man of quiet demeanour” who had been exiled to Yakutsk province.  Following his release, in circa 1871, he wintered in the village. Over the course of several months, he taught the villagers the Doukhobor life concept. The following spring, he departed the village for “parts unknown”. Despite his brief stay, this “Christ’s apostle” left lasting traces; for a short time later, several village families converted to the Doukhobor faith.

The Doukhobors Astyrev met espoused many of the central tenets of Doukhoborism, including the belief that the spirit of God can be found in the soul of every man; the worship of God in spirit and in truth; and the rejection of external rites, sacraments and dogma. They did not attend the Orthodox Church and rejected the use of icons. They met for simple prayer meetings in their homes, during which they sang hymns and recited psalms and prayers. Many of these they committed to memory, as exemplified by the young woman Astyrev encountered who knew forty-two psalms “by heart”.

At the same time, Astyrev observed some differences in their religious practices from those of the Caucasian Doukhobors. For instance, they did not separate into two groups of men and women during their prayer meetings. As well, they adopted only the first person of the Trinity, the Father; the Son and Holy Ghost, they informed Astyrev, were “not needed”. In addition, they baptized their children according to Orthodox ritual; although they married and buried their dead themselves. Perhaps most significantly, they continued to hold the Bible as a source of divine authority.

Unlike the Doukhobors in the Caucasus, the Doukhobors of Koty did not manifest any strong ideological opposition to the state. While visiting them, Astyrev found portraits of the reigning Romanov family and other secular rulers – including the Shah of Persia – on the walls of their homes. They respected and obeyed the government and paid their taxes regularly, according to the maxim that “every person should be subject unto the higher powers” and “render to all their dues: custom to whom custom is due; honour to whom honour is due.”

Some differences in religious expression were probably inevitable, given the Koty Doukhobors’ geographic and social isolation from other Doukhobor groups.  Indeed, their brief time spent with the old Doukhobor exile, twenty years earlier, was their only point of reference. However, for their part, the Doukhobors did not consider such discrepancies to be important. When Astyrev explained how the practices of the Caucasian Doukhobors differed from their own, they casually remarked that “possibly that is so in other places”, but “this is what the Christ’s apostle passed on to us.”

During the course of his visit, Astyrev discussed a broad range of issues with the Doukhobors, including current events, religious philosophy, the role of education, scientific phenomena and technological advances. The statistician was favourably impressed with their “shrewd questioning” and “intellectual curiosity” in matters both practical and remote from everyday life.  On this basis, he deduced that the Doukhobors were “the cream of the local peasantry”.

In particular, the Koty Doukhobors expressed a keen interest in the lands “beyond the Kapkaz”, inquiring about the climate there, living conditions, how to get there, and what it would cost. When Astyrev asked them why they were so interested in life in Transcaucasia, the Doukhobors explained that they wished to join their “brothers in spirit” living there, were it not for the vast distance which separated them.

Not surprisingly, the Koty Doukhobors encountered hostility from their Orthodox neighbours, who viewed them with “distrustful curiosity” tinged with “concealed contempt.” The Doukhobors told Astyrev, and the Orthodox freely admitted, that they were forced to shoulder disproportionate mir duties and obligations because of their refusal to support the local Orthodox Church. The Orthodox, the Doukhobors explained, “are glad to oppress us because they are a force, a whole army, while we are a small handful.”  Despite this discrimination and maltreatment, the Doukhobors remained unshakable in their faith.

After his departure from Koty, Astyrev learned from newspaper accounts that several of the Doukhobors were brought before a provincial court for uttering “sacrilegious words” in a village meeting.  The court sentenced the offenders to only light punishment for acting “without clear reason”.  A short time later, a severe drought struck northern Irkutsk.  The Koty community decided that its affliction was caused by Orthodox “indulgence” of the heretical minority in its midst.  It was resolved to reduce the Doukhobors’ share of arable land.  Astyrev learned nothing of their subsequent fate.

In an incredible postscript to this story, the Doukhobors of Koty did indeed meet their “brothers in faith”.  In April 1899, a group of forty-one Doukhobor women and children from the Caucasus, escorted by the Tolstoyan doctor Prokopy Nestorovich Sokolnikov, arrived in Irkutsk en route to Yakutsk to join their husbands and fathers who were exiled there for their rejection of military service.  There, they were warmly welcomed by the Koty Doukhobors who had traveled to meet them.  Over the course of ten days, the local Doukhobors visited with the weary travelers, hosting them in their homes, and supplying the women with provisions and a small amount of money.  On the day of their departure from Irkutsk, the Koty Doukhobors came out to the main road to meet them, bringing them additional supplies and bowing to the ground before them.  Their parting was very touching, and many of the Doukhobors cried to the point of sobbing.  The remarkable historic meeting of these two Doukhobor groups was recorded by Sokolnikov in his diary, published as “Wives and Children of the Doukhobors“.

The fate of this small group of steadfast Spirit Wrestlers in twentieth century Russia and beyond remains unknown – JJK.

The Doukhobor Brickyard at Yorkton, Saskatchewan

by Debra Pinkerton

Canora resident Fay Negraeff recently delved into the history of a brickyard operated by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in Yorkton, Saskatchewan from 1905-1939. Reproduced from the pages of The Canora Courier newspaper (Canora, Saskatchewan: February 18, 2004), this article by Debra Pinkerton recounts the story of the Doukhobor brickyard and its impact on the Yorkton area.

Fay Negraeff of Canora had a personal interest in the yard as it was registered under the name of Anna Morosoff, her maternal great-aunt. Many residents of Doukhobor ancestry knew of her family connection to the brickyard. She was often asked about the business’s location, but information about the actual location had been lost since the company ceased operations.

Fay Negraeff of Canora poses with brick from the Doukhobor Brickyard in Yorkton.

Negraeff had checked with Philip Perepelkin of the Veregin Doukhobor Heritage Museum as to whether the museum knew the location of the brickyard. The museum has several bricks from the yard on display, stamped with the name “Morosof(f)”. The location of the brickyard was unknown.

Negraeff contacted Therese Lefebvre-Prince, heritage researcher of the City of Yorkton, who supplied her with a newspaper article, copies of the relevant sections of Yorkton’s city plans dated July 1923, and a photocopy of the City of Yorkton records pertaining to the Doukhobor endeavours in the area.

The city records state that the property was not registered in the name of the (Doukhobor) Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood because they were in debt. It was instead registered in Morosoff’s name, who was a member of the community. This was a departure from the communal tradition of the community.        

An article in the Yorkton Enterprise dated June 7, 1905 proclaimed the purchase of the land from J.J. Smith by Peter Verigin on behalf of the Doukhobor community. The site, identified as “part of Block 17, comprising a cement block works, sand pit and lands adjoining” was sold for $2,500.

“It is the intention of the Doukhobor colony, of which Peter Verigin is the head,” the article said, “to install an up-to-date plant for the manufacture of cement blocks and clay bricks on this property. Work has already commenced and another thriving industry has been added to Yorkton.”

The Doukhobor Brickyard was built on 10 acres of land bounded by 7th Avenue North and Dracup Avenue, between Darlington and part-way to Henderson, with Dunlop dead-ending in the yard. The factory cost between $30,000 and $50,000, a huge sum of money in those days, the records show.

Brickyard site as shown in 1923 survey of the City of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Source; City of Yorkton Archives.

Power was supplied by a 50-horsepower steam engine, operated by six men and two boys. The brickyard employed 28 men, 20 boys and three women, under the supervision of M.W. Cazakoff. In true Doukhobor tradition, proceeds from sales of bricks went to the treasury of the community, which supported the workers, and no wages were paid.

Family Connection. The Doukhobor Brickyard in Yorkton was registered in the name of Mrs. Anna Morosoff, great-aunt of Fay Negraeff of Canora. In the early 1940’s, Morosoff, seated, visited her relatives, Negraeff’s mother and sisters, on their farm west of Canora.

Bricks were made from a mixture of sand and clay. The yard was able to produce 50,000 bricks per day, but rarely ran at full capacity.

The city records state that a large number of Doukhobors immigrated to the Yorkton area in 1899. The Government of Canada, hoping to encourage large groups of settlers to thwart American settlement of the Canadian West, welcomed the Doukhobors with 45 townships in Manitoba and the then Assinniboia Territory, in what is now Saskatchewan. They were granted immunity from military service and received land in blocks to settle communally.

Within a few years of their arrival, there were 47 Doukhobor villages in the Yorkton vicinity, with 10 miles of graded road and 20,000 acres under cultivation. They owned several saw and grist mills, two brickyards, and 370 head of cattle, the records show. Peter Verigin was released from exile in 1902, and joined his followers in Veregin. He renamed the community the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB).

In 1905, the homestead requirements changed. Each quarter section had to be registered and farmed individually. Communal villages were no longer possible. More than 2,000 of the original 6,000 settlers filed individual homesteads, with the rest losing their lands. More than 250,000 acres of land was seized at a loss to the Doukhobor people of more than $11 million, the records state.

Within five years, Veregin had resettled the largest portion of the community in British Columbia. The community became the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ in 1938.

In 1927, the new Doukhobor leader, Peter Petrovich Verigin, decided to either sell or develop the remaining property owned by the community in Yorkton. With building permits registered under the name of Anna Morosoff, construction started on six houses in 1932. Veregin brought in a contractor and 25 men from BC to join 50 Doukhobor men from the area on the project. The men worked 12 hour days, six days a week for 10 cents a day.

Close-up of the brickyard site as shown in 1923 survey of the City of Yorkton, Saskatchewan. Source; City of Yorkton Archives.

During the Depression, construction was unusual, and six houses going up on the same block was unheard of. Using bricks from the Doukhobor Brickyard Society, the houses were built on the east block of Myrtle Avenue between Smith Street and the CPR line, which was owned by the society and had stood empty for many years.

Remaining Doukhobor Houses: Three of the original six houses built by the Doukhobor Brickyard Society in 1932 stand on Myrtle Avenue in Yorkton. Details of the houses include the front view at 33 Myrtle Avenue and garage at 29 Myrtle Avenue.

The houses were built completely by hand. The holes for the foundations were dug with a scraper pulled by horses. The walls were three bricks thick, and the lumber was brought in from BC. The houses were surrounded by brick and wood fences five feet high. Behind each house, a garage was built for the size of the Model T automobile popular at the time. The structure of the homes resembled the thatch-peaked homes the Doukhobors had built in their communities.

Former Junior High School: The former C.J. Houston Junior High School in Yorkton was built with bricks from the Doukhobor Brickyard in Yorkton. Other buildings in the city built with the bricks include the old Macleods building and the City Limits Inn.

Three of the original six houses still stand. As well, many other buildings in Yorkton such as the City Limits Inn, C.J. Houston Junior High School, and houses at 85, 92 and 98 Fifth Avenue North are built of bricks produced by the Doukhobor brickyard.

In 1990, the City of Yorkton purchased the home at 29 Myrtle Avenue for preservation as a heritage site, to commemorate the history of the Doukhobors in Yorkton.

Built with Doukhobor Bricks: These houses at 85 (top) and 92 (bottom) Fifth Avenue in Yorkton were built with bricks from the Doukhobor Brickyard in Yorkton. The bricks were stamped with the name “Morosof(f)” after Anna Morosoff in whose name the brickyard was registered. She was the great-aunt of Fay Negraeff of Canora.

Many Doukhobors in the community have bricks stamped with the Morosof(f) name as souvenirs. Negraeff said she thought the last letter was left off the bricks for lack of room. Negraeff felt a great deal of personal satisfaction in unearthing the history of the Doukhobor brickyard in Yorkton. She hopes others who had family involved would appreciate knowing more about the brickyard and its impact on the area.

Editorial Note

The CCUB ceased to operate the brickyard in c. 1925. It remained inoperative for several years until 1930, when brother-in-laws Nick N. Morosoff and Mike N. Maloff took over operation of the brickyard. As the brickyard property was in Nick’s mother (Mike’s mother-in-law) Anna’s name, they paid off the back taxes and debts owing against the property and assumed ownership. As part of the arrangement, the new owners agreed to build the six houses on Myrtle Avenue referenced above. During the partnership, the bricks were stamped “Yorkton”. In 1934, Maloff left the partnership. Thereafter, Morosoff continued to operated the brickyard until 1938. The bricks were stamped “Morosof(f)” during this period. In 1938, the brickyard was leased to Mr. George Waters who operated it for one year. It was then re-leased, with an option to purchase, to Mr. Paul Sawchenko. Sawchenko operated it for one year and, losing money, closed down the plant and demolished the buildings – JJK.

Kamennoye Wood Stave Pipe Factory Began Operation in 1915

by William M. Rozinkin

In 1915, the Doukhobors of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) established a wood stave pipe factory in the Kamennoye settlement area across from Brilliant, British Columbia. It was an important industrial asset of the CCUB, supplying pipe for the construction of irrigation systems for its vast communal orchards in the Kootenays. Although the factory ceased production in the early Thirties, many of the pipes it produced were still in use in the Sixties after five decades of service. The following article by Kootenay resident and historian William M. Rozinkin (1923-2007) recalls the Kammenoye wood stave pipe factory. Reproduced by permission from the Nelson Daily News (May 26, 1967).

Located on the south shore of Kootenay River, across from Brilliant and just below the bridge, was a wooden-pipe factory that supplied pipes for the extensive water systems of the Doukhobor communities of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood.

The plant went into production in the spring of 1915, just 11 years after the first wooden pipe plant was built in Canada and was one of the few such plants in existence at that time in the country. It employed 20 men when the plant was in full operation.

CCUB wood stave pipe factory and other enterprises in Kamennoye, across from Brilliant, British Columbia, 1924. BC Archives, Koozma Tarasoff Collection C-01384.

Several other operations were also located along that shore which was called Kominaya (Kamennoye) (Russian name for “rocky place”). The nearby sawmill and planer employed no less than 25 men and supplied lumber for the box factory alongside. Beside the flour mill there was the linseed oil plant, both supplied with flax and wheat grown by the villagers. Housed in a large building was a fruit tree spray manufacturing operation. Here, in large vats were mixed in proper portion, lime, sulphur and other ingredients to supply the spray needs of the large orchards throughout the Kootenay communities. Looking after the maintenance was the well-equipped blacksmith shop.

John D. Popoff, now 88, of Ootischenia, worked in this busy complex over 40 years ago. He recalled that a few years after the pipe plant was in production, a fire razed the large stock, machinery and building. As the demand was still pressing, the plant was reconstructed.

The pipes were produced from selected dry fir in standard sizes that ranged from 18 inch mains to two-inch pipes used for the branch lines. They were made in lengths of 12 feed and 16 feet. Couplings and other connections were also made there. Other pipes assembled on location in the field in continuous form were up to 24 inches in diameter.

The plant was equipped with up-to-date machinery that produced staves milled to the round form of the pipe. These were assembled into pipes and clamped tight, before being bound with heavy gauge galvanized wire to keep them together. This wire was applied by a winding machine with sufficient tension to seat the wire firmly in the wood. The ends were stapled to lock them in place.

Following the wire winding, the pipe ends were turned on the heading machine, for proper fitting of couplings.

Wood stave piping was commonly used in British Columbia in the early twentieth century. Here, a 48 inch wood stave siphon is being constructed by the Fruitlands Irrigation and Power Co., 1910. BC Archives I-68400.

After the pipe was assembled and the turned ends covered with protective capping, it was passed to a lower level where it was dipped into a bath of hot tar. The pipe was rotated in this vat of boiling-hot tar until all the outside surface was thoroughly coated. This coating acted as a sealer and a preservative, with the protective capping, of course, keeping the ends free from tar for proper fitting.

To consolidate the sticky coating and to facilitate handling, the pipe was rolled in sawdust. Pipes assembled on location in the field also were coated with tar.

