Doukhobors in Hilliers, British Columbia

by Richard de Candole

In 1947, Sons of Freedom leader Michael “the Archangel” Verigin and 70 of his followers established a 320 acre colony at Hilliers, British Columbia. While it lasted, the colonists practiced community of goods, peacefully tended their gardens and awaited the second coming of Christ. At the same time, the leadership faced accusations of incendiary attacks on Doukhobor properties in the Kootenays. The following article by Richard de Condole briefly examines the history of the controversial Hilliers Doukhobor colony to the present. Reproduced by permission from the Qualicum Time (August/September 2007).

For a short time in the 1940s and ‘50s the farm at the end of Slaney Road in Hilliers now owned by my family was the centre of considerable controversy in British Columbia.

At the time it was owned by a colony of about 70 Sons of Freedom Doukhobors under the leadership of Michael “the Archangel” Verigin who had moved there in 1947 from the Kootenays to escape persecution by fellow Doukhobors.

A rooftop view of the homesite as it is today.  Photo by Richard de Candole.

More than 7,000 Doukhobors, or Spirit Wrestlers, had immigrated to Canada in 1905 from Russia. They settled first in Saskatchewan then later the Kootenays. Because they rejected the practices and authority of the Russian Orthodox Church, were pacifists and lived communally they had been subjected persecution for over 100 years.

In Canada they proved to be equally troublesome for the authorities, refusing to swear an oath of allegiance, refusing to send their children to school, and, among the Sons of Freedom, staging nude public protests, among a number of things. The latter’s anti-materialistic views were so strongly held that they believed they were called by God to burn the possessions of fellow members who had become too materialistic.

Michael “the Archangel” Verigin (1883-1951)

During the first few years of the Hilliers colony there was a series of suspicious fires in the Kootenays which were eventually linked to Michael Verigin and co-leader Joe Podovinikoff. (During this same period the Hilliers school and community hall were burned and they were believed to have been acts of retaliation.) In the spring of 1950 they were found guilty of inciting others to commit arson and sentenced to two years in jail.

By a twist of fate Michael suffered a stroke a month after sentencing and on July 27, 1951 died of pneumonia at the age of 69. His funeral attracted a large gathering of Doukhobor and non-Doukhobor dignitaries and he was buried in a small graveyard on the property, now a registered cemetery, where the ashes of my father Corry de Candole are also buried.

The Hilliers colony, however, never recovered from the loss of their leader and by the mid-1950s most of the residents had either moved back to the Kootenays or left the Doukhobor community altogether.

In addition to the burnings and their strong views on public education, the colony also adhered to an unorthodox sexual code. As an article in Time magazine on Sept. 26, 1949 described, all property was shared including husbands and wives.

Initially there was a ban on all sexual relations until the colony was deemed to be economically self-sufficient. In late 1948 the elders lifted the ban and nine months later the first child was born. After being christened Gabriel Archangelovich First the boy was surrendered by the mother to the joint parenthood of the community.

The property had been vacant for over five years when my parents Corry and Nancy de Candole discovered it in 1963, almost by accident. They had been looking for retirement property in the area and were about to return to Alberta without finding anything that appealed to them.

E.G. Thwaites, a Qualicum Beach pioneer and father of their realtor, happened to be in the office and when he heard they had found nothing gave some advice they felt they couldn’t ignore: ‘Don’t leave the Island without looking at the old Doukhobor place.’ At the time the property wasn’t even listed. On their way to the ferry they once more drove out to Hilliers. ”As soon as we drove in the driveway Corry was immediately taken by what he saw,” remembered my mother Nancy. “The place was so peaceful and private. It was at the end of the road and totally surrounded by forest. He couldn’t wait to get back into town to make an offer.”

A view of the Doukhobor bath house interior. Photo by Richard de Candole.

They barely even noticed that the homesite was a collection of weather-beaten sheds and buildings, none of which were suitable for a house. Their offer of $9,500 for the 75 acres was accepted and that winter they hired Don Beaton and Qualicum Construction to build a 1,400 sq. ft. house my father designed in the shape of a U.

The author’s mother, Nancy de Candole in front of a Doukhobor dwelling.  Photo by Richard de Candole.

My father spent the next 20 years tearing down sheds, restoring other buildings, building a log house, and putting back into production a field that had been used by the Doukhobors to grow corn, cabbages and potatoes. He also served on the Coombs Fair board for most of that time.

My mother immersed herself in teaching piano and supporting church and environmental projects. Last year, at age 94, she moved to Qualicum Manor while my wife Wendy and I continue to live on the property.

English for Doukhobors: 110 Years of Russian-English Contact in Canada

by Gunter Schaarschmidt

Over the last 110 years, the use of the Doukhobor Russian dialect has been gradually displaced by English among Doukhobors living in Canada. The following article by Gunter Schaarschmidt of the Department of Germanic and Slavic Studies, University of Victoria, examines this trend in the context of “special” or “ritual” language used by the Doukhobors in their religious ceremony. This article is reproduced with the editor’s permission from Nadezhda L. Grejdina (ed.), “Aktual’nye problemy kommunikacii i kul’tury”, Vol. 10. “Sbornik nauchnyx trudov rossijskix i zarubezhnyx uchenyx” (Moskva/Pyatigorsk: Pyatigorsk State Linguistic University, 2009), pp. 30-43. The author observes that, to the extent Doukhobor cultural and spiritual traditions will be maintained in Canada, the question is whether these will be carried out using the vehicle of Russian or English. If it is the latter, can these cultural and spiritual traditions still be considered “genuine”?

1. Introduction

The present paper will deal with a small subtopic in the discipline of sociolinguistics, i.e., the disappearance of “special” language, such as the “ritual” language as used by the Doukhobors in Canada, and its replacement by English special language. Much of what will be said about the former, also applies to the disappearance of the dialect, which is a living testimony of the various contacts the Doukhobors had in their migrations (see, for example, the many lexical items that stem from contact with non-Slavic peoples in Transcaucasia as described in Tarasoff 1963). The Doukhobors emigrated to Canada from Russia beginning in 1899 and settled first in an area near the border between Saskatchewan and Manitoba. In the years 1908 to 1913, a little more than half of them moved to the Kootenay district of British Columbia (Tarasoff 2002:8-14). Figure (1) shows the original Doukhobor settlements in the Province of Saskatchewan and the migration path from there to the Province of British Columbia. (Note: Permission to reproduce the map in Figure 1 from Tarasoff (1982: 100) is herewith gratefully acknowledged.). At the present time, the number of Doukhobors is estimated to be 30,000 with 13,000 residing in British Columbia. Their rate of language maintenance is about 60% (Schaarschmidt 1998:466).

Figure (1)  Map of Community Doukhobors’ Move from Saskatchewan to British Columbia, 1908-1913.

2. Ritual Language

In essence, the Doukhobor psalms and prayers contain the main elements of a tradition that is not otherwise fixed in a written form. These oral works are composed in a very ancient, Russian Church Slavonic form of language that is often no longer comprehensible even to educated members of the community. In the last 40 years, since the inception of compulsory schooling, many of the psalms and prayers have been recorded in written form. Until that time, most of them were learnt by heart and enriched with regional elements, e.g., Ukrainianisms (see Schaarschmidt 1995). The psalms embody a large part of the Doukhobor belief system, somewhat like a basic communal “constitution” (Mealing 1975:51), as, e.g., in the set of ten psalms entitled “From the Common Views of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood”, one of which (No. 5) is given below with an interlinear and a free translation (some of the words have been corrected; it is not clear whether these words were typing errors in Mealing’s work, or whether they were handed down orally in this way and lost some of their grammar). (Note: The transliteration used in this paper is a hybrid of the Library of Congress (LC) system and of IPA. Thus, sh zh ch are retained from LC but c x j from IPA. This will allow a diacritic-free transliteration of Cyrillic.).

Mir     sostoit   iz    dvizhenija; vsë stremitsja k
World consists from movement;   all  strives        to
sovershenstvu i     cherez ètot  process staraetsja
perfection         and through  this  process it strives
soedinit’sja so   svoim nachalom, kak by
to unite        with its       beginning    as   if
vozvratit’ sozrevshij     plod semeni.
to return   having ripened fruit  to seed

“The world is based upon going forward; all things strive for perfection, and through this process seek to rejoin their source, as ripe fruit yields seeds [probably incorrectly in Mealing 1975:53: “as seeds yield ripe fruit”]”.

3. English For Doukhobors

The following constitutes a kind of mini-history of Russian-English contact since the arrival of the Doukhobors in Canada. The historical outline is not exhaustive and ignores many sociolinguistic variables, such as federal and provincial politics with regard to forced schooling, attitudes to Russian language use, and generational differences.

3.1. Anna Tchertkoff’s “English Grammar”

3.1.1. Anna Tchertkoff

More than 100 years ago, Anna Tchertkoff (1859-1927) received a request from the Doukhobors who had emigrated to Canada to write a textbook that would help them and other Russian immigrants learn the English language. She went to work and published such a textbook in her own publishing house in 1900. Anna Tchertkoff was the wife of Vladimir Tchertkoff (1854-1936), an outspoken defender of Doukhobor rights in the Caucasus who after publicizing their plight was exiled from Russia and settled in England in 1897. Together with his wife Anna, he translated, edited, and published Leo Tolstoy’s works. Anna and Vladimir collaborated in founding and running the Free Age Press in English and the Svobodnoe Slovo (“Free Word”) in Russian.

In her preface, Anna Tchertkoff states that the selection of lexical items and phraseological units is based on the needs that the Doukhobors in Canada will have in communicating with their Anglophone hosts. She cautions, however, that the scope and
length of the work (101 pages plus 17 pages of phonetic, orthographic, and grammatical preliminaries) cannot provide an exhaustive listing of words and sentences that a Russian immigrant might require either in Canada or the US. She is also asking readers to send her comments and suggestions that she would like to include in a planned second edition. To our knowledge, such a second edition was never published.

3.1.2. The Pedagogical Variable

Ignoring for the moment the first 17 pages (see 3.1.3. below), the main body of the text has the form of a dictionary or vocabulary lists as well as lists of phrases with the directionality Russian – English. Interspersed in this set of lists are continuous Russian language text segments with interlinear translation and phonetic transcription. The texts illustrate aspects of Canadian geography and culture. As Tarasoff puts it: “they contained propaganda, designed to assist them [the Doukhobors] against the Canadian authorities” (2002:400).

3.1.3. The Linguistic Variable

In what is possibly one of the first contrastive Russian-English analyses, Tchertkoff presents the main differences in the phonology of the two languages. She warns the reader that with her phonetic transcription using the Cyrillic alphabet, it is not always possible to automatically induce the correct pronunciation. Thus the grapheme th has two pronunciations in English, neither of which can be adequately rendered using Russian graphemes. For voiced [δ] she uses the digraph tz, admonishing the reader, however, that “it must not be pronounced as the two separate Russian letters but as one continuant sound, through the teeth, lisping…” (Tchertkoff 1900:v). For the voiceless counterpart [θ], she recommends the Cyrillic letter θ that was in use before the October Revolution. This letter is of Greek origin and originally had the sound value [θ]. However, when Russian adopted the letter, its pronunciation in Modern Greek had already changed into [f], but Russian continued to use it until 1913 primarily in names of Greek origin, such as Theodore (θedorь), even though it was pronounced as an [f].

In the remarks on the English vowel system, Tchertkoff stresses the fact that there can be both long (diphthongized) and short vowels in stressed syllables, which contrasts with the Russian phonological system where vowels under stress are always lengthened (and diphthongized). One problem in her analysis is that she takes the British English pronunciation as a basis, e.g., in words like consume and duty where in most Canadian dialects the u is pronounced [uw], not [yuw].

Standard (Moscow) Russian does not have phonemically relevant [h], so Tchertkoff renders this high-frequency English phoneme with Russian [x]. She points out, however, that “our Little Russians [i.e., Ukrainians] pronounce the letter g as [h]”
(Tchertkoff 1900:ix), forgetting, apparently, that the Doukhobor dialect does exactly the same, i.e., it has phonemic /h/. The problem here is, of course, that the Cyrillic alphabet never had a grapheme for the sound [h], and that written g is used in Ukrainian and Doukhobor Russian to denote both [h] and [g], the latter occurring mainly in borrowings (Canadian Ukrainian developed a special grapheme for phonetic [g]). In any case, a contrastive analysis of the phonological systems of Doukhobor Russian and English would predict that Doukhobor speakers should have no problem with English /h/.

In the last section of her preliminaries, Anna Tchertkoff tackles the definite/indefinite article in English. Russian does not have an article, using mainly word order to fulfill the function of the and a(n). She explains the use of the definite/indefinite article in English in terms of the known/unknown variables, postponing a more detailed analysis of this grammatical problem, and of many others, to the preparation of a second part of the grammar.

3.1.4. The Sociolinguistic Variable

The selection of the lexical items, phrases, and texts in the book is determined by two factors: 1) unlike many other grammars, Tchertkoff’s grammar is not aimed at the educated Russian reader, the leisure traveller, or the business traveller, but at the needs of the 7,500 Doukhobor immigrants in Canada; thus, the language presented is Canadian English; and 2) apart from terminology used in the Doukhobors’ daily work, the grammar concentrates on certain abstract concepts required for them to communicate their belief system and rituals to their hosts. This second factor seems to be at variance with the Doukhobors’ attitude to English. After all, they had come to Canada “to preserve the cultural identity of which their language is an intimate part” (Harshenin 1964:39). Thus, they borrowed from English what was absolutely essential to their work environment, i.e., terms relating to the railroad, the sawmills, gadgets, units of measure, money (see the list compiled by Harshenin 1967:216-30). Furthermore, until the 1930’s the Doukhobors resisted any pressure by the Canadian authorities to send their children to schools and thus expose them to daily English instruction. Perhaps this is the reason why there was never any need for a second edition, or why the planned second part never appeared: the grammar was simply not used by the Doukhobors. However, another reason may be that the Tchertkoffs returned to Russia and settled there in 1909, a move that would have cut their ties with the Doukhobor immigrants in Canada.

3.2. Interference Phenomena

In the late 1930s, a Canadian writer was able to make fun in her diary of the heavily accented English spoken by the Doukhobors, as illustrated in the following passage from her book (O’Neail 1962:104):

Eh-h-h-h, how moch monya! … And now every mawnt’
Eh,          how  much  money       and  now  every  month
we’re gonna   gyet like dot  moch  monya!
we’re   going to get   like  that  much  money
And today mawder-my weell go Nyelson
and  today  mother-my    we’ll    go to Nelson
and buy la-awtsa t’eengs! E-h-h, how lawtsa
and  buy lots of      things    Eh,     how   lots of
weell buy!
we’ll    buy

“Eh, how much money [we received], and now every month we are going to receive just as much money! And today my mother and I, we will go to Nelson and buy a lot of things! Eh, what a lot of [things] we will buy.”

The above passage shows typical Russian phonetic interference phenomena, such as palatalization before front vowels (monya, gyet, Nyelson); rendering short vowels in a stressed syllable as long vowels (mawnt’, t’eengs, mawder); t’ (aspirated) for voiceless th (teengs), and d for voiced th (dotmawder). Syntactically, we note 1) the postpositioning of the possessive, an archaism in Russian but typical of Doukhobor speech (mawder-my); 2) the frequent use of and at the beginning of utterances; and 3) the absence of a preposition in go Nyelson, possibly as a transference from mute Russian bilabial [w] for v before consonants.

When Hazel O’Neail returned to the area in 1962, i.e., 24 years later, she was able to note that “the old accent lingers in some cases, though not nearly as pronounced, and in many I caught not a trace at all. Furthermore, the offensive ‘and’ which used to preface every remark…seems to have disappeared altogether” (O’Neail 1962:141). Today, more than one generation later, only Doukhobors in their eighties and nineties show traces of an accent in English. All others speak a Canadian English of the Western variety, and for most of them English is their first language.

4. Lost Categories

4.1. Language and Culture

The loss of languages is often compared to the decimation and eventual extinction of animal and plant species. For language, changes in environment would mean that, to quote Wurm (1991:3):

the cultural and social settings in which a given language had been functioning,
usually for a very long time, have been replaced by new and quite different ones as
a result of irresistible culture contact and clash, with the traditional language
unsuited for readily functioning as a vehicle of expression of the new culture.

And to continue with Wurm (1991:17): “With the death of a language…, an irreplaceable unit in our knowledge and understanding of human thought and world-view has been lost forever.”

One word of caution that must be heeded by the investigator is whether the loss of linguistic categories follows the loss of the underlying cultural categories, or to put it the other way around, whether linguistic categories are retained in a language long after the underlying cultural categories have been lost. In a language revival process this interrelationship would imply that the revival of linguistic categories entails the revival of the underlying cultural categories.

