Mikhailovka Doukhobors Commemorated by Spring Naming

For Immediate Release – November 29, 2008

A spring near Thunder Hill, Saskatchewan has been officially named to commemorate the Doukhobor pioneer settlers of Mikhailovka. The name “Mikhailovka Spring”, proposed by Doukhobor researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.

Mikhailovka Spring is located on the NW 1/4 of 36-34-30-W1, two miles south of Thunder Hill, Saskatchewan and four miles northwest of Benito, Manitoba. It flows into an adjoining creek which empties half a mile east into the Swan River. It flows year-round and is considered an excellent source of fresh and abundant natural water.

“Place names reflect our country’s rich cultural and linguistic heritage,” said Kalmakoff, a leading authority on Doukhobor geographic names. “In this case, the name Mikhailovka Spring commemorates the Doukhobors of Mikhailovka, their settlement and their story.”

Mikhailovka village, 1908. The spring was located along the creek beside the bridge, center. Library and Archives Canada, PA-021116.

The village of Mikhailovka (Михаиловка) was established at the spring in 1899 by Doukhobors from Tiflis, Russia who fled to Canada to escape persecution for their religious beliefs. It was the first Doukhobor village in Canada. For eighteen years, the villagers of Mikhailovka lived, worked and prayed together under the motto of “Toil and Peaceful Life”. Then in 1917, the village was abandoned as villagers relocated to individual homesteads in the area or to communal settlements in British Columbia.

The Doukhobors of Mikhailovka had a strong and direct connection to the spring,” said Kalmakoff. “Indeed, the spring was the primary reason the settlers chose the site for their village. They dammed the spring and utilized it as a drinking water source and as a water source for their farming operations. In many ways, it defined the village settlement. Travellers of the Fort Pelly Trail, which ran past the village, also used the spring as a source of nourishment.”

The prominence of the spring at Mikhailovka was noted as early as 1899, when the famous Canadian woman journalist Mary Agnes Fitzgibbon (1862-1933), writing under the pen-name Lally Bernard, made note of it in her book “The Doukhobor Settlements” which describes her visit to the Doukhobors of Mikhailovka village that year.

Another view of Mikhailovka village, 1908. The spring was located along the creek near the bridge. Library and Archives Canada, PA-021129.

The official name comes after a year of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather input and support for the name from local stakeholders. The response was firmly in favour of the name. The landowners, Robert and Daren Staples of Benito, Manitoba, provided a letter of support. The Benito Doukhobor Society also endorsed the naming project. As well, the Rural Municipality of Livingston No. 331 passed a resolution in favour of the name.

The consultations were followed by a formal detailed proposal by Kalmakoff to the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board, the Provincial body responsible for place names. The Board reviewed and investigated the name proposal in consultation with government departments and agencies. In determining the suitability of the name, the Board was guided by the Geographic Naming Policies, a stringent set of principles governing the naming of geographic features. Its decision – which supported the name Mikhailovka Spring – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Honourable Ken Cheveldayoff, who approved the decision.

Now that the name is official, the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board will supply the information to government ministries and agencies, cartographers, geographers, publishers and other persons engaged in the preparation of maps and publications intended for official and public use.

“The naming of Mikhailovka Spring reflects the area’s strong Doukhobor heritage and their important contribution to its historic development,” said Kalmakoff. “The name is a culturally important connection between past generations, present and future.”

For additional information or inquiries about Mikhailovka Spring, email Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Day-trip to Piers Island: Reminiscing About the Penitentiary, 1932-1935

by Gunter Schaarschmidt

From 1932 to 1935, over 600 Sons of Freedom were interred in a special penitentiary built on Piers Island in the Strait of Georgia between Vancouver Island and the mainland Pacific coast of British Columbia, Canada. Seventy-three years later, on June 17, 2008, Dr. Gunter Schaarschmidt of the University of Victoria returned to Piers Island and visited some of the physical features left from the penitentiary camp site. The following is an account of his observations and photos from his excursion. Reproduced by permission from ISKRA No. 2011 (Grand Forks, USCC, October 3, 2008).

On June 17, 2008, the University of Victoria Retirees Association organized a day-trip to Piers Island just 0.8 km (about half a mile) northwest of the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal on the Saanich Peninsula on Vancouver Island. The island is inhabited by some 300 people many of whom live there for only part of the year. The island is accessible only by private boat – there are no roads except a dirt circle dirt road and walking trails criss-crossing the island. There are no stores but there is a Fire Station and an emergency helicopter landing site. For the retirees group one of its members and an island resident had chartered the harbour ferry that is normally used for Eco-trips from the pier at the end of Beacon Avenue in Sidney. The group assembled in the Piers Island parking lot next to the Swartz Bay Ferry Terminal and was ferried to the island in two trips. One of the trips arrived at a southern pier across from the ferry terminal, the other at the pier of the property that had been built on the same site as the Penitentiary for the Sons of Freedom (svobodniki), a radical group of Doukhobors, on the north side of the Island.

Plan of Piers Island, British Columbia. Note the Doukhobor penitentiary was located on ten acres in the northwest corner of the island, off of Satellite Channel.