Of special importance was the spacing of the wire that bound the pipes. This was governed by the pressure it would be subjected to. The higher the water pressure, the closer the wire winding. Heavier gauge wire was used on larger pipes. Staves also varied in thickness, according to the size of the pipe and the pressure to be contained in it.

The smaller of two CCUB reservoirs at Brilliant fed by 12-inch wood pipeline, circa 1920. British Columbia Archives D-01927.

Mr. Popoff explained, “For large mains that carried great pressures of water, individual steal bands (these were made in the blacksmith shop) were used instead of wire for greater resistance. These bands or hoops were equipped with malleable iron shoes through which the threaded ends passed free for tension adjustment with a nut. These were specially used on the 24-inch line from Pass Creek that was assembled in continuous form with staggered staves.

John T. Stoochnoff, whose Ootischenia home is just below an abandoned irrigation reservoir, recalled that the huge Pass Creek water line was reduced into smaller pipes along the Brilliant flats. This water supplied the needs of Brilliant villages, the Kootenay-Columbia jam factory and the Ootischenia communities across the bridge in the lower areas where Selkirk College is now located. The other major water line was from McPhee Creek (across from Thrums) that supplied water through 12-inch mains for Ootischenia.

Large million-gallon reservoir at Ootischenia fed by 12-inch wood pipeline, circa 1920. Koozma Tarasoff Collection 245.

A steam engine supplied the power for the pipe plant in the daytime and at night it operated the largest pumps in the interior to pump water from the Kootenay River through a 12-inch pipeline for the centrally located one million gallon irrigation reservoir. A small creek also emptied into this reservoir that distributed water for the large Ootischenia fields and orchards through an eight-inch main.

Among the many men who worked at the plant were William A. Makortoff, Koozma Nazaroff, Nick Savinkoff, Mikit Samorodin and George J. Kinakin. Samuel Gretchin was mechanical supervisor.

Another smaller reservoir was located where the airport is now.

These wooden pipes were durable even through they were light weight and easy to install. There are pipes from this plant that are still in use in Glade and Ootischenia after over 50 years of service.

Remnants of 12-inch Doukhobor waterline and trestles along McPhee Creek, across from Thrums, British Columbia, 1999. Photo courtesy Walter Volovsek.

Although the pipes were not sold commercially and were used exclusively by the CCUB, the market value in 1914 was 25 cents a foot for six-inch pipes and 30 cents a foot for eight-inch pipes. Old-timers recalled that years later, the Pass Creek water project cost the Doukhobor community over $75,000. It is no longer in use.

By mid-twenties, most water works programs were completed and in 1924, after the head of the CCUB, Peter Lordly Verigin, was killed, production came to a temporary end.

A few years after Peter Chistiakov Verigin arrived in 1927, he started construction of the Raspberry Village at Robson. The wood-pipes used in the water line from Pass Creek to serve this village in the early ‘30s were probably the last pipes made at “Kominaya”. This line is still in use.

The claim that industry follows the farmers may be correct. But the production enterprises of the CCUB demonstrated that in times of need, pioneer farmers, through unified cooperation, did create and operate industry.

The Hospitality of the Dukhobortsy, 1816

by Henry Downing Whittington

Henry Downing Whittington (1792-1820) was a young English adventurer who, at age 24, toured South Russia, Turkey and Armenia in 1816.  During his travels, he visited the Doukhobor village of Terpeniye on the Molochnaya River in Tavria province.  He kept a journal and recorded his impressions and exploits. His “Account of a Journey Through Part of Little Tartary: And of Some of the Armenian, Greek, and Tartar Settlements in that Portion of the Russian Empire” was published posthumously in the Rev. Robert Walpole’s “Travels in Various Coutries of the East; Being a Continuation of Memoirs Relating to European and Asiatic Turkey (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1820). Whittington’s observations of the Doukhobors, while brief, provide the earliest Western account of their hospitality, kindness and generosity to a travelling stranger; three mainstays of Doukhobor religious and cultural practice.  Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

…At the distance of four versts from Altona, the last German [Mennonite] village, we crossed the Moloshnia [Molochnaya], a small river, which, like the Berda, and others of this neighbourhood, is choked at the mouth by the sand which its own stream brings down.

Terpenia [Terpeniye], which stands on its right bank, is one of eight [nine] villages inhabited by the Duchobortzi [Dukhobortsy] or Worshippers of the Spirit, a sect of Russians who reject the use of priests and pictures, and who, after undergoing much persecution, have been collected and settled on this spot, during the reign of the present Emperor.

Their population was stated to us at 1500 males. In dress and deportment [bearing] they did not appear to differ from the common Russians; but on learning that we were travellers from a distant country, they were eager to manifest to us their hospitality and goodwill.

They would receive no recompense for the refreshments which we had taken, and even crowded round our carriage with presents of live fowls, sufficient to stock it for several days. We had nothing but money to offer them in return, and this they steadily refused, saying, “God forbid that we should rob a stranger.”

Their kindness did not even end here; for just as we were about to drive off, the Starista [starosta], or chief peasant, a venerable old man, advanced with solemnity, and publicly presented us with bread in the name of the village.

We left Terpenia about nine, with the intention of travelling all night, but were detained by an accident at the Russian village of Kisliar till the next morning.

View Tavria Doukhobor Villages, 1802-1845 in a larger map


The above account was published by Rev. Robert Walpole in 1820 in his Travels in Various Countries of the East; Being a Continuation of Memoirs Relating to European and Asiatic Turkey. Unfortunately, Walpole did not record the author’s full name, either in his “Table of Contents” or in the other three places where he is mentioned, being content to write merely either “Extract from Mr. Whittington’s Journal” or “From the Journals of Mr. Whittington.” It was only thanks to the discovery of three letters written by the author to Mariana Macri, over eighty years later, that his identity has been brought to light and it is possible to piece together some details of his background.

Henry Downing Whittington (1792-1820), a Cambridge graduate, was one of a generation of young English noblemen who, following the footsteps of the romantic Lord Byron, made Classical archaeology a fashionable study and organized expeditions to the Levant (countries bordering on the east Mediterranean) to record and collect examples of ancient Greek art for the purposes of introducing Grecian taste to their homeland. He travelled to South Russia, Turkey and Armenia in 1816, followed by Greece in 1817. It was there that he met and fell in love with the Grecian maiden Mariana Macri, to whom he wrote the three letters. In 1818, he visited Italy and France before returning to England. In 1820, he set out abroad again, but was shipwrecked and drowned in the Mediterranean.

It was during Whittington’s travels through South Russia in 1816 that he encountered the Dukhobortsy. On June 19th of that year, while en route from the Mennonite village of Altona to the Russian village of Kisliar, he crossed the Molochnaya River and stopped at the Doukhobor village of Terpeniye.

Whittington found a Doukhobor population of 1,500 males settled in eight villages (he erred as there nine Doukhobor villages on the Molochnaya in 1816) along the right bank of the river. He did not discern any significant difference in their dress and bearing from their Russian Orthodox neighbors. He found them distinguished, however, in the depth of their hospitality and kindness to a travelling stranger.

During his brief stay, the Doukhobors provided him with refreshments, offered a number of live fowl sufficient to feed Whittington and his travelling companions for several days, and presented him with bread in the name of the village, all for which they refused to accept any payment.

This genuine expression of sharing and kindness stemmed from the Doukhobors’ central philosophy of love and respect for humanity. It was a religious instinct and principle with them to do all that lay within their power for a stranger and to allow no payment. Doukhobor hospitality has been noted by many a traveler over the ages; however, Whittington’s little-known memoir is surely the earliest Western account of this deep-rooted ethic.

To read more, search, download, save and print a full PDF copy of “Travels in Various Countries of the East; Being a Continuation of Memoirs Relating to European and Asiatic Turkey”  edited by Rev. Robert Walpole (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1820), visit the Google Book Search digital database.

Doukhobor Farms Supply All Needs

by Victoria Hayward & Edith S. Watson

Photographer Edith S. Watson (1861-1943) and her traveling companion, writer Victoria Hayward (1876-1958) spent the bulk of their careers traversing and documenting North America.  In 1918, after a lengthy correspondence with Peter ‘Lordly’ Verigin, they received permission to visit the Doukhobors in their communes in Saskatchewan and British Columbia.  Edith and Victoria spent much of the next three summers with them in 1918, 1919 and 1920.  They shared the Doukhobor way of life and recorded that life, through written word and photograph.  Their subjects were very often women and they captured their female subjects in moments of reality that might otherwise have been overlooked.  The following article from their visit is reproduced from the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (November 22, 1919).  The accompanying photographs are reproduced by permission from “Working Light: The Wandering Life of Photographer Edith S. Watson” by Frances Rooney (Carleton University Press: 1996).  Taken together, they capture a sense of time and place among the Doukhobors through the eyes and lens of the outside world.

Doukhobors – those people who came from Russia into Canada years ago and attracted attention by their peculiar religious belief – are now conceded to be the best all-round farmers in the entire Dominion. They prove and exemplify that they can win their own complete living, including cloths, from their own farms. They grow flax, spin and weave it themselves, dress in clean linen, and are independent of the dry goods market. They raise everything they need for the table from their own fields. They build their own bugalows with wooden framework from materials chopped, hewn, dug and mixed on their own wood lot and in their own dooryard. Put a Doukhobor community down, some spring, with nothing more than ordinary farming tools, on a homestead a thousand miles from any town, and they would not starve nor freeze, nor seek help from anyone. They would go to mother earth for all they needed – and knowing how, they would get it.

A young Doukhobor girl picking up a dropped stitch while knitting, Brilliant, BC, c. 1919.  Photo by Edith S. Watson, Working Light.

The hum of “things doing” is in the atmosphere at all Doukhobor settlements just now. Works of all kinds are in progress. From whatever angle the limelight is turned upon their communities, there in the glow, are to be seen star workers – at real work. Whether the stage be set at Verigin, Saskatchewan or at Brilliant, British Columbia, the theme of the drama is practically the same. The settlement on the plains or in the mountain valley is a hive of production.

The different settlements illustrate the varied nature of this production. For these Russians, taken as a whole, are not so much specialists in one line as general farmers, although of course, with them, the crop must, as with any other farmer, be determined by the nature of the soil.

Victoria Hayward picking fruit with Doukhobor women, Brilliant, BC, c. 1919. Photo by Edith S. Watson, Working Light.

Whenever one happens on a village, coming into the big yard or passing along “the street” that runs through the length of the village, as at Vernoe in Verigin settlement, it is to have unfolded before the eyes a variety of industries, all of which spring from the tilling of the earth.

One may see a Doukhobor woman sifting homegrown clover seed for the next year’s crop. Behind this simple process of winnowing the seeds stands an army of women and children at work on the uplands, gathering the ripe clover heads into their wide aprons. Every morning the seed is brought out and spread on the quilt to dry in the sun. When it is thoroughly dry, Mme. Konkin takes the sieve in her hand, in the case of the most obstinate husks she finds the palms of her own strong hands the best kind of a mill. The outfit for this industry is very simple – a good sunny spot in the orchard behind the village where the wind is just strong enough to carry off the husk and yet not fierce enough to lose a single tiny seed. For everyone of these seedlings is precious, since clover seed raising has become a Doukhobor industry.

Harvest time, Grand Forks, BC Doukhobor Community, c. 1919.  Photo by Edith S. Watson, Working Light.

Another favorite side crop of the Doukhobors in British Columbia is millet. The feathery heads of this grain may be seen nodding in the breeze everywhere by the roadside, in patches, and its waving plumes border orchard and dooryard flower gardens with equal ease. Millet is a favorite porridge and vegetable with the Doukhobors. Served with milk and sugar or with butter it is equally delicious. On account of the natural oil it is considered very nutritious and rich in food values. These women may be seen sifting millet to separate the seed from the husk. A larger mesh of sieve is used for this work than for the clover seed.

“High cost of living” is a meaningless phrase to the Doukhobor growing everything for the home table even to the morning dish of porridge. We feed millet to our canaries, but not one in ten knows it as a breakfast food for ourselves and our families.

Her load of beans, Brilliant, BC, c. 1919. Photo by Edith S. Watson, Working Light.

The British Columbia Doukhobor no less than the plainsman raises large quantities of beans. The community lockers in each village are full of them. For each village has its bean patch. But in no sense can the Doukhobor be said to live on them. As a vegetarian he must not eat pork and beans.

The beans are women’s work. In every dooryard the picture of the woman and the drying beans is reproduced. The beans are shelled by pounding them with a billet of wood.

The Doukhobor housewife is never idle. At Brilliant, the community runs a large jam factory, and you may buy the product almost everywhere in the stores, but still there is no Doukhobor women but has her own idea of how jam should be made and fruit dried for home use. And too, she fancies the fruit that grew on “her own house” trees. So in every village the women of that village preserve most of the fruit for home consumption, and groups of them are to be seen in every yard cutting up barrels of home grown apples.

The Doukhobor community owns a large commercial jam factory, but each housewife likes to make her own jam and dry her own fruit, BC, c. 1919.  Photo by Edith S. Watson, Working Light.

Evaporation is here a force aided by two giant forces, the sun to begin with and the huge hand made brick ovens in the great kitchens which “finish the job up brown.”

The Doukhobor is a champion flax grower. Out of the flax comes eventually the mujik’s (Russian peasant’s) linen blouse, the woman’s full gathered linen skirt. But between the growing flax and the woven fine linen of the Sunday garment lies much spinning and weaving in the winter.

The clean flax fiber, after its final washing, is hung on the clothesline to dry. At this stage the flax very strongly resembles wool and cotton fiber in the wet state. The women are particularly skillful hands at the flax washing and drying, which requires skill in the fine handling of the fiber. Once the flax is dry the problem of smoothing out the snarls proves too much for any but an old hand. The old lady with her spinning wheel has the secret at her fingertips.

Harvesting flax, Verigin, SK, c. 1919.  Photo by Edith S. Watson, Working Light.

There is a Doukhobor device for solving the water question. Up and down a strong wire, anchored out in the river bottom many feet below, the water pail makes its frequent “slide for life”. The Columbia and the Kootenay are both made to give of themselves after this fashion and help with the irrigation of nearby fruit trees and vegetables. In addition to these hand made affairs the Doukhobors own several heavy steam pumps used for irrigation purposes.

Much of the success of the Doukhobor farms as a whole grows out of the fact that they are able to shift men from one front to another as they are needed. Thus in harvest time men are drawn from the fruit farms of British Columbia to the grain fields of their prairie farms.

Plastering a ceiling. Plaster is made out of dung and sand and is applied by hand and when dry is very artistic in color, c. 1919. Photo by Edith S. Watson, Working Light.

With the progress of the times new houses are being built as Doukhobor homes. Brick buildings in many instances are succeeding the wooden ones, as they in turn succeeded the old lath and plaster home of pioneer days. Prince Albert is one of the oldest of the villages at Verigin. The sides are plastered or mudded, and are of marble whiteness from many coats of whitewash. With a new roof it is still a good house. The Doukhobor love of colour is shown in the bright blue of windows and doors.

But from an architectural point of view nothing can beat the charms of the little one-story Old Europe cottage with its mud walls and overhanging sodded or thatched roof seen at Vernoe. One is struck by the resemblance of this roof to the French habitant roofs of rural Quebec, and it is evident that the early gallerie no less than the French pioneer who antedated him in Canada by several hundred years. These homemade houses made over a framework of logs appealed in the early days because of their inexpensiveness, all being made with material at hand. They appeal today because of their artistic lines, etc. standing, too, as proof that beauty in a house depends not so much on money as on taste.

An apple paring bee, Brilliant, BC, c. 1919.  Photo by Edith S. Watson, Working Light.