Thus, in the case of Doukhobor culture, having been removed from Russian society for more than 100 years, many of the set patterns of this society were also removed and supplanted by Anglo-Canadian patterns. The Doukhobors have of course always been a society within a society but through the interaction with the dominant society, have assimilated and/or retained patterns of the latter.

The loss of the dialect reflects the general levelling of dialectal differences in the world’s languages and is therefore as general a process as the loss of lesser used languages. Revival of dialects does occur but in the case of Doukhobor Russian would be made more difficult due to the competition of the dialect with Standard Russian. This entire question must be left to a different investigation (see also below, Section 5).

The loss of a special language, such as Doukhobor ritual language, can only be compared to the loss of other special languages in the world, viz., the loss of Latin in Christian churches, the loss of the scientific functional style in many of the world’s smaller languages (and even some of the major languages), and perhaps the loss of writing systems, such as cuneiform, Egyptian hieroglyphics, and Mayan. An anthropologist like Mark Mealing rhetorically deplores the rendering of Doukhobor psalms in English: “can the psalms convey their true meanings if they are not heard or read in Russian?” (Mealing 1995:41); he concedes, however, that one can expect to “find something deeply present in such potent texts, even through the mask of translation” (Mealing 1995:41). This view is apparently shared by the younger generation of Doukhobors, i.e., 29 years or younger, who do not support the concept of language being a carrier of culture and belief (Friesen and Verigin 1996: 147).

There is also regional variation in this respect; thus, the 2004 festivities connected with Peter’s Day were conducted primarily in English in Saskatchewan (Note: Private communication by Larry Ewashen, Director of the Doukhobor Museum in Castlegar, BC.), while the same festivities in British Columbia were conducted in Russian. (The author of this paper was present during part of the Sunday festivities (June 27, 2004) on the grounds of the Doukhobor Museum in Castlegar, BC, and can thus vouch for this fact. It must be pointed out, however, that the choice of language in both Saskatchewan and British Columbia is apparently also audience-conditioned, i.e., with a predominantly English-speaking audience, English translations will be used at least in part of the ceremonies in the West Kootenay area as well. It may be worth noting here that the Doukhobor community in the Republic of Georgia has apparently been successful in maintaining both the dialect and the ritual style although the number of persons able to recite the psalms is decreasing there as well (for a recent analysis, see Bezhenceva 2007: 123–139).)

On the basis of translations of Doukhobor ritual texts, we can arrive at a tentative list of lost categories or untranslatable (“cultural substance”) features.

4.2. Psalm No. 166

It will be worthwhile here contrasting an excerpt from psalm No. 166 with its English translation to ascertain just what may have been lost in the translation (the annotation DP stands for discourse particle).

Mladye moi junoshi, vy  projdëte  lesy    tëmnye,
Young   my   youth     you will pass  forests dark
vzyjdite na gory         krutye, pristupite k  morju
climb     on  mountains steep    step up     to sea
chërnomu, stan’te zhe vy   na   Noev   korabl’. bujny
black          board   DP   you onto Noah’s ark        boisterous
vetry  sbushevalis’,
winds  raged
chërno more vskolyxalos’. slëzno  vosplakalis’
black    sea    heaved           tearfully cried out
mladye junoshi pered Gospodom: Gospodi, Gospodi! pochto
young    youth    before   Lord            Lord         Lord        why
dopustil  bujnye     vetry  bushevat’, morskie volny  volnovat’
(you) let   boisterous winds rage           ocean    waves  surge
chërno more kolyxat’, chto nel’zja      projti    v    Tvoj
black    sea    heave      that   impossible to-pass into Your
Erusalim-grad, posmotret’ tam  velik  stolb ognennyj, on zhe
Jerusalem-city   to-view        there great  pillar  fiery           it   DP
vozsijaet ot     zemli i    do neba.
shines      from earth  and to  sky

Notes: Vzyjdite: An archaic form, cf. Standard Russian vzojdëte. The suffix –ite is an imperative suffix not expected in this context. Stan’te: This is an imperative form instead of the expected staneteVozsijaet: Standard Russian orthography has vossijaet.

And here is the translation as taken from Mealing (1995:43-44):

“My young men, you will go on through shadowy forests, you will go up into lofty mountains, you will come to the gloomy sea, you will embark in Noah’s ship. The wild winds were uproarious, the dark sea was stirred up. The young men wept bitter tears
before the Lord: Lord, Lord! Why allow the wild winds to rage, the waves of the sea to billow up, the dark sea to heave? It is impossible for us to come to your Jerusalem-town, there to look at the great fiery pillar, it shines from earth to heaven.”

4.3. What Is Lost

The linguistic features examined in this subsection are 1) those which represent Church Slavonic elements that serve as mnemonic devices in the oral transmission of the psalms; and 2) those which due to their phonetic structure have an alliterative-parallel function and thus do not possess any semantic value.

4.3.1. The Postnominal Position of Adjectives

The postnominal position of adjectives is a normal syntactic rule for French, and yet no one would want to claim that all French translations into English are inadequate. The reason is that a normal syntactic phenomenon in French is translated into a normal syntactic phenomenon in English, i.e., the prenominal position of modifiers. In Russian, however, the postnominal position of adjectives is highly marked, whereas in the Doukhobor ritual style this position is a stylistic possibility for incorporating invariant mnemonic aids. In [the above psalm] text the postnominal position of long-form adjectives is almost the norm, while the short forms are always prenominal, cf. the opposition prenominal vs. postnominal in chërno more : k morju chërnomu and, in one and the same noun phrase, velik stolb ognennyj. (Note: The short-form adjectives are no longer used in an attributive position in Standard Russian, except in fixed idioms, such as sred’ bela dnja “in broad daylight.”). This parallelism is not always symmetric due to grammatical restrictions (mladye junoshi) or onomatopoeic preference (Tvoj Erusalim-grad).

4.3.2. Church Slavonicisms

In the [psalm] text passage above, we find this mixture of styles, on the one hand, in the adjective mladye “young” nom pl vs. Russian molodye; and, on the other hand, in the preposition pered “before, in front of” vs. Church Slavonic pred. This functional interplay of Church Slavonic and Russian forms characterizes not only the Doukhobor ritual style but also Russian poetic style. It may be argued that mladye is a phonetic spelling of molodye with the loss of the vowel in the first syllable, a phenomenon that is common in colloquial speech. The only argument against this is the fact that we are dealing here with the recital of a psalm, i.e., a formal style, in which vowel elision would seem to be prohibited. However, this question merits further study with a wider corpus.

4.3.3. Alliteration and Parallelism

The alliterative parallelism of the verb phrases with the perfective reflexives sbushevalis’vskolyxalos’slëzno vosplakalis’ and the verb phrases with the imperfective infinitives bushevat’volnovat’kolyxat’ is less concerned with the cognitive meaning of the passage in question than its contextual meaning, a feature typical of folklore genres in Russian. That the threefold matchup is not quite symmetric semantically (vosplakalis’ vs. volnovat’) is no doubt due to the conventions of oral transmission of these psalms where for the sake of memorization semantics was sacrificed to phonetics.

4.3.4. Short Form Adjectives Used Attributively

The examples in question in [the above psalm text] are bujny vetrychërno more, and velik stolb ognennyj “large, fiery pillar.” This usage of short form adjectives in an attributive function, as opposed to their restriction to a predicative function in Standard Russian, was a regular feature in Old Church Slavonic and was retained as a marked stylistic feature in poetry and Russian Church Slavonic as well as in the Doukhobor ritual style. The noun phrase velik stolb ognennyj above is semantically equivalent to Standard Russian bol’shoj ognennyj stolb but the rhythm and archaic connotation of the given construction are lost in the Standard Russian phrase and of course in the English translation as well.

5. Conclusion

To the extent that Doukhobor cultural and spiritual traditions will be maintained, the question is whether these will be carried out using the vehicle of Russian or of English. If low language maintenance levels in Russian make it necessary to carry out most, if not all culture-related activities in English, there is the question whether what is being practiced is still “genuine” Doukhobor culture, i.e., can one really speak of maintaining one’s cultural heritage while giving up the language in which it was cultivated for centuries? And, concerning the oral literature, if Russian Church Slavonic is replaced by Canadian English, and if all of hymnody is made available in a written form, certainly the style of singing will change, viz., the creative aspect; the correcting in mid-song; and the duration of ritual speech acts. This will certainly amount not only to a loss of cultural substance but also to an assimilation to the dominant Anglo-Canadian culture. There are many additional questions that need to be addressed in future research. Two of them will be mentioned here but cannot be discussed in detail at this point in time. Doukhobor Russian in Canada generally shares many features with other forms of émigré Russian in North America that are due to “incomplete acquisition” (Polinsky 2006). In addition, structural developments in Doukhobor Russian can serve to “redefine” the notion “Standard Russian” (Andrews 2006). However, Doukhobor Russian in Canada also shows important differences that are due to 1) its largely oral tradition; 2) its relative geographic isolation; 3) its deliberate resistance to the influence of Canadian English; and, last but not least, 4) the influence of Ukrainian during the first generation of settlement in Saskatchewan.

At the present time, English among the Doukhobors must still compete with Modern Standard Russian both in the replacement of the dialect and in the maintenance of ritual language. The dialect is clearly losing the battle against Modern Standard Russian but then the levelling of dialect differences in the world’s languages is widespread. Modernizing the psalms, however, may delay the complete switch to English versions. Recent efforts in this respect have resulted in a modern psalm book (USSC 1978) as well as the ongoing efforts in the Doukhobor monthly Iskra to present many psalms in a Standard Russian form. We hope to address the above questions in more detail in a future study.

A final word needs to be said about the threat of language loss. If, as Ter-Minasova put it, languages are the guardians of a people’s identity (Ter-Minasova 2007:121), then language loss should lead to the loss of identity. It is impossible to conduct a crucial experiment in that respect, that is, to subject half of a linguistic community to language loss, leaving the other half as a control group and then compare the degree of the loss of identity. What we do know, however, is that there is a family of languages, i.e., the First Nations communities in Canada, such as Cree in the Province of Alberta or Salish in British Columbia, that are engaged in an active endeavour of reversing language shift partly as a necessary healing process and a desire to regain their lost identity. It seems that their efforts serve at least as partial support for maintaining the Doukhobor ritual style, perhaps in a “reconfigured” form allowing codeswitching between cognitive structures in English and contextual-mnemonic devices in Russian/Church Slavonic (see also Rak 2004; and Schaarschmidt 2008). There is no agreement to what extent globalization is contributing to the loss of languages. On the one hand, the process of globalization is considered to be the “main despoiler of languages and cultures” (Ter-Minasova 2007:254). On the other hand, the globalization of English has directly led to the disappearance of languages only in those countries where “English has itself come to be the dominant language, such as in North America, Australia and the Celtic parts of the British Isles” (Crystal 1998:18). Crystal’s statement certainly seems to apply to the Doukhobor language which is threatened far more by the local and regional economic situation in British Columbia, Canada, than by the status of English as a global language.

References

  • Andrews, David R. (2006). The Role of Émigré Russian in Redefining the “Standard.” Journal of Slavic Linguistics 14: 169–189.
  • Bezhenceva, Alla (2007). Strana Duxoborija. Tbilisi: Russkij klub.
  • Crystal, David (1998). English as a Global Language. Cambridge (UK): Cambridge University Press/Canto.
  • Friesen, John W. and Michael M. Verigin (1996). The Community Doukhobors: A People in Transition. Ottawa: The Borealis Press.
  • Harshenin, Alex P. (1964). English Loanwords in the Doukhobor Dialect, 1. In: Canadian Slavonic Papers 6, 38-43.
  • Harshenin, Alex P. (1967). English Loanwords in the Doukhobor Dialect, 2. In: Canadian Slavonic Papers 9/2, 16-30.
  • Mealing, Mark F. (1975). Doukhobor Life. A Survey of Doukhobor Religion, History, and Folklife. Castlegar, BC.: Cotinneh Books.
  • Mealing, Mark F. (1995). Doukhobor psalms: adornment to the soul. In: K.J. Tarasoff and R.B. Klymasz (eds.), Spirit Wrestlers. Centennial Papers in Honour of Canada’s Doukhobor Heritage (Hull/Québec: Canadian Museum of Civilization),
    pp. 39-50.
  • O’Neail, Hazel (1962). Doukhobor Daze. Sidney, BC: Gray’s Publishing.
  • Polinsky, Maria (2006). Incomplete Acquisition: American Russian. Journal of Slavic Linguistics 14: 191–262.
  • Rak, Julie (2004). Negotiated Memory: Doukhobor Autobiographical Discourse. Vancouver/Toronto: UBC Press.
  • Schaarschmidt, Gunter (1995). Aspects of the History of Doukhobor Russian. In: Canadian Ethnic Studies 27.3: 197-205.
  • Schaarschmidt, Gunter (1998). Language in British Columbia. In: John Edwards (ed.), Language in Canada (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press), pp. 461-468.
  • Schaarschmidt, Gunter (2008). Code-switching im Sorbischen und im Duchobor-Russischen als eine mögliche Zwischenstufe in der Erhaltung und Revitalisierung von Minderheitensprachen in der EU und in Kanada. Lûtopis 55.2: 109-125.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J. (1963). Cultural Interchange Between the Non-Slavic Peoples of the Soviet Union and the People of Russian Background in the Greater Vancouver Area. Unpublished term paper (Vancouver: UBC Slavonic Studies).
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J. (1982). Plakun Trava: The Doukhobors. Grand Forks, BC: Mir.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J. (2002). Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living. Brooklyn, N.Y.: Legas/Ottawa: Spirit Wrestlers Publishing.
  • Tchertkoff, Anna (1900). Prakticheskij uchebnik anglijskogo jazyka/Russian-English Handbook. London: A. Tchertkoff, “The Free Age Press”.
  • Ter-Minasova, Svetlana Grigor’evna (2007). Vojna i mir jazykov i kul’tur. Moskva: AST/Astrel’/Xranitel’. USCC (1978).
  • Sbornik duxoborcheskix psalmov, stixov i pesen. Grand Forks, BC: Izdanie Sojuza Duxovnyx Obshchin Xrista /Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (USCC).
  • Wurm, Stephen A. (1991). Language Death and Disappearance: Causes and Circumstances. In Robert H. Robins and Eugenius M. Uhlenbeck (eds.), Endangered Languages (pp. 1–17). Oxford, UK/ New York: Berg.

For More Information

For additional research about the Doukhobor dialect spoken in Canada, see Gunter Schaarschmidt’s articles Four Norms – One Culture: Doukhobor Russian in Canada as well as The Maintenance and Revitalization of Doukhobor Russian in British Columbia: Prospects and Problems.  Read also about his Day-trip to Piers Island: Reminiscing About the Penitentiary, 1932-1935.  Finally, for Gunter Schaarschmidt’s exclusive translations of 19th century German articles about the Doukhobors, see The Dukhobortsy, 1822-1828 by Daniel Schlatter; Passage Across the Caucasus, 1843 by Kuzma F. Spassky-Avtonomov; The Dukhobortsy in Transcaucasia, 1854-1856 by Heinrich Johann von Paucker; Notes from the Molochnaya, 1855 by Alexander Petzholdt; Doukhobors in the Caucasus, 1863-1864 by Alexander Petzholdt; Report from the Caucasus, 1875 by Hans Leder; and Travels in the Caucasus and the Armenian Highlands, 1875 by Gustav I. Sievers and Gustav I. Radde.

Origin of the CCUB Trust Fund

by Larry A. Ewashen

In 1938, the once-flourishing Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood was foreclosed upon, its over $4,000,000 in assets sold at fire sale prices to satisfy a $300,00 debt.  The remaining balance, held in trust by the Government of Saskatchewan for the Doukhobors of Canada, came to be known as the CCUB Trust Fund. Administered by a statutory board appointed regionally by recognized Doukhobor Societies, the CCUB Trust Fund is today used to fund Doukhobor cultural and heritage activities and projects. The following article by Larry A. Ewashen, Curator of the Doukhobor Museum in Castlegar, British Columbia and currently a member of the CCUB  Trust Fund Board, oulines the history of the fund, its management and applications. Reproduced with permission.

Although many contemporary Doukhobor societies have received funding from the CCUB Trust Fund, not everyone is aware of the origins of this funding organization. Since being appointed to the board by the British Columbia Attorney General, this question has come up from time to time on different occasions. I hope that the following will help to clarify some of the questions.