Why was there a need for the creation of the Penitentiary on Piers Island for the Sons of Freedom, far away from their area of settlement in 1908? First of all, one must clearly differentiate between the group of Freedomite Doukhobors (svobodniki) and the Doukhobors as a whole, a pacifist philosophical movement. Lest it be thought that the group of Freedomites are all extreme anarchists, “there are many sincere and creative personalities in the group” (see Tarasoff 2002:93 who devotes an entire section to some of them on pp. 93-98). In fact, the Freedomite group has been very productive in writing diaries and autobiographies (see Rak 2004:115-142).

Figure 1. The old pier post of the camp (the new pier is farther to the right out of range of the photograph). Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

An excerpt from a government document describes the establishment of the camp in part as follows (HWC/WJ 1934:1):

In May and June, 1932, at Nelson and Grand Forks, B.C., 303 males and 285 females of the faction above-named (”the Sons of Freedom faction of the Doukhobor sect”) were convicted of having publicly displayed themselves in a nude condition, and were sentenced to three years imprisonment in the British Columbia Penitentiary.
There being no accommodation for these convicts at the New Westminster Institution, arrangements were made to construct a temporary penitentiary at Piers Island, British Columbia.

Figure 2. Another view of the old pier post. Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

The incarceration of the Freedomites proceeded in 18 escorted parties consisting of between 9 and 40 individuals, from August 11, 1932, to December 22, 1932. None of them served their full sentence of three years. No doubt the most important reason for their early release was a cost-saving effort in the difficult economic situation of the Depression years in Canada (see Skolrood 1995:27). Rationalizing, the warden H.W. Cooper wrote on June 20, 1934 (HWC/WJ 1934:13):

The object of the Administration has been to induce in the Sons of Freedom , confidence in Canada and Canadian ways so that upon their release they will be better citizens of the Dominion. There are signs that this has, to some extent, been attained.

Figure 3. View from the former campsite to the new pier post looking out to the NE. Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

However, others do not quite see it that way stating that “their (the Sons of Freedom) attitudes were unchanged, in fact, their resolve to disobey the state was enhanced by a consciousness of martyrdom achieved at comparatively little person discomfort” (Woodcock & Avakumovic 1968:318).

The release of the Sons of Freedom proceeded in various stages – the last group of about 30 men was transferred to the New Westminster penitentiary before June, 1935. The camp was then demolished for the most part except the wharf and two buildings that had housed the penitentiary officers and matrons.

Figure 4. The owner’s flag post of property No. 119 is on the same spot as the old camp flag post. Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

Of the University of Victoria retirees group visiting the island in June this year, not many knew about the “Doukhobor period”. It is, however, well remembered by the residents of Piers Island. In fact, on a small table with other information about the island, our host had placed a photograph of the campsite with the sign “Piers Island Penitentiary” attached to the pier post. This had apparently been given to him by the real estate agent at the time of the purchase of the property. Skolrood’s book (click here to read Doukhobor chapter) has a full page of photographs accompanying his chapter entitled “The Doukhobor Period, 1932-1935” (Skolrood 1995:14-32). This is a chapter well worth reading for anyone interested in the history of the Doukhobor movement as seen from the perspective of a former resident of Piers Island.

Figure 5. Rear view of the camp site (now property No. 119). Photo by Gunter Schaarschmidt.

Included are four photographs that I took of some of the physical features left from the penitentiary camp site. There is first and foremost the old pier post in Figures 1 and 2 (but without the sign “Piers Island Penitentiary”). Figure 3 shows today’s pier looking out to the NE. Then, there is the site of the camp flag post now marked by the owner’s maple-leaf flag (Figure 4). And, finally, there is the rear view of the new owner’s property which for some reason evoked in me the sight of the former women’s compound (Figure 5). Mentally, I had the eerie feeling of Doukhobor voices united in song in the beautiful surroundings of the camp whose barbed-wire fencing no doubt prevented the camp inhabitants from enjoying the scenery as much as we visitors were able to do more than three quarters of a century later.

References

  • HWC/WJ (1934). Piers Island Penitentiary (Memorandum from H.W.Cooper, Warden, British Columbia Penitentiary, to Superintendent of Penitentiaries, Ottawa).
  • Rak, Julie (2004). Negotiated Memory: Doukhobor Autobiographical Discourse. Vancouver/Toronto: UBC Press.
  • Skolrood, A. Harold (1995). Piers Island: A Brief History of the Island and Its People 1886-1993. Lethbridge, Alberta: Paramount Printers.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J. (2002). Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living. Ottawa: LEGAS/Spirit Wrestler Publishing.
  • Woodcock, George & Ivan Avakumovic (1968). The Doukhobors. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

Notes

To read about Gunter Schaarschmidt’s research about the Doukhobor dialect spoken in Canada, see Four Norms – One Culture: Doukhobor Russian in Canada and also English for Doukhobors: 110 Years of Russian-English Contact in Canada.  For his translations of 19th century German articles about the Doukhobors, see The Dukhobortsy in Transcaucasia, 1854-1856 by Heinrich Johann von Paucker and Doukhobors in the Caucasus, 1863-1864 by Alexander Petzholdt.

Kylemore Historic Doukhobor Tour

For Immediate Release – July 2, 2008

On Monday, June 30, 2008, the National Heritage Doukhobor Village hosted a guided motor coach tour of Doukhobor historical sites and points of interest in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan.

