Childhood Recollections

by Tanya Postnikoff

In her later years, Doukhobor Tanya (Makaroff) Postnikoff (1891-1982) wrote down her memories of growing up in Terpeniye village near Kars, Russia and in Petrofka village near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. The following excerpt, taken from her “Childhood Recollections”, is yet another rich and colourful example of Doukhobor oral tradition preserved in writing for future generations.

I remember very little of my Postnikov grandparents because we lived at opposite ends of our village, Terpeniye, in Russia. I can only recall two occasions when I visited them – once when grandmother was very ill, near death, and my mother, Paranya, was going on foot to visit her and I attached myself to her. I recollect that grandma, on that occasion, was already too ill to talk. I can’t remember anything of her looks or appearance, however, even then, I sensed the kindness in her heart and the deep love that she had for her children and grandchildren. 

As for grandfather, all I can recall is the occasion when mother and I visited them on a very warm day. We had heard that he was very ill, and when we arrived, we found him tottering about outside, heavily bundled in a heavy winter topcoat and obviously suffering from severe chills. Soon after this occasion grandfather took a turn for the worse and passed away. In appearance, I remember him to be a tall, slim man, taller than his son Nikolai (my father-in-law) yet with a strong similarity in their facial features. This is about all that I can remember.

It was a large family – five sons and three daughters – eight children in all. Nikolai (my future father-in-law) became a son-in-law of the Bondarevs and went to live with his bride’s parents and their family. The Patriarch or head of the Bondarev family was Lavrentii or Lavrusha for short. As a result, the family became known as the Lavrovs, and were always referred to by that nickname. At that time, their family consisted of five sons and two daughters.

Nikolai, my father-in-law to be, had at that time been working as a freighter on a wagon train. In an accident, he fell under a heavily laden freight wagon and both his legs were crushed between the heavy steel-rimmed wheels and the cobble-stoned military highway. The doctors refused to attempt to set the multiple fractures and decided to amputate. It was a common bone-setter (a Molokan with no schooling) who saved the situation. He did such a good job of bone-setting, that Nikolai retained full use of his legs for his entire lifetime. While convalescing, he would walk about supporting himself on two canes, and because of this was nicknamed Starichok (“oldster”) which stuck to him for life. His family, in turn, was alternately referred to as either Lavrovs or Starchikovs.

Wedding photo of Wasil & Tanya Postnikoff (left)

Nikolai’s convalescence lasted a long time, and while he was unable to work, their oldest son, Semeon, was gradually taking over the support of the family. One day Semeon with his mother, Nastya, decided to bring a wagonload of clay, which the villagers used to mix with fine hay or chaff in order to stucco all their stone-walled buildings. The excavation site was treacherous with overhanging walls and while working in it, Nastya was almost completely buried by a sudden collapse of an overhanging wall and the landslide that descended upon her. There were many other clay-diggers at the site at the time, and they managed to extricate Nastya from the mound of heavy clay and dirt. She must have suffered internal injuries, however, for soon thereafter she became ill and eventually passed away.

Nastya’s mother had been living with the family for several years prior to Nastya’s death. She was a kindly compassionate soul, beloved by all the children. Needless to say, she had her hands full in trying to discipline the large family of growing children. Sometime after Nastya’s death, Nikolai met and married his second wife, Mavrunya, who had also been widowed by the death of her husband, Nikolai Konkin. There were two daughters from that marriage, Elizaveta and Praskovia. Mavrunya was much younger than Nikolai and their marriage was more a union of convenience than anything else. She was a widow with two little girls who needed support, while he, in turn, needed her to manage his household with a large family of children. Thus, they faced the world together and managed not only to survive, but to bring up their families as well.

Nikolai had six sons and two daughters from his first marraige. With Mavrunya, they had six sons and one daughter. When their youngest son was born, Mavrunya’s father, who was noted for his wit, insisted that the baby be named Yosef (“Joseph”) after the Biblical story of Jacob, whose twelfth son carried that name. 

All in all it was a very large family group and yet Nikolai and Mavrunya not only managed to feed each hungry mouth, but were very hospitable and generous with outsiders. When they settled in Canada (Petrofka, Saskatchewan) there was a constant flow of immigrant settlers who were moving in to find their places in the newly opened country. Many of them, needy as they were, got stranded in Petrofka and were fed and sheltered, free of charge, for months at a time, in the Postnikoff mud-plastered, sod-roofed, humble household.

Going back in time, Nikolai himself had four brothers, the first of whom was Semeon, then Mikhailo, Dmitry and Ivan. He also had three sisters, Nastya, who married Vasily Vereshchagin, next Dasha, whose husband was Ivan Planidin, and the third one was Paranya, married to Gregory Makarov.

And now I will try to tell all that I can recollect about the Makarovs. I can remember grandpa and grandma Makarov quite well; they came to Canada with their family. Grandpa was injured on the train en route to their destination, Petrofka. His finger was crushed somehow by the car couplings of the train. It became infected (probably gangrene) and he died soon after. Grandma survived him by seven years and was totally blind when she passed away. They had only four children, three sons and one daughter. The sons’ names were Nikolai, Semeon and Gregory, my father. They all lived together in one family for a long time. The daughters’ name was Polya, an aunt whom I never saw because when in Russia, the family moved from Elizavetpol to Kars, while she and her husband remained behind. 

The Makarov family lived in one house. Nikolai had six children, Semeon had four while Gregory, my father, also had six. My aprents broke away from the rest a year or two before immigrating to Canada (1899) and farmed independently in that interim. The house we lived in was newly built, but very small and crowded for a family of eight, yet somehow there was always room even for guests (to think that nowadays people who own two, three or four houses sometimes complain that they are too crowded to entertain visitors!!).

My mother used to tell us that in the past, when they had been living in the Tavria province, in Milky Waters, the newly formed sect of Doukhobors decided to break away from the Russian Orthodox Church and denounced its hierarchy. They refused to register their children in Church records and defied the age-old custom of burial with a priest in attendance. On one occasion, some practical jokers allowed a priest to officiate by the grave-side, and when the ceremony was completed, seized the priest and announced that they would throw him into the grave as well, in accordance with the rule that the “dead should be buried with a priest”. Soon after this, the pressure from Church and government officials slackened off, and the Doukhobors were allowed to settle in the Elizavetpol province. Here they lived for a period of twenty years or so. Then, because land for farming was getting scarce, six villages decided to move to Kars (an area that has been under Turkey since 1918). Here, our village of Terpeniye was the largest and in it resided the leading Verigin family. In Kars, the Doukhobors resided for some twenty years. 

For some time, pressure had been increasing on the part of the Government to compel them to accept military service. The Doukhobors refused to comply, however, and soon were subjected to punitive persecution, such s exile to Siberia, violence, etc. These measures failed to shake the Doukhobor faith, however, and the Tsar’s Government then decided to solve the problem by exiling this steadfast group beyond the borders of Russia. Leo Tolstoy and the Quakers appealed to Queen Victoria of England to allow the Doukhobors to settle in Canada. Their plea was successful, and soon, several thousand immigrants assembled in the Black Sea port of Batum where for two weeks they waited while a coal freighter was being converted and readied to accommodate them as passengers.

The Trans-Atlantic journey took a whole month and was full of hardship. When they finally arrived in Quebec, the authorities promptly placed the entire group under quarantine because cases of smallpox had appeared among the passengers. After the quarantine was lifted, a fast-moving passenger vessel arrived; it was trim and neat and the children were delighted with its appearance. This boat took us to the city of Quebec where we went ashore to be met by a large group of men and women, some of whom may have been Quakers. The ladies in the group began tossing mint candy into the crowd of eager children and a wild scramble commenced. My brother Peter and myself were too young to join the general rush and felt quite left out, until a couple of ladies approached us and filled our pockets full of fragrant mints. After some time, the entire boatload of immigrants were taken aboard a train, the destination point being Selkirk, Manitoba. Here too, we stayed for a week or two prior to departure for our final ultimate settlement points.

At this point, I would like to go back and make a few remarks about my grandmother. Grandma loved me very much and tried hard to imbue me with a sense of piousness. She spent endless hours teaching me to recite psalms among which was one I still remember well. She also taught me a zagovorie (“incantation”) allegedly endowed with magical powers to stop a nosebleed or other small ailments – this too, I remember and can still recite. I can recall how hurt I was when my playmates refused to play with me, saying that my grandma was teaching me witchcraft. 

Prairie Doukhobor dwelling, circa 1901

The hardships and privations of the first few months of our pioneer life are unforgettable. We all lived in canvas tents which provided poor shelter against the cold, incessant rains. The tents dripped and leaked, so that everything inside was soggy and cold. It was next to impossible to build a fire or sustain it for long. To add to our torture, clouds of ravenous mosquitoes were constantly tormenting us – there was simply no refuge from them. Our diet was poor and inadequate, lacking in protein. All of this added up to a life of constant, almost intolerable suffering and misery. The nearest railway point was Rosthern, Saskatchewan, and that meant that to obtain flour and salt, the men would go some thirty miles afoot and return heavily laden with a hundred pounds of flour, ten pounds of salt, and whatever else each of them could afford and/or carry. It seemed incredible now that so many survived.

At this point, I would like to describe an occurance in which my two cousins Mavrutka (Fast) and Lisunya (Lastowsky) and myself were involved, and which nearly spelled disaster for us. We three were sent by our mothers to pick wild garlic for borshch. Our search finally brought us to the riverbank (North Saskatchewan) where we found a boat (the only one the village had), which we promptly untied from its mooring, climbed in, and were off! This was happening toward evening; the sun was low and we three were all about the same age – eight or nine years old. The main-stream current, by some quirk of fate, propelled us toward the shore where we climbed out, and tied the boat to a stump. 

It was getting late and with darkness came the fear of wolves! We remembered that somewhere nearby there was a homestead owned by Isaac Neufeldt, a Mennonite farmer, and for whom Nikolai Postnikoff was working at the time. I recall that the Neufeldt girls were painting the kitchen floor when we timidly knocked on their door. They spoke no Russian, didn’t know who we were, and soon summoned their father, who spoke Russian well. We told him that we three were daughters of Nikolai Postnikoff. The farmer did not want to wake Nikolai up (he had had a hard day and was already sleeping) so old Isaac ordered his daughters to put us up for the night. We slept in the hayloft that night. The wind had risen and whistled and moaned through cracks and knot-holes – it was a weird, sleepless night for me – an unforgettable night!