The Doukhobor women can be seen sitting on a handmade bench in the large room of their community house. They call this room “the church”. It answers more closely to our idea of parlor or living room – a place to meet the family and receive callers. Meals are served to visitors in “church”. But it is also entire family gathers here to pray and sing their wonderful old chants. As a rule, Doukhobor women wear kerchiefs over their heads, but when at home, they remove the plotok (kerchief) and then their close-shaven heads are revealed. The floor of “the church” is usually bare, but this must be from choice since the Doukhobor women weave very handsome rugs, and we have seen several handsome Turkish rugs owned by them.


For more Doukhobor writings and photos by Edith S. Watson and Victoria Hayward, see The Doukhobors: A Community Race in Canada, excerpted from their 1922 book, Romantic Canada (Toronto: Macmillan Company of Canada, Ltd., 1922), which examines the communal village life of Doukhobors in Saskatchewan and British Columbia. 

The Doukhobors at Waterloo, British Columbia, 1911

Manitoba Free Press

In 1908, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood purchased 3,000 acres in the district known as Waterloo (Dolina Utesheniya) at the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers in British Columbia. There short years later, over 1,400 of its members had relocated there from Saskatchewan. They had cleared 800 acres and planted 600 acres into orchard, established 30 communal settlements, and established numerous commercial and industrial enterprises, including two sawmills, an irrigation reservoir, canning factory, ferry, blacksmith shops and much more. The following account by Winnipeg real estate and financial broker Adolph Vincent Maurer details the material prosperity and substantial progress of the Doukhobor Community in Waterloo. Published as “Doukhobors Have Been Progressive” in the Manitoba Free Press on April 25, 1911. Photos courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

A.V. Maurer, of Maurer & Wilde, formerly Willoughby & Maurer, who three years ago this month sold to Peter Verigin three thousand acres of the district known as Waterloo Lands, has just returned from a visit to the settlement which is now the headquarters of the Doukhobor colony in British Columbia. “Waterloo” is situated at the junction of the Columbia and Kootenay rivers, twenty-six miles from Nelson.

Mr. Maurer accompanied Verigin on a drive around the settlement and had every facility afforded him of witnessing the progress made in the three years and getting full information as to what has been accomplished and what is now projected. He says that the price paid for the three thousand acres was $140,000; he estimates the present value of the property as improved at fully half a million dollars. The Doukhobors, he says, have cleared about 800 acres and planted about 600 acres.

A view of the Brilliant orchards, Brilliant BC, 1920.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

They have set out between 30,000 and 40,000 trees, and they have now 40,000 more ordered, the great majority of which had already arrived when Mr. Maurer was there a week ago. These will all be planted this season. Some of the trees are of the Borebank variety, which are obtained from a nursery at Salem, Oregon, but most of them are bought at the Grand Forks Nursery, British Columbia, about 40 or 50 miles distant. In addition to the trees, the Doukhobors have large quantities of grape trees set out, besides small fruits, strawberries, raspberries and currents, and they grow tomatoes and all kinds of vegetables.

The settlement has a population of 1,400 at present.

How They Live

The Doukhobors have now some 30 houses, each 30 x 40 feet in size, with 10 feet studding, each provided with a verandah and all built of lumber sawn on the place. Every house has pipe connection with the source of water supply. They have one reservoir which is now nearly completed, built of solid concrete at an expense of $20,000. They have also begun work on another reservoir which will be in sue 250 x 500 feet and probably 15 feet deep which will cost in the neighborhood of $100,000.

Every two houses are provided with a hot bath; and the use of these bath houses is compulsory. Every Saturday all work throughout the settlement is stopped at noon, and the bathing is done during the rest of the day. Ordinary occupation is resumed on Monday morning. The people have abundance of food through no meat is eaten; and all are comfortably clothed. Mr. Maurer counted in one house 14 Singer sewing machines; it was occupied by women who spent their whole time in making clothes. In another house the work of making boots and shoes was carried on, the makers showing no lack of skill in making them to measure.


Waterloo has a saw mill with a capacity of 35,000 feet per day, also a portable saw mill for cutting railway ties for which they have at present two different contracts from the C.P.R. for 100,000 ties to be delivered at Trail and 100,000 to be delivered at Passmore’s Siding. One hundred thousand ties have recently been delivered for which the Doukhobors received 35 cents each.

CCUB enterprises at Brilliant BC, 1920.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

Another large saw mill will be erected on these lands on the Kootenay river which in all probability will be run by electric power. An engineer has been employed to inspect Pass Creek, on which there is a good water fall about six miles away. From this fall they expect to get their energy to operate this electric plant for running their saw mills, and supplying every house with electric lights.

It is intended to build between 35 and 40 more houses similar to the ones described, as 2,000 more people are to leave the Saskatchewan prairies almost immediately for the British Columbia settlement. It must not be supposed that the houses mentioned shelter the whole population; there are besides these larger ones of lumber also many smaller log houses.

There are about 1,500,000 logs at the sawmill ready for cutting and about the same quantity of logs cut in the bush and ready to be hauled.

Transportation Facilities

For crossing the rivers the Doukhobors have one ferry on the Columbia river and another on the Kootenay. They have already built a pie across the Kootenay river, and the cables are ordered for a cable bridge which it is understood they are themselves building without any government aid.

In addition to the 3,000 acres of Waterloo lands, Verigin has recently purchased a 1,000 acres block several miles south of the settlement, on the Columbia river. He has acquired, besides, another large block containing about 1,000 acres, at Grand Forks, which is in orchard bearing: and a further 1,000 acres known as the Pass Creek lands, which are situated about 12 miles north of Waterloo. The community also owns 1,400 acres at Passmore Creek, which is situated on the Kootenay river between Castlegar and Slocan Junction. Another recent purchase is one of 33 acres at Taghum, about five miles from Nelson, from Popoff for $15,000. Of this about four or five acres are orchard.

The canning factory in Nelson, known as the Kootenay Jam factory, has recently been purchased. The machinery for this has been ordered from England, also an expert has been engaged there to operate the industry.

A sobranie (meeting) at Brilliant BC, 1920.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

A few days ago a tract of 125 acres was purchased two miles from Nelson at a cost of $10,000, but of this only about 20 acres is land, the rest being all rock. About three or four acres is in orchard.

On the Waterloo lands which the Doukhobors purchased as stated for $140,000 three years ago, they have spent already, $300,000 in improvements. In illustration of the increases in value it is stated that they have been offered $500 an acre for some of the land, but have refused to sell. Verigin told Mr. Maurer during his visit, that they were going to make a paradise of the place.

Besides the improvements already enumerated, a large hospital has been erected, two stories in height and of 38 x 70 feet dimensions, a frame building on a surface foundation.

Equipment for Work

The have about 20 teams on the Waterloo lands, and the day Mr. Maurer was there 33 new wagons came in. They have splendid horses; some of their teams are considered worth $1,000. They have two large blacksmith shops on the place. They do the work of putting up boilers and machinery; besides erecting buildings all by themselves, without the help of outside experts. A year from this summer they propose to begin the erection of a big canning factory at headquarters.

Peter Verigin usually visits the British Columbia colony three or four times a year, remaining three or four weeks each time.

Goods are purchased wholesale, and brought in in car lots; four carloads of flour, oats, hay, machinery, etc., etc., arrived the day of Mr. Maurer’s visit. There are cars on the siding all the time, and men are employed whose whole time is spent in loading and unloading cars.

No school was mentioned among the institutions of Waterloo; but they were not lacking evidence of a good degree of intelligence. Some of the young men could speak English very well. A cemetery was noticed, in which forty-eight graves were counted.

sobranie in Brilliant BC, 1920.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

The rafting of railway ties down the Columbia river to Trail, seventeen miles distant, is found to be a profitable business; nothing is wasted. The wood which does not furnish ties is cut up into cordwood, rafted down and sold to the Trail smelter, and the slabs are sold to the C.P.R. for snow fences.

There is a post-office, named “Brilliant” with a mail service three times a week.

Next year a telephone service is to be established, connecting all the lands mentioned – Waterloo, Grand Forks, Pass Creek, Passmore, Taghum and Nelson. This, like the electrical light and power plant, will be the Doukhobors’ own system. Verigin says it will pay for itself in a few years, and then it will be their own property.

Exile of the Dukhobortsy, 1843

by Moritz Wagner

Moritz Wagner (1813-1887) was a German explorer, collector, geographer and natural historian who toured South Russia and the Caucasus between 1843 and 1846.  In 1843, he met a convoy of Doukhobor exiles en route from the Molochnaya to the Caucasus.  Earlier that year, he visited the Doukhobors already settled in Caucasia.  Wagner kept a diary and recorded his impressions of these encounters, which he published in “Der Kaukasus und das Land der Kosaken, in den Jahren 1843 bis 1846” (Dresden & Leipzig: Arnoldische Buchhandlung, 1848).  The following is reproduced from a review of “Der Kaukasus…” published in The Westminster and Foreign Quarterly Review (London), vol. 50, 1849, in which excerpts from the book were translated into English from the original German and quoted at length. It is one of the most vivid and detailed first-hand accounts of the Doukhobor exile to the Caucasus, and provides rare and fascinating insights into the circumstances of their expulsion and the conditions in which they were settled. Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

As I returned wearied from my wanderings among the glaciers on the evening of the 2nd of August, to my lodgings, I found everything in unusual bustle. Hundreds of wagons, heavily laden, were rolling slowly through the village – old men with venerable beards, little children, women with sucking babes at the breast – sat in them, among chests, and boxes, and household and agricultural implements of every kind. They reminded me of processions of emigrants from the South of Germany, which I had seen moving towards Havre and Bremen, but that their Slavonian cast of feature, long beards, and old dilapidated hats with narrow brims, showed them to be Russians. They were, however, emigrants, though unwilling ones; people of the religious sect of Duchoborzen [Dukhobortsy], whom an imperial order had just driven from their beautiful and fertile habitations by the Sea of Azoph [Azov], to the uttermost limit of the Russian Empire on the other side of the Caucasus – a region of cold and desolate mountains.

Wagon on the Georgian Military Road between Vladikavkaz and Tiflis, 19th century.

There were among them men of a most venerable aspect – real apostolic figures, but so astonishingly like each other that I could scarcely distinguish them; they seemed all like twin brothers. The women and girls, who were not handsome, wore frightful little caps, tied together with broad ribbon, and long jackets of blue cloth, like those worn by Russian slaves [serfs]. The children, especially the boys, had a most gentle and amiable expression of countenance, and the people seemed to form among themselves one great family.

Sometimes ten or more of the wagons would suddenly make a halt; the men would alight, and assemble around an old woman, who held a great bottle of spirits, of which she would give a glass to one after another, and lastly take a good sip herself. By the uniformity of their simple costume, by their thoughtful faces, and patriarchal mode of life, it was easy to see that they must be reformers [Russian Protestants]; and the sight of so many people, thus resolutely and with solemn resignation going forth into exile, made so much the more painful impression on me, as I knew what a harsh climate and barren soil they had to encounter in the melancholy abode assigned to them.

I had spent some time in Gumri [Gyumri, Armenia], which is on the frontier, towards Asiatic Turkey, and had had some intercourse with those of the Duchoborzen who were already settled there. These poor people had not only suffered the severest privations, but had also been plundered and ill-treated by the Russian officials, and many families had already sunk under misery and hunger.

The Duchoborzen whom I now saw had been settled on the Steppes of the Sea of Azoph, by command of the Emperor Alexander, who had feared that this enthusiastic sect might make proselytes, and spread into the interior of Russia. On the banks of the Maloshna [Molochnaya] (the Milk River) where they were located, they had founded eleven [nine] large, handsome, and prosperous villages. That they are industrious men, and excellent agriculturists, is acknowledged even by their enemies, the adherents of the Russian [Orthodox] national church. In no other part of the empire were the fields and gardens so blooming, the cattle so thriving, as on this colony on the Milk River.

Mt. Kazbek on the Georgian Military Road where Wagner met the Doukhobors in 1843.

The colonists grew rich, but withdrew themselves more and more from their neighbors, and would allow no stranger to witness the mysteries of their divine worship – so that wherein its peculiarities consist has never been rightly understood. They assemble daily in their churches and sing psalms – and they declare that the Holy Spirit, the Father, or the Son, dwells in every man; but they do not seem themselves to have a very clear knowledge of their system. They listen with devout attention to the confused fanatical addresses of their elders; and then-chief [Kapustin], who inhabited an island of the Maloshna enjoyed a boundless reverence, the multitudes believing that he stood in some intimate relation to the deity. He appears to have exercised a mysterious and terrible power over them.

As long as Alexander lived, the Duchoborzen remained in tranquility. They paid their taxes punctually, furnished recruits, and subjected themselves to all the duties of subjects, and though they avoided all intercourse with the members of the Russian church, they offered no molestation to any one. But a change came with the accession of the Emperor Nicholas [in 1825]. The priests and official personages of their neighborhood knew that the Czar hated all religious sects, and desired particularly to establish the unity of the national church – and the persecution now began.

The Duchoborzen were accused of making their villages the asylums of runaway criminals, on whom they conferred, it was said, the names of deceased persons, who were privately buried, and thus the official books for years together showed no record of a death. There existed, moreover, a sort of secret tribunal, which disposed secretly of all of their society who were suspected of divulging the mysteries. Upon such vague accusations as these, commissions of inquiry were established; the authorities would not of course lose such a tempting opportunity of fining the rich Duchoborzen villagers; and the threat of sending them to Siberia, or beyond the Caucasus, filled many an official pocket that had been empty before.

That the Duchoborzen had really been guilty of the crime, such as it was, of affording a refuge to the deserters from the army, is highly probable, and this circumstance was ultimately turned to their destruction. A Russian deserter, who had been closely pursued by a police officer, was afterwards found in the mill-stream of one of the German colonists, and it was now declared that the Duchoborzen had murdered him, and dragged him here in the night, in order to turn the suspicion of the deed upon the Germans.

Mountain pass on the Georgian Military Road, 19th century.

Upwards of a hundred individuals were hereupon seized, imprisoned, whipped, and tortured, to wring from them the confession; but they constantly denied the charge and no proof whatever could be discovered. Notwithstanding, however, that it remained a mere suspicion, thirty men received the knout, as convicted murderers, and were then sent off to Siberia; and shortly afterwards an imperial ukase arrived, commanding that the whole body of the Duchoborzen should be transported to the frontiers of the Arpatschai [Arpachai River] – the coldest, dreariest, and most desolate region of the Caucasus. These poor people had to leave their fruitful fields and convenient houses, and build themselves huts among the rugged mountains, in a place where corn will ripen only in the warmest summers.

In the year 1843, when I was on the Arpatschai, I found some thousands of them settled there, in seven villages, but all in the most deplorable condition. The children looked pale and thin, from insufficient food. I asked one of the boys whether he would go with me and be my servant, to have good food, and wear good clothes, and he answered, ‘Oh, I should like to go – but he added – ‘not without my maminka‘ (my little mother).

The miserable condition into which the greater part of the first settlers fell, was not enough to soften the hearts of their oppressors; a fresh command arrived from St. Petersburg to drive the remaining four or five thousand of the Duchoborzen from their houses. As they had to sell their little possessions in all haste in order to begin their pilgrimage to the Caucasus, they fell into the hands of usurers and cheats, who gave them scarcely a tenth part of the value; and not a few official personages made handsome profits on the occasion.

The choice had been offered to them to remain in their villages on condition of conforming to the national church, but very few yielded to the temptation; and very remarkable it is, that with such vague ideas of religion as they possessed, such imperfect conceptions of God and a future state, they should yet cling so firmly to them, and for their sake renounce all hopes of temporal well-being, consent to abandon their beloved homes, and encounter the thousand-fold miseries of banishment in dreary and inhospitable deserts.