Simply put, the CCUB Trust Fund, is the remnant of the once flourishing Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood. Incorporated in 1917, and brought to its knees in 1938 through foreclosure action, some of the resources of this one time exceptional communal enterprise remained as a legacy to the remaining Doukhobor societies up until the present day.

After the devastating foreclosure action by Sun Life Assurance, the Canadian Imperial Bank and Crown Life over the outstanding $300,000 interest, the British Columbia Provincial Government negotiated a settlement with the Trust companies by paying $280,000 on the debt, and thus becoming owners of the entire CCUB holdings.

Peter Lordly Verigin (centre) with crowd of Community (CCUB) Doukhobors, c. 1920’s. Photo courtesy Simon Fraser University Doukhobor Collection.

Previous to the BC Government take over, the receivers announced to the CCUB governing Doukhobors that they intended to liquidate certain resources to recoup their financial outlay.

This liquidation continued until most of the Doukhobor resources such as lumber and any other items in stock were sold off at fire sale prices, and the basic industries such as the jam factory were totally depleted so there was no chance of the Doukhobors reviving their CCUB company in a meaningful fashion. After the Receivers had completed their work, the Government of BC took over and a second condition emerged, allowing the Doukhobors to remain in the villages as tenants in the properties they had once owned.

After the government recouped their $280,000. there was a balance left which was deposited into a holding account in Regina Saskatchewan, and was supervised by the Government of Saskatchewan under the terms of the bankruptcy procedures.

When the communal homesteads were cancelled in 1906 – 7 in Saskatchewan over the issue of naturalization and communal living, the government of the day graciously reserved 15 acres for each resident over eighteen years of age on the periphery of each village. Of course, this was not sufficient for a family to survive on, and those Doukhobors who had left for British Columbia, had given up their ownership rights. These reserves dwindled as they were purchased by the new occupiers of the property after the Doukhobors vacated, in some cases by the Independent Doukhobor who stayed, and in other cases by other new owners who wanted to complete their holdings, particularly when the reserves bordered their land. In 1918, former Dominion lands were sold or reverted to the province. The proceeds of the these sales were also added to an account supervised by the Saskatchewan government.

Up until the time of the bankruptcy procedures against the CCUB. this fund was referred to as The Credit Surplus Fund and was held in trust by Toronto General Trust, later one the receivers in the case. The majority of the CCUB holdings were in British Columbia. There was a smaller operation in Alberta and some land, flour mill and farming operation around Verigin and Kylemore. These properties were all part of the foreclosure of the CCUB

After the costly bankruptcy procedures which lasted from 1938 to 1945, the sum of $142,111.07 remained, and this was held in trust by the Toronto General Trust. in Regina, one of the foreclosing agents. This money, then, was combined with the money from the proceeds of the 15 acres lots.

In time, this account grew to the sum of $222,000. plus an accrued interest. This sum was held in trust by the Canada Permanent Trust Company on behalf of the bankruptcy court and in 1979-80, was deposited with the Minister of Finance of Saskatchewan, concurrent with the creation of The Doukhobors of Canada C.C.U.B. Trust Fund Act by the Saskatchewan government. This money then, belonged to the legal heirs of the CCUB or its creditors. The question arose as to who were the legal heirs? Since it was surplus, presumably, the creditors were paid off. However, there were cases of people who had lent money to the corporation who were not paid, but had not made a claim at the time of the dissolution. They had forfeited and claims of reimbursement.

Various suggestions came forth as to how this money should be disposed of – it was accumulating interest at 3 1/2 %, and if no action was taken, it could be transferred into the provincial treasury. The legal heirs appeared to be all Doukhobors who had at one time belonged to the CCUB or had had their homesteads cancelled in Saskatchewan. At the last hearing of the Commission on the problem of the disposition of former CCUB lands, which were sold to Doukhobors and private citizens, the attorney suggested the monies should be converted into a general welfare fund for all Doukhobors.

It should be noted that the Government of British Columbia profited exorbitantly from this transaction, since they had taken over 71,600 acres for $280,000. and sold all of these properties 20 years later at appreciated prices. Other former possessions such as schools were absorbed by local school boards, the famous suspension bridge built in 1913 was taken over by the Department of Highways and continued to serve the public, again without compensation to the Doukhobor toilers.

The question then arose as to what form this general welfare fund could take. A Doukhobor Institute was proposed, a Seniors’ Rest Home, a Chair of Doukhobor studies at a university. No further action was taken.

A committee from Verigin approached the provincial government with the suggestion that the funds be allocated towards heritage purposes of the Doukhobors. The result was the committee receiving $107,000. to begin forming the National Doukhobor Heritage Village in 1980, although this sum was not from this fund.

In June of 1980, the Doukhobors of Canada CCUB Trust Fund was enacted by the Government of Saskatchewan following an Order-in-Council. The intent of the fund was to further the culture and heritage of the Doukhobors in Canada. Monies left, the principle sum of $267,500 was invested in perpetuity and the interest earnings were to be shared by applying Doukhobor organizations from the three western provinces.

A formula designated a board of nine persons, consisting of three delegates from Saskatchewan, three from British Columbia, one from Alberta and one person nominated by the Attorney General of British Columbia and one of Saskatchewan. The three members each from British Columbia and Saskatchewan were to be nominated by recognized Doukhobor societies. ‘Each member holds office for a term of three years or until his successor is appointed . . . no member may be appointed for more than two consecutive terms.’

The present distribution formulae is 45% to British Columbia, 45% to Saskatchewan, and 10% to Alberta, although it is worth noting that the majority of the capital came from the CCUB residual fund of British Columbia. This formula is not rigid, and is subject to change, depending on the relative groups and societies in relation to each other.

A recent development has occurred wherein the Attorney General of Alberta no longer wishes to be involved in sanctioning the Alberta appointment, and the Alberta delegate is now simply appointed by the Doukhobor societies.

This may happen in British Columbia as well although a recent conversation with Greg Cran from the Attorney General’s Department, an original member of the negotiations, did not indicate that he was aware of any proposed changes. If this should happen, presumably the delegates will be selected as they have been in the past through a meeting and nomination system, perhaps facilitated by the Council of Doukhobors in Canada or a special meeting involving the ‘recognized Doukhobor Societies’.

It is possible that this may have to be in effect for next year’s selection of delegates stepping down.

The key section is 16[1] which reads: ‘The board shall provide for the making of grants to recognized non-profit organizations which are dedicated to establishing and maintaining the heritage and culture of the Doukhobors of Canada.’ On this basis, any legitimate Doukhobor Society, seeking to encourage and maintain Doukhobor culture and heritage, is welcome to present a submission for funding.

For further information on the CCUB Trust Fund and for free online copies of The Doukhobors of Canada C.C.U.B. Trust Fund Act, visit the Saskatchewan Queen’s Printer Website.

Ivan Vladimirovich Lopukhin, His Life and Role in Doukhobor History

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The following is a brief biographical sketch of Ivan Vladimirovich Lopukhin (1756-1816), Russian statesman, philosopher, writer, educator and philanthropist. A sympathizer and benefactor of the Doukhobor, Lopukhin intervened with Tsarist authorities on their behalf, helped ease their sufferings in the face of persecution, and masterminded their resettlement to the Molochnye Vody (“Milky Waters”) region in Tavria. Compiled from various Russian and English language sources (See Notes).

Ivan Vladimirovich Lopukhin was born 24 February 1756 in the village of Voskresenskoye, Orel province into a wealthy landowning family of the upper nobility. Plagued by a sickly childhood, he received much of his education at home. In 1775, at the age of nineteen, Lopukhin entered military service with the Preobrazhensky Regiment, but retired seven years later with the rank of polkovnik (colonel) for reasons of health.

A keen student of law, Lopukhin was appointed sovetnik (counselor) of the Moscow Criminal Court in 1782, and later he became Court President. In judicial affairs, Lopukhin was interested chiefly in reformatory aspects of the law. He once wrote that it would be better to acquit many criminals than to convict one innocent individual. However, his progressive stance resulted in a dispute with the conservative Governor-General of Moscow, J.A. Bruce, which led to Lopukhin’s forced resignation in 1785.

Thereafter, Lopukhin assumed an active role in the literary and philanthropic activities of prominent Masonic writer N.I. Novikov (1744-1818). In 1789, Lopukhin underwent a religious conversion upon recovery from a lengthy period of illness and embraced Masonry as a new, spiritual and idealistic world-view. He became Grandmaster of a Masonic lodge in Moscow, translated works of Western mystics and Freemasons, and wrote several treatises of his own. In 1790, he published ‘Nravouchitelnyi Katezhizis Istinnykh Franmasonov’, a defense of Russian Masonry that called for love of God and one’s fellow man and for constant inner, personal improvement.

In 1792, Novikov was arrested as part of Catherine the Great’s campaign to rid Russia of “the notorious new schism” of Masonry. Lopukhin was searched and interrogated for his Masonic activities. The Empress initially ordered Lopukhin into exile, but he was permitted to remain in Moscow “for the sake of his aged father.” From 1792 to 1796, Lopukhin lived and wrote in Moscow, publishing numerous literary and dramatic works.

Lopukhin’s career in the Russian civil service resumed in 1796 when Tsar Paul, recognizing his talents and abilities, summoned him to St. Petersburg and appointed him State Secretary. The following year, in 1797, Lopukhin returned to Moscow as a Senator.

In 1800, Lopukhin and Senator Spiridonov completed a three-year senatorial inspection of the provinces of Kazan, Viatka and Orenburg, in which they identified various abuses of power by the local administrations. In his report to the Tsar, Lopukhin displayed particular consideration for the peasantry.

The following year, in 1801, Tsar Alexander I ordered Lopukhin and Senator Neledinskiy-Meletskiy to undertake a senatorial inspection of the provinces of south Russia to study the status of sectarian religion in the region, and in particular, to investigate a series of complaints by Doukhobors, who had returned there from exile, about their living conditions.

Arriving in Kharkov in November 1801, Lopukhin met with the Governor and requested records relating to the history of the Doukhobors in the province. Lopukhin learned that during Catherine the Great’s reign, “several” local Doukhobors were summarily imprisoned and “not returned”. Under Tsar Paul, entire Doukhobor households were exiled into penal servitude. In August 1801, however, the exiled sectarians were returned to their former homes in Kharkov province following Tsar Alexander’s edict of release.

Portrait of Ivan V. Lopukhin (1756-1816) by Dmitry G. Levitzky.

Lopukhin was alarmed by the haste with which local authorities began “admonishing” the returning Doukhobors. He bluntly told the Governor that rebellion would surely ensue; the sectarians “did not have time to rest quietly” before they were accosted by civil and ecclesiastical officials. Lopukhin ordered the Governor to recall the “teams” sent to the districts to “counsel” the Doukhobors.

The next day, however, the Governor, “pale, with papers in hand,” rushed to Lopukhin’s lodgings with news that a bunt (rebellion) had already broken out among the Doukhobors of Izium district “where an admonition was performed.” The worried Governor informed Lopukhin that the sectarians, several of whom had already been arrested, renounced recognition of the Tsar and Jesus Christ and vowed never to pay taxes nor fulfill state obligations. The Izium land court was investigating the incident.

Lopukhin calmed the Governor by assuring him that the “rebellion” would be subdued and others prevented. The problem, as Lopukhin saw it, was that the interrogations of the Doukhobors were “needless” and “unskilled”; they served only to embitter them. The Senator defended the sectarians, remonstrating that they were “full of reverence” toward Jesus Christ and the Tsar and ready to “obey all laws” and “fulfill all land obligations”. To alleviate the situation, Lopukhin ordered the Governor to release the arrested Doukhobors and suspend the inquiry. The Governor agreed.

Lopukhin wrote a report of his investigation to the Tsar dated November 12, 1801. The Tsar was informed that the Kharkov authorities did not understand the “direct essence” of his edicts concerning the Doukhobors, that the “rebellion” was not the fault of the sectarians themselves, who displayed “faith and reverence” and “particular gratitude” towards the monarch. The Senator outlined the remedial measures he had ordered the Kharkov Governor to adopt.

During the course of his investigation, Lopukhin met for a period of several days with a sizeable group of Doukhobors. This was done in secrecy so as not to arouse “unnecessary inquisitiveness” among the Orthodox. He was impressed by the sectarians’ faith and “very fundamental and correct concepts of Christianity” and sympathized with their plight. For their part, the Doukhobors “took a liking” to Lopukhin, and they conversed openly with him about the tenets of their faith. On the last day of their meetings, the Doukhobors presented a petition to Lopukhin requesting to be established “in a separate colony” and expressing their “loyalty and real zeal toward the sovereign”.

Lopukhin wrote a second report to the Tsar, skillfully rendering the Doukhobors request. It began with a hearty defense of the sectarians in the face of unfavourable reports issued by Kharkov officials. The Senator then offered a short explanation of the Doukhobor “manner of faith”. Finally, Lopukhin relayed their request for a separate colony, using language that consciously echoed Alexander’s emphasis on legal treatment for non-conformists and his desire to lead them back to Orthodoxy. First, Lopukhin argued that the formation of a separate colony would quiet Doukhobor unrest by removing them from the harassment and animosity of local officials. Second, isolation would all but eliminate the sectarians’ ability to spread their beliefs. Finally, concentrated settlements would help well-educated, moral and patient priests bring the Doukhobors back to Orthodoxy.

The Tsar agreed wholeheartedly with Lopukhin’s proposal and immediately set in motion the consolidation of a separate Doukhobor colony in the recently incorporated lands of Novorossiya. In his January 1802 edict, the Tsar granted permission for any Doukhobor in the Novorossiya provinces to settle together in the Molochnye Vody region of Melitopol district, Tavria province, which was then a sparsely populated part of the empire. Alexander wrote to the Governor of Novorossiya that the concentration of Doukhobors, separate from other Russians, would prevent their further ruin and mistreatment, and that he considered their separation to be “a most reliable means for the extinguishing of their heresay and for the suppression of their influence on others.”  In the years that followed, the Tsar extended the edict to allow Doukhobors from across the Russian Empire to resettle in Tavria.

Lopukhin’s involvement in the “Doukhobor Affair” would determine the fate of the sect throughout Russia for the next forty years. For the first time, the Doukhobors had in Lopukhin a sympathetic high official who spoke up for the sectarians and stressed their virtues as well as their faults.  He acted as a conduit between the Doukhobors and the highest circles of Russian society, transmitting their beliefs using the language and metaphors of the Imperial Court, and in doing so, helped lay the basis for Tsar Alexander’s policy on the Doukhobors.  But for his intervention, the Doukhobors of Sloboda-Ukraine and elsewhere would have remained isolated, dispersed, voiceless and oppressed.  It is through his efforts that the Doukhobors owed a great measure of release from persecution, and also an opportunity to exist and develop as a self-contained community. 

Lopukhin left Kharkov in December of 1801 to resume his senatorial duties.  Between 1802 and 1805, he served as President of a commission “to deal with the dispute of estates in the Crimea”, travelling to the Crimea to the Crimea to settle land disputes between Tatars and Russian landlords.  In 1806, he observed the formation of national armed forces in Vladimir, Kaluga, Ryazan and Tula provinces.  In 1807, he served in the Eight Department of the Senate, a branch of the Senate which was located in Moscow. 

In 1808-1809, the “Zapiska Niekotorykh Obstoiatel’stv Zhizni i Sluzhby Dieistvitel’nago Tainago Sovietnika, Senatora I. V. Lopukhina” [“A note on some circumstances in the life and career of Acting Privy Councillor, Senator I. V. Lopukhin”] was written under Lopukhin’s dictation.  The tract contained Lopukhin’s detailed reminisces on the “Doukhobor Affair”.

In 1812, during the Napoleonic War, Lopukhin fled Moscow to escape the advancing French armies, resettling to his estate of Saviiskoye in the Baltic. In 1813, Lopukhin took a leave of absence from the Senate for health reasons, which was repeatedly prolonged.  He moved back to his family estate at Voskresenskoye and married the daughter of Moscow merchant M.E. Nikitin.  From 1814 until the end of his life, Lopukhin was a member of the Russian Bible Society, a non-denominational organization devoted to translating and distributing the Bible in Russia. 

Throughout his later career and until his death, Lopukhin was censured by Orthodox clergy, local and provincial officials, and by conservative elements within the Russian aristocracy for his efforts on behalf of the Doukhobors.  The Senator ignored the criticism until the Holy Synod (council of Orthodox bishops of the Russian Empire) reproached him for the “harmful multiplication” of Doukhobors. In response to his critics, Lopukhin composed the essay “Glas Iskrennosti” [“Voice of Sincerity”], explaining the Doukhobors’ “errors of faith”, outlining their history of persecution, and defending his activities in connection with the sect. The essay was circulated privately in 1806, but was only published posthumously in 1817.

