Spirit Wrestlers of Southern Russia

by Maria Kolesnikova

Not many hints remain of Doukhobor culture in Southern Russia. Persecuted in the past for their pacifist beliefs, modern Doukhobors search for an identity in the modern world. The following article by Dr. Maria Kolesnikova examines the Doukhobors of Tselina region, Rostov province as they struggle to maintain their faith, traditions, history and culture in twenty-first century Russia. Reproduced from “Russian Life” magazine ( Sept/Oct 2005).

Few in Russia remember the Doukhobors, the pacifist Russian Christian sect championed by Leo Tolstoy over a century ago. In fact, even the name Doukhobor evokes little reaction.

“It sounds funny. Perhaps it is an evil house spirit?” guessed Mikhail Grishin, 20, an engineering student in Rostov-on-Don. His grandmother, Maria Grishina, 80, a retired schoolteacher, does no better. “Doukhobor sounds like doushegub [murderer],” she said. Natalia Trifonova, a Rostov University professor, knows of the Doukhobors. “But they are all gone now,” she noted. “To find them you should go to Canada.

“In fact, the Doukhobors are not all gone. An estimated 40,000 still live in Russia and the countries of the former Soviet Union. About the same number live in Western Canada, and a few hundred live in the U.S., according to Koozma Tarasoff, a Canadian historian of the Doukhobors and author of 12 books and hundreds of articles about their culture. Scattered around Russia, Doukhobor populations are centered in the Tselina region in Rostov oblast, Cherns region in Tula oblast, near Blagoveshchensk in Amur oblast and the Mirnoye settlement near Bryansk.

Doukhobors (Doukhobory in Russian), literally means “spirit wrestlers.” It was a name bestowed on the sect — which had previously been known as Ikonobory (“icon fighters”) — by a Russian Orthodox Church priest (originally, the epithet was Doukhobortsy — “wrestlers against the Holy Spirit” — and intended as an insult, but the members of the sect changed it to the more positive Doukhobors, which implies a wrestling with the Holy Spirit). The sect has its roots in the 1650s, when Patriarch Nikon’s reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church led to the Raskol, the Great Schism. Some of the schismatics [raskolniks], called Popovtsi (“Priesters”) sought a return to pre-reform traditions, eventually giving way to the movement known as Old Believers. Others, called Bezpopovtsi (“priestless”), argued for dispensing entirely with priests. Some went further still, rejecting icons, sacraments, the divinity of Christ and even the Bible. They became precursors of the Doukhobors, who developed into a distinct religious group by the early 18th century.

Natalia Trofimenko, a Doukhobor who moved to Khlebodarnoye in 1992.

The notion of God within each individual is the cornerstone of Doukhobor belief “This philosophy has no creeds and does not need any Bible, Church, icons, or priests to fulfill its needs,” Tarasoff explained. “From this notion, we support the moral imperative that we cannot kill another human being — because then we would be killing the spark of God in us. The creation of a non-killing society is the essential quest of the Doukhobors.”

Not surprisingly, Russia’s tsars saw such pacifism as a threat, as something that could undermine social order and lead to rebellion. As a result, the Doukhobors suffered through centuries of persecution and three major resettlements. Under Tsar Alexander I, they were moved to Molochnye Vody, on the border between Ukraine and Russia. Under Nicholas I, they were exiled to Transcaucasia, along the border of Georgia and Turkey. There, in 1895, the Doukhobors refused to fight in Russia’s war with Turkey, burning all their weapons in a symbolic protest against war and militarism.

The furious tsar ordered that the Doukhobors be scattered throughout Transcaucasia, “sending the father to one village, the mother to another and their children to yet a different village,” according to Doukhobor lore [oral history]. The Doukhobors pleaded for help. It came from Quakers in the United States, who shared many beliefs with the Doukhobors, most notably pacifism and anticlericalism. And it came from the Russian writer Leo Tolstoy, whose own personal philosophy had, by this time, gravitated into non-violence. Tolstoy called the Doukhobors a “people of the 25th century.” The Doukhobors, for their part, called Tolstoy “our father,” after he donated $17,000 from the publication of his book Resurrection to help pay for emigration of some 7,500 Doukhobors to Canada in 1898. Despite this mass emigration, the majority of Doukhobors remained; many moved to Southern Russia after the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917.

Tselina region, Rostov Oblast

My qust for the Doukhobors takes me to Petrovka, a village in Tselina region, about 100 miles southeast of Rostov-on-Don. In 1921, some 4,000 Doukhobors were permitted to resettle here, establishing 21 villages (consolidated to 11 in the 1950s). Today, there are just six Doukhobor villages. Petrovka is the largest and it is by no means exclusively Doukhobor. Other inhabitants include Russian Orthodox, Armenians and Meskhetian Turks, who fled from Uzbekistan after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Farther into the country, the asphalt road turns to dirt and cows mindlessly collaborate in the creation of a traffic jam. By the time I reach Petrovka, the dirt road has turned to mud.

Regional administrator Lyudmila Nikitina — my guide in Petrovka — offers a disapproving glance at my sandals as she dons her rubber boots. As we splash together through the mud, she explains that Doukhobors still comprise about half of the village’s declining population of 300. “It’s not as good as it used to be,” Nikitina says. “Young people cant find jobs here and they have to leave.”

I examine the streets of Petrovka, looking for traces of Doukhobor culture. Most houses appear to have porches bordered with columns, their whitewashed siding shyly hiding behind trees in the yards. On some, sheds and hen houses share a roof with the house itself. These are traditional Doukhobor homes. Newer ones use brick and have no porches, Some of the houses are well kept; some are shabby; some are deserted. The streets seem empty, with only two or three middle-aged women digging in their gardens. There are few children and men.

We approach one of the women. “You are a Doukhobor, aren’t you?” I ask. She seems proud. “Yes, I’m a pureblood,” she replies. She invites us into her house, to see a typical Doukhobor interior of three rooms with papered walls. “It’s more fashionable today than whitewash, as prescribed by tradition,” she explains. The house has painted floors, several wardrobes made in the 1970s, a television and lots of embroidery. It smells of ripe apples.

Sen (left) and Tatyana Safonova at the Petrovka cemetery.

Our hostess is Tatyana Yuritsina, a social worker in Petrovka. “Doukhobors are the nicest, the most hospitable people,” she says. “Now there are many refugees and many people of different religions here. But we have no trouble with them.”

Yet, life carries on and the Doukhobors are changing. “We used to live without fences,” Yuritsina says. “And the young, they don’t want to follow Doukhobor traditions. Take my daughter. She’s 25, and she won’t listen to me, won’t stick to the tradition.” Yuritsina speculates that her generation may be the last of the “true Doukhobors,” because only older members are clinging to their roots.

Many Doukhobors now marry outside the sect. Yuritsina’s husband Vasily is Ukrainian; she says she met him in Rostov and brought him back to Petrovka. “I don’t mind Doukhobors,” he says. “They are people, just like everyone else. And the religion isn’t important in the long run. You have to believe in God and not sin. That’s all.”

Museum of Doukhobor Culture and Worship

The Museum of Doukhobor Culture and Worship is a small home dating to the 1950s which was turned into a museum in 1991, thanks to a donation from the local collective farm, Lenin Kolkhoz. It has a collection of Doukhobor artifacts and serves as a place of worship for a few of Petrovka’s active Doukhobors.

Today, a dozen Doukhobor women have assembled in the living room, the largest room in the house. Its walls are adorned with embroidered towels and traditional costumes. A table in the far right corner holds a bust of Lev Tolstoy and albums with black and white photographs of community members. On the wall are portraits of two Doukhobor leaders, Lukeria Kalmykova and Peter P Verigin.

The Doukhobor women greet us with a traditional hymn. They are wearing long skirts with fancy, embroidered aprons, colorful blouses and white kerchiefs. Some of their attire comes from their grandmothers; some was adapted from the contemporary clothing bought at a local market. it is the sort of clothing no longer worn in everyday life.

“If you dress Doukhobor style and walk along the streets, people will look at you as if you were a savage,” says Yevdokia Bulanova, 75, a Doukhobor who lives in the village of Khlebodarnoye, five miles from Petrovka.

The women in front of me walked to the museum wearing their regular dresses. They carried their traditional Doukhobor costumes in plastic bags, then changed at the museum, like schoolchildren for a class drama performance. But the reality is that they came here to perform, and they like it.

The oldest surviving Doukhobor house in Petrovka.

Their singing seems to erase years of worry and woe from their faces. They have a certain ethereal solemnity. The words of the hymns are hard to make out, enhancing the impression that they are protecting some hidden truths. But the explanation is more banal. Years of persecution made Doukhobors in Russia drawl their syllables when singing, so that outsiders could not understand their meaning, says Lyudmila Borisova, 66, a choir member and Doukhobor activist. “Canadian Doukhobors sing much faster,” she says, “and one can actually make out the words.” Once they have started, the women do not want to stop. Their singing goes on and on. They forget about their hardships, miniscule pensions, cows that need milking, or water that only runs out of the tap a couple of hours each day.

Petrovka’s Doukhobor choir once was quite well known. Ethnographers came from Rostov and Moscow to record them singing their traditional hymns and psalms. The choir even toured Rostovskaya and neighboring provinces during the 1995-1998 centennial celebrations of Doukhobor heritage. But the choir doesn’t travel anymore. “People are scattered,” Borisova says. “We used to have a big choir, but now maybe only a dozen people remain.” Some left the village, some are too old to travel, and some are dead.

“Young people don’t come to our meetings,” Borisova says. “They are busy working and don’t have time.”

Vera Guzheva, 44, is an exception. Guzheva, who lives in the city of Taganrog, about 170 miles northwest of Petrovka, came to the meeting with her mother, Vera Safonova, who is 77. “My mother is a Doukhobor, but I’m not,” says Guzheva. “Our generation doesn’t even know who we are.”

The other women at the meeting hiss in protest.

“I’ve lived in the city for 25 years, I am not a Doukhobor anymore,” Guzheva responds.

“Who are you then? You are not a Ukrainian, you are not a Belorussian, you are a Doukhobor,” Borisova asserts.

“No one in the city knows the Doukhobors. How will I explain to people who I am?”

“You don’t need to tell them, you just have to know in your soul that you are a Doukhobor,” Borisova says.

After moving to Taganrog, Guzheva had changed to Russian Orthodoxy, thinking it was more convenient than living as a Doukhobor. During her baptismal, the priest corrected her, saying that the right name of the religion she was giving up was Doukhobortsy, not Doukhobors, a fact she didn’t know. “But in my soul I’m a Christian and a Doukhobor,” Guzheva says.

Oral History

Doukhobors in Petrovka nourish Doukhobor legends and revere names like Lukeria Kalmykova and Peter P Verigin. They remember the rituals, and, during their meetings on major holidays — Christmas, Whitsunday, Easter and St. Peter’s Day — they each read a psalm and then all perform a low bow, even though some of the women now need help standing up afterwards. But ask them to explain the essence o their belief and daily traditions, and they may give you a puzzled look.

A traditional Doukhobor bow.

There is an awkward silence when I pose this question while visiting the village of Khlebodarnoye. Yevdokia Bulanova finally speaks. “We have our Zhivotnaya Kniga [Book of Life], and you can read something about it there,” she suggests. “Nadezhda, bring it here.”

Nadezhda Trofimenko, whose home we are visiting, disappears behind the curtain separating the bedroom and living room, and returns with an old, leather-bound book, which she sets down carefully. “This is the principal Doukhobor document, here you’ll find everything,” Trofimenko says.

The Doukhobor Book of Life is the primary written artifact of Doukhobor heritage, which had been transmitted orally before 1899. Compiled by the Russian ethnographer Vladimir Bonch Bruevich while spending nearly a year in Canada transcribing Doukhobor psalms and hymns, the Book of Life preserves Doukhobor oral history and serves as a bible of their faith.

Dr. Vladimir Kuchin, 63, a researcher at Rostov-on-Don’s Anti Plague Institute, has lived in Rostov since 1958. He is a Doukhobor, and in his tiny studio apartment on the city outskirts, he archives a complete collection of the back issues of Iskra — the Canadian published Doukhobor magazine. He also stores trunk-loads of Doukhobor recordings and artifacts, which he has been collecting since 1975. He frequently contributes to local papers and to Iskra, and he said he is thinking about writing a book on Doukhobor heritage. But he must wonder whom he would be writing for. His own brother and sister have expressed no interest in their Doukhobor roots. And his parents, when they were alive, worried about his fervor for Doukhoboriana. “Dear son, why do you need all this?” they used to ask.

Kuchin’s grandparents moved to the Tselina region in 1922. They were in their thirties; his father was 10 and his mother was 8 at the time. At first, people lived in sod houses — 30 people in each home. “Their life was hard, but full of wisdom, patience and good spirit,” Kuchin says. When the Soviet state started putting up collective farms (kolkhozy), the first Doukhobor kolkhoz — Obshy Trud [Joint Labor] was set up in Petrovka, headed by Peter P. Verigin. There followed a kolkhoz named after the military commander Vasily Chapayev, and then six Doukhobor villages were united in another kolkhoz named after Vladimir Lenin. In 1928, Doukhobors in the Soviet Union dropped their stricture against army service.

“There was no other way to survive,” Kuchin says. For the most part, the Doukhobors lived an uneasy peace with the atheistic Soviet State. The government was tacitly permissive toward their religion, as long as the Doukhobors did not openly profess it.

Certainly many Doukhobors were imprisoned and exiled under Stalin. Kuchin recalls one story from Petrovka which reflects the insanity of the times. A villager, Fyodor Tomilin, made a chest for his little daughter’s toys and instruments and decorated it with a newspaper clipping that featured, among other things, a picture of Marshal Mikhail Tukhachevsky, a prominent Soviet military leader arrested and executed in 1937 on trumped-up charges of treason. Some time later, another villager, Koozma Pereverzev, stopped by to borrow some tools. On his way out, Pereverzev said, “Such a young guy, and already a marshal.” Tomilin had no idea what Pereverzev was talking about. Ten days later, Tomilin was arrested and accused of treason along with Tukhachevsky and his supporters. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. Tomilin insisted that he did not have any idea who Tukhachevsky was, and that no one by this name lived in this village. Only after several years in prison, when he saw Tukhachevsky’s photo somewhere else, did he understand what had happened.

Anna Sen (Safonova), center, who helped set up the Museum of Doukhobor Culture and Worship.

In the 1960s, political liberalization allowed the Doukhobors to be open about their beliefs. “I left my home village in 1958, when I entered Rostov State Medical Institute,” Kuchin says. “Even then I didn’t conceal my religion from my friends.”

Unfortunately for the Doukhobors, Kuchin’s example was becoming more typical. The youth left the village for the cities, where they studied, worked, lived, got married and had children. Many married people outside their religion, often assimilating into Russian Orthodoxy. In bigger cities, like Rostov, Doukhobors no longer gather to sing psalms. “Canadian [Doukhobor] visits might stir people up,” Kuchin says. “Some people would meet at Whitsunday, St. Peter’s day, and Christmas.

“Kuchin says he used to go to Petrovka quite frequently, until his father died in 1999. But he does not go any longer. It is too painful. “The things that have been happening since the 1980s and 1990s are incredible and I can hardly find the right words,” he says. “Prosperous Doukhobor villages in Tselinsky and Bogdanovsky regions have become hard to recognize. Suspicious strangers are buying up many homes; other houses are abandoned and falling apart, and yards and gardens are covered in thick weeds.

“The Doukhobor cemetery is also covered with thick grass. There, Doukhobor graves, devoid of tombstones and crosses, are marked only by fences with people’s names. Anna Sen and Tatyana Safonova lead me to the grave of the five settlers who died during the Doukhobors’ first winter in Tselina region. These people are heroes, and a memorial plaque was placed over their grave in the 1960s.

Three years ago, Lyudmila Dorokh, a longtime director of the museum and one of the best singers in the Petrovka choir, told me, “We are losing our identity as a community and the Doukhobor culture here will be gone in several years.” She is gone now, lying in this quiet cemetery. And her prediction is slowly coming to pass.

Certainly there are attempts to preserve Doukhobor culture in Tselina region. Canadian Doukhobors visited the museum several years ago and gave $200 for repairs. Regional authorities provided a tape recorder, so that locals might record Doukhobor psalms. “We are trying to preserve the Doukhobor culture, which is unique,” says Lyudmila Nikitina, the regional administrator. “Once a year, we bring children from the local school to this museum for a history class, to tell them about the Doukhobor faith and traditions. I wish we could do more before it’s too late.”

Goat and sheep herds near Khlebodarnoye. Agriculture is still the main source of income.

On the way back to the village, we meet other women from the Doukhobor museum. They are walking home, carrying plastic bags containing their traditional costumes. They show us a recently built asphalt road, which gives Petrovka a new, better connection with the outside world, for better or for worse.

Scenes from: To America With the Doukhobors

by Leopold Antonovich Sulerzhitsky

Leopold Antonovich Sulerzhitsky (1872-1916) was a pacifist who, like the Doukhobors, was arrested and imprisoned in 1896 for refusing to take the Oath of Allegiance to the Tsar during military call up. Upon Leo Tolstoy’s request, he took charge of the first and third ships that carried Doukhobors from Batum to Halifax. His observations were published in a diary V Ameriku s Dukhoborami (1905). The following excerpt is taken from the English translation To America With the Doukhobors (Regina: Canadian Plains Research Centre, University of Regina, 1982). It describes, in eloquent and poignant detail, one heartbreaking scene during the Doukhobors’ voyage at sea in mid-December, 1898.

One morning after making his rounds of the sick, Dr. A. Bakunin requested that the hospital, as yet unused, be prepared. A five year old boy was ill with leukemia. His father and mother were put in the hospital with him, since the sickness was not infectious and there was no one else in the hospital. That night, after the washing of the deck, I entered the hospital and saw both doctors there. Bakunin and Mercer were busy beside the patient who was held in his father’s arms.

In answer to a question about the condition of the patient, the doctor silently opened the boy’s mouth and touched the teeth with a metal spoon. They were loose in the darkened, decomposed gums. From the boy came a heavy odor of decomposing flesh. His face was swollen. Looking significantly at me, the doctor said, “All I can do is to inject ether under the skin.”

The boy tossed and wheezed, bending now to the window, now to his mother, seeking relief from the agonizing pain. With his helpless little hands, he took hold of the shoulders, then the neck of his grieving father, saying his name with difficulty. “Grisha, dear father,” he said hoarsely, “it hurts.” 

When they made the subcutaneous injection, he tossed even more. “No – no, don’t do that Grisha,” he begged looking into his father’s eyes. Carefully, with his large clumsy hand, Grigory quieted the boy lovingly saying with a low voice, “There, there now. It won’t hurt, this will make it better. Now just wait a minute,” and he threw a quick stern glance at his wife, who, weeping, kept taking the doctor’s hands. “Do not torture him unnecessarily,” she pleaded, “He will die anyway. Let him depart peacefully.”

From the hospital which was lit by a small lamp, we walked out on the deck. Through the round window of the hospital we could see two figures bent sadly over the patient.

It was quiet on deck. The ship slept in a deep sleep. With the machinery regularly moaning, as if sighing, and the smooth sea running past the lightly shuddering ship with a hardly audible splash, the sea shone and played, silvery scaled, in the rays of a calm sad moon. And looking at this marvelous, well proportioned picture, it was hard to believe that at that moment, a little being, in terrible suffering, was uselessly struggling with death, that shows no mercy for age nor condition.

Doukhobor immigrants aboard the S.S. Lake Huron, 1899.

In the morning the boy died. It was decided to bury him the same day. On the bed in the hospital lay the little corpse, freshly dressed. Near him stood the father with head bowed and arms folded. Grief had diminished him. Deep wrinkles appeared on his face. But his sorrow was calm and full of dignity. There was no gesture of despair. But his whole giant body seemed to have become smaller. His shoulders sagged and his lips closed sternly.

And the mother looking with tender emotion at the peaceful face ravaged by sickness, whispered last words of love to him; covering her face with a handkerchief. Several times she started to weep uncontrollably, her whole body shaking with silent sobs.

It was crowded in the hospital and a choir of twenty persons stood on the deck near the open door. The choir sang psalms fitting the occasion. Relatives stood around the deceased. All were dressed cleanly in their best. Women with hands folded on their stomachs were holding clean, white, neatly folded handkerchiefs. All stood calmly with dignity as if fearing to waken the dead. The sad mournful psalm continued slowly with harmonious, drawn out sounds. One by one these were carried far out to the height of cloudless unknown distance and sunk there in the tranquil depth. When the singing was ended and the last strains had faded away a woman with a musical voice repeated a prayer with loving, pacifying intonations.

Grigory came to me on the deck and looking with tired eyes said, “I have been told that he should be sewn in a heavy canvas with an iron weight put at the feet. Then will you give me the iron? I will do it myself.” But his face changed. “Would it be possible somehow to bury him on land? The shore, of course, is right here.” With large fingers which one did not normally see shaking, he pointed to one side where Cape Mattapan (Greece) could be seen. 

Difficult though it was to refuse Grigory this request, it was impossible to grant his wish. That the little body would be dropped into the sea where there would be no grave by which one could, even mentally, go and sit – this thought particularly burdened the mother. It was hard for all the Doukhobors.

Moreover, nothing is said on this question either in the psalms or in the prayers; in their traditions nothing is said about burial at sea. This troubles many, since, while Doukhobors get along without ceremony and do not have priests to meet their everyday needs, nevertheless, in the important events of live, be it birth, marriage or death, they have developed established procedures. It is understandable that the majority assign to these formalities, established by custom, the same significance as to the essence of Doukhobor teaching. “The Christian form”, “Real Christian Custom,” could be heard more than once. But after all, where do people not confuse form with content, or even attach greater significance to form than to content?!

Grigory himself sewed his son’s body into a thin canvas and then into a tarpaulin. He himself put into the foot, an old burnt out furnace bar brought to him for this purpose from the engine room. And only when it became necessary to sew the face, did he delay with the edges of the tarpaulin. It was a little too difficult for him to cover this dear face, knowing that he would never see it again.

The mother, standing beside him, wept so bitterly that it was impossible to see her without doing the same. Many other women were also near to tears. The whole crowd was saddened. Sighs and sympathies were heard. “How is it, my dears, in the water? Right into the water?” “What sorrow!” “Is it altogether impossible on the shore?” “They say, ‘not possible’.” A lad pulled the sleeve of his grandfather and asked loudly, “Granddad, Granddad, will the fish eat him there?” “Enough chatter,” the old man answered angrily. The little boy blinked his eyelids in question and looked at the dolphins jumping in the sea, trying to resolve this question on his own.

The corpse was sewn up.

Again the mournful choir sang, and slowly the crowd moved to the edge of the deck. At the front, with a stern face, went Grigory, holding in his hands a piece of old, folded canvas, the furnace bar awkwardly showing from one side. At the side where a part of the rail had been taken down, the sad procession stopped. The engines were not working and the ship rocked gently from side to side. The moving voice of a woman sang the last prayer, accompanied by the restrained sobs of the mother. The prayer ended. The mother kissed the package for the last time and embracing it, could not part from it.

“My loving one, why were you born, to be thrown into the sea?” she cried. She was quietly led away to one side. Grigory kissed the boy on the head and handed him to me with trembling hands. He suddenly turned pale as a corpse. The whole crowd, holding its breath, awaited with anguish.

Bending over as far as possible from the deck, I opened my hands and the corpse fell into the sea. The water splashed loudly, spray flew, and the crowd as one exclaimed, groaned and ran to the side. The women sobbed out loud, and the men also were nearly all weeping, looking at one another with helpless pitiful faces. And in the clear bright emerald depth of the sea, the white bundle could be seen for a long time, gradually turning to blue. It slowly sank lower and lower. Sloping diagonal sun rays played on it, piercing the clear water, and ran shimmering after it into the mysterious cloudy depth.

But the ship shuddered, the water alongside it splashed, and again the playful waves ran past us, gently splashing against the ship. And again two spreading streams stretched out from the nose of the ship, like two whiskers of some gigantic fish calmly moving on the desert of water. And already the place where little Vladimir was dropped could not be recognized. There the sea was smiling to the sky as calmly as anywhere else, as calmly as if nothing unusual had happened. The crowd quietly broke up. 

Only Grigory and his wife remained standing a long time at the very edge, near the flag pole, pressed against one another, mournfully staring at the water along the foaming bubbling stream left by the propeller of our ship.

Petrofka

by Alex J. Bayoff

In his later years, Alex J. Bayoff (1906-1989) wrote down his memories of growing up in the Doukhobor village of Petrofka near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. In clear, simple and sincere style, he depicts the life and times of the village in the context of his family experience.  Originally written as a memoir for family and friends, it is now published for a wider internet audience, by special permission of the family, in this Doukhobor Genealogy Website exclusive.  Readers will enjoy the rich details and vivid memories of the early years of Doukhobor pioneer settlement on the Prairies. Edited by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Author’s Note

After filling our stomachs with a sumptuous supper at the home of Nick and Mary Trofimenkoff, we sat around at the card table for an evening of cards. Conversation drifted from one subject to another. Somehow we started talking about the early Doukhobor villages and I mentioned a few happenings in the village of Petrofka. They seemed to have interested Nick, so he suggested that I write an article about Petrofka. After carrying that idea in my mind, it seemed that the Bayoff family had something to do about it in a small way. Since that was the case, my good wife Daisy suggested that I write a small history of the Bayoffs while Dad was still around, so he could relate the events first hand. I agreed to that.

The facts related in my article are mostly from the memory of Dad, and what I heard previously from Grandpa Dmitry, my Mother and later from my own experience. The story is a true story to the best of my knowledge. Nothing has been added or exaggerated. I have written as I have heard it told to me or as I have experienced it. Also nothing has been taken away to make the story more presentable. I therefore must say in advance that some passages of the story may be looked upon as vulgar. I tried to relate things as it happened, nothing taken away. Therefore if I have offended any of the readers, I humbly apologize. I must thank Samuel Postnikoff and Peter P. Makaroff in relating some of the happenings that I had overlooked.

Early in the spring of 1899 a convoy of wagons left Novo-Troitskoye (Kars province – ed.) in Trans-Caucasia to the nearest railroad station. Seven families left the peaceful village, a home of some 50 families. The train would take them to Batum, a port city on the Black Sea, and then to Canada. It was a sad occasion for the families that were left behind, and a sadder occasion, yet full of hope for the 7 families, all packed and going on a new unknown adventure, leaving their homes and most of their belongings with those who stayed behind. The Bayoff family was one of the seven. Dad was 11 years old. There was his Grandfather Grigory Vasilyevich, who was quite old, yet not too old to be the boss of the family, with full control of the money and how it was to be spent. Next in control were Dad’s Father and Mother, Dmitry and Lukeria. The rest of the family, Uncle Gavril and Aunt Anna were younger than Dad. As I have mentioned before, Dad was 11 years old, not old enough to remember everything and could be too young and have missed some valuable information.

The wagons were loaded with the most necessary articles, such as bedding and clothing, some dishes, etc., and a good supply of dried bread and homemade cheese. They figured they could live on dried bread and cheese and water. They left everything else behind, which was a heart-breaking farewell; leaving a comfortable home, agricultural tools or implements, cattle, sheep, horses, but mostly friends and relatives. There was singing of hymns and a lot of praying, a lot of kisses and a lot of tears. So was the parting with the village of Novo-Troitskoye and friends as the wagons began to move.

Port of Batum, embarkation point for Doukhobor immigrants. British Columbia Archives C-01560.

Dad’s Aunt and her husband, Petro Katasonov, acquired all of the Bayoff property and belongings and drove the wagon with the Bayoffs and their trip supplies to the railroad station. Since there were seven families leaving the village, there must have been seven wagons. It took the best part of two days on the road before they arrived at Erzurum, where they would board a freight train. Sitting on their bundles of belongings, it was far from comfortable, but with a lot of hymns and prayers, they arrived at Batum where they met with the rest of the Doukhobors. There were about 2,000 gathered from most of the Doukhobor villages, meeting in Batum.

A British freighter unloaded a ship load of cattle, and was waiting to pick up the 2,000 Doukhobors. You can only imagine the condition of the ship after the cattle were unloaded. That was to be their home for the next 28 days. They saw a lot of work to be done before they could board the ship. No time was to be wasted. They buckled down, cleaned up every part of the ship, scrubbed everything until the ship looked and smelled as if it had never had cattle on it. They then started the carpentry work. In about two weeks of hard work, the ship was ready. Bunks, tables, benches, dining area, wash rooms, etc. were ready. The crew of the ship Lake Huron was impressed by the workmanship and cleanliness of the Doukhobors, and they were very cooperative in every way they could be. The Doukhobors then wasted no time in boarding the ship.

So with singing of hymns and a lot of praying the ship began to move. The ship stopped in Constantinople for supplies. They were advised to take care of some of their supplies, so the men went and bought as much of the fruit and other items as they thought they may need. Certain items were provided: bread, sugar and hot water. There were rumors that the bread and sugar were provided by the Quakers. There were two Quakers on the boat, one of them was Mr. Elkinton, the other Dad did not remember.

It was pleasant going on the Mediterranean Sea. Sailing was quite smooth as most of the time the shore line could be seen, and the towns and cities as they passed by. As soon as the ship passed Gibraltar, things began to change. The land disappeared and the ship began to roll. The going was slow. They could see smoke in the distance behind them; that smoke turned out to be a ship which would catch up to them, then leave them behind with its smoke disappearing in the distance ahead of them. There were many ships passing them in a similar manner.

Some people began to get sea sick. A lot of the older people spent most of their time in bed, getting up only to have a bite to eat and wash up.

