More Georgian Doukhobors Move to Tambov

For Immediate Release – January 18, 2008

Another fifty-four settlers arrived in the Russian province of Tambov from Georgia on December 25-26, 2007. All of them are members of the Doukhobor community whose ancestors had been relocated to the Caucasus from Tambov and elsewhere in south and central Russia in the mid-nineteenth century. This was reported recently by the Russian news agency Regnum.

As previously reported (see Georgian Doukhobors Relocate to Tambov, Russia), the first fifty-six Doukhobors from Georgia arrived in Tambov in May and June, 2007. Prior to that, at the beginning of 2007, the leaders of the Doukhobor community petitioned the President of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Putin with a request for assistance to resettle its members in Russia. The President endorsed the request and made the appropriate directives to federal and regional authorities.

The Doukhobors were expelled from Tsarist Russia in the 19th century. Photograph by Agnes Montanari.

The relocation of the Georgian Doukhobors is part of Putin’s ambitious six-year program to voluntarily repatriate millions of ethnic Russians residing in the former Soviet republics to the Russian Federation. The resettlement program, announced by the President on June 22, 2006, is intended to help revive flagging economic conditions in Russia and to boost the nation’s high mortality rates and low birthrates.

In the summer, the first Doukhobor repatriates in Tambov began construction of a new suburb to house their families in the village of Malyi Snezhetok in the Pervomaysky district, ninety kilometres north-west of Tambov city. However, they had serious problems paying for building materials because of the high cost of housing. Consequently, federal officials allocated 198 million roubles from the federal budget to assist the Doukhobors up to the end of 2008.

Doukhobor dress and customs have changed little from the 19th century. Photograph by Agnes Montanari.

Provincial officials have also played a significant role in the Doukhobor resettlement. On September 27, 2007, the Tambov regional Duma (representative assembly) enacted changes to provincial programs designed to assist, in conjunction with the federal government, the voluntary resettlement of repatriates living abroad. In large part, the enactments related to the arrival of the Doukhobor community from Georgia since May and June, 2007.

Tambov authorities have assisted the latest Doukhobor arrivals with temporary accommodations in a three-tier school dormitory in Malyi Snezhetok while additional panelboard houses are constructed for them in the new suburb of Novoye. The local market garden and nursery, “Snezhetok Ltd.” has offered employment to the Doukhobors. Expert agriculturalists, they will also be given the opportunity to establish peasant collective farms and individual farmsteads.

It is reported that up to 500 more Doukhobors in Georgia await clearance to relocate to Tambov under the resettlement program. Yet despite the assistance which is offered to them by Russian authorities, the move is still a difficult one, requiring the Doukhobors to uproot and start over again, in a new land, with virtually nothing, as their ancestors had before them. Perhaps it is no coincidence that one Doukhobor psalm teaches “Мир состоит из движения, и все стремится к совершенству” (“the World consists of movement, and all aspire to perfection”).

For subsequent information on the Doukhobor resettlement to Tambov, see the article The Doukhobors in Malyi Snezhetok by Evgeny Pisarev (translated by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff) and also Tambov Doukhobors on Russian News by Drugie Novosti (translated by Koozma J. Tarasoff).