Moritz Friedrich Wagner was one of the foremost traveler-explorers of the mid-nineteenth century. He led expeditions to Algeria (1836-1838), Armenia and the Caucasus Mountains (1842-1846), Italy (1846-1849), Asia Minor and Central Asia (1850-1851), the United States, West Indies and Central America (1852-1855) and Central America and Ecuador (1857-1860). Wagner’s early career was as a geographer, and he published a number of geographic books based on his travels. He was also a keen naturalist and collector whose chief interest was the study of animal migration, and he faithfully reported the scientific and ethnological results of his many expeditions through a long series of writings.

In May of 1843, Wagner toured the Wet Mountains region of Northern Armenia and Southern Georgia.  There, near Gyumri and Akhaltsikhi (as noted in the original German text), he encountered several thousand Doukhobors living in seven (he erred as there were eight) villages. They had only recently settled there, having been deported from the Molochnaya region near the Sea of Azov in two parties in 1841 and 1842. The harsh mountain climate and barren soil had ravaged the exiles, whom Wagner found “all in the most deplorable condition”.  The children, he noted, “looked pale and thin, from insufficient food” and lacked “good clothes”.  Moreover, the Doukhobors had suffered mightily at the hands of corrupt Tsarist officials, who “plundered and ill-treated” them when they arrived.  Many families had sunk under misery, hunger and privation; yet clung firmly to their faith.

Three months later, in August of 1843, Wagner hiked the glaciers of Mount Kazbek (as noted in the original German text) south of Vladikavkaz, Russia. There, along the Georgian Military Road, he met a third party of Doukhobor exiles in “hundreds of wagons, heavily laden” with household and agricultural implements.  They were en route from the Molochnaya to the Wet Mountains. Wagner noted the resolute decorum and solemn resignation of these “real apostolic figures” who “seemed to form among themselves one great family”.  This pained him, having already visited their cold and desolate place of exile.

Unidentified informants, possibly members of the military escort conducting the sectarians, told Wagner that the Doukhobors were “industrious men, and excellent agriculturalists” and that “in no other part of the empire were the fields and gardens so blooming, the cattle so thriving” as on their colony on the Molochnaya.  Under Tsar Alexander I, the Doukhobors remained in tranquility; they “paid taxes punctually, furnished recruits and subjected themselves to all duties”.  Under Tsar Nicholas I, however, they became increasingly introverted. The Doukhobors “grew rich, but withdrew themselves more and more from their neighbours, and would allow no stranger to witness the mysteries of their divine worship”. A cruel persecution began.   

According to Wagner, “vague accusations” were made of Doukhobor murders at the Molochnaya colony which gave the authorities an excuse for “commissions of inquiry”.  No positive proof of these rumours was ever discovered, but over 100 Doukhobors were arrested, and thirty were exiled to Siberia as murderers; this is an anecdote not included in most written histories of the sect.  The real reason for their exile, contended Wagner, was that the Doukhobors were guilty of giving refuge to military deserters.  Moreover, fines and extortion by threats of exile for this crime “filled many an official pocket” with Doukhobor money.  Tsar Nicholas I, who “hated all religious sects,” accepted the dubious charges and exiled the entire Doukhobor colony to the Caucasus in 1839. 

Tsarist authorities waited until the last minute before informing the colony of its deportation in 1841.  The Doukhobors told Wagner that because they “had to sell their possessions in all haste in order to begin their pilgrimage to the Caucasus, they fell into the hands of usurers and cheats, who gave them scarcely a tenth part of the value” of their property left behind on the Molochnaya.  Moreover, Wagner was told that “not a few official personages made handsome profits” off the Doukhobor plight. 

Wagner’s account is almost certainly the most detailed and perceptive eyewitness account of the Doukhobor exile to the Caucasus, and his reasons given for their expulsion from the Molochnaya, among the most believable.

To read more, search, download, save and print a full PDF copy of the original German text of “Der Kaukasus und das Land der Kosaken, in den Jahren 1843 bis 1846” by Moritz Wagner (Dresden & Leipzig: Arnoldische Buchhandlung, 1848), visit the Google Book Search digital database.

New Materials from the Earliest History of the Doukhobor Sect

by Nikolai Gavrilovich Vysotsky

Between 1767 and 1769, peasant sectarians were discovered in Tambov and Voronezh who rejected the Orthodox Church, priests, icons and all church ritual. An official investigation ensued, in which ecclesiastic authorities tried to ascertain when the sectarians had rejected Orthodoxy, the specific sect to which they belonged, their beliefs, and the names and locations of their leaders. Although they were not referred to as such, the sectarians were, without a doubt, members of what would later be known as the Doukhobor sect. The following article recounts the investigation and reveals that Doukhoborism, which had emerged decades earlier in Tambov and Voronezh, was already a fully formed religious sect in the 1760s with a distinct organizational structure, mature set of beliefs, a fully developed order of worship and behavioral norms. Reproduced from Nikolai Gavrilovich Vysotsky’s article, “Novye materialy iz rannieishei istorii dukhoborcheskoi sekty” Russkii arkhiv, g. 52, t. 1 (1914: 66-86, 235-61) as republished in P.N. Maloff, Dukhobortsy, ikh istoriia, zhizn’ i bor’ba (1948: 36-46). Translated by Vera Kanigan, with additional translation and editing by Jack McIntosh, for the Doukhobor Genealogy Website. Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

According to researchers, Doukhoborism became known as a sect relatively late, around the middle of the 18th century. By that time it was already a society that had set itself apart with a more or less definite set of beliefs.

However, if one looks up the historical information on which the researchers base their assertion, it turns out that this information pertains mainly to the last quarter, and not the middle of the 18th century. Up to now, researchers had at their disposal almost no information dealing with the earlier period of the sect’s history.

Now we have an opportunity to fill this gap to some extent. We were successful in finding fresh archival material about the history of Doukhoborism relating specifically to the first quarter of the second half of the 18th century [i.e. 1750-1775].

The materials that we have found concern “apostates” from the faith who had appeared within the present-day boundaries of Voronezh and Tambov Provinces; these are significant documents for the history of Doukhoborism. They contain much information that lead to answers that differ from hitherto accepted views about the beliefs of the Doukhobor sect in the earliest period of their existence known historically, how the authorities – both church and civil – treated the Doukhobors, what measures were attempted to root out sectarian error, what were the methods used to spread Doukhoborism, who were the leading personalities in that period, how large was their following, etc., etc.

1767 Report of the Bishop of Tambov

On May 29th, 1767 a report was received by the Holy Synod [the highest ecclesiastical council governing the Russian Orthodox Church] from Tambov Bishop Feodosii (Golosnitsky), stating that in the village of Zhidilovka, in Kozlov district, persons were brought before the administrative law enforcement authorities who had departed from true devout worship and had fallen “into some kind of new sect that was unknown to him”; such sectarians in this village already numbered up to twenty-six people, both male and female. Moreover, the following persons undoubtedly belonged to the same sect: Kirill Petrov, tserkovnik (lay clergyman) of the village of Goreloye, and six odnodvortsy (smallholders) of the village of Lysye Gory.

Since, according to information in possession of the Holy Synod, the individuals indicated by Bishop Feodosii had not been registered as belonging to the Raskol (Schism), the Holy Synod, in response to this bishop’s report, sent him a decree instructing the Right Reverend Feodosii to carry out a thorough investigation to ascertain from what time these sectarians had begun to stray from true piety [i.e. Orthodoxy], of what specific sect are they followers, who had enticed them into it, where their teachers are located, and whatever else is relevant, granting him at the same time the right to render a decision in accordance with the regulations of the Holy Fathers and the decrees of Her Imperial Majesty [Empress Ekaterina II]. The Right Reverend Feodosii was ordered to make a detailed report to the Holy Synod of his actions in this matter.

Feodosii (1723-1786), Bishop of Tambov and Penza.

1768 Investigation and Detailed Report of the Tambov Bishop

The investigation prescribed by the Synod took a rather long time to carry out. It was only in 1768 that the Right Reverend Feodosii presented to the Synod his detailed report on the results of this investigation.

In his report, the Tambov bishop brought to the attention of the Synod that “the aforesaid odnodvortsy, both churchgoers and other like persons, altogether forty in number, listed by name and by gender, being dispatched from the Kozlov Voevoda (Military Governor’s) Chancery and the Tambov Provincial Chancery, accompanied by a deputy appointed from the aforesaid provincial chancery, were interrogated separately in the Consistory Office [the main diocesan administrative and judicial organ in the Russian Orthodox Church].”

These interrogations once again confirmed what the Right Reverend Feodosii had already reported to the Holy Synod: all the persons questioned proved to be apostates from Orthodox faith; during the interrogations they were subjected to admonishment [i.e. mild counseling and reproach] through a priest skilled in teaching; however, in spite of that, they did not repent of their error; in particular it became apparent during questioning that:

1st – That they, abandoning true piety, had joined the aforesaid sect in 1767, and along with their households believe in the true living God, in the Holy Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, creator of heaven and earth, and they believe just as they recite in the Apostles’ Creed; however, they bow down to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not bodily, as others do, but in spirit and in truth;

2nd – God’s Law, bequeathed in the Ten Commandments, they accept and revere, except for what is written therein about revering images painted on tablets [i.e. icons], which they do not accept, and do not revere, and do not bow down to them; moreover, in them supposedly there is nothing divine or sacred, and they are all made by human hands;

3rd – They believe in the Most Pure Mother of God, and confess and esteem Her, only instead of bowing down bodily they are submissive, both before Her and before the Apostles, Prophets and all Christ’s saints, whom they alone supposedly revere;

4th – They do not believe in the Cross of Christ, and do not bow down to it or revere it, as (they say) it was made of wood by human hands, whereas they worship the Cross, that is the Word of the Lord for which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and by which He was raised from the dead;

5th – The sign of the cross made with three fingers on oneself they reject, because (they say) there is no salvation in making that sign, but they cross themselves with the Word of the Lord, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen;

6th – They do not attend our Orthodox Church, and do not accept all the sacraments, rituals, and prayers, because (they say) the aforesaid church and all it contains was built by human hands, and there is no salvation of any kind in the sacraments, rituals and prayers performed therein; moreover the aforesaid sacraments have been fabricated by human hands, and are not from God, and are preached by priests who indulge in drunkenness, foul language, and noisy squabbling, whereas they say they wish to go to a church not made by human hands, a catholic, apostolic assembly of the saints (about which according to them the Lord said this: you are the temple of the living God; I will dwell in you, and walk among you, and I will be your God), and to receive Christ’s sacraments created from God Himself and this communion to receive also and confess in the presence of a priest whom they themselves will choose, one who has been ordained by God, and who receives the word from God’s lips;

Of these in the Consistory Office, the odnodvorets Andrei Popov said that it is written: God the Father is memory, God the Son is reason, God the Holy Spirit is will; while the tserkovnik Kirila Petrov declared, referring to the Holy Eucharist, that he does not believe in it or that the bread turns into the body and the wine the blood, but his belief is that bread comes from wheat, and grape wine, kvass and water simply exist; also that he does not believe in the Mother of God and the Holy Saints, but merely respects them and rather than bowing down to them is obedient to them.

Having set forth the essence of the doctrine espoused by the sectarians, the Right Reverend Feodosii went on to declare that without a directive from the Holy Synod, he considered it impossible for himself to make a final decision on his own in this case. In his opinion it would be fitting for these sectarians to be brought before a civil court and there be “thoroughly investigated by a true interrogation” [presumably torture during interrogations], in view of the fact that in the Consistory they display stubbornness and not only do not answer the questions posed to them, but in general do not want to speak at all, and if they do speak, it is only to abuse and criticize the Orthodox Church, her Sacraments, the Holy Cross and sacred images; for such lack of respect they properly deserve in the first instance civil punishment (in accordance with Paragraph 1, Chapter 1 of the Ulozhenie (Law Code) and Paragraph 3, Chapter 1 of the Voinskii Artikul (Military Code), and thereupon also excommunication from the church in accordance with Paragraph 16 of the Dukhovnyi Reglament o delakh episkopskikh (Spiritual Regulation on Episcopal Matters)).

Ulozhenie, Par. 1, Ch. 1

“If there will be member of another faith, regardless of which faith, or even if he is Russian, who would blaspheme the Lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, or that Most Pure Lady who gave birth to Him, our Mother of God and Virgin Mary, or the Holy Cross, or His Holy Saints, he is to be strictly investigated by any and all means; let him be investigated as to this straight away and this blasphemer, once exposed, executed and burned.”

Voinskii Artikul, Par. 3, Ch. 1

“Whoever heaps abuse on God’s name, despises that name and service to God and God’s Word and the Holy Sacraments, and is thoroughly exposed in this, whether this was committed while drunk or sober, his tongue is to be burned out with red-hot iron, and then he is to be beheaded.”

Dukhovnyi Reglament o delakh episkopskikh, Par. 16

“If someone manifestly blasphemes God’s name, or Holy Scripture, or the Church, or is clearly a sinner who is unashamed of his acts and, even more, boasts of them, or neglects regular repentance for guilt and the Holy Eucharist for more than a year, or does anything else with manifest abuse and mockery of God’s law, such a one, if he remains obdurate and proud after repeated punishment, will be judged deserving only of execution (i.e. anathema), for not merely for sin is he deserving of anathema, but for manifest and haughty contempt for God’s judgment and Church authorities that presents great temptation to weak brethren, and because such a one exudes the foul odour of godlessness.”

In the opinion of the Tambov Bishop, not only those who persist in their sectarian errors should be brought to civil court, but also those who have already abandoned them and returned to the Orthodox Faith, as the latter may render great assistance in obtaining thorough disclosure of the truth concerning these sectarians. Of the individuals subjected to interrogation, only one has left the sect and returned to the bosom of the Orthodox Church: Efrem Mzhachev, an odnodvorets of the village of Ranino, who, probably influenced by admonitions, has started attending church and has begun to pray using the sign of the cross with his hand and bowing in the customary manner. The Tambov bishop was referring to this odnodvorets when he pointed out the need to send persons who had converted from sectarianism to Orthodoxy for the purpose of having a thorough investigation of the truth.

While declining to make an independent determination in the case of the sectarians who had been discovered, the Right Reverend Feodosii requested the Holy Synod to give him guidance both on how to proceed in this matter as well as how generally to act if apostates such as those who had been interrogated began to appear again in his eparchy [ecclesiastical jurisdiction].

As for the sectarians who were taken in for investigation and held under guard, all of them, after questioning, were sent off by the Right Reverend Feodosii to the Tambov Provincial Chancery, where they were to be kept under guard until the ensuing issuance from the Holy Synod of an authoritative decree. However, he sent the man who had returned to Orthodoxy, the odnodvorets Efrem Mzhachev, for confession to Troitsky Monastery in Kozlov.

Presentation by the Tambov Provincial Deputy

The Holy Synod had not yet considered the above-cited report from the Right Reverend Feodosii, when it received a new official document that had direct and immediate relevance to the case of the Tambov sectarians.

On November 17th in the same year Vasily Vedeneev, a deputy of Tambov Province, came to the Holy Synod with a “presentation” stating that he was forwarding for the consideration of the Synod a declaration sent to him signed by priests: Boris Poluektov, of the Zavoronezh suburb of the city of Kozlov, Stefan Vasil’ev of the village of Ranino, and Leontii Ivanov and the deacon Sila Osipov of the village of Zhidilovka; this declaration, in their names and those of selected odnodvortsy and their comrades, report the apostasy from the Orthodox Faith of many of their parishioners, listing them by name and at the same time reporting that the very same sort of apostates from true piety [i.e. Orthodoxy] have also appeared in other places. Reporting about this, the ecclesiastical individuals named requested Vedeneev to declare this matter to the higher authorities.

