Childhood Memories

by Alexey Ivanovich Popov

Alexey Ivanovich Popov was born February 8, 1876 in the province of Elizavetpol, Russia, in the village of Novo-Troitskoye. At the age of two, he and his family, together with a sizeable group of Doukhobors immigrated to the territory known as Kars near the Turkish border. There, they founded the village of Spasovka, where Alexey remained until manhood. Many years later, he recounted his Doukhobor childhood in his memoirs, written in 1953 but published posthumously. The following excerpt, reproduced by permission from Chapter One of “Autobiography of a Siberian Exile” (Trans. Eli A. Popoff. Kelowna: 2006), chronicles the first fourteen years of Alexey’s life and provides a wealth of insight into Doukhobor life, events and beliefs, especially with respect to the upbringing and education of Doukhobor children in the Caucasus, Russia the 1880’s.

I, Alexey Ivanovich Popov, was a son of religious parents. They were a poor, peasant family of Doukhobor faith. I was born on February 25, 1877 in the Doukhobor village of Troitskoye in the Russian Gubernia of Elizavetpol, which is situated on the southern side of the Caucasus Mountains in Southern Russia. My father was Ivan Semyonovich Popov and my mother was Anna Semyonovna Popov (Androsov). They were humble, poor peasants who made their living as tillers of the soil. They were staunch in their Doukhobor faith and devout believers in their spiritual Doukhobor leaders. As true followers of their faith my parents migrated to Canada in 1899 with the Doukhobor mass migration of that time. Here in Canada, all the days of their lives they belonged to the Doukhobor group known as the Sons of Freedom. Both of them spent considerable periods of time in Canadian prisons and endured various forms of beatings and other persecution, but they did not change their beliefs to the very end of their lives. They passed away at different times; both are buried at the same cemetery in British Columbia. In their family they had seven children – three sons and four daughters. I was their third child.

Alexei Ivanovich Popov as an adult, c. 1915.

Recollections of what my mother told me:

When my mother gave birth to me, she had a very hard time and remained ill and in bed for months after my birth. It was my father who looked after all the farm chores as well as most of the household duties. Mother told me that I was a very quiet child. Very seldom did anyone hear me cry. During her illness my mother did not have any milk in her breasts to feed me. She was also not able to get out of bed and prepare any baby food for me. As was a common practice at that time among the Doukhobors, all the mothers who were breastfeeding their children in the immediate neighbourhood took turns and came to our house to feed me. Each came at their allotted time to feed me. At the same time when they came to feed me, each of the mothers would do some of the housework and look after some of my mother’s needs. This went on up to the time that I reached two years of age.

After two years of age:

Some of the following that I write about, it seems to me that I remember it myself, but it is possible that some of it may have been told to me by my mother, when I was still a child of eight or nine years of age. I remember that I was a healthy child and remember how I walked with steady feet all over the yard, but the events that went on in the family household at that time I do not seem to recall.

The first thing I remember is that on the south, sunny side of our house, right against the wall, the ashes from our Russian bake oven were always placed in a pile. In the summer this pile got very dry. I loved to play on it and sometimes would even fall asleep, half covered in the ashes. Sometimes I would sleep here till I woke up, and sometimes someone would carry me inside the house while I was still asleep. When I was two and a half years old, I was strong enough to roam around the whole yard and even outside the yard. At one time after it was past the noon hour of twelve o’clock, my mother decided to pay a visit to the nearby shallow river where the village women placed their flax straw to soak in preparation for the next stage to be made into fiber for spinning and weaving. This was a yearly practice that was done in the fall of every year. I was allowed to go with my mother for this visit. Shortly after we had already passed the outskirts of the village, I had my first sight of a large prairie jackrabbit. He had been lying in the grass, till we came quite close to him. Suddenly he raised himself and turning towards the nearby mountain, he ran with a brisk jump towards this mountain. The mountain was a landmark in the area that was called “Troitskiy Shpeel” (shpeel means a peak or spire).

After a short while we arrived at the river. The spot chosen here was a curve in the river with a very slow flowing current. The bottom was covered with a coarse gravel with scattered round and flat rocks. The depth of the water was from 6 to 18 inches. Between the scattered rocks it was excellent to place the flax or hemp straw for soaking. These bundles of straw would then have the river rocks placed on top of them. This was done so that the current would not carry away the straw and so that the direct sun would not shine upon it. When we came to this spot my mother took off her shoes and waded into the water. She reached into the water and took out a handful of straw. She rubbed it between her hands for a while and then put it back. Apparently it was not yet ready to take out. At this same spot, a little further up river, we saw that there was another Doukhobor woman who had come to examine her material. She was also finished with her examination, so we started going back to our village together – this lady and my mother, and me following them. On our way home we did not see any other wild life. Arriving at the outskirts of our village I noticed that the sun was now setting over that same mountain, “Troitskiy Shpeel”, towards which the jackrabbit had scampered.

When we came home, mother went to milk the cows, but as for me, I felt so tired from the walk of about four miles that I immediately climbed up onto the space above the Russian bake oven where it was always warm. Feeling warm all over, I fell asleep almost at once. And it was here that I slept throughout the whole evening and night and right through the early morning. It was never the practice of my mother to wake a child to feed him the evening meal, or to move him once he was comfortably asleep. She always said – once a child is comfortably sleeping in the evening, let him be. Missing the meal won’t hurt him as much as disturbing his peaceful sleep.

In the morning I got up from my place of sleep before my other siblings got out of bed and at once told my mother that I was hungry. Mother immediately poured some milk into the earthenware dish, along with some small chunks of leftover wheat bread. I took out of the cupboard one of the hand-carved wooden spoons and heartily ate what my mother had set before me.

Being only two and a half years old, none of the household or yard chores had yet been allocated to me, and so my daily life went on as with all other children in the quiet peaceful life of our agrarian village. At this age I was already quite articulate in my speaking. Although I did not have too broad a vocabulary, this was being added to from day to day.

As usual, I was always interested in what my father did as his village work routine. It was about three weeks after the visit to the river with my mother that my father brought home on a hayrack wagon the flax and hemp straw that had been soaking in the river. He carefully placed it under a roof to dry. After a period of drying, mother would go to the shed and take small bundles of the straw and with wooden tools she would work days on end beating the straw till it would separate into fibrous strands. The straw would be thrown aside for use in making fuel bricks, and the semi-clean fiber would be taken into the house. During the long winter evenings, in a special corner of the house both mother and father would keep on tramping this semi-clean fiber with their bare feet. Every once in a while they would take this mass outside to shake out the straw from it. When this mass was reasonably clean, mother would then card it piece by piece with special hand carders. Now this fluffy mass was ready handful by handful to be spun into yarn on the home made spinning wheel. In the evening mother would spin while father would be tramping the semi-cleaned flax fiber in the corner. During the daytime mother would work with the wooden tools outside, doing the first stage of the straw separation. In the evenings my father would continue the cleaning process of tramping by foot in the corner of the house that what mother had prepared outside, while mother would be carding or spinning in another corner of the living room. This kind of work continued up until about the month of February. At this time all of the cleaning, carding and spinning should be completed. Now the spun yarn had to be made into linen and hemp cloth in a process that was very fascinating to me as a child. As I grew older the process became clearer to me, but it is still quite hard to explain step by step how the yarn eventually became a very durable linen, hemp or wool material used for sewing the clothes that were worn by all the Doukhobors. All this was done in the living rooms of almost every Doukhobor family in the village.

The spun yarn was rolled into large balls. The place for preparing the yarn for its required width of usually about two feet was chosen along the longest wall of the living room. After a rotating walk around the set up pegs on a raised bench, the resulting unrolling of the large balls of yarn into a long pattern was ready to go into the set up loom for weaving. The loom itself was an intricate homemade wooden construction that a woman had to sit at. Working with her hands to put a cross thread through the two-foot wide yarn on the rollers, and using her feet to move the thing along was an art exclusive mostly to Doukhobor women. The work of weaving on the loom to make these two-foot wide and of various lengths materials or rugs went on into the months of March, April and even May. When it became warm enough in the spring to do this, then the women would take these rugs, which were still quite coarse, to the river again. There they are again soaked in the water and then spread out on the green grass to dry in the sun. As soon as they are dry, they are again soaked and again spread out in the sun. This process softens them, and also makes them become whiter. From this material the women then sew what the family requires. From the purer and softer white material they sew women’s clothes. Some of the coarser material is coloured, usually blue, and men’s pants are sewn from it, and also some women’s work clothing. The women do all their sewing by hand, and use their own, finer linen thread. A lot of clothing material was made from sheep’s wool. The process of preparing wool into yarn for spinning and weaving was a bit different and a lot of wool yarn was used for knitting.

All of this work with flax and hemp straw and sheep’s wool was done in the wintertime, and most of it was done by the Doukhobor women residing at this time in the Doukhobor villages of the Caucasus area in southern Russia. In the summer, during haying season, these same women worked side by side with the men. The men with hand scythes would be cutting the hay, while the women, with hand rakes made of wood, would be raking the hay into little piles, which they referred to as “miniature stacks”. At harvest time the women together with the men, using hand scythes would harvest the grain, tying the grain stalks into sheaves that they would later thresh together. Threshing of the grain was also done by hand by both men and women.

Besides helping the men in the fields, Doukhobor women also planted large vegetable gardens, which they looked after from spring till fall using hand tools. Every Doukhobor family had cows, which the women milked by hand. They also looked after the sheep and it was the women’s job to shear the wool from them every spring. Every family raised chickens, ducks and geese and the women looked after these as well. Of course it was the women’s duty to cook, to sew, to wash clothes, clean house and do all other family chores including the bringing up of children. Among all of these responsibilities the women still found time to go and pick the abundant wild flowers of the Caucasus area. They also picked herbs for their own medicinal use, as well as for sale.

One other very important responsibility of Doukhobor women was that they had to pass on the Doukhobor life-concept to the children by teaching them to know from memory Doukhobor psalms, wherein was contained the aspects of the Doukhobor faith. When a child was still quite young, the mother taught them the psalms only for reciting purposes. As the child grew older, the mother was required to see that the child would start learning the melody of each psalm. This was in order that the child could participate in mass prayer meetings, which were based on the reading and singing of psalms. The melody for Doukhobor psalms was very intricate and not easy to learn, even if you were growing up as a Doukhobor. For most outsiders the melody of Doukhobor psalms is very hard to understand and almost impossible to sing in the same soul stirring way.

When I was two years and eight months old my mother taught me one short psalm, which was specially composed for children. It was easy to read and I learned to read it quite fluently. It started with: “Lord, give us your blessing.” “Thou art my God and I am your slave. You will not desert me, and I will not ever leave you” and ended with “Honour and Praise to our God”. This psalm I learned to read from memory while we still lived in the house where I was born in the village of Troitskoye (Elizavetpol Gubernia).

In the spring of the year 1880 a sizable group of Doukhobors including our villagers and also from the neighbouring village of Spasovka of our Gubernia of Elizavetpol, decided to move to the Kars area of the Gubernia of Tiflis. The distance to cover was about two hundred and fifty plus Russian “Versti” (about 150 miles). My parents decided to make this move with the group. Being merely three years old at this time, I was not too aware of the hardships of this trip. I only remember the convoy of covered wagons following one another and slowly making their way along wagon trail roads, which were often muddy and soft. The wagons were heavily loaded and sometimes got bogged down in the mud so that the team hitched to the wagon would not be able to pull the wagon out. I remember cases where all the wagons would stop and they would hitch teams from other wagons at the head of those stuck. After pulling out the stuck wagon, the whole convoy would then proceed. On the third day of our journey our convoy had to cross a river. Its depth was from one to three and a half feet. Its width was about three hundred feet and it was quite fast flowing. My father was driving a four-horse team hitched to our wagon and it appears that he had moved a bit to one side of the regular track where it was safe to cross. There was a huge unseen rock in the water that stopped the wagon and the horses could not move it. Many men from the other wagons immediately came to the rescue. They waded into the water, and finding out what the problem was, they placed themselves at the wheels and at the back of the wagon and helped to get the wagon over the rock and safely to the other side.

A sample page from Alexey’s handwritten memoirs of 1953, painstakingly translated by his son Eli A. Popoff in 2006.

At the other side of the river, all of the convoy stopped for a meal, to rest and to feed the horses. Feed for the horses was not being hauled because the wagons were overly full with all the household and other belongings that were being transported to the new place of abode. So the horses were fed merely with the local grass that they grazed and any fresh hay that could be cut on the way. The early spring green grass was not very nutritious for the horses. They weakened day by day, and so the journey was longer than it should have been. What added to the hardships was that there was much rain during this trip –making the roads wet and soggy. The wagon wheels kept sinking up to four inches – making ruts as they proceeded. Because of all this the convoy used to make as little as fifteen versti, and at the most 30 versti of travel per day (a “versta” is approximately one kilometre. – Ten kilometres is approximately 6 miles). It was fortunate for the whole convoy that the climate of this Caucasus area was reasonable during the spring. While there were times of very heavy rainfall making puddles three or four inches deep on the roads, within the same hour the sun would come out and in a short time the water would all disappear. The rain did not bother the people or their belongings because all of the wagons were well covered with good frames covered with durable canvass. The food brought along for the trip was very simple. Basically everyone had sacks full of “sookhari” or twice baked bread chunks, made from whole wheat. They had a supply of potatoes, millet grain and salted chunks of sheep’s fat. The road from Elizavetpol to the Kars area was very hilly and rocky and there was a considerable amount of forest growth all around. The territory that was being crossed was all Crown Land and therefore it was permissible to let the horses graze at every stop that was made. We children always rode in the comfort of the covered wagons, where we also slept every night. All of the men usually walked behind or beside the wagons. They did not have to drive the horses most of the time as the Caucasus horses were better trained to keep to the trails, than the Canadian horses that we have had to use. It was only once in a while when a steep hill would appear ahead that the drivers would sit down on the driver’s seat to urge and steer the horses.

In the evenings when the convoy was camping for the night, the men would gather in groups and join in light hearted discussions and usually sang joyous hymns and songs. The women would be cooking the evening meal and tending to the children’s needs. In general this migration from one area to another had its hardships, but there were also joyful times. Throughout the whole trip there was not a single occasion of misfortune or trauma to any family in the whole convoy.

In the latter part of April, our convoy reached its destination. My parents chose to settle in the village named “Spasovka” in the District of Arganov about 40 “Versti” east of the City of Kars in what was referred to as “Karsskaya Oblast” or the region of Kars in the Gubernia (or province) of Tiflis. The village of Spasovka was situated in a unique location. From the west side there was a huge long mountain. On the north, east and south sides, the river “Karsina” made a huge bend. Along the south west side and along the mountain there flowed a smaller unnamed river, which always had warm water in it. On frosty days of the winter months there was always a vapor of steam above it. At the southeast end of our village location these two rivers joined together and they flowed out of our valley in a southeasterly direction between two tall mountains of rock, which formed a gorge at this point.

Both these rivers had an abundance of fish. However these fish were of a small common variety and could not be compared to the special fish that we came to know in far eastern parts of Russia, in Siberia, province of Yakutsk.

In this, our new village of Spasovka, my parents did not have to build their new home to live in. This was because there were two parties of Doukhobors that had already moved here from our province. With one of these parties, my grandfather Semyon Leontievich Popov came here before us. These parties that had come here before us, by mutual agreement, had already allocated exactly how the village would be built. They had measured out equal lots in a long line with homes to be built facing each other. One side of the line would have the houses with the rear facing eastward, and the other side would have their rear facing westward. In the centre was a wide street running from north to south. The total length of this street was about one and one quarter “versti” (about ¾ of a mile). After all the lots were marked out and numbered – each family drew lots for the one that would be theirs.

Part of these lots covered a territory that once had the remains of a small Turkish village. This territory still had the skeletons of five Turkish dwelling homes that were not totally deteriorated. These dwellings all had the same shape and style. The structure was all under one roof and quite low to the ground level. The roof was made from turf. Each had two doors on the long side of the structure. One door led into the structures most spacious division, which had four separate divisions and was used to house the farm animals and the poultry. The other door, at the other end, led into the division where the family was to live. One of these structures still remained on the lot that grandfather drew as his allocated lot. When my parents arrived at this newly pioneered village, my grandfather greeted us at the front of this building, and this is where we settled in to live.

The first essential chore that had to be done here was to go to the place and dig the special clay, from which bricks could be made. After drying and processing the bricks, these would then be laid in proper formation to make the brick oven for baking and cooking. I remember my father and grandfather at work making the bricks, while mother was busy washing up all the clothes from the trip and doing other cleaning. From these very first days I remember my older brother and sister and myself climbing the low roofed dwelling of ours and walking all over the long roof.

Because grandfather had come here earlier, he had done some essential work that every homeowner had to do here at this time. He had tilled some of our allotted soil and sowed some barley. He did complain that the Turkish people who lived here had apparently used the soil continually for many years and he feared that the crop would be very poor. We did not have any choice at this time, so in the latter days of the month of April, we, as all others – planted our gardens, each on the allotted lots, which were also very much worked over before us.

At this time I was just three years and two months old and so all of the responsibilities of this first pioneering year did not affect me. All the responsibilities rested on the shoulders of our parents. As for us, children, free of worldly responsibilities, as soon as summer warmth came around, we headed in groups to the shallow warm river that was really right in our back yard.

There for days at a time we sat in the warm waters of the river taking hourly outings to stretch out on the warm sand of the beach. Because there were no schools in this new area where we settled, the children that came to the river ranged from two to nine years. The parents felt safe to allow the children to come here, because the river was shallow and slow flowing. The shore was not deep set, but just about even with the land’s surface and the river bottom was firm and solid. This was why all the children of our village spent all the sunny days at this river shore. In the evenings the parents always insisted that all children spend a certain amount of time learning from memory the prayers of the Doukhobors, which were called psalms. When I was four years old I learned my second psalm, which read as follows:

Lord, Give Us Thy Blessing

Let us all tearfully reflect on all the daily workings of our lives. Verily speaks to us our Lord with entreaty: “You my male servants and maid servants, devout Christians, do not forget to be faithful to God, and He will not forget you in the end time to come. In our present day, the times are very trying. We are being judged and persecuted. There has been born an evil anti-Christ. He has sent forth his evil oppressors out into the whole world. There is no place to hide for my faithful followers, neither in the mountains, nor in the caves, nor in the distant barren places. My faithful followers have to live in exile and suffer persecution for keeping to the word of God and for manifesting the teachings of Jesus Christ. But you my faithful followers rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven.

Our God be praised.

Because my age group of children was not yet allocated any responsibilities, we continued to spend all our time at our favorite spot by the river. We would go there day after day. The only time we were not there was when we would see a dark cloud coming over the horizon and rumbling of thunder would be heard. At such times we would race to where the nearest covered wagons were parked and hide under their cover. For the first season, families continued to live in their covered wagons while the houses were being built. The last parties were all still living in their covered wagons. My parents were very fortunate to have the frames of the five Turkish huts that were on their allotted plot. We were sheltered in them during the first trying years. All the other families next to us were all hurrying to get their houses built. The construction of houses in this area was very simple. The walls were built from the slabs of unhewn gray rock that was freely available at the nearby foothills of the mountains. In between went layers of mixed clay mortar, which was also readily available at various spots of the valley. There was no visible forest anywhere nearby so wood was only used for window frames and doorjambs. For the roof some round poles were used sparsely, on which were laid split flat slabs of stone. On this base, plain soil was heaped, and this method was used for every roof of every building in the village. All the buildings had similar rock walls. Our village of Spasovka had 86 family residences. Each and every residence was similarly built and there was not a single wooden roofed building in the whole village.