In addition to ‘Glas Iskrennosti’, there are several historical tracts on the Doukhobors attributed to Lopukhin. The first of these, “Zapiska, Rodannaya Dukhobortsami Ekaterinoslavskoy Gubernii v 1791 g. Gubernatoru Kakhovskomu” [“Note of 1791 submitted by the Doukhobors of Ekaterinoslav Province to Governor Kakhovsky”] contains one of the earliest expositions of Dukhobor beliefs. The Note is known only in copies; the original has never been discovered.  However, scholars have ascertained that the first copy was made from a document belonging to Lopukhin.  The second tract is an 1805 note entitled “Nekotorye Cherty ob Obshchestve Dukhobortsev” [“Several Characteristics of Doukhobor Society“].While the authorship of these tracts has not been positively identified, scholars such as Svetlana Inikova have identified Masonic influences in both, and have justifiably attributed them to either an unidentified Mason or directly to Lopukhin himself. 

A prominent theme in Lopukhin’s many writings was the idea of a spiritual “inner church”, the foes of which were the secular learning and self-indulgence which kept man from following Christ and gaining “true wisdom”. Lopukhin’s ideal man, the “spiritual knight”, defended the “inner church” with the spiritual weapons of silent suffering and freely given love.  In “Glas Iskrennosti”, Lopukhin characterized the Doukhobors as the “hidden saints” of his new church.  Interestingly, perhaps the most famous convert to his idea of a new inner church was Leo Tolstoy, who became an archetype of Lopukhin’s “spiritual knight” with his “conversion” to a new non-doctrinal Christianity that abjured violence and taught that “the kingdom of God is within you”.  Tolstoy, like Lopukhin before him, would view the Doukhobors as living examples of his philosophical ideals. 

Lopukhin died at his family estate on 22 June 1816.  Among his contemporaries, he enjoyed great popularity as the epitome of the fair and disinterested judge, the philanthropist, the man who put the welfare of his Motherland before his own, the trusted advisor to the Tsars.  At the same time, his mystic writings and philosophy earned him many denigrators who accused him of hypocrisy and personal defects.  Sadly, his role and influence in the history of the Doukhobors, perhaps second only to Tolstoy amongst “outsiders” to the sect, remains largely unappreciated and forgotten.

Note

For more about Lopukhin’s legacy as a writer and thinker see: Lipski, Alexander. “A Russian Mystic Faces the Age of Rationalism and Revolution: Thought and Activity of Ivan Vladimirovich Lopukhin” in Church History (Vol. 36, No. 2 (Jun., 1967), pp. 170-188; and Billington, James H. “The Icon and the Axe, An Interpretive History of Russian Culture” (New York: Random House, 1966.

For more about Lopukhin’s investigation of the Sloboda-Ukraine Doukhobors and the formation of the Milky Waters colony see: Fry, Gary Dean. “The Doukhobors, 1801-1855: Origins of a Successful Dissident Sect” (Ph.D thesis, American University, 1976); and Savva, Vladimir Ivanovich, “K Istorii Dukhobortsev Khar’kovskoi Gubernii” (Kharkov, Kharkov Historical-Philological Society, 1893); republished in P.N. Malov, “Dukhobortsi, ikh Istoria, Zhizn’ i Bor’ba”translated as More about the History of the Dukhobortsy of Kharkov Province on the Doukhobor Genealogy Website. 

For more about Lopukhin’s role in the historiography of the Doukhobors see:Inikova, Svetlana A. Spiritual Origins and Beginnings of Doukhobor History in A. Donskov, J. Woodsworth & C. Gaffield (eds.), The Doukhobor Centenary in Canada, A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective on their Unity and Diversity. (Ottawa: Slavic Research Group and Institute of Canadian Studies at the University of Ottawa, 2000); reproduced on the Doukhobor Genealogy Website.

This article was reproduced by permission in ISKRA No. 2020 (U.S.S.C., Castlegar, BC, July 3, 2009)

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 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.

Industries

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.

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.

The Doukhobors at Veregin, Saskatchewan, 1911

Manitoba Free Press

In 1911, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood was in a period of transition. Two thousand of its members had relocated from Saskatchewan to British Columbia where they were establishing communal settlements and enterprises. Another six thousand waited to join them. While they remained in Saskatchewan, these driven, hard-working Doukhobors productively operated the CCUB agricultural, commercial and industrial enterprises there. The following account by a Winnipeg, Manitoba visitor to their community at Veregin, Saskatchewan describes the material prosperity and substantial progress of what was already then a multi-million-dollar enterprise. Published in the Manitoba Free Press on August 26, 1911. Photos courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

Nearly eleven years ago, eight thousand people harried from the realm of the Czar, sought refuge in this Canada, and under the shadow of the Union Jack set up their altars and built their homes. These Doukhobors, for it was they, now as a community, count their worldly possessions in six figures, and M. W. Cazakoff, general manager of the community, told me that this year fully $1,000,000 would pass through his hands. In addition to this all, the money lent them at the time of their immigration, including the $185,000 given by the Quakers of Great Britain and United States, has been paid back.

To many of the Canadian people, the term Doukhobor, if thought of at all, is tucked without anchor under the genus foreigner, usually has a shawl tied under its chin, and if the philosopher in question is a very deep philosopher indeed, he adds that the Doukhobor lives in villages and, oh yes, is given to going on religious marches.

CCUB general store, Verigin, Saskatchewan, 1911.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

To such I recommend a visit to Veregin, the headquarters of the Yorkton community settlement. In the town itself is the trading store of the Doukhobor society, the brick yards and the flour mill, and dotting the prairie out from it are fifty-five villages, bits of the old world framed in a setting of Canadian fields of grain. A private telephone line connects the settlement and the latest acquisition is a large size touring car. Three to four hundred magnificent horses are also the property of the society, and only the very latest in machinery and in methods of farming finds place with the Doukhobors. They have 100,000 acres of land, and in addition, the government has lent them for an indefinite period 18,000 acres – 15 acres a head.

As one of my people remarked, “Peter Verigin runs the show and Peter Verigin is no slouch”. As every one knows Mr. Verigin is the leader of the Doukhobors – heaven-sent, they believe – and his word is law. All properties and monies are in his name. Strange that a people should resist with their lives the dominance of one individual, only to seek that of another. By the way, Mr. Verigin prefers “Doukhobor” spelled “Duohobors”. At present he is in British Columbia superintending the establishment of the Kootenay-Columbia Preserving Works at Brilliant and Nelson. To British Columbia, two thousand of his people have already gone, and the rest will follow, so many this fall and the rest in two years. Especially among the older ones, the prospect of the western province is alluring. “Columbia she like Rusee, Beeg Mountains there, Me hurt in my heart for the mountains,” and the old patriarch who was speaking waved his hand with patient resignation towards my beloved prairies. Verity to each of us his own land.

Visitors at the CCUB flour mill and elevator, Verigin, Saskatchewan, 1911. This mill would process grains into flour and then ship to various destinations. Courtesy Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

But to return to the Doukhobors at Veregin. Tall, clear eyed, they stand, for the most part fair, but with here and there a dark face, publishing the story of the proximity in the old land of the Turkish border, kindly, courteous always, and with an almost infinite capacity for minding their own business. It is only when one stays with and among them that one discovers underneath the courteous veneer, a solid wall of purpose, and that purpose is rooted and grounded in religious conviction. A Doukhobor and his religion are one, and form his religion springs his whole plan and system of life.

Each leader chooses his successor, divine revelation being given him to that end, and this leader has absolute power. “Our last leader,” explained young Peter Verigin’s nephew to the Peter, “was a woman and she choose Mr. Verigin. We not know, perhaps he not know himself, who be next.”

Each year in March an annual meeting is held and to this meeting each village sends five representatives – three men and two women. Then an account is given of the year’s work, and plans are made for the coming year. A committee of three is elected, whose duty it is to advise with Mr. Verigin as to policy of the society.

CCUB members plow the prairies near Veregin, Saskatchewan, 1911. Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

A tenet of their faith teaches them that all property should be held in common; therefore the community system. Each village is given so many acres of land, according to the population of the village and to the fertility of the soil. Population varies from 50 to 250. Each village is like one family, running its own account at society stores and being credited with all the produce it may deliver. One man buys for the whole village, clothing, food, etc.

“But suppose,” asked my friend with the satiable curiosity, “two girls wanted a dress off the same piece of goods, and there was only enough for one. What would you do then?” “Go buy some more just like,” answered nephew Peter laconically. “But,“ she persisted, “don’t your people ever feel cross one with the other?” Such abounding peace and goodwill did hardly seem canny. “Yes,” answered Peter the solid, “then the old men of the village go speak with them and they are kind once more.”

This year the colony at Veregin has ten thousand acres in crop, seven thousand in oats, and three thousand in wheat. Flax is also grown to some extent. Horse ranching as an industry has also grown to considerable proportions. A few years ago cattle and sheep farming was an important factor, but the Doukhobors felt that such a practice was inconsistent with their religion, which forbids the taking of life. Now only enough cattle and sheep are kept to supply milk and wool to the colony. This spring Mr. Verigin intimated that all the men between the ages of 18 and 60, except those needed for the manning of the brickyard, etc. should go out among the “English” and bring back this fall each two hundred dollars to his own village. Of course they went. “Theirs not to make reply.”

Workers pose inside the engine room to the cable carriage assembly at the CCUB brick works, Veregin, Saskatchewan, 1911.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit.

The brick yard employs 14 men, and this season will export 1,000,000 bricks. Into the great mixing bins the clay is dumped where the power of the great engines mixes it freely. Then into the moulds and on to the trays it goes after which the formed bricks are slipped along the trolleys to the drying sheds. After so many days there, according “as the sun she is,” they are carried to the immense kilns where for nine days and nights 235,000 are at one time kept under steady fire.

Between the brickyard and the mill is a blacksmith shop, and as an example of Doukhobor attention to detail it was noticed that the yard was literally full of wagons and binders being repaired and made fit against the coming harvest.

The mill fitted with the latest machinery stands on a slight elevation just above a slough. At least, the body of water in question would be a slough to most Canadians, but the Doukhobor has dammed back the water till it is ten feet deep, and thus is the source of the mill water supply. Two hundred barrels of flour and one hundred barrels of oatmeal is the daily output. In close proximity to the mill stands the elevator, really a double elevator, for it is fitted with two engines, one working for the mill and one for the public. The Doukhobors handle not only the grain of their own people, but also buy from the general public Mr. Cazakoff told me that last year he had often counted sixty teams in the yard at once waiting to unload.

Visitors and workers pose at the CCUB elevator, Verigin, Saskatchewan, 1911.  Courtesy the Doukhobor Discovery Centre Autochrome Exhibit. K.M.H, Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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

Leo Tolstoy’s Teachings and the Sons of Freedom in Canada

by Svetlana A. Inikova

Much has been written about the Sons of Freedom in Canada. Remarkably little scholarly attention has been devoted, however, to the ideological origins and historical genesis of this zealot group. According to Russian ethnographer and archivist Svetlana A. Inikova, the roots of the Freedomite movement can be found in the intellectual ideas and philosophical writings of Russian novelist Leo N. Tolstoy. His teachings, spread by Tolstoyans living among the Doukhobors in Canada and abroad, and adopted by Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin in Siberian exile, found fertile ground among an uneducated, mystically inclined group of sectarian zealots and exerted a definite influence on the formation of the radical wing of the Doukhobor movement. In this Doukhobor Genealogy Website exclusive, Dr. Inikova offers an in-depth and critical examination of how the Freedomite movement in Canada was to become the unanticipated fruit of Tolstoy’s frequently misinterpreted ideas. Originally published in the Russian journal “Religiovedenie” [Moscow, Blagoveshchensk, No. 3, 2002]. Translated from the original Russian by Jack McIntosh.

In Russia, few people have heard of Canada’s “Sons of Freedom” or “Freedomites.” In recent years, two Russian newspaper articles are most likely all that the general reader might have read on that theme. There is a complete absence of scholarly publications on the Freedomites, although in Canada numerous academic works have been written about them, and newspapers have been full of articles and news items about their antisocial activity, sometimes filling whole columns. For almost a hundred years, the Freedomites have kept Canadian society in a state of tension, organizing acts of arson against schools and private homes and enterprises, bombing of railway and power lines, and scandalizing respectable citizenry by disrobing in public places and staging “nude parades” along the roads of Canada.

The Freedomite movement, an extremist socio-religious trend, originated among that portion of the Doukhobor sect that had come to be known as “Fasters,” those Doukhobors who in 1895, after proclaiming their pacifism, burned their weapons in the Transcaucasus and were driven by acts of government repression to resettle in Canada. The paradox was that the ideology of the Sons of Freedom, like that of the other Doukhobor-Fasters, was based on high ideals of non-violence. Moreover, the social and ethical aspect of the doctrine espoused by the Doukhobor-Fasters (non-participation in violence and exploitation, vegetarianism, renunciation of luxury, and communal way of life), adopted by them in 1893-94, had coalesced under the powerful influence of the ideas of Leo Tolstoy as propagated among the Doukhobors by “Tolstoyans” D. A. Khilkov, A. M. Bodyansky, S. T. Prokopenko, and N. Dudchenko, all of whom had lived since 1892 in the Transcaucasus. Not only did they conduct discussions and distribute publications of the “Posrednik” publishing house set up by Tolstoy and V. G. Chertkov, but Khilkov and Bodyansky, using the traditional genre of Doukhobor psalms, also composed catechisms for a “new” set of teachings that had not yet been accepted even by the Fasters. Their propagandistic activity was crowned with success only because many of Tolstoy’s ideas had been accepted by the leader of the Doukhobor-Fasters, Peter Vasil’evich Verigin, who since 1887 had been in Russia’s far north in administrative exile, all the while maintaining continual contact with his supporters through messengers. Through the efforts of the Tolstoyans, the struggle for power typical of religious sects had been turned into a socio-religious movement destined to cause many problems for authorities at all levels.

In 1855, while still a young man, Tolstoy had expressed the need to create a new religion “purged of faith and mystery, a practical religion, one not promising future bliss, but bringing about heaven on Earth.” He understood that it would be a difficult task requiring more than one generation, but “some day fanaticism or reason” would accomplish this, Tolstoy wrote in his diary. His friends and followers went further: they attempted to utilize Tolstoy’s teachings as a lever by which, as I. M. Tregubov wrote in 1889 to D. A. Khilkov, it would be possible to “turn life around,” that is, to destroy both state and church. To this end, it was necessary to spread this teaching among the rationalist sects, especially the Doukhobors, Molokans, and Stundists. In another letter to the Tolstoyan P. I. Biriukov, Tregubov emphasized that the most suitable sectarians for this purpose are the ones who “are distinguished by extraordinary self-denial, to the point of self-crucifixion,” that is, simply put, fanatics. A. M. Bodyansky also extolled the self-denial of people of deep faith. Doukhobors, or so it seemed to the Tolstoyans, entirely met these requirements.

From 1895 on, all the activity of the Tolstoyans was concentrated on the Doukhobor-Fasters: The Tolstoyans endeavoured to let the world know about their struggle against militarism, about persecutions by the government and the suffering of these true Christians, provided them with financial assistance, and later organized their resettlement in Canada and helped them become established in their new location. Not only was Tolstoy familiar with the details of all the events taking place in “Dukhoboria,” but he was at the centre of the campaign to furnish aid to the persecuted. He repeatedly expressed in letters and conversations that the “Doukhobor cause” was most important and that it was totally absorbing him. However, neither Tolstoy nor his friends were aware that they were dealing not with a rationalistic but a mystical sect in which their leader is the very incarnate Son of God, Christ. They had no idea of the immense danger inherent in fanaticism and what kind of repercussions could result from intellectual ideas sown within an uneducated, mystically inclined people. The Freedomite movement in Canada was to become the unanticipated fruit of Tolstoy’s frequently misinterpreted ideas.

When they were resettling the Doukhobor-Fasters in Canada, the Tolstoyans saw their task as that of building in a free country a “Kingdom of Truth and Love.” However, even at the time of the move, those who were closely associated with the Doukhobors and those Tolstoyans who accompanied them en route noticed that very many of their wards were by no means keen on living communally, and that among the Fasters there were some who continued to eat meat, drink and smoke. However, that did not arouse Tolstoy’s suspicions. He believed that living people have shadows, and as he wrote to one of his English followers, Arthur St. John, who assisted the emigration of the Fasters and noted vices in their midst that were a disgrace to Christians, it would be “very useful [for the Doukhobors] to have such friends as you and our other friends. You are serving them conscientiously, reminding them of their principles, and with your help they are more keenly aware of their errors.”