Approximately fifty people from Kamsack, Canora, Wadena, Saskatoon, Regina and elsewhere took part in the excursion, which travelled through the Kylemore and Fishing Lake areas, visiting some of the original Doukhobor communal villages and related sites, exploring surviving buildings and structures, and learning about the Doukhobors who inhabited them, their way of life, and the events that took place there.

“One of the main objectives of the tour was to highlight the historic significance of the Doukhobors and their contribution to the development of the area”, said Keith Tarasoff, tour organizer and chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village.

Tour participants conduct a moleniye service at God’s Blessing Cemetery near Kylemore, SK.

In 1918, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) purchased 11,362 acres of wooded land in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan. Over 250 Community Doukhobors settled there from Ootischenia, British Columbia and Veregin, Saskatchewan, where they cleared the trees and scrub, planted grain fields, kept livestock and established thirteen communal villages as well as a general store and warehouse, elevator, central meeting house, barns, blacksmith shops, granaries and ice reservoirs. Living, praying and working under the motto of “Toil and Peaceful Life”, they operated a communal farm colony whose grain was shipped through the elevator to Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia and markets elsewhere while fruit, produce and other goods received from the British Columbia Doukhobors were sold and distributed through the store. The colony flourished until the demise of the CCUB in 1937-1938 when the lands were sold and the villages disbanded. Thereafter, a third of the Doukhobors remained in the Kylemore area as individual farmers while the rest returned to British Columbia or relocated elsewhere.

Original CCUB general store and warehouse, now in a dilapidated state, Kylemore, SK.

The Kylemore Historic Doukhobor Tour commenced at the Wadena & District Museum in Wadena at 11:00 a.m. with greeting from the Mayor of Wadena, Brian Helberg, followed by introductory remarks by Keith Tarasoff. Tour participants then enjoyed a short program comprised of Doukhobor psalm singing by the combined Saskatchewan choir members and a historic presentation by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff followed by a borshch and sandwich lunch supplied by Blue Willow Inn Catering at the museum.

Original large communal home (originally 2-story) at Chernoff Village site, Kylemore, SK.

The tour proceeded to Kylemore and visited God’s Blessing Cemetery, established in 1920 to serve the Doukhobor colony, where a group moleniye (prayer service) and commemoration was held. The next stop was the original CCUB store and warehouse built in 1918 and the adjacent sites of the CCUB elevator, the largest in Saskatchewan when it was built in 1920, and associated unnamed village. The tour then passed an original large dom (communal home) built in 1927-1928 at the Chernoff Village, followed by the sites of the Malakoff Village, Popoff Village, Hoodekoff Village, Konkin Village, South Kylemore School, Kazakoff Village and Sheloff Village. A stop was made at the Pereverzoff House; an original village home built in 1922-1924 and relocated from Pereverzoff Village to its present site in 1939.

Tour participants explore the Pereverzoff House, an original CCUB village house.

At several points along the way, the tour passed Blahoslovenie Creek, a small creek running through the heart of the Doukhobor colony, officially named by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff in 2006 to commemorate it. The tour continued to the grid intersection historically known as the Uhol (corner) where the Pereverzoff Village, Makortoff Village and Samsonoff Village once sat on three of its corners. It then passed the site of the Chernenkoff Village, followed by the lug (meadow) on the north shore of Fishing Lake where the Doukhobors historically celebrated Peter’s Day, held outdoor prayer meetings and gathered for picnics, swimming and recreation. A stop was made at the site of the Arishenkoff Village, containing the foundations of a communal barn large enough to house one hundred horses, as well as an original village home that belonged to the family of Tanya Arishenkoff, main character of Eli A. Popoff’s Doukhobor historical novel, Tanya.

An original CCUB house at Arishenkoff Village, shrouded in vines.

The tour continued past the sites of the Kanigan Village and the CCUB community well, dug in 1918 to provide the colony with good water. It then proceeded to the hamlet of Kylemore, the main commercial centre in the area and a significant historic hub of Doukhobor activity, where it passed the sites of the Fudikuf Store, Kanigan Store, Osachoff General Store, Kylemore Doukhobor Society Prayer Home, and the North Kylemore School.

On the return leg, the tour passed Horkoff Avenue in Wadena, named after Sam A. Horkoff, a historic town benefactor. The tour then returned to the Wadena & District Museum where tour participants, guided by museum staff volunteers, visited the Malekoff farm banya (bathhouse) and the Osachoff General Store, both recently relocated from Kylemore, as well as other historic buildings and artifacts. The tour concluded at 5:00 p.m.

The Osachoff General Store, formerly of Kylemore, SK, now at the Wadena & District Museum, Wadena, SK.

Throughout the five-hour excursion, expert tour guide Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, a Regina-based Doukhobor researcher and writer, provided an informative and enjoyable historical narration. Tour participants also shared interesting stories about people and places. These included Verna Negraeff, who reminisced about growing up in the Pereverzoff House, and Peter J. Pereverzoff, who recalled memories of Pererverzoff Village. Tour organizers Keith and Sonia Tarasoff also shared anecdotes.