Early the next morning, old Isaac informed Nikolai that three little girls claiming to be his daughters had spent the night there. Nikolai was astonished. “Three little girls?”, “My daughters?” When he saw us, he was flabbergasted. “What are you doing here – how did you get here?” he yelled at us. We had, meanwhile, concocted a wild story about how Hrishka Konkin, a local mischievous brat, had enticed us into the boat, rowed us across the river, and abandoned us to our fate. Hrishka’s reputation was so notorious that Nikolai readily believed our story, which, of course, was a lie from “A” to “Z”. “Wait till I get ahold of that little devil!” he roared, “I’ll fix it so he won’t be able to sit down for a month!” 

The boat was still tied to the stump where we had left it last night, and as we were crossed, we three sang an old Russian song – something about Cossacks returning to their native villages. Our absence apparently had caused a great deal of alarm and fear about our safety, and as our boat approached the shore, the bank was lined with a large crowd of anxious people. Our mothers were hysterical with joy and relief at the sight of us – it was a highly emotional experience indeed! We soon learned that our boating adventure had not gone unnoticed. Someone had seen us board the boat and head downstream. The alarm was sounded and runners were dispatched to the village of Terpeniye, some miles downstream, where quickly, a boat was launched in the hope of intercepting us as we drifted in that direction. Their efforts and vigil were fruitless, of course, and lasted throughout the night.

At the time, I was terrified, expecting a severe beating from my father, who was always quick to punish his children mercilessly for any misdemeanor. My grandmother, seeing my terror and knowing what was in store for me, took me to bed with her, and when father entered, she intercepted him, saying that he had better not touch me, that I was blameless, and that it was my cousin Mavrutka who was the ringleader of our escapade. Fierce though he was by nature, my father broke into tears – which both astounded and, of course, delighted me.

Transplanted Roots

by Albert J. Popoff

The following three stories are selected from 120 articles in a recently printed family history book (April, 2003) complied and edited by Albert J Popoff. The book, entitled “Transplanted Roots”, is a collection of family histories, stories, memories, photos, poems and genealogical information about his Popoff, Androsoff and Makranoff grandparents and their many descendants. Mr. Popoff states in the Introduction to his book, “We let the media worry about the big events and record the history of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. But the big story is only part of history. Each of us has an interesting story to tell. Our small stories are just as relevant part of the historical record as the big picture. We need to take time to make sure that the smaller details of life are preserved. If we don’t do it, no one will and in the long run we will be the poorer for it”.Mr. Popoff hopes that by sharing these stories, it will encourage others to preserve their family histories.

I. Grandfather Could Make Something Out Of Nothing

Of all the Popoff cousins of my age, I was fortunate to have spent the most time with my Popoff Grandparents.  My parents farmed only a half-mile from the grandparent’s farm, so it was convenient to visit and spend time with them.  Later, when grandmother and grandfather retired to the Town of Blaine Lake, we moved into their farmhouse because it was larger and the yard had better water quality.  The grandparents came often to help with the farm work and to visit, especially when company or relatives arrived.  When my sister Lillian began high school in Blaine Lake, she and I stayed with our Popoff Grandparents, especially in the wintertime when roads were not passable for vehicles and the four mile trip to town took over one hour by horse drawn sleighs.  I started grade one in the Blaine Lake Public School and continued there for 4 years.  When my sister graduated from grade 12, I switched to the rural Greystones School and was then responsible for transporting my two brothers to school to begin grade one.  Grandfather restored an old one horse buggy for his grandchildren to use in the summer and a cutter (sleigh) in the winter time

Grandfather was not a huggy/kissy type of person.  He could be quite stern and did not tolerate much foolishness from the grandchildren when they were underfoot.  On the other hand he had the patience to teach us skills and allow us to hang around as he went about his work.  I can attribute my woodworking interest and the ability to fix things to my grandfather, who thoughtfully transferred his knowledge and skills to me.  I liked to work alongside my grandfather as he seemed to be able to make something out of nothing.  He could make or repair a harness from tanned leather, craft tools and parts from scrap pieces of iron, make wagon and sleigh parts from dried hardwood trees, and build most anything from scraps of wood and boards.  I was fascinated how useful articles were created from very basic raw materials

Alexey and Katerina Popoff with their grandchildren, Albert, Lloyd, Jack and Lil.

Working at the forge in the blacksmith shop was a special experience.  My job was to turn the crank of the rotary “bellows”.  In the centre of the forge grandfather would light the anthracite coal.  I would turn the fan that brought air to the burning coals so that they became white-hot.  Grandfather would place the iron that needed shaping into the glowing coals.  I had to keep the air flowing, not to fast and not to slow, but with ongoing verbal instructions, I was able to get the air flow just right.  Grandfather would keep checking the iron until it reached the correct temperature.  After what seemed to be long time, he would take out the white-hot steel with long tongs and begin fashioning the metal into a different shape, using a heavy hammer on a large anvil.  I admired his strength and skill as he raised the hammer over his head with one muscular arm, while holding the hot iron with tongs in the other hand. He would then bring the hammer down at just the right place and speed to create the shape that he had in his mind. Sometimes grandfather would put the hot iron into a pail of water or oil to create the right hardness and temper. Other times he was able to “weld” two pieces of white-hot iron together.  Sparks would fly; smoke and steam would fill the shop as a steel bar would become a garden hoe or a part to fix a broken wagon.

We worked together for an hour or two at a time.  I would become tired and hot but I would stick to my assigned task.  Grandfather and I would emerge from the shop all covered with soot and dust.  I gained a good appreciation why it was called a blacksmith shop.  Grandfather and I both had that feeling of satisfaction as we admired the finished products that we created together. 

Grandfather also enjoyed making things out of wood.  There were parts of an old loom on the farm that was crafted by hand from wood that was harvested from the woods along the river.  I also found a homemade wood lathe that was powered by a foot treadle.  I salvaged the pioneer piece so I could turn wooden items.  I did not have the strength to operate the treadle and work on the spinning wood at the same time.  I installed an electric motor that made it a lot easier to fashion interesting shapes on the wood lathe with tools that were handmade on the forge.  Grandfather used to make toy wagons for the grandchildren to play with around the farm.  The design was a two wheeled version similar to a chariot.  The box was large enough for one child to fit into.  The handle was made from a dried hardwood sapling.  It was an all-wood design.  Even the wheels were wooden discs. Grandfather took the time to create dovetail corner joints for added strength.  Even modern day carpenters find it a challenge to make dovetail joints using electric power tools, but grandfather made these unique and strong joints using basic hand tools.  I never did learn that skill.

We had much enjoyment playing with the small wagons that grandfather made.  The wooden wheels would squeal as they turned on wooden axles, not unlike the larger version Red-River carts that brought goods, and settlers to the prairies.  The last large project that we worked on together was building the kitchen cupboards in mother’s summer kitchen.  I operated the electric table saw and Grandfather made sure that everything fit together as he patiently assembled the cabinets.

Living with the Popoff Grandparents in the town of Blaine Lake was a pleasant experience.  Grandmother doted on us.  Her cooking was excellent and always a big hit with a hungry boy.  Grandfather had diabetes so he followed a strict diet and prepared his own meals.  One of the staples that he baked was a dark rye bread.  I never developed a taste for his heavy and strong tasting bread.  I preferred grandmother’s light and fluffy white or whole wheat bread and buns.  Grandmother would drink scalding hot water that she cooled down by pouring it into the saucer and then sipped the hot water, sometimes loudly.  To flavour the drink, she would put a sour raspberry candy in her mouth.  I liked the candy but never did develop a taste for hot water.  It was years later that I learned that drinking tea from a saucer was not acceptable social behaviour.

The grandparents were very involved with “vetcherooshky”.  These were evening get-togethers with other Doukhobor couples, in each others homes.  The evening consisted of visiting to catch up with the latest news, then singing Doukhobor psalms for an hour or so, followed by a lunch.  I was too young to be left alone, so if my sister was away for the evening, I had to accompany the grandparents on their social outings with their friends.  It was not much fun for an active boy like me to be seen and not heard.  Now I wish I had paid more attention to what was discussed and sung. 

When I started grade one my Russian speaking abilities were better than my English language skills.  My theory was that people spoke only Russian when they became old.  Mrs. Macdonald was my grade one teacher and she had a daughter Jean, my age.  I was so surprised when I went to the Macdonald home to attend Jean’s birthday party and Jean’s elderly grandmother spoke excellent English and did not know any Russian at all.  That experience ended my language theory.  My Russian speaking abilities remained at a basic level to be able to communicate with my two sets of grandparents as I was growing up.  I took a few months of Russian School but never did learn to read and write but now I wish that I had put more effort into it.

One of my grandparents best friends were the Podivelnikoff’s.  She was a tall woman and her husband, Henry, was less than 4 feet tall, about my height.  I found it amusing to see this odd couple.  She seemed always to be in command of this little man.  Henry was my size, and I seemed to inherit his clothes when he no longer had use for them.  Needless to say his tastes were very much different than those of a somewhat shy farm boy trying to fit in with the town kids.  I resisted wearing Henry’s clothing and did not want to be seen in old people’s clothes.

These are just some of my memories of my Popoff Grandparents.  The memories are very pleasant and I was privileged to spend a lot of quality time with my Grandmother and Grandfather Popoff.  I was very saddened when they died in a car crash.  I was 14 years old when they passed away.

II. Picking Mushrooms with My Grandmother

Activities around the farm were segregated in to men’s and women’s work, so it was not often that I had an opportunity to work alongside my grandmother Popoff.  One of the activities that we both enjoyed was picking wild mushrooms in the nearby pastures.

There were the ordinary white prairie mushrooms that sprung up after a rain.  Everyone, even the children, knew that these were edible, so we used to pick those anytime we saw them and brought them to the kitchen.  The only problem with this variety was that they got wormy within hours of coming out of the ground, so it was a challenge to find mushrooms without worm holes.  There were also round white fungi that we called “puff balls”.  These were not edible but fun to whack like a baseball, especially when they ripened and had brown powder inside.