In 1899 D. A. Khilkov, who had exerted so much effort towards expanding the Doukhobor movement in the Caucasus and who, quite naturally, understood better than others its true essence, became disenchanted with the Doukhobors. Once he had finally come to believe that “in no respect will anything propitious come of their settlement,” he departed from Canada, where he had helped them find land and get settled. His relations with the Doukhobors essentially had come to an end, although he continued to be interested in their life. However, in that same year, 1899, A. M. Bodyansky, a friend of Khilkov’s who had already become well known to many Doukhobors in the Caucasus, arrived in Canada from exile in Pribaltiisky kray [Baltic region]. He considered himself to be a follower of Tolstoy, was long in correspondence with him, participated in several Tolstoyan colonies and expended his whole large fortune in that cause. He had served out several periods of administrative exile for spreading Tolstoyan propaganda. Bodyansky was a man fanatically committed to an idea and for the sake of bringing it to fruition spared neither himself, nor his colleagues, nor his friends. He went to Canada with the intention of assuming the role of ideological mentor to the Doukhobors, who, in his opinion, were in need as never before “of spiritual food, models of good living, of live preaching in action.” In September, 1899, Bodyansky, who was destined to play an important part in the fate of the Doukhobors, was accepted into the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood created back in 1896 at the instigation of Peter Verigin.

In the very first years in Canada, the Christian Community showed signs of splitting. Canada opened up prospects for rapid accumulation of wealth for enterprising and industrious people such as the Doukhobors indeed were. According to Canadian law, every man from the age of eighteen had to right to an allotment – a homestead 160 acres in size, which he was supposed to make over to himself. Soon after arrival, the authorities required new settlers to assume ownership of the allotted lands. They were not prohibited from combining their homesteads, living in villages and working the land jointly, but formally, each parcel of land had to have its own owner. Thus at any time the owner of a homestead could leave the community. In this opportunity lurked great danger for the sect. Vacillation and doubts began to grow within the Doukhobor milieu. The situation that had developed was all the more dangerous in that once the sect was spared compulsory military service in Canada, the powerful unifying factor of having to contend with a government over the issue of military service had disappeared.

Bodyansky saw that for the “universal brethren,” as he often called the Doukhobors in his letters, the temptation of material prosperity was proving more difficult to withstand than the Tsar’s prisons and Cossack whips, that “the spirit of moral disintegration is very rapidly conquering” them, that the “beast of the flesh” that previously had been suppressed by religious persecution and “the blind sense of a herd moving in the footsteps of its leaders” had awakened. The hopes of Tolstoy and the Tolstoyans that the Doukhobors would create a Kingdom of Truth and Love were in danger of complete collapse. Both the Tolstoyans and those Doukhobors who had taken an active part in the movement immediately saw a threat that recent rebels would quickly become law-abiding Canadians. Both the former and the latter had a stake in impeding this process.

While still in Canada, Khilkov repeatedly wrote to Tolstoy that the Doukhobors were preparing to divide up the money collected for them and live separately. Setting his hopes on Tolstoy’s authority, he appealed to him to advise the Doukhobors to live as a commune. Reports of inclinations towards private ownership also arrived from other educated friends and helpers living among the Doukhobors. Impressed by these letters and stories, Tolstoy wrote a letter to the Doukhobors on February 15, 1900, in which he reproached them for accumulating possessions and forgetting their principles. “You see it only seems to us that it is possible to remain a Christian and still have property and keep it from other people,” he wrote, “but that is impossible. People must acknowledge this – or else in a short time, nothing will be left of Christianity except words, and unfortunately, insincere and hypocritical words… At first it may seem that between renunciation of violence, refusal of military service, and recognition of private property there is no connection… But this is not true. You see, property means that that which I consider my own, I will not give to anybody who wishes to take this thing of mine, but moreover, I will defend it against him. But to defend against another that which I regard as my own cannot be done except by violence, that is, if need be, by struggle, fighting, even killing. The teachings of Christianity cannot be taken piecemeal: it is all or nothing. It is all inseparably connected as a single whole. If a person acknowledges himself to be a son of God, then there flows from this recognition love for one’s neighbour, and in exactly the same way, love of neighbour entails rejection of violence, the uttering of oaths, military service, and property… Man does not need to provide for himself, as Christ himself said. He is provided for once and for all by God: just like the birds of the air and the flowers of the field.”

S. Prokopenko, who lived with the Doukhobors, wrote sadly: “I read Lev Nikolaevich’s letter to the Doukhobors and I see that he knows little of their state of mind. In the first place, he does not know that this is sectarianism in the extreme. In the second place, he does not know that within the Doukhobor midst violence is even greater that that meted out by the Russian authorities. I say “greater,” because there is no authority that can exercise such moral violence as Doukhobors do… Lev Nikolaevich does not know that the Doukhobors possess in the highest degree a land-owning spirit and have never been otherwise.”

Tolstoy’s letter was published in England in the series Listki Svobodnogo slova by V. G. Chertkov, very close friend of Lev Tolstoy and an active participant in the campaign to defend the Doukhobors (for which he had been exiled to England) and in the organization of their emigration. The Listki were sent to the Doukhobor settlements in large quantities, and the letter was reprinted several times in separate small-format editions. It became widely known among the Doukhobors, who were well aware of the immense assistance given them by Tolstoy while they were still in the Caucasus and during their resettlement in Canada, and they regarded him as their friend. Even today, this letter is well known among Canadian Doukhobors, and the Freedomites in particular.

Dissemination of this letter was also aided by the fact that current among Doukhobors was the opinion that between “Petiushka” (P. V. Verigin) and Tolstoy there existed some sort of special invisible bond, and that Tolstoy was preaching what he had learned from Verigin. You see, Petiushka also had advised them to live in Canada as a commune. True, he had not passed on anything concerning ownership of land. In the Transcaucasus the Doukhobors had lived on state land, and the question of the moral aspects of private ownership of land had never arisen. When the Doukhobors were getting ready to depart from Russia to seek out a place to live, they were entirely permissive in regard to land purchase. One of the respected “starichki” [elders], Nikola Zibarov, wrote to Arthur St. John: “As to whether we wish to rent or buy [land – S.I.], for us it would be good to have either in mind, that is, either rental or such lands as we might buy. What would be most convenient for us would be to settle in America on government lands, if that is possible.”

Most likely the Doukhobors could have found some sort of compromise on the land question or stalled until the arrival to Canada of Peter Verigin, whose term of exile was coming to an end in the summer of 1902. Much more acute was their reaction to the demand of the government for obligatory registration of marriages and reporting to the authorities the number of births and deaths. The Doukhobors considered this to be interference in the sect’s business. They had traveled to a free country where they could live according to their own laws. Here, however, instead of Russian law, which could be evaded by bribery, Canadian law stood as an impassable wall they could not get around. The Doukhobors became perplexed, frightened, and deeply indignant.

A. M. Bodyansky decided to take advantage of the situation that had developed by attaching a Christian slant, in the spirit of Tolstoy, to their imminent struggle for independence, this time from the Canadian state. Later, in a letter to Tolstoy, he wrote: “Accordingly, even if one were to acknowledge the government of Canada as perhaps the best of governments, one had to expect efforts therefrom to turn us into Canadians devoted to the interests of the new fatherland, and not to expect any help or sympathy at all in enabling us to be better sons of humanity. I found it necessary to protect the Doukhobors against the undesirable results of such government efforts. What was necessary in this regard? In the first place, it seemed to me essential to convince the Doukhobors that to achieve the goal of a better life, people ought not associate themselves with any national state “herd” at all. In the second place, it was essential to take up such a position with them that we would in reality not belong to any state herd… The moment had come when one had either to reject any striving toward a better life, or through direct ways of bringing this life into being openly express one’s striving towards it. And I seized the moment and came out onto the new stage all the more boldly because your letter to the Doukhobors in which you advise them not to be landowners, and its publication and wide distribution by Chertkov, compelled me to believe that I would find support in this cause.”

Impressed by Tolstoy’s letter, Bodyansky, in the name of the Doukhobors, wrote a declaration to the Canadian authorities signed by twenty-two elders, and in June 1900 the Doukhobors delivered it to the government agent in Yorkton. In this declaration they announced that they could not obey government laws that violate the law of God:

1) They cannot secure land for themselves, as it belongs to God, whereas “to secure land as the property of individuals or communities constitutes a profound violation of God’s law that will more than anything else impede the establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth…”;

2) They cannot register weddings in a police book; they cannot go along with marriage unions being moved “from God’s jurisdiction to that of the police…”;

3) They see no need to enter births and deaths in police books, as the Heavenly Father knows this all anyway.

In an attempt to define Bodyansky’s role in the publication of the declaration, P. I. Biriukov wrote that this friend of Doukhobors, “in sympathy with those high Christian ideals, was, so to speak, the literate voice of the Doukhobors’ protest against the Canadian government.” They themselves accepted this protest more on faith than by agreement with its content. When Biriukov asked one of the signatories how it came about that the Doukhobors signed the letter, that person replied: “… you know that we are not clever enough to understand every word. And there were words we thought inappropriate for us, but B[odyansky] is a persistent fellow and always interprets things in his own way.”

Once they had so incautiously, using someone else’s words, proclaimed to all of Canada their rejection of land ownership, they felt compelled to continue to defend the position thrust upon them. The Freedomites became the staunchest defenders of this idea. To this very day a Freedomite settlement exists at Gilpin (near Grand Forks in the province of British Columbia), whose inhabitants not only reject land ownership, but even refuse to pay any taxes on it, on the basis that “the land is God’s.”

So as to deprive the Doukhobors of any opportunity to retreat, Bodyansky hastened to send this declaration not only to the Canadian government, but also to like-minded Tolstoyans in different countries, with a request to translate it into French and German and publish it in the newspapers so that the world would know of this new heroic deed of the Doukhobors. However, he himself had a very low opinion of the Christian virtues of the “universal brotherhood.” On July 8, 1900, Bodyansky wrote to V. D. Bonch-Bruevich, the future historian of religious sectarianism, who accompanied to Canada the fourth party of Doukhobors and helped them get settled: “Notwithstanding [their] world-renowned Christian exploit, it seems to me that there is very little true Christianity among them, at least, much less than among Orthodox peasants, not to mention the rationalist sects. And a terribly repulsive characteristic of the Doukhobors is a certain slyness attainable only by sectarians holding to a secret doctrine; also, their inordinate pride.”

Bodyansky set himself the goal of not letting the Doukhobors stop their forward movement or become complacent. Accordingly he strove to stir up Doukhobor society by all possible means. Evidently it was he who brought to Canada two letters written by P. V. Verigin, one of which, dated January 4, 1896, was addressed to Nikolai Trofimovich Iziumchenko, then serving out his exile in Siberia for rejecting military service, and the other, dated November 25, 1896, to the Tolstoyan Evgenii Ivanovich Popov. Although there is no direct proof that it was Bodyansky himself who acquainted the Doukhobors with these letters, it is quite obvious that he along with the most radical of the Doukhobors used them while composing a catechism for a new belief system in which the fundamentals of Freedomite doctrine were laid out. I would like to dwell on the content of these letters in some detail.

In his letter to Iziumchenko, Verigin philosophized on the theme of true Christian living. Clearly, some of the thoughts expressed in this letter were inspired by the philosophical writings and letters of Tolstoy that had been furnished in quantity in published and manuscript form by the Tolstoyans. But Verigin, accepting these thoughts as a foundation, attempted to develop them further, taking them to their logical conclusion, arguing them to the point of total absurdity. It is difficult to tell how sincere he was, but he was sure of the originality of his thinking. In this letter Verigin tries to allay in advance any suspicion of his having borrowed ideas from Tolstoy, remarking offhandedly: “In what does his [Tolstoy’s – S.I.] philosophy consist? I have not read his works. Only by hearsay do I know that he rejects the legitimacy of modern ‘civilization,’ that is, progress.” He wrote that the ability to read and write, which Doukhobors had always regarded with disfavour, ‘destroys the attraction of the personal encounter,’ and schools corrupt the morals of children. Moreover, “all of the things by means of which literacy is achieved are obtained by hard labour, and so we have to avoid any part in the enslavement of others, in whatever manner.” Verigin announced that he does not consider labour as basic to human life, but that if we moderate our needs, it is possible to get by in tranquility without working. Citing the words of Christ: “Man does not live by bread alone,” Verigin wrote that humanity is thereby liberated ‘from the slavery of physical, unnatural labour.” A person should assume the position of a guest on the Earth and return to nature. By being abstemious in his diet, a person could, in Verigin’s opinion, have a lifespan with what he possesses of one hundred years, and in that time the Earth would return to its original state, and “humanity, along with spiritual growth, lost by Adam and Eve, would also attain a natural heaven on earth” and be fed “legitimately” – with fruit. “People would gradually become used to bodily nudity,” Verigin reasoned further, “having taken off all clothing and eaten all their bread, humanity would arrive at its original state.” True Christians “should abandon physical labour and go to spread the Gospel, that is, Christ… If some want to work, let them, but we should work exclusively on behalf of Christ. The bread of moderation thus should be bestowed from our Heavenly Father on every person, whether he works or not: “the birds of the air sow not, neither do they reap, but they are satiated.”

In his letter to E. I. Popov, Verigin discussed marriage in the spirit of Tolstoy’s postscript to his Kreutzer Sonata. He proclaimed sexual relations to be sinful and advocated chaste upbringing of children. Incidentally, in this letter Verigin did not conceal the fact that these thoughts had already been expressed by Tolstoy: “The question of sexual relations or marriage has been treated in sufficient detail and reliably in a leaflet contained in letters sent to me. This thought is probably L. N.’s… I repeat that legitimate, clean upbringing of children would be most beneficial, as L. N. also points out. Then the difference in people’s lives would be greater than it is now.” On the subject of mercy, Verigin expressed the thought that mercy presupposes not only rejection of the killing of animals, but even of the use of horses. Expressing his opposition to civilization, he reproached E. Popov for being afraid of complete simplicity. Verigin, on the contrary, regarded returning to the sources as his goal, even if humanity were to revert to the world of the apes. “My soul has been in pain, dear Evgenii Ivanovich, looking at the fruits of civilization,” he wrote. Complete satisfaction in life, in Verigin’s words, he experienced when he observed people wandering aimlessly, especially in the forest. A person would not die in the forest, if he were eating grass and roots, and in a warm climate he could even do without clothing. “Even if I did have to die of the cold and hunger, I agree that it would be better to die with honour than to be a barbarian who lives a hundred years, but at the expense of one’s environment.”

Verigin’s letters were evidently discussed among the Doukhobors closest to Bodyansky and were received by them as a new Gospel from Christ – i.e. Petiushka. These people with total sincerity desired to live true Christian lives, following every letter of their leader’s new teaching. Continuing the work perfecting the Doukhobor belief system begun back in the Caucasus, Bodyansky recruited this group of Doukhobors to work with him on the composition of a new catechism that would reflect their spiritual advancement. The catechism was written in 1900 by Bodyansky, with the participation and approval of the elders. In it Verigin’s letters were used; to be more precise, the catechism was drawn up in such a manner that the ideas expressed therein were in harmony with what Verigin had written and with which Bodyansky, in the main, agreed. Bodyansky formulated their corresponding phraseology and added ideas of his own on true Christian living. In 1901, after Bodyansky had already left Canada, he published the catechism in Geneva in the form of a small-format booklet entitled Kniga zhizni khristianskoi ili otvetnaia rech’ veruiushchego o delakh zhiteiskikh [Book of Christian life or answers of the believer to questions on matters of everyday life]. The author discovered a copy in the Museum of the History of Religion in St. Petersburg.

This book sets forth essentially the whole of Freedomite doctrine, and those who took part in its creation became the leaders of the Freedomite movement. The Kniga zhizni … opens with the same question as the title of the well-known Doukhobor psalm “What manner of man art thou?” In the original, the answer that followed was “I am a man of God.” Here at once appeared a new understanding of life and one’s place therein: “[I am] a simple man.” Further on it states that truth lies in the words of Jesus Christ: “Be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect,” and in order to be perfect, one should live as Jesus did, that is according to God’s law. One can apprehend the law of God by means of “the voice of God in human understanding.”