Although the ship rolled violently, Dad says he enjoyed the ride. He said it did not bother him, and he spent most of the day on deck with the young people. However, things were not without trouble; one old man died and had to be buried at sea. Dad well remembers that incident. They put the body in a sack or perhaps wrapped it in a sheet, tied a stone to him and slid him overboard, with their customary funeral by singing and prayer, Somehow the stone worked loose from the body and the body came to the surface. The ship did not stop, and with singing of hymns they watched the body disappear in the distance. Most of the Atlantic was rough. When it wasn’t rough it was foggy, the fog horns blowing a deafening roar, signaling other vessels, should there be any, so as not to collide.

Port of View of Gibraltar from SS Lake Huron, bringing a group of Doukhobors to Canada, 1899. Library and Archive Canada PA-022228.

Eventually word was passed that land would be in sight soon. What a relief! The rolling of the ship began to ease. The older people began to get out of their bunks. What a joy, they were nearly there! They were nearing the Gulf of St. Lawrence when as if by magic everyone perked up, some crying, some laughing, and most everyone praying to God that they were arriving safely. In due time they saw the outline of land, and the buildings began to take shape. That was Halifax.

On arrival at Halifax, they prayed, thanking the Lord for their safe arrival. After going through mountainous waves and fog, it must have been with the help of some divine power that they arrived safe and in good health. Later they learned that the same ship, the Lake Huron, after loading a cargo of lumber destined for England, broke up in the Atlantic Ocean and sank. They were convinced more than ever that the Lord had saved them for the future.

From Halifax, they were taken to an island which they called Quarantine (Grosse Ile, Quebec – ed.). After strict examination, they were pronounced free from any contagious disease, and physically in very good shape. The examining physicians admitted that they never had seen such a healthy group of immigrants as the Doukhobors. After the word was passed ahead, about the cleanliness of the people, the officials mingled quite freely with the Doukhobors and tried to be as helpful as possible. They were then taken to Quebec City by boat. After a rest period they were escorted to the train which was a far cry from the freight cars of Russia. They arrived in Selkirk (Manitoba – ed.) where the Government of the North West Territories equipped the Military Barracks with food and lodging. Here they rested and went shopping, buying whatever they could take without too much trouble. The people were then given a choice as to where they wanted to go. The choices were Prince Albert district or Yorkton. A large portion chose Prince Albert and the events will be described about the Prince Albert group.

At Selkirk the Bayoffs and Popoffs (Makaroffs) bought two horses and a wagon each. There were others, but Dad does not remember who they were. The train stopped at Duck Lake and that was their destination as far as the train ride was concerned. The wagons were loaded with freight and other belongings. Only the very old and weak rode. The rest walked behind the wagons. Those who had no wagons were not left behind. Tents must have been bought in Selkirk, as they certainly were put to use. There were rains and bad weather that spring. The (North Saskatchewan – ed.) river crossing was by Carlton Ferry. Getting out of the river valley, there were hills to cross, and in some cases they had to double up the teams to haul a load at a time.

The party had now reached a hill, called Crown Hill, about four or five miles west of the present Village of Marcelin, which also is adjacent to Windsor Lake School area. This is as far as they could go together, as this was the place from which they spread out to locate their villages. Five groups chose to be near the river: Spasovka (River Hill) was the most northerly; going south Slavyanka, then Uspeniye, then Terpeniye and most southerly Petrofka (Petrovka – ed.). The Haralowka (Gorelovka – ed.) group did not want to go too far, so they located a few miles south of Crown Hill. Pozirayevka and Troitskoye were some distance west of the river.

The Bayoffs and Popoffs (Makaroffs) chose Petrofka. Of course, as will be seen, there were a lot of others in the group, but the story deals mostly with the Bayoff family, with mention of others from the same village,

Doukhobor women digging drainage for a new settlement in the West. British Columbia Archives C-01369.

The elders, my great grandfather was one of them, chose a place about 5 miles south of present Petrofka (Golovinka – ed.). After scouting around, they decided that the brooks were not good enough, so they retraced their steps back north where the brooks seemed much better. In fact one of the brooks (Petrofka Spring – ed.) later became the choice of the present Petrofka picnic grounds, just north of the bridge. That same brook runs through grandfather’s land, just below the picnic grounds.

The location of the village had now been decided upon. Now the big task was erecting buildings. As a temporary measure some people dug into the bank of a hill, making a cave, where they had temporary shelter. Grandfather Dmitry and the boys, my Dad and Uncle Gabriel were very young but helpful. They built a shack and were reasonably comfortable.

My Great-Grandfather Grigory was not satisfied with Petrofka, so the three of them, Grandfather, Great-Grandfather and Dad went south to the vicinity of Borden. They scouted a bit and chose an area which could have been where the present village of Langham is located. They acquired the proper papers for homestead purposes. Grandfather and Dad spent one summer there and did a good piece of breaking. They began to miss their friends they left behind in Petrofka so they packed up and came back to Petrofka.

Now came the task of building. Not all had horses or wagons, so those who had horses and wagons had to help haul logs for the buildings for others. Grandfather worked hard. I do not know how long it took to build. I have lived in that house, which was quite large with several rooms and it had built-in bunks and benches all around the wall. It was a log house, but had a large cellar, an attic and a shingle roof. Although they had only four horses to start with, the barn had room for eight, then there were cows, chickens and ducks. A good well was in the yard. As Dad and Uncle Gabriel grew up and Aunt Anna was getting to be a big girl they had to build another house on the same property, as privacy had to be respected. I also remember a shop was built for blacksmithing. I have seen them shoe horses. Later that shop was used by transient immigrants, Russians who were good smiths and worked there, paying Grandfather a small percentage for the use of the shop and tools. The Bayoff place was like a station, as a lot of Russian newcomers made it their stopping place. Grandfather built two trestles on top of which they would place a log, with one man on top and one on the ground pulling a long saw for sawing planks, beams and joists. The newcomers were happy to earn some money and then move on to look for a place to settle. I have been told, and later witnessed myself, that the homes of Nikolai and Mavra Postnikoff and Styopa Esakin were always open for transients, and there were plenty of them passing through Petrofka. Petrofka was their resting place.

Petrofka established itself fairly fast, after the officials showed them where to start building. The houses sprang up fast. I would not be surprised that some of the houses could have been built from the Bayoff man-powered sawing of planks. The villagers were allowed to measure up their lots. They got together and staked out every lot before the building of their homes. Later came the surveyors who were surprised to see that all the houses were properly placed on their respective lots.

There were a lot of problems. Most of the families acquired horses or oxen. The nearest store was at Borden and that was far away, especially for oxen. Besides they were too busy with field work. The animals were overworked and needed rest. The next town was Rosthern, 22 miles, but crossing the river created a problem. They acquired a boat so they now could cross the river. Not too often, but it did happen, that they walked to Rosthern, and brought their supplies on their backs. Even sacks of flour were brought in that way. They say necessity is the mother of invention. We had some very inventive and capable people in Petrofka. Dad tells me one such man was one of the inventors, or a better word, improviser. This man was John Strelioff. I knew him too as I often played with his son, also called John,

Going for flour in the Rosthern district of Saskatchewan, 1899. British Columbia Archives C-01355.

This man wanted to improve the river crossing. Instead of oars he devised a paddle wheel attached to the boat, and put a crank onto it. According to Bad, by cranking the paddle wheel they could, cross the river in half the time. That was very welcome and worked just fine, but he still had to walk to Rosthern and carry supplies on his back. So he improvised the wheel barrow by using a very large wheel. Dad does not remember where the wheel came from, but the diameter of the wheel was about 4 feet. That made pushing it with a load quite easy, as that size of a wheel rolled easily over small obstructions. John Strelioff actually pushed that barrow to Rosthern and brought a lot more supplies that way instead of carrying them on his back. He also made a bicycle. He used 2 wheels from spinning wheels, made sprockets from a spade and made a chain with links shaped from wire. The bicycle actually worked, but as far as Bad remembers there was no talk of it ever being used to go to Rosthern.

Soon the ferry (Petrofka Ferry – ed.) appeared. Everybody was happy. They could drive to Rosthern by team and wagon. Then buggies appeared which provided a little more speed and comfort. Conditions further improved when Waldheim appeared. It was only 8 miles then. The railroad made it possible to take trips to Saskatoon. Soon after, a grocery and confectionary store opened up, owned by Mr. Eagleson, who also had the Post Office with the title of Petrofka. Petrofka was a fast-growing village so the government, to keep peace among our people, empowered one of the early English speaking citizens as a judge; so we actually had a judge in our village. Dad does not remember the name of the judge, however he did not stay long as there were no disputes, no fights – in other words the judge had nothing to do so he left.

Events were moving rapidly. People became more settled. Russian and Ukrainian immigrants came in larger numbers, stopping in Petrofka to rest and consider their next move. The Bayoffs, Postnikoffs, Makaroffs and Esakins housed a lot of these people. They were all good people. In exchange for their keep they would work a few days sawing planks or work in a blacksmith shop. The shop was kept busy by sharpening plowshares and other iron work. Some of these nice people decided to stay on in our village and became one of us. They married our Doukhobor girls and settled down with them. Just to mention two of them, Peter Dobroluboff married a Kousnitsoff girl, and Stanislav Lostowski married Elizabeth Mitin, a widow.

With the never ending task of survival, with very little money, the building and seeing that there be enough money to feed and clothe the family, the task seemed insurmountable; yet against odds, there was time for socializing, such as it was. Most of them had not experienced the more extravagant upper level of social living, so there was no complaint. They would gather at the neighbor’s house for a talk or a singsong if they were in the mood. That went on when the people moved on to their homesteads, perhaps with a little more enthusiasm, because of the distance between them. Grandpa bought the school house, and had lots of room for visitors; Grandma (Lusha) Lukeria would always provide lunch. Quite often we would go to visit Grandpa and Grandma.

On one occasion, when we arrived at Grandpa’s, we found that we were not the only visitors. There were Salikins. Grandpa and Grandma were very close friends with Tanya and Nicholas. Philip Gulioff was also there. Tanya was a very likable woman, very sociable and usually the life of the party. Philip had a chair by the cupboard. He reached out his hand and began tapping on a tin dishpan. Pretty soon there developed a rhythm to his tapping. Tanya did not waste any time, jumped up, and executed a few graceful steps, approached Grandma, and said, ”come on Lusha, lets show them like we used to when we were young.” Grandma was reluctant at first, but then Philip began tapping with more lively music, at least to them and to me that was music. Philip increased the volume and gusto. It must have been hard for Grandma to resist. There was their chance to live again their young days in Russia. They began to move, and what a performance, their aprons swinging, their hands and arms gracefully swinging, their feet moving gracefully. They moved in a semi circular motion. They were so smooth; they were actually floating, using their arms and hands as in ballet. It did not mean too me much then, but as I think about it, I still can picture that dance. I have seen some ballet dancing, but I have not seen anything so smooth. If you have seen the Russian skaters, then you will see what I mean. They danced apart, but their movement of arms and hands were in perfect unison. You could almost say that the Russian peasants were born with a certain amount of ballet in them.

Grandpa Dmitry and Grandma Lusha Bayoff, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan.

Lusha and Tanya were grandmothers, but really they at that time were young women even if they were Grandmothers. That was the first time I had seen Grandma Bayoff act this way. Everyone enjoyed themselves. It was a very pleasant visit. The Salikins visited them often, but I have not heard of Grandma and Tanya performing again. Perhaps Philip was not around.

Our young people grew up fast, and with the help of these Russian people soon a football team was formed (soccer ball). Every Sunday there were football games. I remember seeing them play. Dad was a goalkeeper. They even took part in Rosthern Sports day and nearly won one game. They blame the loss on the party the night before.

The first few years during the period of orientation life was hard, especially when one had to carry flour from Rosthern on their backs. So the elders of Petrofka and the other villages decided to build a flour mill. The Petrofka elders, including my Great Grandfather Grigory, foresaw the possibility of a water-driven wheel for supplying the power, and that was one reason they retraced their steps back north and settled at the present sight. It was closer to the creek. This creek (Radouga Creek – ed.) running through Uncle Paul Makaroff’s farm was the ideal location for the mill. It being centrally located between Petrofka and Terpeniye and Troitskoye, although other villages co-operated. The mill was located near Timothy Vereschagin’s home, not far from the present Brookhill School. To create a large enough water head, they dug by hand roughly two miles, more or less, a channel diverting the flow to create a high enough waterfall. They had done a wonderful job, a civil engineering job. It is surprising what necessity can do. The mill was built and put to work. The flow of water was enough to make the mill operational. The capacity of the mill was large enough to supply the need of the community. According to Dad, the mill produced very good flour. Dad does not remember how many years the mill worked, but he remembers that, supposedly, government men came along, removed the grinding stone, and gave them orders not to build another mill, but to buy flour as the other citizens did. If it was the government, I think it was very inconsiderate of them. The mill was destroyed, but the evidence is still there. I well remember, when I went to Makaroff’s to swim with Pete and Joe, the channel was still evident, although in a very deteriorated condition.

There was another mill built, whether before the destruction of the Petrofka mill or later, Dad does not remember. This other mill was built in the village of Troitskoye. It was a steam powered mill. The engine was a stationary one, but on wheels and had to be pulled by horses. Dad remembers one incident during the construction of this mill. There was a Chernoff who seemed to have been in charge of the job. A very capable and meticulous man, whose motto was perfection, for which he took pride and credit. As the story goes, on one occasion he observed that one worker had not been too accurate with his work, so he called out to this worker “this does not look too good, how did you level it”. The worker replied “I have leveled it by eye”. Chernoff was not satisfied; he called, “s— on your eye, use the level”. The order must have been carried out, as the mill was constructed, and produced very good flour. This also did not last long. To the sorrow of the people it was dismantled just like the Petrofka mill, supposedly by government men. Who knows?

We had some very strong men in Petrofka. The river that brought in logs used to flood at times, the large logs being two feet in diameter. To get them out of the river and drag them to shore required a lot of strength. Dad mentions one man, Pete Padowski. I remember him. He was a quiet man, yet a big man. He would drag the log over the bank to where the wagon stood. People asked him why he did not use the oxen. He answered that if he could not drag it over the bank the oxen certainly could not. Besides he saved the oxen to pull the wagon. Later on when the people began to buy cars, Padowski bought a car, and this I saw myself, to change a tire he called his wife to set the block under the axle, as he lifted the car by hand, without a jack.

Doukhobor house, Saskatchewan Colony, c. 1902. Glenbow Archives NA-949-102.

Grandfather Dmitry, with the help of Dad and Uncle Gabriel (Gavril – ed.), built the two houses, the necessary barns, dug a well and built a bath house. According to Dad, it was the second bath house in the village. So it was used by a lot of villagers. The custom was that the women go first to take a bath. They came in a group, as many as the bath house could hold, until all the women had their bath, so some were undressing as some were bathing, as all of them could not get in at once. As the rumor goes Grandpa was there bringing in water, etc., and seeing that the women had everything for their bath. He even washed some of the ladies backs to hurry the process. The first bathhouse was built on Reban’s lot, and was used as a community bathhouse. Families took turns to heat and supply water. Each family provided their own hazel nut brooms for steaming themselves and supplied their own soap.

Well, going back to Grandfather, helping the ladies was not the only good deed he did. He was some sort of a doctor. Usually Sundays, sometimes a visitor would come from another village to have Grandfather let blood. That I have witnessed myself. Grandma would roll up the person’s sleeve, tie a towel on the arm to have a vein stand out, while Grandpa opened up a little black box and produced small gadget which he called a lancet. After setting the gadget, he asked Grandma to hold a can. Pretty soon I heard a little click and I saw blood running out while Grandma caught the blood with the can. I don’t know whether it cured the person of the ailment, but all I know is I got pretty sick watching it. I know that Grandpa never charged anyone for this.

Another person worthy of mention was Mavra (Mavrunya) Postnikoff, wife of the ferryman, Nikolai, nicknamed Starchik. This good woman performed marvelously as a midwife, making deliveries in a large community. As far as I know, her record was that all the babies she delivered have lived. I and brother Pete are credited to her work.

As I have mentioned before, there were two Quakers on the boat. They must have evaluated the Doukhobors from every possible angle. The conclusion must have been in our favor as shortly after the villagers got themselves established, or caught up with the necessary housing, the Quakers contacted our elders and others of the village asking if Petrofka would like to have a school. The majority of the people agreed that it would be desirable to do a little learning at this time, being in a new country. That proved to the Quakers that we were a progressive people and wanted to better ourselves. The buildings were shipped from the U.S. pre-fabricated. The school had two classrooms and the teacherage was a two-story house. Mr. and Mrs. Wood and their daughter must have been the first teachers. Mr. Wood took the adults and Miss Wood the children. Russian classes and singing were given by Herman Fast, the father-in-law of our Mrs. Fast (Mavrunya), her husband being Nicholas Fast. I started in that school before I was five years old. By then there were two other teachers, Miss Martin and Miss Moore. They changed the teachers every year or two. It is understandable that the teachers needed a change, as a Doukhobor village with people who did not speak English does not provide much social life for a teacher. This school was used until the municipality was created, at which time the Government built a new Petrofka school, No. 23, about a mile north of the village.

The Quaker school attracted people from other villages, hoping for some learning. Dad mentions that at this time the housing situation became quite critical, as most of the homes were built just for their own families. Dad said he went as high as grade 3, but Mother said she used up one short pencil. She liked school and advanced quite rapidly, but her girl friends started to call her a “Professor”, so she quit and got married.

As Mothers are, my Mother was a kind-hearted, capable woman. She visualized that education was helpful in many ways, so she started my and Pete’s schooling at home. She instructed us in the Russian language. As I have mentioned before, she attended Russian classes taught by Herman Fast. She must have studied hard because she knew enough to give us a start in our studies. By the time we were 5 years old, both Pete and I knew how to read and write Russian.

Doukhobor village gathering, Saskatchewan Colony, c. 1902.

This Quaker built and sponsored school is credited with giving Dr. Nicholas Zbitnoff, presently of Ukiah, California, his start in schooling. With a lot of courage and fortitude, a lot of hard work and hard times, Dr. Zbitnoff became one of the most respected medical practitioners and surgeons. His education began in Petrofka.

I started English School at the village with my teacher being Miss Moore or Miss Martin. I was somewhere between four and five years old. I was given a slate and a slate pencil. I took this slate with me to the new Petrofka School north of the village. I think slates were used for the first year or two. We had a bottle of water on our desks and a clean rag to wash and dry our slates. We could not wash our slate until the teacher checked our work, thus checking our mistakes if any. The transition to paper was quite rapid. It was more convenient, and not so messy. Sometimes I feel that I should have kept on with the slate. Perhaps I would have been a smarter person.

As human nature goes, our people at times were subjected to ridicule. One such incident worthy of mention happened while a few of our boys were hired during threshing to pitch bundles, or haul sheaves, as a few dollars earned was quite helpful. This was across the river on one of the German families’ threshing outfits. The German people were hospitable. In spite of their good nature and friendliness, there were one or two young boys who were picking on one of our quietest boys. This chap was William L. Strelioff. They could not get him riled up, as he would ignore their picking on him. He would just move away from them. They must have made their minds up to see how much he could take. They did the meanest thing that could happen. One of them piddled into William’s cap. This made our boys very angry. Alyosha Rebin, Paul and Pete Rebin’s father shouted loudly, “We cannot take that, grab your forks and follow me. We must stop that once and for all times”. Alyosha was not a very big man, perhaps 140 pounds, but what he lacked in size, he made up in courage. There were only 3 or 4 of our boys, so with pitch forks in hand they followed Alyosha. The local boys did not feel like giving ground at first, but then changed their minds when Alyosha layed his fork across the back of one of them. They turned and ran with our boys after them, branding two or more of the local boys. The threshing was stopped for that day. The owner of the machine called the police who took everyone to Rosthern. Court was held. What a sight! The branded boys took their shirts off to show the 3 beautiful marks on their backs made by three-pronged pitch forks. The judge charged each one of our boys and the local boys $7.00, told the local boys not to use our boys’ caps for that purpose and told our boys not to use pitch forks for fighting. Dad was one of the pitch fork gladiators. Threshing resumed the next morning. If there was hostility, they did not show it. There was no bad language used and even more friendly relationship prevailed. Threshing season ended without further incident.

As time marched on, changes began to take place. People of Petrofka began to acquire land, mostly around the village. Since most of us had barns by now, they would drive their horses to their farms to work for the day and come back to the village for the night. I used to watch them come home in the evenings about sundown, driving their teams of four horses. To me it was a beautiful sight. Later on, one by one, they moved out of the village completely and started all over on their farms. However, the village did not diminish in size for awhile, as new arrivals had it nice to occupy the vacated buildings. Sundays the farmers would come to the village, either to visit, or just to see their friends and relatives and to play a game of ball, (hilki) or football. As the second generation grew up, bicycles and even cars began to appear. The children enjoyed going to the store to buy candy. Then there was the Post Office. As the older generation became too occupied with their farming, and building, football suffered. The younger generation became interested in baseball. Young people of the other villages began to visit Petrofka just to play and drink some cider at the store. Blaine Lake came into existence, so there was another team to play against. I believe it was in the early twenties that Petrofka had a sports day of their own. There were teams from across the river as well as from Blaine Lake. Big Pete Padowski was at the gate collecting admission to the grounds.

Father John Bayoff holding Alex, Dunya (John’s wife), Gabriel Bayoff. Seated are Dmitry and Lusha Bayoff with Anna Bayoff standing beside her.

The original store keeper, the Eaglesons, moved out because of schooling for their children. The store was then moved to Nick Makaroff’s house with Nick Postnikoff running it. The Post Office remained in Petrofka until most of the villagers moved out to their farms. Then the Post Office was moved 5 or 4 miles west of the village, but still keeping the name. Later when Nick Makaroff went to his farm, he took his store with him. Nick Postnikoff went with the store and stayed there until he died. They also had the Post Office called Radouga. Alex (Lioxia) Strelioff then opened a store in Makaroff’s house for a while, and then moved his store to Robin’s barn, running the store until he died. After that Paul Voykin opened up the store on his farm, 3 miles west of the village.

Sports were not the only hobbies. We also had some very talented people as well as strong and inventive people that I have mentioned before. Petrofka was always famous for its singers. I do not remember too much of the older people, but the younger generation really got the reputation. Under the direction of Samuel Postnikoff, who also was a very good singer, being a soloist at times, he produced a choir from our country boys and their wives that was outstanding in performance. Another cousin of mine, Edward Postnikoff was an outstanding member of the choir taking solo parts at times. I believe they were the nicest group of young boys and ladies that I have heard at that time. They entertained civic organizations in Saskatoon as well as performing on C.F.Q.C. radio.

We also had very prominent people in their respective ways. Fred Lovroff (Postnikoff) through hardship and perseverance became one of the famous artists of that time. His exhibits were shown in most of the important art displays in many countries. Later, Samuel’s daughter, Jeannette, became very prominent in her painting of live art. Our cousin Fred Post (Postnikoff) is another Petrofka product whose paintings of scenery could rank with the best. Another person was my Uncle Peter Makaroff, who became the first lawyer from Petrofka. He was also the first school teacher of the country Petrofka school which I attended. He must have played an important part in the history of Saskatoon, as there was a street named after him. The family of Mike and Grunya Postnikoff were instrumental in having a street named after them. However, the next generation produced a lot of professional people, not only from Petrofka but from most of the other villages as well. There were teachers, doctors, lawyers, accountants, druggists, engineers, dentists, etc.

In a lighter vein, Petrofka even had a pool room, only one table. I do not know how long it was in business or how it faired, as I was too young to realize what it was. It lasted only a few years.

We also had comedians. At this time I will relate one of the many occurrences. It happened one evening when a load of supplies, etc., came in from Rosthern. Naturally wine was one of the items brought in. Then a party had to take place, which was in Nickolai Popoff’s place, a brother of Grandfather Makaroff. As the party was in progress, the host, Nickolai Popoff revealed some important conclusions. Evidently he witnessed one of the bread and wine acts, a religious ceremony in a Mennonite church. There was a plate of bread broken into small pieces and a small jigger of wine. These were passed around the congregation and whoever wished to take part took a piece of bread and wet their lips with the wine. He mentioned how the people were misled, and that a sip of wine would entitle them to a place in heaven. He went on to say that here we drink it by the gallon and even then we are not sure if we be qualified for a place in heaven.

As the municipal school opened up, the school in the village closed up. Grandpa Bayoff bought the school and moved it to his homestead, about a mile north of the village. George Strelioff bought the teacherage and moved it about half a mile north of the village. Besides the house and other buildings in the village, Grandpa Makaroff built a two-story house on the outskirts of the village. Rebins also built their house on the northern outskirts of the village. All others had their farms, some close to and some not so close to the village. Dad built our house about 2 miles north of the village and Uncle Gabriel, still further north.

Pete and Alex Bayoff in the village of Petrofka, c. 1910.

Aunt Anna, who became Mrs. George Postnikoff, moved quite away south west of the village. Eventually every family moved out. Paul Voykin opened a store on his farm about three miles west of the village. The Petrofka Post Office was also moved to a farm west of the village. Sometime later Eli Gulioff opened a store and a barber shop close to the ferry.

So now the Petrofka Bridge carries the name of the once hustling and very active hamlet full of happiness, hard times and good times and some sorrowful. This has been blown away as if by a gust of wind, leaving only the spiritual members of Petrofka’s graveyard to remind us of its existence. Petrofka as well as other villages have done their duty and served their purpose in providing a link between those who came ahead and the new immigrants, keeping them together and helping one another to settle themselves for a new life in a new and strange country. That purpose had been accomplished. At this point it’s worthy of mention, Dad’s saying that we should be grateful to the good Queen Victoria for accepting us, and to our far-seeing elders who had enough courage to organize this move. Also we shouldn’t forget the help we received from Count Leo Tolstoy and the Quakers, and last but not least, to honour our ancestors who, through extreme hardship, brought us into this country where we so far have lived in harmony with other peoples of various races and religions.

We were then settled on the farm, north of the village, building, working the land, raising stock and poultry and gardening. Most of the Sundays we went to the village to mingle with friends and relatives and to see if there was any mail. In a few years of struggle, which included a lot of land clearing, we suddenly found ourselves solvent. The buildings were up, the implements paid for, the mares in foal and the cows heavy with calf. There were a few dollars put away under the mattress. As Dad wanted to increase the horsepower so that we could have two outfits of four animals, he thought he had a bargain on mules. So he bought a team. That is when you have to test your nerves.

They stopped working whenever they felt like it and would not move, no matter what, until they decided to. Something like our present unions, only the unions were justified in going on strike. Who knows, maybe the mules were justified. Dad could not figure that out so he traded them in on a new wagon and a nice new shiny buggy.

Life on the farm was a lot of hard work, as all of our people experienced. We had to do without things that we would have liked. Pete and I were too young to be of much help except to bring the cows from the pasture at milking time. Mother would go out in the field with Dad, who was either fencing or clearing land. One of the quarters had a lot of bush. I have seen Mother drive a team (of horses – ed.) hooked to a tree or bush, while Dad was swinging the axe to chop the roots. In the evening came milking time and supper making, and at bed time Mother would help us wash our feet, as Pete and I went bare footed a lot. Our poor Mothers, how they worked!

Then there were embarrassing times too. Mother tells of one incident when a Mounted Policeman drove into the field where Mother was plowing. She was wearing Dad’s overalls over her dress. The Policeman asked if she was a man or a woman and said “if you are a woman you better pull those overalls off”. Being scared, Mother complied. I do not remember her saying anything, whether she put them on again when the Policeman left.

Doukhobors threshing the grain harvest. Library and Archives Canada PA-022242.

Our yard was about a mile and a half from the bush, approaching the river and at that time it seemed as if it were full of coyotes. Some evenings they become quite musical. It seemed as though they had a whole choir. There were tenors, basses and sopranos. It was not uncommon to see a coyote come into the yard in broad daylight and grab a chicken.

As I have mentioned before, we had acquired a new buggy. The best way to train a horse is to do it when they are two years old. The only suitable horse we had then was a nice two year old stallion. He was quite gentle and well behaved. We used to hitch him up to the new buggy to go to the village for the mail. So one Sunday we took him to the neighboring church. At that time most of the driving was done by horse and buggy, so there were a lot of horses tied to the fence posts. Dad tied our young stallion next to the other horses and we all went into church. During the sermon we were attracted by the shrieking of horses. Dad went out and saw our young horse trying to be playful. Dad immediately moved him over away from the other horses and made sure that he tied him securely. The church service continued then without further interruption.

People as a whole were getting more affluent, so a change was forthcoming. Our neighbors bought a car. Then, as there were a few dollars under the mattress, brother Pete asked Dad to buy a car since the neighbors had one and Pete wanted to be equal. Dad did not want to rush into such an expense and so said, “No, we are not ready for it.” Pete began to cry as he was only 4 years old. Wiping his eyes and whimpering, he said the neighbors had a car so must we. Dad drew his attention to the fact he was small and could not do the work like the neighbors did, and because they had a big family, could earn a lot of money. At this point Pete, still crying, said, “What is keeping you from having a big family?” Dad and Mom took notice of that remark, especially coming from a four year old. After a little deliberation, they took the easy way out and bought a brand new Gray-Dort car.

In 1914 came the war. Dad, as well as other young men was called up, including Uncle Pete Makaroff who had just finished law school. I have heard that while pleading the case of the Doukhobors, Uncle was handled pretty rough by the police. A temporary release was obtained, due to the fact that the crops would soon be ready to harvest. They decided that our boys would be able to harvest the crops. Our people, seeing the seriousness of the situation, organized a meeting on the day of St. Peter and St. Paul, for prayer and to decide what to do. They agreed to send 5 or 4 men to Ottawa to plead our case. This meeting was held on the farm of Uncle Nicholas Makaroff, and was initiated as the first meeting in Saskatchewan in memory of the one held in Russia when they gathered all the firearms and burned them. That was on the day of St. Peter and St. Paul. In the District of Blaine Lake, as far as I know, these prayer meetings were held every year after that. This at times became a very large occasion, sometimes lasting two days. We had visitors from California and other parts of the U.S.A. to help bring back the memory of the first meeting in Russia for the burning of the firearms. Molokans were frequent visitors. At least on one occasion we had visitors from the Quakers.