“Many of the tour participants were surprised at what we were able to show them,” said Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. “Most had presumed that there was nothing left to see, when in fact, there are a number of buildings, sites and landmarks that still exist to attest to the rich Doukhobor history and way of life. Because of the tour, the Kylemore colony is now better documented and understood.”

Peter P. Malekoff, a lifetime resident of Kylemore, reminisces during moleniye prayer service.

For Peter P. Malekoff, an original member of the CCUB colony and lifetime resident of the Kylemore district, participating in the tour was a personal highlight. “It is very nice that people have taken an interest in the history of our Doukhobor settlement,” said Malekoff, who was instrumental in providing background information for many of the historical sites on the tour.

For additional information or inquiries about the tour of the Kylemore and other Doukhobor historic sites in Saskatchewan, contact the National Heritage Doukhobor Village at Box 99, Veregin, Saskatchewan, S0A 4H0. Phone number (306) 542-4441.

Highway map of Kylemore and Fishing Lake, Saskatchewan.

Doukhobors Featured in 100 Saskatchewan Stories Documentary Series

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The Doukhobors are featured in an episode of 100 Saskatchewan Stories, a thirteen-part television documentary that tells the story of the people, places and events in the history of Saskatchewan. The half-hour episode, entitled “Left, Right & Centre – Part 1”, originally premiered on the Saskatchewan Communication Network (SCN) on January 25, 2006. It has since been regularly aired by SCN.

In 1899, over 7,500 Doukhobors emigrated from Russia to Saskatchewan in order to escape religious persecution. They settled in large blocks of homestead land reserved for them in the Pelly, Arran, Kamsack, Veregin, Canora, Buchanan, Langham and Blaine Lake districts. There, they cleared and broke the land, planted grain fields and established over sixty communal villages as well as brickworks, sawmills, flourmills, gristmills, elevators, warehouses, general stores, blacksmith shops, roads, bridges, ferries and other communal enterprises. In 1907, a crisis over land ownership resulted in hundreds of thousands of acres of Doukhobor homestead lands reverting to the Crown. Thereafter, the majority of community Doukhobors relocated to British Columbia while independent Doukhobors settled on individual homesteads. Subsequent Doukhobor settlements were established in the Veregin, Kylemore, Sheho, Insinger, Kelvington, Wadena and Watson districts in the Teens and Twenties. Following the demise of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in 1937-1938, the communal lands in Saskatchewan were sold and the vast communal enterprise was dismantled.

The 100 Saskatchewan Stories episode “Left, Right & Centre – Part 1” tells the unique story of the Doukhobors in Saskatchewan. The story is woven together with photographs, illustrations, music, interviews, narration and archival and current footage.  The episode features extensive interview footage with Doukhobor writer and historian Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, who discusses the Doukhobor contribution to the 100-year history of the province. A four-minute Flash streaming video excerpt of the Doukhobor episode “Left, Right & Centre – Part 1” on 100 Saskatchewan Stories is available below.

“Doukhobor immigration has had a profound effect on the character and prosperity of Saskatchewan,” said Kalmakoff. “They were the largest single mass immigration of settlers to Canada, and for that reason alone, they remain unique in their contribution to Saskatchewan.”

100 Saskatchewan Stories is a documentary series alive with the history of Saskatchewan. It is a celebration of the province’s past with a shining outlook for its future. The stories cover the province geographically and span a timeline from the pioneers who first broke soil, to the scientists who have developed some of the latest cutting edge technologies.

100 Saskatchewan Stories is produced by Dacian Productions Inc. and produced and directed by Regina-based filmmaker Jarrett Rusnak. “The series builds bridges between our people, and connects us to our land,” said Rusnak. “Some stories will make us laugh, others will make us cry, and many will surprise us. All the stories will captivate us.”

For information or inquiries about the 100 Saskatchewan Stories television series or to obtain a DVD copy of the series visit the 100 Saskatchewan Stories website at: http://www.dacian.biz/100/indexGO.html.

Doukhobors Featured at Canadian Council of Archives National Conference

For Immediate Release – May 26, 2008

The Doukhobors were among the topics featured at the Canadian Council of Archives National Conference held in Regina, Saskatchewan May 24 to 25, 2008. The conference programme included a presentation by Doukhobor writer, historian and web-designer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The two-day conference was an important meeting place for users of archives, including genealogists, researchers, teachers, librarians, historians, students, curators, volunteers, and anyone with interest in Canada’s documentary heritage. It was intended to enhance archival users’ know-how and expertise and strengthen their relationship with the archival community. Entitled “Archives and You!” it is Canada’s only national conference for users of archives.

The conference included first-rate plenary sessions, as well as “Ask the Experts” roundtable discussions to permit the exchange of ideas on topics such as the management of small private archives, the management of digital records, the preservation of photographs, and the management of personal archives. There were also nine concurrent workshops covering specialized topics such as privacy and access, basic records management, ethnic genealogy and the creation of ethnic archives, linking youth to archival work and local history, and the preservation of home records. Additional activities included exhibits and tours of local archives in the Regina area.