With this form of construction, not counting the labor the cost of the buildings was very minimal. For a residence to house a family of ten with livestock from 25 to 30 head, the cost of constructing a residence would be from five to ten rubles. This expense goes specifically for the cost of glass and any ironware that was required for the buildings. It also covered anything that was needed for the large Russian oven assembled out of hand-made bricks. This oven served for all the kitchen cooking, bread baking, as well as supplying heat in the winter months. The construction of these buildings was the prime occupation of each and every family in these first years of settlement. All of the needed materials for this type of construction was readily available nearby. The forms of rock and stone slabs were all around you to the fullest of your hearts desire. There were mountains of clay for your mortar and brick baking. Water was abundant from the two rivers in the valley. The biggest detriment was the lack of forest nearby. The closest place for cutting any timber was 50 Versti away. Although there was one good thing about the timber, and that was, that for all our new settlers the state allowed a given amount for free. However to transport this timber was very difficult. In the first place there was still a shortage of horses in the first years and there was no supply of any kind of grain to feed the horses in this long and arduous journey. Even though throughout the Kavkaz Mountains there were always patches of good grass, this was not good enough to give strength for the horses to pull these heavy loads of timber for such long distances. Besides all this, horsepower was needed at home for hauling the rocks and for tilling the soil. The roads that were used to get to the timber belt were not kept up by anyone. Although the trails were somewhat packed down, the continuous summer rains would make them muddy and difficult for any kind of transportation. It was because of all of this that lumber was of the highest value in all of our villages.

There never was any talk of a sawmill to be constructed because the logs brought here were few and far between. For the absolutely essential boards the logs were cut by hand with long crosscut saws. Those families that did not have two grown men got together in pairs with other families. Since this was not an occupation that was practiced often, some of the boards that were cut were very uneven. These were the tasks that were performed by all the grown ups of the village throughout the spring, summer and fall. In the fall the gathering in of the crops took precedence over all. The first crops were very poor as these were sewn on lands that the Turkish people had been farming for many years and new land had not yet been prepared. Our children’s summer occupation that we loved best of all was our time spent by the river. Nevertheless there were times when we would go to the spots where the families were mixing the clay for mortar for the buildings. Here we would roll our own little balls of clay for our own kind of play. Sometimes we would dry them, but sometimes we would throw them at each other while they were still raw and wet. The object was to dodge them, as they hurt quite considerably. Sometimes one of the clay balls would hit a grown up person, at which time we would all be chased away. A chase from one place did not usually stop us. We would just go to another place further away where the same clay mixing was going on. Our group eventually earned the name of “mischief makers.”

When it was time for harvest all of our barefooted gang was broken up. Each went to their own family group in readiness to be taken to the fields together with the elders. Only those children stayed at home where there was an elder staying behind to allocate to them the home chores that had to be done.

Harvesting the grain at that time was very simple. The men cut down the standing grain with hand scythes, and the women raked it into small neat piles called “Kopitsi”. Then the men using special thin poles about 10 feet long, and sticking them under the pile from two sides, they would lift and carry this pile to a central place where a neat small stack would be made. This stack would be left that way till all the cutting down of the grain would be finished.

The children’s responsibility was to see that not a blade with a head of kernels in it would be left lying in the field. We would gather these individually and tie them into little sheaves with the spare straw stems. Every child would place his little sheaves separately into neat piles. These sheaves would then be taken home in the evening, where we would give them into caretaking of the parents and receive their praise according to how diligently they had worked and how many sheaves were made up. The parents kept these little sheaves separately and allowed them to be threshed separately. With the grain that resulted, the children were allowed to trade it with the local traveling merchants for goodies like apples, plums or grapes, either fresh or dried.

After the harvesting of the grain in the fields is completed, the families individually, if large families, and sometimes together with others, if small – prepare a special spot for threshing. A sizable smooth surfaced place is chosen. First it is wetted down with water and tall grass or straw is scattered loosely on it. A horse is then hitched to a special wooden roller with pegs in it, and with a rider horseback on the horse, drives back and forth on this patch until the straw is tramped in and the whole base is quite firm and solid. After this has dried, the excess straw is swept off and the reaped grain is then spread on this firm base which is called a “Katok” and the same wooden roller is hauled across, over and over until the kernels are all freed from the heads. When the men feel that all the kernels are free from the straw, they gather the straw with forks and take it away, piling it into stacks for feed. The grain is shoveled to the centre of the “Katok” and more unthreshed wheat or whatever grain is being threshed is spread around. Then the roller and the horse again commence their threshing process. After the men feel that there is about 50 or 60 “poodi” of grain (one “pood” is 40 pounds) in the centre of the “Katok”, the threshing process is halted. Now they take shovels and throw the grain into the air against the wind – thus separating the chaff from the kernels, as it is light and the wind blows it away. If there are any pieces of solid matter like dried mud chunks or small rocks – these are later removed by hand made screens.

All this harvesting work was carried out by the elders. In the meantime we children see how the elders are throwing the wheat and chaff into the wind, develop our own form of make believe. We gather in the street where there is loose dirt and make piles of it in the centre. Then cupping our hands we throw it into the air, just to see which way it blows. Because there are up to ten of us in a group, we create a regular dust storm in which you can hardly see our bodies. In the morning when we get together, all have different colored clothes. In the evening all our clothes are a dark gray. All around our eyes, nose and mouth there is a layer of black dust. We no longer look like children but like knights in black armor. In the event that we have a rainfall and the streets have puddles, we begin by racing through them, and then wrestling and before you know it we begin to go our separate and march home like fishermen coming home, wet and soggy.

It wasn’t always that we children got away with our naughty frolicking. Often either an elder man or an older woman would catch us doing something naughty and they would get after us with a willow switch, and without paying attention as to who belonged to which family, would give each one of us a good wallop on the back and chase us to our individual homes. Most of the time we were on the watch for any approaching elder, and when catching sight of one, we would immediately scatter and hide. There never was any thought of standing up to any older person of your own or any other village. If ever any child would answer harshly to any older person, he would be severely punished by his own parents at home. This meant that no child could do any mischief in any part of the village without immediately answering to any elder around. Even if he got away from the elder on the spot, he knew what he would get at home, when his mischief and disrespect of elders would be reported to his parents. This kind of upbringing allowed the Doukhobors to live in peace and harmony in their large extended families, and in their tightly knit villages. Every parent trusted their neighbouring parents to do the right thing when dealing with children’s pranks. Parents always trusted the elders’ assessment of an irresponsible occurrence, rather than the version given by a guilty teen-ager. There were no schools in our village and at most the literacy rate of the whole village was no more than 5 percent. Yet the whole village kept strictly to the above disciplinary guidelines without any exceptions.

With the oncoming colder weather, after all the fall work was done, our children’s group gallivanting came to an end. Because of general lack of warm winter clothing, most of us children now became confined to their homes. Staying at home, all we could do was think about all of the things we had done this past summer, and plan for the coming spring and summers escapades and the new things we might come up with.

During the fall and winter time of short days and long nights, because the children had no place to play and no responsibilities to fulfill and were having time on their hands, it became the duty of every parent and grandparent to teach them the prayers and psalms that contained the life-concept of the Doukhobors. These were passed on from generation to generation and were learned from memory. Families that had four or five children above four years of age, had them, every day, lined up in a row and made to recite from memory the psalms they already knew, and then separately, each one would be taught additional psalms. Up to a given age these psalms would be taught only for recitation. Later the melody of these psalms would be taught as well. In this particular winter I learned from memory my third psalm, whose contents was as follows:

“Lord, Give Us Thy Blessing”

“From the beginning of time and till now, the Lord God calleth to His faithful children: “Come to me my dear children, come to me my most dear ones. I have prepared for you the Kingdom of Heaven. Do not fear to forsake your father, your mother nor all of your race and lineage in the physical sense, but give reverence to me your heavenly Father in spirit. And the faithful children turn to Him in prayer – Oh Lord, our dear Lord it is so difficult for us to enter into your heavenly kingdom. All the pathways have gates of steel, and at the gates there stand fierce and unjust guards. And the Lord speaketh to them and sayeth: “Do not be fearful my children, do not be fearful my dear ones. I am the powerful wrestler that shall go forward before you. I shall break down all their gates of steel and I shall disperse their fierce guards. And then I shall lead you into my kingdom of heaven, where all shall reign with me as witnessed to by the God of Jacob.”

“Our God be praised”

During the winters male children under the age of 12 years had no responsibilities, so their day-to-day routine was always the same and the winters felt long. In regard to the girls it was a bit different. Beginning from the age of seven, the mothers began teaching them how to knit from the woolen yarn and even simple patching. Those families that had smaller babies, the girls were trained to take care of them. The girls were also taught to clean the floors as well as help their mothers with the washing of dishes. After the girls reach 12 years of age the mothers began to train them how to spin simple, thicker yarn for mitts and working stockings. All the spinning in our area of Kars province was done from sheep’s wool. Some sheep had been brought from our Elizavetpol province because there, most villagers had large herds of sheep. Some long horned cattle were also brought here from Elizavetpol, and these were used for milk from the very beginning of our new settlement.

When the frosts came in late fall, all work on construction was stopped. This was because in order to lay the stone walls it required mortar from the brown clay mixture. This mixture had to be handled with bare hands, and of course later this would get frozen and without a proper drying process this mortar would fall apart in the warm summer weather. Thus ,for the men folk there was less to do. All they had to do was look after cattle, horses and sheep, and in the homes they would patch the leather harness gear, repair worn boots or sew new ones. At times they would tan woolen sheepskins and sew them for wearing as short fur coats. Wood working shops did not exist here because wood was so hard to get. It was not even possible to haul logs from the forest in the wintertime. The roads were not passable. A blacksmith shop was very rare, as only a few essentials for household use or construction were ever made in the village blacksmith. There was nowhere in this area where men could go and do work for others, so in the year there were five months where the men, also, were tied to doing household and barnyard chores, the barn being part of the residence.

All the men’s main work of working the land, sowing, harvesting, and construction work could only be done in the spring and summer, so during the long winter evenings, the men – like the children spent a lot of time learning the Doukhobor psalms. This was done not only in their own homes. They also gathered in groups in neighbour’s homes. They not only read the psalms, but also in groups, sang them. On Sundays there were large gatherings for prayer meetings. At these prayer meetings everyone participated by each reading a psalm. The Doukhobors never had any special person for leading prayer services. Each and everyone participated with the reading and with the singing. That is why the children were taught from a very young age. It was always expected that each person would read a different psalm. And so if a group of one hundred gathered, the elders would be obliged to know just about that many psalms. The Doukhobors read their psalms, their prayers to God, not with the intent of absolving themselves from sin, but they read them for their own enlightenment as to how they should lead their lives. Each and every psalm had some explanation about the living spirit of the teachings of Jesus Christ. This is why the Doukhobors referred to their collection of psalms as the “Living Book”.

When a person has within his memory many Doukhobor psalms, no matter where he is, or what his circumstances are, he always has with him the instructional words contained in the psalms. No one can take them away from him, and having them always within the innermost sanctions of his being for his guidance, no one can sidetrack him, or change his deep seated and deeply rooted faith. This then, was one of the main reasons that the Doukhobors were not so concerned about grammar schools or other forms of academic learning. Their first concern was to instruct their children with the “Living Book”, their religious and moral, ethical, instructional psalms. In addition to all this the Doukhobors believed that their spiritual psalms were their own unique and bona fide life-concepts that no outsider had tampered with. Keeping firmly to the concepts contained in their psalms, the Doukhobors could safely withstand any foreign or alien influences. Their feelings were that any outside grammar teaching could still contain influences that were alien to Doukhobor thought and would infringe on or tend to obscure pure and untainted Doukhobor teachings.

During this first winter, with its short days and long nights was spent with even greater emphasis placed on spiritual aspects and the learning of psalms by both children and elders. I remember this first winter starting to turn towards spring because in February 25th of the year 1881 I became 4 years old. I really was not too aware of how good a crop we had this past year, or what other hardships my parents went through, because at my age this was not within my realm of comprehension. I do remember that the house (Saklya) that we lived in was warm and comfortable. The walls were about four feet thick. The rock walls were double layered. The rocks were laid in clay mortar in two columns, and in between the space was filled with common soil. The roof had round rafters – pine logs twelve to fourteen inches in diameter, on which were placed flat slabs of rock, a few inches in thickness. On these slabs straw was placed and then about twelve to fourteen inches of soil. There were only two windows and one door. The doorway entrance was a corridor with walls about 10 feet thick, and having a door at each end of the corridor. With only the two windows and a doored corridor entrance, the inside of the house was cozy and warm. I do not remember ever feeling cold or uncomfortable throughout the whole winter. It was only later in my life that I began experiencing a longing for the warm sunny days of summer.

Spring did come, and at the end of March the snow began to melt. It was wonderful. For just as soon as a bare spot of earth showed up, there immediately green tufts of grass started to show. By about April 10th the snow was all gone and a vaporous fog started to rise from the soil. Soon the soil warmed up and everywhere green grass appeared. Right after this, the earliest white flowers of the “maslyonka” plant, a variety of buttercups began to dot the green prairie land. These buttercups in their roots had a large kernel, the size of a peanut, which was edible. There we were in groups, armed with a special wooden rod sharpened at the end like a little shovel scampering all over the prairie meadow digging these peanuts to eat right there and to bring some home. This daily occupation of ours lasted till about the 5th of May. After this the white flowers would wither and fly away. Then there was no way you could spot the buttercup plant in the lush green grass, and besides that the peanut seed itself would get to be coarse and hard and not edible anymore. And so, for a time our children’s groups would be left without too much to do except wait for the warm sunny days to come, when we again could go to our favorite river beach to swim and bask in the warm sun. The last year’s pastime was to be repeated again this year, until such time as our parents would begin the harvest season and again get us to pick up all the loosely fallen grain.

This was the routine for all of us children, and this is what occupied my time when I was five and six years old. When I became seven years of age, that winter my parents taught me several more lengthy psalms. I remember that spring when the snow melted more rapidly and the streets were full of puddles and little creeks. Here was something new – to build little dikes and canals and float little hand made boats and make imaginary turning mills on the flowing rivulets. After this came the season of digging the buttercup roots and when that finished a new phase of my childhood development came about. My older brother Nikolay made a fish hook out of an old needle. He attached a length of string to the homemade hook and gave me my first instructions on how to catch the little fish that abounded in the same river that we loved to swim in. He showed me where to dig for the long, red earthworms, how to store them in an empty can with some earth in it, and how to attach them in short pieces for baiting the hook. He showed me how to lower the hook into the water and then patiently wait till a fish starts jerking on the line. This shallow river that we swam in seemed to have millions of these little fish. They were the size of Canadian perch and resembled them in appearance. And so, along with all other boys that were seven and eight years old this became another pastime with which we were occupied.

The little fish were very plentiful in the river, and if a boy struck a good spot he could catch from 50 to 75 of them in one day’s outing. The caught fish would be kept in a screened cage in the water. When these were brought home, the mothers would merely clean the innards and then fry them whole. When the fish was fried for some time they are smothered in a mixture of dough that is made quite thin, and then the whole mass is baked in the oven. This kind of fish in pastry, served as a very special delicacy for all of us children. It also substantially added to our dietary supplies, as in our first years in this new settlement food was not too plentiful. In our particular family this was even more so.

Alexey’s parents, Anna and Ivan Popov, c. 1915. Ivan was a very large man whereas Anna was diminutive. In this photo, Ivan is sitting while Anna is standing.

When our family was coming from our village in the province of Elizavetpol we had brought with us 4 cows. In the fall of 1882 three of these cows were stolen. On one night that fall a group of thieves came and from the far side of the barn they took apart a part of the stone wall and led the three cows away. Even with the help of the whole village, we were never able to track down the culprits or to find out where three of our best cows disappeared. From that time on, our dairy products were far more limited than in other families. Our daily food was bread made from whole-wheat flour with soup, which was made basically of potatoes and coarsely ground wheat. Borshch had potatoes and cabbage plus a large tablespoon of thick cream. Into both soup and borshch, for our family of six people, one small tablespoon of butter was added.

Therefore, the small perch that I caught with the homemade fishing tackle was a very welcome addition to our meager food supply. It was a change, it was very tasty and it cost nothing. Up to seven years of age, no outside family responsibilities were designated to me. I was still allowed to go and dig the buttercup peanuts. But when their season came to an end I was given a more serious responsibility. Most families had flocks of geese. This particular spring my mother was able to successfully hatch 48 goslings, in addition to the five older geese that we owned – making 53 in all. As soon as they grew up a bit and got trained to keep to their own flock, because of shortage of home feed, the flock had to be herded out to pasture in the meadow and also to the same river where we went swimming. The river was shallow and quiet flowing and posed no danger for the geese. In places along its banks there was a lot of lush green grass which both the older geese and the young goslings loved to feed on. Besides this, when they would plunge into the river there were all kinds of bugs that lived in the quiet eddies, and the geese young and old feasted on them. With this range free feeding, the young geese developed in leaps and bounds. My job was to keep them together, both on the range and in the water from 7 o’clock in the morning until 9 o’clock in the evening. After 9 o’clock I would herd the geese home where they had special housing under a solid roof with solid locking doors. It was not possible to leave the geese free overnight because there had been occasions when the large gray wolves which roamed the mountainside would sometimes come down into the village at night and kill some geese and drag them away for eating later.

In the daytimes there had not been any occasion that the wolves would come to the riverside. There were a few occasions when stray dogs would come there but they could be frightened away. On rare occasions there were serious hailstorms and some of the little goslings would be seriously hurt or even killed. Apart from these rare times of worry, we young children that looked after the geese felt free and happy. We often had time to swim in the river ourselves and lie on the shore. Sometimes we even did some fishing. The flocks of geese also enjoyed these free-range outings. At times when they would have a good feeding quickly, they would also stretch out on the sand and lie sleeping. Other times they would swim in the deeper water and then lazily stay in the shallow eddies snapping at the bugs that swam there. There were odd times when one flock of geese would get mixed up with another flock and coming home we would have different counts. To avoid disputes every family had their own markings on the feet of the geese. Some cut slits in the goose toe webs. Others cut one nail off, either, the left or right foot. All were different. And so checking the markings each family claimed their separated goslings. I do not remember that there were ever any serious disputes.

This work of pasturing geese continues from the first of June until the fifth of September when the harvest season commences. At this time the geese are not pastured at the river anymore, but they are brought out into the harvest fields where they methodically go through the harvested field and pick up every head of grain that fell aside from the main stacks. Some families who had the proper utensils brought out water for the geese into the fields and so the geese remain in the field from dawn to dark. Feeding on grain, the geese accumulated a considerable amount of fat. Thus, at home they are grain fed for no more than 2 weeks and then they are sold. The summer’s pasturing of the geese was not a troublesome one for the children. It was rather enjoyable, because the hours of work were not too exact. Morning or evening the timing could be one hour earlier or one hour later. There was however one hardship. Being bare legged all the time proved to have its disadvantages. Wetting your feet about every hour, and then being in the hot sand and sun eventually made all the skin rough, which later would have cracks appear and even open sores. The sores would bleed and be very painful. There was no medicine for this. The only thing that helped was to cover all your legs with black Caucasian oil. The oil seemed to protect the skin and going in and out of the water did not affect the skin as much.

Pasturing the geese at harvest time was more arduous. This was because the grain fields were sometimes one, two or three “Versti” from the home residence. During some hot days in the fall it would not be possible to herd the geese for such distances. This then required the young lad to get up before sunrise, and while the dew was still on the grass to get the geese into the fields and have them already fed before herding them to the river for water. In the evening it was the same problem. While the sun was still high it was too hot for the geese to trek from the river to the fields. They would get hot, open their mouths and lie down without going any farther. You could only start them from the river when the sun was already quite low. By the time they would get themselves fed it would already be getting dark. This created considerable hardships for a boy only seven years of age. Also the weather in the fall was not always calm. Sometimes it rained heavily. Other times a wind storm would come up and you would have to be fighting dust and wind against which even the geese did not want to go. There were times when the older people in the village felt that they had to come and help the young boys to bring the geese home on one or another turbulent evening. They would holler into the night and children would answer in the high-spirited children’s voices. The one saving grace for us children was that we never went in separate groups. Most of the time we had four or five groups of boys following each other, especially after dark. Each was looking after his own herd of geese. Being in a group gave us some comfort. At times, however, it used to get so dark that each of us seemed to be totally alone. All of us were quite well aware of the fact that the huge gray wolves were always not too far away from the grain fields. Thoughts of the wolves always brought a cold shudder down one’s spine.

In my eight and ninth year I did not get any additional responsibilities. There still were no schools in the village. So in the summers I herded geese and in the winters I added to my knowledge of psalms.

When I became 10 years of age I was given another responsibility. Now I had to begin herding sheep. Looking after sheep had its own season. This was from the middle of March till the tenth of June. At this time the sheep were having their lambs and the lambs had to be trained near to and around home, to stay with the herd.