As mentioned before, at the first historic meeting in Saskatchewan, they agreed to send a delegation to Ottawa. I do not remember if the delegates were elected or volunteered. They were Uncle Nick Makaroff, George Strelioff and the others I do not remember, but could have been from the district of Yorkton. These delegates did a good job convincing the government that we were let into Canada for the development of the North-West Territories. Documents showed that the good Queen Victoria exempted us from military service for 99 years. We were not bothered any more until the Second World War of 1939. At that time, our young men eligible for military service were exempt from it again, provided they did manual work in work camps. One of the camps was located just north of Prince Albert. They allowed one senior person to be with the boys to see that the boys behaved and that they were not abused. Pete was practicing dentistry in Meadow Lake. As he was the only dentist for a large territory, reaching from Meadow Lake all the way to Lenningrad, they decided to let him stay, but he had to pay a portion of his earnings to the war effort.

Group of Doukhobor girls, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, 1930. Library and Archives Canada PA-022240.

Now going back to 1918, the First World War came to an end November 11, 1918. Then the Spanish influenza came along. There were only a few people who did not get sick. I do not remember if Grandpa was sick or not. I remember that I was the last one of our family to get it. While I was able to move around, Grandpa would come and we would take the car to visit some sick neighbors. I was 11 years old, just old enough to think I knew a lot. However, I was lucky enough not to get caught by the police. They rode through the country quite frequently.

The two quarter sections of land that we owned were not adjacent to one another. This created inconvenience in moving machinery from one place to another and being a whole day away from home we also had to carry food and water for the midday feeding of the horses. My parents saw a chance to buy a half-section together and so they made a deal with Eli Strelioff, who at that time had an agreement of sale with a Mr. Smith of New York. Dad took over that agreement of sale and so we moved to about three miles south of Marcelin, and about 15 miles from our Petrofka home. The Petrofka property was sold to William Postnikoff who acquired the home quarter; and the other to Fred Dargin. It was in the spring of 1919.

To me at the time it seemed unfair; we had just settled properly at the Petrofka farm and then we had to start from scratch again. Moving is bad enough if you have some place to move to, but on the new farm there was a small 10′ X 12’ shack, one granary, no barn, and as the saying goes, “no nothing”.

Dad and Mother must have had extra strong intestinal fortitude. I had just turned 12 and pitched in with all my might. I missed three years school. It was hard work. We had to put up an addition to the shack, dig a well, build a barn, a chicken house and a workshop. There was more bush than we would have liked, so every spare day we were in the bush. I was old enough to handle a team, while Dad swung the axe.

The first crop, 1919, looked very good, but when we started cutting it, it was so full of rust that you could hardly see the horses in front of you. The yield was very poor. One of Dad’s best friends and neighbors in the village, Pete Reban, insisted that he would like to come all that way to thresh. It was not for the money, but to see where we were. It was a happy occasion in spite of the poor crop year. The two friends, Dad and “Uncle Pete” (we called him Uncle, as Dad and he were so close) had a real pow-wow. Paul was there too and we enjoyed his wit and humor.

There were bad and good years, plus hard work. It was very discouraging. It was hard to hit the right time to sell grain, due to changing markets. On top of that, we had to pay 20 cents exchange on American money. However, we buckled down and in 1925 we had a very good crop. The prices for grain were good. We paid up for the land, bought a new car, a Chrysler Sedan, built a new house and barn, bought another half section of land and were back in debt. Then the Depression began to spread. I started University and Pete, after trying University, switched to Normal School. He taught our home school, Gillies, for six years for $400.00 a year, for which he had to do the janitor work also. That $400.00 he turned over to the family. It was very welcome. Crop failure and quotas did not help any. Seeing no future in teaching, Pete started University again, and in 1940 graduated from the Northwestern University in Chicago and began his practice of Dentistry in Meadow Lake in 1940. He is still there at the time of writing this article, enjoying his retirement, after more than 40 years of practice. He still does work, if you can catch him at home, and he enjoys it. He still attends dental seminars and other dental meetings. He says once a dentist you want to keep abreast of new developments for the sake of knowing.

Group of young Doukhobors, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, 1930. Library and Archives Canada C-008888.

As for myself, I too got fed up with the Depression, and went to Minneapolis, where I got my Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering; at the same time did a year of research work for a Masters Degree in Hydraulics. There were no jobs there either – very discouraging. I got a job in a hardware wholesale at a salary of $18.00 per week. Then I fell in love and got married to Mary Rogich. I moved into Mary’s home. She lived with her Mother and brother. Mary’s Mother was a wonderful woman, kind-hearted and very generous. After about a year I realized that I was not making any headway and I did not feel like sponging on the good nature of Mary’s Mother. Jobs in engineering or other types were non-existent. You got some sort of consideration if you joined the army. That was not for me. In the fall, I persuaded Mary to come to the farm with me. We would not have to pay rent, and at the same time have the best food that nature can give us. Besides I had an interest in the farm. Then when times got better, I could get an engineering job and we could try our luck at it. Mary was a city girl and could not see her way to become a farmer’s wife. It was my duty to provide for my family, and I could not do it for the year we tried in the city. So I decided to stay on the farm and at the same time keep my equity in the farm; she decided to go back to her Mother. It was hard on both of us. We loved one another, but as we have found out, people cannot live on love alone. It was harder on Mary as her Mother was a widow, and. it was Mary’s duty to be with her, or near her. Mary was a wonderful wife, but somehow the conditions were against us. The Thirties were rolling on, so was the Depression, so it would be foolish for me to quit farming to look for another job. I tried.

I concluded that the Depression and hard times was 90% responsible for the breaking up of this my family. We were not the only victims of the Depression. Banks went broke and people lost all their belongings. Many committed suicide. The first job I got was in 1939 when I managed to get on the crew for building a boiler for the Saskatchewan Power Commission. That job paid 25 cents an hour. I lived in the Barry Hotel, ate out and managed to bring some money home.

Then the war broke out and in 1940 I joined the M & C Aviation Co. to design aircraft parts. After the war was over I could get ten jobs. I worked for Underwood and McLellan for several years, then took time out to build four houses in Saskatoon. Just prior to this time I received word that I was divorced from Mary. Then in a few years I re-married Daisy Sawley, who helped me build the four houses. I then went back to surveying, working for Webb and Webster for a few years more. Mother died in 1962. That knocked the energy out of me, so I retired from my engineering work.

Two good things resulted in my varied life. One is that Mary gave us a wonderful Daughter whom we love very much. This is partly the cause of me writing this article, as our Daughter knows very little of my background. The other good thing that happened was when I met Daisy. It is surprising how much can be accomplished when two people pull together. Diana, our Daughter comes to visit us quite often. Daisy and Diana get along very well, so well that I sometimes feel jealous, but I am happy that they get along so well. We thank Mary, Diana’s Mother, from the bottom of our hearts for giving us such a wonderful Daughter.

It would be inconsiderate of me not to mention the help and advice of my loving wife. She gave me encouragement, help and support in writing this article. . She is a true Christian and a Good Samaritan. When Mother was sick, she took her into our home, and looked after her. Now we have Dad, who is harder to look after, Daisy does not complain, and takes things as they come.

There are only three old Bayoff’s left. There will be no more Bayoff’s of this dynasty to carry on. The branch of Uncle Gabriel’s dynasty was terminated when Fred died, leaving three ladies, Olga, Anne and Elsie. If they do have children, they will not carry the name. Of Dad’s, mine and Pete’s branch, most likely Diana will be stuck with writing the last chapter of our dynasty. God Bless her and give her good health and strength, and I hope she is happy being in the family. We also thank Edward and Mary Postnikoff from the bottom of our hearts for taking care of Grandpa Dmitry in his last days, and taking care of his funeral in the best of Doukhobor traditions. Thank you Edward and Mary.

Labor Day of 1983, we went to Manitou Beach (Watrous, Saskatchewan – ed.) for a swim in the pool, as it was closing for the season. Dad enjoyed himself very much. He stayed in the pool for three hours. When he got out he said, “Goodbye pool, I will never see you again”. The pool buildings burned down early that fall and Dad died March 30, 1984.

I am now the official old man (starichok or “elder” – ed.) of my family, even though I do not feel that old. It is just the honorary recognition I must accept.

Alex Bayoff,

Saskatoon, SK., May 1985

Portrait of a Doukhobor Conscientious Objector: An Interview with Peter A. Kouznitsoff

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

Peter A. Kouznitsoff (1918-) is the son of Russian Doukhobor immigrants who arrived in Canada in 1899 and settled in the Blaine Lake district of Saskatchewan. Raised on the family farm, he received his education at the Brook Hill one-room rural school. Upon completing his education, he began farming. Following the outbreak of the Second World War, Peter refused to perform military service when he received his call-up papers. As a conscientious objector, he chose to perform alternative service instead. He was sent to Montreal Lake in northern Saskatchewan, where along with 70 other Doukhobor men, he worked in a road construction camp, building Highway No. 2 to Lac la Ronge. After completing his alternate service, Peter returned to Blaine Lake where he continued a lifelong career in agriculture. In the following interview, conducted by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff on October 2, 2011, Peter discusses his experiences of 70 years ago as a Doukhobor conscientious objector.

Peter A. Kouznitsoff, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, October 2, 2011.  Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

General

What is your full name?

Peter A. Kouznitsoff.

What is your present address?

Stensrud Lodge, 2202 McEown Ave, Saskatoon.

What is your date of birth?

September 27, 1918.

Where were you born?

I was born in Terpeniye village, in 1918 when the flu was epidemic. Mother was saying, I was so sick [from the flu] that they prepared a funeral, but I pulled through. They thought I would never make it.

What were your parent’s names and occupations?

Alec Kouznitsoff and Hrunya – she was a Dorofaeff. They were farmers. Dad was from Petrovka, but Mother was from Terpeniye.

Do you know how they got married? Mother was eligible already to get married. So Peter Dorofaeff – Grandfather – got them united with Fedya Tikhonoff. And then Grandfather told them that they were going to get married. But they were already planning with Dad that they were going to get married. Dad – he was from Petrovka. So what they did – they eloped at night [and] Alec Dargin took them to North Battleford. And they stayed at Osachoff’s – Masha – that was an Aunty to Dad. After that they moved to Tarasoff’s in Langham – that was Dad’s mother’s [family], she was married to Harry Kouznitsoff. Grandfather was very upset, but Grandmother had a different tone, she kind of toned him down. They came back. In the meantime, Grandfather moved farms two miles west and they built a new house there, and his son got another house and they built a barn and garage and all the other buildings. But he [the son] was a drunkard and the bank seized everything. But they gave Grandfather 3-4 acres where his yard was, so they didn’t touch him. But Uncle, he had another place further and moved to the farm further down. And then, when Mother and Dad came, they took over and started farming Grandfather’s place, and then they bought it from them. Grandfather’s farm was kitty-corner to where the village [of Terpeniye] was and he had 15 acres of the other quarter that was his property.

Describe your upbringing as a Canadian Doukhobor. How did it influence you growing up?

I got everything from Mother and Dad. They told me everything about it, and I just kept on.

I went to Peters Day on a wagon and all that. It was [held near] the Pozirayevka Cemetery – in the bush there was an opening [clearing], but now its all overgrown with young trees. This was to the south of the cemetery. On the east side, along the fence, they used to come with horses and wagons and tie them up there for Peters Day, but the cars were parked in front. We had to walk through the bush to the tent – a big tent they were getting from the Mennonites from Waldheim for Peters Day. Pete Padowsky and another were entitled always to bring it, and two men from each [school] division had to go and help set it up and after Peters Day, to take it down, and put it in the wagon and take it back. It was a lot of work to set it up. And they got the lumber from the lumber yard and they made the benches – where people sat. And there was a platform on the east side. If it was a hot day, they would lift the sides [of the tent] up, so a breeze would go through, and it was good. There was choirs from each district – and there was seven villages – and there was a choir from each village – Uspeniye, Terpeniye, Slavyanka, Spasovka, Pozirayevka, Horelovka, Trinity – or Troitskoye, and Petrovka. All the villages celebrated Peters Day there. There was no Prayer Home in Blaine Lake yet; the Prayer Home was built in ’32, I think. Once the Prayer Home was built, they quit that [location].

The Prayer Home was built – the way I remember – the bricks – Doukhobor bricks – were from BC. And the bricklayers came [from BC] but all the [labour] help was local. They had to haul sand and help and all that, and that’s how it was built. I [then] went to sobraniyas to the Blaine Lake Prayer Home.

Outbreak of World War Two

Where were you living when war broke out in 1939?

In ’38 I rode the freights. I rode the freight cars. My sister was in Vermillion, married to Nick Konkin. She was pregnant, and they asked me to come and look after – they had two little girls. And I rode out and stayed with them. And then I went to Edmonton, looking for a job on the freight, in the morning. And in the evening, I’d come [back] as a passenger in the engine, cause there was no freight until the next day. They let me. The engineers – they were good to me – I sat where they put the water for the old engineers – I sat on there and it was comfortable. That’s how I traveled back and forth.

And then I went to Vancouver with the brother-in-law early in April. He lost a job, and he went with me. So we went to Edmonton, and I already knew how to ride the freights. And they had a double-tanker for pigs and sheep, and we asked the guys that prepared them and they told which ones was going to Vancouver. So they went and we stayed in the [rail] yard and we got some bailing wire, and on the top [of the rail cars], there’s a little door, and pounded a few nails in this door – one from the inside, and hammered on the outside, and tied the wire to keep it shut. And so, next day, we boarded it when they put the sheep in, we kind of waited till nobody was there, and we got in with the sheep. And we got extra wire, and partitioned it [inside the car] so that the sheep don’t come close. And that’s how we went. It was nice and warm with them, and the sheep were clean, and they got used to us, and they walked in between and everything. In Kamloops they stopped and changed the engine, and they [the railway employees] were looking through the sides – because there were openings, the boards weren’t close together – and I told for Nick, we’re gonna take the wire off and lie down between the sheep so they don’t see us. And that’s the way we got [there] free. Warm. Nice. We got out at Vancouver. We had Pete Postnikoff there and Bill Dorofaeff that were already there. And I think Nick Rebalkin. But we stayed at Pete Postnikoff’s – one, and the other [at] Bill Dorofaeff’s. This is what I was doing just before the war.

When war broke out [in 1939], I was back in Blaine Lake.

What was your occupation at the time?

I was farming.

What was your marital and family status at the time?

I wasn’t married at that time. We were supposed to get married in ’41, but when I was called, we had to postpone it to ’42.

What was your personal reaction to the outbreak of war? What do you recall thinking and feeling when you first heard the news?

At that end, you know, I didn’t bother too much [with it]. Until after we got the call. Then it became personal.

What was the general reaction of your Doukhobor friends and family to the war?

Everybody was talking about the war. It was in every family there was somebody eligible [to serve]. It was on everybody’s minds.

You take when we were called [for conscription in 1941], there was people from Regina come, from the military, and they outlined everything. The work and the jail [options]. That split us. And then, they had their meetings separate. The people that were for jail, they stayed where the Prayer Home was. And in between there was an alley, and on the other side there was a library; the ones that were for camp, they had meetings there – they never had them together. My Dad came once, they saw him, he sat in the back, and they said, “your meeting is out in the back”. It divided the community.

What was the general reaction of your non-Doukhobor friends and neighbours to the war? Did it differ from the Doukhobors?

I never [spoke to them about this].

Did you belong to a Doukhobor organization during the war? If so, what organization?

Blaine Lake Doukhobor Society.

How did your local Doukhobor community mobilize in response to the war?

When everything came up, the Society, they notified people, they had meetings. They were always full. Everyone was concerned.

A national registration was carried out in 1940. The Doukhobors were permitted to register their own people. Do you recall that event?

Maybe the parents did [register for their families] – we didn’t. I don’t remember [the Doukhobor registrar].

Compulsory military training in Canada was announced in 1940. Did this change your views about the war?

Our opinion was that our religion – we were against war. So, it was there already. Conscription did not change this opinion.

How and when did you receive your call-up to perform compulsory military training?

I received the call – I think it was in the spring of ‘41. It was a letter in the mail – I’ve [still] got the call-up letter.

Opposition to Military Service

Did you object to military service when you received your call-up?

I objected, because I went to the camp. I wasn’t for jail. The way it was in my mind, constructing the highway, it was for the community, not for war. In my mind, that didn’t interfere with my [way of] thinking.

Why did you object to military service? What religious and philosophical beliefs led you to this decision?

Well, the boys talked between themselves. But, then when it came to the final thoughts – work or camp – as I understood, this came later.

Peter A. Kouznitsoff (sitting, left) sharpening axes with three other work mates, alternative service work camp, Montreal Lake, SK, 1941.  He was 21 years of age at the time.

Were there any individuals that influenced your decision?

Mother and Dad told me when I got the call, they says, “Peter, you’re old enough to make a judgment yourself. We don’t have to make it for you. And you do as you think is right.” So I made my decision.

Alternative Service

In 1941, Conscientious Objectors were allowed to perform alternative service, or jail, instead of military service. What was “alternative service” and what did this involve?

Yes. The military guys from Regina came and they explained. I wasn’t to that meeting, but Alec Postnikoff he explained all the details. It was explained and I understood what it meant.

Given your objection to military service, why did you choose alternate service?

I thought that I will be a benefit to the community by doing road work – building something – and that’s why I made my choice.

Where were you designated to perform alternative service? Did you know where you would be going and what you would be doing?

Yes. At Montreal Lake.

How long did you have to perform alternative service? When did it begin and end?

Four months. It began June 27, 1941 and we were back by the end of October.

As you know, not all Doukhobor men agreed with alternative service; some believed it was the equivalent to military service. Those who felt this way refused to report for alternative service and were fined or jailed. Why do you think they did this? How did you feel about their decision?

I think the parents had something to do with it. They thought that alternate service went against our religion. As for the boys who went [to jail], that didn’t bother me at all, that’s because it was their choice. When we came back, we were the same friends all over again. Friendships continued.

There was a [prayer] service for the boys who went to jail, on the south side of the Prayer Home, just before they went. We had a big crowd by the railway station. I don’t remember if they had a service for the boys who went to camp, but there were [many] who said goodbye at the station. We all said goodbye. I remember opening the [train car] window and looking out at them.

The Work Camp

How did you get to the work camp?

We [the boys from Blaine Lake] went on a passenger train to Prince Albert. We came there – it was about dinner time. We had lunch at the café. Then we boarded a two-tonne truck on the back [and drove] to the camp. It was already getting dark when we got to camp. We were hungry already. We walked around, the kitchen was open, we seen that there was something to eat, so we ate. We were the first boys to show up at the camp – others came later. Not everyone came at the same time.

Describe the work camp you stayed at. What was the physical layout? What kind of structures?

The camp was all tents – all the buildings. The bottoms were shiplap – wooden floor. The rest [of the tent] was canvas. And then there were skids [under the floor] – we moved two or three times. There were 83 at camp. There was 8 men in each tent with four bunk beds in each tent – one [slept] on the bottom, one on the top.

The kitchen was separate but adjoining – two tents together. Where we ate, there was long tables, we ate one on each side, and they served us. All the men ate together.

There was a confectionary tent in the camp – a little store – there was gum, chocolate bars, for five cents.

The camp moved to follow the road [construction] two or three times. Where they were, it’s all overgrown now.

Did you know of other CO work camps in the area?

There was, on the west side of Montreal Lake, the Mennonites had a work camp – they were working in the bush. That was in the park. We never visited that camp.

Did you know many of the Doukhobors at the camp when you arrived there?

From Blaine Lake there were 13, I think. And 8, I think, went to jail.

Did you make many friends with Doukhobors from other communities?

Oh yeah. Especially when we were working in the ditches – on road construction.

Who were the non-Doukhobors who stayed at the camp? What were their names and what jobs did they perform? What do you recall about them?

Only one [worker]. I think he was a Baptist.

The staff – they were all English. The foremen – they were getting a dollar a day. They had their own tents, in the same camp.

What were your assigned tasks and duties at the camp?

At the start, when you came, you had to fill out a form – what you like to do. I said that I had experience with blacksmith, so I got that job. Some said kitchen – they got that. Some applied for higher up [positions]. They had to write your qualifications – that’s how they placed you.

I started out as a blacksmith at the camp. But when I got leave to go home for the harvest – I stayed two weeks – a little bit longer than you was supposed to – one week. When I came back – it was work on the road [for me]. I was penalized by 25 cents.

Of the other Doukhobors?

Most of the boys were farmers – they knew what hard work was.

You take when I was riding the freights in Vancouver – we had to go to the sawmill – there was a guy sitting at the table – there was a lineup, we came up, he asked questions – what you were, where you from, what you did – if it was satisfactory, you got the job. When I came up, I said I was from Saskatchewan – a farmer – he gave me the wheelbarrow – and I got the job.

Describe your typical day at camp. When did you get up? When were meals? How long was spent working? When did you go to bed?

We started work at 8:00. We had breakfast before that – everyone at the same time. We had to walk out to the work site – that’s why we had to move [the camp] because it was too far to walk. We came back for dinner. The work ended at 5:00. Then the boys would walk back to camp, and everyone had supper.

Describe the construction work itself. What type of work was involved? Was it manual labour or did you operate equipment?

We were working the ditches – clearing ditches. There was about ten of us.

Others – drove the wagons. Little tractors pulled the wagon – you sat in the wagon – and then they filled it [with dirt]. When you’re coming, there was a foreman, who shouts to us to open the gates, and the bottom opened and it [the dirt] dropped. A grader then spread [the dirt]. They graveled it [the grade] afterward.

We built ten miles of road altogether in four months. It started at the north end of Montreal Lake, north of Molanosa.

There was road clearing beyond that ten miles, but they used machines for that.

Would you say that the work was difficult?

No. Not for boys who grew up on the farm.

Were there chores at the camp besides the construction work?

Some boys worked as cooks, others as janitors – they had to clean up – somebody was assigned to these tasks.

Were there any special dietary needs in camp? Were there any vegetarians?

There were vegetarians. The kitchen staff made meals without meat.

When they served [meals], some boys – they didn’t eat meat. But when they served that meat, it was so tempting, a guy took and ate, and we noticed the boys started to eat [meat]. It was pretty good.

Myself – I never was a vegetarian. My mother – she was a vegetarian.

Were there any opportunities for recreation and relaxation at the camp, when you weren’t working? What did this involve?

We had a special tent – you can write letters there and everything. We had services [there] on Sunday – we had Wasyl Makaroff from Blaine Lake who stayed at the camp as our supervisor. He sang good. For boys who wanted to sing – they sang with him. Not all of the boys sang.

Swimming – we could go down to the lake. I think a few boys did that.

We had singsongs also – the boys got together and sang English songs.

One time, we were coming to the confectionary and we thought up a game – flip a coin – if odd, you’re buying for everybody. And I got one. And to my cousin Billy Popoff and Nick Konkin – I said, once head, twice tail, you’ll never buy. So the last day, Billy Popoff, my cousin said, “How come you never bought?” And then we told him, “once head, twice tail” and then they got it, when it was all over.

What reading materials did you have in camp?

I never read anything. But the others – I don’t know.

Did you listen to the radio?

No.

Were Doukhobor spiritual sobranies and choir practices held at the camp?

Prayer meetings – every Sunday. Choir practices also on Sunday.

What main language did you speak in camp?

It was mixed. Some talked Russian mixed with English. It was about half and half. With the foreman – it was all English.

Did you interact much with the local Cree Indian residents?

No.

What visitors do you recall coming to the camp?

From Blaine Lake – quite a few came. Popoffs – I remember, and Bonderoffs, Makaroff – the lawyer. They came on the weekends – by car.

Were you allowed to take leave from the work camp?

You take Saturday evenings – they gave us a truck, a two-tonne truck. And we was allowed to go to Waskesiu. So we went for the night – and they gave us a tent. We went and we met from Blaine Lake girls there. We went swimming. We left Saturday evening after work. But we had to come back Sunday for supper.

I also had leave to go home and help with harvest for one week.

Do you recall any disciplinary problems at the camp?

No, not that I remember. Everything was going smoothly.

Were you paid for your work at the camp? If so, how much?

Ordinary labourers – was 50 cents a day. A little bit higher up [i.e. heavy equipment operators] – they did some construction – 75. Foreman – he got a dollar a day.

All and all, did you enjoy camp life?

I enjoyed it – because I met the boys, we discussed about everything. Made a lot of friends.

When your alternative service ended, how did you travel back home?

Same way. By truck from the camp to Prince Albert, and by train from Prince Albert to Blaine Lake.

When you arrived back home, how was the attitude of your family and local people towards you as one who chose not to go to war?

I didn’t see anything different, no.

What did you do once you left the camp?

I farmed, until my retirement in the late 70’s. I’ve been active in retirement playing horseshoes, tournaments all over Western Canada.

Did you continue to keep in touch with the other Doukhobor men you met at the camp?

From Blaine Lake, we kept in touch with the ones at camp and the ones in jail – we were all the same. And from other places, not really.

In Retrospect

Looking back, seventy years later, how did alternative service impact your life?

It didn’t make any difference. I did it according to my thoughts, of the parents, and all that. I still had the same beliefs after the camp.

Do you still feel as strongly today, as you did then, about your objection to war?

Yes.

Based on your experience in the Second World War, what message would you give Doukhobors today, or in the future, about war and military service?

Depends on your background. Now we’re all mixed.

We’re not supposed to have guns, we’re not supposed to drink or smoke. I never did that. Based on my belief, that’s a healthier way to live. I’m 93 years old, and no-one can guess my age!

There is a proposal to name the highway you helped build the “Highway of Peace”. What do you think of this proposal?

Oh yes. I would support that. I was thinking, it would be nice to put a marker there.

Thank you, Peter, for agreeing to participate in this interview.

Group photo of 54 Doukhobor conscientious objectors – alternative service work camp, Montreal Lake, SK, August 25, 1941.  Peter A. Kouznitsoff is standing in the second row, fifth from left (circled).

For More Information

For more information on Doukhobor conscientious objectors during the Second World War, see the following links:

New Materials from the Earliest History of the Doukhobor Sect

by Nikolai Gavrilovich Vysotsky

Between 1767 and 1769, peasant sectarians were discovered in Tambov and Voronezh who rejected the Orthodox Church, priests, icons and all church ritual. An official investigation ensued, in which ecclesiastic authorities tried to ascertain when the sectarians had rejected Orthodoxy, the specific sect to which they belonged, their beliefs, and the names and locations of their leaders. Although they were not referred to as such, the sectarians were, without a doubt, members of what would later be known as the Doukhobor sect. The following article recounts the investigation and reveals that Doukhoborism, which had emerged decades earlier in Tambov and Voronezh, was already a fully formed religious sect in the 1760s with a distinct organizational structure, mature set of beliefs, a fully developed order of worship and behavioral norms. Reproduced from Nikolai Gavrilovich Vysotsky’s article, “Novye materialy iz rannieishei istorii dukhoborcheskoi sekty” Russkii arkhiv, g. 52, t. 1 (1914: 66-86, 235-61) as republished in P.N. Maloff, Dukhobortsy, ikh istoriia, zhizn’ i bor’ba (1948: 36-46). Translated by Vera Kanigan, with additional translation and editing by Jack McIntosh, for the Doukhobor Genealogy Website. Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

According to researchers, Doukhoborism became known as a sect relatively late, around the middle of the 18th century. By that time it was already a society that had set itself apart with a more or less definite set of beliefs.

However, if one looks up the historical information on which the researchers base their assertion, it turns out that this information pertains mainly to the last quarter, and not the middle of the 18th century. Up to now, researchers had at their disposal almost no information dealing with the earlier period of the sect’s history.

Now we have an opportunity to fill this gap to some extent. We were successful in finding fresh archival material about the history of Doukhoborism relating specifically to the first quarter of the second half of the 18th century [i.e. 1750-1775].

The materials that we have found concern “apostates” from the faith who had appeared within the present-day boundaries of Voronezh and Tambov Provinces; these are significant documents for the history of Doukhoborism. They contain much information that lead to answers that differ from hitherto accepted views about the beliefs of the Doukhobor sect in the earliest period of their existence known historically, how the authorities – both church and civil – treated the Doukhobors, what measures were attempted to root out sectarian error, what were the methods used to spread Doukhoborism, who were the leading personalities in that period, how large was their following, etc., etc.

1767 Report of the Bishop of Tambov

On May 29th, 1767 a report was received by the Holy Synod [the highest ecclesiastical council governing the Russian Orthodox Church] from Tambov Bishop Feodosii (Golosnitsky), stating that in the village of Zhidilovka, in Kozlov district, persons were brought before the administrative law enforcement authorities who had departed from true devout worship and had fallen “into some kind of new sect that was unknown to him”; such sectarians in this village already numbered up to twenty-six people, both male and female. Moreover, the following persons undoubtedly belonged to the same sect: Kirill Petrov, tserkovnik (lay clergyman) of the village of Goreloye, and six odnodvortsy (smallholders) of the village of Lysye Gory.

Since, according to information in possession of the Holy Synod, the individuals indicated by Bishop Feodosii had not been registered as belonging to the Raskol (Schism), the Holy Synod, in response to this bishop’s report, sent him a decree instructing the Right Reverend Feodosii to carry out a thorough investigation to ascertain from what time these sectarians had begun to stray from true piety [i.e. Orthodoxy], of what specific sect are they followers, who had enticed them into it, where their teachers are located, and whatever else is relevant, granting him at the same time the right to render a decision in accordance with the regulations of the Holy Fathers and the decrees of Her Imperial Majesty [Empress Ekaterina II]. The Right Reverend Feodosii was ordered to make a detailed report to the Holy Synod of his actions in this matter.

Feodosii (1723-1786), Bishop of Tambov and Penza.

1768 Investigation and Detailed Report of the Tambov Bishop

The investigation prescribed by the Synod took a rather long time to carry out. It was only in 1768 that the Right Reverend Feodosii presented to the Synod his detailed report on the results of this investigation.