Grandmother would take me on special mushroom picking excursions. We hunted for interesting mushrooms that grew within the poplar bluffs about a half-mile from the house.  I would go the day before on my bicycle and scout out where the bush mushrooms were abundant.  Mushrooms need very special conditions to grow, so they were not always available nor in the same location.

Grandmother taught me the different varieties of edible mushrooms.  There were the delicate mushrooms that were white underneath and had colourful tops that were depressed slightly in the centre.  Grandmother referred to these mushrooms mostly by their colour.  Most were delicate shades of gray, but there were also yellow topped ones and some that were a beautiful purple.  These were my favourite mushrooms because of the many interesting colours and they were usually plentiful, so more time could be spent picking and less time hunting for them. 

Another interesting variety were tan coloured with tops that were very deeply depressed in the centre, often exposing the yellow webs underneath.  I was informed that were called “poddoobniki” which in Russian meant that they grew under oak trees.  I kept reminding grandmother that we did not have any oak trees growing anywhere, and she would laugh heartily.  An interesting feature of these mushrooms is that they never had any worms in them dispelling the theory that such mushrooms are poisonous.  These were grandmother’s favourite because they had a strong flavour and were meaty when cooked.

Grandmother was very careful to point out to me the mushrooms that were very poisonous and warned me not to even touch them.  She called most of them by a Russian word, meaning “flykillers”, because even the flies died when they landed on these deadly mushrooms that looked pretty because they had an orange top with a white lacey design.  I learned later that this variety was called “the angel of death”.  An interesting mushroom that mimicked the deadly ones, grandmother called “krasniye holowky”, meaning “red-headed”. The name was very descriptive because they had a brick red domed head.  This mushroom grew very large and instead of the typical web system beneath the head, it was white and spongy.  They never had any worms, regardless of the size.  It was not unusual to find some that were 10 inches across and 12 inches high.  One mushroom would almost fill a pail that we brought to carry back our treasures to the house.  When the pails became full, grandmother would gather up her large apron, making a hammock-like container that held many mushrooms very well.

Katerina Popoff poses with her spinning wheel. She spent many hours spinning wool to knit stockings, mitts and sweaters. 

We would bring the bounty of mushrooms and spread them out on the table in the summer-kitchen.  I would cut off the dirt covered ends and grandmother would chop the mushrooms up into large frying pans on the wood-burning stove and slowly simmer the mushrooms for hours.  When most of the moisture evaporated, Grandmother would add a generous amount of butter and fry the mushroom into a tasty and fragrant dish.  These mushrooms tasted like mushrooms should taste and not like the store-bought variety that we now use for cooking.  Why is my mouth watering as I write this account?

Years later while on a visit to the Natural History Museum in Regina, I was drawn to the mushroom display. I recognized the varieties of mushrooms that I used to pick with my grandmother Popoff.  All of a sudden I spotted the “red-headed” mushroom but it was labeled as poisonous.  Reading further I learned that if cooked for a long time the poisons were drawn off.  I was even more impressed that grandmother not only knew what variety of mushrooms to pick, she also knew how to cook them and make them safe for all of us to enjoy. 

One time I picked and brought some wild mushrooms to my mother that I was sure were safe, but my mother was not familiar with them and would not take the chance to cook and feed the mushrooms to us.  After grandmother was gone, I never had the courage as an adult to pick and eat wild mushrooms, but I was often tempted, because I remember the tasty mushroom dishes that grandmother prepared for us. 

What an impression my grandmother left with me!  So much so, that almost 50 years later, I can vividly recall picking and eating wild mushrooms with my grandmother Popoff.  It was something special that her and I shared together. 

This is just one account of the many memories that a Grandmother left with her grandson.

Alexey Ivanovich Popoff was born February 8th, 1876 in the province of Elizavetpol, Russia, in the village of Spasovka.  At the age of two, his parents, together with a sizeable group of Doukhobors immigrated to a territory near the Turkish border known as the Oblast of Kars.  They founded the Village of Spasovka.  Alexey lived here until the age of 21 when he was called for military service.  He refused to take part in the training and the taking of human life.  For his refusal, in 1898 he, together with other colleagues, was exiled to Yakutsk Siberia, for a term of 18 years.  In 1905 a Manifesto of Amnesty was issued by Russian Emperor Nikolai when a son was born to him.  The Doukhobors exiled in Siberia were given their freedom.  Alexey and his new bride Katerina came to Canada to join the rest of the Doukhobors who arrived some 5 years earlier.  Alexey lived for a time in the Doukhobor Community but he soon became an Independent, taking out a homestead at Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan, where he lived until his death on August 14, 1955. Alexey and Katerina had one daughter (Anne) and four sons (Nick, Leonard, Fred and Eli)

Katerina Timofeevna (Makrranoff) Popoff was born November24, 1889 in the village of Baranchi in the province of Perm, Russia. Katerina’s father was a follower of a writer, mystic and religious leader, Captain Ilyin.  Contrary to the strict edicts of the State Orthodox Church, they gathered secretly for religious meetings, singing religious hymns and prayer services.  They were known as Jehovists”, practiced temperance and were against military training.  When Katerina was 6 years old, her father was exiled to the Yakutsk district in Siberia.  Katerina’s mother, Anna Grigorievna, with her five little children decided to voluntarily follow her husband.  After living together several years in Siberia, Katerina’s father was recalled to Russia to be tried on more serious charges of sedition against the state and church.  He was convicted and sentenced to more remote and severe parts of Siberia away from his wife and family.  The family went through very difficult times.  Katerina, at the age of 10 had to go out working among the more established settlers in the region known as “Skoptsi”  When she reached the age of 15 Katerina accepted a proposal of marriage from Alexey Ivanovich Popov.

III.    Flashbacks

My memories are fleeting thoughts. They seem to come as flashbacks at various times while I am doing something else, but disappear when I pick up a pen and paper to record them. I have been able to capture a few memories of growing up on a farm 4 miles from the small town of Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan.  I was fortunate to grow up on a mixed farm and experience many interesting events during a time when there was a major transition to the “modern world” that we know today.

The main street of Blaine Lake, circa 1930.

Birth and Death on the Farm

Birth and death on the farm was almost an everyday occurrence.  Births were always taking place, especially in the spring.  Chicks and ducklings would be pecking their way out of their egg shells, kittens were born in the barn loft with their eyes closed, twin lambs that had to be hand fed from a bottle, frisky calves and long legged colts.  Bunnies and baby owls found their way into our ever changing menagerie.  Assisting my dad with “midwife” duties for calving cows was a learning experience.  I felt very sad when a cow or calf (sometimes both) would die in the birthing process.  Dad spent many a sleepless night in the barn helping the animals give birth.

I soon learned that everything that was born eventually had to die.  Life cycles on the farm were short.  Pigs, sheep, and cattle were slaughtered for food, usually in the late fall so that the meat could be frozen.  It was a difficult day for me when my pet steer Donald, which I raised from a small calf, had to join others from the herd to be trucked for sale to a slaughter house.  Getting to keep the proceeds from the sale of Donald helped to soften the blow somewhat.  Children would help with the beheading of chickens by catching and holding the victim on the chopping block.  As I got older I was able to wield the axe.  “Albert, go and kill a chicken for lunch”, mom would say.  It was traumatic when pets died, often accidentally run over by a vehicle or machinery.  Most enjoyed a respectful burial out behind the barn because it was easy to dig in the sandy soil.

Horse power

I witnessed the transition from 4 legged horsepower to the gasoline variety.  Draft horses were used to pull hay racks, wagons, sleighs and stoneboats.  A stoneboat was a simple platform on skids that was used like an utility vehicle around the farm.  The horse was a much respected animal and farmers took good care of them.  Horses provided year round transportation.  In the summer my brothers and I travelled the 2 ½ miles to Greystones School by buggy.  In the winter travel was by a horse drawn cutter (sleigh).  Although I was only about 12 years old, I was responsible for feeding, harnessing, hitching, and driving the horses.  In addition to transporting my younger brothers, we would pick up some neighbours along the way.  One particular horse we used was old, white, and heavy set, called Kaiser.  Kaiser would never want to leave his stable and take us to school.  It took a lot of coaxing to get Kaiser to slowly plod along; often making us arrive late for school (it was a good excuse).  The farm schools had a barn for the horses to stay in.  The return trip from school was the exact opposite situation.  Kaiser was so anxious to get back to his own stall, if we didn’t quickly jump into the buggy or sleigh, Kaiser would leave without us, galloping all the way home like a young race horse.

Dad brought us a small brown pony we called Tootsie.  Tootsie was never broken for riding and that was a challenge for me.  I was finally able to get an old saddle on her back and climbed on for a pony ride.  Tootsie took off like a bullet and although I hung on for dear life, I fell off as the saddle rotated because it was not cinched tight enough.  Poor Tootsie spent most of the summer in the pasture with a saddle hanging under her belly.  I also tried to ride another horse that we had, bare back.  As the horse started to trot, I was not able to stay on because the horse was so large around and my legs too short.  I fell off and landed on my back across a corral rail and injured myself.  That ended my horseback riding attempts.

Farm Work and Harvest

There was always much work to do on the farm.  All the family was expected to pitch in and help with whatever one was capable of doing.  One of the assignments for the youngest was to feed the chickens and gather their eggs on a daily basis.  Sometimes the old clucking hen did not want to part with the eggs she just had laid and would give your hand a mean peck.  This was overcome by grabbing the hen behind the head and holding it while the other hand retrieved the eggs.  Another obstacle was the big white leghorn rooster who would attack anyone coming into his domain.  The only recourse here was to outrun the rooster back to the house with a tearful tale, explaining why all the eggs were broken.

A very young Albert is struggling with the controls on the binder while his dad drives the John Deer tractor.

As I got older, the work became more difficult and the responsibilities became greater.  One of the enviable job assignments was to drive the tractor.  Later when my feet could reach the pedals, driving the truck was a big thrill.  Dreaded jobs were gathering stones, roots and potatoes.  Shovelling grain in a hot dusty granary was a chore hated by everyone.  Young children were often recruited because they could work in a very small space and the grain could be filled up to the very peak of the roof.  If you didn’t keep up to the input, either the grain would spill on the ground, or the grain auger would get blocked.  Either misdemeanor meant getting a stern lecture.