During their consideration of this “declaration”, the Holy Synod took note of the fact that therein were named many of the same persons mentioned by the Right Reverend Feodosii in his report. It was thus clear that both cases involved essentially the same phenomenon. Therefore the Synod did not attribute to this “declaration” separate significance, but instead attached it to the report of the Right Reverend Feodosii, for which a special decree had already been prepared by the Synod.

Special Decree of the Holy Synod, 1768

Soon this decree was signed by the members of the Synod and sent to the Tambov bishop. The content of the decree was as follows:

As in the report of Bishop Feodosii it was not clear whether the Right Reverend himself had admonished the sectarians, the Holy Synod ordered as follows: those odnodvortsy and the tserkovnik who had departed from true piety, in anticipation of their correction, be again subjected to admonition, first by teacher-priests, and then by the Tambov Bishop himself; this admonition be carried out in the presence of the Tambov Voevoda (Military Governor) or a person designated by him; all the sectarians held in the Tambov Provincial Chancery to be freed from being under guard on condition that they not absent themselves from Tambov before their case is decided and that they be unable to absent themselves, and that when they are summoned for this admonition, they appear without any sort of resistance; beyond that, in order that under no circumstances they might lead anyone astray into their sect, both the Tambov Bishop and the local Provincial Chancery were to keep a strict watch; the Right Reverend Feodosii being obliged to deliver a thorough report without delay on the results of the admonition to the Holy Synod; the tserkovnik Kirill Petrov, until the upcoming decision on his case, was ordered held at the Consistory under strict supervision; Efrem Mzhachev, the odnodvorets who had returned to Orthodoxy, was ordered released without delay from the Kozlov Troitsky Monastery and that he be appropriately received into the Orthodox Faith, but in view of the fact that because he had abandoned his own true piety and that of his fathers by following the sect of those odnodvortsy, he was deserving, by virtue of the regulations of the Holy Fathers, of having to perform strict penance; yet nevertheless, in consideration of his voluntary and sincere repentance and conversion, the aforesaid penance is reduced in measure, and so he is ordered for only one whole year on all Sundays and holy days to go to the church of God for prayer and to bow to the ground, and to make confession on all fasting days, but he is not to be admitted to the Holy Sacraments during this year, except in case of a death, and upon the completion of this period he is to be released from this penance.

This determination of the Synod was communicated by means of decree not only to the Tambov Bishop, but also to the Tambov Provincial Chancery, whereas the Senate was sent a vedenie (memorandum): “May [the Senate] be favourably disposed to be informed …”. This vedenie was recorded December 22nd, 1768.

The Tambov Bishop’s Response to the Decree, 1769

The aforesaid decree was received by the Right Reverend Feodosii on January 15th, 1769. The Tambov bishop set about immediately to fulfill its instructions, and already on March 24th he sent a report in response, saying:

“Not only those named who are held in the Chancery, but also in addition, according to cases submitted and by their own admission having been determined to be in the same sect, one hundred and fifty-one persons, or overall, male and female, up to two hundred and thirty-two persons, according to the investigation through the Tambov Provincial Chancery and according to their submission from the deputy assigned to them from that Chancery, Tambov Invalid Detachment second lieutenant Mikhail Oduevtsov; repeatedly they were admonished from the Word of God in this deputy’s presence, in the first instance by those appointed: the priest Alexander Poliansky, the sacristan of the Tambov Cathedral, Alexei, and other clergymen, and then also by myself in the presence of the appointed Tambov Voevoda, Collegiate Councillor Cherkasov and in the presence of numerous other former noblemen, also before and after them, but the aforesaid apostates not only would not listen to or accept true admonition from the Word of God, what is worse, they affirmed their false beliefs, those mentioned in their testimony presented by me to the Holy Governing Synod, as being true.

Moreover, some of them, up to ten in number, were found even earlier to be in the same apostasy; in 1765 the odnodvorets Semyon Zhernoklev testified in the Streletskaya suburb of Tambov that in March of that year he had traveled to the home of the above-named Goreloye tserkovnik Kirila Petrov for instruction in holy writ, where present from the same village were the odnodvorets Larion Pobirokhin (who has not been tracked down after taking flight), along with others, up to eight in total; and the aforesaid Pobirokhin was sitting behind a table in the front corner while the rest were all standing before him singing from the Bible, specifically the 14th chapter of the book of the prophet Zechariah; “the days of the Lord are coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you,” and also various psalms from the Psalter, specifically which ones he – Semyon – cannot recall. When they had finished singing psalms, the aforesaid Pobirokhin, contrary to the Holy Church interpreted for them these psalms, at which time he said that he had never found anywhere in the Scripture that people should bow down to wooden, copper, silver, golden, or stone images, but should bow down to man, because he was created in the image and likeness of God. And then all the declared persons of different ranks, including himself – Zhernoklev – at the command of the aforesaid Pobirokhin, as they began to lie down to sleep right at midnight, each in turn came up to Pobirokhin, bowed twice to him at his feet and kissed him on the mouth, and then, yet again for the third time bowing to the ground, went away; when they got up in the morning, they repeated this kissing and bowing. Moreover, all of them by his order always refer to him as “Radost’” (Joy); why – he, Semyon, does not know, but, he says, when somebody comes into the house and the aforesaid Pobirokhin is present, they never pray to God, but just as soon as they enter the hut, they fall at his feet and kiss him on the mouth, with which, he says, he – Semyon – at their insistence, also fully complied. And although then the others, aware of his non-denial, even swore that they are in the Orthodox Faith, as Christian duty commands, and will do nothing like that person who has given evidence hostile to the church, but now they have again even departed from that oath, as it turns out that they, of course, as was presented by myself previously to the Holy Governing Synod, in accordance with their false beliefs, maintain and propagate their peculiar worship and elect their own peculiar priests.

And as a great number of them are now having an influence in different places, they are in a convenient position to covertly entice others into the same error, as to which there is no way that they can be kept under observation. For this reason, the Right Reverend Feodosii concluded his report, presenting the above by means of this report most respectfully for the Holy Synod’s most favourable consideration as to what to do with such apostates, I beg most humbly that I be furnished with an authoritative decree that the aforesaid tserkovnik Kirila Petrov, who has been held at my Consistory under guard, in accordance with the communication sent to me February 26 of this year from the Voronezh Governor, be taken to him in Voronezh, according to a special order for him about this matter, via a specially dispatched messenger, in chains.”

1769 Report of the Bishop of Voronezh and Elets

This report from the Tambov Bishop was received in the Synod on April 21st; however, on the previous day, April 20th, a secret report arrived in the Holy Synod from Tikhon (Malinin), Bishop of Voronezh and Elets – a report whose content was very closely related to the case brought up by the Tambov Bishop. From this report it comes to light that the same kind of apostates from the Orthodox Faith had also penetrated into Voronezh eparchy, where they also attracted the attention of the church and civil authorities. The Right Reverend Tikhon wrote as follows:

Tikhon (1724-1783), Bishop of Voronezh and Elets, later canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.

By the decree of Her Imperial Majesty sent by Your Excellency to me, your most humble servant, it was ordered with respect to the following opponents of the Holy Church who had been found to be in the city of Voronezh: Stepan Kuznetsov and his accomplices of the village of Tishanka, Dvortsovaya Bitiutskaya district, including the peasant Ignat Danilov, also known as Balychev, who works for the local factory man Vasily Tulinov, that in the presence of the deputy appointed by the Voronezh Provincial Chancery, they be investigated here in the Consistory in the proper manner, finding out firstly from what time they abandoned true piety, by whom exactly were they enticed therefrom, and in specifically which sect were they instructed, and where their aforesaid teachers are to be found, and how many of them are brought to light by this investigation, in the first place this is to be reported, and upon completion of the investigation, what appropriate punishment is decided upon for their opposition to the Holy Church, in accordance with the law, with thorough reporting of all evidence and with opinion appended, to be presented to Your Excellency without delay and to await a decree concerning the aforesaid.

However, last year, on December 29th, 1768, a secret communication sent to me by Major-General Maslov, Cavalier and Governor of Voronezh province informing that (he said), the said house-serf of the factory man Tulinov, Ignat Balychev, had been sent to him, the Governor, kept in custody by him for dissent against the Orthodox Faith, along with an order to him, the Governor, by Her Imperial Majesty, in consideration of this, promptly and fittingly to make a determination as to how (he says) in relation to such corrupters of faith, by virtue of Your Holiness’s decree, it has been ordered, in the presence of a deputy appointed by the Provincial Chancery, for me to investigate, and said Balychev to be subjected to individual inquisition and the conclusion of these cases sent herewith, it has been requested, regarding their stubborn dissent against the Orthodox Faith, to investigate expeditiously and when finished to report on all of them clearly explaining everything relevant and what punishment will be appropriate for their crimes, an extract to be sent to him, the governor, as soon as possible for submission to Her Imperial Majesty.

And then, in response to the reports sent by me, it was announced by the Governor in communications on February 6th and 10th of this year, 1769, that for the indicated investigation he had appointed as deputy the Governor’s Assistant, Court Counsellor Popov, to be present two days a week, that is, Tuesday and Friday; he was in the office from the 13th of February and commenced the investigation, with the opponents of the Holy Church and corrupters of the Orthodox Faith, by virtue of the above-mentioned decree sent by Her Imperial Majesty from Your Holiness; the investigation began on the appointed days and although it was carried out, the said debauchees were not forthcoming about by whom precisely they had been enticed and instructed, and where their teachers are to be found.

In their answers they revealed very little, but even during their interrogation and admonition in the office they have demonstrated no little severity, stubbornness and disrespect, and covering up their teachers, among other things declared contradictorily: some had supposedly taught themselves from books; others allegedly heard things in church, and others thought about it and came to the judgement that God dwells in temples not built by human hands and takes no pleasure in the work of human hands; one is not to make for oneself handmade images: the image of God is the human soul; true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Lord seeks such worshippers; confess to God in Heaven; I am the Living Bread, and if you eat of this bread, you will live forever; He did not offer salvation from a handmade and soulless God. And that they belong to the following sect, namely:

1st – They believe in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they pray and worship God in spirit and in truth;

2nd – To no services of the Church of the Greek confession do they go, but instead gather with one another for prayer in their homes, where they sing together and recite psalms from the Psalter, the Lord’s Prayer, and they regard their assembly as the church not built by human hands;

3rd – They do not bow down to holy images either painted on boards or other things or cast, and they do not regard them as sacred, but instead revere persons, and therefore bow to one another, and kiss;

4th – They do not go to priests for confession, but confess to their Heavenly Father;

5th – The Holy Sacraments, that is, the Body and Blood of Our Saviour, performed in churches of the Greek confession in the form of bread and wine, they do not receive and do not regard them as the true Body and Blood of Our Saviour, but as ordinary bread and wine, and instead of taking the Holy, Immortal and Life-Giving Sacraments, they keep to the Word of God and carry out His commandments.

6th – They do not cross themselves, and, without replacing it with anything, regard it as a shchepot’ [a play on words, meaning either a pinch (as in “a pinch of salt”) or the sign made by the middle and index fingers held together, as in making the sign of the cross]; instead they cross themselves by word alone in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit;

7th – They keep the Sacrament of Baptism thusly: when a baby is born, he should remain unbaptized until he comes of age, so that when he comes of age he will be baptized by the Holy Spirit, that is by repentance for the remission of sins, meekness, humility and patience;

8th – They do not regard priests ordained by the laying on of hands by church hierarchs as genuine priests, but recognize as true priests those ordained by carrying out the works of Christ Himself;

9th – All those favoured of God they esteem as saints, but they do not bow down to their images or their relics, for they do not regard bodies of the dead as sacred things;

10th – One of them, Stepan Kuznetsov, explained that among people who have been married by priests ordained by the laying on of hands by hierarchs, as false priests (he says), their weddings are regarded as illegitimate, but in accordance with their (he says) true worship the husband should choose for himself a bride on the basis of love and having taken her in the presence of witnesses live with one another according to the Law of God;

11th – In its departure from the faith of the Greek confession, according to the kind of sect to which they belong, they have not instructed anyone and supposedly nobody except those confined with them, and they do not know persons in other places of the same sect; however, on the contrary, on March 17 of this year, there arrived at the Consistory at the time of the visitation, odnodvortsy and women, seven named persons in all, living in the city of Voronezh, who announced that they are one in agreement and common doctrine with the prescribed persons, the eating-house proprietor Stepan Kuznetsov and his accomplices, and asked to be held together with them under investigation in the Consistory in the presence of the deputy of the Holy Church; thus through the said persons, openly declaring themselves to be followers of the corrupters of the Orthodox Faith, have exposed the lie told by those who testified that they do not know of anyone belonging to such a sect in other places; and henceforward, both with regard to their accomplices and more so their teachers, investigate them for their many instances of stern and stubborn behaviour and disrespect committed during interrogation and admonition and in conducting this investigation it has been impossible to obtain the desired results.

In consideration of such circumstances my Consistory has been ordered and I have confirmed that the following steps be taken:

1st – Everything concerning what which is described above is be presented to Your Holiness most humbly begging that such measures be undertaken, in view of the circumstances promulgated above, to bring said opponents of the Holy Church and perverters of the Orthodox Faith to inquisition by priests and teachers for thorough, most prompt and successful investigation, to provide me with an authoritative decree, and while the aforesaid is pending, not to suspend the said investigation but on predetermined dates, to carry it out, and this will be done;

2nd – To His Lordship the local Governor here to report secretly (and it has been so reported), as to whether he would also deign to present on his own behalf to the appropriate authority as to the aforesaid, and to inform me concerning the response he receives to this representation;

3rd – To send to the Voronezh Provincial Chancery (and it has been sent), a memorandum to the effect that the Chancery would see fit, as to the aforesaid, to draw up an authenticated document certifying that the opponents of the Holy Church who had arrived in the Consistory, Kuznetsov and his accomplices, have been registered by decree as belonging to the Schism, and when they are proven to have been registered, that my Consistory be informed of this; if they are not registered, they are to be sent immediately to said Consistory for investigation. Most humbly bringing this matter to Your Holiness’s attention, I await from Your Holiness an authoritative decree concerning the above situation.”

Special Decree of the Holy Synod, 1769

Having heard the cited reports of the Tambov and Voronezh Bishops, the Holy Synod made the following determination: “Having made copies of the promulgated reports sent by the Tambov and Voronezh hierarchs, to report to the Governing Senate indicating what will be done; and from the Holy Synod to confirm just such a warning and abhorrence of this far-away debauchery to the Tambov and Voronezh Right Reverend Bishops, instructing that in those localities where the said deviants from the Holy Church are located, the priests strictly and in a proper manner see to it that other Orthodox folk will not be infected with the same sort of error by them, and if the priests in those places have demonstrated little skill in doing this, said priests should be transferred to other churches, seeking out worthy priests to appoint in their stead; and at the same time to confirm as regards said priests that if, in spite of all their efforts, such depravity were to be discovered anew, each of those priests should immediately inform his own bishop, and these eminences are to report to the Holy Synod without delay.”

The “transaction” was dispatched by the Synod to the Senate on May 5th, 1769, and received the very same day.

1769 Senate Decree

Thus, the Senate had already received two “transactions” of the Synod regarding deviants from the Orthodox Faith: those of December 22nd, 1768 and May 5th, 1769. These “transactions” were heard by the Senate on May 20th, 1769 and at that time the Senate’s decision on this matter was made. We cite it here verbatim in view of its importance in the subsequent history of the sect, with the unavoidable repetitions this entails. (These repetitions have been omitted here in order to shorten this article, but in such a way that nothing is lost. P. M. [Peter Maloff].)