In his report, the Tambov bishop brought to the attention of the Synod that “the aforesaid odnodvortsy, both churchgoers and other like persons, altogether forty in number, listed by name and by gender, being dispatched from the Kozlov Voevoda (Military Governor’s) Chancery and the Tambov Provincial Chancery, accompanied by a deputy appointed from the aforesaid provincial chancery, were interrogated separately in the Consistory Office [the main diocesan administrative and judicial organ in the Russian Orthodox Church].”

These interrogations once again confirmed what the Right Reverend Feodosii had already reported to the Holy Synod: all the persons questioned proved to be apostates from Orthodox faith; during the interrogations they were subjected to admonishment [i.e. mild counseling and reproach] through a priest skilled in teaching; however, in spite of that, they did not repent of their error; in particular it became apparent during questioning that:

1st – That they, abandoning true piety, had joined the aforesaid sect in 1767, and along with their households believe in the true living God, in the Holy Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, creator of heaven and earth, and they believe just as they recite in the Apostles’ Creed; however, they bow down to Father, Son, and Holy Spirit not bodily, as others do, but in spirit and in truth;

2nd – God’s Law, bequeathed in the Ten Commandments, they accept and revere, except for what is written therein about revering images painted on tablets [i.e. icons], which they do not accept, and do not revere, and do not bow down to them; moreover, in them supposedly there is nothing divine or sacred, and they are all made by human hands;

3rd – They believe in the Most Pure Mother of God, and confess and esteem Her, only instead of bowing down bodily they are submissive, both before Her and before the Apostles, Prophets and all Christ’s saints, whom they alone supposedly revere;

4th – They do not believe in the Cross of Christ, and do not bow down to it or revere it, as (they say) it was made of wood by human hands, whereas they worship the Cross, that is the Word of the Lord for which our Lord Jesus Christ was crucified and by which He was raised from the dead;

5th – The sign of the cross made with three fingers on oneself they reject, because (they say) there is no salvation in making that sign, but they cross themselves with the Word of the Lord, in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, Amen;

6th – They do not attend our Orthodox Church, and do not accept all the sacraments, rituals, and prayers, because (they say) the aforesaid church and all it contains was built by human hands, and there is no salvation of any kind in the sacraments, rituals and prayers performed therein; moreover the aforesaid sacraments have been fabricated by human hands, and are not from God, and are preached by priests who indulge in drunkenness, foul language, and noisy squabbling, whereas they say they wish to go to a church not made by human hands, a catholic, apostolic assembly of the saints (about which according to them the Lord said this: you are the temple of the living God; I will dwell in you, and walk among you, and I will be your God), and to receive Christ’s sacraments created from God Himself and this communion to receive also and confess in the presence of a priest whom they themselves will choose, one who has been ordained by God, and who receives the word from God’s lips;

Of these in the Consistory Office, the odnodvorets Andrei Popov said that it is written: God the Father is memory, God the Son is reason, God the Holy Spirit is will; while the tserkovnik Kirila Petrov declared, referring to the Holy Eucharist, that he does not believe in it or that the bread turns into the body and the wine the blood, but his belief is that bread comes from wheat, and grape wine, kvass and water simply exist; also that he does not believe in the Mother of God and the Holy Saints, but merely respects them and rather than bowing down to them is obedient to them.

Having set forth the essence of the doctrine espoused by the sectarians, the Right Reverend Feodosii went on to declare that without a directive from the Holy Synod, he considered it impossible for himself to make a final decision on his own in this case. In his opinion it would be fitting for these sectarians to be brought before a civil court and there be “thoroughly investigated by a true interrogation” [presumably torture during interrogations], in view of the fact that in the Consistory they display stubbornness and not only do not answer the questions posed to them, but in general do not want to speak at all, and if they do speak, it is only to abuse and criticize the Orthodox Church, her Sacraments, the Holy Cross and sacred images; for such lack of respect they properly deserve in the first instance civil punishment (in accordance with Paragraph 1, Chapter 1 of the Ulozhenie (Law Code) and Paragraph 3, Chapter 1 of the Voinskii Artikul (Military Code), and thereupon also excommunication from the church in accordance with Paragraph 16 of the Dukhovnyi Reglament o delakh episkopskikh (Spiritual Regulation on Episcopal Matters)).

Ulozhenie, Par. 1, Ch. 1

“If there will be member of another faith, regardless of which faith, or even if he is Russian, who would blaspheme the Lord God and our Saviour Jesus Christ, or that Most Pure Lady who gave birth to Him, our Mother of God and Virgin Mary, or the Holy Cross, or His Holy Saints, he is to be strictly investigated by any and all means; let him be investigated as to this straight away and this blasphemer, once exposed, executed and burned.”

Voinskii Artikul, Par. 3, Ch. 1

“Whoever heaps abuse on God’s name, despises that name and service to God and God’s Word and the Holy Sacraments, and is thoroughly exposed in this, whether this was committed while drunk or sober, his tongue is to be burned out with red-hot iron, and then he is to be beheaded.”

Dukhovnyi Reglament o delakh episkopskikh, Par. 16

“If someone manifestly blasphemes God’s name, or Holy Scripture, or the Church, or is clearly a sinner who is unashamed of his acts and, even more, boasts of them, or neglects regular repentance for guilt and the Holy Eucharist for more than a year, or does anything else with manifest abuse and mockery of God’s law, such a one, if he remains obdurate and proud after repeated punishment, will be judged deserving only of execution (i.e. anathema), for not merely for sin is he deserving of anathema, but for manifest and haughty contempt for God’s judgment and Church authorities that presents great temptation to weak brethren, and because such a one exudes the foul odour of godlessness.”

In the opinion of the Tambov Bishop, not only those who persist in their sectarian errors should be brought to civil court, but also those who have already abandoned them and returned to the Orthodox Faith, as the latter may render great assistance in obtaining thorough disclosure of the truth concerning these sectarians. Of the individuals subjected to interrogation, only one has left the sect and returned to the bosom of the Orthodox Church: Efrem Mzhachev, an odnodvorets of the village of Ranino, who, probably influenced by admonitions, has started attending church and has begun to pray using the sign of the cross with his hand and bowing in the customary manner. The Tambov bishop was referring to this odnodvorets when he pointed out the need to send persons who had converted from sectarianism to Orthodoxy for the purpose of having a thorough investigation of the truth.

While declining to make an independent determination in the case of the sectarians who had been discovered, the Right Reverend Feodosii requested the Holy Synod to give him guidance both on how to proceed in this matter as well as how generally to act if apostates such as those who had been interrogated began to appear again in his eparchy [ecclesiastical jurisdiction].

As for the sectarians who were taken in for investigation and held under guard, all of them, after questioning, were sent off by the Right Reverend Feodosii to the Tambov Provincial Chancery, where they were to be kept under guard until the ensuing issuance from the Holy Synod of an authoritative decree. However, he sent the man who had returned to Orthodoxy, the odnodvorets Efrem Mzhachev, for confession to Troitsky Monastery in Kozlov.

Presentation by the Tambov Provincial Deputy

The Holy Synod had not yet considered the above-cited report from the Right Reverend Feodosii, when it received a new official document that had direct and immediate relevance to the case of the Tambov sectarians.

On November 17th in the same year Vasily Vedeneev, a deputy of Tambov Province, came to the Holy Synod with a “presentation” stating that he was forwarding for the consideration of the Synod a declaration sent to him signed by priests: Boris Poluektov, of the Zavoronezh suburb of the city of Kozlov, Stefan Vasil’ev of the village of Ranino, and Leontii Ivanov and the deacon Sila Osipov of the village of Zhidilovka; this declaration, in their names and those of selected odnodvortsy and their comrades, report the apostasy from the Orthodox Faith of many of their parishioners, listing them by name and at the same time reporting that the very same sort of apostates from true piety [i.e. Orthodoxy] have also appeared in other places. Reporting about this, the ecclesiastical individuals named requested Vedeneev to declare this matter to the higher authorities.

During their consideration of this “declaration”, the Holy Synod took note of the fact that therein were named many of the same persons mentioned by the Right Reverend Feodosii in his report. It was thus clear that both cases involved essentially the same phenomenon. Therefore the Synod did not attribute to this “declaration” separate significance, but instead attached it to the report of the Right Reverend Feodosii, for which a special decree had already been prepared by the Synod.

Special Decree of the Holy Synod, 1768

Soon this decree was signed by the members of the Synod and sent to the Tambov bishop. The content of the decree was as follows:

As in the report of Bishop Feodosii it was not clear whether the Right Reverend himself had admonished the sectarians, the Holy Synod ordered as follows: those odnodvortsy and the tserkovnik who had departed from true piety, in anticipation of their correction, be again subjected to admonition, first by teacher-priests, and then by the Tambov Bishop himself; this admonition be carried out in the presence of the Tambov Voevoda (Military Governor) or a person designated by him; all the sectarians held in the Tambov Provincial Chancery to be freed from being under guard on condition that they not absent themselves from Tambov before their case is decided and that they be unable to absent themselves, and that when they are summoned for this admonition, they appear without any sort of resistance; beyond that, in order that under no circumstances they might lead anyone astray into their sect, both the Tambov Bishop and the local Provincial Chancery were to keep a strict watch; the Right Reverend Feodosii being obliged to deliver a thorough report without delay on the results of the admonition to the Holy Synod; the tserkovnik Kirill Petrov, until the upcoming decision on his case, was ordered held at the Consistory under strict supervision; Efrem Mzhachev, the odnodvorets who had returned to Orthodoxy, was ordered released without delay from the Kozlov Troitsky Monastery and that he be appropriately received into the Orthodox Faith, but in view of the fact that because he had abandoned his own true piety and that of his fathers by following the sect of those odnodvortsy, he was deserving, by virtue of the regulations of the Holy Fathers, of having to perform strict penance; yet nevertheless, in consideration of his voluntary and sincere repentance and conversion, the aforesaid penance is reduced in measure, and so he is ordered for only one whole year on all Sundays and holy days to go to the church of God for prayer and to bow to the ground, and to make confession on all fasting days, but he is not to be admitted to the Holy Sacraments during this year, except in case of a death, and upon the completion of this period he is to be released from this penance.

This determination of the Synod was communicated by means of decree not only to the Tambov Bishop, but also to the Tambov Provincial Chancery, whereas the Senate was sent a vedenie (memorandum): “May [the Senate] be favourably disposed to be informed …”. This vedenie was recorded December 22nd, 1768.

The Tambov Bishop’s Response to the Decree, 1769

The aforesaid decree was received by the Right Reverend Feodosii on January 15th, 1769. The Tambov bishop set about immediately to fulfill its instructions, and already on March 24th he sent a report in response, saying:

“Not only those named who are held in the Chancery, but also in addition, according to cases submitted and by their own admission having been determined to be in the same sect, one hundred and fifty-one persons, or overall, male and female, up to two hundred and thirty-two persons, according to the investigation through the Tambov Provincial Chancery and according to their submission from the deputy assigned to them from that Chancery, Tambov Invalid Detachment second lieutenant Mikhail Oduevtsov; repeatedly they were admonished from the Word of God in this deputy’s presence, in the first instance by those appointed: the priest Alexander Poliansky, the sacristan of the Tambov Cathedral, Alexei, and other clergymen, and then also by myself in the presence of the appointed Tambov Voevoda, Collegiate Councillor Cherkasov and in the presence of numerous other former noblemen, also before and after them, but the aforesaid apostates not only would not listen to or accept true admonition from the Word of God, what is worse, they affirmed their false beliefs, those mentioned in their testimony presented by me to the Holy Governing Synod, as being true.

Moreover, some of them, up to ten in number, were found even earlier to be in the same apostasy; in 1765 the odnodvorets Semyon Zhernoklev testified in the Streletskaya suburb of Tambov that in March of that year he had traveled to the home of the above-named Goreloye tserkovnik Kirila Petrov for instruction in holy writ, where present from the same village were the odnodvorets Larion Pobirokhin (who has not been tracked down after taking flight), along with others, up to eight in total; and the aforesaid Pobirokhin was sitting behind a table in the front corner while the rest were all standing before him singing from the Bible, specifically the 14th chapter of the book of the prophet Zechariah; “the days of the Lord are coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you,” and also various psalms from the Psalter, specifically which ones he – Semyon – cannot recall. When they had finished singing psalms, the aforesaid Pobirokhin, contrary to the Holy Church interpreted for them these psalms, at which time he said that he had never found anywhere in the Scripture that people should bow down to wooden, copper, silver, golden, or stone images, but should bow down to man, because he was created in the image and likeness of God. And then all the declared persons of different ranks, including himself – Zhernoklev – at the command of the aforesaid Pobirokhin, as they began to lie down to sleep right at midnight, each in turn came up to Pobirokhin, bowed twice to him at his feet and kissed him on the mouth, and then, yet again for the third time bowing to the ground, went away; when they got up in the morning, they repeated this kissing and bowing. Moreover, all of them by his order always refer to him as “Radost’” (Joy); why – he, Semyon, does not know, but, he says, when somebody comes into the house and the aforesaid Pobirokhin is present, they never pray to God, but just as soon as they enter the hut, they fall at his feet and kiss him on the mouth, with which, he says, he – Semyon – at their insistence, also fully complied. And although then the others, aware of his non-denial, even swore that they are in the Orthodox Faith, as Christian duty commands, and will do nothing like that person who has given evidence hostile to the church, but now they have again even departed from that oath, as it turns out that they, of course, as was presented by myself previously to the Holy Governing Synod, in accordance with their false beliefs, maintain and propagate their peculiar worship and elect their own peculiar priests.

And as a great number of them are now having an influence in different places, they are in a convenient position to covertly entice others into the same error, as to which there is no way that they can be kept under observation. For this reason, the Right Reverend Feodosii concluded his report, presenting the above by means of this report most respectfully for the Holy Synod’s most favourable consideration as to what to do with such apostates, I beg most humbly that I be furnished with an authoritative decree that the aforesaid tserkovnik Kirila Petrov, who has been held at my Consistory under guard, in accordance with the communication sent to me February 26 of this year from the Voronezh Governor, be taken to him in Voronezh, according to a special order for him about this matter, via a specially dispatched messenger, in chains.”

1769 Report of the Bishop of Voronezh and Elets

This report from the Tambov Bishop was received in the Synod on April 21st; however, on the previous day, April 20th, a secret report arrived in the Holy Synod from Tikhon (Malinin), Bishop of Voronezh and Elets – a report whose content was very closely related to the case brought up by the Tambov Bishop. From this report it comes to light that the same kind of apostates from the Orthodox Faith had also penetrated into Voronezh eparchy, where they also attracted the attention of the church and civil authorities. The Right Reverend Tikhon wrote as follows:

Tikhon (1724-1783), Bishop of Voronezh and Elets, later canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church as St. Tikhon of Zadonsk.

By the decree of Her Imperial Majesty sent by Your Excellency to me, your most humble servant, it was ordered with respect to the following opponents of the Holy Church who had been found to be in the city of Voronezh: Stepan Kuznetsov and his accomplices of the village of Tishanka, Dvortsovaya Bitiutskaya district, including the peasant Ignat Danilov, also known as Balychev, who works for the local factory man Vasily Tulinov, that in the presence of the deputy appointed by the Voronezh Provincial Chancery, they be investigated here in the Consistory in the proper manner, finding out firstly from what time they abandoned true piety, by whom exactly were they enticed therefrom, and in specifically which sect were they instructed, and where their aforesaid teachers are to be found, and how many of them are brought to light by this investigation, in the first place this is to be reported, and upon completion of the investigation, what appropriate punishment is decided upon for their opposition to the Holy Church, in accordance with the law, with thorough reporting of all evidence and with opinion appended, to be presented to Your Excellency without delay and to await a decree concerning the aforesaid.

However, last year, on December 29th, 1768, a secret communication sent to me by Major-General Maslov, Cavalier and Governor of Voronezh province informing that (he said), the said house-serf of the factory man Tulinov, Ignat Balychev, had been sent to him, the Governor, kept in custody by him for dissent against the Orthodox Faith, along with an order to him, the Governor, by Her Imperial Majesty, in consideration of this, promptly and fittingly to make a determination as to how (he says) in relation to such corrupters of faith, by virtue of Your Holiness’s decree, it has been ordered, in the presence of a deputy appointed by the Provincial Chancery, for me to investigate, and said Balychev to be subjected to individual inquisition and the conclusion of these cases sent herewith, it has been requested, regarding their stubborn dissent against the Orthodox Faith, to investigate expeditiously and when finished to report on all of them clearly explaining everything relevant and what punishment will be appropriate for their crimes, an extract to be sent to him, the governor, as soon as possible for submission to Her Imperial Majesty.

And then, in response to the reports sent by me, it was announced by the Governor in communications on February 6th and 10th of this year, 1769, that for the indicated investigation he had appointed as deputy the Governor’s Assistant, Court Counsellor Popov, to be present two days a week, that is, Tuesday and Friday; he was in the office from the 13th of February and commenced the investigation, with the opponents of the Holy Church and corrupters of the Orthodox Faith, by virtue of the above-mentioned decree sent by Her Imperial Majesty from Your Holiness; the investigation began on the appointed days and although it was carried out, the said debauchees were not forthcoming about by whom precisely they had been enticed and instructed, and where their teachers are to be found.

In their answers they revealed very little, but even during their interrogation and admonition in the office they have demonstrated no little severity, stubbornness and disrespect, and covering up their teachers, among other things declared contradictorily: some had supposedly taught themselves from books; others allegedly heard things in church, and others thought about it and came to the judgement that God dwells in temples not built by human hands and takes no pleasure in the work of human hands; one is not to make for oneself handmade images: the image of God is the human soul; true worshippers worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Lord seeks such worshippers; confess to God in Heaven; I am the Living Bread, and if you eat of this bread, you will live forever; He did not offer salvation from a handmade and soulless God. And that they belong to the following sect, namely:

1st – They believe in the Holy Trinity: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, they pray and worship God in spirit and in truth;

2nd – To no services of the Church of the Greek confession do they go, but instead gather with one another for prayer in their homes, where they sing together and recite psalms from the Psalter, the Lord’s Prayer, and they regard their assembly as the church not built by human hands;

3rd – They do not bow down to holy images either painted on boards or other things or cast, and they do not regard them as sacred, but instead revere persons, and therefore bow to one another, and kiss;

4th – They do not go to priests for confession, but confess to their Heavenly Father;

5th – The Holy Sacraments, that is, the Body and Blood of Our Saviour, performed in churches of the Greek confession in the form of bread and wine, they do not receive and do not regard them as the true Body and Blood of Our Saviour, but as ordinary bread and wine, and instead of taking the Holy, Immortal and Life-Giving Sacraments, they keep to the Word of God and carry out His commandments.

6th – They do not cross themselves, and, without replacing it with anything, regard it as a shchepot’ [a play on words, meaning either a pinch (as in “a pinch of salt”) or the sign made by the middle and index fingers held together, as in making the sign of the cross]; instead they cross themselves by word alone in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit;

7th – They keep the Sacrament of Baptism thusly: when a baby is born, he should remain unbaptized until he comes of age, so that when he comes of age he will be baptized by the Holy Spirit, that is by repentance for the remission of sins, meekness, humility and patience;

8th – They do not regard priests ordained by the laying on of hands by church hierarchs as genuine priests, but recognize as true priests those ordained by carrying out the works of Christ Himself;

9th – All those favoured of God they esteem as saints, but they do not bow down to their images or their relics, for they do not regard bodies of the dead as sacred things;

10th – One of them, Stepan Kuznetsov, explained that among people who have been married by priests ordained by the laying on of hands by hierarchs, as false priests (he says), their weddings are regarded as illegitimate, but in accordance with their (he says) true worship the husband should choose for himself a bride on the basis of love and having taken her in the presence of witnesses live with one another according to the Law of God;

11th – In its departure from the faith of the Greek confession, according to the kind of sect to which they belong, they have not instructed anyone and supposedly nobody except those confined with them, and they do not know persons in other places of the same sect; however, on the contrary, on March 17 of this year, there arrived at the Consistory at the time of the visitation, odnodvortsy and women, seven named persons in all, living in the city of Voronezh, who announced that they are one in agreement and common doctrine with the prescribed persons, the eating-house proprietor Stepan Kuznetsov and his accomplices, and asked to be held together with them under investigation in the Consistory in the presence of the deputy of the Holy Church; thus through the said persons, openly declaring themselves to be followers of the corrupters of the Orthodox Faith, have exposed the lie told by those who testified that they do not know of anyone belonging to such a sect in other places; and henceforward, both with regard to their accomplices and more so their teachers, investigate them for their many instances of stern and stubborn behaviour and disrespect committed during interrogation and admonition and in conducting this investigation it has been impossible to obtain the desired results.

In consideration of such circumstances my Consistory has been ordered and I have confirmed that the following steps be taken:

1st – Everything concerning what which is described above is be presented to Your Holiness most humbly begging that such measures be undertaken, in view of the circumstances promulgated above, to bring said opponents of the Holy Church and perverters of the Orthodox Faith to inquisition by priests and teachers for thorough, most prompt and successful investigation, to provide me with an authoritative decree, and while the aforesaid is pending, not to suspend the said investigation but on predetermined dates, to carry it out, and this will be done;

2nd – To His Lordship the local Governor here to report secretly (and it has been so reported), as to whether he would also deign to present on his own behalf to the appropriate authority as to the aforesaid, and to inform me concerning the response he receives to this representation;

3rd – To send to the Voronezh Provincial Chancery (and it has been sent), a memorandum to the effect that the Chancery would see fit, as to the aforesaid, to draw up an authenticated document certifying that the opponents of the Holy Church who had arrived in the Consistory, Kuznetsov and his accomplices, have been registered by decree as belonging to the Schism, and when they are proven to have been registered, that my Consistory be informed of this; if they are not registered, they are to be sent immediately to said Consistory for investigation. Most humbly bringing this matter to Your Holiness’s attention, I await from Your Holiness an authoritative decree concerning the above situation.”

Special Decree of the Holy Synod, 1769

Having heard the cited reports of the Tambov and Voronezh Bishops, the Holy Synod made the following determination: “Having made copies of the promulgated reports sent by the Tambov and Voronezh hierarchs, to report to the Governing Senate indicating what will be done; and from the Holy Synod to confirm just such a warning and abhorrence of this far-away debauchery to the Tambov and Voronezh Right Reverend Bishops, instructing that in those localities where the said deviants from the Holy Church are located, the priests strictly and in a proper manner see to it that other Orthodox folk will not be infected with the same sort of error by them, and if the priests in those places have demonstrated little skill in doing this, said priests should be transferred to other churches, seeking out worthy priests to appoint in their stead; and at the same time to confirm as regards said priests that if, in spite of all their efforts, such depravity were to be discovered anew, each of those priests should immediately inform his own bishop, and these eminences are to report to the Holy Synod without delay.”

The “transaction” was dispatched by the Synod to the Senate on May 5th, 1769, and received the very same day.

1769 Senate Decree

Thus, the Senate had already received two “transactions” of the Synod regarding deviants from the Orthodox Faith: those of December 22nd, 1768 and May 5th, 1769. These “transactions” were heard by the Senate on May 20th, 1769 and at that time the Senate’s decision on this matter was made. We cite it here verbatim in view of its importance in the subsequent history of the sect, with the unavoidable repetitions this entails. (These repetitions have been omitted here in order to shorten this article, but in such a way that nothing is lost. P. M. [Peter Maloff].)

It has been decreed: Although the above-registered raznochintsy (people of miscellaneous ranks) in accordance with Chapter 1 of the Ulozhenie (Law Code) and Paragraph 3, Chapter 1 of the Voinskii Artikul (Military Code) have, on account of their deviation from true piety and abuse of the true faith [i.e. Orthodoxy], rendered themselves liable not only to the severest punishment, but even to the death penalty, however, according to church custom based on Holy Writ, it is left for sinners to acknowledge their own sin, and those who have not confessed are granted time to recognize their error and repent, therefore, considering that said persons, being of a base nature and upbringing, and by virtue of their shallow-mindedness and superstition, and equally, their ignorance, are not as likely to be brought to a realization of the truth by fear of death as by other means and by being allowed time, and beyond that, in accordance with the unparalleled kindness and mercy of Her Imperial Majesty, their sentence ought, in accordance with law, to be rescinded; and, in view of our present war with the Turks and the need for soldiers, when not only profligates such as these, but even the very children of the Holy Church and true sons of the fatherland are sacrificing their lives, and so that these ignorant men, having yet time to repent of their crime, might be led into the unity of the Holy Church with all pious Christians living in the unambiguous Law of God – the Governor of Voronezh is instructed:

1st – If among them there are some of the male gender who up to now remain in their delusion, then without regard for old age, starting with fifteen-year-olds, all without exception are to be sent to Lieutenant General Vernes [Wernes], now stationed at the renovated Azov and Taganrog fortresses. Having ascertained who among them is able to perform military service, he will assign them to military troops stationed there, and those unfit for military service, as labourers for fortification work, as much as possible without letting them stay together in the same locations or work teams, and with precautions taken to prevent them from communicating there with one another about their false beliefs and spreading their “delights”, as to which they are to be kept under strict watch.

2nd – That their minor male children, fifteen years of age and under, that is, up to the age of fifteen, be sent out to garrison schools to learn Russian reading and writing and, as they come of age, equally with other children of soldiers attending those schools, they be distributed according to ability among the regiments; while those fifteen and under are to be sent for upbringing to a Siropitatel’nyi dom (foundling home), but all of those on the poll tax roll for the settlements from which said offenders come are not to be included in recruitment rosters because they up to now have been tolerated in those settlements without them having been reported; moreover, as they are legally liable to suffer the death penalty, and have been spared from that only by the kindness and mercy of Her Imperial Majesty; such persons are not eligible to be counted in this reckoning; and consequently,

3rd – Their property, that is their grain – on hand, threshed and sown – cattle, domestic buildings and so on, all such having been inventoried, seeing to it meanwhile that all the above is not scattered and looted by their fellow residents or by the miscreants themselves through others, is to be sold at public auction, and the land at those settlements where they lived is to be divided among the rest of the residents of those places who, in their stead, until a future revision, bear the burden of responsibility, and the proceeds of the sale are to be used for the dispatch, escort, and feeding of those offenders and their children as far as the destination chosen at his gubernatorial discretion; and then,

4th – The wives of those criminals who have persisted in their error may remain with their husbands on the same basis as other soldiers’ wives, remaining in their own husbands’ care, but only on condition that they on no account remain in their previous places of residence; while widows and young girls who have come of age and have been taken to other settlements are to be dispersed in the care of other odnodvortsy and peasants who are devout and living a good life so that as the latter make use of their labour in their homes they will endeavour to lead the aforementioned persons away from their error and bring them back into unity with the Holy Church, and then by the measure of the merits and inclinations of each one, to give them in marriage in different state settlements to such as wish to take them, and if nobody desiring them is to be found in the state settlements, then let them be given in marriage to other raznochintsy who abide in the true faith; those among their minor children who have not come of age, in accordance with the above proscription, are to be sent to a Siropitatel’nyi dom, and as for the most elderly women and those young girls who are unsuitable for marriage and cannot be accepted into care, a list of names with detailed information on their status is to be sent to the Senate; and finally,

5th – If, in addition to the persons mentioned, there prove to be others of the same sect or criminals of similar sort, the governor is to deal with them in the same manner as has been ordered for these offenders, but the Senate is to be given advance notice. Also, orders relating to this matter are to be sent to the Governor of Voronezh, the Military College, the Main Palace Chancery, and to the Board of Guardians of the Moscow Foundling Home, and for information, in addition to the Holy Synod, notification to the Moscow Departments of the Senate, and a humble report to Her Imperial Majesty.

The Fortress of Azov, where in 1769, Tambov and Voronezh sectarians were sentenced to serve as military recruits and as labourers for fortification work on account of their Doukhobor faith and beliefs.

Afterword

The following is a summary of the somewhat complicated events surrounding the official investigation of sectarians in Tambov and Voronezh provinces in 1767-1769 set out above.

On May 29, 1767, Bishop Feodosii of Tambov and Penza reported to the Holy Synod the discovery of twenty-six sectarians in the village of Zhidilovka and six in the village of Lysye Gory by civil authorities. Although the sect was unknown and new to the Bishop, Orthodox authorities in Tambov and Voronezh had already investigated a similar heresy in 1765.

The Holy Synod responded by instructing the Bishop to carry out a thorough investigation to ascertain when the sectarians had rejected Orthodoxy, the specific sect to which they belonged, the names and locations of their leaders, and anything else relevant, and report back to them.

Thereafter, Bishop Feodosii undertook a lengthy investigation of the matter. The sectarians (who by this time had increased from thirty-two to forty) were dispatched, first to the Kozlov Military Governor’s Chancery and the Tambov Provincial Chancery, and then to the Tambov Ecclesiastical Consistory where they were held for interrogation. During the interrogations, the sectarians displayed a marked stubbornness, refusing to answer the questions put to them, and when they did speak, displaying open contempt for their interrogators. Despite admonishment, all (except one) of the sectarians refused to repent of their heresy. They were remanded to the Tambov Provincial Chancery pending direction from the Holy Synod.

Bishop Feodosii made a report of his investigation to the Holy Synod in late 1768. He declined to make an independent determination in the case, and requested the Holy Synod to give him guidance on how to proceed on the matter. He voiced his opinion however, that the sectarians should be brought before a civil court, be thoroughly investigated by true interrogation (presumably involving torture) and subjected to civil punishment (which ranged from strict penance to execution by burning or beheading) followed by excommunication from the Church.

In the meantime, on November 17, 1768, a Deputy of the Tambov Provincial Chancery, on behalf of clergy and churchgoers from the city of Kozlov and villages of Ranino and Zhidilovka, presented the Holy Synod with a list of apostates from the Orthodox faith who had appeared in those places. Many of those named were also named in Bishop Feodosii’s report.