Harvest was always the busiest time of the year.  It was a crucial period because of the weather, availability of threshing crews with their horses and the threshing equipment.  Before self-propelled combines took over the harvesting operation, the process was very labour intensive.  First the standing grain was cut down with a binder that tied the grain stalks into sheaves.  A stooking crew had to pick up the sheaves and set them up in stooks so that the grain could dry and be ready for threshing.

Threshing was a very big operation that involved a dozen or more men, 5 or 6 teams of horses hitched to large racks, a large stationary threshing machine driven by a long belt from the flywheel of a tractor.  The men would gather the sheaves from the stooks and load them on the horse drawn racks.  The big load would be driven to the stationary threshing machine.  Sheaves were dropped in one by one into a feeder that ingested the sheaves into a revolving cylinder that threshed out the grain.  A variety of shaking sieves and wind tunnels separated the grain from the straw and chaff.  The grain was elevated by a chain and bucket assembly into an adjacent bin or a wagon.  The straw was blown by a large fan like device through a long tube, into large straw piles.  My dad was usually the threshing pit-boss who ensured that everything was running well.  He took pride in being able to set up his threshing machine with precision and he took special care to create well shaped straw piles.  This was a challenge when the direction of the wind would change frequently.

Albert and his dad at the threshing machine.

The men worked hard and were paid a decent wage, but the unsung hero during harvest time was my mother.  She worked twice as hard as anyone and received little recognition for her dedication and superhuman efforts.  Mother had to cook three large meals a day, plus a mid afternoon lunch that had to bundled up and taken to the field where the men were working.  I enjoyed this time the best.  The sandwiches made from fresh baked bread, sugar coated homemade donuts, cakes, pies, fresh squeezed lemonade and that special “harvest coffee” that was made sweet with great quantities of sugar and fresh cream.  The hungry men devoured a mountain of food.  I felt grown up eating a field lunch with the harvest crew and being able to drink tea and coffee.  I was proud of my dad who was always so organized and efficient as he managed the harvesting operation.

Mother seemed to take all the work in stride.  Besides cooking for 10-15 men, she was left alone to do all the other farm chores such as milking the cows, separating the cream from the milk, and feeding the animals.  She would have to kill half dozen chickens, pluck them and prepare them for the main meal.  Vegetables had to be picked or dug from the garden and added to the nutritious meals.  Food was cooked on a wood burning stove under unbearable heat.  Sometimes mom would have some help, but often she carried on by herself, never complaining and always cheerful.  In addition to all the work, mom still had to keep house and take care of us children and anybody who happened to drop by for a meal or visit.

The harvest crew would work till dark, tend to their horses, have a late supper and go to sleep in a bunkhouse on wheels.  The men would get up at the crack of dawn, feed and water their horses, have a hearty breakfast and be off for another day of threshing.  If it rained or the machinery broke down, the men and horses would get a welcomed rest, but not my mother.  She still had to feed the crews, even if they were not working and waiting for the weather to break.  An added chore for mom was to wash the men’s work clothes with equipment that was not automatic and required hand work to wring out the clothes and hang them on a clothesline to dry.

Hired help was needed throughout the year for large projects like haying, land breaking and building construction.  Free room and board was expected by the hired hands.  Sometimes immigrant individuals or families would be available to help.  At other times native individuals or whole families would be recruited from the nearby Indian Reserves.  Sometimes the native families would set up a camp on a remote part of the farm, living in tents and generally being self-sufficient.  This was a better arrangement than constantly picking up and returning the native workers to their homes on the Indian Reserve.

As a child, it was always interesting to interact with those who were hired to help on the farm.  Teaching English to the new Canadians was a challenge.  I can clearly recall trying patiently to demonstrate the difference in pronunciation between “rake” and “rack”.  I guess I did a good job, because that particular individual became a well known doctor and professor at the University of Saskatchewan, College of Medicine.

Life Before Electricity

Electric power was installed on our farm in the mid 1950’s, even though there was a major power line running by the farm since the 1930’s.  The CCF Provincial Government had a farm electrification program that provided a connection to the power grid for all farm families at a flat rate (I believe it was about $600).  Prior to electricity, life was different.

Lighting at night was achieved with kerosene lamps.  The light from the flickering flame was marginally better than a candle and much better than sitting in the dark.  It was a constant chore to fill the glass lamps with kerosene, trim the wicks and clean the glass globes (sometimes called chimneys).  It was not easy to read and do fine work by the light given off by these devices that had improved only slightly since Biblical times.  A more refined light source was a pressurized gas mantle lamp that was known by the brand name of Coleman.  These lamps were difficult to get started and keep going, so they were used only during special occasions, usually when visitors came.  A small pump was used to pressurize the high test gas.  The gas vapours went through a “generator” and burned within a “mantle” made of delicate fabric ashes that would break with the slightest jarring of the lamp or when a moth would fly into it.  When that happened, it was a major operation to get the Coleman lamp repaired and working again.  The gas lamp made a constant hissing noise and was usually hung from a hook in the ceiling to keep it safe and to better distribute the light.  My dad was an expert at keeping this cranky system working properly.  Of course he sometimes got upset because of the money and time spent to provide light, especially during the long winter nights.  Lighting in the barns was obtained from portable kerosene and gas lanterns.  Battery operated flashlights were used for emergency lighting, like when one had to go at night down the path to the outdoor toilet.  The batteries did not last a long time (this was before ‘energizer’ batteries) so it seemed that when one needed the flashlight, either the batteries were dead, the bulb burned out or the flashlight misplaced.

Cooking took place on a wood burning stove.  In the winter the kitchen was a cozy warm place to be, but no one wanted to be there during the summer heat.  It was torture for the ladies to stand over a hot stove for hours on end, cooking large meals.  One of my basic chores was to make sure that the wood box was kept full.  The wood had to be carried from a large woodpile located somewhere in the back yard.  Needless to say the supply of wood did not always keep up with the demand.  An associated chore was to keep the water reservoir on the side of the stove full of soft water.  The water became warmed and was used for washing and bathing.

Cold drinking water had to be drawn from an outside well in the yard and carried into the house in pails.  A communal dipper would sit in the drinking water pail for a quick sip.  Our yard water well had a rope and pulley affair to raise the water.  One of the signs of a child’s strength was being able to pull up a full pail of water up from the bottom of the deep well.  My parents were not impressed when I accidentally dropped the pail and rope into the well.  Dad would have to get a grappling hook affair at the end of another rope to snag the pail and bring it to the surface.  Large containers of cream would be lowered inside the cool well to keep the cream fresh.  I was not a popular person when the rope slipped and I dropped the cream container into the well.  The water in the well was polluted for a long time and not suitable for drinking.

Leonard and Sanny Popoff’s wedding picture, November 1932

Another deep well in the barnyard supplied the livestock with water.  Sometimes there were 50 or more thirsty animals to keep watered.  On a hot summer day the cattle drank huge quantities of water.  A hand pump was used to pump water into a large trough.  This was another task that I did not like.  It was not only boring, but in the heat of the sun, very tiring to manually handle the big metal pump for hours at a time.  To mechanize this task we had a large stationary one cylinder engine.  It was next to impossible for me to start the engine by turning the big flywheel with a crank with one hand while manually “choking” the carburetor with the other.  It took more effort to start the iron beast than to pump the water by hand.  If the engine backfired it could do serious damage to one’s knuckles.  What a relief when electric power came to the barnyard and an electric motor was installed.  All it took to fill the cattle water trough was a flip of the switch.  Of course I had to come back in an hour or so to turn off the motor because the water would overflow and make a soggy mess for the cows to stand in.  I spent one summer trying to invent a way that would turn off the electric motor automatically when the trough got full.  I planned a float and lever system that would flip the off switch when the water level reached the top of the trough, but I never got it implemented.

To wash clothes, mom was fortunate in later years, to have a gas powered washing machine.  The gasoline motor was hard to start, noisy, smelly and difficult to keep running.  In spite of these problems it was much easier than washing clothes the old fashioned way; by hand on a scrub board.  Solar energy was used to dry the clothes.  The wet clothes would be attached with clothes pins on long wire clotheslines.  They dried quickly on a hot day with a gentle breeze.  High winds, dust and frost made drying clothes more challenging.  Often in the freezing weather wet clothes were hung about the house over doors and chairs to dry.  Bed sheets smelled so fresh and clean when they were freeze dried in the winter time.

Human power was used for many things.  In the blacksmith shop, the drill, the saw, the forge and the grindstone were all operated by hand.  That was often my job.  I enjoyed being with my father and grandfather as they worked making and repairing things, unless I wanted to be doing something else.  Even the homemade wood lathe that I had was turned by pumping it with one foot, much like the sewing machine that mom used in the house.  It wasn’t easy to keep the lathe turning fast enough and at the same time applying the chisels to the spinning wood.  Another manual job that I did not look forward to was churning butter.  It seemed to take hours of cranking the churn before the cream would begin to change into butter.  Like many chores, the first 5 minutes was okay; then I would become bored and wanted to do something that was more fun.

It is easy to imagine how farm electrification was welcomed and the labour saving devices that electricity enabled.  We never had much money, so it took a few years to purchase the power tools and appliances that are common today.  A refrigerator and electric stove were welcome additions for my mother in the kitchen.  I installed an electric motor on the old lathe and enjoyed making things on it.  When I was in high school, circa 1956, dad bought me a table saw, a scroll saw, and a power drill.  I learned carpentry from my two grandfathers and was able to adapt power tools to my woodworking projects. 

Horsemen Enjoyed Mother’s Cooking

There were many interesting characters that I was able to observe from a boyhood perspective and imagination. One such person was Pat Keeney.  Pat would travel the local area on a buggy leading a beautiful stallion that he sold for stud services to local farmers.  Pat always seemed to come to our place at mealtimes because he knew that mom was hospitable and an excellent cook.  He would not leave hungry.  If we were not home when he arrived, Pat would just make himself at home and take a nap on the cot in the summer kitchen.  I would be startled when walking into a room and finding an old man snoring away.  I don’t recall that we ever used the services of his stallion.  The Blaine Lake History book relates a colourful history about Pat and his family.