One of the concurrent workshops held on May 24th featured the presentation, “Researching Your Russian Doukhobor Roots” by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. His workshop provided an overview of Doukhobor history and highlighted the special challenges and advantages faced by Doukhobor genealogists. Topics included migration and settlement in Russia and Canada; names and naming patterns; the importance of oral tradition; as well as select archival resources, including ship passenger lists, census records, membership lists, vital statistic records, homestead documents and cemetery information. His presentation also outlined recent archival discoveries in Canada, Russia and the Former Soviet Republics of importance to Doukhobor family historians. The Doukhobor workshop was well attended, with participants travelling from as far away as Nelson, British Columbia and Ottawa, Ontario to attend it.

Jonathan J. Kalmakoff presenting at Canadian Council of Archives National Conference, 2008.

Participation in this national event was an exceptional opportunity to share the Doukhobor story with members of the Canadian archival community.” said Kalmakoff. “It was exciting to promote a broader understanding of the Doukhobors’ place in Canada’s documentary heritage.”

The conference host, the Canadian Council of Archives, is a coordinating body whose mission is to nurture and sustain the nationwide efforts of over 800 archival organizations – member institutions all operating independently but sharing a common passion for Canada’s rich and wonderfully varied history. Millions of documents, heritage photographs, maps and audio-visual material are held in these institutions, nationally, regionally and locally. The Council’s goal is to work with its many stakeholders and partners to ensure preservation of and access to all these materials for teaching, learning, promotional and general interest purposes.

For additional information or inquiries about the Canadian Council of Archives or the Archives & You! national Conference, please visit the CCA web site at: http://www.cdncouncilarchives.ca/.

Student Seeks Participants From Across Canada to Broaden Research

by Sonya White

Are you interested in Doukhobor pasts, presents, and futures in Canada? Would you like to share your views on the importance that memory has in contemporary visions of Doukhoborism? Learn about University of Toronto Master’s student Sonya White’s research on Doukhobor memory, history and healing and how you can participate in her research interview. Her call for interview participants, originally focused on British Columbia Doukhobors, has now been broadened to include Doukhobors living in other parts of Canada.

Hello from British Columbia – the information below was originally posted on the Doukhobor Message Board in September as a means of generating interest in my university research on conflict, memory, and healing in the West Kootenay and Boundary Doukhobor community in British Columbia. My initial research suggests that the 20th century depredations and conflicts in British Columbia affected the daily lives of Doukhobors across Canada. I am therefore hoping to broaden my research to explore the effects that the 20th century conflict had on Doukhobors living in other parts of Canada. I would like to invite interested members of the Doukhobor community in Canada to participate in an interview with me by telephone or email – the questions will focus on the effects of the B.C. depredations and conflict on the lived experiences of Doukhobors who resided outside of the West Kootenay and Boundary regions. Please contact me by telephone at 1-(250)-421-2055 or by email at swhite@oise.utoronto.ca for more information. Thank you. Sonya White

Dear reader of the Doukhobor Genealogy website,

Hello. My name is Sonya White. I was born and raised in Cranbrook, British Columbia and am presently working on my Master’s degree in adult education and community development at the University of Toronto. My mother grew up in a West Kootenay Doukhobor family and I have spent time in the West Kootenay and Boundary regions with adults and elders who have taught me about Doukhoborism and Doukhobor experiences in British Columbia. I am returning to the West Kootenay and Boundary regions this autumn to conduct a series of research conversations about memory, history, and healing.

I am initiating this research project as part of my Master’s degree to explore the ways in which memories of conflict persist in the lives of people who have lived through experiences of conflict. Specifically, I will be asking questions about the different ways in which diverse members of the Doukhobor community in south-central British Columbia live with and remember their experiences of 20th century Doukhobor conflict. I am conscious of the broad reach that conflict has and am therefore interested in speaking with people who experienced the 20th century conflict as direct participants or indirect non-participants.

Sonya White, University of Toronto Masters student researching Doukhobor memory.

As the researcher, I will be conducting individual interviews with adult and elder Doukhobors who lived in the West Kootenay and Boundary districts of British Columbia during periods of 20th century conflict. I believe in effectively representing a diversity of experiences and am hoping to interview men and women of different ages and different affiliations to the heterogeneous Doukhobor community who experienced the conflict as discussed above. If you fit this criteria, or know of people who fit this criteria and might be interested in having a research interview with me, please contact me directly or pass my contact information on to those people who might be willing to get in touch with me.

You might wonder why this research is important. I believe that it holds many potential benefits for Doukhobor people and non-Doukhobor people who are interested in knowing more about how people find peace after conflict has been resolved. Specifically, I see this research as being important and of interest to the broader Doukhobor community because it aims to accomplish the following goals:

  • it will make an important contribution to the public understanding of Doukhobor history and experience in western Canada;
  • it will validate and legitimize the knowledge of a minority cultural community in Canada;
  • it will explore the ways in which different generations of Doukhobors experienced the “Doukhobor troubles”;
  • it will give diverse members of the Doukhobor community in Canada an opportunity to reflect on their experiences of conflict and ask how these memories of difficult pasts should be integrated into a contemporary understanding of Doukhoborism today;
  • and it will identify different strategies for living with difficult pasts and learning to heal from direct or indirect experiences of conflict.