On December 22, 1768, the Holy Synod issued a decree ordering Bishop Feodosii to once again subject the sectarians to admonition, first by teacher-priests, and then by himself, in the presence of the Tambov Military Governor. The sectarians were then to be released from the Tambov Provincial Chancery on the condition that they not absent themselves from Tambov before their case was decided, and under no circumstances were they to lead anyone else into their sect. The one sectarian who returned to Orthodoxy was ordered to perform strict penance for a year.

On March 24, 1769, Bishop Feodosii reported to the Holy Synod that, upon further investigation, 232 sectarians had been discovered in Tambov province, including those already held in the Tambov Provincial Chancery. Ten of the sectarians had been interrogated as long ago as 1765 for the same heresy. Despite repeated admonitions, conducted in accordance with the Holy Synod’s decree, they all remained obstinate and refused to renounce their beliefs. The Bishop concluded that the sectarians had spread to such a degree that they could not be kept under observation, and requested that the Holy Synod authorize him to dispatch those held in the Tambov Ecclesiastical Consistory to the Voronezh Governor in chains.

The Holy Synod had no sooner received Feodosii’s report when, on April 20, 1769, it received a report from Tikhon, Bishop of Voronezh and Elets about the discovery of several members of the same sect in the city of Voronezh and the village of Tishanka. He reported that the sectarians had been dispatched, first to the Voronezh Provincial Chancery, and then to the Voronezh Ecclesiastical Consistory, where they were interrogated in the presence of the Deputy of the Voronezh Provincial Chancery. When questioned, they demonstrated no little severity, stubbornness and disrespect to their interrogators and revealed very little about their faith. They were joined by seven more people who declared themselves to belong to the same sect and asked to be held together with them in the Consistory. Despite admonitions, they all refused to recant their beliefs.

In his report, Bishop Tikhon asked the Holy Synod to authorize him to bring the sectarians to inquisition by priests and teachers for a thorough, prompt and successful investigation. They were held in the Voronezh Ecclesiastical Consistory pending the Holy Synod’s response.

On May 5, 1769, in response to the reports of Bishops Feodosii and Tikhon, the Holy Synod issued a decree ordering that priests in localities where the sectarians were located “strictly and in a proper manner” ensure that other Orthodox peasants were not infected by the same heresy. New cases of the heresy that arose were to be immediately reported to the Holy Synod.

On May 20, 1769, the Senate, having reviewed the Holy Synod’s investigation, issued a decree sentencing those Tambov and Voronezh sectarians who refused to confess their errors and repent to civil punishment. Men over fifteen years of age were to be sent to the Azov and Taganrog fortresses as military recruits, or if unfit, as labourers for fortification work. Their wives were permitted to join them there. Widows and unmarried girls were to be dispersed among Orthodox families in other settlements. Boys aged five to fifteen were to be sent to garrison schools, while children under five were to be sent to orphanages. The sectarians’ property was to be sold at auction and the funds thus raised sent on to their present location. Other members of the sect, upon discovery, were to be dealt with in the same manner.

In light of these events, a number of observations can be made about the official investigation of Tambov and Voronezh sectarians in 1767-1769:

First, the sectarians under investigation were, without a doubt, members of what would later be known as the Doukhobor sect. In this period, the sect had still not given itself a specific name; its members referred to themselves as “people of God” and “sons of God”. They only accepted the name “Doukhobor”, which was given to them derisively by Orthodox clergy, decades later. Many of the sectarians named in the investigation appear in subsequent historical records listed as Doukhobors.

Second, by the 1760s, the sect already had a well-developed set of beliefs. Based on the responses given by Doukhobors under questioning, their doctrine included the following: they believed in a true living God, whom they worshipped in spirit and truth; they believed in the Holy Trinity, the Father Son and Holy Ghost, which they represented as MemoryReason and Will; they believed in God’s law bequeathed in the Ten Commandments; they did not attend the Orthodox Church but instead gathered with one another for prayer in their homes, where they sang and recited psalms; they rejected all sacraments and rituals as there was no salvation in such manmade things, and instead sought communion directly with God, who dwelt in every person; similarly, they refused to revere or bow down to icons and the Cross of Christ, as these things were manmade, but instead revered persons, and thus bowed to one another and kissed; they rejected the priesthood for its drunkenness, foul language and noisy squabbling and looked upon those carrying out the works of Christ as true priests; they did not go to priests for confession, but confessed to God directly; they refused to make the sign of the cross with three fingers as the Orthodox did; and they did not worship the Mother of God, Apostles, Prophets or Saints, but respected them as those favoured by God. These responses represent one of the very earliest documented expositions of Doukhobor beliefs.

Third, by this time, Doukhoborism was a fully formed religious sect with a distinct organizational structure (consisting of leaders, teachers, homilists and rank-and-file members), a mature dogma, a fully developed order of worship (at their meetings, they sang psalms, the teacher would interpret them, and at the end of the service they would sing again, bow twice to one another, kiss one another on the mouth, and bow a third time) as well as distinct behavioral norms.

Fourth, it is evident that the sect did not emerge in Tambov and Voronezh in the 1760s, but had arisen in these provinces several decades earlier. A review of the historical evidence shows that Doukhoborism was being actively disseminated in these provinces as early as the 1730s and 1740s. For years, members of the sect concealed their affiliation to avoid attracting the attention of their neighbours. It was only during the events of the 1760s that the sect garnered official attention.

Fifth, although the sentences imposed by the Senate in 1769 affected the upper echelons of the sect and its most active members, it did not affect the majority of rank-and-file members, who continued to conceal their beliefs. Membership in the sect in the eighteenth century cannot be readily tallied, since most Doukhobors remained underground. Scholars contend, however, that there were, without question, far more Doukhobors in Tambov and Voronezh provinces at the time than the numbers discovered by Bishops Feodosii and Tikhon during their investigations.

Sixth, the descendants of those Doukhobors sentenced to serve in Azov and Taganrog fortresses in 1769 were permitted, thirty-six years later in 1805, to join their brethren being resettled along the Molochnaya River in the Melitopol district of Tavria province. Historical records indicate that these included members of the Petrov, Vorob’ev, Pichugin, Strelyaev, Plotnikov, Suzdal’tsev, Kuznetsov and Astafurov families, amongst others.

For a comprehensive scholarly analysis of the 1767-1769 official investigation of sectarians in Tambov and Voronezh provinces, as well as newly discovered archival information relating to the Doukhobor sect during this period, see Russian ethnographer Svetlana A. Inikova’s article, “The Tambov Dukhobors in the 1760s” in Russian Studies in History, Vol. 46, No. 3 (Winter 2007-8), pp. 10-39.

Spiritual Origins and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History

by Svetlana A. Inikova

The following is a keynote address given by Russian ethnographer and archivist Svetlana A. Inikova at the Doukhobor Centenary Conference, held at the University of Ottawa on October 22-24, 1999.  Her address, based on extensive research of Russian archival sources, including a significant number of previously unknown documents relating to the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th centuries, reveals many new and important insights into the spiritual origins and early history of the Doukhobor movement in Russia.  Reproduced by permission from 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).

Doukhoborism is now three centuries old. While Doukhobors have never been able to boast great numbers or a widespread population, they have made a definite mark on Russian history. Their dramatic development has drawn the attention of historians for the past two hundred years. In spite of all that has been written about them, there are still noticeable gaps in their historical record. The early history of the movement and the consolidation of its teachings are very poorly researched, and there are only a very few articles dealing with eighteenth-century Doukhoborism.

Modern researchers are well acquainted with Orest Novitsky’s Dukhobortsy: ikh istoriya i verouchenie ["Doukhobors: their history and teachings"], published in 1882, which has become a leading textbook on the subject. Worth noting for their research on early Doukhobor history are A.S. Lebedev’s study on the Sloboda-Ukraine Doukhobors and N.G. Vysotsky’s work on the Doukhobors of Tambov and Voronezh Provinces. These major works written around the turn of the century are for some reason largely unknown to scholars today.

Much better known is F.V. Livanov’s Raskol’niki i ostrozhniki ["Raskolniks and Ostrozhniks"], based on a wide range of archival sources, although the author takes a less-than-serious approach to his subject, not distinguishing between the Doukhobors and the Molokans and thereby introducing an element of confusion into the question of territorial distribution. There is an article by Soviet researcher P.G. Ryndzyunsky on the so-called "Tambov free-thinkers" discovered in Tambov Province in 1768-69, but the writer did not identify the sect under discussion with the Doukhobors, as he was convinced that the Doukhobors did not yet exist at that time.

In 1977 A.I. Klibanov published his Narodnaya sotsial’naya utopiya v Rossii. Period feodalizma ["People’s social Utopia in Russia. Feudal period”], which featured an analysis of a “Note of 1791 submitted by the Doukhobors of Ekaterinoslav Province to Governor Kakhovsky” [Zapiska, podannaya dukhobortsami Ekaterinoslavskoy gubernii u 1791 g. gubernatoru Kakhovskomu] and the Doukhobor teachings outlined therein. In 1997 Svetlana Inikova’s “The Tambov Doukhobors of the 1760s” [Tambovskie dukhobortsy v 60-e gody XVIII veka] appeared in Vestnik Tambovskogo universiteta, showing that by that time the Doukhobors had already established themselves as a sect in Tambov province.

These are the only studies known on the early period of Doukhobor history.

Scholars still have not solved the question as to where or when the movement first appeared. Some look upon Ukraine as the birthplace of Doukhoborism, others refer to the Tambov area, still others maintain that the teachings came from Moscow. Before 1917 it was generally assumed that the Doukhobor teachings were of non-Russian origin. Some traced them to the early offshoots of Christianity, others to Bulgarian bogomil’stvo ("Bogomils") though the rise of Doukhoborism was most often associated with Quaker or Anabaptist proselytizing in Russia. Soviet historiography, which always related everything to the struggle between social classes, maintained that it was a uniquely Russian populist teaching arising as a form of social protest. Thus, even after three hundred years of Doukhoborism not one of the questions raised above has been finally resolved. This is due primarily to the scarcity of eighteenth-century historical sources, and secondarily to the difficulty in accurately identifying the dissidents described in the documents.

The word Doukhobors did not appear until 1786. It was coined not, as is commonly supposed, by Ambrosius, Archbishop of Ekaterinoslav, but by Nikifor, Archbishop of Slovenia. The Doukhobors themselves did not adopt the term until the beginning of the nineteenth century, while the clergy and secular officials continued to confuse the Doukhobors with the Molokans, and more often than not simply called them raskol’niki or iconoclasts to avoid a mistaken reference.

However, the problem of identification of the Doukhobors in their earlier historical periods still eludes the researchers of today just as much as in the past. In order to determine the precise point in time in which Doukhoborism first took organizational form, it is important to identify sectarian references in archival materials. To solve this rather complex problem it was necessary to compile a catalogue of Doukhobor families and their places of origin at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries. This facilitated the preparation of a list of provinces populated by Doukhobors, the date of their first discovery there and the sectarians’ social status.

Describing the spiritual roots of the Doukhobors means first establishing what its doctrinal teachings are. For the past two centuries theologians and secular researchers have been citing the work carried out by Orest Markovich Novitsky, along with his principal source of reference, the “Note of 1791 submitted by the Doukhobors of Ekaterinoslav Province to Governor Kakhovsky”. True, as early as 1806 Prefect Evgenii of the Aleksandr Nevsky Monastery (who would later become Metropolitan of Kiev) noted that it was written not by the Doukhobors themselves, but by a rather well-educated sympathiser. Novitsky repeated this argument and supposed that this person might have been the Ukrainian philosopher Grigory Skovoroda – a supposition which has been repeated more than once in the literature on the subject. At this stage we are interested not so much in the authorship of this note, but to what extent it reflects actual Doukhobor teachings.

Let us start with the assumption that the “Note of 1791 submitted by the Doukhobors of Ekaterinoslav Province to Governor Kakhovsky” was never actually submitted. It is known only in copies; the original has never been discovered. We have ascertained, however, that the first copy was made from a document belonging to Senator Ivan Vladimirovich Lopukhin, who is known to have made an inspection tour of the Province of Sloboda-Ukraine in 1801 and, after meeting with the Doukhobors there, to have petitioned Alexander I to allow their relocation to Tauride Province (now the Crimea).

Senator Lopukhin was a prominent and active Mason, who had a multitude of religious-philosophical works and translations to his credit. It is surprising that one who played such a major role in the Doukhobors’ destiny, if he indeed had such a document about them in his possession, not only did not make use of it but failed even to mention its existence in his memoirs.

Lopukhin was accused by the Orthodox hierarchy of helping the Doukhobors and of predisposing Alexander I favourably toward the sect. Right at the time he needed to justify himself, there appeared the “Note of 1791”, painting the Doukhobors as a religious-philosophical movement completely loyal to the authorities.

A comparative analysis shows strong similarities between the “Note of 1791” and the Masonic writings of Lopukhin himself. Kiev Metropolitan Evgenii and later Novitsky were quite correct in observing the influence of the Masons in the Note, but attributed it to the peculiarities of the teachings of the Ekaterinoslav Doukhobors rather than the peculiar world-view of the Note’s author.

Both Novitsky and Klibanov draw attention to the literary nature of the verses cited in the Note. Klibanov goes so far as to identify the cited quatrains as “inherent to Skovoroda’s poetry, in both form and content”. After considerable investigation we were able to determine that these verses came from a German poet held in high regard by Russian Masons by the name of Johann Scheffler, who was also known as “the Angel of Silesia”. A collection of his poetry was published by a Mason named Novikov in Moscow in 1784 under the title Rayskie tsvety [“Flowers of Paradise”], and was familiar to a narrow circle of supporters in St. Petersburg and Moscow at the time. An examination of the main idea of each quatrain shows remarkable similarities with the concepts outlined in the “Note of 1791”.

It is unlikely that the author was Lopukhin himself, however, as the language of the Note suggests someone very close to the South Russian ecclesiastical hierarchy. But neither are the language and style characteristic of Skovoroda’s writings. While the question of authorship is still undecided, there is no doubt that the teachings contained in the Note are Masonic rather than Doukhobor, although the two movements most definitely shared common elements – the doctrine of the “inner church”, for example.

Another factor against the Doukhobors’ own authorship of the Note is the naming of their teachers – Kirill and Petr Kolesnikov (still alive at the time) – something the Doukhobors themselves would never have done.

The author of another “Note on the Doukhobors living in the Melitopol’ district of Tauride Province” [Zapiska o dukhobortsakh, obitayu-shchikh v Melitopol’skom uezde Tavricheskoy gubernii], written in 1841, upon enquiring of the Doukhobors living at Molochnye Vody (“Milky Waters”) as to what they knew of the note outlining their faith that was to have been submitted to Governor Kakhovsky in 1791, was told that “they had absolutely no idea whatsoever”.

There is no doubt the author of the “Note of 1791” was personally acquainted with the Doukhobors. Certain historical facts and tenets contained in the Note (though possibly misinterpreted) have been actually confirmed through other sources, but cannot be considered on the whole to represent a statement of Doukhobor teachings.

Another document usually cited by researchers into early Doukhobor history is an 1805 note entitled “Several characteristics of Doukhobor society” [Nekotorye cherty ob obshchestve dukhobortsev], quite justifiably ascribed either to an unidentified Mason or directly to Senator Lopukhin. For some reason, however, the fact that the two basic documents on the Doukhobors’ history and teachings have both turned out to be connected with the Masonic order has never caused anyone to doubt their validity as historical source-materials.

Such investigations have served to emphasize the necessity of selecting undisputedly reliable sources. The past few years have brought to light a significant number of previously unknown documents on the history of the group at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries, which were not accessible to earlier researchers.

Our research has led to the following conclusions:

In the second half of the eighteenth century the teachings of the four main groups of Doukhobors (in Sloboda-Ukraine, Ekaterinoslav, the Don River area and the Tambov-Voronezh region) were essentially the same. The few differences were not serious enough to warrant sub-classifications of Doukhoborism or to categorize their development as incomplete. One can, for example, note the relatively radical stance of the first group in their attitudes toward supreme authority and defence of the state compared to the more moderate Tambov-Voronezh Doukhobors. This is apparently attributable to the social psychology of the Cossacks who were more prevalent in the first group.

Following the doctrine of the inner church and the worship of God in spirit and in truth, the Doukhobors uncompromisingly rejected material forms of worship, especially the external church with its icons, the cross, sacramental rituals, sacred relics and making the sign of the cross. The temple of God was none other than the believer himself or herself. The congregation of true Christians was Christ’s apostolic church, in which all the sacraments were commemorated spiritually, worship was directed toward the image of God shining within and Christ himself was master and head. The Doukhobors endeavoured to interpret everything connected with faith in a spiritual sense.

Even back in the 1760s and 1770s the Doukhobors declined to consider the Bible a God-inspired book. They doubted that God’s word could be contained in the Scriptures, maintaining that it was capable of being written only in the heart and soul of a believer and not on paper; others declared that the Scriptures represented “baby’s milk”, while their teacher was God Himself. The Doukhobors did know by heart, however, certain passages from the New Testament which, in their opinion, confirmed the rightness of their teachings.

The non-Biblical canon was rejected completely. Doukhobor teachers read and interpreted the Scriptures at meetings as they were inspired by the Lord – i.e., within the framework of their teachings. They sought out especially obscure spiritual meanings, and the New Testament, which even in its earlier form abounded in parables, was transformed in their teachings into a set of allegories. It appears that this was not so much the result of a rationalistic approach to the miracles described in the Bible as a desire to transpose everything connected with religious life into the realm of the spiritual. Doukhobor rationalism consisted in the holding of reason to be the highest criterion by which to evaluate the correctness of one’s perception of Biblical revelation. Finally, the Doukhobors rejected reading and interpreting the Scriptures altogether during their first years at Molochnye Vody in the Tauride Province.

Up until now scholars have been generally inclined to consider the Doukhobors to be anti-Trinitarian, i.e., as refusing to recognize the Holy Trinity. Even though Doukhobor psalms constantly affirmed worship of one God in three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – scholars have maintained that the Doukhobors view the Trinity not in the form of three persons dwelling inseparably in the one God, but as powers of some kind emanating from God. In fact, God, in their understanding, was not a personality but some kind of substance spread everywhere without an independent existence, a Universal Mind, a Supreme Wisdom. One might go so far as to say that the Doukhobors believed in God as a single personality, appearing in the roles of three persons. In their interpretation God the Son – created before time – and the Holy Spirit – which proceeds from the Father – were still inferior to God the Father in terms of divinity, but that is a different matter.

The Doukhobors have been called pantheists, as they maintained that there was no place where God is not, and their psalms constantly feature images suggesting a God spread throughout the universe: God the Father represents height, the Son – breadth, and the Holy Spirit – depth. In their understanding, however, the one God, while embracing the whole world, was greater than the world; He was not limited to His presence in it, but was personified in an unfathomable being. The Doukhobors’ pantheism was on an extremely limited scale.

According to Doukhobor teachings, God the Son was never embodied in human form in Mary’s womb; she did not bear a God-man. She bore Jesus of Nazareth, whom God had chosen as His anointed – Christ, whose body was occupied for thirty years by God the Son, and not by some kind of Mind or Spirit. After Jesus’ corporeal death God the Son (Christ) ascended and appeared to the apostles in a different fleshly form that they failed to recognize at first, and only later identified as God through the miracles they witnessed. The Christ-figure of the Trinity continued to be embodied in each Doukhobor leader in turn, each of which represented Christ, the true God. In Orthodox teachings the God-Son, embodied in human flesh in Mary’s womb, actually ascends with this same flesh, dwells in it in heaven and will act as judge at the Last Judgment, sitting on the throne at the right hand of the Father. The Doukhobor Trinity, on the other hand, appears to have been divided before the Last Judgment, at which point this Christ-God, having sojourned in various fleshly forms, will sit close by the Lord’s throne (but not at the right hand, as in Orthodoxy) and judge the people, or rather their souls, as the Doukhobors do not believe in the resurrection of the flesh. Even thus exists the Christ-man, in whom dwells the true God-Son – the living God mentioned over and over again in Doukhobor psalms and in recorded Doukhobor testimony.

The Doukhobors did not recognize original sin, since God the Son came into the world not for its redemption, but to show people the pattern of suffering for the truth. His flesh died on the cross; hence it was quite logical that in the Eucharist wine could not be transformed into Christ’s blood or bread into his flesh.

The other Doukhobor tenet which has always provoked a multitude of interpretations is that of God dwelling in man. A Doukhobor psalm says that God created the human soul in His image and likeness, in the sense that the soul, like God, is immortal, self-governing and intelligent. God is spiritual and Trinitarian, hence His image in man is also spiritual and threefold. God gave man three blessings: memory, mind and will. In terms of memory the human soul resembles God the Father, in reason – the Son, and in will – the Holy Spirit. And just as these three blessings, three qualities of the soul, constitute one and the same soul, even so the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same God. These three qualities of the soul are also the image of God (not God Himself) which is to be worshipped.

In some psalms, however, the word upodoblyaetsya (“resembles”) is omitted and it is simply stated: God the Father [is] in memory. God the Son in mind. God the Holy Spirit in will. In some of the psalms and recorded testimony the Doukhobors also declared: “God is in man”. This is an indication that not just the image of God is to be found in man, but the impersonal God Himself dwells in man, thereby creating a mystical union between God and man. In such a case, however, denominational worship and psalm-reading would be totally unnecessary: it would be enough to pray to one’s self.

It is still not clear whether Doukhobors felt it simply unnecessary to explain that it is the image of God that is meant here, or whether the concept of likeness gradually gave way to actual dwelling. After all, God’s image in man and God in man are two completely different things.

The Doukhobors held themselves to be God’s chosen children, selected by God Himself; they held that Christ (their living God) was their pastor, and that the Holy Spirit guided them, but in all their documents and practices I have never encountered any indication that they believed in the incarnation of God in each individual Doukhobor.

During their services, while carrying out a particular ritual of thrice bowing to one another, the Doukhobors would say that they were worshipping God’s image shining within, that man was the temple of God, containing not hand-made icons but the image of God, and in the place of the usual candles was ardent prayer. The more perfect a person was, the greater was this Godlikeness of the soul in him and the closer he was to God. Hence it would seem completely wrong to take the words “God is in man” only in their literal sense.

It must be emphasized that we are not talking here about the teachings of the Doukhobors today, who have far removed themselves from their traditional doctrines; hence it would be wrong to apply our conclusions to them.

Novitsky’s identification of Doukhobor teachings with faith in some kind of impersonal God, as well as his treatment of the doctrine of Christ not as God the Son incarnate in man but as an ordinary mortal endowed “with a divine quality of intelligence but in the highest degree” were to have tragic consequences. In the 1880s Novitsky’s book and the “Note of 1791 submitted by the Doukhobors of Ekaterinoslav Province to Governor Kakhovsky” came under the studious eye of Prince Dmitry Aleksandrovich Khilkov and formed the basis of a series of manuscripts he penned on the Doukhobor sect.

Believing the Doukhobor teachings to be virtually identical with those of their mentor, the followers of Lev Nikolaevich Tolstoy were already beginning to prepare for their “missionary activity” among the Doukhobors. The Tolstoyans fanned the flames that had been dying out in Doukhobor society. The Tolstoyan dream of building the Kingdom of Truth on earth cost the Doukhobors dearly. The disenchantment felt by the Tolstoyans upon learning that they were not kindred spirits to the Doukhobors hurt them sorely and in some cases led to a breakdown of their own beliefs.

One cannot examine the doctrine regarding Christ without touching upon the question of the Virgin Mother. Without accepting the incarnation of God in the Virgin Mary’s womb and without venerating her as the Mother of God, the Doukhobors still retained her titles of Virgin and Mother of God (devaBogoroditsa). Mary had borne God’s anointed, Jesus, whose body had been chosen by God, which made her (perhaps not from time immemorial, and to some degree formally) the mother of the God-man. Every Doukhobor woman, bearing a man of God, a child of God embodying God’s image, is likened to Mary and in this sense she is also a mother of God.

Virginity was something the Doukhobors saw not as a family status or a physiological condition of the female organs but as purity, codified by the unpleasantness of the church’s marriage ceremony. Before being relocated to Molochnye Vody in the Tauride Province the Doukhobors were obliged to be married in churches, but did not accept the sanctity of this ceremony. It is interesting that the concept of virginity is reflected not only in the psalms but also in the Doukhobor women’s outward appearance. There is evidence by contemporary eyewitnesses dating from the period 1768-97 that Doukhobor girls did not change their dress or hairstyle after marriage, as did those of the Orthodox faith.

One question only sketchily explained in the Doukhobor teachings relates to the creation of souls. Nowhere in their psalms, in the research materials or in personal conversations was there any indication, even indirectly, of a belief in the creation of souls in a pre-material world, as stated in the “Note of 1791”. There were, however, a number of contemporary accounts of the Doukhobors’ faith in the transmigration of souls after death. This is fairly clearly stated in Psalm 79 of the Book of Life of the Doukhobors, and is also confirmed by their funereal and memorial ceremonies.

For all the emphasis on the spiritual, the Doukhobors’ teachings include no dichotomy of soul and flesh. In their view, our bodies are by no means dungeons, as is suggested by the author of the “Note of 1791”, where the soul is punished for its fall. In contrast to the soul, which is divine, the body is taken from the earth, and if one is to “walk in the flesh” and indulge the appetites, “your flesh will tarnish you as it did Adam and Eve”, but along with that, man’s body is also seen as the temple of God, the temple of the soul, and even flesh is purified by a pure spirit. Besides, it is the presence of the body that enables one to do good works, without which faith is dead. Hence the Doukhobor faith was not characterized by any special asceticism.

The Doukhobors were not averse to caring for private property acquired by honest, preferably manual labour, although greed was always to be condemned. And in order that greed should not become the stimulus of hard work and that the virtue of brotherly love should not be forgotten, Doukhobors were to help each other financially. In 1768, the Tambov Doukhobors went so far as to declare that anyone might freely take from his brother anything he had need of.

The question of the Doukhobors’ attitude toward military service did not figure significantly in the eighteenth century. Their numbers included many Cossacks: from the Zaporozhye, Don River area, Ekaterinoslav and Kuban, both soldiers and pikinery (similar to halberdiers). They all performed military service, many of them in the Russo-Turkish wars of the eighteenth century. It is known that some Doukhobors refused service in the Russo-Turkish war of 1787-91, but their motivation is not clear. The Cossack Doukhobors maintained that they were obliged to ‘defend themselves on the borders” against the enemy, but not to attack or kill. Recruits’ refusal to swear the oath of allegiance was explained on the grounds that Doukhobors in general refused to swear oaths, all the more so in church.

During police investigations the Doukhobors would declare that all people were equal, horrifying their interrogators, but this referred only to social equality and not equality in terms of spiritual value, since the Doukhobors considered themselves a step above others and less sinful. For God’s chosen people who recognized Christ as their head, no human authority was needed. However, the degree of explicitness with which they directly denied human authority varied depending upon how their relationship with such authority unfolded at any given period. The question of defence of the Empire and the Empress and the Doukhobors’ allegiance to her was tied to the degree of mercy she bestowed upon them and the freedom she allowed them to hold their services. In other words, these two questions took on much more of a political than a religious tone.

Our outline of Doukhobor teachings thus far is based primarily on documents dating from the second half of the eighteenth century. Of course this teaching was formed over the course of many decades, and its ideological origins must be sought in the second half of the seventeenth century. But where does one begin this search?

Researchers have found parallels between the teachings of the Doukhobors and those of various Christian sects. Contradictions and ambiguities in the Gospel texts have given rise to similar dissident movements, although each succeeding period has introduced its own modifications.

Among Western Protestant teachings there is no template to be found from which Doukhoborism could have been taken as an exact copy. There is no such template, for Doukhoborism selected and re-worked a whole set of ideas from Western Protestant motifs, and not just Protestant ones.

It may be concluded that the Doukhobor doctrine is closest to Polish-Lithuanian Socinianism. It is quite likely that some influence was also exerted by German Anabaptists. The question then arises as to how Socinianism and other Protestant ideas could have penetrated the hearts of so many ordinary Russians. There is no doubt that some representatives of these Western sects played a personal role in the formation of Doukhoborism.

There are legends about an aged foreigner who preached in the village of Okhochee in Sloboda-Ukraine, and about the Pole who hid in the house of the Doukhobor leader Illarion Pobirokhin in the village of Goreloye in Tambov Province. However, the most convincing evidence in favour of such contact was, strange as it may seem, the very non-Russian hairdos worn by the Doukhobor women, similar to those we discovered among women of the modern German Anabaptist sect known as the Hutterites.

In addition to direct contacts and preaching, we have reason to believe that Western Protestant ideas made their way into Russia through Ukrainian Orthodox preachers and writers who had been heavily influenced by such teachings spread throughout the Polish-Lithuanian Empire (including what is now Belarus and Western Ukraine). They may have also come through both original and translated literature produced by Orthodox and Socinian printing houses in Ukraine and Belarus. Most probably, the influence trickled in through all the channels here mentioned.

It is quite possible that the Doukhobor teachings were born out of ideas drawn from Socinian books printed on Radivil Cherny’s estate not far from Slutsk, in a hybrid language of Belarus and Church Slavonic used in the Nesvizh district – in particular from the works of Simeon Budnyj and Martin Chekhovich. The Polish-Lithuanian Socinians believed that the principal source of faith was revelation, and that the Scriptures could be understood and interpreted by anyone so gifted; hence priests and especially church hierarchies were unnecessary. God was a Spirit and must be worshipped in spirit and in truth; He paid no heed to homage from human hands. It was the human being, made in God’s image, that was to be venerated instead of icons. Jesus Christ, in their view, was an ordinary man, chosen by God. In support of this view Budnyj presented twenty-six arguments. The Holy Spirit was upon Christ, and thus he was the son of God and mankind’s only advocate before God; since he was not God, he could not offer a sacrifice of redemption.