After the 10th of June all the sheep in the village are brought together into one or two large herds. Specially trained Tartar herdsmen are hired, who take the sheep into the hills and graze them on especially rented crown land. They keep them here till about the fifteenth of October, and sometimes even till November 10th. They then bring the herds back to the village and every owner starts taking care of his own little group. They are pastured in and around the village till the time of the first big snowfall. Those owners who have over a hundred sheep pasture them individually. Those that have 20 to 45 usually group together and either hire a person as herdsman or take turns in herding.

All sheep have their own kind of markings. Their markings are on their ears with either one or two cuts or piercing. Herding sheep was one of my favorite responsibilities. There were many groups of boys. During dry weather and no wind, the sheep grazed quietly and the boys would organize some games. In this way, the days would go by quickly. The games could be different each time. One of the games played the oftenest was called “Na v shapki” or beat the cap. This was done by each one throwing his herding stick as far as he could. Whichever stick landed the closest, the owner would have to take off his cap and throw it in the same direction. All the boys were then permitted to run and beat this cap with their sticks a certain amount of times and then again throw their sticks. This could go on all day, and it did happen that some of the less lucky boys would have their caps beaten into shreds and come home bareheaded. To hide his shame this boy would keep his herd out till it was completely dark and then bring them home.

Sketch of merino sheep kept by the Doukhobors by Russian painter, Vasily Vereshchagin during his visit to Elizavetpol in 1863.

There was only one particular drawback in herding sheep, and that was the rainy weather. There were times when it would rain several days in a row. When it was this wet the sheep would not graze quietly but kept running around uncomfortably. For these rainy days we boys had a special garment, which was called a “Bashlik.” It was a kind of large vest that had no sleeves but did have a special parka that pulled over your head from the back. These vests were made from sheep’s wool, tightly knit and well pounded. These vests did not let the rainwater through to your body, but if it rained all day these would become so soaked and heavy that your shoulders felt like you were carrying unwieldy weights of steel that seemed to get heavier every step you took. Carrying this amount of weight from morning until evening was quite a trauma for an eight or nine year old. It was that much harder to carry this weight because the soil beneath your feet was all muddy and sticky. Some evenings it was real torture to drag one foot after another on the last stretch home and when you finally got to bed your legs would continue to feel the pain.

There was another hardship herding sheep in the spring and that was their giving birth to lambs right in the distant field where you had led them. If this were one or two lambs, you would be obliged to carry them home. If it there were more than two new born lambs, you would go to the nearest hilltop and holler at the top of your voice until someone in or near the village would hear and they would come to help.

The most frequent trauma in herding sheep in the summer was this matter of getting soaking wet, which was sometimes followed by a cold wind. There were times when one remained shuddering throughout the whole day. One other fear that always seemed to hover over you when you came closer to the mountains with your herd was the fact that you knew that the mountains abounded with large gray wolves. During my time there was never an occurrence of a pack of wolves attacking a herd of sheep. In the two years that I herded sheep there was only one occurrence of my actually seeing a large gray wolf lurking nearby. There were other older boys that let out loud shouts and the wolf disappeared into the mountains. As for myself I stood petrified and motionless for about half an hour. I was not able to move my feet. It seemed that my whole bloodstream was frozen.

There was one other occurrence that happened to me with one of my older and rather feeble sheep. This happened at the beginning of the month of December when the first snow covered most of our low-level pasture ground. About one quarter of a “versta” from our home there was a gorge through which flowed a larger river named “Karsina Reka”. This gorge stretched for about eight “versti” and three of these “versti” was in the territory of land that was allocated to our village. This gorge had banks of different elevations. Some places the height was about three times the height of prairie grain elevators, other places this elevation was lower. Most places the distance from one side to the other was about 160 feet. The river was not too wide, and it ran through the centre. At one side of the river there was the general road that ran through along the gorge, and at the other side the distance between the river and its mountainous bank varied. In places it came right to the river’s edge and in other places there were ledges of various heights, which contained luscious green grass. From the warmth of the river water there was no snow on these ledges. At places these ledges led to level pieces of land, and at other places they led directly into steep and very rocky mountainous territory. On some of these ledges even horses or cattle could graze. On others only the sheep, being more agile, could safely graze. And so in the first part of the winter, I took my sheep to these ledges. I directed my sheep to a lower ledge, which had very luscious grass on it, but the descent to it was quite steep. Going down, the sheep managed very well, but having smoothed the path going down, when I was ready to chase them back up they found it very slippery and difficult. I had to help practically every sheep to scamper up and onto more level territory. It came to the last one, a heavy older sheep that wasn’t very agile anymore. She just could not make it to the upper ledge, and with all the strength that I could muster I just couldn’t get her out of this lower ledge. It was getting dark and I had to make a quick decision. If I left her loose, she could conceivably scamper out of here later and wander into the mountains where the wolves would most certainly get her. Each of us boys had our slings for throwing stones and so I decided to use that string. I tied all four feet of the sheep as firmly as I could and left her there lying at the foot of the ledge. In the morning we would come with my father and rescue her.

I came home with the rest of the herd later than usual. When my parents asked why I was so late, I explained what happened with that one old sheep. Sheep at that time were valued from two and a half to four dollars each. To me that seemed not such a great deal. However, my parents were so upset with this possible loss that they hardly slept all night. They prayed and grieved and mother even went out into the night to carry out some kind of an ancient witchcraft ritual. She took an axe and plunged it into the ground in the middle of the road, and if everyone went around it without knocking it down, this would denote that the sheep would be safe.

In the very early morning, before dawn, my father and I went to the place where I had left the sheep. The spot was empty but there were signs of struggling. Looking further around and below, we found the dead sheep in a clump of brush. She had kept beating and turning until she fell and rolled among rocks. The whole carcass was so beat up; we could not even salvage the sheep’s skin. The loss of this sheep was a subject of grief to my parents for a long time to come. When spring came my parents did not fail to mention to me – you see that sheep would now have brought us two lambs. It was so hard for me to understand why it was that my parents were so overly concerned with this loss of one old sheep. Was it just grief for a material loss, or was it fear of loss of self-sufficiency, and possible want in the future? It was probably the latter, because we scarcely ever had anything in abundance. However in my childhood immaturity I thought that how could it be that my parents seemed to value the sheep more than they cared about me and my anguish. They continually mentioned that the sheep would have brought two lambs, and that she always fed them so well, and that her wool was of the finest quality. It was long and soft and it produced the finest of yarn. All these rebukes about my fault for this loss kept on for a whole year. For a nine-year-old child these parental rebukes about the loss of a mere older sheep gave me severe mental depression. I kept being sore at heart. At the same time it was a very indelible lesson to me to always be more careful in the future.

When I was in a more self-pitying mood I would think to myself – of course my action in getting the sheep to this luscious green ledge was not done for any kind of self-gratification. I had done this out of pity and love for the sheep. I well knew that they would be half hungry treading over grounds that were already eaten bare, but here I was directing them to a ledge of luscious green grass where not a single foot had trod, – a place you just didn’t want to leave from. And then I would reason again – true enough the thoughts came to me that if I did not take advantage of this ledge today – others would discover it tomorrow! And then of course our elders were always praising the boys that were more alert than others, and I did have the thoughts that when the elders found out that I had discovered and used this ledge for my herd before anyone else – they would say, aha, that Popov youngster finds ledges that even older herders failed to discover! And so really – this was the thought that made me venture to that steep but luscious ledge. Instead of receiving this kind of praise, it turned out that in the end I received an unforgettable lesson to be more careful rather than being more daring. Had I brought home the sheep that evening even half hungry, their suffering would have been minimal. No one would have been able to assess exactly how much was in their stomachs. My parents would have been at peace, and there would have been no rebukes to me in the future. With those thoughts of getting praise and commendations, I probably would have become unnecessarily proud and to think too much of myself. This event of the loss of a sheep brought out in me deeper thoughts of the wisdom of being careful in all matters. Not the least of this was that it is wise to be careful in material matters insofar as one’s welfare sometimes depended on saving every hair that was needed to keep the family self-sustainable.

Traumatic events be they as they were, time did not stand still. On the 25th of February 1887 I became ten years old. In this winter, after the loss of the sheep, I was more studious than before and learned a lot of new psalms. As usual there were no other particular responsibilities for young boys in these winter months. There were only the few times of warmer sunny weather when the parents would allow me to take the sheep for a drink at the river, the same river where we always swam. With the spring break we still went digging for the buttercup peanuts, but even before their season was over there was an additional responsibility given to boys our age with the beginning of the spring planting of grain.

The sowing of grain was done by hand. We did not know any other way, except using a special sack with two straps over the shoulder. The sack was open in the front and from here the sower would take the seed into his hand and scatter it fan wise. About 65 to 80 pounds of seed is placed into the sack. The opening of the sack appears under the left arm and with the right arm the sower takes fistful of seed. He scatters the seed from left to right measured by his steps. When he puts his left foot forward he fills his fist with seed. When he steps forward with his right foot he scatters the seed. This is done by the elders in the family. This job was done by my father. He scattered the seed onto the ploughed land. After this it was essential to pull harrows over the land so that the scattered seed would be covered by soil in order that the birds would not pick it up and in order for the seed to properly germinate and sprout. This part of harrowing was done quite uniquely and probably different from other places in the world. The harrows themselves were constructed right at home. The spikes that were driven into the frame of the harrow were made of dried, firm wood. Each separate frame was made for one horse to be hitched to it and drag it. Each horse would have a young boy driver. If the family did not have a boy, girls also could be seated horseback on the horse. One track of the harrow was not enough to properly cover the seed, and so it was most usual to have four horses hitched to four separate frames that would follow one after the other. Only the front horse had to have a driver. The other horses were just tied to the back end of the harrow. And so in my eleventh year I was entrusted with being the driver of the front horse. The other three followed my trail one after the other. This job was not one that required any amount of physical labour, but it did have its own peculiar difficulties. The driver of the lead horse had the responsibility of traversing the field in a straight line. Keeping this line straight was important, because on the return trip the boy had to make sure that he wasn’t going over the same trail twice, as well as he had to be sure that he was leaving no spaces uncovered.

It was always the same problem. The horses usually walked slowly and carefully. At this time of the spring the sun was usually quite warm, and so the gentle swaying of the horse, and the warm sun never failed to make the young driver start dozing. In this half asleep mood it was usually quite hard to keep your line straight. This brought about the fact that you either wandered over territory that was already covered, or also you left some uncovered spaces. What would happen was that when an elder came to check on the work, he would have a double job of getting the line straight and also having no spaces left uncovered. This slowed down the whole process of completing the harrowing of a given field that was already sowed.

In all our villages the land was divided into long narrow plots seeded on a three-year rotation basis. All the families usually worked their allotted plots at the same time. At times there were up to 50 families in the fields at the same time. When the elders would complete the sowing of a given field they would gather together in group discussions awaiting the completion of harrowing. When they felt that the young boys should by now have completed the harrowing, they would go out to the fields to check matters out. Quite often there would be poorly harrowed plots, and the elder who found such a state, would have to then take over the lead horse and correct the poor job. Sometimes, just about the whole field would have to be done over. Where the job had been ably looked after by the young driver – his elders would already start moving to another plot, and the one who had dozed on his horse and made a mess would then get serious lectures from his elders. Some very irresponsible youngsters were sometimes even punished. Thus it would happen, when horses are unhitched for noon feeding, those boys who had everything in order would be jolly and would get together and have fun amongst themselves. The unfortunate ones whose fields were poorly done would get lectures from their elders, and all of the other boys would be ribbing them about how sloppy their work turned out. Not only would the boys receive lectures from their immediate elders, other elders would also pipe in. This sometimes happened to me. Other elders would have their say – admonishing me: “How come Alyoshka, you worked so sloppily that your father had to spend so much time correcting all your errors? At this rate, if you keep up such irresponsibility – no one will ever want you for a husband, and you will never get married”

At our age this seemed to be such a dire prediction. To add to this, if one received the elders’ lectures several times throughout the spring season, you would never hear the end of this from all of your peers and friends for the whole summer. Of course the age we were, and the warm spring sun and the swaying horse were all part of the natural make-up of things. It was really not such a major sin to doze – but it was really hard to take all the consequences of this dozing. And so this simple responsibility of driving the lead horse in harrowing the fields proved to be its own kind of a painful chore.

Seeding operations are completed by about April 20th. Land is not worked again until June 10th. This gives the working animals a rest of about one month and twenty days. During this rest time I had to lead the horses out for grazing in the pasture. In the free pasture land, the horses had to be hobbled on their front feet. If a horse was exceedingly frisky he would have to be hobbled on a third back leg as well. When the horses would be all hobbled they would be allowed to graze on their own. This was the job that every boy of the village was occupied with. The pasture was common to all the villagers and so all of us boys would get together for games throughout the whole day – as the horses could not wander away too far while they were hobbled. Some of the boys who weren’t too enthusiastic to play –would catch up on their sleep that they lost in the spring. The games we played were simple. One was called “V Tsoorki” and another was called “V Doochki”. Rarely did we play ball, and sometimes the younger boys played riding horses near the river and then we would go swimming. Some of us would take this opportunity to catch fish. Pasturing horses during the rainy season was not as troublesome as with pasturing sheep. Horses did not really get upset with the rain. They either continued grazing – or would just stand quietly in one place. As for us children, we would also stay upright quietly or rest on some jutting stone outcrop, which were plentiful in our area. The only problem with horse pasturing during rainy weather was the form of hobble that was used. If the hobble was made of leather, the rain did not affect it, but if the hobble was made of rope – it would tighten when wet, and it was very difficult to get it undone when the horses would have to be herded home. Sometimes a boy would have to take his horses home all the long way from the pasture while they remained hobbled. This was a slow process and such a boy would come home a lot later.

Picture of Alexey as a young man with unidentified woman in exile in Siberia, c. 1903.

Some of the times the horses would not be herded home every night. At such times all of the horses would be brought together in a large herd where designated elders would watch over them all of the night. The elders of 15 to 30 men, who would divide into groups of four taking several shifts through each night. There were also times when the younger children would take designated horses to the village homes for work that was needed to be done in the gardens or other work within the village structure. When all of the village work would be finished, then all the horses would be divided into two or three large herds watched over by two men to each herd in the daytime and by one additional man coming in from the villages for night time watching. This general overall system continued up to June 10th.

At this time the horses would all be brought back to each individual household for preparing the land that was left as summer fallow land, that is, the land that is left for resting for one year. The plowing of these fields had its own particular routine. To each plow there were hitched from six to eight pairs of horses. The front pair had a boy rider in the ages of from ten to thirteen. Every other pair also had a rider. It was the work of these riders to guide his own pair of horses, and also see that the pair ahead of you was pulling its share. Each boy thus had to look after four horses. This meant that in the morning he would have to put on the harness onto the horses, bring them and hitch them into their proper places and then keep them moving in their proper direction following the furrow that was made. At the proper noontime, the horses would have to be unhitched, unharnessed and allowed to graze in a special field of grass left nearby. They would also have to be taken down to the river for their drink of water. All this would have to be repeated in the evening. The land that was being plowed had been already grazed and well trampled by the village cattle. The plots where the horses had to be allowed to graze were nearby. None of the stock were allowed to graze here since the year before and therefore the grass was lush and plentiful for the working teams of horses.

As I became a ten-year-old boy, it was my job to look after 4 horses. Keep them harnessed when needed, unharnessed and fed at given times, and led to water as designated. Getting the horses to water was a chore in itself, as the fields for plowing were sometimes two to three “Versti” from the river. This entire fallow plowing time proved to be exceedingly hard and trying for me as a ten year old. This was especially hard during the night routine. At 8 o’clock in the evening you had to bring the horses to the place where they were to graze, hobble them and then lie down to get some much-needed sleep. The total of your clothing for the night would be one additional light, longer length semi-raincoat. At 12 o’clock midnight you had to get up and unhobble the horses and take them for their drink at the river. You had to bring them back, hobble them again, and then again lie down to sleep. At 5o’clock in the morning you had to get up, bring in the horses, unhobble them and lead them to the workplace. During the times when it remained dry, this job, although quite hard, was still bearable. However, when the rain kept coming all night it became a real nightmare. At times you would wake up and find yourself lying in a puddle of water – as in the night it was not always easy to spot a higher piece of ground for taking your nap. This torturous spring responsibility continued each year for a period of from 28 to 34 days.

The length of time depended on whether there was more or less fallow land, and also on whether there was more or less of a rainy spell. In some years the weather was cool, and not too much rain. In other years you had spells of intense heat and also many days of wet weather. Of course when it became obvious that conditions were too extreme and hard for the young boys – there was always the fact that there was one elder, the plowman for every group of three or four boys. It was his responsibility to see that the boys were reasonably looked after. This elder was always free to catch up on his sleep during the noon break, which lasted for three hours. But during the nighttime he also took four horses and went with the young boys when they took the horses for their grazing period. He always had the boys sleeping near him and would wake them when they had to take the horses for their drink at the river, and also when they had to take them in the morning to the field which was being plowed. In the nighttime he would help the boys get on their horses to ride to the river, and on the way there would often holler to the boys by name – in case one or another of them would begin to doze while riding and perhaps allow the horse to veer away from the others and head for home instead of the river.

During the time of fallow plowing all the boys remained under the rule and instructions of the one elder designated for their group. He was the one that told them how to look after all the harness gear, how to handle the horses, when to take the breaks and so on. This elder was given the authority to discipline any boy in his group. If need be, he had the right to even use the same whip, that was used on the horses, for punishing a disobedient or irresponsible boy. There was one time that I, when I was 12 years old received a snap of the whip for being too lippy. Our elder was a distant relative by the name of Jacob Voykin. He gave me a sharp snap, that made my pants wet. The wet was not from blood! This Jacob Voykin was the elder in our group, which was made up from several families. Because you needed 12 to 16 horses for each plow, and some families did not have that many horses, it was the custom to get several families together who then shared one plow. The plows were of heavy wood construction. The only steel on the plow was the share and the cutting disc that went ahead of it. There was only one share to the plow and it threw a furrow of about 14 inches. The soil was quite heavy and it required from 12 to 16 horses to pull it fast enough to throw a proper furrow. It was with this one plow that all the land had to be tilled to supply several families with a living. Sometimes the total of these families would be twenty or more souls. All the sustenance of these 20 souls would have to be derived from the produce of their allotted plot of land. Where there were this many souls to their allotted plot, most of the time they barely had enough produce to keep themselves and their stock for the ensuing year. Others, whose families had not grown since the past allotment was made, but who had the horsepower, were fortunate enough to have some produce for sale. Some of these more fortunate families were able to rent land from the nearby peasant Tartars and always had some produce for sale. Renting land was very favorable here as after three years of giving shares to the owner – the lessee could claim ownership of the land.

I spent four years of my life doing the routines that I explained, from the age of 10 to 14 years of age, to help the family till the land for their sustenance. Despite the fact that these years remain in my memory as very trying and hard times during this growing period up of my life, I do not remember getting sick at any time in spite of the many times of being wet, cold and tired. My physical health remained at a good level and I have no bad memories of this particular period of my life.


   Cover of Alexey Ivanovich Popov’s “Autobiography of a Siberian Exile”.

Alexey Ivanovich Popov lived with his parents in Spasovka, Kars until the age of 21, when he received his call-up for conscript service in the Russian army. He refused to perform military training, as the taking of human life ran contrary to his Doukhobor faith and beliefs. For this, in 1898, he, together with other young Doukhobor conscripts, was exiled to Yakutsk Siberia for a term of 18 years. In 1905 a Manifesto of Amnesty was issued by Russian Emperor Nikolai II, thus granting the Doukhobor exiles in Siberia their freedom. Soon thereafter, Alexey and his new bride Katerina immigrated to Canada to join their Doukhobor brethren who had arrived some six years earlier. Alexey lived for a time in the Doukhobor Community, but soon became an Independent Doukhobor, taking out a homestead at Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, where he lived and farmed until his death on August 14, 1955.