It has been decreed: Although the above-registered raznochintsy (people of miscellaneous ranks) in accordance with Chapter 1 of the Ulozhenie (Law Code) and Paragraph 3, Chapter 1 of the Voinskii Artikul (Military Code) have, on account of their deviation from true piety and abuse of the true faith [i.e. Orthodoxy], rendered themselves liable not only to the severest punishment, but even to the death penalty, however, according to church custom based on Holy Writ, it is left for sinners to acknowledge their own sin, and those who have not confessed are granted time to recognize their error and repent, therefore, considering that said persons, being of a base nature and upbringing, and by virtue of their shallow-mindedness and superstition, and equally, their ignorance, are not as likely to be brought to a realization of the truth by fear of death as by other means and by being allowed time, and beyond that, in accordance with the unparalleled kindness and mercy of Her Imperial Majesty, their sentence ought, in accordance with law, to be rescinded; and, in view of our present war with the Turks and the need for soldiers, when not only profligates such as these, but even the very children of the Holy Church and true sons of the fatherland are sacrificing their lives, and so that these ignorant men, having yet time to repent of their crime, might be led into the unity of the Holy Church with all pious Christians living in the unambiguous Law of God – the Governor of Voronezh is instructed:

1st – If among them there are some of the male gender who up to now remain in their delusion, then without regard for old age, starting with fifteen-year-olds, all without exception are to be sent to Lieutenant General Vernes [Wernes], now stationed at the renovated Azov and Taganrog fortresses. Having ascertained who among them is able to perform military service, he will assign them to military troops stationed there, and those unfit for military service, as labourers for fortification work, as much as possible without letting them stay together in the same locations or work teams, and with precautions taken to prevent them from communicating there with one another about their false beliefs and spreading their “delights”, as to which they are to be kept under strict watch.

2nd – That their minor male children, fifteen years of age and under, that is, up to the age of fifteen, be sent out to garrison schools to learn Russian reading and writing and, as they come of age, equally with other children of soldiers attending those schools, they be distributed according to ability among the regiments; while those fifteen and under are to be sent for upbringing to a Siropitatel’nyi dom (foundling home), but all of those on the poll tax roll for the settlements from which said offenders come are not to be included in recruitment rosters because they up to now have been tolerated in those settlements without them having been reported; moreover, as they are legally liable to suffer the death penalty, and have been spared from that only by the kindness and mercy of Her Imperial Majesty; such persons are not eligible to be counted in this reckoning; and consequently,

3rd – Their property, that is their grain – on hand, threshed and sown – cattle, domestic buildings and so on, all such having been inventoried, seeing to it meanwhile that all the above is not scattered and looted by their fellow residents or by the miscreants themselves through others, is to be sold at public auction, and the land at those settlements where they lived is to be divided among the rest of the residents of those places who, in their stead, until a future revision, bear the burden of responsibility, and the proceeds of the sale are to be used for the dispatch, escort, and feeding of those offenders and their children as far as the destination chosen at his gubernatorial discretion; and then,

4th – The wives of those criminals who have persisted in their error may remain with their husbands on the same basis as other soldiers’ wives, remaining in their own husbands’ care, but only on condition that they on no account remain in their previous places of residence; while widows and young girls who have come of age and have been taken to other settlements are to be dispersed in the care of other odnodvortsy and peasants who are devout and living a good life so that as the latter make use of their labour in their homes they will endeavour to lead the aforementioned persons away from their error and bring them back into unity with the Holy Church, and then by the measure of the merits and inclinations of each one, to give them in marriage in different state settlements to such as wish to take them, and if nobody desiring them is to be found in the state settlements, then let them be given in marriage to other raznochintsy who abide in the true faith; those among their minor children who have not come of age, in accordance with the above proscription, are to be sent to a Siropitatel’nyi dom, and as for the most elderly women and those young girls who are unsuitable for marriage and cannot be accepted into care, a list of names with detailed information on their status is to be sent to the Senate; and finally,

5th – If, in addition to the persons mentioned, there prove to be others of the same sect or criminals of similar sort, the governor is to deal with them in the same manner as has been ordered for these offenders, but the Senate is to be given advance notice. Also, orders relating to this matter are to be sent to the Governor of Voronezh, the Military College, the Main Palace Chancery, and to the Board of Guardians of the Moscow Foundling Home, and for information, in addition to the Holy Synod, notification to the Moscow Departments of the Senate, and a humble report to Her Imperial Majesty.

The Fortress of Azov, where in 1769, Tambov and Voronezh sectarians were sentenced to serve as military recruits and as labourers for fortification work on account of their Doukhobor faith and beliefs.


The following is a summary of the somewhat complicated events surrounding the official investigation of sectarians in Tambov and Voronezh provinces in 1767-1769 set out above.

On May 29, 1767, Bishop Feodosii of Tambov and Penza reported to the Holy Synod the discovery of twenty-six sectarians in the village of Zhidilovka and six in the village of Lysye Gory by civil authorities. Although the sect was unknown and new to the Bishop, Orthodox authorities in Tambov and Voronezh had already investigated a similar heresy in 1765.

The Holy Synod responded by instructing the Bishop to carry out a thorough investigation to ascertain when the sectarians had rejected Orthodoxy, the specific sect to which they belonged, the names and locations of their leaders, and anything else relevant, and report back to them.

Thereafter, Bishop Feodosii undertook a lengthy investigation of the matter. The sectarians (who by this time had increased from thirty-two to forty) were dispatched, first to the Kozlov Military Governor’s Chancery and the Tambov Provincial Chancery, and then to the Tambov Ecclesiastical Consistory where they were held for interrogation. During the interrogations, the sectarians displayed a marked stubbornness, refusing to answer the questions put to them, and when they did speak, displaying open contempt for their interrogators. Despite admonishment, all (except one) of the sectarians refused to repent of their heresy. They were remanded to the Tambov Provincial Chancery pending direction from the Holy Synod.

Bishop Feodosii made a report of his investigation to the Holy Synod in late 1768. He declined to make an independent determination in the case, and requested the Holy Synod to give him guidance on how to proceed on the matter. He voiced his opinion however, that the sectarians should be brought before a civil court, be thoroughly investigated by true interrogation (presumably involving torture) and subjected to civil punishment (which ranged from strict penance to execution by burning or beheading) followed by excommunication from the Church.

In the meantime, on November 17, 1768, a Deputy of the Tambov Provincial Chancery, on behalf of clergy and churchgoers from the city of Kozlov and villages of Ranino and Zhidilovka, presented the Holy Synod with a list of apostates from the Orthodox faith who had appeared in those places. Many of those named were also named in Bishop Feodosii’s report.

On December 22, 1768, the Holy Synod issued a decree ordering Bishop Feodosii to once again subject the sectarians to admonition, first by teacher-priests, and then by himself, in the presence of the Tambov Military Governor. The sectarians were then to be released from the Tambov Provincial Chancery on the condition that they not absent themselves from Tambov before their case was decided, and under no circumstances were they to lead anyone else into their sect. The one sectarian who returned to Orthodoxy was ordered to perform strict penance for a year.

On March 24, 1769, Bishop Feodosii reported to the Holy Synod that, upon further investigation, 232 sectarians had been discovered in Tambov province, including those already held in the Tambov Provincial Chancery. Ten of the sectarians had been interrogated as long ago as 1765 for the same heresy. Despite repeated admonitions, conducted in accordance with the Holy Synod’s decree, they all remained obstinate and refused to renounce their beliefs. The Bishop concluded that the sectarians had spread to such a degree that they could not be kept under observation, and requested that the Holy Synod authorize him to dispatch those held in the Tambov Ecclesiastical Consistory to the Voronezh Governor in chains.

The Holy Synod had no sooner received Feodosii’s report when, on April 20, 1769, it received a report from Tikhon, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets about the discovery of several members of the same sect in the city of Voronezh and the village of Tishanka. He reported that the sectarians had been dispatched, first to the Voronezh Provincial Chancery, and then to the Voronezh Ecclesiastical Consistory, where they were interrogated in the presence of the Deputy of the Voronezh Provincial Chancery. When questioned, they demonstrated no little severity, stubbornness and disrespect to their interrogators and revealed very little about their faith. They were joined by seven more people who declared themselves to belong to the same sect and asked to be held together with them in the Consistory. Despite admonitions, they all refused to recant their beliefs.

In his report, Bishop Tikhon asked the Holy Synod to authorize him to bring the sectarians to inquisition by priests and teachers for a thorough, prompt and successful investigation. They were held in the Voronezh Ecclesiastical Consistory pending the Holy Synod’s response.

On May 5, 1769, in response to the reports of Bishops Feodosii and Tikhon, the Holy Synod issued a decree ordering that priests in localities where the sectarians were located “strictly and in a proper manner” ensure that other Orthodox peasants were not infected by the same heresy. New cases of the heresy that arose were to be immediately reported to the Holy Synod.

On May 20, 1769, the Senate, having reviewed the Holy Synod’s investigation, issued a decree sentencing those Tambov and Voronezh sectarians who refused to confess their errors and repent to civil punishment. Men over fifteen years of age were to be sent to the Azov and Taganrog fortresses as military recruits, or if unfit, as labourers for fortification work. Their wives were permitted to join them there. Widows and unmarried girls were to be dispersed among Orthodox families in other settlements. Boys aged five to fifteen were to be sent to garrison schools, while children under five were to be sent to orphanages. The sectarians’ property was to be sold at auction and the funds thus raised sent on to their present location. Other members of the sect, upon discovery, were to be dealt with in the same manner.

In light of these events, a number of observations can be made about the official investigation of Tambov and Voronezh sectarians in 1767-1769:

First, the sectarians under investigation were, without a doubt, members of what would later be known as the Doukhobor sect. In this period, the sect had still not given itself a specific name; its members referred to themselves as “people of God” and “sons of God”. They only accepted the name “Doukhobor”, which was given to them derisively by Orthodox clergy, decades later. Many of the sectarians named in the investigation appear in subsequent historical records listed as Doukhobors.

Second, by the 1760s, the sect already had a well-developed set of beliefs. Based on the responses given by Doukhobors under questioning, their doctrine included the following: they believed in a true living God, whom they worshipped in spirit and truth; they believed in the Holy Trinity, the Father Son and Holy Ghost, which they represented as MemoryReason and Will; they believed in God’s law bequeathed in the Ten Commandments; they did not attend the Orthodox Church but instead gathered with one another for prayer in their homes, where they sang and recited psalms; they rejected all sacraments and rituals as there was no salvation in such manmade things, and instead sought communion directly with God, who dwelt in every person; similarly, they refused to revere or bow down to icons and the Cross of Christ, as these things were manmade, but instead revered persons, and thus bowed to one another and kissed; they rejected the priesthood for its drunkenness, foul language and noisy squabbling and looked upon those carrying out the works of Christ as true priests; they did not go to priests for confession, but confessed to God directly; they refused to make the sign of the cross with three fingers as the Orthodox did; and they did not worship the Mother of God, Apostles, Prophets or Saints, but respected them as those favoured by God. These responses represent one of the very earliest documented expositions of Doukhobor beliefs.

Third, by this time, Doukhoborism was a fully formed religious sect with a distinct organizational structure (consisting of leaders, teachers, homilists and rank-and-file members), a mature dogma, a fully developed order of worship (at their meetings, they sang psalms, the teacher would interpret them, and at the end of the service they would sing again, bow twice to one another, kiss one another on the mouth, and bow a third time) as well as distinct behavioral norms.

Fourth, it is evident that the sect did not emerge in Tambov and Voronezh in the 1760s, but had arisen in these provinces several decades earlier. A review of the historical evidence shows that Doukhoborism was being actively disseminated in these provinces as early as the 1730s and 1740s. For years, members of the sect concealed their affiliation to avoid attracting the attention of their neighbours. It was only during the events of the 1760s that the sect garnered official attention.

Fifth, although the sentences imposed by the Senate in 1769 affected the upper echelons of the sect and its most active members, it did not affect the majority of rank-and-file members, who continued to conceal their beliefs. Membership in the sect in the eighteenth century cannot be readily tallied, since most Doukhobors remained underground. Scholars contend, however, that there were, without question, far more Doukhobors in Tambov and Voronezh provinces at the time than the numbers discovered by Bishops Feodosii and Tikhon during their investigations.

Sixth, the descendants of those Doukhobors sentenced to serve in Azov and Taganrog fortresses in 1769 were permitted, thirty-six years later in 1805, to join their brethren being resettled along the Molochnaya River in the Melitopol district of Tavria province. Historical records indicate that these included members of the Petrov, Vorob’ev, Pichugin, Strelyaev, Plotnikov, Suzdal’tsev, Kuznetsov and Astafurov families, amongst others.

For a comprehensive scholarly analysis of the 1767-1769 official investigation of sectarians in Tambov and Voronezh provinces, as well as newly discovered archival information relating to the Doukhobor sect during this period, see Russian ethnographer Svetlana A. Inikova’s article, “The Tambov Dukhobors in the 1760s” in Russian Studies in History, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Winter 2007-8), pp. 10-39.

Visit to the Doukhobors

Manitoba Morning Free Press

The year 1902 was a turbulent one for the Doukhobors in Canada. Disputes with government over homestead entry, internal dissension and zealot activity turned the tide of public opinion against them, prompting many wildly outrageous and grossly exaggerated reports. Despite this, some fair-minded Canadians continued to stand up unreservedly for the Doukhobors. One such citizen, E.H. Blow of Fort Pelly, Assiniboia, wrote a detailed and sympathetic account of the Doukhobors of the North Colony, extolling their prosperity and progress, social customs, skills, industry, work ethic, and charity, homes, buildings and yards, and other positive characteristics. Published in the Manitoba Morning Free Press on October 1, 1902, his message was simple and direct: Leave the Doukhobors alone. Give them a chance, and let them become Canadians on their own terms.

The peaceful, inoffensive, industrious Doukhobor has been the subject of much talk of late. This talk has been caused by the foolish utterances of idle and irresponsible people, and by the malicious statements of mischief makers. All the reports that have been spread abroad are either willfully false or grossly exaggerated. With the exception of his disinclination to observe three simple governmental regulations on account of his religious beliefs, there is no reason for complaint against him. He is a hard-working, uncovetous, and exceedingly charitable to all but when he has to rub shoulders with government, he becomes obstinate and fortifies himself with the instilled faith that God alone is supreme, and his laws only are to be observed. As the human Laws of all Christian nations today are based on God’s law, the Doukhobor cannot be regarded as other than an admirable character.

His present obstinate refusal to enter for his homestead, to register his vital statistics and to pay his road tax is no doubt annoying, but as some one has remarked “obstinacy is not to be commended but fidelity to what one deems to be right and proper is ever to be commended and recognized.” Leave the Doukhobor alone and he will soon became a citizen of Canada whose example in matters of industry and religious zeal will be worthy of emulation. The minds of the young men are turning in the right direction and victory will be with them.

It has just been my privilege to visit the thirteen Doukhobor villages in the Swan River valley, extending from Thunder Hill, eighteen miles along the Swan River, in Eastern Assiniboia, and the impressions that I formed from my personal contact with the Doukhobors and from my observations of their habits and customs is extremely favorable in their behalf. In the thirteen villages there are 2,500 souls, the population of the villages ranging from 100 to 250. These villages comprise what is known as the north colony.

Store Houses Filled to Overflowing

It is a little over three years since they settled on the land set apart for them by the Dominion government. They had no cattle, horses or implements to start with, but the good Quakers of the United States came to their aid and furnished them with means to purchase these necessary articles in a limited way. With primitive methods they went to work with characteristic energy and abounding patience and faith and today they have under cultivation an aggregate of 5,540 acres of which they have reaped this year a rich harvest of wheat, barley, oats, flax and vegetables, so that their store houses are filled to over-flowing, sufficient to place them, beyond all possibility of need for the next five years, supposing they did not wish to produce any more during that period. But they do intend to produce more, because they are now busy at work plowing the stubble fields and breaking new land. They had the wheat cut and stacked two weeks earlier than the English speaking settlers in the district and have a good part of their threshing done, not withstanding the fact that they have no modern machinery and do practically all their work by hand labor.