The Socinians rejected the doctrine of original sin; they did not consider communion and baptism to be sacraments but only symbolic rituals; they did not recognize the saints and did not appeal to them for help; they maintained that faith by itself was insufficient for salvation, that good works were required; they allowed for the need to defend one’s self in war, but held attacking and killing to be wrong.

The main difference between Socinianism and Doukhoborism lay in their approaches to the substance of the Trinity and Christ. The Socinian doctrine with its rather radical basic tenets was adapted to the perception of Ukrainian Cossacks and Russian peasants who had up until recently been Orthodox, and who found it difficult to part with the tradition of a three-person God. This modification, however, did not significantly change the basic doctrine. The Belarus-Lithuanian reform movement showed a considerable radical influence on the part of German Anabaptists and Hussites, especially in respect to attitudes toward church and state, as well as a certain element of mysticism. They fomented a left-leaning tendency in Socinianism which promoted universal equality and rejected private property along with state authority and the officials who exercised it.

All these radical Protestant ideas received broad circulation in Ukraine, which at the time was strongly under the influence of Polish Catholic scholasticism. The scholastic preachers searched for hidden meaning in the Scriptures, interpreting entirely realistic subject matter as allegories and taking significant liberties with the texts in their quest for picturesque images. It is virtually impossible sometimes to determine whether their allegorical interpretations are based on the canons of scholasticism or on a rationalistic approach to a divinely inspired book.

The Moscow church authorities understandably adopted a very cautious approach to the ideas of the Ukrainian priests, whom they regarded as heretics. Some Ukrainian publications were banned from entry into Russia or even destroyed. The works of some South Russian Orthodox writers most certainly influenced the development of Doukhobor teachings.

The German economist and historian August Haxthausen, who visited the Molochnye Vody settlements in 1843, took note of two books held in great regard by the Doukhobors. One of them he described as “Key to the understanding or to the mysterious” [Klyuch k urazumeniyu i k tainstvennomu]. Novitsky mistakenly thought this was a reference to Eckartshausen’s mystical work Klyuch k tainstvam natury [“Key to the mysteries of Nature”]. In fact it was Ioannikii Galyatovsky’s Kljuch razumeniya [“Key to the understanding”], which was very popular in Ukraine and southern Russia, having gone through three editions. In the “Note of 1791” it is also mentioned that the Doukhobors read “Key to the understanding” and other ecclesiastical books.

Galyatovsky, who was constantly speaking out against the so-called Arians (as the followers of Socinianism were known), was himself accused of Arianism. Galyatovsky was particularly famous for his free interpretations of Scripture and giving a different meaning to traditional concepts – something very common in Doukhobor practice. Giving words a second meaning was characteristic not only of the scholastic school but also of Russian apocryphal literature. Similar phenomena may be noted in Galyatovsky’s works and in Doukhobor psalms and apocryphal pieces. In “Key to the understanding”, for example, Galyatovsky writes that an angel took a golden censer and filled it with fire from the altar, explaining that the censer was the body of Christ and the fire was God’s love. In one Doukhobor psalm in answer to the question “What is incense?” it is stated that “Incense is doing great works”. The dialogue continues:

The theme of the image of God in man was a favourite among the Ukrainian preachers. Under the influence of humanistic ideas, they endeavoured to help their hearers and readers grasp hold of their human destiny, believe in the possibility and necessity of self-perfection and see the divine image in themselves and their neighbour. They argued that since man is made in the image and likeness of God, and the one God contains the whole Trinity, so too the divine image in man’s soul is threefold.

In his Evangelie Uchitel’nom [“Students’ Gospel”] the Ukrainian theologian Kirill Trankvillion listed the powers of the God-like soul – will, reason, thinking – and in another place in the same book: mind, conscience and will. There is a dichotomy in the thoughts of man because of his earthly origin and divine soul: he is at once both heaven and earth.

In his Katekhizis (“Catechism”) of the end of the 17th century the well-known writer Lavrentii Zizaniya also remarked that man’s soul contains the whole Trinity: in our minds we have the spirit and the word, just as God the Father has the Spirit and the Son, and just as they are inseparable, so our soul is an integral whole. For Ioannikii Galyatovsky man’s God-likeness lay in the fact that his soul, like God, was immortal and possessed reason and will.

It was from Ukrainian religious literature that the Doukhobors borrowed the concept of the God-likeness of the human soul. Witness the following example from a Doukhobor psalm: The soul is God’s image; through it we too have threefold power in one and the same being. The powers of the human soul are: memory, reason, will. In memory we are like God the Father, in reason – like God the Son, in will – like God the Holy Spirit. Just as in the Holy Trinity there are three persons, so in the one soul there are three spiritual powers – one God.

Novitsky perceived the similarity of this psalm to the heathen beliefs of the ancient peoples of North and South America, and attributed it to the Doukhobor leader Kapustin. In fact it is taken from the writings of a Ukrainian preacher who later became Metropolitan of Rostov and a Russian saint, Dmitry Tuptalo:

…the soul is God’s image, inasmuch as it possesses a threefold power but it is one and the same being; the powers of the human soul are: memory, reason, will. In memory it is like God the Father, in reason – God the Son, in will – God the Holy Spirit. And just as in the Holy Trinity there are three persons, but not three Gods, only one God, so in the human soul there are three spiritual powers, so to speak, but not three souls, only one soul.

Dmitry Tuptalo repeatedly wrote about these three powers of the human soul at various stages of his life – “wherefore one is also obliged to glorify God in one’s own self, in the three persons of Him who exists, but in the one Deity”.

Dmitry Tuptalo also wrote that God created the soul to be like Himself: “self-governing, intelligent and immortal, companion to eternity and in union with the flesh”. The Doukhobors incorporated these words into one of their psalms. While not rejecting outward worship, Dmitry gave preference to the inner, hidden communion with God in one’s heart. He held that the Scriptures were to be understood through spiritual reasoning. Dmitry Tuptalo understood the essence of Christ in accord with Orthodox doctrine, but there are many ambiguities in his writings, many unorthodoxly arranged nuances, as well as obvious departures from Russian Orthodoxy, which made his works popular among the Doukhobors. The Doukhobor teachers also borrowed from him two splendid poetic variations on the psalms of David.

One may well ask how the affirmation of the similarity of man’s three spiritual qualities to the divine Trinity and other unorthodox concepts found their way into the writings of Dmitry Tuptalo. In 1675-77, Dmitry Tuptalo was preaching in an Orthodox monastery in Chernigov, which had belonged to Poland since 1618. In 1677-78 he preached in an Orthodox monastery in the town of Slutsk in Belarus, then part of Lithuania. It was about that time that a Calvinist pastor in Slutsk had in his service a man by the name of Jan Belobodsky, who later came to Moscow. In his Vyznanie very (Confession of faith) he admitted that he did not accept the most fundamental Orthodox doctrines, maintaining that:

…God’s image is in man and the human soul has three powers: reason, will and memory, but one and the same being: in memory it is like the Father, in reason – like the Son, in will – like the Holy Spirit; and God’s likeness in man lies in the fact that God gave man an incorporeal and immortal soul, a companion to eternity, and man can accept wisdom, grace, bliss and the vision of God.

At a church council meeting in 1681, Belobodsky was condemned as a heretic. The influence of Polish religious tendencies of the period are palpably evident in the writings of Kirill Trankvillion, Ioannikii Galyatovsky and Dmitry Tuptalo, who succeeded each other in turn as Archimandrite of the Eletsky Monastery in Chernigov.

Protestants of various persuasions who reject the external church and call worship of icons and the cross “idol-worship”, often support their arguments by referring to the Biblical story of the three Babylonian lads:

Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah (also known, respectively, as Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego — see Daniel 1:6,7; 3:1-30). They were thrown into a “burning fiery furnace” for their refusal to worship an idol, but were miraculously saved. Hans Hutter, the founder of the Hutterite sect, compared himself to these lads as he was led to his death at the stake. Galyatovsky’s “Key to the understanding” includes many references to the story. The Doukhobors recognized therein an all-too-familiar pattern.

In response to prosecutors’ questions as to where they had acquired their “criminal thoughts”, the Doukhobors would sometimes say that they had been enlightened by the Lord, but sometimes admitted that they had heard them from a priest or a sexton or learnt them from some church books, without specifying which ones. They claimed to have obtained these books from country preachers. These books were being used for proselytizing and stirring up people who were inclined to reflection on religious matters.

For assimilating and reflecting on new religious teachings, as well as for working out new religious systems, a certain degree of literacy, preparation and Scriptural knowledge was required. There was no prohibition in Russia against individual parishioners reading the Bible on their own, but this became possible for ordinary people only after the creation of the Russian Bible Society at the beginning of the nineteenth century. It should be taken into account, moreover, that few peasants were literate. It is likely, therefore, that the Doukhobor teachings must have come through the ideas of the lower ranks of clergy, monks and lay brethren – i.e., people acquainted with the Scriptures.

In southern Russia in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries there were many itinerant preachers, usually a wandering preacher or monk, spreading dissident ideas. One of these may well have been Grigory Skovoroda, whose writings show a good deal in common with the ideas of Dmitry Tuptalo, as well as with Doukhobor teachings, confirming the widespread circulation of Protestant religious ideas in Ukraine.

The followers of the Doukhobor teachings were recruited from the ranks of Orthodox parishioners. The promoters of the new teachings, therefore, endeavoured to maintain the popular traditional forms of psalms and catechisms. For their psalms the Doukhobors made extensive use of Russian popular religious verse, including those by Ukrainian writers, as well as Polish canticles they translated into Russian.

The evidence here presented, we believe, is sufficient to conclude that the Doukhobor teachings may trace their origin to the Protestant teachings and dissident ideas of the seventeenth century, widely circulated in the territories of the Polish Republic and popular among Ukrainian Orthodox writers.

The organization of Doukhoborism as a sect began not long thereafter in Sloboda-Ukraine (approximately the same territory now occupied by Kharkov Province in eastern Ukraine), probably toward the end of the seventeenth century or at the beginning of the eighteenth, and paralleled the development of a religious system.

Sloboda-Ukraine can be considered the cradle of Doukhoborism for several reasons. In the seventeenth century it was populated by Ukrainians who had fled there from Polish domains, bringing with them their Protestant dissident ideas. Sloboda-Ukraine was situated far from Russia’s centre, and for a long time neither secular nor religious authorities were able to exert any meaningful control over the lives of its population. It was a place where the libertarian traditions of the Zaporozhye Cossacks held sway.

In the 1680s Russian military-service people began moving to Sloboda-Ukraine as odnodvortsy (“smallholders”). They came primarily from the southern Great Russian provinces to protect the empire’s southern flank from the Poles and Crimean Tatars. In return for their service the Cossacks and smallholders were granted land – not, like the peasants, on terms of community ownership without right of sale or inheritance, but land which was both private property and inheritable – like the land granted to noblemen, only without peasant serfs.

The fast-growing settlements were populated with a mixture of Russians and Ukrainians. The smallholders and especially the Cossacks on the southern flank who were risking their lives defending the Russian fatherland felt a keen pride and awareness of their self-worth, as well as a spirit of freedom. Attempts by the state to infringe upon their rights, to turn them into peasant wards of the state, fostered a mood of opposition on the part of these social classes and prepared the soil for reception to a teaching which elevated people’s sense of self-worth, proclaimed universal equality and denied the need for authority and an external church.

Another fertile ground for adoption of Doukhobor teachings was to be found among the Don Cossacks, especially since their territory bordered on Sloboda-Ukraine. Another border territory was Novorossiya (“New Russia”), which at the beginning of the eighteenth century witnessed an influx of Ukrainian and Russian smallholders. In the 1780s, this group gave rise to the Ekaterinoslav Cossacks. History shows that the growth of religious pluralism in any given territory is determined by the intensity of missionary activity, the socio-psychological makeup of the population affected – i.e., its readiness to assimilate new teachings – and the particular characteristics of individual preachers.

Russian smallholders who had settled in the south and adopted the Doukhobor teachings also brought the new doctrine with them when they visited their former places of residence. There is no doubt that Doukhobor teachers from Sloboda-Ukraine were carrying on missionary activity in neighbouring territories at the beginning of the eighteenth century.

The question naturally arises as to how Doukhoborism became so strongly rooted in the Tambov and Voronezh areas. At the beginning of the eighteenth century these areas were flooded with a great many Ukrainians (or Cherkassians, as they were called), who could have been not only carriers but also preachers of the new teachings. According to a number of accounts, Doukhoborism was introduced to Russian villages by Ukrainians who had come in search of work.

In addition, in the second half of the eighteenth century, the population of Tambov Province included a great many smallholders who were characterized, as mentioned above, by a special social status and psychological makeup. Doukhoborism flourished almost exclusively among the free classes. Later, during the second half of Catherine the Greats reign, several settlements of state and noblemen’s peasants in the Tambov and Voronezh Provinces (where Doukhobors were also living) were handed over to their residents as private property. Hence the number of serfs among the Doukhobors was extremely limited.

As far as Doukhobors in other territories are concerned – places where they were discovered to have resided at the end of the eighteenth and beginning of the nineteenth centuries (e.g., Astrakhan, Tauride and Caucasus Provinces) – the majority of these were migrants from Sloboda-Ukraine, Novorossiya or Tambov Province. The Penza Doukhobors lived in territories formerly belonging to or adjoining Tambov Province. The Belgorod district of Kursk Province, where Doukhobors were found residing at the end of the eighteenth century, bordered on Sloboda-Ukraine. Doukhobors were exiled and served forced-labour terms in Arkhangelsk and Ekaterinburg Provinces, as well as in the Baltic Sea region, but this does not mean the sect actually grew there. The Doukhobors were actually rooted in an extremely limited geographical area, attracting far fewer numbers (because of the radicalness of their teachings) than, for example, the Molokans or Khlysts.

Active missionary campaigns on the part of Doukhobor preachers began in the 1730s and 1740s. It has been said that Doukhobor proselytizing in the village of Okhochee in Sloboda-Ukraine in the 1740s was led by an unknown foreigner, a retired non-commissioned officer. There are indirect indications that at this time Doukhoborism, probably including some established organization, was already prevalent in the Voronezh area. There is documentary evidence showing that Doukhobors were living in the Tambov district of the Voronezh area in 1762, and that the Doukhoborism prevalent there in the 1760s and 1770s had the status of an actual sect rather than simply an amorphous religious persuasion.

According to F.V. Livanov, who had access to archives that have since been lost, in 1733 there appeared at the home of Illarion Pobirokhin, who lived in the Tambov village of Goreloye, a Pole named Semen (or, in other sources, a “Polish Jew”). The word Pole, however, could refer to a Russian who had fled to or been imprisoned in Poland or Lithuania; it could also refer to a Ukrainian from western Ukraine, which at that time was under Polish domination. Of course, he might have been a real Pole or a Polish (or Ukrainian) Jew.

Apparently he was an itinerant preacher who had converted the then young Pobirokhin to his faith, and the two preached for some time together in the Tambov district. The argument that Pobirokhin was not the first Doukhobor leader, but had received the teaching already formulated, is supported by a legend recalled by elderly Doukhobors about Pobirokhin receiving all the teaching and wisdom from his saintly father, who had in turn received it from sources unknown.

Is it not possible that this Pole who preached in the Tambov area and the retired officer from Okhochee in Sloboda-Ukraine might be one and the same person? Both were foreigners and preached at roughly the same time.

And this brings to mind the Doukhobor legend of one of their early leaders named Edom. The name is not included in the Doukhobor psalm about their “righteous progenitors” – i.e., their leaders – but it does figure in other psalms, for example, in those declaring that Doukhobors adopted “marriage – holy, mysterious and divine – from Edom, his holy soul”. Edom is a variant of the Biblical name Esau – i.e., the son of Isaac the patriarch, whom the Doukhobors revere as wise, holy and immortal. This legend and its inclusion in the psalms may be seen as confirming the account of the Polish Jew who taught truths to the Doukhobors in the village of Goreloye.

Another Doukhobor legend says that Illarion Pobirokhin spent his youth in Kiev, where he built an Orthodox cathedral. It is possible that the young Illarion might have been in Kiev, and might have travelled through the villages of Sloboda-Ukraine where he could have become acquainted with the Doukhobor teachings, along with the preacher (Edom) with whom he would later appear in Tambov and eventually replace.

It is known that in 1765 the Tambov Doukhobors were paying special homage to Pobirokhin. Interestingly enough, Pobirokhin was never registered as a resident of Goreloye; he lived there illegally. After 1765 we lose track of him, and his name is not mentioned in a single court case. Apparently he moved away from Goreloye to some other place, probably to Ekaterinoslav Province, where the centre of the Doukhobor faith also moved to in the 1770s – specifically, to the village of Bogdanovka.

There seems to be no reason to consider Siluan Kolesnikov, mentioned in the “Note of 1791”, a “Doukhobor Christ” as Pobirokhin was held to be, and Edom before him. Kolesnikov was simply an ordinary Doukhobor preacher. Following Pobirokhin there appeared a new leader – Savely Kapustin, who is often referred to as Pobirokhin’s son, though most likely a “spiritual son”. There is reason to believe that Edom, Pobirokhin and Kapustin were all generally recognized Doukhobor leaders, whose collective activity spanned the whole of the 18th century.

The level of organization of the Doukhobor sect in the 1760s and 1770s is indeed amazing: passport control, poor roads and a lack of means of communication notwithstanding, the Doukhobors of various regions knew where their fellow sect members lived; they had common financial resources which they could use to bribe their members’ way out of prison and afford them monetary assistance; as in secret conspiratorial societies they had passwords and degrees of admission into secret circles. Unlike the Molokans, the Doukhobors had no dissidents. All of which testifies to the unusually strong sacred authority of the leader.

The questions surrounding the early period of Doukhobor history are far from being exhausted. If we delve into other periods of their history there is no doubt that we shall find a similarly vast area ripe for scientific research. Unfortunately, Doukhobor history has not only been poorly studied, but it has been largely mythologized, and we shall be still breaking down myths and filling in the gaps well into the twenty-first century.

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

To order copies of the book in which this article was originally published, The Doukhobor Centenary in Canada, A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective on their Unity and Diversity, contact: Penumbra Press, Box 940, Manotick, Ontario, K4M 1A8, Tel: (613) 692-5590, Web: http://www.penumbrapress.ca.

For more online articles about the Doukhobors by Svetlana A. Inikova, see Doukhobor Holidays and Rituals in the Caucasus as well as Leo Tolstoy’s Teachings and the Sons of Freedom in Canada.

Quaker Visit to the Dukhobortsy, 1819

Passages by William Allen and Stephen Grellet

In 1819, two Quaker missionaries visiting Russia, William Allen and Stephen Grellet, at the suggestion of Tsar Alexander I, travelled to the Dukhobortsy living on the Molochnaya River. Both kept journals and recorded their impressions. The following accounts are reproduced from Grellet’s “Memoirs of the Life and Gospel Labours of Stephen Grellet” (Longstreth, Philadelphia, 1862) and Allen’s “Life of William Allen” (Longstreth, Philadelphia, 1847). Together they are the earliest surviving descriptions by western observers of Doukhobor religious practices.  They also reveal the Quaker missionaries’ distress at the deep doctrinal differences they encountered with their Doukhobor hosts.  Foreword and afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. 

Foreword

In 1818, two members of the Society of Friends, English philanthropist William Allen (1770-1843) and French-born American evangelist Stephen Grellet (1773-1855) embarked on an extensive missionary tour of Europe designed to establish a network of correspondents “who have at heart the promotion of real vital religion…”.  They visited most countries and were respectfully granted meetings with many rulers and dignitaries with whom they discussed their Quaker beliefs.

In November of 1818 Allen and Grellet arrived in St. Petersburg, Russia where they met with prominent members of the Russian nobility.  In February of 1819, they had an audience with Tsar Alexander I whom they first met in London in 1814, at which time he showed a great interest in the Quaker faith.  The Tsar warmly recalled their previous meeting “saying that this meeting provided for him cheer and firmness of spirit…”  When the Quakers informed Alexander of their intention to tour parts of the Russian Empire, the Tsar observed that they “should be pleased with some of the people (i.e. sectarians) in the South….”

Allen and Grellet travelled to southern Russia in the spring of 1819.  In Tavria province, the Quakers first visited the Mennonite village of Altona.  From there, on May 29 and 30, 1819, they journeyed about five versts (an Imperial Russian unit of measure equal to 1.0668 km) to the Doukhobor village of Terpeniye, accompanied by German-born Superintendent of the Tavria Colonies, Samuel Contenius (1749-1830) and their Mennonite host.  In Terpeniye, the visitors were conducted to the Sirotsky Dom (Orphan’s Home) where they met with a group of several Doukhobors.  They recorded the following accounts of their visit.

William Allen’s Account

In the evening, Contenius and our host accompanied us a distance of about five versts to Terpeniye, a village where there is a settlement of one of the sects of the Dukhobortsy.  We crossed the Molochnaya river, and on our arrival, were conducted to the house where they are in the practice of meeting on public occasions, and where we found several of the fraternity.  They were well dressed according to the custom of the country, but there was something in their countenances which I did not quite like.

William Allen (1770-1843)

We had some conversation through Contenius, and informed them that we had heard in England of the persecution they had endured, and also of the humane interposition of the Emperor, on their behalf, – that while we had felt sympathy with them in their sufferings, we wished to know from themselves what were their religious principles.  It soon appeared, however, that they have no fixed principles; there was a studied evasion in their answers, and though they readily quoted texts, it is plain they do not acknowledge the authority of scripture, and have some very erroneous notions.  I was anxious to ascertain their belief respecting our Saviour, but could learn nothing satisfactory.

Stephen endeavoured, through Contenius, to convince them of their errors on some points, but they appear in a very dark state; they have driven out from among them, all those persons called Dukhobortsy, who receive scriptural truth, and who are of the class with whom we were so much pleased at Ekaterinoslav.  My spirit was greatly affected, and I came away from them much depressed.

The following morning (First-day) was also spent with the Dukhobortsy; a considerable number attended what they called their worship, but some of their ceremonies were painful to witness.  They manifested great ignorance on the subject of religion, and the interview did not prove more satisfactory than that on the preceding day.  An opportunity was however afforded for some gospel labour among them.

Stephen Grellet’s Account

29th of Fifth month. This afternoon we went to the principal village of the Dukhobortsy; they inhabit several others near. We went to the abode of the chief man among them. He is ninety years old, nearly blind, but very active in body and mind. He appears to be a robust, strong man. Fourteen others of their elders or chief men were with him. We had a long conference with them. He was the chief speaker. We found him very evasive in several of his answers to our inquiries.

They however stated unequivocally, that they do not believe in the authority of the Scriptures. They look upon Jesus Christ in no other light than that of a good man. They therefore have no confidence in him as a Saviour from sin. They say that they believe that there is a spirit in man, to teach and lead him in the right way, and in support of this they were fluent in the quotation of Scripture texts, which they teach to their children; but they will not allow any of their people to have a Bible among them.

We inquired about their mode of worship. They said they met together to sing some of the Psalms of David. Respecting their manner of solemnizing their marriages, they declined giving an answer; but a very favourite reply to some of our questions, was, “the letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.” We found however that they have no stated times for their meetings for worship; but that tomorrow, which is First-day, they intend to have one, and this, they said we might attend, and see for ourselves. We left them with heavy hearts and returned to Altona.

Stephen Grellet (1773-1855)

First-day, 30th. I had a sleepless night; my mind being under great weight of exercise for the Dukhobortsy. I felt much for these people, thus darkened by their leaders, and I did not apprehend that I should stand acquitted in the Divine sight, without seeking for an opportunity to expostulate with them, and to proclaim that salvation which comes by Jesus Christ. It appeared best to go back to their village, and see what opportunity the Lord would open for it, after their meeting, whilst they are all congregated. My dear Allen and Contenius felt very tenderly with me on the occasion. We rode again to their village in the morning; having previously appointed a meeting here among the Mennonites to be held in the afternoon.

The Dukhobortsy collected, at about ten o’clock, on a spacious spot of ground out of doors; they all stood, forming a large circle; all the men on the left hand of the old man, and the women on his right; the children of both sexes formed the opposite side of the circle; they were all cleanly dressed; an old woman was next to the old man: she began by singing what they call a Psalm; the other women joined in it; then the man next the old man, taking him by the hand, stepped in front of him, each bowed down very low to one another three times and then twice to the women, who returned the salute; that man resuming his place, the one next to him performed the same ceremony to the old man, and to the women; then, by turns, all the others, even the boys, came and kissed three times the one in the circle above him, instead of bowing. When the men and boys had accomplished this, the women did the same to each other; then the girls; the singing continuing the whole time.

It took them nearly an hour to perform this round of bowing and kissing; then the old woman, in a fluent manner, uttered what they called a prayer, and their worship concluded; but no seriousness appeared over them at any time.

O how was my soul bowed before the Lord, earnestly craving that he would touch their hearts by his power and love! I felt also much towards the young people. I embraced the opportunity to preach the Lord Jesus Christ, and that salvation which is through faith in him; “If ye believe not that I am He, (the Christ the Son of God,) ye shall die in your sins.” I entreated them to try what manner of spirit they are of; for many spirits are gone out into the world; and “hereby know we the Spirit of God; every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, is not of God; but this is that spirit of Antichrist,” &c.

Whilst I was speaking, the old men appeared restless; they invited me several times to retire to the house, but I could not do so till I had endeavoured to relieve my mind of the great concern I felt for them; many of the people were very attentive, and the Truth appeared to reach their hearts. We then went into the house with the old men; they had a few things to say, but not to any more satisfaction than yesterday. We left them with heavy hearts, and returned to Altona.

Afterword

Allen and Grellet arrived in the village of Terpeniye the evening of May 29, 1819. A religious colloquy took place between the Quakers and the Doukhobors, during which the latter were asked to expound on their religious principles. The colloquy, which at times became more of a dispute, touched on the authority of Scripture, divinity of Christ, Doukhobor worship services and marriage rites. Allen and Grellet then returned to Altona for the night. They returned the following morning of May 30, 1819 and attended a moleniye (prayer service) which they dutifully described. The Quakers then attempted some “gospel labour” but the Doukhobors proved unresponsive to the missionaries’ entreaties. Allen and Grellet again returned to Altona “with heavy hearts”.

Remarkably, the names of the Doukhobors whom Allen and Grellet met with and held religious debate have been preserved in historical records. In Orest Markovich Novitsky’s classic work, Dukhobortsy: ikh istoriia i verouchenie (Kiev: Universitetskaia tip., 1882), widely regarded as the most substantial and comprehensive treatment of Doukhobor history in the nineteenth century, it is recorded that the Quakers met with those Doukhobors held to be the “main teachers” and “mentors” in their colony.  Their names are recorded by Novitsky as follows: from Terpeniye – Vasily Kalmykov, the son of Kapustin, Aleksander Krylov, Matvey Kuchaev, Grigory Malen’kov, Kirill Kolesnikov, Ivan Barbin, Fatei Zhikharev, Sergei Sukharev, Grigory Remez, Nikolai Zakharov and Stepan Tikhonov; from Goreloye – Abrosim Tomilin, Gavriil Sorokin, Ivan Ostryakov, Trofim Kalmykov and Ivlii Kudrin; from Orekhov (or Rodionovka) – Semeyon Perepelkin and his son Ivan; from Bogdanovka -Yakov Peregudov; from Kirilovka – Timofei Khudyakov and his son Ivlii, and Ivan Ishchenkov; from Troitskoye – Mikhail Bezlepkin, Mikhail Stroev; and in Spasskoye – Abram Samoylov. According to Novitsky, the discussion between the Quakers and Doukhobors was dominated by Grigory Malen’kov and Grigory Remez, who willingly joined in the religious debate, which lasted as much as half a day, and whose responses to the Quakers’ questions “did honour to the most clever sophist”.  The revered Doukhobor leader Savely Kapustin was not himself present at the debate, as he was then in hiding from Tsarist authorities. 

In any case, the visit proved to be deeply disappointing for Allen and Grellet. They found the Doukhobors to be “very evasive” in several of their replies to their inquiries. What the Quakers did not take sufficiently into account, however, was the intensity of persecution that had made the Doukhobors evolve evasion as a means of dealing with the authorities or with passing strangers. On some points, however, the Doukhobors made no attempt to conceal their religious views. They “stated unequivocally” that they denied the divine authority of the Scriptures and looked upon Christ in no other light than as a good man; views which scandalized the evangelical-based Quakers. Moreover, the Quakers, whose own worship services were characterized by strict silence and solemnity, were prudishly upset by the lack of “seriousness” they observed at the Doukhobor moleniye and by the rounds of bowing and kissing which they found “painful to watch”. Overall, the Quakers’ disapproval of the Doukhobor variety of folk Christianity implies a certain intolerance and insensitivity, tinged with religious bigotry.

View Tavria Doukhobor Villages, 1802-1845 in a larger map

The Quakers did not return to Terpeniye, but they encountered groups of Doukhobors elsewhere. On May 24, 1819 in the city of Simferopol, Allen and Grellet met with “five or six of the people called Dukhobortsy”. This group, the Quakers decided, was “of the right sort” because they “prized” the Scriptures. Similarly, on June 10, 1819 in the town of Nikolaev the Quaker pair “met a number of the Dukhobortsy”. This group had read the Scriptures and had “seen the gross errors under which they had been.” The Quakers concluded, however, that “their eyes [were] only partially opened…”. The Nikolaev Doukhobors told Grellet that “several” of the Molochnaya Doukhobors desired to read the Scriptures and that “they [the Molochnaya group] think that they see farther than their old men and elders.” Unlike the Molochnaya Doukhobors, who under the magnetic influence of their leader Savely Kapustin (1843-1819) had rejected the divine authority of the Scriptures, these groups still maintained the earlier Doukhobor tendency to follow the Bible as well as their Living Book. Moreover, in Nikolaev, the Quakers also encountered a group of Molokans who “were originally Dukhobortsy…”. These individuals told Allen that “many” of the Molochnaya Doukhobors “read the Scriptures privately, and teach their children to read them.”