Another horse person was Gus Basiove. Gus immigrated to Canada from Armenia and married a local Doukhobor girl, Elizabeth Popoff (no relation to us).  Gus usually showed up at our place at mealtime, making extra work for mother who was already overworked with other chores.  He drove a flashy convertible, wore a red brocade vest, with a gold watch chain and sported gold teeth.  He certainly made an impression on me because most local men dressed in drab overalls and drove plain vehicles.  Gus was a horse buyer and trader.  I later learned that the old horses that he purchased ended up in a ‘glue factory” or were shipped to Europe for human consumption.  Horses were plentiful and cheap because farmers were making the transition to gas powered tractors.  Sometimes Gus would leave horses and other animals at our place in appreciation for the hospitality he was shown.  I believe that is how Tootsie and Kaiser came into my life.  I also obtained a dog this way, called Rover.  Gus said that the dog was a special cattle and sheep dog, but to me Rover was just a good and faithful companion for many years.

Blaine Lake was honored to be the home of Senator Ralph Byron Horner.  Senator Horner was an avid horseman who imported horses from eastern Canada.  Senator Horner always wore old clothing when in the community saying he looked forward to getting out of the formal wear required in Ottawa.  He was skilled with a stock knife and came every spring to our place to perform that surgery on male bull calves that turned them into docile steers.  The Senator felt that a hearty meal prepared by mother was sufficient payment for his veterinary services.  The Senator’s son, Norval, provided the same service for us after his father died.  Albert Horner, (a nephew) farmed near our place and was noted for raising and showing draft horses that won many prizes at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto.

Travelling Salesmen

In some ways the marketing and distribution system 50 years ago provided better service and was more instantaneous than the e-commerce of today’s internet.  Travelling salesmen would come to our farm with their line of products and demonstrate their application, usually to the house wife, who purchased what she liked or needed.  It was an appreciated service—most of the time.

Back Row: Leonard, Lillian, Sanny. Front Row: Lloyd, Albert, Jack.

The Watkin’s man would have suitcases full of sweet smelling spices like cinnamon and vanilla, food colouring, herbs for pickling and other products that were needed in the kitchen.  The Rawleigh’s product line was more medicinal in nature and was required for the many home remedies of the day.  Iodine, liniments, salves and camphor were always kept on hand to cure aches, pains and ailments such as colds and flu.  The Fuller Brush man would arrive with cleaning supplies and equipment.  Mother would get a break from her work, have a chance to sample some of the goods, purchase what she needed and usually get a small gift as a token of appreciation.  Of course the salesman would not turn down the invitation for tea and fresh baking.

Another type of salesperson would show up on occasion with more expensive products, such as encyclopedias, vacuums, pots and pans and vibrating massage chairs.  These people used high pressure sales techniques because most farm families did not have spare money to purchase the expensive products.  Mother was talked into buying a set of encyclopedias because the salesman convinced her that they were required for the better education of her wonderful children.  Of course, if she bought that day, she would receive, absolutely free, a cabinet to store the large set of books.  The only income that mother had was the receipts from the sale of farm produce such as eggs and cream.  Five gallons of fresh cream would net her about $5.00 each week.  Mom had to use the “easy payment plan” to pay for the encyclopedias.  It took her many years to discharge her financial commitment.  Father was not impressed with mom’s decision, but there is no doubt in my mind that the very informative set of reference books did contribute to my education and motivated me to higher learning. 

Our family also obtained vacuum cleaners, stainless steel cooking pots, and a vibrating massage chair, in a similar manner, but dad was more directly involved.  He did not always have the resistance to withstand the big sales pitch.  Years later the government passed ‘cooling down” legislation that permitted a person to legally back out of an at-home purchase after 48 hours of more rational reflection.

The Golden Age of Radio

Radio provided some entertainment in the busy life of farm living.  The radio also brought a bit of the outside world into the home.  Mother enjoyed listening to the serial ‘soaps’ such as “Ma Perkins”.  Dad would listen to “Hockey Night in Canada” and get the latest grain and cattle prices.  As children, we tried not to miss the adventures of “The Lone Ranger” and we knew when it was “Howdy Doody Time”.  Sister Lil would get a chuckle from “Our Miss Brooks” and “Fibber Macgee and Molly”.  There were dramas like “Boston Blackie” and the Lux Mystery Theatre was another favourite.

The radio was powered by large batteries and had to be connected to a long outdoor antenna.  The main problem was that the rather expensive batteries would go dead and the tubes would burn out with prolonged use.  This meant that the radio time was rationed out. 

Money was Scarce

Our family never had much money, or so it seemed to us youngsters.  We would receive a token allowance of about 10 to 25 cents a week.  For that amount it was possible to buy a few soft drinks and chocolate bars.  We were also encouraged to save money and put it into the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce in Blaine Lake.  I still have my first bank book with the regular hand entries of my deposits and the earned interest.

Nothing was purchased that could be made at home.  The men folk were handy at carpentry and ironwork.  The ladies would grow all their own food and make the clothing for the children.  Only staples like flour, sugar and salt were bought.  It seemed a luxury to order some clothing items from the Simpson’s (now Sears) and Eaton’s catalogue.  As I got older I became conscious that the “town kids” dressed a lot better and more stylish than the “farm kids”.  I was very embarrassed and self-conscious to be seen in farm overalls. 

My parents were very thrifty and not extravagant in their spending or lifestyle.  This was a common trait of many people who went through the great depression and drought of the 1930’s.  Even now, 50 years later, I find it difficult to break the frugal habits of my childhood.  I still go through an effort to shop for the best price and have a real feeling of satisfaction to “save” some money on a purchase.

About the Author

Albert J Popoff was delivered by his Grandmother Katerina on January 26, 1941 on the family farm near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan as the eldest son of Leonard and Sanny (Onishenko) Popoff.  Albert grew up on the family farm that his grandfather pioneered and attended nearby rural and town schools.  Albert obtained a Civil Engineering degree at the University of Saskatchewan where he also pursued his post graduate studies.  Mr. Popoff was the traffic and planning engineer for the City of Saskatoon for 7 years and in 1973 he joined the Saskatchewan Department of highways and Transportation where he held a number of challenging and responsible positions.  In 2001 Mr. Popoff was presented with a distinguished service award by his peers in recognition of extraordinary service in the field of transportation engineering in Canada.  Mr. Popoff is married to Grace, daughter of Helen (Boulanoff) and Peter Strelive.  They have 2 sons, Jeffrey and Russell.  Grace and Albert are now semi retired and live in B.C.’s Okanagan Valley.

Peter G. Makaroff, QC, Canada’s First Doukhobor Lawyer

by William H. McConnell

Peter G. Makaroff (1895-1970) came to Canada as a young boy with the Doukhobor migration in 1899. At that time, he could speak no English, but in less than twenty years, he became the first Doukhobor ever to graduate from a post-secondary educational institution. He went on to become one of Canada’s outstanding lawyers as well as a noted peacemaker and humanitarian. Throughout his life, he cherished his ties with his Russian culture, Doukhobor heritage and pacifist roots. He was a model to many Doukhobors as an educated, courageous and intelligent professional who was willing to help the underdog locally, nationally and internationally. The following article by William H. McConnell, reproduced by permission from Saskatchewan History (44, 1992, No. 3), traces the life and career of this Doukhobor role model who was always at his best working uphill against apparently impossible odds.

Peter G. Makaroff, whose family came to Canada with the first wave of Doukhobor immigration in 1899, was a pioneer in more ways than one. Brought to Canada from Transcaucasia at age five, with six brothers and sisters, after graduation in law from the University of Saskatchewan in 1918, he became the world’s first Doukhobor lawyer. He was the first member of his religion to serve on the University’s Board of Governors and to preside over the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board. In addition to his distinguished record of public service, he was also the founding member of one of Saskatoon’s principal law firms.

Peter’s father, Gregory, found communal life in the Doukhobor colony, which was ruled so strictly by Peter V. Verigin, to be oppressive and left to become an independent farmer. The migration of such dissidents gained momentum with more than a thousand “Independents” residing in the Prince Albert district shortly after 1908. While they still adhered to the main tenets of their faith, and continued to be fervent pacifists, the Independents rejected the authoritarian governmental structure of their leaders and abandoned the communal way of life. In 1916 the Society of Independent Doukhobors was organized with Peter soon becoming secretary of the new group. “Without adopting any of the pretensions of the leaders,” a leading work declares of the younger Makaroff, “he became the intellectual guide to those Doukhobors who had chosen the path of opposition to Peter Verigin but were not prepared to abandon entirely their loyalties to the sect.”

Doukhobor children brought to Pennsylvania by the Quakers in 1902 for education. Peter Markaroff appears in the front centre (with cap). Swarthmore College Collection.

 
As an independent farmer in the Blaine Lake district of Saskatchewan, Gregory Makaroff sent his children to the German-English Academy (later Rosthern Junior College) at Rosthern, which was located about twenty-five miles distant from the farm. Peter’s early inspiration came from one of his teachers, Professor Michael Sherbinin, a Russian nobleman from St. Petersburg, fluent in several languages, from another teacher, Ella Martin, a Presbyterian, from George McCraney, Liberal MP for Rosthern, and from Sir Wilfrid Laurier, who was both prime minister and a distinguished lawyer. The Quakers (a community of whom resided near Borden) provided financial assistance for the education of young Doukhobors, and Peter was sent to Philadelphia to continue his schooling among them, later enrolling in the College of Arts and Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan. By that time Peter Verigin had taken half of the original Doukhobor community in Saskatchewan to the Kootenay area of British Columbia where he had bought 15,000 acres of land.

But who were the Doukhobors of whom the Makaroffs were members? There was no formal ministry nor sacraments within the Doukhobor religion, which broke away from the Russian Orthodox Church in the early eighteenth century. Adherents held that God dwelt within all his children, and that formal communion, preaching or prayers were unnecessary. One writer has described their religion as follows:

The Doukhobors were a priestless religious group, whose faith centred on the belief that every man carried within him the Divine Spark of the Holy Spirit. The Doukhobors were pacifists who believed that each person was a temple of the Holy Spirit. The destruction of human life was therefore regarded as a grievous sin. Their belief in the presence of the Holy Spirit led to their reliance on expressions of the Spirit (prophecies, worshipful praise and song) rather than on the written word. By the 1800s, a heritage of psalms and prayers, called the Living Book, was passed on orally from generation to generation.