If you have specific questions about this research and/or would like to participate in a research interview with me, please contact me by telephone at (250)-421-2055, by email at swhite@oise.utoronto.ca, or by mail:

Sonya White
1631 Staple Crescent
Cranbrook, British Columbia
V1C 6J1

I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Sonya White

Oospenia Spring Commemorates Doukhobor Pioneers

For Immediate Release – August 23, 2006

A spring near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan has been officially named to commemorate the Doukhobor settlers of the area. Oospenia Spring, the name proposed by Doukhobor researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.

Oospenia Spring is located on the NW 1/4 of 31-43-5-W3 on the scenic west bank of the North Saskatchewan River, eighteen kilometres south-east of Blaine Lake. It issues from the top of the river bank to form a small, crystal clear pool. The pool overflows down the bank to the flats, and from the flats, into the river. Flowing year-round, it is an excellent source of clean, cool, fresh and abundant water.

“Place names define our landscape and help record our history,“ said Kalmakoff, a leading authority on Doukhobor geographic names. “In this regard, the naming of the spring provides official recognition of the Doukhobors of Oospenia who made a significant contribution to the history and development of the area in which it is located.”

View of Oospenia Spring. Photo courtesy Donna Choppe.

The village of Oospenia was established near the spring in 1899 by Doukhobors from Kars, Russia who fled to Canada to escape persecution for their pacifist beliefs. For five years, the Russian-speaking settlers lived in dug-outs on the river bank before constructing a log village on level ground nearby. Following the motto of ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’, they lived, prayed and worked together, transforming the prairie wilderness into productive farmland. By 1913, Oospenia was abandoned as villagers relocated to individual homesteads or to communal settlements in British Columbia.

“The Doukhobors of Oospenia had a direct and meaningful association with the spring,” said Kalmakoff. “Indeed, the spring was the primary reason they chose the location for their village site. Throughout the history of their settlement, the Oospenia Doukhobors utilized the spring as a drinking water source and as a water source for their livestock and farming operations. In many ways, it helped define the village settlement.”

The official name comes after two and a half years of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather feedback on the suitability and acceptance of the name from persons familiar with the area. The response was overwhelmingly positive. The owner of the land on which the spring is located, Brenda Cheveldayoff, submitted a letter of support. The Blaine Lake Doukhobor Society also endorsed the naming project. As well, the Rural Municipality of Blaine Lake No. 434 passed a resolution in favour of the name.

The consultations were followed by a formal proposal to the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board, the Provincial body responsible for place names. The Board reviewed and investigated the name proposal in consultation with government departments and agencies. In determining the suitability of the name, the Board was guided by the Geographic Naming Policies, a stringent set of principles governing the naming of geographic features. Its decision – which was firmly in favour of the name Oospenia Spring – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Hon. Eric Cline, Q.C. who approved the decision.

Now that the name is official, the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board will supply the information to government ministries and agencies, cartographers, publishers and other persons engaged in the preparation of maps and publications intended for official and public use.

For Kalmakoff, the naming of Oospenia Spring was a personal project. His great-great-grandparents, Grigory and Maria Ivin, were among the original group of Doukhobors who founded the village of Oospenia and used the spring in their daily life.

“Oospenia Spring is not just a name on a map or sign,” said Kalmakoff. “It signifies that the contribution of the Doukhobors of Oospenia was substantial to the area and will assure the continued remembrance of them and their deeds by generations that follow.”

For additional information about Oospenia Spring, see the article Doukhobor Dugout House Unveils Monument Commemorating Oospenia Spring by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Good Spirit Lake Annex – Historical Tour

On Saturday, June 20, 2007, the National Heritage Doukhobor Village hosted a guided motor coach tour of Doukhobor historical sites, landmarks and points of interest in the Good Spirit Lake and Buchanan areas of Saskatchewan.

Approximately sixty people took part in the excursion, which travelled through the heart of “Good Spirit Country”, visiting some of the original Doukhobor village and related sites, exploring surviving buildings and structures, and learning about the Doukhobors who inhabited them, their surroundings, and the events that took place within them.

“One of the primary objectives of the tour was to emphasize the historical significance of the Doukhobor contribution to the development and growth of the area”, said Keith Tarasoff, tour organizer and chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village.

Tour participants exploring the Krukoff Homestead near Good Spirit Lake.

In 1899, over 1,000 Doukhobors from Elizavetpol and Kars, Russia settled in the area on 168,930 acres of homestead land reserved by the Dominion Government for their use. The reserve was known as the “Good Spirit Lake Annex”. There, they cleared the forest, broke the virgin prairie, planted grain fields, kept livestock herds and established eight communal villages as well as gristmills, blacksmith shops, granaries and barns. Living, praying and working under the motto of “Toil and Peaceful Life”, they transformed the prairie wilderness into productive farmland. By 1918, the Annex reserve was closed as Doukhobors relocated to communal settlements in British Columbia or to individual homesteads in the area. Those who remained established successful independent farming operations and thriving businesses.

Original 1899-era barn from Blagosklonnoe Village at the Krukoff Homestead.