The visit of Allen and Grellet to the Molochnaya, while painfully depressing for the Quakers, was to become for the Doukhobors a fondly memorable event. Eighty years later, during the voyage to their new Canadian home in 1899, a group of Doukhobors gathered in the cabin of a steamship and spoke warmly with appreciation of the Allen and Grellet visit to Joseph Elkinton, an American Quaker assisting in their migration to Canada. Interestingly, the Doukhobors told of a prophecy, purportedly from Grellet, which foretold of their persecution, exile and final deliverance to a foreign country “among a people of a different language.” There, the prophecy continued, the Doukhobors would prosper and be visited by members of the Quaker brotherhood. While the prophecy is no doubt apocryphal, it demonstrates the spiritual significance which the Allen and Grellet visit acquired among Doukhobors over the years that followed.

To read more, search, download, save and print a full PDF copy of Memoirs of the Life and Gospel Labours of Stephen Grellet  by Stephen Grellet (Longstreth, Philadelphia, 1862) or Life of William Allen by William Allen (Longstreth, Philadelphia, 1847) visit the Google Book Search database.

Several Characteristics of Doukhobor Society, 1805

p>Translated by Robert Pinkerton

In 1805, a “gentleman of the highest respectability” in St. Petersburg, Russia composed a tract entitled “Nekotorye cherty ob obshchestve Dukhobortsev” [“Several Characteristics of Doukhobor Society”]. It was a sympathetic exposition of the religious and social teachings of the Dukhobortsy. Ten years later, the tract was published as an appendix to Robert Pinkerton’s translation of “The Present State of the Greek Church in Russia” by Metropolitan Platon of Moscow (New York: Collins and Col, 1815). Reproduced below, it contains the earliest systematic account of Doukhobor religious doctrine and provides invaluable historic insights into the belief system of our Doukhobor ancestors. Editorial comments and afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

From among the common peasants, who are in general not only illiterate, but strongly attached to the external ceremonies of religion, there sprung up all at once a sect, in the middle of the last century, that not only threw aside all the ceremonies and rites of the Greek church, but who also rejected baptism and the Lord’s supper.

A sect of this description could not long remain unnoticed, or be secure from molestation, both by their neighbours and by government, especially as both were unacquainted with their principles. Accordingly, they suffered from all quarters continual persecution, being constantly exposed to reproach, and not infrequently to imprisonment. In their intercourse with their neighbours, they endured the most abusive language, and other insults; and all were ready to construe every action of their lives in such a way, as to point them out the disturbers of the public peace, and as the offscouring of society.

The higher departments of government judged of them according to the reports of the lower departments; and hence many of them were sent into exile, as if they had been the worst of criminals. In this manner the persecution of the Dukhobortsy continued, with few intermissions, until the reign of the humane and peaceable Alexander I.

Robert Pinkerton (1780-1859), agent of the British and Foreign Bible Society in Russia who translated  the 1805 tract.

In 1801, the senators Lopukhin and Neledinsky, being sent to review the state of affairs in the government of the Ukraine (Sloboda-Ukraine province, Russia – ed.), were the first who represented these people to the emperor in a true light. According to their representations, his Majesty granted the scattered Dukhobortsy permission to remove from the governments of Ukraine and Malorus (“Little Russia”, the Ukrainian provinces of Russia – ed.) and to settle at a place called Molochnye Vody, in the government of Tavria. Here the Dukhobortsy formed two settlements in 1804, and their brethren from the governments of Voronezh and Tavria were also permitted to settle along with them.

The name Dukhobortsy was already given to this sect in 1788, probably by the then-Archbishop of Ekaterinoslav Amvrossi, who, by this designation, no doubt intended to point out the heresy contained in their doctrines; for Dukhoborets literally signifies a wrestler with the spirit. Formerly they were called by government Ikonobortsy, on account of their rejecting, with other things, the use of pictures (ikons – ed.) in their worship. But the Dukhobortsy call themselves Christians, and all other people they denominate men of the world.

The origin of this sect is altogether unknown to its present members; for they are in general illiterate, and they possess no written history of the founders of their sect. Their traditionary story affirms, that they are the descendants of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abedriego, who suffered for not falling down to worship the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar. No doubt they intend to intimate by this, that they not only suffer, but are willing to suffer, rather than worship the ikons, or observe the external rites and ceremonies of the Greek church.

The Dukhobortsy, till of late, had been very much scattered in different parts of the empire; seldom could as many of them be found in one place as to form a separate village. But, exclusive of those in the southern provinces above-mentioned, they are dispersed throughout the governments of Caucasus, the Don Cossacks, and Arkhangel’ in Lapland, and even in Irkutsk, and Kamchatka.

They say also that there are many of their members in Germany and Turkey; but that they are more persecuted in Germany than even among the Mohammedans.

The communication which they have with each other is only occasional; as when any of their number travels into distant provinces on business; however, when affairs of importance happen among them, they send some of their members expressly to give information.

Excepting their principles of faith, the Dukhobortsy, in their domestic and social life, may serve as examples to all other sects. In 1792, the governor of Ekaterinoslav, Kokhovsky, in his reports to the general procurator, Vesemskoy, at that time represents the Dukhobortsy as leading most exemplary lives; being sober and industrious, diligent in their occupations, and of good and gentle dispositions. The taxes, and other public obligations, they pay and perform punctually, and in this respect were always before their neighbour peasants; otherwise the agents of government in the villages were ever ready to catch an occasion to harass them. Laziness and drunkenness are vices not suffered among them; so that those who are infected with such sins are excluded from their society.

As soon as we approach, however, and take a view of their creed, we at once see the contrast between it and that of their surrounding neighbours. The Dukhobortsy never enter the national churches, or bow before the pictures in time of prayer; they do not cross themselves, or observe the appointed fasts; they take no part in the joys and corrupt deeds of the men of the world. These are causes sufficient to separate them for ever from the company of the other peasants, and to expose them to continual persecution.

The Dukhobortsy affirm that every external rite, in regard to salvation, is of no avail whatever, and that the outward church, in consequence of her corruption, is now become a den of thieves. On this account, they confess that alone to be the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church, which the Lord gathered by his appearance, which he enlightens, and adorns, by the gifts of the Holy Ghost, and which on this account is the company of the faithful, or of true believers, in all ages.

In this persuasion they frequently have meetings among themselves, but have no stated place appointed for this purpose, as they account every place alike holy; hence these meetings are held in the first convenient place they can find. Neither do they appoint any particular days for this purpose, accounting all days alike. They have, therefore, no holidays, but their meetings are frequently held on the holidays appointed by the church, when other people are not engaged in labour; for if they were to work on the holidays of their neighbours, they say, they should subject themselves to double persecution, and might be represented as disobedient to the laws of the empire.

Each of them is at liberty to hold a meeting in his own house, and to invite such of his brethren as are near him to attend. In such meetings, they always sup together; and should the brother in whose house the meeting is held not be able to provide food sufficient to entertain his guests, in that case they either send themselves, before hand, provisions for this purpose, or bring them along with them.

Being assembled, they salute one another; the men salute the men, and the females the females, by taking each other by the right hand, and thrice bowing and kissing one another; at the same time every one pronounces a short prayer. These three bows and three embraces, they perform in the name of the three one (tripartite – ed.) God, to the purifying of the flesh, and to the rooting out of pride. They take each other by the hand as a mark of their union in love, in calling, in knowledge of judgment, and of the unseen God, who is within them.

In the course of the meeting, they pray one after another, sing psalms, and explain the word of God; but as the greater part of them are unable to read, most of this is performed in their assemblies extemporaneously. They have no appointed priests, but confess Jesus Christ alone to be the only just, holy, pure, undefiled priest, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens; he also is their only Teacher. In their assemblies they instruct each other from the Scriptures; every one speaks according to the grace given him, to the admonishing and comforting of his brethren. Even women are not excluded from this privilege; for they say, “Have not women enlightened understandings as well as men?” They pray standing or sitting, just as it happens. At the end of the meeting they again embrace each other thrice, as at the beginning, and then separate.

What has been said above of their time and place of meeting, regards in particular those Dukhobortsy who are scattered among the villages of the peasants (Orthodox – ed.); but those that are settled at the Molochnye Vody have their meetings in the open air when the weather permits, in two circles, the one of men, and the other of women.

The virtue which shines with greatest lustre among the Dukhobortsy is brotherly love. They have no particular private property, all things are common. After their settling at the Molochnye Vody, they were enabled to put this in practice without any hindrance; for they laid all their private property together, so that now they have one general purse, one general flock, and in their two villages two common magazines for corn, out of which every brother takes according to his wants.

They are also hospitable to strangers, and entertain most of them at the expense of their society, having a house built for the express purpose of accommodating strangers. They are also praised for their compassion to such as are in distress; even the governors of the places where they live have borne testimony to the readiness with which the Dukhobortsy assist their neighbours in affliction. Solomon’s maxim is strictly observed among them, “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast,” Proverbs xii. 10.

Their children are in the strictest subjection to their parents, and, in general, young people among them pay the most profound respect to the aged; though at the same time, their parents and elders do not assume any superior power, as it were, over them, accounting them equal in spirit with themselves.

They have no kind of punishments among them except expulsion from their society; and this takes place only for such transgressions, as prove the person evidently to have lost the spirit of Christianity, since, were such a one suffered to remain among them, he would become a stumbling block to the brethren. But as soon as any of them observes a brother guilty of a transgression, he reproves him for his fault, according to the spirit of the gospel. If this is not laid to heart, he is then admonished before two or more. Should he still remain impenitent, he is finally brought before the whole society; after which, in case of contumacy, he is excommunicated from their society.

Metropolitan Platon of Moscow (1737-1812), author of “The Present State…”. It is unlikely that he wrote the 1805 tract.

It sometimes happens, though seldom, that individuals leave their society without having done any thing to deprive them of its privileges, for no other reason but to have liberty to live as they please; and it has even happened that wives have left their husbands from the same cause. Such they do not restrain; but grant them liberty to depart if they will, and divide with them a share of their common property. But those who are excluded from their society, and also such as leave it, may again be admitted, if they give evidence of their repentance, and quit their sinful courses, of which there have been few instances.

Their occupations are regulated according to the knowledge of individuals among them. Hence, the merchant engages in merchandize, and the husbandman in agriculture. But as the greater part of them are husbandmen, so the cultivation of the ground is their chief employment; and in their estimation, this employment is more honourable than all others.

In their society they have no superior powers, such as magistrates to govern and command; but the society at large governs itself and each individual in it, and they have neither written laws, nor regulations of any kind. Judging according to the spirit of common people in general, it might be expected that the Dukhobortsy would be often troubled with divisions; this however, seldom happens; for at the Molochnye Vody, we find frequently two or three young families all living together in one house.

In respect to the government of their families, the weakness of the female sex, inexperience of youth, and education of children, naturally require the superintendence of age and experience, to preserve order. Hence it naturally follows, that in every family the father is the governor, who is bound to care for the wants of his family, to look after the conduct of his children, to correct their faults, and teach them the law of God. When the father dies, the eldest son succeeds him.

The manner of educating children among the Dukhobortsy is simple, and peculiar to themselves. As soon as a child begins to speak, the parents teach him to get by heart, short prayers and psalms, and relate to him such passages out of sacred history as are calculated to engage his attention. In this manner they continue to instruct their children, till they are of age, in the doctrines of the gospel. When the children have thus learned by heart several prayers and Psalms, they go along with others to their meetings, repeat their prayers, and sing Psalms with the rest. But the Dukhobortsy look upon it as the duty of every parent, not only to instruct his own children, hut also, when opportunity occurs, to teach those of his neighbour also, and to restrain them from folly and sin wherever he observes it.

In this way, the sentiments of the parents are, by little and little, formed in the minds of their children, and are rooted in their young minds by the exemplary conduct of their parents. Hence, it has been observed, that the children of the Dukhobortsy are distinguished among all other children, like stalks of wheat among oats.

1. The chief and distinguishing dogma of the Dukhobortsy is, the worshipping God in spirit and in truth; and hence they reject all external rites as not being necessary in the work of salvation.

2. They hold no particular creed, but only say, in regard to themselves, that they are of the law of God, and of the faith of Jesus. The symbol of faith of the Greek church or the Nicene creed they not only respect, but confess all that it contains to be truth; they merely, however, assign it a place among their common Psalms.

3. They confess one God in three persons (the Trinity – ed.) incomprehensible. They believe that in memory we resemble God the Father, in intelligence God the Son, and in will God the Holy Ghost. Also, that the first person is the Father of light, our God; the second person, the Son of life, our God; and the third person is holy rest, the Spirit of our God. The likeness of the three one God: the Father is height, the Son is breadth, the Holy Ghost is depth. These also they take in a moral sense. The Father is high, and none can comprehend him; the Son is broad in intelligence; and the Holy Ghost is deep, past searching out.

4. The conceptions they have of Christ are founded on the doctrines of the gospel; they confess his incarnation, his acts, doctrines, and sufferings; but in general, they take all this in a spiritual sense, and affirm that all that is said in the gospel must be perfected in us. Thus, Christ must be begotten in us, be born in us, grow up in us, teach in us, suffer in us, die in us, rise again from the dead in us, and ascend into heaven in us; and in these different acts they understand the process of regeneration, or of a man’s being born again. They say, that Jesus himself is, and was, the eternal and living gospel, and that he sent out his disciples to preach himself in the word; for he himself is the word, which is written only on the hearts of those who believe in him.

5. They believe that in God and in his Christ alone salvation is to be found; but that if a man does not call upon God out of a pure heart, even God himself cannot save him.

6. To the salvation of man, unfeigned faith in Christ is absolutely necessary; but faith without works being dead, so also works without faith are dead. True and living faith is a hearty reception of the gospel.

7. With respect to baptism, they say that they are baptized by the word, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, as Christ commanded his apostles, saying, “Go ye and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” That this baptism takes place when a man truly repents, and in the sincerity of his heart crieth unto God; then his sins are forgiven him, and his affections are no more set upon the world but upon God. This is the only baptism which they confess for the remission of sins.

Regeneration and spiritual baptism are, in their opinion, one and the same thing. The means of attaining regeneration are a living faith in God and prayer. The marks of the regenerated, or of one’s being baptized from above, are the works of the new man. However, this baptism they hold to have seven degrees: 1st, Baptism for the remission of sins. 2d, Anointing with ointment, that is, the understanding of ointment, or the knowledge of the ways of the Lord. 3d, The understanding the word of the Lord. 4th, The anointing with holy oil, or the unction of prayer. 5th, Spiritual confession. 6th, Spiritual communion. And 7th, the agony of blood, or humility. These seven degrees also signify their union with God. If any one has attained to an union with God, which they place in the seven degrees of spiritual baptism or regeneration, such a one lives in God, and by his spiritual eyes can behold the angels.

They look upon external baptism with water as of no use, and say that it only washes off the impurities of the body.

8. They believe that to every Christian are given two names, one by his parents when he is born, and another by his heavenly Father at his spiritual baptism, according to his works. This last name is unknown on earth, but shall be made known in heaven.

9. Those who confess their sins to their heavenly Father, who is infinitely good and merciful, shall receive the remission of their sins by means of faith and prayer. Those who sin against their brethren among the Dukhobortsy confess their faults before all, and beg forgiveness of those they have offended. They who are known to conceal their sins, are by them accounted great transgressors; if any one after a third admonition does not make confession, they exclude him from their society.

They severely condemn such as call themselves sinners, and who by their feigned confessions, seek after a sort of humility which is founded in pride, or who try by confessions, to excuse themselves; but are not careful to reform their lives. When a man falls, they say, he ought immediately to rise again, ask forgiveness of God with a contrite spirit, and resist with all his might temptations to a similar fall in future.

10. In regard to the Lord’s supper, they say, that they always communicate in the holy and life-giving, immortal and awful mysteries of Christ to the remission of sins, by spiritually and internally receiving into themselves the word of God which is Christ; and such communion, they say, penetrates the judgment of man, through bones and marrow. But the ordinance of communicating of the body and blood of Christ, under the symbols of bread and wine, they do not receive; for they say, that bread and wine enter the mouth, like our common food, and are of no advantage whatever to the soul.

Ivan Vladimirovich Lopukhin (1756-1816), the most likely author of the 1805 tract.

11. They place fasting, not in abstaining from food of any kind, but in abstinence from gluttony and other vices: in parity, in humility, and meekness of spirit. Abstinence from flesh, they say, is of no advantage to the soul.

12. They respect departed saints, but do not invoke them for help, saying, that in pleasing God they benefited themselves, and that we ought only to follow their example. This they call invoking their good works.

They do not, however, consider the actions of those who have pleased God to have been indiscriminately holy.

13. They do not hold marriage to be a sacrament. It is constituted among them simply by the mutual consent of the parties. And as there are no distinctions among the Dukhobortsy of family or rank, so the parents, in general, do not interfere in the marriages of their children. They have scarcely any sort of ceremony on such an occasion; a reciprocal consent, and promise before witnesses that the parties resolve to live together, is sufficient. Sometimes, however, this mutual consent is not made evident till the bride has become a mother. But whenever a man is known to have seduced a woman, he cannot refuse to make her his wife; otherwise he is excluded from their society. Oh the death of one of the parties, the other is at liberty to marry again, even a third time, which, however, seldom happens; for they say Christians ought to subdue their sensual desires.

14. They preserve the memory of their departed friends only by imitating their good deeds; for they neither pray for nor to them. They say, the Lord himself will remember them in his kingdom. But they do not style the departure of a brother out of this world death, but call it a change; and hence they do not say, our brother is dead, but our brother is changed.

They have no particular ceremonies at burial, nor do they mourn over the change of their friends. When the Dukhobortsy lived in persecution, they buried their dead in the common burying places; but since persecution has ceased against them, and they are known, they bury their dead in their own particular burying grounds.

15. They believe in the creation and fall of man, as stated in the Holy Scriptures, that is, that his body is taken from the earth, and that God breathed into him the breath of life. That before his fall his soul was pure and holy, and his body was vigorous and perfect; or, as they express it, he lived in a body of gentleness.

The Dukhobortsy say, that the flesh of man is made of earth, his bones of stone, his sinews of roots, the blood of water, his hair of grass, his thoughts he receiveth from the wind, and grace from heaven. This may explain their common proverb: “Man is a little world” (microcosm – ed.). In regard to the soul of man, they say that the soul is power, power in God, and God in man.

16. Concerning original sin, they believe, that from wicked parents are born wicked children; nevertheless, they affirm, that the sins of the parents do not hinder the salvation of their children; and that with respect to salvation; every one shall render an account to God for himself.

17. In respect to the future state of the righteous, they say that the kingdom is in power, and paradise in words; that the souls of the righteous are in the hands of God, and therefore no harm can come near them. Of the sufferings of the wicked, and of hell, they say, that the souls of the wicked wander in darkness, ever in expectation of sudden destruction, and that hell is founded on wrath.

Of the destination of the soul after death, they say that a man’s actions will either justify or condemn him; and therefore, that the works of men in this world bring every one to his place in the next, in which there is no repentance.

18. With regard to the resurrection of the righteous and the wicked at the last day, with their present bodies, the Dukhobortsy do not determine any thing dogmatically, but leave that event entirely to God.

19. They, in general, conceal their opinions in regard to mysterious points, from those with whom they are not intimately acquainted, and justify themselves by the words of our Saviour, “Cast not your pearls before swine.” They say this is not the time to reveal these things; but that ere long they shall be made manifest unto all.

In like manner, in regard to the second coming of the Saviour, they say, that judging from the events which now take place in the world, we may expect him soon.

20. They do not consider it to be essential to salvation that a man should be a member of their society; they say that it is necessary only to understand the ways of the Lord, and to walk in them, and to fulfill his will, for that this is the way of salvation.

21. The Dukhobortsy call the theatre the school of Satan, where he himself and his agents preside. They compare those who dance either on the stage or in private companies to young geese, which in spring, go out with their dame and frolic upon the green, but still, they say, they are but geese, and have no knowledge of God, and when the frost comes they sit with their heads beneath their wings, and hide their feet from the cold.

22. They are distinguished for the orderly and cleanly manner in which they live; and they say, that it is becoming in a Christian to live in this way. In regard to having the pictures or portraits of eminent men or of saints in our dwellings, they observe that they serve to adorn the house, and are agreeable to the eyes; but, to worship before them, they consider as a mortal sin.

23. Of shaving the beard and making use of tobacco, which some Raskolniks (schismatics – ed.) look on as sinful, they say that as neither the one nor the other makes a Christian, therefore they are both matters of indifference. That if it were proper for them as peasants to shave the beard, they would have no objections to do so.

24. When the Dukhobortsy lived in a concealed manner, necessity obliged them to conform to many of the external usages of the Greek church; but as they paid no internal respect to them, they concealed their real opinions by giving to every article and ceremony of the external service a different name and a spiritual signification; thus, for instance, in regard to the five loaves of shewbread, they called the first, the union of the true faith; the second, unfeigned love; the third, the value of the knowledge of truth; the fourth, the reception of the holy mysteries; the fifth, the enlightener. Being accustomed to express their ideas in this allegorical manner, they give a moral signification to many other objects.

Thus, to every day of the week they give the following denominations by way of short moral lessons.

Monday. Understand the works of the Lord.

Tuesday. Regeneration.

Wednesday. The Lord calleth the people to salvation.

Thursday. Bless the Lord all ye his saints.

Friday. Sing praises to the name of the Lord.

Saturday. Fear the judgment of the Lord, that thy soul be not ruined by iniquity.

Sunday. Arise from your dead works, and come to the kingdom of heaven.

The seven heavens they distinguish by the seven following gospel graces. The first heaven is humility; the second, understanding; the third, self-denial; the fourth, brotherly love; the fifth, mercy; the sixth, counsel; the seventh, love, where God himself reigneth. In like manner, these twelve Christian virtues, they denominate the twelve friends. These friends are:

1. Truth. Which saveth man from death.

2. Purity. Which bringeth man to God.

3. Love. Where love is, there God is.

4. Labours. Honourable to the body, and beneficial to the soul.

5. Obedience. The nearest way to salvation.

6. Not judging. The salvation of man without difficulty.

7. Understanding. The first of virtues.

8. Mercy. By the merciful man, Satan himself is made to tremble.

9. Subjection. The work of Christ himself, our God.

10. Prayer and fasting. Which unite man with God.

11. Repentance. Than which, there is no law, and no commandment higher.

12. Thanksgiving. Pleasing to God and to his angels.

He who hath found these twelve friends, they say, is under the guidance of twelve angels, who, at last, will transport his soul to the kingdom of heaven.

As examples of their manner of prayer, we subjoin the two following, from among those which they use in their meetings:

First.

To whom shall I go but unto thee, O Lord; or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend unto heaven, lo, thou art there; if I descend into hell, lo, thou art there; if I take the wings of the morning and fly to the uttermost comers of the sea, there thy hand guides me, and thy right hand shall find me out. To whom shall I go, and where shall I find eternal life, except in thee, my Creator! To whom shall I go, and where shall I obtain comfort, joy, a refuge, and rest to my soul! To whom shall I go, and whither shall I fly from thee, my Lord and my God, for thou alone hast the words of eternal life in thy self? Thou art the fountain of life, and the giver of all good. My soul thirsteth for thee, my heart panteth for thee, O God, my life! I will rejoice in thy most holy name, and in my beloved Lord Jesus. Subdue my heart by him, and may he occupy my whole soul! Let nothing be dearer to me in life than thy most Holy Spirit. Let thy words be sweet unto my taste, and sweeter far to my mouth than the honey comb. Let thy favour ever be more desired by me than gold, and more precious than jewels. – Amen.

Second.

What reason have I to love thee, O Lord! For thou art my life; thou art my salvation, my glory, and praise; thou art my treasure, my eternal riches; thou art my hope and trust; thou art my joy and eternal rest. Shall I rather love vain things, or corrupting or ruinous things and things that are false, than thee my real life! Thou alone art my life and my salvation; therefore all my hopes and all my desires, and the panting of my soul are towards thee only. I will seek thee, O Lord, with my whole heart, with my whole soul, and with my whole mind. To thee alone, in the depths of my soul, I cry, to thee alone I will pour forth my supplications. I desire to be wholly in thee, and to have thee in me. I know and confess thee in truth, the one true God and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. In thy light, I shall behold light, and the grace of thy most Holy Spirit. – Amen.

25. The Dukhobortsy, who came to St. Petersburg in the year 1804 to entreat permission of the Emperor for their brethren to settle at the Molochnye Vody, and from whom many of the above particulars were taken, being ready to set out on their return, just on the eve of the festival of the birth of Christ, were entreated to stop and spend the holidays in that city. But they replied: “for us there is no difference of days, for our festivals are within us.” When they were also admonished, after receiving their privileges from government, that they should live in their new settlements in peace, and should not attempt to propagate their opinions in that quarter, they replied, “All that is needful is sown already; now the time of harvest is come, and not the seed-time.” *

* Most of these interesting particulars concerning the Dukhobortsy I have taken from a manuscript account of them in the Russian language, composed by a gentleman of the first respectability in Petersburg. I also perused this manuscript with a Russian nobleman, who, in 1808, was the civil governor of the province of Kherson and was well acquainted with the principles and character of the Dukhobortsy at Molochnye Vody.

Afterword

The 1805 tract has been acclaimed by many scholars to be the earliest systematic account published about the Doukhobors. Yet in spite of this, its author has yet to be positively identified.

Ostensibly, the tract was published in 1815 as part of the translated works of Metropolitan Platon (Levshin) of Moscow (1737-1812). However, the extreme sympathy of its author towards the Doukhobors would seem to preclude the cleric from being the original writer, given the hatred of the sect by the Orthodox clergy.

There is nothing to suggest that the tract was written by the Doukhobors themselves. The sectarians were largely illiterate and would have been loath to reduce their tenets to writing, lest it become a basis for further persecution. On the contrary, the style and substance of the tract suggests it was composed by someone well educated and highly conversant in the Russian literary language.

The most likely author of the tract is Ivan Vladimirovich Lopukhin (1756-1816), an envoy sent by Tsar Alexander I to investigate the Doukhobors in the southern provinces in 1801. Intellectually, Lopukhin was very receptive to Doukhoborism, and he is cited by several scholars as the “probable” author of the tract appearing in Platon’s volume. In the footnote at the end of the tract, the translator wrote that the “interesting particulars concerning the Dukhobortsi” were taken from a Russian language manuscript “composed by a gentleman of the first respectability in Petersburg.” In 1805, the date of composition assigned to the tract, Lopukhin was a senator, certainly a respectable position, who had first-hand experience with the Doukhobors. And as scholar Svetlana Inikova has observed, he had a motive to write the tract at that time. In 1805, Lopukhin was accused by the Orthodox heirarchy of helping the Doukhobors and of predisposing Tsar Alexander I favourably toward the sect. Right at the time he needed to justify himself, there appeared the “Nekotorye cherty ob obshchestve Dukhobortsev” [“Several Characteristics of Doukhobor Society”], painting the Doukhobors as a religious-philosophical movement completely loyal to the authorities.

In any event, the 1805 tract appended to Platon’s translated volume is generally regarded as a contemporary and accurate, if idealized, description of the Doukhobor faith. During his 1816 visit to Tavria province, the Doukhobors encountered by Robert Pinkerton (1780-1859) vouched for the veracity of the tract, and the Scottish missionary had the satisfaction of hearing them “distinctly state their principles in the very terms” of the document contained in his translation of Platon’s volume.

To read more, search, download, save and print a full PDF copy of “The Present State of the Greek Church in Russia” by Metropolitan Platon of Moscow, translated by Robert Pinkerton (New York: Collins and Col, 1815), visit the Google Book Search digital database.

The Dukhobortsy in Transcaucasia, 1854-1856

by Heinrich Johann von Paucker

During the Oriental (Crimean) War (1853-1856), Imperial Russian Army regiments stationed on the Caucasian Front were billeted in Dukhobor settlements. One such soldier was Heinrich Johann von Paucker, a young Baltic German military cadet quartered in the village of Rodionovka.  Paucker kept a journal and recorded his observations of his Dukhobor hosts, with whom he came in regular contact. Having a keen ethnographic eye, he documented the geography and climate, historical background, religious beliefs, customs and practices and religious services of this unique people – virtually unknown to western members of the Russian Empire. His account was published anonymously in German as “Die Duchoborzen in Transkaukasien” in the Baltic journal “Baltische Monatsschrift” (Volume 11, Riga: Jonck & Boliewsky, 1865, pp. 240-250); republished under his name in the German journal “Deutsche Rundschau für Geographie und Statistik” (Volume, 4, Lepzig: October; November 1881, pp. 18-21; 66-69). Available in English for the first time ever, this exclusive translation provides the reader with an extraordinarily rare, in-depth glimpse into this little-known period of Doukhobor history, for which few other published sources exist. Translated by Gunter Schaarschmidt for the Doukhobor Genealogy Website. Afterword and editorial comments by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

When roaming through the Great Russian Empire in its more distant parts, one comes upon ethnic groups and religions that are not known at all, or only known by name, to we Western members of the Empire. These groups and religions still offer the investigator a large scope for study. Included in these groups is the sect of the Dukhobortsy in Transcaucasia with whom I came in frequent contact during the last Oriental War [Russian name for the Crimean War, 1853-1856] because the regiment in which I had the honour of serving had been assigned to their villages for a base-camp during the winters of 1854-1855 and 1855-1856. This small ethnic group which dwells so far from the Motherland at the border of European civilization (one could almost say outside this civilization) was of such great interest to me in its isolation that I felt obliged to record my observations in writing. Perhaps they deserve a more general interest, too, especially since everything concerning the Schism in Russia [the Raskol or splitting of the Orthodox Church into an official church and the Old Believers movement in the 17th century] is covered by a veil of secrecy that has been lifted only in very recent times.