To order copies of Alexey’s fascinating life story, “Autobiography of a Siberian Exile” along with various other informative Doukhobor publications written by his son, Eli A. Popoff, contact: The Birches Publishing, Box 730, Grand Forks, British Columbia, V0H 1H0, Tel: (250) 442-5397, email:

Dorofeyushka’s Views Regarding Church Rituals

by Eli A. Popoff

Dorofeyushka Dergausov was an 18th century Cossack and progenitor of the Dergousoff family of Doukhobors. The following is an authentic, first person account of Dorofeyushka’s adoption of the Doukhobor faith, passed down orally from generation to generation, recorded by Doukhobor historian Eli A. Popoff and published in his book, “Stories from Doukhobor History” (Grand Forks: U.S.C.C., 1992). To acquaint family researchers with the value of Doukhobor oral tradition, the following excerpt is reproduced by permission from Mr. Popoff’s excellent work.

In the late 18th century in one of the large Cossack settlements in the Kuban region, there were several families who began to profess the Doukhobor life concepts. These families still went to church, but they had already ceased to believe in the various rites and ceremonies performed there, and they often discussed among themselves about what exact occasion they would choose to completely disassociate themselves from the Church and all its rituals.

18th Century Caucasian Cossacks

In this settlement, and of this Doukhobor group, there lived Dorofey Dergausov and his family. He was descended from an old Cossack guard group who were known as keepers of the borderline or line guards. Dorofey was a very solidly built individual. He was tall and broad shouldered. His hair was as dark as tar. His eyebrows were very bushy, somewhat arched and commandeering, and he had a beautiful, long black moustache. He was a great conversationalist. His forefathers were from a group of Cossacks who were forcefully stationed here by the Empress Catherine the Great. They originally came from the Don River area.

It so happened that at one church service, when the priest was performing the ritual of the burning of the incense, the smell of it became absolutely repugnant to Dorofey. He puckered his face in disgust and turned away from it. The priest noticed this and immediately accosted him. “What is the meaning of this, Dorofeyushka, this is not the first time that I am noticing that you are showing disdain to God’s holy rituals?”

At this moment, the thought came to Dorofey – here indeed was the occasion that they had been waiting for to disassociate themselves from the Church and all its rituals. 

He slowly drew his hand across both sides of his moustache, and firmly answered, “Yes, your observations are quite correct. It has been some time now since I have ceased to believe in the need of these superfluous rituals, and I have just been waiting for an occasion to announce this to you.”

The priest became very disturbed. He was also a tall person, but he was thin and pale with long thin arms. His hands shook holding the incense container and with a trembling voice he asked, “Do you really feel that this ceremony of the burning of the incense is superfluous? Do you not have the real knowledge of the value of the scent of this incense?”

Dorofeyushka waved away the scented smoke and slowly and carefully answered again, “The scent of this incense means nothing, neither to God nor to people. What God really requires of us is that we do good to others and love one another, but all this incense burning, the bowing to ikons, all these candles and fancily made crosses – all these are just useless toys of the age. We do not see any purpose or usefulness in them whatsoever and do not expect any saving grace out of their use…”

After these words of Dorofey, all the rest of his friends and their families arose, to be leaving. The priest got so excited and emotional that he just about dropped the incense burner. He kept looking at first one then another of them, but most of all at Dorofey. Raising his voice to a screech, he shouted at them: “Why are you leaving? Do all of you believe the same way as this worthless person who denounces holy things?”

“Yes” answered one of Dorofey’s friends, “and Dorofey is not a worthless person. He has told you the real truth about your church rituals. We all believe the same way as he does.” This made the priest even more upset. He put his hands to his head and screamed at Dorofey and his friends, “Get out of here! All of you! We will have all of you exiled to Siberia for the rest of your lives!”

The group of Doukhobors quietly and in an orderly manner left the church and henceforth did not ever return to it.

Dorofey and his friends were arrested and held in confinement several times. They were charged and made to pay large fines for their alleged heretical statements against Church and state. Their cattle and horses were confiscated and so were large amounts of their grain. But they did not recant their beliefs and they bore their persecution without anger or hate. Although their material possessions were mostly confiscated and taken away in fines, Dorofeyushka lived on to a ripe old age, with his family about him, without giving up any of his Doukhobor beliefs.

Dorofeyushka had a son Grigorii, who, along with his family also followed the true pathway of his illustrious father. He also continued to renounce all Church rituals and was also subjected to various forms of persecution and privation. In spite of these hardships, Grigorii lived till the time when persecution of the Doukhobors was stopped, and they were allowed to migrate to the Milky Waters area of the province of Tavria. Together with the other friends of the Doukhobor faith, Grigorii and his family migrated to Tavria.

It was this Grigorii, son of Dorofeyushka Dergausov, who is regarded as the patriarch of all present day Doukhobors with the surname of Dergousoff.

Copies of “Stories from Doukhobor History” by Eli A. Popoff are available for purchase along with various other informative Doukhobor materials from: The Birches Publishing, Box 730, Grand Forks, British Columbia, V0H 1H0, Tel: (250) 442-5397, email:

Romasha Kanygin – The Shackled One

by Marion Demosky

The following is a true, first person account of the life of Roman Ivanovich Kanygin (1799-1895), progenitor of the Kanigan family of Doukhobors. Passed down orally from generation to generation, it was set down in writing by Romasha’s descendant, Marion Demosky, and published in ISKRA No.1616 (Grand Forks: U.S.C.C., July 26, 1985) and ISKRA No.1713 (Grand Forks: U.S.C.C., June 27, 1990). It is a dramatic and inspiring example of the tremendous faith and extraordinary spiritual endurance of our early Doukhobor ancestors. Reproduced by permission.

Author’s Note

This story is a dedication to the memory of my mother Polly Vasilievna Semenoff, from whom I transcribed it. Mother, in turn, committed it firmly in her memory when it was passed on, orally, by her grandfather, Aldokim Romanovich Kanigan, who was gifted with an exceptional memory and who lived to a ripe old age of 102. This particular story was her favourite of the many stories her grandfather related to her. It is my belief this story will be of interest to all the other members of the Kanigan clan which, after all the years since the time of Roman Ivanovich, has branched out into the 6th and 7th generations.

I sincerely hope that this story will likewise be of interest to all Doukhobors in whom the faith and the convictions of our forefathers are still alive…those whose relatives, even though distant, probably also had traversed the martyr’s path, and had left their footprints on the pages of history.

Marion Demosky, Grand Forks, British Columbia, 1985

Roman Ivanovich was born in 1799 in the village of Krukova, in the province of Tambov, Russia. His father was a Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church and his family name was Kanygin. He had an only son, Ivanushka, whom he brought up to be literate and whom he prepared to be a priest. When Ivan’s father became old, it was in order for Ivanushka to take over the priesthood because in those days it was customary for the mantle of the priest’s office to pass from the father to the eldest son.

And so, on the day of Easter, Ivan’s father and the church were preparing for the services that pertained to that particular event. On this day it was in order for Ivanushka to receive the Eucharistic sacrament in preparation for him to become a priest, taking over his father’s position. Within the temple stood a statue of the Holy Virgin. A golden chalice was held in the hands of the statue and Ivanushka was supposed to dip a finger of his right hand into it as a sign of his receiving the Communion in the blood of Jesus … then making the sign of the cross, three times.

The priests were gathered together. A gown was held in readiness as they awaited for Ivanushka to arrive. However, Ivanushka made up his mind, on that day, to renounce the church. He sheared the long hair he wore and donned just plain, ordinary clothes. Upon entering the church, he refused to take part in the Communion, rather he began speaking to the people present about the injustices committed by churches and that he was now renouncing them.

The elder priest was so angered by these actions of his son that he began running back and forth in the church, tearing his hair and his clothes. For the betrayal of the church the father confined Ivanushka in a prison for a period of three months, during which time he continued to try to persuade Ivanusha to change his mind and to return to the church. Ivanushka, however being of a resolute mind, turned a deaf ear to his father’s pleadings, and even asked him (the father) to forsake the priesthood. In the end, the father’s anger against the son rose to such a height that he issued an order that he be burned on a skovoroda (heated metal plate). And, indeed, Ivanushka was done away with in this manner upon the behest of his own father.

Ivanushka left behind him three children. The oldest daughter was seven, her name was Khristusha (Khristina). The next was a male child of five, whose name was Kondrasha (Kondraty). The youngest, Romasha (Roman) was only three. Their grandfather, the priest, was making observations as to which one of them he would choose to make his heir. Roman was tall, quick and sharp, and the grandfather took him under his wing and sent him to a school to become literate and to study the Bible. When the child became thirteen, he already knew the Gospel by heart. However, though Romasha was doing well in his studies, which brought joy to the old man, yet he himself, being aware of the past and not able to forget the reason for which his father was made to die, resolved deep within his heart to take vengeance upon his grandfather … but not with malice or bad deeds, but by preaching the good. 

Romasha began resisting his grandfather, breaking off his studies for the priesthood. For taking such an attitude, the grandfather began to mete out severe punishment upon Romasha by various means. He ordered his servants to combine several ant-hills into one mound, then, removing all clothing from Romasha’s body, forced him onto these anthills, and only when the ants came close to devouring him to death did the grandfather allow Romasha to be taken out. The torture process was carried on for a long time. But Romasha, however, would not submit to his grandfather’s will. When Romasha reached the age of 16, the old man began to realize that by means of physical punishment his grandson would not be made to accept the faith of the church, so he resolved to achieve the aim by enticements. Upon consultation with his fellow priests, they brought a bundle of satchels filled with money, and piling them in a corner, addressed Roman with the promise that ”all this shall be yours, only do not abandon the church”.’ But Romasha threw back at them, crying “Let the gold remain with you, but I want to remain with God!” He turned his back on everything and left the city environment to begin living a life in the village.

At the age of 17 Roman married Stenya (Stepanida) Tarasova, and from that marriage they had two children: the older one – Trifan, the younger – Stepan. And during all this time Roman kept on convincing people of the wrong-doings of the church which, of course, did not please the authorities. And it came about that when Trifan was three and Stepan was still in his mother’s arms, these children were taken away while Romasha and his wife were taken into confinement. And in such a separated condition the family remained for seven and a half years.

On one occasion, while passing through the jail house, an elder priest made a statement to the effect that “if you (the inmates) will refuse to submit, you will be hacked to death by iron rods” while another priest walked behind him, inquiring (of the inmates) what each one was imprisoned for. When the turn came for Stenya to answer the question: ”What are you in here for, my dove?” She replied by asking the interrogator, ”And what happens to be your name, sir?” He replied: ”By our custom I am an Enlightened Master, but according to your simple ways, I am Arsentii Pavlovich”. ”Well then, Arsentii Pavlovich, I’m imprisoned here for the sake of the law of Christ”.’ The priest then told her that ”soon you will be released to join your dear little ones; soon you will be seeing them”.’

And so it indeed happened. Stenya, shortly after, was allowed to go home and her children were also brought back. But Romasha was held in prison for a while longer, but he did return later.

Upon arriving home Romasha made the remark that he ”had spent time in some 13 different prisons. Now, perhaps, there will be some respite”. However, enjoying his stay at home no more than two days, Romasha was visited, in the middle of the night, by a gendarme, a person who happened to be his friend from childhood days, and who began to beseech him to submit to the authorities and to renounce his convictions; otherwise, by daybreak, there would be eleven Doukhobors who would be driven to the Petropavlovskaya fortress in Petrograd. ”Roman” pleaded his friend, “We grew up together with you. We drank and ate from the same bowl. I really feel sorry for you. Very few people ever survive a term in this Petropavlovskaya fortress”. Romasha, however, replied that nothing would persuade him to change his mind. ”If that’s the case” the gendarme told him, “take along with yourself an extra night shirt so that you will have something to be clothed in when you die”.

Early in the morning, before dawn, in the midst of a winter storm, there were indeed eleven Doukhobors driven to Petropavlovskaya fortress where they were subjected to punishments in casements. A “casement” was a damp vault into which were introduced defanged toads, scorpions, and a variety of insects. Then a person was undressed to a state of complete nudity and forced to be confined in that place for two or three twenty-four hour periods. According to an account by Roman’s son, Evdokim, this type of torture is most awful and unbearable. The toad sinks its fangs into one’s spine, the serpent entwines itself around the arms and neck; the scorpion crawls into the ears and eyes. From such a place no person was able to walk out on his own. Tormented to the extreme, Romasha had to be carried out on a stretcher.

Of the eleven persons, after three and a half years of confinement, only four remained alive: Roman Kanygin, a Tarasov, a Potapov, and a Zbitnev. Of the others – some died, the rest became mentally deranged. When they emerged from prison, they were mere skeletons; bones held together by skin. When Roman arrived at his home, his wife Stenya was not able to recognize him. She was living alone at the time, since her children were once again taken away from her.

Having rested awhile at home, Romasha went forth to locate the whereabouts of his children. From enquiries, he learned they were living in a village some 50 versts from his home. He came to the village and, entering a yard of someone Iiving there, sat down by a stable which was opposite the place where his children were staying. They happened to be playing outside. Calling one of the boys that were there to come to him, he asked if he could bring Triyoshka Kanygin if he knew him. “Do you recognize me?” Roman asked. “I am your father. Tell Stepan, and then both of you go unnoticed along the fences up to the village. Be there by sunset”. The children hid in the shrubbery, and when it got dark, the father led them to his home. They travelled at night and hid themselves during the day in old cavities in the ground which he noticed while on his way to seek the children. They arrived home on the third day.

Not long after that Romasha, along with six other Doukhobors from the province of Tambov, were exiled to the Caucasus mountain region, to Karabakh in the province of Bakinsk on the Russo-Persian border, in the vicinity of the Caspian Sea. He pleaded with his wife Stenya to come along with him, saying, ”You will be transported on wagons while we will be driven behind”. But Stenya refused to go along with him, claiming she had enough of suffering, and so resolved to stay. She added that, allegedly, in the Caucasus the sky was sunken and the rain there was perpetual. At this time, when Romasha was driven away to the Caucasus, Stenya was pregnant. In a short period of time she gave birth to a daughter, Masha (Maria).

The distance to the place of exile in Karabakh was 700 versts. The group had to walk the whole distance to the place of exile, with each one of them shackled with chains, bearing cruel and torturous suffering from the irons cutting into their limbs to the very bone and where infection had set in. During that part of their march, when going through the Caucasus area, they came upon some Molokan villages, residents of which were exiled to that area earlier. While passing through these villages, the Molokans, when seeing the condition of the exhausted Doukhobors, begged the captain of the guards to stop at their place for a rest. They heated up their steam baths, washed the clothes worn by the Doukhobors, and steamed out the lice – thus alleviating their sufferings. When the lengthy journey came to an end and the process of unshackling the chains began, the weaker ones of the prisoners fainted from the pain. The chains were so deeply imbedded in the flesh, to the very bone.

Upon reaching Karabakh, the Doukhobors were released and were allowed to live in freedom. After some time an opening appeared at a border station where Romasha got employment, receiving a wage of one and a half kopeks an hour.

Not long after, he wrote to his wife asking her to come to him, explaining that the climate at Karabakh was favourable and that everything grew well. However, his wife still refused to come. In reply to his second letter she wrote that she would never return to him, and that if he wished, he was free to find himself another wife. It happened that in proximity to where Romasha lived there was a Molokan village where he got acquainted with a widow by the name of Marfa Harshenin, who was of the Chevildeev family, and whose first husband had died, and she was left a widow with a small boy, Vasya (Vasily). Roman took her for his wife and with her, while living in Karabakh, they had two sons: the first one – Nikolai, the second – Emeliosha (Emelian).

Marfa’s own son Vasya lived with them as part of the family. Marfa’s parents, the Chevildeevs, were of the Don Cossacks, converted into the Molokan faith. When rumours began to seep through to them in Karabakh that the Doukhobors at Milky Waters (Melitopol district, Tavria province) and in other areas would be resettling in the Caucasus region, Romasha was prompted to set out on foot to seek out his brothers and sisters. He reached the village of Slavyanka in the Elizavetpol district, where the Doukhobors began establishing a village and there discovered that both his brother Kondrasha and sister Khristusha were also living in the same village. They invited him to make his domicile with them, to which he consented. Consequently, Roman and his comrades, along with their respective families, after living in Karabakh for twelve years, now settled in Slavyanka.

There in Slavyanka, Romasha and Marfa had two more sons born to them: Aldokim and Misha (Mikhailo). Three years later, Roman’s former wife Stenya came to live in Slavyanka with her three children. Roman went ahead and built her a house also, in the same yard, and took care of them, alternately living with and caring for the needs of each family.

Romasha lived in Slavyanka approximately twelve years. Becoming quite prosperous, he constructed for himself two water driven flour mills. When the Doukhobors settled in the Caucasus, the Elizavetpol area produced bountiful harvests of grain, but in the region of Kholodnoye (“Wet Mountains”) in Tiflis province it was different. There the harvests were poor. So one time Romasha, leaving only enough grain for himself to last until the next harvest, loaded the remainder onto four wagons and transported them to Kholodnoye. Arriving there, he observed that the Doukhobors living there were very highly attuned spiritually. Their sobranyas were attended by great numbers, singing and recitals were very popular, and the people were fraternizing with one another. To Roman, seeing all this, it appeared that in such a highly developed environment, people did not consider it so important if there was a shortage of bread. He admired very much the lifestyle of the people at Kholodnoye, saying, ”here flows a river of soul gratification”. Consequently, he chose a suitable place, and upon returning to Slavyanka began coaxing his families to move their place of residence to Kholodnoye. His first wife – Stenya and children – refused outright. The second wife, Marfa, although reluctant at first to leave Slavyanka for the reason that she was so far away from her relatives as it was, and if she went to Kholodnoye, the distance separating them would be even greater, did, however, consent in the end. And so Roman, with his second wife and their children, moved to the Kholodnoye region, settling in the village of Troitskoye.

When leaving Slavyanka, Romasha gave away one of his flour mills to his brother Kondrasha, and the other one to the older children born from his first wife, Stenya.

While living in Kholodnoye another daughter was born to Romasha and Marfa – Hanya (Agafia).

Romasha was not a gifted singer, nevertheless, he did constantly hum to himself, in an ancient tune, the psalm Kto Vozliubit Pechat’ Gospodniuiu (“He Who Will Love the Mark of the Lord”).

Romasha, in the village where he resided, was not called by his name. People simply referred to him by the nickname Kandal’nik (the “Shackled One”) in view of the fact that so many years of his life were spent in prisons, in exile, and in chains, persecuted for the cause of the Doukhobor faith and ideals.

Roman was privileged to live in Kholodnoye for more than thirty years. When a division took place amongst the Doukhobors in the Caucasus, he remained in the ”Large Party”. All his life he enjoyed good health. However, a couple of days before the New Year of 1895, he felt a weakness coming over him, upon which he spoke out and said, “I’m aware of a weakness arid it appears the time has come for me to leave my mortal body”.’ He gave instructions that when he died, no one of the Chaldeans (Small Party of Doukhobors) was to be allowed in his home when the funeral took place, ”but when the coffin will be placed outside the house, if it would be so desirable, then let former friends of mine from amongst the Chaldeans come and take a look at my mortal remains”.’ On his grave he ordered that a black rock be stood upright as a marker. ”It could be” he said, “someone and at some time may be there from across the border and will take note where your Kandal’nik is interred”.’ At that particular period of time there was talk of Doukhobors migrating to Turkey. Romasha died exactly on New Year’s Day, at the age of 96. He was buried in the cemetery in the village of Troitskoye.

Romasha’s first wife Stenya married another man living in Slavyanka. And his children came often to visit their relatives at Kholodnoye. All of Roman’s children (eight altogether, born of two wives) were gifted singers, and all of them emigrated to Canada with the exception of Trifan, who died in Slavyanka while still young. Romasha’s wife Marfa came to Canada also and lived here with her children. She died in 1905, in the village of Uspeniye in Saskatchewan.

Roman is the progenitor of all the Kanigans in Canada. The families of his brother Kondrasha and of his sister Khristya did not emigrate to Canada. Khristya was married to a Kotelnikov and happened to be the blood grandmother of Avdotia Grigoreevna Verigina, wife of Peter “Lordly” Verigin.