With women and men separated by a central aisle in their unadorned meeting houses, believers would make simple professions of faith, much as the Quakers did elsewhere, along with reciting psalms and singing hymns. When Peter Makaroffs family and others destroyed their firearms in 1895, refused to be conscripted into the Army and resolved never to go to war, they experienced ostracism and persecution. The pacifistic character of the religion, emphasizing non-violence and universal brotherhood, brought them into collision with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Tsarist bureaucracy. The demands of the faith presented a hard test to many Doukhobors and not all of them remained steadfast, with some relapsing into the Russian mainstream.

The elder Verigin, a man of impressive charm and presence, known to his flock as “Peter the Lordly,” succeeded his mentor, Lukeria V. Kalmykova, as leader of the Doukhobors on her death in 1886. The military conscription policy, which was so contrary to their principles, having been introduced more than a decade earlier in Russia proper, was unexpectedly extended to the Caucasus region in 1887. In the same year, Verigin was exiled to Shenkursk, Siberia, where he met with other refugees and was deeply influenced by Leo Tolstoy’s philosophical anarchism, which was infused with a vein of non-doctrinal Christian pacifism very similar to that of the Doukhobors. Verigin increasingly promoted Tolstoyan tenets among his followers, advocating “non-resistance to evil,” and enjoining them not to swear oaths, eat meat, drink, smoke, or submit to military conscription.

After further persecution, the Tsarist government finally gave the Doukhobors permission to emigrate to Canada, in which they were assisted by royalties from their benefactor, Leo Tolstoy, derived from the sale of his novel, Resurrection, published in 1898. The Russian authorities admonished them that they, alone, would be responsible for their travelling expenses, that those (including Peter Verigin) who had been exiled to Siberia, or who had been called up for military service should finish their terms before leaving, and warned them that if they returned they would be banished to Siberia. The Canadian government, which was then implementing the “Sifton immigration policy” to populate the West, was grateful to receive as immigrants such hardworking agricultural settlers and as a concession to their religious scruples passed an Order-in-Council and a consequential statutory provision exempting them from future military service.

Some 7,500 Doukhobors then congregated at the Georgian port of Batum, departing for Canada in four shiploads over a seven-month period, the first immigrants embarking on the S.S. Lake Huron in late December, 1898. The fare to Winnipeg was twenty-two dollars for each passenger. After the arduous transits to Halifax and Saint John, New Brunswick, the new arrivals went overland to colonies in the Yorkton area of Assiniboia and the Duck Lake area of Saskatchewan, to a reservation of homestead land having an aggregate total of 773,400 acres. Their leader, Peter V. Verigin, arrived in Canada only on 16 December 1902, after completing nearly sixteen years of Siberian exile.

Because of the young Makaroff’s command of Russian, he was frequently in demand as a translator in Saskatchewan courts, which served a polyglot community arriving in the province before the First World War. Once, when Judge J.A. McClean of the Battleford District Court refused to allow a Doukhobor to take an oath, allegedly because the sect was not Christian and did not believe in the Bible, Makaroff, who was present, jumped to his feet and, proclaiming himself to be a Doukhobor, asserted that his co-religionists were indeed Christians, and that although it was against their principles to swear oaths, the witness could make an affirmation if allowed to do so. McClean sternly admonished Makaroff to sit down, asking him to speak to him after the court adjourned. Afterwards the judge spoke very softly and kindly to the young man, admitting that he personally knew few Doukhobors and encouraging Peter to become a lawyer to promote better understanding. Makaroff did study law at the University of Saskatchewan, graduating in 1918. He helped to defray expenses by waiting on tables in the residences, and participated extensively in athletics. He also got to know well another law student and future prime minister, John Diefenbaker, who graduated one year later. The two remained friendly although their political philosophies diverged sharply as time wore on. Another acquaintance, Helen Marshall, a non-Doukhobor who graduated in arts and science in the same year that Makaroff graduated in law, two years later became his wife.

Peter Makaroff in University of Saskatchewan football uniform, 1916. Saskatchewan Archives Board, S-B6510.

Prior to his death, Judge McClean had given instructions that his extensive law library be sold to his young acquaintance, as a result of which Makaroff acquired a valuable reference library for five hundred dollars. He began his professional practice in the Canada Building in Saskatoon in July, 1918, and was soon taking cases to the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court of Canada. A year later he was joined by Arthur L. Bates, the firm practicing under the style of Makaroff and Bates until the Second World War period.

Because of the Doukhobors’ preference for a simple life close to nature and their aversion to “worldly” education and the learned professions, Makaroff’s admission to the Bar was unprecedented in his religious community and he was sometimes described as the first certified professional in the sect’s two hundred and fifty year history. Far from this estranging him from his fellow believers, he was admired by most Doukhobors for his educational qualifications and marked legal abilities, and they often turned to him for advice, especially during recurrent crises. Although his legal practice was a cosmopolitan one, he always sought to help his own community whenever he could and was only the first of many Doukhobors to attend the University of Saskatchewan.

In one of his earlier cases, Prescesky v. Can. Nor. Ry., decided in 1923, Makaroff’s talent for cross-examination was apparent. His client, a young farmer, had been run down by the defendant’s locomotive at a level railway crossing, with counsel for the railway arguing that the train had given the required signal for such crossings – two long and two short blasts of the whistle with continuous ringing of the bell for each crossing – before the accident took place. Makaroff’s client was non-suited at the first trial, but the Supreme Court of Canada ordered a new trial at which the sole point in contention was whether the requisite warning had been given. Railway counsel from Winnipeg sought to reinforce his already-strong evidence by calling the section foreman’s wife, who claimed that she could survey from her back porch railway track for a distance of four miles, including the site of the accident. Makaroff did not believe that she had actually seen the accident, and proceeded to cross-examine on that assumption. His strategy was risky, however, and could backfire, since if he were mistaken she might take the opportunity to further confirm her evidence. Makaroff decided to test her on the critical question:

Q. You say you actually stood there and heard the whistle blow four times, from the time it passed your cottage until it stopped at the accident?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. Once for each crossing?

A. Sure, that’s just what I said.

Q. You mean you heard four blasts?

A. That is right.

Q. One blast for each of the four crossings?

A. Yes, that’s exactly what I said. That’s just what I heard.

The young counsel for the plaintiff then saw the jury smile and whisper to each other. His successful client later moved from Saskatoon to Vancouver, where he entered commercial life and acquired a substantial fortune.

In the early days of Makaroff’s legal career, public opinion in the province was often intolerant of immigrants of Central and East European origin, and in this respect the Law Society was no different from other organizations. On 30 June 1930, for example, Luseland barrister Frank E. Jaenicke wrote Makaroff referring to a recent entry in the Law Society Gazette stating, “efforts should be made to limit those entering the legal profession to persons of British extraction.” Mr. Jaenicke added that most of the names of those reprimanded or struck off the rolls for non-ethical conduct were of non-British origin, and he suspected that “most of the Benchers were Tories.” Makaroff replied that “at the Bar Convention here the same matter was brought up by [former Dean of Law Arthur] Moxon, seconded by [Stewart] McKercher, but before the motion was put, Mr. [H. E.] Sampson, who was the only Bencher present, got up on his feet, and tendered a very lame apology for the action of the Benchers. He gave the assurance that everything possible would be done… to correct the unfavourable impression.” A weakened motion was then passed by the Bar convention urging rectification of the matter as soon as possible.” Later in the same letter Makaroff added “… I do not give a penny for the attitude of the members of the profession towards me, but I do object to that spirit or sentiment being shared by the judiciary, which undoubtedly will be, unless something happens in the immediate future to check the tendency” In a further letter he mentioned the need for more “broad-minded and tolerant” Benchers, suggesting that more influence might be exerted by lawyers of like mind to elect such Benchers at the next Law Society election.

The Canadian authorities became increasingly critical of a small breakaway sect, the Sons of Freedom, which had formed soon after the Doukhobors arrived in Canada and the activities of which were not representative of a substantial majority of the members of the religion:

However exotic the more violent actions of the Sons of Freedom, the zealot wing of the Doukhobors, may appear to us, it is sobering to reflect that none of these extreme types of behaviour—nudism, arson, dynamiting—was part of the Doukhobor pattern of life before the sect reached Canada. Fire-raisers and nude paraders have never represented more than a small majority of an otherwise peaceful (indeed pacifist) community, anxious only to live according to its own beliefs.

In practice, however, nice logical distinctions between the mainstream Doukhobor movement and the Sons of Freedom were not always made. The peaceful majority were often confused by the public with their more zealous coreligionists, and suffered persecution along with the minority.

With the election of Conservative leader, Dr. J.T.M. Anderson, to the premiership in 1929, increasing strife developed between the Saskatchewan government and the local Doukhobor community. Between 1929 and 1931, twenty-five Saskatchewan schools were burned in Doukhobor areas around Kamsack and Canora, resulting in some arrests and imprisonments. Coincident with the arson and civil disobedience, plummeting world wheat prices adversely affected the communal economy, creating a mood of demoralization among Doukhobors which tended to increase the unrest.

In October 1924, the life of the elder Verigin had come to an untimely end when he and eight others were blown up in a railway carriage near Grand Forks, British Columbia. The mystery of his death has never been solved. Difficult adjustments were necessary after the arrival of Verigin’s son, Peter P. Verigin, from the USSR in 1927. The new leader was described by Makaroff as something of an enigma:

“…No one was sure whether he was a saint or devil or just a plain madman. He was very brilliant. He had a tremendous memory, but at the same time I think he was really a psychopath. From the day he arrived from Russia he became involved in one litigation after another. He was in and out of jail for assaults, for creating disturbances, for what not. He was quite an alcoholic and when under the influence of liquor he was absolutely beyond control. His headquarters were at Verigin near Yorkton. He became so rowdy when staying in one hotel after another that he would be chucked out of there and not allowed to come back, so he goes to work and builds his own hotel. He wasn’t there on more than one occasion before he was prohibited from going back into his own hotel.”

