Doukhobor Documents Discovered in Former Soviet Archives

For Immediate Release – September 27, 2004

A Canadian Doukhobor researcher has discovered a wealth of records in the archives of the former Soviet republics that shed new light on the early history of Doukhobor families. Soon he will be opening them to the wider world.

Over the past three years, nearly 3,000 documents relating to Doukhobors in Russia in the nineteenth century have been discovered at the Russian State Historical Archive, Kherson Region State Archives, Odessa Region State Archives, Central State Historical Archive of Georgia, and the National Archives of Armenia. The records were located in a massive search commissioned by Regina-based researcher and genealogist, Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The Tsarist-era documents range from letters and petitions to registers of entire Doukhobor villages and include: lists of Doukhobors living in the Caucasus in the 1850’s, 1870’s and 1880’s; lists of Doukhobors exiled to the Caucasus in the 1830’s and 1840’s; lists of Doukhobors living in the Molochnaya region in the 1840’s and earlier; and much more.

Once the exclusive domain of a handful of Soviet academics, the records had never been systematically examined by Canadian researchers until last year when Kalmakoff began the daunting task of studying and translating every document, which is handwritten in Old Russian script. Taken together, they comprise the most extensive collection of documents concerning Doukhobor family history in the world. Kalmakoff has not yet completed the exhaustive search and believes more records remain to be found.

Tsarist-era Doukhobor records
Tsarist-era Doukhobor records located in former Soviet archives.

Kalmakoff says of the discovery, “Canadian Doukhobors, no doubt, will be astonished and fascinated that so many records have come to light about our ancestors, who kept so few written records of their own. These records contribute enormously to our understanding of our past and allow most Doukhobor families to trace their history back to the eighteenth century and beyond. It is possibly the most important development in the field of Doukhobor genealogy of all time.”

In the interests of making these historically important documents accessible to Doukhobors in Canada, Kalmakoff announced today the launch of a series of books featuring English translations of the records. The first title in this series, 1853 Tax List of Doukhobors in the Caucasus, will be released in November 2004. In addition, Kalmakoff is establishing a special collection at the Saskatchewan Archives Board to make the original Russian copies of the records available to the public.