Romasha’s second wife Marfa was formerly married to a Molokan by the name of Vasily Harshenin with whom they had a son, Vasya. When Vasya married, they had no children of their own, so they adopted a small boy Mikisha (Mikita) and a small girl Lusha (Lukeria) Shustov whose parents had died. They raised them as their own. In Canada, Lusha married Savely Kastrukoff. Mikisha continued to be identified by the Harshenin name until their children began using the Shustoff family name.

Upon arrival in Canada all the Kanigans settled in the villages of Troitskoye and Uspeniye, some twelve miles from Arran, Saskatchewan, with the exception of Stepan who came from Kars, Russia, to the region of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. In about 1905, Aldokim and son Vasya took a homestead and lived on a farm for thirteen years.

Aside from Stepan and Aldokim all the Kanigan brothers along with their families moved to British Columbia in 1909, settling at Ootischenia in the proximity of a large sawmill. Their two sisters, Masha Soukeroff and Hanya Jmaeff, also moved to British Columbia. Aldokim and his family joined his brethren at Ootischenia in 1917. Stepan lived in the Prince Albert area, but Iater moved, together with his son, to Oregon and then to California where he lived until his death. All the others: Masha, Nikolasha, Emeliosha, Aldosha, Misha, and Hanya ended their lives at Ootischenia and are buried there.

Kanigan Family Tree

1   Ivan Kanygin 
…….. 2   Kondraty Ivanovich Kanygin 
…….. 2   Khristina Ivanovna Kotelnikov
………………. 3   Grigorii Kotelnikov 
………………………… 4   Evdokia Grigorevna Kotelnikova 
…………………………….  +Peter “Lordly” Verigin
………………………………….. 5   Peter “Chistiakov” Verigin 
…….. 2   Roman Ivanovich Kanygin 1799 – 1895
…………  +Stenya Tarasov (Roman’s 1st Wife)
………………. 3   Trifan Romanovich Kanigan 
………………………… 4   (daughter) Kanigan 
………………. 3   Stepan Romanovich Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Mary S. Maloff 
………………………………….. 5   Nastia Popoff 
………………………………….. 5   Polya Kotelnikoff 
………………………………….. 5   Nikolai Maloff 
………………………………….. 5   Wasil Maloff 
………………………………….. 5   Anuta Vatkin 
………………………… 4   Vanya S. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Grunya Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Nikolai Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Peter Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Tunya Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Fanny Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Olga Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   John Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Walter Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Nikolai S. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Karaloff 
………………………………….. 5   Anna Louis 
………………………………….. 5   John Kanigan
………………………………….. 5   Nick Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Paranya S. Bonderoff 
………………………………….. 5   John Bonderoff 
………………………………….. 5   Peter Bonderoff 
………………………… 4   Onya S. Tomilin 
………………………………….. 5   Paranya Mahonin 
………………………………….. 5   Masha Stushnoff 
………………………… 4   Nastya S. Osachoff 
………………………………….. 5   Nick Osachoff 
………………………………….. 5   Pauline Atamanenko 
………………………………….. 5   Dora Atamanenko 
………………………… 4   Hanya S. Chutskoff 
………………………………….. 5   Olga Chutskoff 
………………………………….. 5   Verna Robinson 
………………………………….. 5   William Chutskoff 
………………………………….. 5   Gertrude Ryhorchuk 
………………………………….. 5   Peter Chutskoff 
………………………………….. 5   Fred Chutskoff 
………………. 3   Masha Romanovna Sookeroff 
………………………… 4   Sam Sookeroff
………………………………….. 5   Polly Malikoff 
………………………………….. 5   Lucy Goolieff 
………………………………….. 5   Nastya Bonderoff 
………………………………….. 5   George Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   William Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Pozdnikoff 
………………………… 4   Misha Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   Martha Postnikoff 
………………………………….. 5   Andrew Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   Evdokim Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   John Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   Anuta Berikoff 
………………………… 4   Hanya Kooznetsoff 
………………………………….. 5   Nastya Shkuratoff 
………………………………….. 5   Sam Kooznetsoff 
………………………………….. 5   John Kooznetsoff 
………………………… 4   Wasil Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   Misha Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   Fred Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   Peter Sookeroff 
………………………………….. 5   Dora Sookeroff 
………………………… 4   Masha Popoff 
………………………………….. 5   George Popoff 
………………………………….. 5   Eli Popoff 

…………  +Marfa (Chevildeev) Harshenin (Roman’s 2nd Wife)
………………. 3   Vasily Vasilievich Harshenin (Roman’s step-son) 
………………………… 4   Mikisha Shustoff (adopted)
………………………… 4   Lusha Kastrukoff (adopted) 
………………. 3   Nikolai Romanovich Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Grisha N. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   John Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Pete Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Anuta Planidin 
………………………………….. 5   William Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Vanya N. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Sam Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Pete Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Alec Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   John Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Nick Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Anuta Moojelsky 
………………………… 4   Trofim N. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Grunya Vanin 
………………………………….. 5   William Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Larry Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Tanya Salikin 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Steve Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Havrila N. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Fred Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Pete Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Nick Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Gertie Konkin 
………………………… 4   Martha N. Swetlishoff 
………………………………….. 5   William Swetlishoff 
………………………………….. 5   Fred Swetlishoff 
………………………………….. 5   George Swetlishoff 
………………. 3   Emelian Romanovich Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Nadya E. Plotnikoff 
………………………………….. 5   Tanya Strukoff 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Vanjoff 
………………………………….. 5   John Plotnikoff 
………………………… 4   Anuta E. Lavrenchenkoff 
………………………………….. 5   Elizabeth Kinakin 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Labonty 
………………………… 4   Axuta E. Stooshnoff 
………………………………….. 5   Helen Stooshnoff 
………………………………….. 5   Peter Stooshnoff 
………………………………….. 5   Nellie Harshenin 
………………………… 4   Martha E. Perepolkin 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Maloff 
………………………… 4   Daniel E. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Luba Abrosimoff 
………………. 3   Aldokim Romanovich Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Wasil A. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Elizabeth Rilkoff 
………………………………….. 5   George Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Tom Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   William Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Polly Semenoff 
………………………………….. 5   Mike Kanigan 
………………. 3   Mikhail Romanovich Kanigan 
………………………… 4   Grunya M. Hadikin 
………………………………….. 5   Philip Hadikin 
………………………………….. 5   Anuta Sookochoff 
………………………… 4   Martha M. Repin 
………………………………….. 5   Pete Repin 
………………………………….. 5   Dasha Fominoff 
………………………………….. 5   Hanya Fominoff 
………………………………….. 5   Masha Stooshnoff 
………………………………….. 5   Liza Repin 
………………………… 4   Fenya M. Shlakoff 
………………………………….. 5   Nastya Voykin 
………………………………….. 5   John Shlakoff 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Shlakoff 
………………………………….. 5   Florence Hughes 
………………………… 4   Savely M. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Walter Kanigan
………………………………….. 5   Nastya Voykin 
………………………………….. 5   Cecil Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Vera Voykin 
………………………… 4   Afanasy M. Kanigan 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Jmieff 
………………………………….. 5   Mike Kanigan 
………………. 3   Hanya Romanovna Jmieff 
………………………… 4   Peter Jmieff 
………………………………….. 5   Fred Jmieff 
………………………………….. 5   Cecil Jmieff 
………………………………….. 5   Jim Jmieff 
………………………………….. 5   Florence Bloodoff 
………………………………….. 5   Lisa Jmieff 
………………………… 4   Arina Lactin 
………………………………….. 5   Mike Lactin 
………………………………….. 5   John Lactin 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Sophonoff 
………………………………….. 5   Nick Lactin 
………………………… 4   Masha Labintsoff 
………………………………….. 5   Florence Trautman 
………………………………….. 5   John Labintsoff 
………………………………….. 5   Helen Labintsoff 
………………………………….. 5   Pete Labintsoff 
………………………………….. 5   Mike Labintsoff 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Labintsoff 
………………………………….. 5   Brilliant Labintsoff 
………………………… 4   William Jmieff 
………………………………….. 5   Pete Jmieff 
………………………………….. 5   Mary Demoskoff 
………………………………….. 5   Ida Barisoff 
………………………………….. 5   Doris Murray 
………………………………….. 5   Pauline Brown 
………………………………….. 5   John Jmieff 

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.


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)

A Story about Our Ancestors

by Mikhail S. Androsov

Mikhail Semenovich Androsov was a prominent Doukhobor organizer and activist in the late 19th and early 20th century. In 1901, while in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, he met the Doukhobor elder, Efim Evseyevich Vlasov, who shared his stories of the history of the movement, and the life events of its early leader, Savely Kapustin, as passed down to him through oral tradition from earlier generations.  Androsov carefully documented these stories in a written manuscript, which was subsequently published by the Russian ethnographer Vladimir Dmitrievich Bonch-Bruevich in “Materialy k istorii i izucheniiu religiozno-obshchestvennykh dvizhenii v Rossii. Vypusk 1. Baptisty. Bieguny. Dukhobortsy. L. Tolstoi o skopchestvie. Pavlovtsy. Pomortsy. Staroobriadtsy. Skoptsy. Shtundisty.” (St. Petersburg; B. M. Vol’fa, 1908).  Androsov’s manuscript provides the reader with a rare, detailed and authentic example of the rich oral tradition of the Doukhobors.  It is made available for the first time in English translation in this Doukhobor Genealogy Website exclusive.  Translation and editorial notes by Jack McIntosh.  Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

On August 10th, 1901 while in the city of Yorkton I met an old man named Efim Vlasov. He recognized me as Androsov and said: “For a long time I have been wanting to have a talk with you, but haven’t had an opportunity.” I replied: “Now we’ll have an opportunity. Tomorrow is Sunday. We can talk all day.”


The next day Vlasov began to ask me about certain events. I told him what I knew, and then Vlasov related to me what Gavriil Sorokin had told him about how he had joined the Doukhobors. Sorokin was very wealthy; he had a lot of money. He himself was a giant – 13 chetverts [an imperial Russian unit of measure equal to 7 inches; 13 chetverts equals seven and a half feet] tall; everybody was fascinated by his size and his wealth.

Doukhobors were beginning to appear in several locations. At that time they were referred to as malovery [“people of little faith”]; they were being persecuted everywhere. Some had been flogged to death, others pilloried and encased in stone cairns; many were exiled to forced labour in silver and gold mines.

‘At that time,’ said Sorokin, Kormilets [“Provider”; a reference to Doukhobor leader Savely Kapustin]2 called in at my place to spend the night. Our conversation turned to the malovery.3

I, Sorokin, began by hurling abuse at these people. Kormilets let me go on, but then interrupted me to show me that what I was saying was not fitting. I will admit and I myself now see that I was off track. In the morning my guest was about to leave. I began to try hard to find out what kind of person he was, and what his beliefs were. He explained it to me. Then I approached him and said “I wish to be your servant, will you let me believe in you?” Kormilets said: “I have important business; it is necessary to go to the Tsar. I want you to go to him.”

Sorokin asked: “What business?”

“Here’s what – you are to tell Tsar Alexander personally about our faith.”

I was terrified and said: “I cannot speak about faith and I am afraid of the Tsar; I will not go alone.”

Kormilets said: “You will have a companion, go together, but only you, Sorokin, will speak to the Tsar.”

I was even more frightened that he was picking me out directly. Then Kormilets said: “Fear not, Sorokin; if you wish to be glorified, go boldly. Go with your companion into the Tsar’s court; just remember, stand on the left side, and your companion on the right side, and I will be with you standing between you. Whatever they ask you, I will tell you how to answer, and you will answer them. Look at me, see what I am like, that is how I will appear there; no one will see me, but you will see me and only you will hear me.”

Then I agreed to go with a companion to visit the Tsar.

For three months we travelled on foot. We arrived at the court of the Tsar, where at the gates the guards were walking back and forth. We told them we had come to tell the Tsar about our faith. Then they let us into the courtyard. When we entered the courtyard, we caught sight of the golden regiment of soldiers who stood at the doors. Sorokin was terrified when he saw all the soldiers dressed in gold uniforms, and became flustered, forgetting why and where he had come.

Then they were led to the Tsar. When they entered the building, Sorokin had to stand on the left side, and his companion on the right. They spoke: “We wish you health, your Imperial Majesty!”

There also was the Pope of Rome, i.e. the senior priest. He was seated, and nearby was an open Bible and New Testament. Sorokin did not know what to do or where to hide; he turned toward his companion and saw that Kormilets was standing between them. Then at once Sorokin remembered all the words that it would be well for him to answer, the words given by Kormilets. “My fear left me, and my heart rejoiced.”

Then the Pope of Rome began to question us: “What people are you, of what faith, what is the name of your sect?”4 and waited.

Kormilets said to me: “Answer him this way: ‘We are named Doukhobors…’” and so from beginning to end I answered from the lips of Kormilets. After that he asked: “With whom did the Lord create the heavens?” to which I gave answer. Then he asked: “What manner of person are you?”5 and I answered him.

After these three questions and answers, Alexander asked: “And can you sing?”

Sorokin replied: “We can!”

However, he himself was a new convert to this faith and was by no means a singer. But his companion was. He (Alexander, that is) spoke: “Your answers to all the questions were good. I would like to hear you sing….”

Then my companion began to sing: “Vnemlite, lyudi moi, zakonu Bozh’emu…” [“Hear, my people, the law of God”]. Kormilets turned toward him and also began to sing; and so two voices sang out, and it was terrifying to stand near them. I, Sorokin, stood openmouthed looking at them. They sang that entire psalm.

Then Alexander came up to Sorokin and said: “You are Doukhobors; you have come to know God in the spirit of your true faith. May you enjoy the benefits of this faith.”  Then they thanked him and asked that they be given a copy of the questions and answers, as everything had been written down in their presence. Then Alexander ordered that they be given copies of the long questions and answers, which they received, were taken back to the Doukhobors and have been preserved up to this day.

In all probability, I suppose, they are kept by some Russian organization that keeps information of concern to the priesthood or the government.

Within a short time a decree was issued ordering that the Doukhobors be resettled in the Molochnye Vody [“Milky Waters”] area in Tavria province. Many were still in exile in various places in Siberia. At that time Kormilets wrote a petition to Alexander. This petition began: “Thus saith the Lord, the Holy God of Israel…” You have this in the psalm book6 and we have accepted it as a proper psalm.

When they delivered the petition to Alexander, he summoned the Senate, but they were unable to understand the petition. Then they passed it on to the priests; of course those churchmen understood it better. They then responded to Alexander: “This petition must be the work of God himself; we cannot make any decision about it.”

Then Alexander issued a decree that Doukhobors be sought out in all the cities and villages where they are to be found; they are to be permitted, without any compulsion, to go out to Molochnye Vody in Tavria province. If any are in prison or in exile in Siberia, they are to be be freed and sent at state expense to Molochnye Vody, Tavria province. His decree was put into effect.7


At one place in Siberia there were 100 Doukhobors. They were serving hard labour, dragging sacks of ore from under ground. At the same place another 100 men joined them who had been exiled for murder and robbery. Seeing many men in bonds, they felt a wish to be brothers in misfortune. When the Tsar’s decree was received, the warden summoned all the convicts and asked: “Who is a Doukhobor?” They all answered in turn, and their names were written down – 200 of them.

Then he said: “Whoever identified himself as a Doukhobor, step out from the rest.”

Those two hundred men stepped out.

Then the warden said to them: “You are Doukhobors, here from the Tsar is a manifesto for Doukhobors, but only on condition that those who will go to the holy church will be set free and transported at state expense to their home locations.

The Doukhobors asked: “But where is it, this holy church?”

He pointed out where it stood – we called it a “den” – i.e. a wood-worshiping church.

Those 100 newly joined Doukhobors immediately agreed to go to it, but those who had suffered for the truth replied: “That is not a holy church, but a den of thieves.”

He asked: “Explain – why do you regard it as a den of thieves?’

They replied: “Because it is full of ox manure, and built by bandits. Criminals and robbers stay there: they clean people out. They steal when a baby is born; when people get married, they rob them again, and when you die, they tear the last shirt off your back.”

Then the warden said: “In that case, take your sacks and go back underground; you’ll be hauling dirt forever.”

They took their sacks and crawled into their burrow, while the other hundred men set out walking to the church. When they had gone a little way, he shouted: ‘Come back, all of you.’ Both groups turned around, i.e. all 200 men.

He then said: “So, I see that the Sovereign has mixed wheat with tares [i.e. weeds; a reference to Christ’s Parable of the Wheat and Tares in Matthew 13:24-30]. These 100 men who have not changed their beliefs are sufferers for Christ, they are ready to die for the truth, while you 100 have only just decided you wish to be called Doukhobors, but you do not have enough inner faith to deserve to be let free; however, that is not my affair: the Emperor has allowed you all to be released.”

Then they set out on foot, all together. They went by road, but as people generally tend to be weak, they began to reproach one another, causing a split: one group of 100 men separated from the other 100. The two groups walked along together, but ate dinner and supper separately. Then as the route from Siberia was a long one, they walked for a very long time. As they began to draw nearer to Tavria province, people began to speak derisively about how things were going at that time when Doukhobors were living in Tavria province along the Molochnye Vody: “their faith is different; they have no love for people; if anybody acts counter to their opinion, such a person is expelled from their commune.” They listened to those stories and said: “There are more than a few of us, and we are going to one place.”

Then the 100 men who had agreed to go to church began to heed the warnings and they began stopping at settlements along the way, ten in one settlement, two in another, and thus 100 men stayed put, not daring to proceed. However, the other 100 walked on bravely, even full of hope that the Doukhobors would accept them back. When they arrived at the Doukhobor settlements, they were told: “Go to Terpeniye [village] to see Kormilets, and he will tell you where to settle.”

That is what they did. They went to Kormilets and said that they had arrived from Siberia and wish to see him. He asked them:

“How many of you came?”

“One hundred!” they replied.

He went on to ask them: “As many of you as there were back there, or were there others?”

They answered: “There were 200, but 100 betrayed their faith when the warden announced that there was a manifesto from the Tsar for those who would go to the church. They agreed, and after everybody had been released, we parted from them. They walked along with us for a long time, but then began to stay behind, and all of them remain along the route.”

Then Kormilets said: “In that case I shall not meet with you, because you have not loved your lesser brethren; you lost them along the road and did not bring one of them with you. If you had felt sorry for them and loved them, you would have all arrived together. Then I would have met with you, and been very glad to do so, but now you go and make peace with them.”

Then they sadly returned to their brethren; they found them all, begged and wept before them. Those men agreed to their plea to come with them.

When they arrived together, Kormilets met with them and told them: “Now you are all here, but not all of you are equal. Half of you are those who have suffered for the faith of Christ, while the other half were exiled for being criminals. According to the Tsar’s manifesto he has been pleased to grant you the right to call yourselves Doukhobors; you were all released, and I accept you all equally, but the Lord will grant to each according to his deeds: those who suffered for the truth the Lord will receive into his abode, but those who were exiled for robbery, received a Doukhobor name and were released, and now will do good, repent of past sins and will ask God – the Lord is merciful. He accepts all who come to him in faith. But you who have suffered for the truth! God has seen your suffering and been merciful to you, and granted freedom to you, and your children and grandchildren, even to the seventh generation. You will live and prosper, and then there will be new service for you, you will again be tortured for the faith of Christ,8 then each will get what he deserves. Whoever will serve God will receive a reward from Him, while whoever will serve evil will perish in evil.”

And then he said: “Now live as you choose.”

Nevertheless, they lived well and in harmony along the Molochnye Vody. Some time passed. Tsar Alexander Pavlovich remembered these people. He invited his wife and generals from the Senate to visit the Doukhobors. They came to see Doukhobors in the village of Terpeniye in Tavria province. The Doukhobors gave them a good reception. After greetings had been exchanged, Alexander asked our elders to conduct a prayer ceremony.

“I want to observe how you pray to God.”

“We would be pleased to do so.”

Our folk began to pray. He watched eagerly and listened to the recitation and singing of psalms and all our religious ritual.

When the prayer ceremony was over, he said: “Now I see that you are people of God’s law; all of you pray to God well and fervently. I think so because you have with great labour worked out God’s way; all of you are suffering martyrs; although there are bad ones among you, they are few – one out of ten and he is not visible. But see here – suppose you live on several years and it turns out that there are ten bad ones among you and one good. What should the good one do?”

To this our elders responded: “The good one must endure all.”

Then Alexander thanked them and said: “You understand God’s law well. From now on I would like to be a Doukhobor.”