In the Doukhobor belief system, inner revelation played a large part in apprehending God’s will, but in actuality it was their leader who uttered the will of God, and not every believer. According to the new teaching, each person should feel within himself the voice of God. The essence of God’s law is to strive for spiritual perfection, and for this it is essential to be free, wise, and meek. At this point it was explained how to understand these qualities. Let us take note of the prerequisites for a person to be considered free: “Not to have over himself any tsar or earthly superior, but to have God within himself as tsar, neither to lord it over people nor to subordinate oneself slavishly to others, neither to swear nor take an oath, neither to borrow nor be beholden, neither to hire nor hire oneself out, not to own property, not to enter into marriage, not to indulge the flesh, neither to have fatherland nor clan nor tribe, but to acknowledge all people as kinfolk, not to conform with human laws, but to be in all things a servant of one’s own clear conscience – that is what it means to be free.” To conform to human laws means to reject the laws of God. Clearly, these formulations are very strict and uncompromising.

It is well known that there had previously been no fasting among the Doukhobors. However, Bodyansky included in the book a section entitled “On fasting,” asserting that “power of spirit over flesh” is achieved thereby. In the section “On instruction” he affirmed that the simple ability to read and write is necessary for a person to be able to communicate with people. It is necessary to learn trades that are “needed for a simple life.” But one can do without scholarly learning, inasmuch as scientific, artificial knowledge brings little that is useful and much that is harmful. “Life goes on, and will itself find everything it needs. And only that is necessary for life which life itself attains simply through experience, while everything artificially acquired damages the simplicity and directness of its path toward perfection.” A man must work, but unselfishly and only to satisfy the needs of a simple and righteous life. Work that satisfies whims based on greed is disreputable. A man should be fed “with those things intended by God for the nourishment of his flesh: fruits, roots, greens and seeds – food from plants, not from animals.” And the use of leather and oils from animals was equated to the use of meat. However, the use of the labour of animals was permissible on condition that they be rewarded with feed and tending, but with this reservation, “for a person whose conscience allows this.” It was proposed that surplus domestic animals be set free: “If you do not keep them under compulsion, you will not [need to] feed them.” And meals should be prepared simply: “the less preparation, the greater the simplicity.” Clothing should also be just as simple, for the sole purpose of protecting the body from bad weather. It should be self-made, without adornment, and “the clothing of men and women should differ little.” Only those with families should have a permanent place of residence, while “there is no reason for a single person to curtail his freedom by attaching himself to one place.” Righteous Christians seeking a simple life were supposed to live “in warm and temperate” countries, “blessed with the fruits of the earth.”

The section on property and money is very interesting. “Property” is defined as “proof of the victory of the flesh over the human spirit.” Acknowledgement of land ownership is declared to be “a sin of folly.” Property and money, the Kniga zhizni… states, are the handiwork of the devil. “It is impossible to achieve perfection in life without first having rejected the use of money.” A man in whom the spirit is stronger than the flesh should remain celibate, and he who is married should live as brother and sister or may separate [from his wife]. Marriage is within God’s jurisdiction. Marriage is designated by God for procreation. “Therefore copulation between husband and wife only avoids the sin of adultery for the husband when it is required by his wife, and for the wife only when her maternal flesh requires conception.” No kinship in terms of birth in the flesh need be recognized, but only kinship in spirit, truth and way of life. Observers of the law of God should live communally in spirit, way of life, and flesh. The spiritual commune is the Universal Brotherhood, the commune of the flesh is the family. The chief business of the communal lifestyle is the Brothers’ Home – a place for the homeless, the ill, wanderers, a place of assembly and community workshops. The commune will attain perfection “when in it there will be no place of residence other than the Brothers’ Home – God’s temple, when there will be no everyday activities apart from those done in common, when there will be no property except communal property, and when Christ’s spirit will govern the commune.” The state, as well as industrial and commercial enterprises, was declared to be under the sway of the devil.

Such are the fundamental ideas contained in the Kniga zhizni…. Also included are long discourses, clearly incomprehensible to the simple peasant, on flesh and spirit, the origins of water and air, and so on. At the beginning of the century the Kniga zhizni was well known among the Freedomites. During my visit with them in the year 2000, I was interested in ascertaining whether today’s Freedomites are aware of its existence and how they perceive the doctrine expounded therein. After reading it through, all of those whom I asked unanimously recognized it as being in harmony with Freedomite beliefs and with the ideal pursued by the old-time Freedomites (and from which their descendents have long since deviated). Not only did the Freedomites in Gilpin acknowledge the printed doctrine as their own; it unexpectedly turned out that they are in possession of the book itself. About ten years ago it had come into their hands in manuscript form, lacking the first few pages, from an old Freedomite woman, whereupon it had been typed up and several copies given out. Quite recently it had been read and discussed at meetings. To be sure, Freedomites have not abandoned the memorization of psalms and stishki and their attachment to ritual that Bodyansky had spoken out against in his new catechism.

While living in England, Vladimir Chertkov and his wife Anna exerted a definite influence on the formation of the radical wing of the Doukhobor movement. During the first years, they continually supplied Canadian Doukhobors with large quantities of books, primarily those of their own “Svobodnoe Slovo” [Free Word] publishing house, with issues of the journal of the same title and with Listki Svobodnogo slova [Free Word Leaflets]. Among these books were many ethical and religious works by Tolstoy: Kratkoe izlozhenie Evangeliia [The Gospel in brief], O polovom voprose: mysli L. N. Tolstogo, sobrannye Chertkovym [On the sex question: thoughts of L. N. Tolstoy, collected by Chertkov], Mysli o Boge L. N. Tolstogo, sobrannye iz ego pisem i dnevnikov za period 1885-1900 g. [Thoughts on God by L. N. Tolstoy, collected from his letters and diaries over the period 1885-1900], and others.

The Chertkovs carried on a voluminous correspondence with the Doukhobors, endeavouring to exhort them, maintain their enthusiasm, and inform them of the admiration that their exploits were calling forth among sympathizers all over the world. Interestingly, among their addressees were many of the individuals who formed the nucleus of the Freedomite movement. The aforementioned Nikolai Zibarov lived for a time with the Chertkovs in England; later in Canada, he continued to be in close contact with them. He wrote to the Chertkovs: “We have also received all your books and L. N. Tolstoy’s letters that you sent to our address. We shall try to send the books around to those you have indicated. Another Doukhobor, Evdokim Popov, who shared the Freedomite world view, wrote to them: “The newspapers and booklets I am receiving from you are reviving me.” The Chertkovs exchanged letters with and sent books to A. Makhortov, a prominent figure in the new movement. “Such a booklet can be important for saving the life of any … send it, we will strive with you towards the love of God’s way of living,” was Makhortov’s appeal to them. The stream of literature and letters from the Chertkovs did not remain unnoticed by the local authorities. “Dear Annushka, I don’t know, but it seems the government is angry with you. The agent himself has more than once or twice stated that you are supposedly giving us instructions,” wrote Makhortov in another letter.

The official’s interest in Anna Chertkova was not unfounded. She had composed, specially for the Doukhobors, her Prakticheskii uchebnik angliiskogo iazyka, prednaznachennyi dlia russkikh poselentsev v Amerike [Practical textbook of the English language intended for Russian settlers in America], which the “Svobodnoe Slovo” publishing house published in the second half of 1900, presenting what were in her view the most important themes of conversation. This textbook was intended to help Doukhobors propagandize their views among Canadians. It included such phrases as: “All governments are founded on violence,” “they are maintained by armies, courts, prisons, and the police,” and “we can obey only what is not contrary to our conscience.” On the matter of registering marriage, divorce, and death, the Doukhobors were supposed to answer: “We will gladly answer accurately when people ask us, but we cannot promise anything”; “a promise binds a person’s conscience and action”; “even in small things we wish to be free”; “brotherly love is higher than fleshly love”; and “we do not seek pleasure in marriage.” Further on it speaks of schooling, social injustice, and land ownership: “we are not against schools, but we are not sympathetic to compulsory education”; “there are many harmful and stupid books in the world”; “if everyone believed it his duty to work, there would not be as many hungry poor folk in the world”; “we believe that private ownership of land should not exist”; “the person who is working on a piece of land now is the one who owns it”; “on the land question it is useful to read the works of two authors: the American Henry George and our Russian writer Leo Tolstoy. For several years the Chertkovs provided this textbook to Doukhobors, which undoubtedly furthered the spread of Tolstoyan ideas among the Doukhobors and the rise of the Freedomite movement.

Thus we see that by 1900 Freedomites already had a completely formulated and accepted doctrine. Moreover, some of them had begun to put the new ideas into practice. Their activity began with adoption of the simple life: they let their beards grow so as to be natural, whereas it had been traditional among Doukhobors to shave; they replaced the age-old brightly embroidered Doukhobor apparel with the plainest of clothing. Such a change was noticed immediately by everyone, and the rest of the Doukhobors were very disapproving.

The publication by Chertkov and Bonch-Bruevich of P. V. Verigin’s letters in England in 1901 contributed to an increase in the number of followers of the new teaching. Among these letters was the letter to T. Iziumchenko of January 4, 1896. Now it became the property not of a narrow circle, but of the whole community. Doukhobors considered it themselves duty bound to acquire this “new Gospel,” and parcels full of the Pis’ma… [Letters…] arrived in Canada. The Freedomite Nick Novokshonoff, whose father Kuz’ma was one of the first Sons of Freedom, has confirmed that the Freedomites “read these letters as they read other similar materials, carefully look into them and act upon them, albeit not without making mistakes.” The publication of Verigin’s letters served as a stimulus to the movement, a push towards moving from general discussion to action.

Meanwhile, tension between the Doukhobors and the government was growing. The Canadian government was perplexed, as were the English and American Quakers who had assisted the migration of the Doukhobors and had assured everybody of the law-abiding nature of the new settlers. The Doukhobors themselves were in a very ticklish situation. They did not know what to do: stay in Canada or look for new places to live, and they tossed and turned, unable to decide on anything.

At the request of the Canadian government, Aylmer Maude, an English follower of Tolstoy who had assisted the Doukhobor migration to Canada, wrote trying to convince them that acceptance of land does not contradict God’s law, as they would be able to work it in common. He also endeavoured to explain why they were being asked to register vital statistics. This letter caused the position of some Doukhobors to waver, and opinions were divided. However, A. M. Bodyansky and his close circle of Doukhobor associates obstinately continued to uphold the proclaimed three points. It is possible that Maude, who was well known and enjoyed prestige among the Doukhobors, could have succeeded in swaying the Doukhobors towards an agreement with the government, but Bodyansky, over his own signature and that of his very close companion-in-arms Fyodor Dutov, sent Maude a very harsh rebuke. It was distributed to all the villages through the collective efforts of delegated elders. A copy of the letter was sent to the Canadian government. On October 14, 1900, at Kamenka, in the northern colony (in what was soon to become northeastern Saskatchewan), where Bodyansky was living, as well as other Tolstoyans and some Stundists, Doukhobor delegates assembled in order once again to discuss the demands of the authorities. The response of the Doukhobors, judging by its style and strong social overtone, was entirely the work of Bodyansky. In the name of the commune he proclaimed that they recognize God alone to be the owner of land, and that land ownership is the cause of social injustice when those who are not working on the land own it.

In February 1901, delegates from the Doukhobors of the southern colonies addressed the government and all nations with an appeal in which they expressed the desire to leave Canada. They requested permission from the Canadian government to remain in Canada until they found a new refuge. The Doukhobors indicated a desire to settle on government-owned land and pay rent for it. At the same time they announced that they would not pay any taxes in support of the requirements of the state, that they were renouncing all civil rights and obligations and were content that their marriages and children from these marriages be considered illegitimate. Expressing their willingness to provide general figures for statistical purposes, they categorically refused to collect them systematically. The Doukhobors appealed to the governments of North America and Turkey with an explanation of their beliefs and a request to take them in.

Tolstoy knew what was happening among the Canadian Doukhobors, being informed by mail both by Tolstoyans and the sectarians themselves. Interestingly, Tolstoy spoke out against such an extreme approach to the land question and registration of vital statistics. On January 17, 1902, he wrote to Peter Verigin in Obdorsk that he was “very much against their refusal to accept land as private property,” because on more important issues “they are departing from the requirements of Christian living,” while here, for the sake of nominal recognition of ownership of land “they are throwing their lives into disarray.” That also applied to their refusal to register marriages and births. In another letter, written to Chertkov on April 19-22 of the same year, Tolstoy remarked that “here property itself is not being rejected, but only private property outside the commune, and I think this to be unimportant and on this account it is not worth quarrelling with the government and giving enemies a weapon to use against themselves and disturb their lives; moreover, much greater compromising decisions than this will have to be made: whether to go out to earn wages doing harmful work or use someone else’s money that has been acquired by evil means. The same goes for the refusal to give information. Of course, you are right, it is not for us to judge, but, as for me personally, I would not do this.”

In February 1902 the government announced that lands allotted to the Doukhobors but not yet signed for as of the first of May would be regarded as free, but later the term was extended by another six months. Evidently the Canadian authorities had been informed that on July 29th, P. V. Verigin’s term of exile would end, and they hoped that the issue would be resolved one way or another with his arrival. Some Doukhobors, not very many, it is true (in February 1902, eighteen families), had begun to make over plots of land to themselves and leave the commune to set up farms of their own. It became perfectly obvious that a portion of the Doukhobors were prepared to enter into an agreement with the government and subject themselves to Canadian laws. The Doukhobor community was impatiently awaiting the arrival of their leader to Canada.

By the spring of 1902 all the Doukhobors had already studied Verigin’s letters. Many interpreted them as a sacred commandment, and believed it necessary as his arrival approached to accomplish something very momentous for the spiritual growth of the whole Doukhobor community, to continue that movement towards Christian ideals which they had begun in the Caucasus and for which their leader had served fifteen years in exile. Besides that, the exit from the commune of even those eighteen families could turn into a chain reaction ending in the complete collapse of the sect. Only an explosion of religious enthusiasm, and new persecution and suffering, could unite them.

The conflict with the government, the activity of Bodyansky, the Chertkovs and other Tolstoyans, the publication of Verigin’s letters, the evident danger of assimilation, and the tense expectation of the arrival of “Christ” – all this prepared the way for the events that unfolded in 1902.

In the spring of 1902 the first preachers of Freedomite doctrine began to preach from village to village. “One woman is not dressing up in pretty clothes, she is walking around the settlements in simple gray apparel, she’s breaking mirrors and saying that we must destroy all temptations, because temptations have ruined people, temptations have forced the people to work hard,” Bodyansky was informed by his Doukhobor friend Evdokim Popov. “There should be freedom not only for horses and cows, but even the land has to be liberated. People should give total freedom to all creatures and to the land, so that the land will return to the original paradise in which Adam and Eve lived. Some are releasing their horses and cows and are beginning to do their work themselves. Hitching themselves to the plough are women and men, girls and boys. Others are starting to abuse, chase them around and beat them up. Some of them have quit using milk, butter, and eggs.” Even before that, the diet of the Doukhobors in Canada had been rather meagre. Now, however, the Freedomites had totally condemned themselves to a hungry existence. Early in May another Doukhobor, Vasili Potapov, reported in the same vein to Arthur St. John: “As you see, all of these people are striving towards perfection, but how they will achieve it, I do not know,” he concluded.

Both correspondents remarked on the fact that some Doukhobors had been going on very prolonged fasts, a phenomenon that had not previously been characteristic of the sect. Thoughts of liberating their cattle had been in their minds for a long time. As early as the spring of 1901, Evdokim Popov had written to V. D. Bonch-Bruevich: “My beloved brother, what do you think about the animals we torment day and night and do not see ourselves. God created truth not just for people, but for all living things. Dear brother, where will there be a master craftsman capable of designing such a plough as could carry two people and plough the earth?! Or a conveyance such that two people [could] carry several puds [an Imperial Russian unit of measure equal to 36.11 lbs). Or that there be justice on Earth.” Another Doukhobor, A. S. Popov, sharing his thoughts with Bonch-Bruevich, wrote: “Surely the Lord did not create animals for humans to oppress and constrain in order to maintain their worldly life? If I wish to be liberated from slavery, I then must not have slaves, for whatever you do not wish for yourself, do not do unto others.”

In the summer of 1902 a group of Doukhobors began to go from village to village, reproaching their brethren for forsaking the spiritual for the material and agitating for them to stop constraining their cattle and to let them loose into God’s freedom. It was at that time that the name of the new wave emerged: Syny svobody [Sons of Freedom] or Svobodniki [Freedomites]. Their advocates cited the New Testament (Romans 8, 19-21): “For the creature was made subject to vanity, not willingly, but by reason of him who hath subjected the same in hope, because the creature itself shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.” In a group letter to the Chertkovs, the Freedomites wrote that they had decided to let their cattle go free, because “all existing life is God and is present in all. And if we are to love God (the first commandment), then we must without fail love all beings, from the human being down to the smallest living creature, and we must bow down to the spirit of love and truth.” Such an all-embracing pantheism, the notion of God as nature or life, had not previously been characteristic of Doukhobors. Of course, they said that “there is not one place where God does not dwell,” and “where love is, there is God,” but nevertheless they conceived of God as Spirit existing separately from the visible world. They were borrowing these new ideas from Tolstoy’s teachings.