Dr. Anderson and Conservative Prime Minister, R.B. Bennett, were persuaded that Peter P. Verigin was the source of much of the trouble affecting the Doukhobors and decided to take action. In 1932 Verigin had been sentenced to eighteen months in the Prince Albert penitentiary for perjury and tampering with a witness in a disputed land sale agreement the previous year. They decided to spirit him out of Canada with the least publicity possible.

Neither Bennett nor Anderson had much sympathy for immigrants of non-British origin, particularly those who might be tinged with “radical sympathies” or were deemed to have engaged in political agitation against the state. Enacted by Borden’s Union Government during the Red Scare of 1919, section 98 of the Criminal Code visited with up to twenty years’ imprisonment members of vaguely-defined “unlawful associations,” one of whose purposes was to bring about political change by unlawful means. Pursuant to Bennett’s policy “of having ‘no truck nor trade’ with the Soviet Union, and placing an ‘iron heel’ on Socialism and Communism,” the notorious trial of the Toronto Communists (several of whom had Slavic names) was held in November 1931, with the above provision being described by McGill law professor, Frank R. Scott, as “unequalled in the history of Canada and probably any British country for centuries past,” for its permanent restriction of civil liberties. One of the first acts of the succeeding Mackenzie King administration, in fact, was to repeal the egregious section 98.

Among other illiberal acts, Prime Minister Bennett had also amended the Criminal Code to raise the penalty for parading while nude to three years’ imprisonment, a measure obviously aimed at the Doukhobors, and amended the Dominion Franchise Act in 1934 so as to deprive Doukhobors in British Columbia of the right to vote in federal elections. For his part, in 1929-1930, Premier Anderson advised the federal government that further Russian and Mennonite immigration into the province was not wanted, adding that he “doubted if these 5,000 people really were starving outside the gates of Moscow,” as claimed. His government also abolished the use of the French language in grade one of the public schools. It was in this era that the Ku Klux Klan was active in Saskatchewan, with the premier extolling the value of “British” immigration and institutions, a point which the Klan made in a less refined manner.

Thus, Bennett and Anderson being in accord in the final days of January, 1933, two plainclothes agents from Ottawa arrived in Prince Albert, showed the warden a document pardoning Verigin, and whisked the latter swiftly and silently away to Halifax. Anderson and Bennett obviously wished to speed the Doukhobor leader out of the country before his followers and legal counsel could intervene on his behalf.

This ploy almost succeeded. By chance, however, the Prince Albert correspondent of the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix learned of the impending deportation and telephoned her city editor, who in turn telephoned a startled Makaroff; when the latter spoke to Verigin’s subordinates they were insistent that no effort or expense be spared to save their leader from deportation.

Neither Prime Minister Bennett nor the immigration authorities would accede to Makaroff’s request to hold Verigin in Winnipeg so that he could interview his client. With time elapsing quickly, the situation was becoming desperate. Makaroff then embarked on a bold chase. He took the train to Winnipeg and then travelled by air to Minneapolis, Chicago, New York and Boston. Finding that there were no flights between Boston and Halifax, he chartered a small private plane which took off at three o’clock in the morning of the day that Verigin was to be deported, flying over the Bay of Fundy without instruments. The pilot flew at a high altitude in order to avoid the treacherous downdrafts in the area and, fortunately, the flight proceeded without incident.

Russian postcard sent to John G. Bondoreff by S. Reibin and Peter Makaroff written in flight, 2 February 1933. “In view of the fact that Petyushka will be sent off the morning of 4 February and in order to see him before deportation, [we]…are flying at 130 miles per hour…” Saskatchewan Archives Board, S-A292.

Makaroff arrived in Halifax on Saturday morning shortly before the S.S. Montcalm was scheduled to depart with Verigin for Russia. He met with a frigid reception when he was brought to Verigin’s cell. Since Verigin had previously threatened to end his life, Makaroff approached the interview with some uneasiness. The Doukhobor chieftain did not appear surprised at seeing his former counsel with two other Doukhobors, but as Peter Makaroff described the encounter later to John G. Bondoreff, one of the leader’s aides: “The minute he saw the three of us as he entered the room, he immediately swung around and ran back to his cell. The officer in charge came back and said that he would not see the other two at all but wanted to speak to me.”

Because of Verigin’s death threat, Makaroff was surprised by his relatively cordial behavior towards him. He attributed Verigin’s “frequently offensive and insulting attitude” towards those around him to his hopelessness at remaining in the country, noting particularly his incivility towards Lionel Ryan, one of Makaroff’s Halifax agents.

At first Verigin advised Makaroff that he wanted no help at all, cursing all those responsible for the belated legal intervention. There was, moreover, little time to confer. It was already eleven o’clock and the Court House, where habeas corpus proceedings (ie. proceedings to determine whether a prisoner has been imprisoned lawfully) were to be instituted, was to close in two hours. In these difficult circumstances, Makaroff was able to have the hearing deferred until late February. There was at least a reprieve!

When his counsel asked Verigin whether, in lieu of deportation, he would prefer to go back to Prince Albert to finish the remainder of his jail sentence, he was met with “a long line of profanity to the effect that he had no fear of Canadian jails whatsoever. I interpreted that as instructions to do all I could to save him and told him I would do that. He pretended not to care, but his appearance contradicted his pretence.” Following this exchange, Makaroff related that Verigin “gave me every cooperation… to present his case before the Court,” adding, however, “… it would be impossible to describe in any detail his many insane tantrums… during our month’s stay there”

After these rather equivocal instructions to counsel, Makaroff applied for habeas corpus on his client’s behalf. Much of the argument before Mr. Justice Mellish centred around the instrument dated 20 January 1933, and signed by the Governor-General, Lord Bessborough, which read in part: “He is to be deported to Russia when released from custody… .” The relevant section of the Immigration Act, however, provided that an inmate could be deported only after his sentence or term of imprisonment “has expired,” and Mellish held that Verigin’s sentence had not “expired” within the meaning of that section. Roughly half of Verigin’s sentence had still to run and “he has the right if he chooses to take the limit of time allowed him before deportation…. If the prisoner is pardoned conditionally he has the right to refuse the pardon if he is unwilling to accept the conditions. If the prisoner has been pardoned (and I do not think he could be discharged from prison except in exercise of the power of pardon) he cannot in my opinion be deported.” Since Verigin had been unlawfully detained, Mellish ordered that his petition be granted and that he be released from custody.

Had the case been heard a few weeks later it is probable that the results would have been different. Verigin was a very fortunate man. One month after Mellish’s decision, the Supreme Court of Canada decided, contrary to the Nova Scotia judgment, that the prerogative of mercy could be exercised by the Crown to release a prisoner without his consent prior to the termination of his sentence. After such a pardon, moreover, his sentence could be considered to have “expired,” enabling the government to deport him under the statutory provision applying in Verigin’s case. Since the Supreme Court decision would bind all lower courts throughout Canada, had it been in effect during the Halifax proceedings, Mellish would have been constrained to decide the case against Verigin. Four months later, in Winnipeg, the federal authorities again attempted to deport Verigin, but they were frustrated this time because the local court found that, whatever statutory provisions might apply, there had not been a “fair hearing.” The government certainly seemed determined to get rid of the Doukhobor leader.

Because Makaroff was not a member of the Nova Scotia Bar, he had to engage two Halifax agents, J.J. Power, K.C., and Lionel Ryan, to present his client’s case in the local forum. He had dictated some of the affidavits over the telephone to them while en route to Halifax, and had planned much of the legal strategy. By agreement, Power was to have received a fee of five hundred dollars, but when the case was won he increased the amount, having Verigin arrested for debt under the archaic law of capias (used in England in Dickens’ time to send indigents to debtors’ prison) so that he would not abscond without settling accounts. Verigin perceived things differently. “God, through the instrumentality of Judge Mellish, released me from jail, only to be re-arrested and lodged back in jail by my own lawyer, Peter Makaroff. Send me $10,000 immediately in order to extricate me from the toils of the law again.” On learning that his ruse was detected, Verigin began railing once more. Makaroff then left town, catching up with Verigin in Winnipeg where the latter apologized to him.

Reflecting wryly about the case some years later, Makaroff recalled that he had received his appointment as King’s Counsel in 1932 from the Anderson government in part for his efforts at quelling some of the more rambunctious antics of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors. His victory in Halifax spoke well of the solicitude of the Canadian justice system for a member of an unpoular minority. Nevertheless, he sometimes wondered what Anderson and Bennett really thought about his return of Verigin to the province in 1933. He was able to see the comic as well as the more serious aspects of the transcontinental chase involving one of the world’s most colorful religious personalities. Because of the high drama of the incident, it attracted much interest in the international press.

Another series of trials of roughly the same vintage, in which Makaroff served as defence counsel, occurred after the Regina riot of 1 July 1935. The riot was the culminating episode of the On-to-Ottawa trek by a trainload of unemployed young men proceeding to the national capital to seek the help of the Conservative prime minister. When R.B. Bennett ordered the trek halted at Regina, the RCMP attempted to clear the trekkers out of Market Square, resulting in an ugly confrontation and a clash between the police and the militants with one death, much loss of property and many injuries.

In the climate of antagonism towards “political agitators” in mid-Depression times, public sympathy was clearly on the side of “law and order.” When the trekkers were put individually on trial, Makaroff was called in as defence counsel, later enlisting Emmett M. Hall, Q.C., of Saskatoon (a future Supreme Court of Canada judge) to assist with the defence. Makaroff’s assessment of the accuseds’ prospects was bleak: “The whole atmosphere was charged with hostility against the prisoners and there was slight hope of freeing any of them. Nevertheless, we fought every case all the way as they came up.” Hall later said that he and Makaroff “were pretty well isolated as far as the Regina Bar was concerned.”

Chaos during the Regina Riot, 1935. City of Regina Photograph Collection.

The legal combination of Democratic Socialist and Red Tory did all they could, however, for their beleaguered and unpopular clients. Makaroff was threatened with contempt-of-court on several occasions by the presiding judge, Mr. Justice J.F.L. Embury, when he compared the climactic assembly of trekkers in Market Square to discuss their survival with a meeting of bank directors. “Who do you think would be on trial today,” he typically asked the juries, “if the police violently and without any warning broke into a bank boardroom and clobbered the heads of the directors as they did the trekkers on trial before you?” This invocation of the spectre of class warfare and the solicitude of the police and courts for the property-owning elite, of course, was more likely to appeal to a Marxist seminar than to a right-wing judge and jurors apprehensive for their lives and property. Most of the trekkers received sentences in Prince Albert provincial jail, and many of them frankly welcomed the prospect of regular meals and accommodation, however meagre, over looking for non-existent jobs on the outside.