The Doukhobors answered him: “A Tsar cannot be a Doukhobor, because Doukhobors feed themselves from their own labours – they plough, they sow grain.”

Alexander spoke to his wife: “Do you wish to be a Doukhobor and live off your own labours?” “No, I do not,” she replied. But he nevertheless remained a true Christian, living among the Doukhobors for the rest of his life, a blessed and good man.9

A short time later an order came from the Tavria governor. He strictly commanded the Doukhobors not to hire people of another faith: “…lest a person of some other faith falls into your company, lives for a while among you, and becomes a Doukhobor.”

Our men told the governor: “But we need workers.”

Then he announced that a heavy fine would be imposed on anyone who hires a worker of any other faith, and he put a guard in place. But no matter what orders he gave and how much he had the area guarded, nevertheless, poor folk came to earn wages, and our people would hire them, dress them in Doukhobor apparel so that the guards would not find out (although there were instances when they were caught, albeit few); and the people came for work from all sides to us, because we had a lot of jobs available. They worked in the fields and at cattle-raising.

In that time of prosperity people soon began to depart from God’s law. They began to go back and forth into the cities and the markets, and around places where people were living in luxury. Then they were exiled to the Transcaucasus. Here also they were not living for God especially well, but only it seems were striving after wealth; there were some among us who were trying to live according to God’s law, but very few. But when this persecution began against us, our elders began to reflect and recall Kormilets’ words, and began to come back to the faith of Christ. Just as we had taken a step forward, the Russian government came down on us; however, the Lord saw the step we had taken, and began to grant us his strength, and so we were in agreement for the sake of faith in Christ to endure all suffering; we were even prepared to face execution for the sake of faith in Christ.

Now when we moved to Canada, here some of us weakened, but there are many who staunchly hold to the law of God. We can fully expect that whatever persecution comes, they will never depart from the law and faith of Christ. Yes, a true Christian will never retreat. As far as Doukhobors are concerned, they already know well enough that God is above kings and princes. God is able to protect his servant everywhere, in whatever out-of-the-way place he may be; if he has taken into himself a burning faith to serve God, then God will help such a servant in all matters (to us this is very well evident).


Listen, our Kormilets, Savely Kapustin, was called up for military service. He only served for a very short time. At that time the required term of service was 25 years, but he was freed after 6 years, because he began to live in accordance with God’s law.’

‘How did this come about?’

‘I shall tell you what I heard from our elders. He was serving in one company as a Sergeant Major, but that was at such a time when brass were giving orders and themselves getting aggressive and saying “kill nine of them, and teach the tenth one military discipline.” That is what they were doing – beating up and flogging the poor soldiers.

Kapustin was also dealing cruelly with his company. The regiment in which Kapustin was serving was in an encampment: Kapustin took his company out for military drill and was trying to carry out the will of his Company Commander. Of all the companies in the regiment, theirs was the best trained. It carried out more exercises than the others.

His father10 saw that his son was not acting according to God’s law. One fine day he came to the place where Kapustin was drilling his company of soldiers, unharnessed his horse and let it out to graze, while he raised the shafts [of the wagon], set up a cool place and rested under the wagon.

While Kapustin was taking his soldiers out for military drill, he saw that a wagon was standing at a deserted spot. He was surprised and said: “What’s going on? Where did that wagon come from?” And he pointed to one soldier: “Go find out who is there.” The soldier, as afraid of the sergeant major as of a blazing hot fire, ran as fast as he could to the wagon, trying to catch his breath to speak.

The old man sitting there asked: “So, soldier, are you so worn out?”

“You see, the sergeant major sent me to find out about you – who are you?”

The old man replied: “I am Radost [“Joy”; a reference to Doukhobor leader Ilarion Pobirokhin].11 I wish to see your Sergeant. Go tell him to come here now.”

Then the soldier took off and ran up to the Sergeant Major, took off his cap and said:

“Some sort of very old man is asking that you come to him now. His name is Radost.”

Then the Sergeant Major gave a command: “Stack your rifles,” and he walked toward the old man.

The soldiers were watching, and saw the Sergeant Major approach the wagon; the old man stood up and they greeted one another; then the old man sat down, while Kapustin remained standing.

The soldiers looked on in wonderment and carried on a quiet conversation among themselves: “What kind of old man is that sitting there while the Sergeant is standing, and they are conversing together?”

After a little time, Kapustin still standing, he then fell to his knees and began to beg forgiveness from the old man. The old man came up to him and, it seems, gave him his blessing to receive the spirit of goodness.

By this time all the other companies had finished their drilling session and headed for the encampment. Our Sergeant Major and the old man said their farewells.

The Sergeant returned to the soldiers and spoke: “Take your rifles, brothers, and let’s go back to camp.”

The soldiers were amazed that there were no exercises and that the Sergeant was not angry but was addressing them very politely.

The next day they went out for military drill and saw that the wagon was gone. Kapustin said: “Let’s go, lads, to the spot where the wagon was standing yesterday.”

He approached with the soldiers, and gave an order: “Pile up your rifles, my brothers, and sit down and have a rest.”

He sat down and the soldiers all did the same.

Kapustin began to talk with the soldiers as brother to brother and began to apologize to them for having abused many of them. The soldiers were amazed and did not know what to say. And so this continued for all the hours during which they were supposed to be drilling. When this time was up, they went back to the tents. The soldiers talked among themselves, realizing that the Sergeant had experienced a change of heart.

From that time on Kapustin did not say a bad word to any of the soldiers, and acted respectfully toward them.

The Company Commander soon caught wind of this. He began to notice that Kapustin was no long drilling the soldiers in military discipline, but he did not feel sufficiently mature to reproach Kapustin about it. But when the officers got together to go out somewhere, they spoke of Kapustin not drilling his soldiers. This reached the ears of the Colonel of the regiment. He summoned the Company Commander and began to talk about Kapustin, saying that he had to be removed from his rank, and be replaced by another capable man. This caused the Company Commander great displeasure.

He said to the Colonel: “I do not have a single officer in the whole regiment as good as Kapustin, to say nothing of the rank and file soldiers; it matters little that he is not drilling the soldiers, as he has already got them well trained; they are more knowledgeable about military service than all the other companies.”

At that time there was a Detachment Commander who was on trial. He had made great efforts, submitted appeals, but all his appeals had been rejected. The court had sentenced him to loss of his rank and noble status, and he very much wanted to avoid this. He appealed to various individuals who he thought might help him in this matter.

He spoke to the Colonel: “My case is falling apart; no matter how many representations I have made, I have still not been vindicated, and now the final session is coming, and they say they are going to sign their decision. Now where can I turn or what shall I do?”

The Colonel thought a while, and suddenly said: “Go to [such and such a] company to their Sergeant Major; maybe he can help you; I had his Company Commander here and he said that he is the cleverest officer in the whole regiment.”

The Detachment Commander was in such a fright that whatever anyone suggested, he would do it – anything to help him out of trouble. Immediately he ran to see Kapustin and pleaded with him for assistance in his court case.

Kapustin asked: “What for, that is, what did you do to be put on trial?”

The Detachment Commander told him everything as it had happened and said: “I did that thing in order to distinguish myself and receive a decoration, but my action turned out to be a mistake and I ended up on trial.”

Then Kapustin said: “That mistake can be set right. Sit down and write a petition. I will tell you what to write.”

The Detachment Commander began to write, and Kapustin dictated just as the man had related, that he had been mistaken in his thinking, and that he had acted in that way for praise and rewards. The petition they composed was very brief, but described his thoughts and manner of behaviour. Then he submitted this petition.

At the sitting to decide his case, they read through this newly submitted petition and changed their previous verdict, replacing it with a second one. By this verdict they decided in favour of his courage and for his desperate action promoted him to higher rank: they made him a Corps Commander. That is the verdict they signed. And so the Detachment Commander became a Corps Commander.

He summoned Kapustin and said: “Well, Kapustin, your petition helped me! I am very pleased. I have obtained a high position; for what you have done for me, I want to make you an officer too.”

Kapustin replied: “I do not want to be an officer.”

The [former] Detachment Commander thought it little enough to make him an officer and said: “But you see, I will try, and meanwhile I will place you in my former post as Detachment Commander, but it’s impossible to do that right away.”

Kapustin answered: “I do not wish that at all. I am now a Sergeant; soldiers come by and take off their caps before me, and that makes me feel uncomfortable.”

At that the Detachment Commander rose and said: “Do you wish to be discharged from the service? That would be a very simple matter!”

Kapustin replied: “I wish to be free.”

Then the Detachment Commander gave the order freeing Kapustin from military service, and they released him. He was set at liberty and began to gather Doukhobors together; even many of the soldiers in whose company he had served came over to the Doukhobors. However, that whole business stretched over [the] two centuries.12

Perhaps some words have been lost [in the retelling], but I am writing as I heard it.

Mikhail Androsov.
P. V., M. A.13

Editor’s Notes (From the Original 1908 Russian Publication)

1  There is very little information in the historical literature about the Doukhobors’ ancestors. Doukhobors themselves usually do not like to talk about the “previous times” of their commune. That is why we deem it essential to publish any information touching upon the history of the Doukhobors, especially when it comes from Doukhobors themselves, as by doing so it may be possible to gather sufficient material for a comprehensive history of this interesting sect. The “Story of Our Ancestors” by the Doukhobor M. S. Androsov, printed here, although containing a number of entirely legendary pieces of information, is nonetheless of undoubted interest generally. Androsov’s manuscript comes from the collection of sectarian manuscripts assembled by V. D. Bonch-Bruevich, currently preserved in the Manuscripts Department of the Library of the Imperial Academy of Sciences; it is listed in the inventory as Sekt. 66.

2  Doukhobors frequently refer to their leaders by various affectionate nicknames. For example, Pobirokhin and his wife are called Radost’ s Radost’iu [Joy with Joy]. Savely Kapustin, the Pobirokhins’ son, they call Kormilets, and his wife, Kormilushka.

3  i.e. the Doukhobors.

4  These exact words begin the famous Doukhobor question-and-answer psalm that was composed as a statement of faith, in response to questions posed by His Eminence Evgeny to two Doukhobors in 1802 who had been sent for admonition to the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg.

5  These words introduce two other fundamental question-and-answer psalms of the Doukhobors that set forth their religious and societal world view.

6  Here Androsov is calling to mind the Doukhobor psalms noted down by V. D. Bonch-Bruevich in Canada. These psalms form the so-called Zhivotnaya Kniga (“Living Book”) of the Doukhobors, which we hope to publish in the second issue of our Materialy. The petition referred to here, which the Doukhobors have elevated to the status of a psalm, reads as follows:

“Thus saith the Lord, the Holy God of Israel. I made him, I created him; in days to come ask me about my sons and daughters. By the work of my hands I commanded; I created the earth, and humans thereon; with my hands I established the heavens, and commanded all the stars. I have raised up a tsar in righteousness, all his paths are righteous; he shall build my city; he will release my captives, not for price or reward, saith the Lord of Hosts. Thus saith the Lord, cause trouble for Egypt, all their people, trouble for their big man. They shall come to thee and bow down to thee, for God is in thee, not in the likeness of God, but the hidden God. You saved Israel; they shall be ashamed and confounded. The islands of Israel are being renewed; all who believe in Him shall neither be ashamed nor confounded, even to the end of the age. Thus saith the Lord, the Holy God of Israel. Glory to our God.” (See Zhivotnaya Kniga, Psalm 225 [sic, i.e. 226].

7  In one of the forthcoming issues of our Materialy we are printing, in chronological order, all the decrees and other government instructions of the epoch of Alexander I pertaining to sectarianism and the Schism.

8  Among the Doukhobors to this very day there is a conviction that “for cleansing of God’s people,” i.e. their commune, various kinds of persecution must recur from time to time. Whoever withstands all these persecutions will remain a “true” Doukhobor, a true servant of God “in spirit and in truth.”

9  I had occasion to hear a story from the late Doukhobor elder Grisha Bokovoy, who told me with certitude that Tsar Alexander I did not die in Taganrog [in 1825], but went into hiding from the premises where he had been staying, fled to the Doukhobors at Molochnye Vody in Tavria province, and for a long time lived among them; he was in continual contact with the Quakers, through whom, when the Doukhobors were resettled in the Transcaucasus, he was transported first to England, and then to “Old America” [i.e. the original thirteen colonies]. The widespread legend about the last years of Alexander I’s life thus also found its place in Doukhobor tradition.

10  Pobirokhin, the Doukhobor leader.

11  As already mentioned, Pobirokhin was called Radost by the Doukhobors.

12  This is an error. Kapustin served in the military at the end of the 17th [sic, i.e. 18th] century.

13  The signature has the same meaning as in the previous story by M. Androsov. We believe that the initials “P. V.” denote the Doukhobor Pavel Vasil’evich Planidin, and “M. A.” – Mikhail Androsov.


Mikhail Semenovich Androsov (1854-c.1920), the writer of A Story about Our Ancestors, was born in Novo-Troitskoye village in the Kedabek district of Elizavetpol province and resettled to Gorelovka village in the Shuragel district of Kars province in 1879. From 1887 onward, he was a trusted associate and supporter of Petr Vasil’evich Verigin, and assisted in disseminating his teachings among his followers. In 1895, he undertook a harrowing journey to Siberia to bring the exiled Doukhobor leader news about the persecutions that followed the Burning of Arms. Upon immigrating to Canada in 1899, Androsov settled in Blagoveshcheniye village in the Canora district of Saskatchewan, where he continued to play a prominent role in Doukhobor affairs.

Androsov regularly travelled to the city of Yorkton, Saskatchewan to conduct business on behalf of the Doukhobor Community. On one such trip, in August of 1901, he met the Doukhobor elder Efim Evseyevich Vlasov (1851-1909). Vlasov originally hailed from the village of Bashkichet in the Borchalo district of Tiflis province, Russia. After immigrating to Canada in 1899, he settled in Rodionovka village in the Kamsack district of Saskatchewan. A highly articulate and expressive man, Vlasov possessed a wealth of Doukhobor historical knowledge, rooted in oral tradition, for which he was greatly respected. It was this oral tradition, in the form of A Story about Our Ancestors, which Vlasov shared with Androsov when they met.

Vlasov, in turn, had received this oral tradition as a youth from Gavriil Andreyevich Sorokin (1779-c.1860), an early Doukhobor elder. In the late eighteenth century, Sorokin was a prosperous merchant from the village of Vysotskovo in the Alexandrovsk district of Astrakhan province, Russia. After converting to Doukhoborism, he relocated to Efremovka village in the Melitopol district of Tavria province in 1803. He was a loyal and trusted disciple of Doukhobor leader Savely Kapustin. As a representative of the Tavria colony, Sorokin met with visiting dignitaries, including Tsar Alexander I in 1818 and Quaker missionaries William Allen and Stephen Grellet in 1819. In 1841, following the Doukhobor exile to the Caucasus, Sorokin settled in Karaklis village in the Borchalo district of Tiflis province, where he spent his remaining years.

The tradition passed down orally from Sorokin to Vlasov, and from Vlasov to Androsov, provides the reader with intimate access to the rich, authentic nineteenth century Doukhobor-centred version of the history of the movement and its leaders. It is, in fact, a collection of stories, and can be divided into three main parts based upon subject matter and theme.

Part one is an autobiographical first-person account of Gavriil Sorokin’s conversion to the Doukhobor faith. As the story goes, Savely Kapustin, while travelling through Astrakhan, sought lodging at the home of Sorokin for the night. An intense spiritual discussion ensued between the two men, during which Kapustin dispelled Sorokin’s prejudices and misconceptions about the Doukhobors (or malovery as they were then known) and persuaded him to embrace the “true Christian faith” as his own. This event would have taken place in the 1790’s, when Kapustin is known to have actively proselytized amongst the Russian peasantry.

The story goes on to relate how, as a test of his faith, Kapustin selected Sorokin and an unnamed companion to deliver a petition on behalf of the Doukhobors to Tsar Alexander I. The journey took the delegates three months, travelling on foot. When they reached the Tsar’s court, they were granted an audience with Alexander, who inquired about their faith, what manner of people they were, and the name of their sect. Sorokin at first hesitated to respond. Then, visualizing his esteemed leader, Kapustin, standing by his side, his fear left him, and Sorokin answered the Tsar, fully and fittingly. After listening to their singing, Alexander commended the Doukhobors for “having come to know God in the spirit of their true faith”. Soon after the delegates departed, in 1801, the Tsar issued a decree permitting Doukhobors to settle together in Tavria province.

Part two is a third person narrative of how, when the Doukhobors were in the process of being moved to Tavria from their various places of exile, there were non-believers who claimed to be of their faith in order to join them. According to the story, at one place in Siberia, there were 100 Doukhobors, true sufferers for the faith, who had been sentenced to penal labour in the state mines. Upon their release, they were joined by another 100 men who had criminal backgrounds and were not really in exile for religious reasons. The two groups travelled by foot together on the long journey from Siberia to Tavria. However, those only claiming to be Doukhobors began to lose faith and, one by one, deserted the group along the way. When the remaining, true believers eventually reached Tavria, they were reproached by Kapustin for having abandoned their “lesser brethren”. He urged the newcomers to seek out and make peace with the others, to welcome them into the colony as their brothers, and to reform them by example.

The story goes on to tell how Tsar Alexander I visited the Doukhobors living in Tavria; an event that is known to have occurred in 1818. After observing their prayer ceremony, Alexander noted that the Doukhobors “understood God’s law well” and declared that he wished to become one of them. His hosts, however, advised him that a Tsar “could not be a Doukhobor because Doukhobors fed themselves from their own labours”. Yet, in the times of prosperity that followed, the Doukhobors began to depart from God’s law. They weakened spiritually and began striving after wealth; they travelled to the cities and markets where people were living in luxury; and hired workers of other faiths to till their fields and raise their livestock. It was only in times of persecution and suffering that they began to reflect and, once again, live according to God’s law.

Part three is a third-person biographical account of Savely Kapustin’s spiritual rebirth as a Doukhobor. At the outset of the story, Kapustin was serving as a Sergeant-Major in the Russian army and was notorious for dealing cruelly with his company. His father, the Doukhobor leader Ilarion Pobirokhin, saw that his son had departed from God’s law. One day, while Kapustin was carrying out military drills with his company, Pobirokhin drew near and asked to speak to the Sergeant Major. Kapustin approached him and the two began conversing. The details of this exchange are not preserved; however, it clearly had a profound effect upon Kapustin. Kapustin, who had remained standing while the old man sat down, fell to his knees and began to beg forgiveness. The old man gave him his blessing to receive the spirit of goodness. Thereafter, Kapustin returned to his company a changed man. He no longer made them carry out drills, began to talk to the soldiers as brother to brother and apologized for having abused them. The company commander soon caught wind that Kapustin was no longer drilling the soldiers, but defended him to his superiors, arguing that he did not have a single officer in the whole regiment as good as Kapustin, whose company was already better trained than all the other companies.

The story goes on to relate how a certain Detachment Commander was under court-marshal for misconduct and was facing a loss of his rank and noble status. Despite all of his efforts, his appeals were rejected and his case was falling apart. In desperation, he approached Kapustin and pleaded with him for assistance in his case. Kapustin proceeded to dictate a petition on behalf of the Detachment Commander to the court, which explained the honourable intent behind the officer’s conduct. Upon reading the petition, the court changed its previous verdict and, instead, promoted the Detachment Commander to the rank of Corps Commander for his courage. Out of deep gratitude, the former Detachment Commander offered to promote Kapustin to the rank of officer. However, Kapustin declined, asking instead to be discharged from military service. His request was granted, and Kapustin began to gather Doukhobors from across Russia, including many of the soldiers in whose company he had served. These events took place during Kapustin’s sixth year of military service, which if he had entered service at the age of twenty, as was customary in Tsarist Russia at that time, would place them in the year 1769 (given that he was born in 1743).