The tour of the Good Spirit Lake Annex departed from the Doukhobor Prayer Home in Canora at 1:00 p.m. and commenced with a visit to the Krukoff Homestead, established on the site of Blagosklonnoye Village and containing an original village barn as well as a house constructed from bricks from the original village prayer home. The tour then passed the Blagosklonnoye Cemetery site, along with the Staro-Goreloye Village and Cemetery sites, before visiting at the Hancheroff House, an original village home relocated from Staro-Goreloye to its present site in the early 1900’s. A brief stop was made at Devil’s Lake School, a main Doukhobor school in the area during the first half of the twentieth century. The tour then passed through the Kalmakovka Village and Cemetery sites, the Utesheniye Village and Cemetery sites, and the Sukovaeff House, an original village home relocated from Utesheniye to its present site in the early 1900’s. A group moleniye service and commemoration was held at Novo Troitskoye Cemetery, where a major effort is underway to restore the site and preserve the cemetery for the future. The tour then passed through the vicinity of the Novo-Troitskoye Village site and the Moiseyevo Cemetery and Village sites, where at the latter, several original village structures remain.

Tour participants conduct a moleniye service at Novo-Troitskoe Cemetery near Buchanan.

The excursion proceeded to the Village of Buchanan, the main commercial centre in the area and a significant hub of Doukhobor activity throughout much of the twentieth century. A stop was made at Lois Hole Memorial Park, which commemorates the late Lois (nee Verigin) Hole, a former Buchanan resident of Doukhobor ancestry who became a successful market gardener, prominent book publisher and Lieutenant-Governor of Alberta. Afterwards, the tour stopped at the Buchanan Community Hall where participants were treated to refreshments courtesy the Village Council and to an extensive historic photo display courtesy Lorne J. Plaxin.  The tour then resumed, passing the Plaxin & Verigin General Store site and the Buchanan Doukhobor Prayer Home, built in 1916 to serve the needs of the Doukhobors in the surrounding area. A stop was made at the foundations of the Independent Doukhobor Flour Mill and Elevator, which was built in 1916 and operated until the Forties, as well as the foundations of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood Store and Warehouse which operated in the Twenties and Thirties.

The tour continued west of Buchanan, where it passed the Novo-Goreloye Village and Cemetery sites, the Village of Buchanan Cemetery, the Kirilovka Village and Cemetery sites, and the site of Dernic Siding and Hamlet. On the return leg, the tour visited the Buchanan Historic Monument, located east of Buchanan along Highway No. 5. Constructed of millstones from the villages of Novo-Troitskoye and Utesheniye, it stands as a memorial to the Doukhobor pioneer settlers of the Buchanan area. As a concluding highlight, a group photo was taken in front of the monument. The tour then returned to the point of departure at 6:30 p.m.

Tour group photo at the Buchanan Historic Monument on Highway No. 5 east of Buchanan.

Throughout the five and a half-hour excursion, expert tour guides Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, a Regina-based researcher and writer and Lorne J. Plaxin, a Preeceville-based local historian, provided an informative and entertaining historical narration.  Both have family roots in the Good Spirit Lake Annex area. Tour participants also shared interesting stories and anecdotes about the people and places. These included Fred Krukoff, who spoke about the Blagosklonnoye village site while Margaret Hancheroff described the Hancheroff House from Staro-Goreloye village.  

“A lot of the people who accompanied the tour were amazed at what we were able to show them,” said Jonathan Kalmakoff. “Many presumed that there was nothing left to see, when in fact, there are plenty of existing historic sites, buildings and landmarks that people pass every day without knowing or appreciating their history or purpose. Through the tour, they were able to have an enjoyable visit, and most importantly, learn a little more about their Doukhobor heritage and culture.”

Highway map of Buchanan and Good Spirit Lake, Saskatchewan.

“It was a privilege to take part in the Good Spirit Lake Annex tour,” said Lorne Plaxin. “A profound feeling of belonging was very evident as the tour bus passed each village or cemetery site. Indeed, the recollections and anecdotes shared by many of the tour participants reminded us all of our rich heritage. We can indeed be proud of our ancestors’ accomplishments and legacy.”

For additional information or inquiries about the tour of the Good Spirit Lake Annex and other Doukhobor historic sites in Saskatchewan, contact the National Heritage Doukhobor Village at Box 99, Veregin, Saskatchewan, S0A 4H0. Phone number (306) 542-4441.

Blahoslovenie Creek Commemorates Kylemore Doukhobors

A creek near Kylemore, Saskatchewan has been officially named to commemorate the Doukhobor settlers of the area. Blahoslovenie Creek, the name proposed by Doukhobor researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.

Blahoslovenie Creek is a small, seasonal stream which originates one kilometre west of Kylemore and winds south-eastward along an eight kilometre course before draining into Fishing Lake. Several marshes, wetlands and smaller streams feed the creek. Rain, snowmelt and groundwater contribute to its flow. Eighteen square kilometres of farmland – approximately eighteen hundred hectares – drain into the creek.

The name Blahoslovenie is the Russian term for ‘blessing’. “The name reflects the fertility and abundance of the land surrounding the creek,” said Kalmakoff, a leading authority on Doukhobor geographic names. “It also embodies the spiritual and cultural heritage of the Doukhobor pioneers who settled and developed the creek’s watershed.”

View of Blahoslovenie Creek from Highway No. 5 west of Kylemore.