The Freedomites requested the Immigration Agent in Yorkton to find a place for their cattle “in a land where they would not suffer from the frost and could feed themselves without human aid that is unnecessary, in our opinion.” The Canadian government was at a loss as to what it was these peculiar people really wanted, who with such toil had acquired these cattle, and now were asking to release them.

Talks with the government went on for two months. The government declared that it did not possess such lands, and insisted that the Freedomites abandon their escapade. On August 17th herdsmen abandoned their cattle “to the will of God.” Some of them were caught by farmers, but the majority were rounded up by men sent by the government. These cattle were sold at auction, and the money subsequently used to feed those same Freedomites. In their aspiration to give all living things freedom and thereby become liberated themselves, these Doukhobors were completely sincere. Not only Canadians, but even their own kindred Doukhobors did not understand them and made fun of them. Withstanding their derision was more difficult than carrying heavy loads on their backs or hitching themselves to ploughs and wagons.

Because the use of animal skins was equated with the eating of meat, the Freedomites decided to do away with that as well. In the village they went from house to house collecting horse collars, harness, leather foot-ware, and fur coats and, after stacking them up, burned them.

Then the Freedomites demonstratively began to give away the money in their possession to the government agent in Yorkton, declaring that they wished to render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and henceforth not be indebted to anyone.

On the whole, Tolstoy reacted approvingly to the appearance of this new wave in Doukhoborism. On August 20th, 1902 he wrote to I. M. Tregubov that as he was thinking about them, he experienced a feeling “similar to that which I would feel watching a person crawling up a mountain I should climb, who had already climbed high and was grasping for a ledge or branch by which he could immediately pull himself yet much higher, but from which he might easily slip and fall very far. I am afraid of this, but I cannot say anything to him, because I do not know how strong he is, and his very striving gladdens me. I do not agree that we should use violence against animals or children for their own good, although such a thought has somewhere crossed my mind”. In another letter to James Mavor dated November 30th, 1902, Tolstoy wrote: “I could find their conduct to be mistaken only if I were convinced that they were ignoring more important things than the use of animals. But as I do not know that, I cannot render judgment on them. While I would not have advised them to do what they have done, I nevertheless cannot help but admire their spiritually motivated self-denial.” Three years later, when a conversation at Yasnaya Polyana turned to the Doukhobors’ attitude towards animals, Tolstoy said “…that they are releasing animals is as it should be.”

With rare exceptions, the Tolstoyans also displayed a positive attitude towards the Freedomite initiatives. P. I. Biriukov had already long since abandoned leather shoes and wore “vegetarian slippers,” as Tolstoy described them. Evgenii Popov greeted this news avidly. He had written a book on working land without the use of cattle: Khlebnyi ogorod ili iaponsko-kitaiskoe ruchnoe zemledelie [The bread garden; or Japanese-Chinese manual land-tilling]. In a letter to P. V. Verigin after the latter had already arrived in Canada, he wrote that he was delighted with the news “that the brethren have decided to reject coercion and the use of domestic cattle, because this is the direct consequence of their refusal to kill and eat animals… We must use all our mental powers, do all possible experiments on working the land without cattle and without animal fertilizer, invent foot-ware and clothing without skins and wool and such like, and if all these experiments prove unsuccessful and useless, only then will we have the right to give up the struggle.”

The Freedomites hastened to resolve the issue over cattle, as they were preparing to leave Canada for warm countries where they would be nourished by “food from God” and live like Adam and Eve. Migration agitation enveloped not only the Sons of Freedom, but also other Doukhobors who did not entirely share the radicalism of their brethren. Many were convinced that as soon as Verigin arrived, migration would begin.

P. V. Verigin was delayed in Russia due to red tape in procuring an external passport; then en route to Canada he made a side trip to visit the Chertkovs in England. In the autumn of 1902, without waiting for their leader, the Sons of Freedom set off on foot “to greet the bridegroom” and spread the good news of the new doctrine. The pilgrimage began from the village of Truzhdeniye, where its initiators were living. Six families, including old people and children, started out, taking with them neither clothing nor food. They walked from village to village, and their ranks steadily increased by three or four families from each village. Different sources fix the number of participants in the trek from 1500 to 2000 people. The number of pilgrims might have been considerably greater had not P. V. Verigin’s mother spoken out against it. One of the Tolstoyans living in Kamenka at the request of V. G. Chertkov maintained a diary in which he described everything that happened in that period. In his conversations he tried to ascertain the reasons for the pilgrimage, as the Freedomites themselves understood them: “Where are you going?” “We are going into the world to restore Christ’s behest; we will go wherever it takes us, but we will not come back. It is not permissible for us to keep money, or iron – even needles.” – “Why do you not want needles?” I asked a girl of about sixteen. “Look here, our people want to free men from the mines, so they will not be tormented. We should feed ourselves only with fruits, vegetables, grain or fowl; we think we should be clothed in leaves, or go entirely naked, because to make clothing, iron and the digging of ore is necessary. We should not bury the dead, because in order to dig a grave, you need a shovel – iron. So if someone dies, we shall leave him on the road and walk on farther”… And one old man told us: “We came out to get away from smokers and vodka drinkers, everything is bad among us, we cannot do anything.” Some of them are taking with them neither needles, nor matches, nor knives, not even bags. Homes, bread, gardens, vegetables – they have abandoned everything, saying the communal treasury will list everything and sell it and the money will go to feeding them… In the north they have also removed clothing, fur coats, and so on. An old man sent a wagon, and they seized it for the treasury. In some villages they burned or tore apart vans. We must, they say, enter into a primitive state of being. Man used to have skin like animal horn, thick, and he was without clothing, except for something on his feet.” One of the wanderers thus explained his pilgrimage: “I myself do not know where I am going, but I feel the need to go. You see, this feeling – it is the voice, the spirit of Christ, which is sending me. He is the master, and I am his messenger, I do his will, the will of the Father. Man is a stranger on the Earth; a Christian should not live in one place. No matter that I could have got settled in one place and lived peacefully for myself. No, my conscience will not let me, because it is impossible to live in tranquility when people are perishing.”

For all the variety of their motivations, they all fitted within the framework of the new worldview and complemented one another. But behind them there stood deeper goals that were very important for the sect: through suffering to recover their dampened religious enthusiasm, to unite the Doukhobors, to build an insuperable barrier between them and Canadian society, thereby preventing assimilation of their community. The vast majority of the Freedomites of that time were unaware of the deep purposes underlying their pilgrimage. On the other hand, their leaders understood them perfectly well.

Singing psalms, the huge throng of poorly dressed, hungry people proceeded along Canadian roads, horrifying the inhabitants. It was already cold, and well-wishers tried to persuade the Freedomites to return to their villages, frightening them with the onset of winter, but they replied with a rhyming couplet: “Tomu zima, u kogo very nema” [It is winter for one who lacks faith]. During the trek the Freedomites dined on raw vegetables, apples, and bread given to them by tender-hearted Doukhobors and Canadians, but there were also instance in which farmers came out with rifles to confront the wanderers. In uninhabited places the Freedomites gathered and ate wild roses and cranberries. They would spend the nights wherever they could, with people in the villages, in abandoned granaries, or in haystacks. It is a wonder nobody died of cold and starvation.

The police made an effort to return the Doukhobors to their homes, but they failed. Then the women and children were detained at Yorkton, locked in barracks, and the men allowed to go on farther. The Doukhobors had become very weak and exhausted from their wanderings and from hunger. November cold spells began, and many were compelled to return home. Only four hundred people walked as far as the town of Minnedosa. They were carted back to Yorkton and along with their families already there sent by train to their places of residence.

The Freedomites wrote concerning themselves “We are out of our minds for the sake of Christ….” They desired to place themselves on a level with the poor and not to possess anything except the spirit of God and love. They explained their vagrancy by saying that they must not care about that which is liable to decay, and that “the birds neither sow nor reap, yet the Lord feeds them.” The Freedomite pilgrimage was in complete accord not only with the Kniga zhizni… [Book of Life] and P. V. Verigin’s letter to Iziumchenko, but also with Tolstoyism in its original version. Tolstoy himself believed itinerancy to be necessary for a Christian. “That which you write concerning the need for a Christian to be homeless and itinerant was for me at the very beginning of my conversion a most joyous thought that explained everything and without which genuine Christianity is incomplete and incomprehensible,” he wrote in 1903 to E. I. Popov. The life of a wanderer followed organically from Tolstoy’s teaching, and what is more, from the Gospel. And, to be sure, the type of the Tolstoyan tramp existed in small numbers in Russia.

In December 1902 Peter Verigin arrived in Canada. The first thing he did was to tour all of the villages trying to calm people down, and he met with the leaders of the Freedomites. After expressing a high opinion of the pilgrimage, Verigin advised all of its participants to return to cattle-raising and the use of money. He declared that Canada was the very country in which Doukhobors could flourish, and that the guarantee of their prosperity is communal life, and another important prerequisite for their success is livestock, especially draught animals. To the Freedomites’ objection that sons of God should not use force against animals, Verigin replied that horses will be their co-workers and members of the commune: they would be working together to feed themselves. The “horseless ones” who had come many miles on foot to meet the leader, were disheartened by such an announcement. But the vast majority of the Doukhobors followed their leader’s counsel. However, a small group “had doubts about returning to their corrupt possessions,” seeing in this a violation of God’s law.

P. V. Verigin settled the land question just as quickly. He persuaded the Doukhobors to fulfill the requirements of the authorities, and two thousand five hundred homestead applications, filled out and signed, were handed over to the officials. Later, when in 1907 the government began to demand of the Doukhobors acceptance of citizenship, threatening them otherwise with leaving them only fifteen acres per head, Verigin purchased lands for the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in the wild mountains of British Columbia, further away from civilization, and the majority of commune members moved to the new location. As they purchased the land, the Community Doukhobors were overlooking what they had quite recently declared about the land belonging to God and that it could not be bought or sold. Community members paid to their central office taxes on the land, whereupon the managers settled with the government. However, the idea of the land being God’s, which had earlier captured the minds and hearts of the “radical Freedomites,” could not disappear without a trace. The Freedomites were a great hindrance to Verigin, who had launched feverish activity in the purchase of inventory and livestock for the commune, and the construction of mills and elevators. He could not bring himself to take any repressive measures against them, as he himself had written about the things they believed in and were preaching.

After the pilgrimage of 1902, the authorities decreed that the Freedomites be settled in three villages in the south colony and in three villages in the north colony. In these settlements policemen would periodically call in to observe the behaviour of the inhabitants. The authorities undertook to supply the Freedomites with provisions; the latter demanded that they be brought “legitimate food”: fruits and vegetables, and they refused flour. On principle the Freedomites did not wish to work, as they had abandoned physical labour. The winter and spring of 1903 they spent in painful meditation as to how they should now live and how to understand the leader who suddenly had renounced what he himself had recently written in his letters, which still represented, in their opinion, true Christianity.

In the spring of 1903 a group of Freedomites began to walk about the villages in the nude, preaching renunciation of physical labour and a return to nature. The Freedomite E. Vlasov explained the reasons for disrobing as follows: “As the Lord God created Adam naked, and we were born naked, we uncovered our flesh to display our love, if only by coming naked to approach God with pure hearts. We walked naked around the villages, begged the people not to enter into their corrupt possessions and to be like us, revealing the new life.” Another Freedomite, A. Makhortov, in a letter to the Chertkovs, emphasized that “it is necessary to pay heed to the lawful life and how Christ and the apostles lived. They achieved such perfection that they could go naked…” and further on he continued that he was still disquieted by the thought “that I find in myself a sinful body, I am ashamed of everything – can it really be that God created this? No, that is not right. This is my responsibility.” The Freedomite F. Riazantsev supposed that Adam and Eve soiled their white apparel by their sin, while Freedomites had gotten rid of passions and sin and “then we took off our clothing – manufactured by human hands, and broke the seal of the sin for which the human race is answering. We killed that sin in the flesh, in our natural state called in on all the people, putting on white apparel such as human eye has not seen from the beginning of time.”

Under the influence of the new teaching, with its incessant striving back to nature, the entire way of life of the Freedomites changed. They turned against bread, because they wanted to prove by their example that one could live “being fed by God.” “These are the foods we are now using: raw foodstuffs: oatmeal, potatoes, beets, radishes, carrots,” Makhortov was describing the life of the Sons of Freedom in a letter to Tregubov. “But even that food is not lawful, it is contrary to our conscience. We are using it because we do not have any fruit. And our main food should be fruit grown by God himself to feed mankind. We are eating raw vegetables because by this we are preaching before the eyes of the people that they should believe in nature, and that a person can live without bread.” At that time they were even eating in a special way: taking turns biting from a turnip or potato so as to stress equality. And if something had to be cut, they would use a stone. Freedomites even tried to feed themselves on ordinary grass, like peaceful herbivorous animals. Naturally, such experiments were not greeted with understanding by those around them.

Freedomites ceased interring the dead, it being impermissible to bury a corpse in the living earth. “It is imprudent for the sake of an unnecessary small matter to disturb moist Mother Earth by digging. For another thing, we must enter into the nature of Adam and Eve, that is, they did not have claws; they could not dig into the earth with their fingers; therefore, that is also unnatural for their descendents.”

After the treks of 1902 and 1903, religious pilgrimages became a tradition and turned into a sort of ritual. Every year in the spring, Freedomites set off on foot preaching around the Doukhobor settlements, and in cities near and far. In these marches, fifteen to twenty persons would take part, but in 1907 at Fort William, Ontario, eighty people participated. It became a common occurrence for them to walk along the street of their settlement or around it in the nude, singing psalms. A Freedomite would always carry a canvas bag with a change of clothing so that it would be possible at any moment to set off on a pilgrimage.

The Freedomites renounced the family, for marriage too amounts to bondage and violence. Makhortov wrote in 1904 to the Chertkovs: “And to have a peaceful life and long-lasting peace in one’s soul, I think that evil arises from appropriating something as one’s own, even, truth to tell, a wife. You live with her in the flesh, and that’s all you think about. If she happens to chat with someone about some necessary matters, I am seized with jealousy, and think the worst. And that’s how she lives, and it’s the fault of you and that brother. Thus evil emerges. It occurred to me that the law of God teaches us to love even our enemies, and I decided to live with her as brother and sister: spiritually. Only then did I begin to love everybody.” “We regard everyone as brothers and sisters, there are no husbands and wives,” Makhortov developed this theme in another letter: “All women are virgins who should prepare the lamps and meet the bridegroom, Christ, chaste.”

The sex question, to which the Tolstoyans in their letters devoted much space and which proved beyond their powers, the Freedomites resolved quickly and in a fundamental way. They entirely did away with the concept of marriage. Makhortov cited as an example for emulation the Virgin Mary, who, in his words, when God demanded it of her, gave birth to Jesus, and did not get married. The men and women slept apart, and engaged in sexual relations only when a woman wanted to have a child. Even in such an instance “a sister should make a baby openly and freely, with whomever she chooses.” Makhortov and others believed that conception is a natural thing, and should be performed in the presence of others. Indeed, over a twelve-year period two such babies were born among Freedomites. On the other hand, children were now free, no longer tied hand and foot to their mothers. It is interesting to note that the women enthusiastically supported all these ideas about family and marriage. In the Kniga zhizni khristianskoi [Book of the Christian life] it is written that man and woman should differ as little as possible externally, and the Freedomites endeavored to wear floor-length wide cotton shirts that were identical for both sexes.

The Freedomites reduced their material needs to a minimum. They would work only when necessary to earn money to buy some absolutely essential material object. They would not work for future benefit, but lived one day at a time, as indeed the Gospel calls upon believers to do, and as Tolstoy had advised in his famous letter.

Peter the Lordly, as the Doukhobors had begun to call their leader in Canada, was unable to do anything with the Freedomites. One day near one of the villages, upon meeting Verigin riding in a char-à-banc, the Freedomites attempted to unharness the horse and unseat its rider. Their action greatly angered the leader, and he promised them each “twenty-five hot ones.” Verigin forbade the communal Doukhobors from allowing Freedomites into the villages to sleep over or to give them bread. After convincing themselves that the rest of the Doukhobors would not accept what they were advocating, twenty-eight Freedomites set off for Yorkton on foot. Three miles out, they disrobed and walked into the city in the nude. They were arrested and sentenced to three months imprisonment. Verigin was allowed to take the brethren back on condition that they would promise to live submissively. He tried to persuade them to give him their word, but had to leave empty-handed.