After receiving the oral tradition described above from the Doukhobor elder Efim Vlasov, Mikhail Androsov wrote it down as A Story About our Ancestors and submitted the manuscript to Russian historian and ethnographer Vladimir Dmitrievich Bonch-Bruevich (1873-1955). Bonch-Bruevich had assisted Leo Tolstoy in organizing the Doukhobor emigration to Canada; he had sailed with the Doukhobors in 1899 and then spent a year with them in Canada. During his stay, he became immensely interested in their oral tradition. After returning to Russia, he wrote the Doukhobors and asked them to record their life stories and to send anything written down that they had to him. It was this request to which Androsov responded. Bonch-Bruevich subsequently published Androsov’s manuscript and other materials in Russian as Materialy k istorii i izucheniiu religiozno-obshchestvennykh dvizhenii v Rossii in 1908.

The stories comprising A Story about Our Ancestors are among the most richly detailed and historically authentic examples of Doukhobor oral tradition to be preserved to the present day. To be sure, like all oral tradition, the specific details set out in the stories must be treated with some caution, since the Doukhobors preserved no written records of their own, their memories were fallible, and the version of past events they give may be coloured by individual biases and perceptions. Nonetheless, there is little reason to doubt the main lines of the stories. Archival documentary material enables us to date within close limits many of the historical events referred to in the stories, and to accurately diagnose and interpret the events referred to therein. Furthermore, it is possible in almost all cases to authenticate the persons and places referred to in the stories with archival records. These identifications highlight the need for further research, inasmuch as the stories offer new depth and substance to our understanding of Doukhobor history, and suggest hitherto-unknown lines of investigation. 

The Kylemore Doukhobor Colony

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

The Kylemore Colony was a Doukhobor communal settlement established by the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan between 1918 and 1938. Numbering 300 people at its peak, the self-sufficient agricultural colony was organized on the principles of common ownership and the Doukhobor faith. While its existence is generally known, remarkably little has been documented about its history. The following article, compiled from a wealth of published and unpublished sources, examines the Kylemore Colony in rich, descriptive detail from its settlement and early development, communal life and organization, to the eventual demise of the Community and break-up of the colony.


In the early 1900’s, the main body of Doukhobors in Canada, under the charismatic leadership of Peter Vasil’evich Verigin (1859-1924), known as Gospodnyi (the “Lordly”), formed themselves into the spiritual, social and economic organization known as the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB). It was organized on a communal basis, according to the precepts of the Doukhobor faith, under the close supervision and direction of Verigin.

By 1918, the CCUB was at the height of material achievement as an industrial, agricultural, forestry and trading enterprise in Western Canada. It was incorporated under a Dominion charter with a capitalized value of over $1,000,000.00, although its total assets were estimated at several times that figure. It had landholdings in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan totaling over 50,000 acres on which were built numerous communal villages, sawmills, brickworks, jam factories, canning and fruit-packing plants, trading stores, flour mills, grain elevators, irrigation systems, reservoirs, roads and bridges, along with extensive cultivated crops, orchards and gardens. Underpinning the success of the organization was a membership of 6,000 adult Doukhobors (5,000 in British Columbia and 1,000 in Alberta and Saskatchewan) who provided a large, readily-mobilized pool of free, willing labour, guided by the slogan “Toil and Peaceful Life”.

Group of CCUB Doukhobors at Veregin, SK, c.1918. At the time, the CCUB was at the height of material achievement as an industrial, agricultural, forestry and trading enterprise. Photo courtesy National Doukhobor Heritage Village.

Verigin’s overall strategy at this time was to ensure that the CCUB became self-sufficient in agricultural production, while at the same time developing a variety of means to earn cash to fund its operations. Under this plan, grain grown by Doukhobors on the Prairies would be exchanged for fruit and timber produced by Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia. The surplus would be sold to the outside world, where wartime shortages and high prices provided profitable markets for the wheat, lumber, bricks, fruit and other outputs of the communal enterprise. In order to carry out this strategy, however, it was necessary for the CCUB to acquire additional wheat-growing land on the Prairies.

The Kylemore Purchase

To this end, the CCUB acquired a block of eighteen square miles of land, or the equivalent of half a township, in the Kylemore district of Saskatchewan in 1918. The land was acquired in three transactions. First, the CCUB leased 640 acres of Hudson’s Bay Company land (Section 8 in Township 33, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) on April 1, 1918. The CCUB then leased an additional 109 acres of land (Legal Subdivision 8 of SE ¼ of Section 9 and Legal Subdivision 5 and 12 of the W ½ of Section 10 in Township 33, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) from the Department of the Interior. Finally, on May 7, 1918, the CCUB purchased 10,613 acres of land (Sections 1-5, 7, 9-12, N ½ of Section 6 and S ½ of Sections 13-18 in Township 33, and Sections 32-36 in Township 34, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) from the Chicago-based Fishing Lake Land and Farm Co. Ltd. under an agreement for sale for $265,343.00.

Taken together, these acquisitions provided the CCUB with a total landholding of 11,362 acres in the Kylemore district. Only 607 acres of the land was broken at the time – the rest was covered in dense trees and scrub. For this reason, the CCUB acquired the land for substantially less than developed agricultural land in other areas.

Doukhobor work crew clearing land at Kylemore, SK, 1920. At the time of purchase, the colony was covered in dense trees and scrub. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.

At the same time, the land lay adjacent to the Canadian National Railway, which provided essential transportation access. This was a key component of Verigin’s strategy to ship agricultural and industrial goods between Doukhobor settlements and to market.

Perhaps most importantly, the ‘Kylemore Colony’ formed a large, contiguous block of land that was semi-isolated and largely self-contained, where the Doukhobors could speak their own language, practice their religion and culture, and follow their distinctive form of communal organization, separate and apart from the larger Canadian society.

Early Development and Settlement

From the outset, the colony at Kylemore was established according to the carefully laid out plans of the CCUB leadership. On June 14, 1918, just weeks after the land acquisition, CCUB General Manager Michael W. Cazakoff outlined these plans in an interview with the Manitoba Free Press while in Winnipeg, Manitoba to purchase equipment for the new colony. He declared that the majority of the lands would be dedicated to grain growing, being ideally suited for that purpose, while the lighter, south-easterly lands adjacent to Fishing Lake would be reserved for livestock-raising. There would be a settlement of families on each section. There would also be a store, in which fruit shipped from the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia would be distributed within the colony and sold publicly. Finally, an elevator would be built through which the Doukhobors in Kylemore would ship wheat to the British Columbia settlements and market their surplus and that of their neighbours.

A group of Doukhobor workers enjoys a break near Kylemore, SK, 1920. Photo No. 208 courtesy ISKRA.

The development of the colony occurred over a period of several years. Beginning in 1918, and for each summer thereafter until 1924, work crews of 65 or more Doukhobor men from British Columbia and elsewhere in Saskatchewan arrived in Kylemore to clear the land and erect buildings. Temporary tent camps were set up on Section 10 for their accommodation. To carry out this work, the main CCUB settlement at Veregin, 70 miles to the east, supplied them with six steam engines and sixty teams of horses.

Land-clearing and breaking began at the northern end of the colony along the Canadian National Railway and slowly advanced to the southern end. This backbreaking work began at sunup and ended after sundown. First, the trees were cut, then the workers used pick axes to grub the stumps. After, workers came with teams of horses and steam engines to pull out the roots and break the land with the plough. The broken land was then sown into crop the following spring. Over 1,600 acres of land were developed in this manner in 1918 alone. Thereafter, Doukhobor work crews cleared and broke an additional five hundred acres of land each year.

The first permanent village in the colony was established in 1918 on Section 9 at the former residence of W.H. McKinnon, one of the prior landowners. This ornate, eight-room, two-story wood frame structure with lumber siding was the only dwelling on the land when the CCUB purchased it. There, between 1918 and 1921, the CCUB also constructed a large central meeting house for colony members and a gornitsa (special guest quarters) where Peter V. Verigin could stay when he visited the area.

The McKinnon home west of Kylemore, SK. Built in c.1910, the large, ornate home was the only structure on the land when the CCUB purchased it in 1918. It formed part of the Chernoff Village, the first village in the colony. It was destroyed by fire in 1924. Remembering Times.

Doukhobor work crews constructed eight additional villages on Sections 6, 7, 9, 10, 31 and 33, approximately two per year, from 1919 to 1924. These were a variation of the village design used by the Doukhobors in British Columbia and consisted of a single 26’ x 26’ two-story dwelling of wood frame construction on a concrete foundation. The exceptions were two villages on Sections 9 and 31 that had twin structures. These multi-family communal doms (dwellings) were constructed using timber shipped from the CCUB sawmills in the Kootenays. Six were clad in brick supplied from the CCUB brickworks at Veregin. The remainder had cedar shake siding shipped from the Kootenay settlements. Each had a hip roof and verandah clad with cedar shakes. All had large cellars for the storage of foodstuffs.

Each village had a large barn for housing draft horses and milking cows along with numerous outbuildings including stables, sheds, granaries, chicken coops, a kuznitsa (blacksmith shop), banya (bath-house) and peche (clay oven). At least two villages had large ledniks (ice cellars) dug for cold storage. Each had a large garden plot for growing vegetables and fruit.

Unnamed twin-dom village constructed by the CCUB adjacent to the Canadian National Railway at Kylemore, SK in c.1919. Photo courtesy John J. Trofimenkoff.

As work crews completed each village, CCUB families began arriving in Kylemore to take up permanent residence in them. The first families to arrive were those of Peter S. Chernoff from Veregin, Saskatchewan and Vasily V. Solovaeff from Prekrasnoye, British Columbia in 1918. They were followed by a number of families from the Kootenays each year between 1919 and 1924. These included the families of Ivan and Michael S. Arishenkoff, Ignat A. Arishenkoff, Nikolai D. Bedinoff, Ivan V. Chernoff, Ivan I. Fofonoff, Ivan P. Hoolaeff, Ivan F. Hoodikoff, Ivan V. and Vasily I. Kazakoff, Vasily V. and Nikolai N. Konkin, Grigory N. Kanigan, Peter and Ivan S. Malikoff, Kuzma V. Kolesnikoff, Alex I. and Vasily V. Makortoff, Dmitry I., Nikolai N. and Ivan A. Malakoff, Andrew P. and Trofim W. Markin, Vasily A. Morozoff, Nikolai N. Ogloff, Peter A. Osachoff, Kuzma S. and Alex I. Pereverseff, Ivan V. and Peter, Semyon and Grigory S. Popoff, Ivan A. Postnikoff, Fyodor K. and Ivan I. Samsonoff, Ivan F. Sysoev, Ivan and Nikolai P. Sheloff, Pavel V. Planidin and Evdokim A. Sherbinin. According to oral tradition, each family was hand-picked by Peter V. Verigin to help develop the colony.

As the colony took shape, the CCUB undertook the task of constructing a large grain elevator on Section 9 along the Canadian National Railway. Beginning in 1918, work crews constructed a 120,000 bushel capacity elevator of wood crib construction on a concrete foundation. It was approximately 45’ x 60’ wide and 75’ high with a pyramidal roof and a centrally located pyramidal-roofed cupola. At the time it was completed in 1920, it was the largest elevator in Saskatchewan. Thereafter, the Kylemore Colony began receiving, storing and shipping grain in bulk quantities to the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia and to markets elsewhere.

Doukhobor work crew constructing grain elevator at Kylemore, 1919. Photo courtesy Peter and Agnes Malekoff.

The CCUB also began construction of a large trading store and warehouse on Section 9 along the rail line in 1918. The three-story structure was built of wood frame construction with a full concrete basement. It had cedar shake siding. It was 60’ x 36’ with a gambrel roof and two 20’ lean-tos. It was completed in 1922. The storefront was located at the north end of the main floor, where fruit, produce and other merchandise from the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia were distributed to the colony families as required and the surplus sold to the public, while the south end of the main floor and the basement were utilized as a warehouse. It is known that Pavel V. Planidin managed the store from 1922 to 1925 and Nikolai N. Ogloff from 1928 to 1935.

By 1924, the Kylemore Colony was thriving and prosperous, with approximately 250 Doukhobor men, women and children. It had a herd of 500 cattle, 1000 sheep and 30 horses. Over 4,000 acres of land was now under cultivation, producing substantial quantities of grain. A sizeable acreage was also devoted to pasture. The community elevator and store were now in full operation. Peter V. Verigin’s plans for the colony had begun to bear fruit.

CCUB communal structures adjacent to the Canadian National Railway at Kylemore, SK, c.1924. (l-r) CCUB grain elevator, CCUB trading store, and unnamed twin-dom village. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.

The Kelvington Annex

Even as the development of the Kylemore Colony was underway, Peter V. Verigin had planned its expansion in the outlying area. In August of 1921, the CCUB purchased an additional 8,000 acres of land (Sections 3, 7, 9, 15, 17-19, 21, 27, 31 and 33, W ½ and SE ¼ of Section 5, E ½ of Section 25, all in Township 27, Range 12, West of the Second Meridian) in the Kelvington district, twenty miles to the north. It was acquired from the Winnipeg-based Canada West Security Corporation under an agreement for sale.

The ‘Kelvington Annex’ was unbroken at the time of purchase and was covered in trees and scrub, making it cheaper and more affordable than developed land in other districts. Unlike the Kylemore Colony, it did not form a contiguous block, but was segregated into separate section parcels interspersed among non-Doukhobor landholdings. However, it lay adjacent to the Canadian National Railway’s proposed Thunderhill Branch Line extension from Kelvington to Prince Albert, which, once built, would enhance its property value and provide strategic rail access.

Doukhobor work crew clearing land by hand near Kylemore, SK, c. 1924. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.

The Kelvington Annex was administered as an offshoot of the Kylemore Colony. It was primarily used for summer pasturage for the colony’s horse herd, although some land-clearing and grain-growing did occur. No villages were constructed there; however, single-family dwellings were built on Sections 18 and 27 to house four families permanently stationed there. Other families were rotated from Kylemore to Kelvington on a temporary basis over summer to tend the communal horse herd, during which time they lived in tents.

Community Life and Organization under Peter V. Verigin: 1918-1924

During the era of Peter V. Verigin, the Kylemore Colony was comprised of nine (unnamed) villages containing family groupings of four to six extended families per village. All the villages in the colony were organized as one commune.

Doukhobor family at Kylemore, SK, 1920. (l-r) Mabel, Tanya, Peter, John, Peter A., Helen G., and Mike Chernoff in their chore cloths. Seems Like Only Yesterday.

The CCUB central office coordinated the agricultural and commercial operations of the colony, carried out all transactions on its behalf, managed its finances through a common treasury and provided for the daily needs of its members. This was managed out of the CCUB headquarters in Veregin, Saskatchewan. A manager elected by the members administered the day-to-day affairs of the colony and acted as an intermediary authority between the central office and colony members. It is known that in 1925, the Manager of the Kylemore Colony was Dmitry I. Malakoff and from 1926 to 1928, Nikolai I. Cazakoff. Major decisions affecting the colony were introduced at a sobraniye (general meeting) of all members where everyone could have a voice.

The CCUB owned all of the colony’s land, buildings, machinery, tools and livestock. These were distributed among the villages of the colony, so that each village possessed its own teams of horses, wagons, implements and other resources necessary to farm the acreage allocated to it. All the grain was delivered to the CCUB elevator and traded under its name, as was all stock and merchandise shipped to the CCUB store. Indeed, all proceeds from the output of the colony went to the central office.

CCUB General Manager Michael W. Cazakoff (right) inspects communal draft horses with Vasily V. Soloveoff (left) near Kylemore, SK, c.1924. Photo No. 273 courtesy ISKRA.

Individual members were expected to contribute their labour to the operation of the colony and pay an annual levy to the central office, which was mainly paid in-kind through labour rather than cash. They received no income for communal work, and when they found it necessary to work outside the colony, their earnings were deposited directly with the central office or collected by the Manager of the colony. Hence, few members of the colony actually handled money. Within this moneyless system, the colony provided for all the essential needs of its members, such as food, shelter, clothing and other supplies.

Daily life in the Kylemore Colony revolved around the cycles of the farming year. In spring, the women and men worked together in the fields sowing crops. Afterwards, in summer, they laboured to clear and break additional land. The women also dug seneca root, the sale of which was an important source of revenue for the colony. Later in summer, haying and stooking was performed by both men and women. At harvest time, the men threshed while the women prepared meals and did chores. In late fall, the men got up before sunrise, took packed lunches and traveled south toward Fishing Lake to cut wood. They would cut enough to last the colony for the whole winter and the surplus was sold locally. The days that followed were spent sawing and splitting the wood into “stove-sized” pieces. During winter, the men worked in the villages or sought outside employment. The women, elderly and children maintained the household and performed yard chores.

Doukhobors at Kanigan Village near Kylemore, SK winnow grain to remove chaff. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.

The colony was almost entirely self-sufficient in food production. Colony members grew potatoes, cabbages, tomatoes and other vegetables in their large gardens. This was supplemented by fruit, jams and preserves supplied from the Doukhobor settlements in British Columbia. Wild berries, nuts and mushrooms were also picked locally. Milk, cream, cheese and butter were obtained from the community cattle herd. As they kept chickens they also had a fresh supply of eggs. Meat was unnecessary as colony members were strict vegetarians. Flour was produced from the wheat they grew, which was hauled by horse and wagon 18 miles south to Foam Lake to be ground and milled. Only sugar, salt, raisins, rice and a few other staples were purchased outside the colony by the men.

The colonists also manufactured most of their own cloths, tools and furniture. The women sheared wool from the communal sheep herd which they then washed, carded, spun and wove to make cloth and yarn. They were expert in sewing, knitting, crocheting, weaving, quilt and mattress making and other handicrafts. The men produced furniture, tools and equipment and performed shoe repair, harness-making, blacksmithing, horse-shoeing and other skilled tasks.

Peter Chernoff and John Soloveoff mounted on horseback on the prairie near Kylemore, SK, c.1920. Photo No. 207 courtesy ISKRA.

While there were few opportunities for leisure, colony members still found time to enjoy the natural beauty and recreation opportunities at Fishing Lake during the hot summer months. There, at a scenic lug (meadow) on the north shore of the lake, Doukhobors throughout the colony gathered to celebrate Petrov Den’ (Peters Day), hold outdoor meetings and enjoy picnics, swimming and rafting.

A mainstay of spiritual life in the colony was the moleniye (prayer meeting) held each Sunday. According to oral tradition, each village initially conducted its own moleniye; however, over time, a number of villages joined together for this occasion. This was a time when the members of the colony abandoned their work and gathered for hours to pray, discuss spiritual matters and sing psalms. There were reputedly many exceptional singers in the colony, and the psalm singing inspired the people and reinforced their religious faith and values for the ensuing week.

A gathering of Doukhobor children at Kanigan Village near Kylemore, SK, c. 1924. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.

A special highlight was when Peter V. Verigin visited the Kylemore Colony to meet with the members, hear their concerns and inspect their progress. This was a joyous occasion accompanied by special celebrations, meetings and meals. It is known that Verigin made at least two such trips to Kylemore in the summer of 1921 and the fall of 1924, and probably several more.

On the whole, life in the colony at this time was characterized, not only by hard work and sacrifice, but by simple, peaceful living in an atmosphere of happiness, comfort and harmony. This way of life is poignantly described in the historical novel Tanya, by Doukhobor writer Eli A. Popoff, which is based on the remarkable true story of Tanya Arishenkoff, the central character, who lived in the colony from 1919 until its demise.

Doukhobor shepherds tend communal sheep flock at Kylemore, SK, c.1924. Photo courtesy National Doukhobor Heritage Village.

Death of Peter V. Verigin and Aftermath

Disaster struck the Kylemore Colony in May of 1924 when one of the villages on Section 9 was destroyed in an accidental fire. This included the village dom, central meeting house, the gornitsa where Peter V. Verigin stayed and other outbuildings. During this same period, the dom at another village on Section 9 also burned to the ground.

However, these events paled in comparison to the sudden death of Verigin in October of 1924 in a mysterious train explosion at Farron, British Columbia. His passing was a devastating blow to the membership of the CCUB, who revered him as their guide, counselor and protector. The entire Doukhobor Community was thrown into shock and mourning, and the Kylemore Colony was no exception.

Leaderless and directionless, the Doukhobors at Kylemore carried on essential tasks, such as grain growing and store and elevator operations, but postponed decisions on most important issues until a replacement leader could be appointed who would help them decide. For example, the construction of village buildings to replace those which had burnt on Section 9 was suspended. The CCUB organization went into a period of slow stagnation and decline.