In 1917-1918, Doukhobors belonging to the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) purchased over four thousand five hundred hectares of land in the Kylemore area. There, under the motto of ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’, they cleared the forest, broke the land and established fourteen communal villages as well as a central store, warehouse, elevator, prayer home, blacksmith shop, granaries and barns. The communal farming enterprise at Kylemore lasted approximately twenty years. Following the collapse of the CCUB in 1937-1939, the land was sold and many of the Doukhobors relocated to British Columbia. Those who remained in the area – approximately ten families – became independent farmers. Many of their descendants still farm the original CCUB landholdings.

“The Doukhobors at Kylemore had a close association with the creek,” said Kalmakoff. “The creek flowed through the heart of the communal settlement. The Doukhobors lived and farmed along its banks and used its waters for domestic and agricultural purposes as well as recreational activities. Many of the Doukhobor pioneers were buried, fittingly, near the source of the creek.”

The official name comes after three years of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather feedback on the suitability and acceptance of the name from persons familiar with the area. The positive response was tremendous. Local Doukhobor residents supported the naming project. The Rural Municipality of Sasman No. 336 passed a resolution in favour of the name. As well, the Fishing Lake First Nation No. 89 passed a resolution endorsing the name.

The consultations were followed by a formal proposal to the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board, the Provincial body responsible for place names. The Board reviewed and investigated the name proposal in consultation with government departments and agencies. In its deliberations, the Board was guided by the Geographic Naming Policies, a rigorous set of principles governing the naming of geographic features. Its decision – which was solidly in favour of the name Blahoslovenie Creek – was then recommended to the Minister Responsible for the Board, the Hon. Eric Cline, Q.C. who approved the decision.

Now that the name is official, the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board will supply the information to government ministries and agencies, cartographers, publishers and other persons engaged in the preparation of maps and publications intended for official and public use.

“The naming of Blahoslovenie Creek signifies that the Doukhobor contribution to the history and development of the Kylemore area was substantial ,” said Kalmakoff. “It will be an important historic reference for Doukhobors and their future generations.”

For additional information or inquiries about Blahoslovenie Creek, email Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

New Designation Recognizes the National Historic Significance of the Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan

For Immediate Release – December 10, 2006

The Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan have been recognized for their national historic significance to Canada. The Honourable Rona Ambrose, Minister of the Environment and the Minister responsible for Parks Canada, has announced their addition to Canada’s family of national historic sites, people and events.

Set amidst rolling farmland in eastern Saskatchewan, the community of Veregin was established in 1904 and retained its central role in Doukhobor society until 1931 when spiritual and administrative headquarters were relocated to British Columbia. Its subsequent decline marked the end of the first phase of Doukhobor settlement. The original Veregin settlement – of which the prayer home, machine shed, grain elevator and foundations of the old store survive – was the administrative, distribution and spiritual centre for the region during the first period of Doukhobor settlement in Canada.

Prayer home and residence of Peter V. Verigin.  Photograph by Lorraine Brecht. 

The group of four original buildings designated as national historic sites embody the founding and establishment of Veregin. The spectacular prayer home reflects the settlement’s importance to the Doukhobors as a religious and cultural centre, as well as the authority and the vision of the leader of the Doukhobors, Peter V. Verigin. Constructed in 1917 as the spiritual meeting place of the community and Verigin’s personal residence, this finely-crafted wooden building with its two-storey wrap-around veranda and elaborate metal work was inspired by 19th-century Doukhobor architectural traditions in Russia. The vast open site surrounding the house accommodated large gatherings drawn from Doukhobor colonies throughout Saskatchewan, who assembled to hear the words of their leader as he addressed them from the second floor balcony. Serving for many years as the social, cultural and spiritual centre of Doukhobor life in Saskatchewan, this building remains highly significant as a major architectural landmark and for its ongoing role as a prayer home and museum of Doukhobor history. Two other original buildings, the machine shed and the grain elevator, are fundamental to understanding the history of the Veregin Doukhobor community. The foundations of the old store offer further insights into the settlement’s early role as an important distribution centre and into the communal economy of the Doukhobors.

The ongoing significance of Veregin to the Doukhobor people is indicated by the fact that it was chosen as the site to celebrate the 60th, 75th and 100th anniversaries of their arrival in Canada. The Doukhobor experience in Canada yields insight into Christian communitarian spirit on the western frontier, and represents a remarkable episode in Canadian immigration history. Nowhere is this experience better revealed than at Veregin.

The designations were made by Minister Ambrose on the recommendation of the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC). Parks Canada and the HSMBC will work with the community and the National Heritage Doukhobor Village to plan the future placement of commemorative plaques at locations linked to the important contributions made by the designated places.

“These national historic sites are places of profound importance to Canadians.” said Minister Ambrose in a Parks Canada media release. “They bear witness to this nation’s defining moments and illustrate its human creativity and cultural traditions. Each national historic site tells a chapter of Canada’s history and helps us understand Canada as a whole. It is why I am proud to welcome these new places of historic significance to Canada into the Parks Canada family.”

With the designation of these sites, Canada’s system of national historic sites now includes 925 national historic sites, 598 national historic persons and 375 national historic events. The majority of national historic sites are owned and operated by private individuals, not-for-profit groups and corporations. Parks Canada protects and presents 154 of these special places on behalf of Canadians.

For additional information or inquiries about the designation of the Doukhobor buildings at Veregin, Saskatchewan as national historic sites, contact Parks Canada – National Historic Sites of Canada.