Village of Vosnesenya, North Colony, c. 1904.  Library and Archives Canada C-000683.

The Doukhobor Homes

The Doukhobor villages and the Doukhobor home life are picturesque. It is like a bit of the old world transplanted into the newest. The cottages are ranged on either side of an open street and are tastefully constructed, presenting an attractive appearance. The material used in the construction of the houses is un-sawn spruce timber. Both the exterior and interior are plastered over with a clay mixture and then painted with a wash made of white painted clay, the prevailing white being relieved by dadoes around walls and posts made from a wash of yellow clay. The roof logs project over the walls and form verandahs which are neatly ornamented with woodwork, in some instances carved and scrolled. Beneath the verandahs on the sides of the houses mostly used are plank, stone or earthen platforms. Erected over the gates are ornamental arches such as are common in Northern Europe and eastern countries. The home yards are kept as neat as a palace walk by means of sand spread on the ground and watered and swept every morning, and once or twice during the day. The interior of the houses, with scarcity an exception are spotless. The walls and ceilings are immaculately white, while the tables, benches, and chairs all made of lumber fairly shine with the constant scrubbing and polishing of the good housewives. Generally speaking the houses each have a living and sleeping room, kitchen, and work and store room. In some cases where families live together under the same roof, the living and sleeping rooms are duplicated, both families using the kitchen in common. Where two or more families live together, they are usually relatives, the parents and their sons’ wives and children. The son always takes his wife to his father’s home and there they live until the young folks build for themselves, or if the husband has to go away to work, his wife and children are under the care and protection of his parents.

The Sleeping Apartments

A number of the members of a family may and do sleep in the same room. Because of this fact, some people are disposed to harshly criticize the Doukhobors, but it must be remembered that this habit is customary among the peasant folk of other European nationalities and thee are many pioneers in this country who can recall the time when Canadian settlers in their first homestead shacks were compelled to live in a similar way. Some of these settlers today are living in houses that cost from six to ten thousand dollars, and they will tell you not with a blush, but with feelings or pride, of the inconveniences they had to put up with in the early days, and how they overcame them. The Doukhobor is a God-fearing good-living moral man. No one can deny that. He who says to the contrary speaks with a false or foolish tongue. While to those who know naught to the contrary it may appear that there is no privacy in the Doukhobor home; there is privacy and above all there is sanctity. The Doukhobor believes with Canon Farrer: “It may not be ours to utter convincing arguments, but it may be ours to live holy lives; it may be ours to be noble, and sweet, and pure,” and so he lives by day and by night.

Clean Barns and Stable Yard

As neatness and cleanliness is the conspicuous feature of the Doukhobor home, so is with all about the homestead. There is a place for everything and everything is kept in its place. The horse and cattle stables are warm and clean. The manure is not thrown out of the stable and left there to contaminate the air or to pollute the earth. It is hauled away to the fields or otherwise disposed of. When the cattle come home at night, they are corralled some distance from the house and the feed is not thrown to them on the ground, but placed in racks, so that there may be no waste and no litter. Everything is neat and tidy and thrifty-like. Some settlers could get many useful sanitary and economic pointers by a visit to the Doukhobor villages.

Evidence of Taste and Skills

The large oven found in every house is an interest object. In its capacious interior all the baking and cooking is done, while sufficient heat is radiated from its ample surfaces to warm the entire house. On top the little children and old women have their sleeping place. The oven is kept scrupulously clean, the same as every other part of the house. Stoves are now coming into use in most of the villages. In every house visited there were plants in the windows, curtain draperies and little ornamental knickknacks of silk and woodwork, giving evidence of skill and taste on the part of both men and women.

Will Build Better Homes

The Doukhobor house is of a character that no pioneer in a new country need be ashamed of, but the Doukhobors are not satisfied. They have already expressed their intention of erecting larger and more substantial homes as soon as they get more land under cultivation. Their new homes will be chiefly of stone and each man will build on his own farm. Many of the men are skilled in the art of stone masonry, and as the shallow river beds in the region where they live abound in boulder stone, it is natural that they should decide to build their permanent homes of this excellent material.

The Women Spin and Weave

The ancient spinning wheel is found in every home and with it the women make yarn from the wool of their sheep and also spin flax thread, from which they weave coarse, serviceable cloth and also make twine, etc. The Doukhobors appear to understand the manufacture of hemp, and the industry among them should be encouraged. With improved machinery they could manufacture a number of merchantable articles, such as binder twine, rope and linen. What they are doing in this line now is on a small and crude scale. The women are skillful with the needle, their lace and silk work being very artistically designed and splendidly executed. The women also excel in basket making, the fancy straw baskets made by them being equal to anything ever imported into Winnipeg from abroad. This work they do, it would seem, for amusement, and generally to present to friends as souvenirs, though they turn it to profitable account sometimes. Some of the men carve animals and birds, and all are handy with carpenters’ and smithing tools. They are able to make anything they want out of the most unlikely material. The Doukhobor is by no means the stupid being hat some people think. Necessity has made him a genius. It has sharpened his wits and inspired his hand, and as soon as he feels that he is an absolutely free man he will become a model citizen. He has no vices; his wants are simple, and he follows the Bible precept that it is more blessed to give than to receive. He gives away one-tenth of what he produces, here again showing his strict observance of Biblical teaching.

Doukhobor women baking bread in outdoor ovens. British Columbia Archives E-07248.

Everybody Works

I have seen the people in their homes, in the fields, in the towns and on the trail. They are always at work, and everybody from the youngest to the oldest, finds something to do. Many hands lighten the burden, and their work seems to be a pleasure. The household duties of the women are light, owing to the assistance they receive from the young girls, consequently they accompany the men to the fields and help with what work there may be there to do. The outdoor work done by the women is voluntary. They go with the men more as a matter of comradeship and as the men are kind to the women, the latter are anxious to help all they can in sewing, caring for and reaping the crops. Many of the women who go to the fields do not join in the farm work, but take their sewing and knitting, with them. I have seen several groups of women of the various villages sitting around the stacks while the sheaves were being hauled in, or at the winnowing grounds, busily employed with their fancy work, while the children played about or occupied themselves with light employment. These scenes were very pretty and reminded one more of a happy family picnic party than anything else. Yet the work of the harvest was going on unceasingly and it was wonderful what a few men could accomplish in a day. Three stone flour mills are being put up in the north and south colonies, and the rivers are being utilized for motive power.

How the Doukhobor Threshes

The Doukhobor threshes his grain in the fields either with flails or by horses attached to corrugated rollers, the tramping of the animals and the pounding of the rollers separating the wheat from the straw. The threshed grain is finally cleaned by throwing it into the air so that the chaff and light foreign seeds may be blown out by the wind. The grain is then passed through home-made sieves and is then ready for mill or market. The process is slow but with the number of winnowing grounds in a field a lot of grain can be harvested in a day. I saw in one field a party of fifty men and women standing in a circle threshing with flails. It was a pretty picture of industry, the effect being heightened by the quaint multi-colored garb of the women. They sang as they worked, and were apparently as happy as school children.

Social Customs

The community system prevails among the Doukhobors. All moneys earned by the members of a village are pooled and each village has a common storehouse in which provisions and supplies are kept. Individuals may contract debts, but the village to which they belong becomes responsible for payment. All debts are promptly met, so that no business man hesitates to give the Doukhobors credit for any amount. Those who have commercial dealings with these people hold them in high esteem for their unfailing probity.

The marriage ceremony of the Doukhobors is simple. It is merely a declaration made before elders, but it is to them just as solemnly binding as any rite, ritual, or sacrament of the great church denominations. The story that a Doukhobor may divorce his wife at pleasure is untrue. The Doukhobor who does not treat his wife kindly, who fails to provide for her properly or deserts her is excommunicated, as it were and becomes a social outcast. To the Doukhobor, so firm in his simple Christ-like faith, this is a severe penalty as is rarely if ever incurred.

Cleanliness of person is one of the cardinal principles of the Doukhobor doctrine. The first house built in a village is a Russian bath-house which is used daily and in addition to this, men, women and children are frequently to be seen bathing in the rivers in nature’s attire. For the benefit of those who think this a depraved or questionable custom, the well-known motto of the British royal coat of arms may be cited. However, as the district becomes settled up and the Doukhobors become familiar with the customs of the country they will, no doubt, perform their outdoor ablutions in a more conventional manner. They would not wittingly give offense to any person.

The Doukhobor is Sociable

To the casual observer the Doukhobor might appear sullen and distrustful. But such is not his nature. He is merely respectful among strangers and training refrains him from being familiar. When approached, however, in a friendly spirit, he warms up and becomes sociable. He is full of good humor and wholesome fun. He bubbles over with a happy spirit. Children and adults are the same. The youngsters romp and frolic in the villages and have their play things, always homemade, the same as other children.

The warmth of the welcome that a stranger receives to the Doukhobor home is marked. There is no doubt about the genuineness of the hospitality. Gate and door are flung wide open and food for man and beast in abundance is instantly forthcoming if wanted. To offer payment for the entertainment is to offer insult. They will give but not receive.

Deeds of Charity

To illustrate the great Christian charitableness with which these people are imbued, it may be mentioned that they have frequently made gifts of animals and provisions to poor English speaking settlers whom they had accidentally learned were in needy circumstances. It is not long since that some of the villagers in the South or Yorkton colony, hearing that the house of an English speaking settler had been destroyed by fire, went to the forest, cut logs, hauled them to the unfortunate man’s farm and built him a new house and offered other material aid. One village also gave to Mr. Harley, Dominion land agent and Post master at Swan River six cows, with the request that they be given to any poor settlers that might be in his district. Many similar instances of exceeding generosity and kindness are on record. Charity is one of the virtues that the Doukhobor believes in exercising freely, and his charity is dispensed unostentatiously. When he sees opportunity to do good he does it as a solemn duty and without expectation of worldly favor or reward.

The North Colony Reserve

The north colony reserve is eighteen miles long and twelve wide, comprising six townships of 188,240 acres. The soil is uniformly good, being a rich loan. The land generally is what is known as highland prairie, much of the tract being open, but there are belts of excellent timber along the Swan River and in the hills. The typography of the country is attractive, being a succession of gently rolling hills, scored with ravines, which run back from the valley of the Swan River and furnish natural drainage. The Swan Valley west and north of Thunder Hill, is very beautiful. The banks in some places rise to a height of 300 feet above the meandering serpentine stream, and with treeless buttes and wooded dales present as lovely a picture of nature in its wild state as one could wish to gaze upon. The villages extend along the river southward from Thunder Hill, and are nearly all situated on the river banks, some on the north and some on the south side. Numerous spring creeks rise in the hills and furnish the purest of water. Some of these creeks run all winter and have never been known to freeze.

What can be said of the Doukhobor reserve may be said of the entire Swan River valley, so that the Doukhobors have no monopoly of the good things. There are thousands of acres of the very best agricultural lands west of the Duck Mountains, extending north from Shell River to the Swan valley, and westward from there indefinitely to the Saskatchewan country. This vast territory will soon be open for homesteading. Some of it already is, so that the Doukhobor reserve is but a speck on the map. The land between Swan River town and the first Doukhobor village just outside the province is a splendid district, and the Canadian and other settlers who have located there consider themselves very fortunate. The Doukhobors are well satisfied with their land, their only regret being that they cannot grow fruit as they did in Russia; but they have decided that it is more profitable and less trouble to grow wheat and buy apples. The country is overrun with small wild fruits. The Doukhobors are good farmers. They are careful and study the nature of the soil. When they acquire machinery, as they assuredly will as they grow richer, they will be big exporters of all kinds of cereals.

Doukhobor pilgrims leaving Yorkton to evangelize the world, 1902.  Library and Archives Canada C014077.

Religious Zeal

The Doukhobors are intensely religious. Their zeal in this respect has recently created a nine days’ wonder for such it will prove to be. Some of the old men fearing that their sudden change from poverty to plenty might make them worldly, or that prosperity might cause the younger members of the community to relax in their faith, agitated for a thank offering to God, and advised that this offering should take the form of liberating their horses, oxen and cows. They also advised the renewal of vows not to kill or destroy life or use the product of any beast, bird or being that had been killed. The influence of the elders is strong. Obedience to the will of the elders is instilled into the Doukhobors from childhood, so it is little wonder that the strange propaganda had its effect. However, all the people were not carried away by the “craze.”, more than half of them refusing to give up their live stock or to follow any lead that made for retrogression. Less than 500 animals – horses, cows and sheep – were turned away from the two colonies of 4,500 people. A few sold their animals and bought implements. Those who declined to give up their live stock are among the most intelligent of the people, who recognize the advantages of having horses and work cattle for the carrying on of their agricultural pursuits. This faction will continue to add to their live stock and implements whenever they can afford it, and in fact were among the buyers at the sale of the Doukhobor cattle at Fort Pelly last Wednesday.

Will Result in Good

This wave of religious zeal will do good. It will probably result in the solution of the little difficulties that have been encountered with respect to the observance of the governmental regulations already referred to. There are already signs that this will be the effect. The factions are now at outs with each other, and the progressive spirits will break way from the prevailing communistic ideas and will strike out for themselves. When the others see how well these succeed they will fall into line. They are thinking and debating, and discussing and all will end right, because the young men who are breaking away are now just as stubborn as the elders, though it causes them many a heart pang and brings down upon them a species of petty persecution that under the circumstances requires a strong will and much moral courage to withstand. The two factions are known among themselves as the “bad Doukhobors” and the “crazy Doukhobors.”

The Passing of the Craze

When the Doukhobors became affected with the craze, they discarded their boots, woolen stockings and every article of clothing made wholly or partly of leather or wool. They bought rubber boots and made shoes of planed binder twine with wooden soles. They took the leather peaks and bands from their caps and replaced them with cloth, and took the place of the horses and oxen at the wagons and plows. They are getting tired of this practice now as it evidenced by the remarks that the “bad Doukhobors” let fall occasionally among their English speaking friends; and I saw myself people from one of the villages who had turned loose their sheep, hauling sacks of wool home from Swan River. This is indicative of a recantation which all who are in touch with the situation, believe will soon become general. They probably realize that their extreme self-abnegation before God involves altogether too much punishment of the flesh without corresponding benefits to the soul. No one minds if they do make cart horses of themselves. That is their own business.

Some may think it cruel to have the women helping to pull the wagons, but the women do this of their own accord and against the wishes of the men, and the loads are so light, compared to the number of men and women who do the hauling, that the individual work load is light. As they march along the road they sing joyful songs and laugh and joke one with the other. The women do not hitch themselves to the wagons in all cases. They accompany the men to town to make purchases and to prepare the meals at the roadside camps, and may frequently be seen on the trial, walking ahead while the mean pull the wagons and carts. No argument can convince the Doukhobor that he is wrong in giving up his horses and cattle. When cornered by a Bible quotation, he repudiates the Old Testament, falls back on the New, and finally tells you that he gets his teachings and inspirations from the Book of Life. The Doukhobors are not the only people who are carried away by religious fads. Only a few months ago in Winnipeg then were men and women who gave up all their money and land to join some Bible school that was conduced by a Yankee on Broadway and there are several other sects in the city whose religious practices are so emotional that they partake of the nature of mania.