Larion Malakoff mounted on horseback in front of Malakoff Village dom near Kylemore, SK, c.1924. Photo courtesy Fred J. Chernoff.

With financial difficulties mounting, the Directors of the CCUB decided to consolidate their debts with one creditor. The Community negotiated a loan for $350,000.00 with the National Trust Company, representing the Canadian Bank of Commerce, in December of 1925. To secure this loan, the National Trust Company obtained a blanket mortgage on all of the land and buildings on which no other creditors held liens. This meant that everything owned by the CCUB would now be encumbered with debt, including the lands of the Kylemore Colony.

Arrival of Peter P. Verigin and Reorganization

It was several years before Verigin’s son, Peter Petrovich Verigin, known as Chistiakov (the “Cleanser” or “Purger”), was able to come to Canada and assume the leadership of the CCUB. His arrival in September of 1927 was greeted by his followers with tremendous enthusiasm, who hoped for a rejuvenation of the ailing CCUB communal structure.

On his first of many visits to the Kylemore colony, Peter P. Verigin impressed his followers as a forceful, eloquent orator and a persuasive, dynamic and brilliant organizer. He declared his immediate goals to be to free the CCUB from it burden of debt and to unite the various factions of Doukhobors in Canada. Seeing and hearing him speak, the Kylemore Doukhobors firmly believed that his objectives would be achieved.

The family of Peter P. Verigin seen here at the Chernoff Village near Kylemore, SK in 1928 (l-r) John J. Verigin (his grandson), Anna F. Verigin (his wife) and Evdokia G. Verigin (his mother). Photo No. 303 courtesy ISKRA.

Almost immediately, Peter P. Verigin reorganized the CCUB on a new basis to encourage greater self-reliance, industry and diligence among its members and to foster a renewed interest in the soil and in the welfare of the commune. To this end, he decentralized the CCUB, made life less rigidly communal, and reduced the size of each commune to a new unit known as the ‘Family’, which in Saskatchewan was comprised of 25 persons.

The Kylemore Colony land, buildings, machinery, tools and livestock were redistributed to each Family to farm communally. Each Family was granted broad autonomy over its agricultural operations and business transactions. An annual assessment was still paid to the CCUB central office. However, any excess revenue from the land or from outside earnings, over and above the annual assessment, was retained by the Family. A Starshina (Elder), elected by its members, managed the day-to-day affairs of each Family. It is known that in 1928, these were: Ivan N. Konkin, Nikolai P. Popoff, Ivan I. Samsonoff, Vasily V. Solovaeff, Ivan V. Chernenkoff, Alexei I. Pereverseff, Ivan V. Popoff, Vasily A. Morozoff, Semyon S. Popoff, Ivan A. Posnikoff, Peter S. Chernoff, Grigory N. Kanigan and Ivan P. Sheloff.

John V. Soloveoff stands beside a white stallion that had belonged to Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin at the newly-formed Arishenkoff Village near Kylemore, SK, c. 1928. Photo No. 229 courtesy ISKRA.

The system of buying and selling was introduced into all aspects of relations between the CCUB central office and the Families or branch communes, as well as between individual members. Individual Doukhobors were now permitted to handle money. Thus, money transactions replaced the unwieldy barter system of earlier years.

In total, 13 Families of 25 persons (comprising one to two extended families) were set up in the Kylemore Colony in 1928. Each Family was allocated a section of land in the colony on which to live and farm. Where a village already existed on a section, it was given to the Family assigned to that section; where there was none, a new village was built for the Family placed on that section.

Accordingly, six existing villages on Sections 7, 9, 4 and 10 (thereafter known as Popoff Village, Malakoff Village, Chernoff Village, Sheloff Village, Kazakoff Village and Kanigan Village) were reassigned to Families. Three existing (unnamed) villages on Sections 6, 9 and 31 were either moved to new locations or dismantled and the materials used to build new villages elsewhere. Seven new villages (thereafter known as Chernenkoff Village, Pereverseff Village, Hoodekoff Village, Konkin Village, Makortoff Village, Samsonoff Village and Arishenkoff Village) were built for Families on Sections 2, 3, 5, 32-35. These new villages differed from the earlier villages in that they were comprised of small, single-family residences built of wood frame construction with cedar shake siding.

Vasily V. Soloveoff stands beside a Belgian draft horse at the newly-formed Arishenkoff Village near Kylemore, SK, c. 1928.  Note the communal barn under construction in foreground. Photo No. 228 courtesy ISKRA.

This reorganization resulted in changes to nearly every household in the Kylemore Colony. Consequently, throughout the summer of 1928, there was much moving to and fro, and wagons piled high with goods and chattels were continually driving in one direction or another as families relocated to their new villages. It was at this time also that the CCUB families stationed at the Kelvington Annex relocated to the Kylemore Colony, where they were incorporated into Family branch communes.

In addition to the Families, which maintained a direct connection with the CCUB central office, a provincial branch of the CCUB was set up in Saskatchewan to operate business enterprises in the various areas, including the grain elevator and trading store at Kylemore. These were now run on a wholly cash basis. The CCUB trading store now purchased the fruit it received from British Columbia and sold it to colony members, although it no longer enjoyed a trade monopoly among them. The CCUB elevator maintained a buying monopoly over all the surplus grain grown in the colony, however, it was now purchased from each Family and sold to British Columbia.

Early threshing outfit owned by the CCUB at Kylemore, SK, c. 1928. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.

Community Life Under Peter P. Verigin: 1927-1931

The reorganization of the Kylemore Colony was accompanied by three main developments during the early years of Peter P. Verigin’s leadership. First, there was an expansion and consolidation of the capital assets of the colony to increase earning potential and reduce the CCUB’s massive debt. Second, colonists joined a new umbrella organization, the Society of Named Doukhobors, aimed at the unification of the main Doukhobor factions in Canada. Third, new emphasis was placed on education as the Doukhobor youth of the colony were enrolled in local schools. These developments are discussed below in greater detail.

Capital Expansion and Consolidation

The years 1928 to 1931 saw a noteworthy expansion, improvement and consolidation of CCUB capital assets in the Kylemore Colony. Buildings were erected for new villages to the value of $13,000.00. As well, leased lands (640 acres from the Hudson’s Bay Company and 109 acres from the Department of Indian Affairs) were purchased outright for $16,264.60. Also, the balance owing on the 10,613 acres purchased from the Fishing Lake Land and Farm Co. Ltd. was paid in full. Finally, land-clearing activity was redoubled in order to increase agricultural production and earnings.

New Chernoff Village dom completed in 1928 to replace the original destroyed by fire in 1924. Note the collection of machinery of that era. Seems Like Only Yesterday.

At the same time, the CCUB raised money by allowing some of its Prairie members to opt out of the communal system and buy or lease its land. To this end, 3,000 acres of hitherto-undeveloped land in the Kelvington Annex was leased or sold under agreements for sale to CCUB members. These included the families of Peter J. Goolaeff, Peter A. Morozoff, John J. and Peter J. Kanigan, Simeon A. Horkoff, Harry N. and Trofim N. Kanigan, Fred W. Antifaeff, Mike W. and Wasyl W. Bloodoff, George F. and John F. Kazakoff, Nick W. Pepin, Wasyl L. Shukin and Wasyl A. Juravloff.

Statistical data from 1931 illustrates the extent of CCUB property in the Kylemore Colony at this time. The landholdings totalled 11,774.60 acres, valued at $316,724.85. Another 4,945.23 acres of land was held in the Kelvington Annex, assessed at $87,174.62. The investment in buildings on the farm land, including houses, barns and other structures, was valued at $47,900.00. The store and warehouse along with the grain elevator were appraised at an additional $29,000.00. The investment in livestock – which included 240 working horses and 130 milking cows – was valued at $42,500.00. Finally, the investment in farm machinery was assessed at $18,500.00. Thus, the total valuation of the Kylemore Colony’s capital assets in 1931 was $541,799.47 – over half a million dollars – two years into the Great Depression.

Communal barn and horse stable at the Arishenkoff Village, one of the new villages formed in 1928 near Kylemore, SK following the reorganization of the CCUB by Peter P. Verigin. Photo No. 274 courtesy ISKRA.


Upon his arrival in Canada, all of the main Doukhobor factions – the CCUB, the Independents and the Sons of Freedom – acknowledged Peter P. Verigin as their spiritual leader. He made it his avowed purpose to heal the divisions between the groups and reestablish unity among all Doukhobors living in Canada.

To this end, in June of 1928, Verigin formed a new, all-embracing organization, the Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, for the purpose of uniting his followers. Through a series of conferences attended by delegates from the CCUB and Independent Doukhobor settlements, the Society, under Verigin’s leadership and direction, promoted a policy of non-violence, the teachings of Christ, marriage based on love, acceptance of public education, the accurate registration of births, deaths and marriages, the peaceful resolution of disputes among members by the Society’s executive, the automatic expulsion of members who committed crimes, and more.

Doukhobor maidens at Kylemore, SK, 1927 (l-r) Milly W. Konkin, Polly W. Konkin and Mary Makortoff. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.

For their part, the Kylemore colonists readily participated in the new organization, joining en masse, paying regular membership dues, sending delegates (Alexei I. Hoodekoff in 1934 and Havrila N. Kanigan in 1937) to its conferences and implementing its resolutions. By December of 1930, there were 150 male and 148 female members of the Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada from Kylemore.


From the outset of his leadership, Peter P. Verigin emphasized the importance of public education among his followers. The education of their children in English schools, and the establishment of their own Russian schools and libraries, he declared, would begin a new era for Doukhobors in Canada. His views towards education were actively promoted through the Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada.

Group of Doukhobor schoolchildren in front of North Kylemore School, 1941. Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.

As members of the Society, the Kylemore colonists were now committed to accept education, and from 1928 onward, began enrolling their children in Kylemore School in the hamlet of Kylemore. In 1929, the school was destroyed in a suspicious fire when a group of Sons of Freedom visited the area and classes were held in the CCUB trading store until a new school was built the same year. By 1936, Doukhobor student enrollment increased to such an extent that a second school was opened at the south end of the colony. The older school became known as the ‘North Kylemore School’ and the newer one the ‘South Kylemore School’. Colony youth also attended Russian language classes in the evenings.

South Kylemore School, c. 1936. Back row (l-r): Fred Hoolaeff, Nick Ogloff, George Arishenkoff, John Hoolaeff, Helen Morozoff, Helen Makortoff, Lucy Makortoff. Middle row: Mike Arishenkoff, Peter Arishenkoff, Bill Samsonoff, Peter Konkin, Peter Pereverzoff, Mary Hoodekoff, Donalda Mawhinney (teacher), John Cazakoff. Front row: Alex Pereverzoff Bill Morozoff, Larry Hoodekoff, Alex Hoolaeff, Mac Pereverzoff, Doris Hoodekoff, Bill Konkin, Annette Hoodekoff, Mary Konkin, Mary Pereverzoff, Nellie Makortoff. Front: Beverly Broley (teacher’s niece). Remembering Times.

Demise of the CCUB

The twelve years of Peter P. Verigin’s leadership from 1927 to 1939 saw a number of remarkable accomplishments. However, despite his concerted efforts, the Doukhobor leader was unable to eliminate the massive CCUB debt (although he did reduce this debt by over half), nor bring about a lasting unity with other Doukhobor groups (the Society of Named Doukhobors collapsed in 1937). At the same time, his irregular character and actions eroded the enthusiasm and confidence of the CCUB membership, whose zeal for utopian communal living was already in decline.

When the Great Depression struck in the Thirties, the financial situation of the CCUB deteriorated rapidly because all the communal property was mortgaged and no further loans could be negotiated due to lack of collateral. With no credit, and with membership and cash income falling rapidly, Verigin attempted to sell off CCUB assets to raise the necessary capital to enable the corporation to continue to operate, and at the same time, to stave off the ever-increasing demands of its creditors.

Front page of the Winnipeg Free Press, October 18, 1934 announcing the sale of CCUB holdings in Saskatchewan.

To this end, in October of 1934, Peter P. Verigin publicly announced that the CCUB would be selling its entire holdings – land, stock, equipment and elevators – in the districts of Kylemore, Kelvington and Veregin, Saskatchewan. This represented the wholesale liquidation of all CCUB capital assets in the province. A similar announcement was made in April of 1935. Later that month, some Saskatchewan members of the CCUB were served with notices to vacate their villages and lands. These events were met with shock and disbelief by the Saskatchewan members, who had not been consulted.

Reputedly, several offers to purchase the Kylemore lands were made to the CCUB central office in Brilliant, British Columbia; however, no sale ever materialized. Nevertheless, in April of 1936, the Saskatchewan branch of the CCUB sold the elevator at Kylemore to James Richardson. The CCUB trading store in Kylemore was closed later that year. In light of these events, all the Kylemore colonists could do was wait in anticipation of a better tomorrow. But for the CCUB, prosperity never returned.

CCUB elevator in Kylemore. When completed in 1920, it was the largest in Saskatchewan. It was sold in 1936 to J. Richardson and resold  to the Pioneer Grain Company, which operated it until 1990. Wadena News.

By 1937, a combination of complex factors, including the Great Depression, financial mismanagement, diminishing revenues, a declining membership base, mounting debts, depredations against communal property, and government assimilation efforts, all unhelped by Verigin’s increasingly erratic leadership style, led to the eventual (and arguably, inevitable) bankruptcy of the CCUB. The following year, in 1938, the National Trust Company foreclosed on its mortgage over the CCUB lands and chattels in Kylemore, Kelvington and elsewhere. Thereafter, the CCUB ceased to exist as a corporate entity.

Break-Up of the Colony

Following the bankruptcy and foreclosure of the CCUB, the Doukhobors living in Kylemore were faced with a difficult dilemma: either join the majority of their brethren in British Columbia or else remain in Saskatchewan as independent farmers. Many of them were already middle-aged, and to begin a new life with nothing, dependent only on themselves, with no Community to fall back on, must have been daunting prospect.

William W. Kanigan and his mother doing chores on their farm near Kylemore, SK, c.1940.  Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.

About a third of the Kylemore Doukhobors immediately moved to British Columbia in 1938 to be part of the larger group living there. Numerous others followed the move to British Columbia during the War Years (1939-1945) to avoid the military call-up. Still others decided to abandon their old way of life altogether, take their few possessions and depart into the world unknown.

Approximately a third of the Kylemore Doukhobors chose to repurchase their lands from the National Trust Company in 1938 under agreements for sale. Payment was made on a one-third crop share basis, as the Doukhobors had little or no cash. They took possession of their land, moved in village structures (dwellings, barns, stables, etc.) or utilized existing ones on the land, and purchased on credit the necessary horses, implements and equipment to set up their own farming practices. Fortunately, there were prosperous years in the Forties, and within ten years of independent farming, all the Doukhobors obtained clear title to their land and many acquired additional land, modern vehicles and machinery for their farms.

Social gathering of Kylemore Doukhobors, c. 1947. Photo courtesy Peter and Agnes Malekoff.

While most Doukhobors stayed on as farmers, several established stores and business in Kylemore. In the Thirties, William M. Fudikuf owned a general store in Kylemore, selling everything from groceries and furniture, to cream separators and machinery. In the late Forties, Peter G. Kanigan ran a blacksmith shop, general store and gas pumps. Finally, in the Fifties, Louis L. Osachoff operated a general store in the hamlet.

Those families who remained in Kylemore continued to uphold their Doukhobor faith and culture. In the Forties, they formed the Kylemore Doukhobor Society, which became their main religious and social organization. Moleniye (prayer meetings) and children’s Sunday school classes were held weekly at the Sunderland School. Petrov Den’ (Peters Day) was commemorated annually with picnics at Fishing Lake. A local choir was organized, and visiting choirs from British Columbia and elsewhere in Saskatchewan were always welcomed. In 1954, the Society purchased the former South Kylemore School and moved it into Kylemore for use as a ‘prayer home’ or meeting house. The Society remained active until the Nineties, when, due to an aging and dwindling congregation, it was dissolved. About six Doukhobor families remain in the Kylemore district today.

Kylemore Doukhobors holding moleniye prayer service, 1959.  Photo courtesy William W. Kanigan.


Today, there are few physical reminders of the CCUB colony at Kylemore. An abandoned two-story village dom stands on the north side of the No. 5 Highway, a silent sentinel of the communal past, while at least two smaller village dwellings can be found nearby. The concrete foundations of other village doms, barns and reservoirs dot the surrounding countryside. Many of the original Doukhobor colonists lay at rest in God’s Blessing Cemetery, still in active use. Recently, a stream running through the former colony was christened Blahoslovenie (Blessing) Creek in their memory.

A more enduring legacy of the Kylemore Colony is its living one. For today, the descendants of the original 300 colonists, who surely number in the hundreds if not thousands, can be found throughout Saskatchewan, British Columbia and the rest of Canada. They continue to preserve the memory of these pioneering Spirit Wrestlers.

The Chernoff Village dom (originally two stories) still stands west of Kylemore, SK. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

A dwelling from the Arishenkoff Village, shrouded in vines south of Kylemore, SK. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.


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  • Dawson, Carl A., Group Settlement: Ethnic Communities in Western Canada (The Macmillan Company of Canada Limited, 1936).
  • Friesen, John W. and Michael M. Verigin, The Community Doukhobors: A People in Transition (Ottawa: Borealis Press, 1996).
  • Gooliaff, Cecil, Lawrence Kalmakoff, Randy Konkin, Jennifer Osachoff, Wally Vanin, Doukhobors of Saskatchewan: Past, Present and Future (November 1972).
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  • Hudson’s Bay Archives, File No. RG1/21/7.
  • Kalmakoff, Jonathan J. Field research notes for Kylemore district; July 2003; June 2008.
  • Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, 1930 Saskatchewan Membership List (Regina: 2002).
  • Kelvington Historical Society, Tears Toil and Triumph, Story of Kelvington and District (Kelvington: 1980).
  • Kuroki History Book Committee, Seems Like Only Yesterday, 1892-1980: The History of Kuroki and District (Kuroki: 1980).
  • Lapshinoff, Steve, Society of Named Doukhobors of Canada, 1937 Membership List (Crescent Valley: self published, 2001).
  • Lethbridge Herald, “Doukhobors Reorganize Community Life” (April 4, 1928).
  • Library and Archives Canada, RG10, Indian Affairs, Volume 6707, Reel C-8077.
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  • Manitoba Free Press, “Land for New Doukhobor Settlement” (June 1, 1918).
  • Manitoba Free Press, “Views of Wadena, Saskatchewan” (May 24, 1926).
  • Popoff, Eli A. Tanya (Grand Forks: Mir Publication Society, 1975).
  • R.M. of Kelvington No. 366, Tax Rolls (1921-1939).
  • Saskatchewan Archives Board, Cummins Rural Directory Map for Saskatchewan; Map Nos. 172 & 193 (1920, 1922, 1926, 1930).
  • Snesarev, Vladimir N. (Harry W. Trevor), The Doukhobors in British Columbia (University of British Columbia Publication, Department of Agriculture, 1931).
  • Sysoev, Theodore I. Correspondence with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, November 8, 2008.
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  • Veregin, Nora. Personal interview with Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, August 1, 2008.
  • Wadena Herald, “Doukhobors to Stay: Veregin Closes Deal for 10,000 Acres of Prairie Land” (June 27, 1918).
  • Wadena History Book Committee, Remembering Times: Wadena and Area Dating Back to 1882 (2 vols.) (Wadena: 1992).
  • Winnipeg Free Press, “Doukhobor Group Will Resist Any Attempt to Evict Them from Farms” (April 27, 1935).
  • Winnipeg Free Press, “Doukhobors Are Leaving Sask.” (October 18, 1934).
  • Winnipeg Free Press, “Doukhobors Will Sell Property in Saskatchewan” (April 8, 1935).
  • Woodcock, George & Ivan Avakumovic, The Doukhobors (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Limited, 1977).

View Kylemore, Saskatchewan Doukhobor Villages, 1918-1938 in a larger map

An earlier version of this article was published in a compilation by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff and Anne Sanderson entitled Their Story in the Wadena News from July 9 to August 20, 2008. That compilation received a first place award for Best Saskatchewan Cultural Story of the Year at the Saskatchewan Weekly Newspaper Association’s 2009 Better Newspaper Competition Premier Awards.

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