Geography and Climate

The land of the Dukhobortsy, the so-called Dukhoborye is located in the Western part of the Akhalkalakian circle and occupies the entire plain adjoining the Turkish border. This plain, almost 3,000 feet above sea level and traversed by low mountains that are covered by early snowfalls, is open only towards the Turkish side and gives the impression of a lifeless desert. The snow usually begins to fall in September and disappears in March but sometimes lingers into April. Nonetheless the cold is moderate and seldom exceeds 10-12˚ Réaumur [-12.5˚ to -15˚ Celsius]. But the amount of snow is quite significant and it is so loose that drifts are caused by the slightest of winds and this drifting snow can at times last for several days in a row. In the winter 1854-55 an entire village was literally buried by such a violent storm and there was not enough manpower to shovel away the snow mass, so that it became necessary to tear away the straw roofs of the stables in order to drop food and water through the openings for the animals.

The inhabitants don’t have much of a summer – in the short season they have to hurry to bring in the hay crop and prepare for the winter months. The hay is usually stored in the backyard in large bundles. The Dukhobortsy employ a strange unit of measure when they sell hay: they sell it by the cord – the price is approximately 9-12 rubles depending upon the amount and the quality of the hay. Hay is extremely important as a merchandise among the Dukhobortsy since their only source of [outside] income are loads of hay delivered for Crown and private enterprises. The Dukhobortsy keep relatively few cattle although the latter would be very necessary for them because the Kisyak or manure must be used in these bare, woodless steppes not only as a heating fuel but also for construction – you don’t find any wooden buildings at all. The walls of the houses are produced simply from Kisyak cut into blocks and are carefully whitewashed. There is no ceiling; instead there is a plain roof consisting of rafters and covered with a thick layer of straw. Nonetheless the huts are roomy and bright. The local Kisyak does not give off heavy fumes when heating, like among the Armenians, probably because the Dukhobortsy dry it very carefully and store it wrapped in straw in a shelter – a process that the Armenians should copy from their neighbours.

There is no way to grow grain [wheat] in these areas although the inhabitants have never tried to grow it and most probably spared themselves unnecessary labour. The land here seems really not capable of producing anything but grass. The impression of this lifeless steppe is very sad – there are miserable individual villages but no forest, no field, no garden or lawn, in some places there are meagre vegetable gardens in the yards. The inhabitants must buy the necessary grain for their consumption from the bazaars of Akhalkalaki or Alexandropol which are approximately 60-70 versts [an Imperial Russian unit of measure equal to 1.0668 kilometers] away. The climate is on the whole very unhealthy: people suffer often from fevers and many die from typhoid every year. However, many doctors are of the opinion that the diseases are rather the result of the close living quarters and the damp dwellings than of the unhealthy climate.

Historical Background

The Dukhobortsy attract our attention because of their religion that differentiates them both from the Greek Orthodox Church and from the other sects of Russia as well as because of the mysterious nature of their religion. One could call them the Quakers of the Greek church since like the latter they believe in the direct effect of the holy spirit; their main teachings, however, consist in their peculiar conceptualization of the soul, the mind, and the heart. They do not possess any written records that would elucidate their religious beliefs. These are laid down only in their oral tradition. But since the individuality of each person who hands down the tradition plays an important role, their dogmas are not as clear as seems to be the case with other sects. If the authorities had found a written record among them in the years of persecution, such a record would of course have been incontrovertible evidence of heresy.

The 16th and 17th centuries in Europe were a time of general turmoil and politico-religious revolutions; Russia, too, was not exempt from this. In Russia, the revision of the parish registers by Patriarch Nikon caused different interpretations (tolki). The so-called Old Believers adhered to the [old] ritual to the letter and sought to maintain the sanctity and inviolability of the Orthodox Church. However, others became opposed to the dogma itself – this trend eventually led to the formation of the Dukhobortsy sect. The many foreigners that the Tsar had called into Russia no doubt contributed to feeding the spirit of the religious disputes by importing many ideas from their old country into their new home country.

In the first years of their existence the Dukhobortsy, i.e., Spirit-Wrestlers, formed a single sect with the Ikonobortsy, i.e., icon-wrestlers, because like the latter the Dukhobortsy rejected icons as attempts at idolatry; later, however, when they intensely developed the teaching of the effect of the holy spirit, they separated [from the Ikonobortsy] and adopted their present name. The Dukhobortsy derive the origin of their belief from the three boys in the fiery stove mentioned by the prophet Daniel [the story of Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego: Daniel 3:1-30] but designate a certain Siluan Kolesnikov, who lived in the village of Nikolskoye in the Province of Ekaterinoslav at the end of the last century, as the founder of their belief system. However, while they recognize Kolesnikov as a famous religious hero, others maintain that their sect had been founded already at the beginning of the 18th century and that its origin was in the Province of Tambov. It seems that the latter view is more correct because even though their traditions begin with Kolesnikov, these traditions existed already earlier and were widely spread in the southern provinces of Chernigov, Kursk, Kharkov, Ekaterinoslav, Voronezh, Tambov and Saratov. The Dukhobortsy, like all dissenters, had to endure severe persecution and oppression until a new star rose for them with the government of Alexander I.

In the year 1801 the government considered it necessary to resettle the adherents of this sect to a more distant area. For this purpose the Dukhobortsy were allotted a huge segment of untilled land called Molochnye Vody [Milky Waters] in the Province of Tavria in the district of Melitopol as a new residence. At first only 30 families were sent there. They started tilling the land with great zeal. Soon rumours about the free and happy life of the new settlers reached those left behind and caused them to ask for permission to move there as an entire group. This permission was granted. As a result the Dukhobortsy formed a colony consisting of 9 (nine) villages in the Crimea. The names of these villages can still be found today in the Caucasus, e.g., in the Akhalkalakian district: Bogdanovka, Troitskoye, Spasskoye, Rodionovka, Tambovka, and Goreloye, or, near Bashkichet or Elizavetpol: Akimovka, Terpeniye, and Gavrilovka. The Dukhobortsy reproduced so vigorously that by the year 1832 their number had grown to 800 families with 4,000 members of both sexes.

They could have lived happily and contentedly in Tavria especially since they excelled in considerable work ethic and good management but soon the old spirit of rebelliousness and of religious fanaticism was stirring among them. They began to interpret their resettlement to the Crimea as an apocalyptic event, openly preached their faith, and were disobedient to the authorities. Thus, for example, they refused to supply recruits to the Governor General of Kherson by arguing that those recruits would have to swear an oath of allegiance which oath would be prohibited by their religion. Punishing them achieved nothing so that the authorities arrived at an agreement that under such circumstances they would accept the Dukhobortsy’ word of honour. The numerous complaints and remonstrations by local authorities finally led to a decision in 1841 to resettle the sectarians to Transcaucasia, which decision was carried out in the same year.

Religious Beliefs

Let us now examine more precisely the religious notions of this sect. What is peculiar is their development of the doctrine of the Trinity and of Christ’s person. While they believe in a triune God [God in three persons], He reveals himself as such only in the human soul: God the Father in the power of memory, God the Son in the wisdom of reasoning, and the Holy Ghost in volition and conation. Their [the Dukhobortsy’] conception of the entire earthly life of our Saviour is symbolical and they interpret this life as a mystical habitation of Him in man’s heart. In accord with their doctrine He is conceived and born from the words of Archangel Gabriel in the soul of every person. Here He preaches the word of truth, suffers, dies, and rises again from the dead. Therefore even those who have never read the Gospel or heard about Christ must recognize His inner workings because Jesus is the human conscience that teaches everyone to distinguish between good and evil.

Furthermore, the Dukhobortsy are convinced that not only Christians but also Jews, Muslims, and non-believers enter the kingdom of heaven and that on Judgment Day all people will rise from the dead in spirit. Concerning the Day of Judgment, the torments of hell will consist in the eternal pangs of conscience. The soul is God’s image but after the fall of man the image disappeared, memory was weakened and man forgot what he had been before, reasoning became deadened, and the will was no longer governed by the Holy Ghost and thus turned towards evil.

The biblical story of Adam and Eve is regarded by the Dukhobortsy as a symbolic image of our earthly existence. The soul had already fallen earlier, before the creation of the world, together with the other evil angels. The world was created only as a prison to which they were transferred for their sin. Thus sin came into the world not with the fall of man but Adam and Eve were themselves already created as sinners. This teaching underlies the commandment not to mourn the deceased because they have been pardoned and death has redeemed them from wandering on this earth. They see in Abel’s fate the persecution of the just by the unjust or the Cains; [they see] in the march of the Israelites through the Red Sea and in the decline of the Egyptians the perdition of the sinners and the salvation of the believers.

They completely reject the sacraments; likewise they have no clergy and do not even attribute any importance to the decrees of the general councils which otherwise are recognized by most sects of the schism. They reverence the saints and apostles of the Greek Church as mere humans who, although born in sin, led a life pleasing to God. They consider crossing oneself a useless ceremony and therefore refrain from doing it; neither do they pray for their fellow-men and enemies; and they do not even mention those “who have power over us” in their prayers because everyone already has enough to pray for himself.

An important doctrine in practice is that of the equality of all people. Thus there are no masters and servants among the Dukhobortsy but only completely equal “brothers”. For this reason the children call their father simply “elder” and they call their mother “keeper”; the men use the term “sisters” when addressing their wives while the latter call their husbands “brothers”; none of them use the term “Dad” which is otherwise so popular in Russian because, as they say, all people are brothers, only God alone is our father. As an expression of thanks they use the phrase “may God help you”. They do not bear arms and further consider war a sinful and unjust activity, citing in support the doctrines of love and compassion in the Gospel as well as the Seventh Commandment. This view of religion demands that its adherents live in larger communities so that in case of someone’s mishaps everyone can help the individual. They must also avoid quarrelling and any kind of brawl as well as using indecent or abusive language. And while they must not drink wine or spirits, curiously they are allowed to smoke tobacco which is so taboo among the Old Believers. They do not practice fasting.

Once an elderly Dukhobor recounted to me a very charming symbolic story which I will try to render here in its entirety:
“Far, far away from here, in a region inaccessible to the human mind, there is an azure ocean and in that ocean there is an island. Once in a while, muffled in thick fog, it reveals itself to the seafarer but constant waves stir the ocean and prevent man from setting foot on the island. This ocean and the island represent human destiny which, obscure and dark, lies ahead of us until man forces his ship through the wild surf into the quiet harbour of death. On the island there is a high temple which is not man-made and has been here from the first day of creation. The vault [ceiling] rests on as many pillars as there are religions in the world. At every pillar there is a person who is in the process of professing the religion represented graphically on the pillar. One single pillar is made of pure gold – it is the symbol of the pure and true belief in God who created the island as well as heaven, earth, and water. All the other pillars are made of stone representing the false wisdom of the human spirit petrified in his sins. All these pillars including the golden one are covered with marble representing the ignorance of man that deprives him of an unobstructed view into the light of divine doctrine. And while nobody is able to see the gold, everyone tells the other that he is holding the golden shaft of belief in his hands. Centuries pass, the world ages oppressed by the wrath of the Creator of all things. And then comes the hour of the general and terrible decline – the billows of the ocean wallow blood and fire, the sky collapses, the earth’s joints tremble violently, and the magnificent temple, not man-built, falls. The marble chips off and the golden pillar glitters and it alone illuminates the entire world where there is only darkness and agony. Now all men recognize the gold and fall on their faces blinded by the light of divine truth. Woe to those who held a stone shaft in their hands while those who listened to their inner Christ will be saved because only in Him there is salvation. We are all blind and do not know who is holding the gold of true belief in his hands.”

Customs and Practices

Let us say a few words about the outward appearance of our Transcaucasian Dukhobortsy, about their practices and customs, and their domestic life! Most of them are tall and robust; all men, except the old ones, shave their beards leaving just a moustache. They cut their hair and, together with their clothing consisting of wide trousers and a cloth jacket, thus resemble the looks of the Germans who had settled in Transcaucasia. When you see one of these Russian sectarians drive by on a covered wagon with iron axles and harnessed with two horses, you could easily mistake him for a German colonist. The female sex deserves the epithet “fair sex”; however, it is not the usual type of a Russian village beauty, i.e., of robust health; rather in the pale, oval faces of these girls and women there is a somewhat nobler expression that harmonizes splendidly with their cleanliness, grace, and carefully selected clothing. The latter consists of a white, often very elegant chemise with wide, stitched sleeves and a coloured skirt; their head is covered by a low round small cap very artfully made of various coloured triangular flaps. Their hair is clipped a little in front – the married women hide their hair at the back under the cap, while the girls wear braids. The women are very industrious, get up early and, before sunrise, have already taken care of everything connected with domestic chores after which they usually busy themselves with some or other needlework. In the evenings they very much love socializing and gather under whatever pretext in someone’s house where before long the young lads show up and they spend the evening with work, fun, and laughter.

The character of the female sex is marked by a considerable vivacity and frivolity so that even marital fidelity is not held in high esteem among them. The passion for dressing up has contributed a lot to the decay of morals. The men view their wives’ conduct with lenience and do not on their own accord seek to punish them for being unfaithful. Incidentally, if one of the women goes too far and does not know how to hide her amorous adventures properly, she is subjected to a harsh punishment: she is led naked through the village streets and is pelted with excrement and dirt. Such a case occurred during our stay in Rodionovka and the procedure was stopped only through the intervention of the troop commander.

On the whole, the Dukhobortsy do not attribute any importance to matrimony. To get married requires only the good will of two adult persons of different sex, mutual love, and the parents’ consent. The transaction on such an occasion is roughly the following: the relatives and acquaintances of bride and bridegroom gather in the house of the bridegroom’s or the bride’s parents where the oldest family member pronounces the two man and wife, without any further promises or even written contracts. As a result divorce is very easy because just the simple desire of the married couple to get divorced is sufficient. After the completion of the divorce both parties are completely free. In spite of being so easy, however, divorce is a rare occasion.

In the old days the Dukhobortsy were known for their diligence and their good management but nowadays little has remained of that except a certain cleanliness and orderliness. In the Crimea they practiced extensive agriculture as well as cattle- and horse-breeding. Likewise they possessed large flocks of sheep and practiced the art of weaving. When they resettled to Transcaucasia they had to give up all of this because in many respects the character of the new region was not conducive to continuing these former activities. In this deserted steppe where trade was dominated by a few enterprising Armenians, there was no choice but to devote oneself to [wagon] cargo transporting since it was the most lucrative form of income.

This on the whole lazy life, we believe, has produced the now dominating addiction to alcoholic beverages which, after all, are forbidden by the doctrine of this sect. In Dukhoborye everyone, men, women, boys, and girls, drinks very heavily. No meeting proceeds without some hard drinking. When they visit one another, they sit down at a large table and discuss their everyday concern with a glass of brandy. The more they drink the more solemn and concentrated they become until their mood gives vent to the singing of an Old Testament psalm. Rocking back and forth, supporting their heavy heads with their hands, they keep sitting until one of them begins: “Oh brothers!” After that nothing makes sense any more since all words get absorbed by a lengthy monotonous screaming of the chorus.

Notwithstanding their drunkenness the Dukhobortsy are very frank and honest – they do not steal nor do they break their word of honour. Since they never swear oaths they instead value a simple promise that much more.

Like all Russian sectarians the Dukhobortsy, too, believe in religious customs: every morning, before and after a meal as well as at night before going to bed, the entire family forms a circle and the head recites aloud the Lord’s Prayer or a psalm.

Religious Services

Finally we shall say a few words about their divine service. Every person, Christians, Jews, Muslims, and non-believers, can visit the Dukhobortsy’ house of prayer because of their tenet that man cannot desecrate God’s temple by his presence but only by bad deeds. On a bright winter day on a holiday we set out to attend a divine service. The crowd of the devout, all in festive clothing, presented a very friendly picture. We joined the procession that was moving to the end of the village where the house of prayer was located. We entered with all the others. At the entrance the crowd divided – the men lined up to the left, the women to the right, apparently according to age. The room where we found ourselves was furnished in a very simple manner; at the far end there was a wooden table with salt in a wooden salt barrel and bread; otherwise there were no further ornaments.

After everyone had been seated as assigned, the choir leader began the psalm: “Thus speaks the Lord, the God of Israel” etc. whereupon the choir joined in. It is very noteworthy that their sacred songs consist of different biblical texts that are often taken out of context and occasionally arranged in a meaningless way. After the end of the singing the second-eldest stepped in front of the table, took the hand of the eldest, and both of them twice bowed very low to each other, then they kissed and bowed for the third time. After that the third stepped forward and began the same procedure with the former two, and then that procedure made the round, first for all the men and then the women. In spite of the long duration of this ceremony we had waited for it to end and, leaving the house, we addressed an elder with the request to explain to us the significance of those bows and kisses. He replied: “One must worship God’s image in one’s fellow man because man represents God on earth.”

Because of this doctrine the Dukhobortsy lapse into a peculiar form of idolatry in spite of the fact that they reject icons. That is because they select from their midst a handsome boy whom they call the “mother of God”, and whom they worship in superstitious awe like a deity. This custom may partially explain the demoralization of the female sex because this boy gathers around him a kind of court consisting of the young girls of all villages, and no girl can be wed without having spent some time there. It goes without saying that this mother of God generis masculini [Latin for “of the male sex”] is severely persecuted by the authorities but they seldom succeed in locating the boy in question and stemming this abuse.

In the above I have only attempted to put down my personal observations of a peculiar form of the Russian Schism and I implore the disposed reader not to try to measure this short sketch in terms of the standards of a thorough scientific treatise.

Afterword

Heinrich Johann von Paucker (1839-1898) was a Baltic German from the province of Estonia in the Russian Empire. As a youth, he received an excellent classical education at Revel (now Tallinn) and Mitau (now Jelgava). In 1855, at age sixteen, he joined the Life-Guards Lithuanian Regiment of the Imperial Russian Army as a cadet and was immediately transferred to the Caucasian Front of the Oriental (Crimean) War.

In the Caucasus, Paucker’s regiment was billeted in the Dukhobor village of Rodionovka in the Akhalkalaki district of Tiflis province during the winters of 1854-1855 and 1855-1856. During his stay there, the young military cadet came to closely observe and study his Dukhobor hosts, with whom he came in regular contact. He kept journals, and with a keen ethnographic eye, recorded his detailed observations of this unique people, little known to western members of the Russian Empire.

At the time, the Dukhobors had been settled in the Akhalkalaki district for less than a decade, having been exiled there from Tavria province in 1841-1845. This relocation had brought about profound and rapid changes in the social, cultural and economic life of the Dukhobors, who were still adjusting to the harsh realities of their new physical environment, as well as the disruption wrought by the Oriental War, when Paucker stayed among them.

Paucker described in detail the geography and climate of Dukhobor’ye – the “land of the Dukhobors” (which, significantly, is the first recorded usage of that name). The climate, he noted, was overall very unhealthy and many Dukhobors, not yet acclimatized to their new surroundings, suffered and died from fever. There on the high mountain plateau, spring came late and winter early; there was no way to grow grain in the short season. The Akhalkalaki Dukhobors, he observed, had thus abandoned their traditional agricultural economy and relied on contracts for wagon transport and the sale of hay for income, with which they bought grain for their consumption in nearby market towns. At the time of writing, they had not yet established the large horse and cattle herds for which they would later become known. He noted also that there were no wooden buildings in the barren, treeless region; the Dukhobors had adapted by constructing their homes from bricks of dried cattle manure.

Recounting their history, Paucker identified the Dukhobors’ origins in the Russian Schism of the 17th century; a time of general religious turmoil when some dissenters, imbued with new ideas introduced by foreigners, rejected the dogma and authority of the Orthodox Church. He traced the growth of the sect from early 18th century Tambov and Ekaterinoslav, through the severe persecutions and oppressions of later that century, to their settlement in Tavria at the beginning of the 19th century, whereafter they enjoyed an era of peace, toleration and prosperity. Later on, stirred by a spirit of “rebelliousness” and “religious fanaticism”, they began to openly preach their faith and disobey the authorities, which led to their exile to Transcaucasia.

Paucker gave a concise summary of Dukhobor religious philosophy, which rejected church institutions, sacraments, icons and clergy in favour of a simple, individual-based religion founded on egalitarianism, love and compassion. He noted the Dukhobor belief in the indwelling of God in every person, as well as their figurative, rather than literal, interpretation of the Trinity. They refused to bear arms and avoided quarrels and abuse. They did not possess any written records about their beliefs, which, he observed, were passed down by oral tradition.

Of particular interest is Paucker’s description of the outward appearance and character of the Dukhobors. The Dukhobor men, he observed, were tall and robust with clothing resembling that of the German colonists in Russia. The same observation had been made by earlier writers, and it is generally accepted that the Dukhobor men adopted aspects of their dress from their Mennonite neighbours while living in Tavria. He noted the noble beauty of the Dukhobor women, and their industry, cleanliness, grace and carefully selected clothing, of which he provided a full description. In general, he found the Dukhobors to be orderly, frank and honest, but lacking the diligence and good management for which they were renowned in Tavria. He also observed that many Dukhobors had lapsed from their prohibition against alcohol, and now drank heavily.

Paucker observed that the Dukhobor community played an important role in reinforcing the behavior and morality of its individual members “so that in case of someone’s mishaps everyone can help the individual”. For example, he recounted how, as punishment for infidelity, a Dukhobor woman was led through the village streets and pelted with excrement and dirt. Inexplicably, however, he inferred from this incident that Dukhobor women generally did not hold marital fidelity in high esteem; a sweeping statement unsupported by the historical evidence.

Paucker discussed the religious customs of the Dukhobors, noting the importance of prayer in their daily lives and describing in detail their unique marriage ceremony and religious service. He also noted the Dukhobor custom of bowing to one another, in reverence to the spirit of God that dwells within each man; a custom he mistakenly confused for idolatry.

Finally, Paucker made note of a boy whom the Dukhobors held in inordinately high esteem; who held court in the villages, and whom they referred to as Bogorodets (masculine form of Bogoroditsa or “Mother of God”). While not identified by name, this could only have been Petr Ilarionovich Kalmykov (1837-1864), the youngest in a line of hereditary Dukhobor leaders dating back to the time of Kapustin. Paucker noted he was severely persecuted by Tsarist authorities, however, they seldom succeeded in locating him; presumably he was concealed by his followers. His account thus provides significant insights into the early life of this important historical personage.

Paucker’s writings are among the remarkably few sources of detailed, published information about the decade immediately following the Dukhobor exile to Transcaucasia; a little-known and little-explored period of Dukhobor history.  His work is thus an invaluable contribution to our understanding of the era.

As for Paucker himself, following the Oriental War, he was promoted to the rank of officer and transferred to the Light-Infantry Battalion in Riga in 1858. He was subsequently promoted to the rank of Second Lieutenant. In 1860, he transferred to the Telegraph Corps and served as Chief of Telegraph Stations in Voronezh and later Yaroslavl. After receiving his discharge from the Imperial Russian Army in 1864, he settled in Wesenberg (now Ravkere), Estonia where he took up teaching and translation work. He also served as a civil servant for the Estonian Provincial Government. From 1865 until his death he published a large volume of translations and original works on various subjects.

Significantly, Paucker’s first published work was on the Dukhobors, which appeared anonymously (under the initial “K”) as Die Duchoborzen in Transkaukasien in the Baltic journal Baltische Monatsschriften in 1865. Anonymous publication was common in Russia at this time, as the state censorship regime was particularly severe and maintained a strict vigilance over the publication of written materials, removing or banning anything it considered even remotely ‘subversive’. Hence, many writers, fearing reprisals from Imperial censors, published their works under initials or pseudonyms.  Sixteen years later, in 1881, Paucker republished the article under his own name in the German journal Deutsche Rundschau für Geographie und Statistik.

Special thanks to Jack McIntosh, former UBC Slavic languages bibliographer, for identifying the anonymous author of the 1865 publication of Die Duchoborzen in Transkaukasien as being Heinrich Johann von Paucker.  

To read more, search, download, save and print a full PDF copy of the original German text of Heinrich Johann von Paucker’s “Die Duchoborzen in Transkaukasien” in Baltische Monatsschrift (Volume 11, Riga: Jonck & Boliewsky, 1865, pp. 240-250), visit the Google Book Search database.

Travels Among the Molochnaya Dukhobortsy, 1839-1841

by Adele and Xavier Hommaire de Hell

Xavier Hommaire de Hell (1812-1848), a French explorer and geologist, studied the Crimea and the south of Russia from 1838 to 1841. Although Hommaire de Hell was concerned primarily with geology and geography, his wife, Adele (1819-1883), interested herself in the historical and ethnographic aspects of Russia.  In 1839, they travelled among the Dukhobortsy living on the Molochnaya River.  Two years later, in 1841, they met a group of exiled Dukhobortsy en route from the Molochnaya to the Caucasus.  Adele recorded her impressions of these encounters, which was published in “Travels in the Steppes of the Caspian Sea, the Crimea, the Caucasus” (London: Chapman and Hall, 1847) under her husband’s name. Her brief account provides rare, historic insights into the Dukhobortsy at this time.  Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. 

Adele Hommaire de Hell (1819-1883)

…Besides the German [Mennonite] colonies of which we have been speaking, there are others in the environs of Nicolaief [Nikolaev] and Odessa, in Bessarabia and the Crimea, and about the coasts of the sea of Azov. Altogether these foreign colonies in New Russia, number upwards of 160 villages, containing more than 46,000 souls.

In the midst of them are several villages inhabited by Russian dissenters, entertaining nearly the same religious views as the Mennonites and Anabaptists.

These are the Douckoboren [Dukhobortsy] and Molokaner [Molokany], who separated from the national [Orthodox] church about 160 years ago, at which time they were resident in several of the central provinces; but the government being alarmed at the spread of their doctrines, transported them forcibly to New Russia, where it placed them under military supervision.

Here they admirably availed themselves of the examples set them by the Germans, and soon attained a high degree of prosperity. In 1839, they amounted to a population of 6617 souls, occupying thirteen villages. Most of their houses were in the German style, and every thing about them was indicative of plenty. [p. 81]

. . .

I had opportunities of observing among the members of the two latter communities, how great an influence a change of religion may have on the character and intellect of the Russians. The Douckoboren and the Molokaner differ essentially in this respect from the other [Orthodox] subjects of the empire.

Xavier Hommaire de Hell (1812-1848)

Activity, probity, intelligence, desire of improvement, all these qualities are developed among them to the highest degree, and after having consorted with the Germans for fifteen years, they have completely appropriated all the agricultural ameliorations, and even the social habits of those foreign colonists.

Among the Russian [Orthodox] peasants on the contrary, whether slave or free, a complete immobility prevails, and nothing can force them out of the old inevitable rut. All the efforts and all the encouragements of the government have hitherto been of no avail. [p. 113]

. . .

Two years after this first visit to them, I met on the road from Taganrok [Taganrog] to Rostof [Rostov], two large detachments of exiles escorted by two battalions of infantry. They were the unfortunate dissenters of the Moloshnia [Molochnaya], who had been expelled from their villages, and were on their way to the military lines of the Caucasus.

The most perfect decorum and the most touching resignation appeared in the whole body. The women alone showed signs of anger, whilst the men sang hymns in chorus. I asked several of them whither they were going; their answer was ” God only knows.” [p. 81]

Afterword

Xavier Hommaire de Hell was a French geologist and civil engineer who spent almost five years from 1838 to 1841 exploring and studying the geology of the Crimea and Southern Russia. His wife, Adele, braved all hardships to accompany him on his journeys. During this period, his research provided the travelers with many objects of study, not only in towns and villages but in the country-houses of the Russian nobility. His pursuits also carried them over a large range of the Russian countryside, extending from the Dnieper to the Caspian Sea, and from there to the Caucasian mountains. They subsequently published their observations in the 1847 work, Travels in the Steppes of the Caspian Sea, the Crimea, the Caucasus, in which the subjects of commerce, government, official economy, with historical and ethnological notices were treated by Xavier; while descriptions of society, adventures en route, and much of what is usually considered travelogue, were contributed by Adele under her husband’s name. Their account of the Molochnaya Doukhobors is presumed to have been written by her.

The Hommaire de Hells visited the Doukhobors living on the Molochnaya River in Tavria, Russia in 1839. At that time they found a population of 6,617 souls (males) occupying thirteen villages. This number included nine villages of Doukhobors as well as four neighbouring villages of Molokans. They noted the “high degree of prosperity” among the inhabitants and that “everything about them was indicative of plenty.”

The French travelers had opportunities to observe the Doukhobors and noted their “activity, probity, intelligence, [and] desire of improvement”, which stood in stark comparison to Russian Orthodox peasants, over whom “a complete immobility prevails”.  According to the Hommaire de Hells, the Doukhobors appropriated these characteristics from their German Mennonite neighbours, among whom they consorted, and from whom they borrowed their style of housing, agricultural methods and even social habits. The French couple were among the earliest Western observers to note the significant Mennonite influence on Doukhobor society.

Two years later, in 1841, the Hommaire de Hells met a group of Doukhobor exiles on the road from Taganrog to Rostov and noted that the sectarians were “escorted” by two infantry battalions. By all accounts, the military escort was particularly large and aggressive. In spite of this, the French travellers observed “the most perfect decorum and the most touching resignation” amongst the Doukhobors. Upon inquiring as to their destination, Hommaire de Hell was simply told, “God only knows.”  In fact, the Doukhobors they met were the first of five parties to be exiled from the Molochnaya to the Caucasus over the 1841-1845 period. Hommaire de Hell’s description of this meeting is one of the few extant eyewitness accounts of the Doukhobor exile to the Caucasus and provides a poignant and touching picture of this momentous event in Doukhobor history.

View Tavria Doukhobor Villages, 1802-1845 in a larger map

To read more, search, download, save and print a full PDF copy of “Travels in the Steppes of the Caspian Sea, the Crimea, the Caucasus” by Xavier Hommaire de Hell (London: Chapman and Hall, 1847), visit the Google Book Search digital database.