Objections to Government

The Doukhobor does not believe in government. He recognizes but one ruler and that is God. “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof” and therefore, he must not lay proprietary claim to anything in the earth, under the earth, or in the sky. Hence his objections to the making entry for his homestead, to pay road tax, and to the registration of vital statistics. He will build roads, but he wants no government supervisions; he is willing that the homesteads be entered for in the name of the village, but will not agree to individual ownership. He would also report the births, deaths and marriages, but fears that that means taxes and taxes mean government. He is afraid that compliance with these simple but important regulations would be the inserting of the thin end of the wedge and the end would be tyranny. He does not understand, but soon will. The government will find means to convince him that he has nothing to fear and the example of those of his brethren who have homesteaded, will have a salutary effect, though it may be slow. It took the children of Israel a whole generation to realize and appreciate the benefits of their release from thralldom, and so it takes time with all people who have been subjected for centuries to the falling yoke of despotism, and have learned to hate their oppressors with a bitterness that knows no bounds to get rid of their prejudices, their fears, and their doubts. It is safe to predict that before next spring the number of Doukhobors to take up their homesteads will largely swell the present list.

Doukhobors plowing, North Colony, 1905.  Library and Archives Canada A021179.

The Doukhobors Developing

The Doukhobors are developing. Those who saw them arriving in Winnipeg a little over three years ago would scarcely know them now. Many of them have laid aside their national peasant garbs and adopted Canadian attire. They young people want to get on: it is the elders who cling tenaciously to their old habits, customs and beliefs, just the same as the old men of those excellent people the Mennonites cling to theirs and urge the young people to do the same. But with the progressive influences surrounding them, neither the young Doukhobor nor the young Mennonite can be checked. The Mennonites have been in Manitoba nearly 30 years, but yet their advance towards that goal which Canadians desire to see them attain is only beginning to be noticeable. It will take another generation to evolve the real thing.

Not a few of the Doukhobors can now speak English, especially the young lads. Several boys have been employed as store clerks in Swan River town, and a couple are engaged there now. The merchants speak highly of their ability as salesmen, and of their energy and faithfulness to duty. They are bright and quick to learn, mastering all the details of counter work in a few weeks. These lads are well dressed and if they were placed with a group of Canadians, any one who did not know them, would not be able to identify them. I have watched the immigration of foreign peoples since the arrival of the Mennonites, and in my opinion the Doukhobors are equal as agriculturists to the very best Europeans of the peasant class that have come to this country and much better than a good deal of it. They are self reliant, good providers, and will never cost the country one cent. Some of those who stubbornly cling to their belief may perhaps endeavor to seek an asylum where they will be allowed to follow their peculiar ideas regarding government without interference, but there will be few.

Not Illiterate

It is frequently asserted that the Doukhobors are illiterate. This is not a fact. The majority of them can read and write in their own language, even the young boys can read and I have frequently seen them reading letters and the tracts received from a Russian committee that has headquarters in London, England. They Doukhobors do not favor the establishment of English schools, but teach their children at home. Every father is the teacher at his own house, and also the preacher. The children are taught the unit system of reckoning by the use of the abacus, such as the Chinese use for calculating. The Bible is the only book seen in their homes, but they receive papers and tracts from abroad.

How the Doukhobors Came

An impression has gained ground that the Doukhobors were brought to the Northwest at an enormous expense to the Dominion government. This is erroneous, as most of the reports about these people are. The Doukhobors were sent to Canada by money provided by the Society of Friends in England, and the Quakers of the United States furnished money to buy them seed grain, live stock, and implements. In two or three trifling cases the government did advance money for implements, but on making inquiry I ascertained that the amount has been repaid. The per capita bonus paid to European steamship companies for promoting emigration, was given to the Doukhobors as the steamship agents had not worked among them and waived their claim. Part of this money was used in purchasing food supplies under the direction of a committee of local gentlemen. Considering the expenditure for advertising, agents, etc., the average British immigrant costs per head vastly more than the Doukhobors did. I am informed that all inducements given to the Doukhobors are open to any large bodies of desirable settlers from any other part of the world.

As to the character of the Doukhobor, his industry, his morals, his charity, I am glad to state that the opinion I have formed in respect thereto is shared by the business men of the towns where they trade and by those who have had occasion to come in contact with them in matters of business or otherwise. One business man said: “If they will only leave the Doukhobors alone until they get to understand things here. They will make a veritable garden out of this country.”

Not All Alike

The people in each village have their own little fads about dress and edibles, and sometimes the people of the same village hold diverse views about these things. Now, regarding the turning away of their live stock, only a certain percentage in each village have done this. Out of thirteen villages that I have visited there were only two that had no horses, oxen or cattle. In the others more than half of the live stock has been retained, and as I have said more will be purchased by the independent men as soon as they can get the money. In every field passed, I saw more men at work with oxen and horses. I saw no women pulling plows or wagons on the farms. Some won’t eat butter; others will, and I saw the women making excellent butter. Meat in all forms is tabooed, but fish has a place on the bill-of-fare in some homes. However, a straight vegetarian diet is the prevailing rule, and it seems to agree with these people, for they are stalwart, healthy and strong. The children are the picture of health. They would make fine illustrations for health food advertisements. Disease is rarely known among them. Both men, women and children are comfortably clad, and in all the colonies there is every appearance of comfort, happiness and prosperity. Leave the Doukhobor alone. Give him a chance and he will soon evolve into a sturdy, worthy Western Canadian citizen.

E.A. Blow

Fort Pelly, Assiniboia
September 26, 1902.

Special thanks to Corinne Postnikoff of Castlegar, British Columbia for her assistance with the data input of this article.

Peter “Lordly” Verigin – Doukhobor Leader Arrives

Manitoba Morning Free Press

On December 15, 1902, Peter "Lordly" Verigin arrived in Canada to assume leadership of the Doukhobors after spending nearly 16 years in exile in Siberia. The following article, reproduced from the Manitoba Morning Free Press (Tuesday, December 23, 1902), details his arrival in Winnipeg, Manitoba en route to the Doukhobor colonies near Yorkton, Saskatchewan.

Peter Verigin, Whose Personality Sways His People, En route to Join Them From Siberian Exile – Is Noncommittal – Russian Brutality

Doukhobor leader Peter “Lordly” Verigin

For three hours before the train from the east pulled in yesterday afternoon, a number of people patiently promenaded the platform awaiting its arrival. One of them, a woman, has been there since early morning. She was awaiting her brother, whom she had not seen for fifteen years. She knew nothing of the congestion of traffic along the C.P.R. (Canadian Pacific Railway) and so kept steadfast watch lest the train might get in before its advertised time, determined, no matter when it arrived, that her brother should find someone there to meet him.

When at a little before 3 o’clock the train drew in, there alighted from one of the front coaches a tall, quiet looking man, carrying a black leather valise studded with nickel bosses arranged in curious design. A dark blue gaberdine reached half way to the knees, over his trousers were fastened close fitting, dark grey leggings, piped at the edges with black cloth. His headgear was a black fedora. Around his neck he wore a long cord fastened to which was a heavy silver watch and a richly chased gold pencil. Alongside the watch pocket was a fountain pen, secured by loops of the cloth. 

The traveller was Peter Verigin, newly come to Canada after fifteen years of Siberian exile. The woman awaiting him was his sister.

In the crush of Christmas travel it was some time before those looking for the new arrival could find the object of their search. Accompanied by Interpreter Harvey, who had gone east to meet Verigin, and by Ivan Ivin, Paul Planidin and Semeon Rieben, three Doukhobors who had been deputized by the communities to extend the Doukhobor leader a welcome on his arrival. Verigin walked eastward along the platform.

A Happy Reunion

His sister saw him, standing half a head taller than the average, and ran towards him, followed by the other waiting Doukhobors, with joyful cries. Verigin dropped his valise, took off his had, opened his arms and cried “Anna!” He kissed his sister and the others and quietly walked on toward the immigration buildings, being introduced on the way to Mr. H.P. Archer, Crerar, of Yorkton – both of whom of Swan River Immigration Agent have been for days in the city awaiting his coming – to Mrs. Almanopsky, who acted s interpreter, and the Free Press representative.

On the party’s arriving at the immigration buildings, Verigin was shown the room set apart for his use. Here he spent a little more time chatting with his sister and friends, enquiring after his mother, who is 86 years of age and who lives at Poterpevshie village with his sister, whose full name is Anna Vasilievna Verigina. Then, after the baggage had been packed away and the foregoing domestic enquiries made, the party moved downstairs to Acting (Immigration) Commission Moffatt’s office.

Mr. Moffatt greeted Verigin warmly, welcoming him to the west in the name of the Dominion authorities. In answer to his enquiries as to his voyage, Verigin said it was a long journey, good but rough. He had sailed from Liverpool after crossing Europe from Moscow to Warsaw, and thence to England.

“You’ll be glad to be in a country,” said Mr. Moffatt, “where there is religious and individual freedom”. “I haven’t looked around yet,” answered Verigin through an interpreter, “so I cannot yet tell whether this is a free country or not”. “You know, however,” said Mr. Moffatt, “that in Canada we do not put people in prison because of their political or religious views”. “Oh yes,” answered Verigin, “I know that”. “People have been looking for your coming for a long time,” said Agent Crerar. “There are 300 Doukhobors at Yorkton station, watching every train for you. And there is one person very anxious to see you – your mother”.

Wants to See His Mother

Verigin had up till that time been quietly courteous and dignified: but his manner underwent a change, becoming alertly interested. “Did you see my mother; yes?” he asked. “When did you see her? Was she well?” Mr. Crerar satisfied him on these points, and then Verigin asked him when the train could take him there. “I am in a hurry to see my mother,” he said. “There is no train till tomorrow, yes?” “I would go today if I could; yes!” Then he realized that perhaps he might be taking up too much of the commissioner’s time. “Shall I see you again, yes,” he asked, “You are perhaps now too occupied?”

Anastasia Verigin, mother of Doukhobor leader Peter “Lordly” Verigin

Being answered on this point, Mr. Moffatt asked him concerning his visit to Ottawa. “I couldn’t talk much business,” he said, “for I had not seen the Doukhobors. Of myself I knew nothing of their troubles; only of what I heard. They told me the people would not take up their homestead lands”. “Did you hear about the pilgrimage?” asked Mr. Crerar, “and of the action taken by the government to prevent the pilgrims from being frozen to death?” “I had not heard any particulars,” answered Verigin. “it was in print in Russian papers. They said that 200 people were frozen to death.

Mr. Crerar told him that this was entirely false. Pointing to the Free Press representative, who was the only newspaper man present at the interview, Mr. Crerar told Verigin that he had accompanied the pilgrims throughout their wanderings, and personally knew of all the facts in connection therewith. “Is that so, yes?” said Verigin. “I shall have much to ask him”.

Verigin’s Personality

Throughout the interview Verigin said little, only speaking in reply to questions, and allowing the others to do the talking. His manner was marked with a natural courtesy and simple dignity that would single him out for notice anywhere. His voice is low, and of singular sweetness. Physically, Verigin is a splendid type of his race. Tall and strongly built, and of erect and graceful carriage, he would attract attention among hundreds of good looking men. His features are regular and his skin of an olive pallor. His hair and beard, which is luxuriant, are black as jet. His eyes are dark and thoughtful, and his whole expression that of a man who has suffered much, and has triumphed over everything through the force of kingly courage and constancy.

It was evident that he would make no statement as to his future actions or the counsel he would give the Doukhobors, who for months have been anxiously awaiting his coming, till he had personally familiarized himself with every phase of the situation. Mr. Moffatt, indeed, and wisely, did not attempt to draw from Verigin any statement. “You will know all about the troubles the government has had with the Doukhobors,” he said, “when you get among them. We all hope your coming may have a very good effect. We will do anything possible to help you. You must be tired after your long journey. And you must be hungry. So now I’ll say goodbye to you, and wish you a safe journey to your mother tomorrow.”

Verigin listened gravely, and when this was translated, rose and shook hands with the commissioner. “I thank you very much,” said he, “I hope my coming may be good. I hope so indeed,” and so went upstairs to his room.

May Not Stay in Canada

In a few minutes a message was sent down to the Free Press man, asking him to join Verigin in the latter’s room. The reporter found Planidin, Rieben and Verigin’s sister busy in preparing a meal for the traveller. Verigin sat in an armchair, and, after welcoming the newspaper man, resumed his conversation with Mrs. Almanopsky, asking many questions as to the location of the different Doukhobor lands and communities. Before he had concluded, Agent Crerar came up to ascertain if Verigin would stay long in Yorkton. Representative Doukhobors from every village in the Yorkton and Swan River colonies were there, and the government desired to have a list compiled of all the Doukhobors eligible for homesteads, the number of those willing to take up land, the number of those who had already made entry and the reasons for not making entry on the part of those who refused. Verigin said he did not want to delay to hold any such conference at the present time; he wanted to get to the village where his mother was. “I may not stay in Canada,” he said, “I may go back to Russia.”

“Could all these people see me tomorrow night?” he asked. But it was explained that the train did not arrive till late. “Then let it be in two or three weeks,” he said.

The conversation drifted to Russian topics. Mr. Crerar said that he had heard the Tsar proposed releasing all Siberian exiles at the New Year. Verigin laughed heartily. “You must have read that in a newspaper,” said he, “what is said in newspapers is not always true. It is only the students that are going to be released.”

His Exiledom

The Free Press man asked Verigin to say something concerning his life in exile. “That would be a long story,” he said. “If I could talk English I should much like to tell you. But you cannot always trust interpreters. But I was sent to exile from the Caucasus for five years; when that was passed I was sentenced for another five years, and when that, too, had gone, I was given yet another five years. When I was allowed to go free I wanted to go to the Caucasus to see my wife and son, but the government would not allow me, nor would they allow them to come to see me. They might have come to Canada with the Doukhobors four years ago, but they would not because it would take them further from me, and I do not know whether the government will give them passports to come to Canada, and perhaps I shall never see them.”

As Verigin talked of his wife his voice broke several times. He sprang up from his chair and paced up and down the room while speaking of them, and it was some minutes before he regained his composure. 

“What did you do while in exile?” next asked the reporter. Verigin responded, “I toiled, ate and slept, of course. I used an axe and carpentered and built stores. We had all to earn our own living, for the Russian government allow nothing for the sustenance of its exiles. Many times I asked for a trial, but it was always refused. I was never condemned by a judge, or by due process of law, but by an “administrative order” of the government, which enables them to detain any person objective to it”. 

“Are the reports of cruelty and ill usage of the exiles, of which we sometimes hear, true?”

Russian Brutality

“In what way you mean, ill use?” answered Verigin, “the exiles are sent to a village. They have to walk all the way. If they are tired and fall behind, they are beaten. If they try to run away they are shot. If they go outside the village boundaries they are punished; maybe sent down the mines. In Irkutsk there were some student exiles. They said they wanted the limits of their walks extended, that it was ridiculous to confine them in such a small space. Soon after they were told to march into a building. Expecting to hear a reply to their request they went. The building was surrounded by soldiers. They fired a volley, wounding many of the students and killing two. 

At Moscow, Verigin saw Count Tolstoy, who was rejoiced at his release. “I wonder if the government hasn’t made a mistake,” he said, “you’d better get to Canada soon for they may change their minds and give you another five years.”

By this time Verigin’s sister and the others had completed their preparations for the meal. The kettle was set on the white table cloth – woven by the Doukhobor women – (it was spotlessly clean and did not soil it in the least) to use as a samovar. Bread with Cross & Blackwell’s jam were the staples. Loaf sugar was poured out on a plate and eaten as a relish. Verigin cut a lemon in thin slices and poured tea, inviting the Free Press representative to join him at his meal. During the progress of the repast, Verigin chatted with perfect ease on general topics. He said he wanted to take a walk around the city (of Winnipeg) that evening as his Doukhobor friends had often written to him of its marvels. He looked with some surprise at the electric light, when it was turned on, but merely remarked, “I am seeing new things all the time.”