For the Freedomites, those three months served in a Regina jail were an absolute hell. They refused to come out to work or obey the orders of the prison administration, so as not to be accomplices to the violence which the jail represented. They even refused to attend to their own needs, because they had not ended up there voluntarily. They requested Christian food: fruits, vegetables and nuts, and refused to eat anything else. For this the jailers cruelly mocked them: they beat them unconscious, poured ice water over them, stuffed a man’s head into a chamber pot until he began to choke, and so on.
Verigin gradually began to apply ever more radical measures against the Sons of Freedom: he called upon the Community Doukhobors to drive out the Freedomites by force; he himself sent for the police when they organized a prayer session around his house. No admonitions or punishments of any kind were of any avail. The impression was that the Freedomites had gotten out of the leader’s control.

We are confronted with a most important and complex question, that of the Doukhobors’ attitude to their leader and his role in the Freedomite movement. As mentioned, Doukhobors believed that Christ abides in the flesh of their leaders. Although this was kept in greatest secrecy, it was impossible to hide it from the Tolstoyans who lived with the Doukhobors in Canada. The Tolstoyans were surprised, and wrote to one another and to Tolstoy about this, but nevertheless they continued to think that the Doukhobors were perceiving their leader-Christ as a prophet, a chosen one of God, a man who had achieved the highest degree of perfection. Some guessed that the Doukhobor Christ was not just a prophet at all, but was in essence the Son of God. In the summer of 1901, Matryona Krasnikova and thirteen other Doukhobor women wrote a letter to the Canadian government which produced a bombshell effect on everyone:

“Enough of your boasting of your rights, authorities, and superiority! Who is higher than the King of Heaven and God? God created the sky and adorned it with all heavenly beauty: the sun and its rays, and the moon, and the stars in their glory… Our Lord is high above all tongues, as are his blessings and to all ages his mercy… This Lord is our guide Peter Vasil’evich Verigin. His beauty is in his exceeding wisdom; in flesh he is pure. We strive towards Him, honour him as God and King and with fervent desire submit ourselves to his authority.”

These Doukhobor women were expressing the traditional point of view regarding their leader. Verigin himself, not denying the presence of the Divine Spirit within himself, explained that Christ is not God, but an angel of light sent by God. In Canada – and this had evidently begun back in the Caucasus – as a result of all the events they had endured and Tolstoyan propaganda, certain changes had taken place in the religious world view of the Doukhobors. Some Doukhobors had begun to believe that God overflows everywhere in nature, that he is in every creature and in every person. An expression such as “God in one’s soul” they began to take literally: Every person is God, one to a lesser degree and another to a greater degree, while the leader most completely incarnates this Divine Spirit. Doukhobors connected this with their old ideas of the God-leader and elevated the Divine essence within themselves. Naturally, given such an approach, the importance of each person’s inner revelation grew. Based on this, all thoughts and decisions that came into the heads of any of the Freedomites was accepted by them all as the voice of God. But this voice, if we follow their ideas, was the voice of the very Divine Spirit that in the most complete form was incarnate in their leader. And if this Spirit prompts them to do something, then that means that their leader has sent them to perform a heroic deed or to suffer. By spoken word the leader might, on the contrary, dissuade, verbally abuse or beat them, but this is done intentionally, firstly, to test whether the faith of the Freedomites and other Doukhobors is strong, and secondly, the leader must conceal who he is; otherwise, they will crucify (i.e. kill) him as they did Jesus of Nazareth.

Because this aspect of Freedomite belief was kept in strictest secrecy, any testimony from participants in the movement is for us most valuable. In 1905, one I. Mulchenko, a Tolstoyan of Ukrainian peasant origin who had previously lived in the United States, affiliated himself with the Freedomites. This is what he wrote in 1906 to the Chertkovs: “The communalists venerate Peter Verigin as Christ and God; they have even said that to my face. As for the Freedomites, I had not been aware that they acknowledge him even more as God than the communalists do. They say that he created everything that exists. In my presence they held back, but then blurted it out. Then later they began to criticize him – Peter Verigin, that is – and began to call him “king of the communalists.” I was right there among them, and I could see that this was a pretense, as they had totally acknowledged that he is God, and that he even provides the rain. At that point I could not agree, and began to say to them that he is not God, but a son of God and our brother, as are all such people, and I began to point to “Uncle” L. N. Tolstoy and to them. You see, I said, Tolstoy and Chertkov are also such people – they are sons of God, and he is a son of God, and all people are sons of God, and all are brothers to one another. Alyosha Makaseyeff and Vasili Strelaeff began to be displeased with me, and said: “Oh what kind of person are you, wanting to compare yourself to God! No, brother, he is God, and we are his children”… And he told me that when Peter orders the communalists to go after us and beat us, that is only because he is testing to see whether they will beat us or not… he thus divides us all into two parts, when he orders them to drive us away from here, and when he has divided us Doukhobors into two, he then will come to join us himself.”

Such a view of the leader and the purpose of his activities provided Freedomites with a pretext to reinterpret his words in their own way, investing in any of his pronouncements whatever meaning suited them. These notions have been maintained among Freedomites right up to the present day. Never in the Caucasus had there been any such reinterpretation of the words of leaders, never such “upside-down thinking.”

The first destructive act carried out by Freedomites was the destruction of a strip of mature wheat. Incidentally, they had grown this crop themselves without even the use of animals. Present-day Freedomites describe this occurrence as follows. Peter Verigin had arrived in the south colony at the village of Truzhdeniye, where he was shown the strip of mature wheat. He was pleased and said: “Very, very good bread-grain. Now [you] can bring it down by the heads.” Everyone understood that it was time to begin harvesting, but the Freedomites interpreted his words in their own way. During the night, eight men hitched to a wooden roller flattened part of this wheat crop, while two women stood praying and singing: “Bravely, friends, do not lose courage in your unequal battle.” One of the participants, A. Makhortov wrote about this incident, that “again our hearts were moved by the Lord to engage in spiritual work,” and that their purpose was “to show that we should not place our hopes on human science, but on God.” In another letter he explained the reason for this act even more clearly: “And we rolled the heads into moist Mother earth in order to show an example for all the people that from now on we must not disturb her, but she, moist Mother earth, should provide for man, as assigned by our Lord, fruits and vegetables.” The communalists gave them a beating, and at that the matter came to an end. However, on the fifth day after the destruction of the wheat, “The Lord revealed” to them the idea of burning a binder, as machines destroy the boundaries set by the Heavenly Father and violate moist Mother Earth, and all human inventions will be consumed by fire.” People ran up to put the fire out. Peter Verigin reported the Freedomites to the police. The arsonists were arrested and sentenced to six months in jail. Two of them did not return alive. The Freedomite V. V. Popov explained their action as follows: “… we burned an English factory-made implement by which people and every living creature are enslaved and killed, like tools of war; we burned the harvest-reaping machine just as we burned the weapons of war in Russia. Moreover, we intended to burn all machines and all depravity-creating factory-made equipment, but the Satan-serving Canadian government arrested us.”

Many years later, the son of one of those involved in the burning of the binder, Nick Novokshonoff, tried to explain the action of his father and other Freedomites: “Looking far into the future, the Freedomites condemned science and its various achievements, including the machine. They foresaw that all these conveniences achieved by science would not bring good to mankind, but the opposite – evil, unhappiness, and even death. In their pursuit of glitter, people are losing faith in God and are even forgetting him… The Freedomites burned the binder for that very reason, because it was the first machine that the Doukhobors had acquired.” The destructive activities of Freedomites were directed against civilization and its fruits.

Bodyansky’s reaction to these actions, observed from afar, is interesting. Although in a letter to Makhortov he called the Freedomite antics mistaken, he did not condemn them: “And I can by no means cast upon you even a shadow of condemnation. On the contrary, I sympathize with you whole-heartedly and with all my thinking I commend you, notwithstanding all your mistakes. And I say this: go ahead, press on toward the new life. It is better to live there, even if you make mistakes, even if you stumble at every step, than to be paralyzed on the spot, accepting spiritual death and turning from a human being into a lower creature.” Bodyansky held the Freedomites in high regard, considering them to be superior to the communalists, believing communal life to be the very lowest form. Bodyansky called attempts by Freedomites to return to the primitive state “a highly genuine, vitally important aspiration,” understanding this to mean simplicity of physical life. He believed, as did the Freedomites, that culture and science enslave and corrupt a person and make him insincere, and all of the behaviour of his friends, including the burning of the binder and public copulation, Bodyansky considered as a protest against “cultured hypocrisy and deception” and he believed it to be “a matter of the greatest importance, in every way deserving of imitation.” Bodyansky even regarded with sympathy the Freedomite aspiration to walk around in the nude, as “there is no sense in covering oneself up out of shame.” What he did reprove them for was that while exposing hypocrisy, they were tolerating violence and artificiality in their actions,” acting not out of necessity, but with deliberation. The Freedomites in turn wrote Bodyansky touching letters, believing him to be a person close to them in spirit: “Dear old Aleksasha, although we are in the flesh far separated from one another, yet by the spirit and our inner sense of the true path we are united.”

Leo Tolstoy also regarded the Freedomites with understanding. He censured Verigin for his passion for material goods: “They built a comfortable home for him, and he has servants. Despotic rule. Konkin is his minister. All this will fall apart. The nudes will come to the rescue,” he told Dusan Makovicky in August 1905. The next year, when P. V. Verigin traveled to Russia with a group of Doukhobors and visited Yasnaya Polyana, Tolstoy “began to speak in defense of those who had ‘disrobed’.” He referred to them as “spiritually alive.”

How could the Tolstoyan ideal of nonviolence, which the Freedomites also preached, be reconciled with their destructive and, generally speaking, violent acts? Let us first analyze the position of Tolstoy himself on this question. In 1901 in Russia, the peasants known as New Stundists – essentially Tolstoyans – living in the village of Pavlovka, Sumskii uezd [district], Kharkov guberniia [province], where at the end of the nineteenth century D. A. Khilkov and A. M. Bodyansky had led a propaganda campaign, destroyed a Russian Orthodox church. Tolstoy set forth his attitude toward this act in a letter to I. M. Tregubov as follows: “As to whether the Pavlovtsy acted well or badly when they destroyed a church, of course I would say, badly, just as badly as people who have destroyed a factory not built by them and needed by others. However, there is an extenuating circumstance, namely, that the church has been distorting the great teaching that people need, just as it would be an extenuating circumstance for those who had destroyed a factory that manufactures instruments for killing and executions.” So Tolstoy, albeit with reservations, allowed for the possibility of destroying somebody else’s property in the name of a higher purpose. As far as his own property was concerned, that was apparently not up for discussion. Everyone is free to do with property as his conscience dictates.

Accusations against the Tolstoyans streaming from the pages of the Russian Orthodox missionary press, blaming them for the actions of the New Stundists of Pavlovka, stung Tregubov and the Chertkovs to the quick. In 1902 they questioned sectarians about the permissibility of violence. They received replies from Freedomites N. Zibarov, G. Plotnikov and G. Kanygin. To the question as to whether is it a good or a bad thing to revolt against oppressors and kill rulers, they answered in an entirely Christian spirit that it is necessary to pray for one’s enemies and turn the other cheek. To the question about whether it is a good or a bad thing to destroy Russian Orthodox churches and icons, they answered very evasively: “It is not good to smash a church, because for God a person is a church and temple of the living God and icon,” while they do not wish to attend a church made by human hands; that is, they are again talking not about a church building as such, but about killing a person who constitutes God’s temple. Those who dispersed the orthodox church of Christ acted badly. Again, by the words “orthodox church of Christ” the Doukhobors did not mean the Russian Orthodox Church at all, but the inhabitants of Pavlovki and themselves. On the question of destroying an Orthodox Church, they did not give a negative answer. Further they amplified by saying that if something is theirs, they may get rid of it if they don’t need it. “And as for them [the Pavlovtsy – S. I.], as their conscience allowed, so they acted.” If, however, the opinions of owners diverged, “and some wish to destroy while some wish to preserve, they then should destroy only that which is within the sphere of their free will and conscience.” No unambiguous condemnation of violence follows from this kind of reasoning, but loopholes remain in the form of “willpower and conscience.”

As he explains the Freedomite conception of violence, the modern-day Freedomite T. Savinkoff says that “it is based on the idea that if material goods are the cause of all divisions and discord, it would then be more prudent for people to sacrifice material goods and remain alive themselves as brothers and sisters, even if naked, but alive and safe,” that is, for people’s own good, for a higher purpose, it is permissible to sacrifice material blessings – that is, property. Clearly, the position of the Freedomites on this issue turns out to resemble that of Tolstoy.

From the beginning, of course, Tolstoy’s teachings disseminated among the Doukhobors had been distorted by Verigin and his close circle. But even when preached by the Tolstoyans themselves, they passed Tolstoy’s ideas through the prism of their own worldviews and experiences. Khilkov, after his journey to Canada, aligned himself with European revolutionaries, became disillusioned with pacifism, and, as is well known, fell as a volunteer soldier at the front during World War I. Bodyansky had an extremist mentality. Once when the appeal of the Chertkovs and Tregubov “K russkim sektantam” [To Russian sectarians] came into his hands, he unexpectedly expressed himself frankly on the theme of nonviolence. He wrote that the cornerstone of Christ’s teaching was not the doctrine of nonviolence, but “the way of Christ,” that is, the aspiration to a higher life, in his view, that a “revolutionary user of force, laying down his life for others (according to our beliefs), is closer to Christ than someone jabbering only in the language of a Christian non-resistor.” Bodyansky admired the Beguny [or “Jumpers” – a radical Russian sect] of Kherson, who starved themselves rather than submit to the census, and the Pavlovtsy, who desired to suffer: “How great before the court of my judgement is the significance of a life of faith, and how worthless is knowledge of the truth without its application to life.” It is precisely this quality – living by faith – that he strove to inculcate in the Freedomites.

Ten years after the burning of the binder, Freedomites burned a very beautiful community building in the village of Otradnoye in Saskatchewan that had been built according to the wish and design of Peter the Lordly. Then once more a lull set in, and it seemed that the burning of the binder and the house in Otradnoye were regrettable atypical occurrences in the life of the Canadian Freedomites, who had completely dedicated themselves to self-perfection in the vineyards of the Christian life. For the most part, their public activity was limited to disrobing as a sign of protest against oppressive measures of the authorities. But from the beginning of the 1920s, when the government instituted a strict policy requiring the Doukhobors to accept English schools, burnings began anew, and there were times when several buildings would burn down in a single night. The destructive activity of the Freedomites was gathering momentum, and all this in the name of God and for the salvation of humanity. These people passed through prisons and insane asylums, their children were taken away to foundling hospitals and reform schools. They returned from such places sick, and some never returned. They would burn their own homes and live for ten years near the walls of the prison where their husbands, sons, and brothers were serving their sentences. All this so as not to go back on their precepts concerning God’s ownership of the land and living a peaceful life. But in spite of all their self-denial, they were doomed to defeat; they had no future. Some abandoned Freedomite ways, while others sank ever lower into vices concealed by verbose Christian phraseology.

I am reminded of a letter from Countess Alexandra Andreyevna Tolstaya to Lev Nikolaevich, in which she wrote of his responsibility towards those to whom he preached his doctrine:

Indeed self-denial is a virtue that is not easy and in general is not innate in humans. Will not the time come when, depressed by their awareness of the impossibility of fulfilling the prescriptions of the Gospel in their literal sense, they will become muddled in their thinking and fall even lower than before, however inclined to goodness they had been? Your responsibility towards them brings fear to my heart…

Dr. Svetlana A. Inikova is a senior researcher at the Institute of Ethnography and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.  Considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on the Doukhobors, Svetlana has conducted extensive archival research and has participated in several major ethnographic expeditions, including field research among the Doukhobors of Georgia and Azerbaijan in the late 1980’s and 1990’s and a North American ethnographic expedition on the Doukhobors in 1990.  She has published numerous articles on the Doukhobors in Russian and English and is the author of History of the Doukhobors in V.D. Bonch-Bruevich’s Archives (1886-1950s): An Annotated Bibliography (Ottawa: Legas and Spirit Wrestlers, 1999) and Doukhobor Incantations Through the Centuries (Ottawa: Legas and Spirit Wrestlers, 1999).

For more online articles about the Doukhobors by Svetlana A. Inikova, see Spiritual Origins and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History as well as Doukhobor Holidays and Rituals in the Caucasus.