Coming from a Doukhobor background with its communal ethic of mutual help and sharing, especially in times of economic adversity, it is understandable that Makaroff would be attracted to the more radical wing of the Progressive party in the 1920s and to the Farmer-Labour, CCF and NDP parties in later decades. He did not agree with every policy of these left-leaning movements, however, and as a pacifist supported CCF leader, J.S. Woodsworth, in his opposition to Canada’s participation in war in 1939, a position that the mainstream CCF rejected. In one ofWoodsworth’s letters to Makaroff coinciding with the onset of the Second World War, the CCF leader enclosed a copy of the United College perodical, Vox, with an article by him containing a sentiment they would both share: “For me the teachings of Jesus are absolutely irreconcilable with the advocacy of war.” Peter disdained alike fascism and Communism, but manifested on the international plane a Tolstoyan stance of non-resistance to evil.

Peter’s first foray into politics was as a Farmer-Labour candidate in the Shellbrook constituency in the Saskatchewan provincial election of 1934. When such a staunch Conservative as North Battleford lawyer Ariel F. Sallows wrote to congratulate him on his nomination, adding that if he were beaten he hoped it would be by a Tory, Makaroff replied, “if my defeat is dependent on the realization of your hope, then I am as good as elected.” He was prescient in this case, since although he lost to a Liberal, he secured many more votes than his Conservative opponent. In this mid-Depression election he unavailingly trained his guns on the bankers and financial magnates who were impoverishing ordinary people by imposing extortionate interest rates and foreclosing mort­gages, declaring that there was no difference between the two older parties which always supported the economic establishment.

Makaroff’s only successful campaign for public office resulted in his single term on Saskatoon City Council in 1939-1940. Here, as always, he stressed the need for helping the less privileged sector of society. In a multilingual community having many immigrant families of Central and East European origin, he told Council that something should be done to amend the Old Age Pensions Act, which debarred those not speaking English or French from receiving pensions – thirteen such persons were on local relief rolls, he added. There was also an animated exchange between him and other aldermen when Council voted to abolish the Clothing Relief Bureau which supplied used clothing to those in need. One applicant, Makaroff said, was refused suitable clothing by the Bureau in which to bury his wife. He could wrap a scarf around her neck, he was told by the Bureau official, and in an enclosed coffin it was not necessary to have anything below that. “If that conversation took place it’s awful.” Alderman Caswell expostulated. “I don’t think it took place.” City Commissioner Andrew Leslie replied. “Well the woman was buried today,” said Makaroff, “and I can get an affidavit from the man any day I want it.”

Of overriding concern to Doukhobors, Mennonites, and pacifists generally was Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s national plebiscite on 27 April 1942 in which he sought to be released from his pre-war pledge not to impose conscription on Canadians for compulsory overseas service. While Makaroff did not play a prominent part in the plebiscite debate, he used whatever influence he had on the “no” side. The plebiscite resulted in a lopsided 71.2 per cent majority in Quebec against releasing King from his undertaking, but in an over all Canadian majority of 63.7 per cent in favour of doing so. In Saskatoon, for example, where the pro-conscription vote was considerably higher than the national average, the “yes” majority amounted to 88.9 per cent of those voting. Accordingly, the ever-wary prime minister did nothing for two further years, and when his government finally did impose conscription for overseas service in 1944, it precipitated a national crisis. It is of some interest that in the Saskatoon region, where Makaroff s activities were centred, former University President Walter C. Murray was campaign chairman on the “yes” side, and Dean Fred Cronkite of the law school was a zone chairman.

An important wartime activity of Makaroff was advising Doukhobors on the intricacies of the National War Services Regulations, 1940 and similar laws and regulations. Since the Doukhobors had come to Canada originally under the Order-in-Council of 6 December 1898, exempting them from military service, they appeared prima facie not to be subject to the above Regulations. However, the matter was not entirely free from doubt. While section 18(1) of the Regulations exempted those professing “conscientious objections” for religious reasons, the onus fell on whomever claimed the benefit of the clause to provide their eligibility. Because Doukhobors were not expressly exempted from service in the Regulations, Makaroff had doubts about whether or not it applied, and told those asking, “… to be perfectly sure my advice is to comply with this provision of the act.” The Deputy Minister of National War Services, T.C. Davis, who conferred often with Makaroff, emphasized that to be eligible for exemption as a Doukhobor an applicant should be either a person referred to in the Order-in-Council of 1898, or the descendant of such a person; because of the Doukhobors’ objection to swearing oaths, however, an unsworn declaration in their case would be acceptable. A Doukhobor dentist from Canora was concerned about how his claim for exemption would be perceived: “If I register with the Doukhobors, as I know I should, will it not affect my professional position?” An engineer wondered about whether he was technically a British subject. Makaroff had many queries to answer.

A poignant sidelight is offered in a post-war letter that Makaroff addressed to conscientious objectors in the Rosthern federal by-election of 1948, when he ran as a CCF candidate:

“No doubt you still have a very clear memory of your unhappy days in the conscientious objector camp at Waskesiu during the last War. If so you will remember my son Robert who spent the winter and part of the summer there with you. Robert has since finished his medical course and is now a doctor at University Hospital in Edmonton, where he graduated about eighteen months ago.”

The letter emphasized the need for preventing another global war in the era of atomic weapons. Both Makaroff’s son, Robert, and daughter, Barbara, later developed flourishing medical practices.

In the wartime election of 26 March 1940, Makaroff was a CCF candidate in the federal riding of Rosthern, where there was a large Mennonite population, but he lost to Liberal Walter Tucker. Among speakers supporting him were University of Saskatchewan English professor and party activist, Carlyle King, and M.J. Coldwell, who in 1942 was to become leader of the CCF. Although Woodsworth was re-elected in Winnipeg North Centre in 1940, those who shared the pacifist sentiments of their ailing leader were rapidly losing ground and on 20 July 1940, Makaroff sent a letter to the provincial CCF convention in Regina resigning as the First Vice-President of the provincial party because he disagreed with the party’s endorsement of the war: “… By conviction I am a lifelong pacifist.” he said, “From childhood I have been steeped in the faith that it was against the will and example of the Prince of Peace for man to engage in the wholesale slaughter of his fellow man, including helpless innocent children, at the command of a superior officer.”

Doukhobor Conscientious Objectors’ camp at Montreal Lake, Saskatchewan, 1941. Saskatchewan Archives Board, S-B5475.

Although the rank-and-file of the party strongly endorsed the war effort, there was considerable understanding for Woodsworth’s and Makaroff’s pacifist position, and reconciliation when he again ran unsuccessfully in Rosthern in the 1948 by-election. He attributed his loss in the 1948 contest to Prince Albert merchant and farmer, W.A. Boucher, to “insufficient time and effort on my part;” other factors were poor organization and distribution of literature with the result that “at least six meetings were complete flops or had to be cancelled altogether.” He also charged that Liberals such as Jimmy Gardiner or Walter Tucker (who was vacating the Rosthern seat to become provincial Liberal leader) were intimidating voters by threatening to cut off family allowances and crop failure bonuses if Makaroff won. Overall, Makaroff’s record in the electoral arena was not good, but he often had to fight against the tide in difficult constituencies and he never seemed reluctant to undertake an uphill battle.

Makaroff was heartened in 1944 by the election of Tommy Douglas of the CCF as Premier of Saskatchewan and by the new government’s promotion of an array of social services including hospital insurance. Peter was an active proponent of publicly-funded medicine which he advocated in an article in the local newspaper: “It is obvious that individual or group insurance is not the answer for Saskatchewan to this urgent and perplexing problem, since nearly one-half of our people are penniless on attaining the age of sixty-five and the average family’s income is probably lower today than it was in 1936 when it was $577.” Makaroff strongly approved of Saskatchewan’s pioneering efforts in this area, including Canada’s first medicare plan as implemented by the governments of T.C. Douglas and Woodrow Lloyd in 1961-1962.

Peter’s appointment to the University’s Board of Governors after the War was strenuously opposed by the Imperial Order Daughters of the Empire, a resolution of which sharply criticized him as being “widely known throughout Saskatchewan for extreme pacifist views and for opposition to Canada’s active participation in the war.” The same resolution criticized his son Robert for seeking military exemption. Another of Makaroff’s appointments was as chairman of the Saskatch­ewan Labour Relations Board in which capacity he presided with ability over the Board for more than a decade, having served as counsel at first instance for employees claiming to have been wrongfully dismissed in the celebrated John East case, which established that the provincially-appointed Board was not usurping the functions of a superior court and was validly constituted.

In 1948 when the Judicial Committee in London was still Canada’s highest court, Makaroff represented Saskatchewan in an appeal in England challenging the CPR’s exemption from taxation within provincial boundaries. The provincial argument was, in part, that the constitutional incapacity to tax detracted from the postulated equality of the provinces, but Their Lordships decided against the province, finding that there was no paradigm of exact provincial equality in the Canadian Constitution. Was it purely fortuitous that the Canadian Parliament abolished overseas appeals in the following year?

Peter Makaroff addresses crowd at the dedication of Petrofka Ferry as a Saskatchewan Historic Site, 1959. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.

Throughout the 1950s Makaroff continued his extensive law practice as the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, particularly in British Columbia, carried on their protests against various government measures. At the climax of one series of demonstrations in 1962, Independent Liberal Senator Donald Cameron suggested that the B.C. Sons of Freedom be placed on a reservation on one of the Queen Charlotte Islands and provided with vocational and agricultural training “to rescue them from their maladjustment.” In replying to Senator Cameron, Makaroff objected to his description of the Sons of Freedom as Doukhobors—”they have nothing to do with the Doukhobor faith,” but showed otherwise keen interest in his proposal. “Your thought that with suitable help and encouragement they might be established somewhere as a self-supporting community to live decently and in peace on some island,” he wrote the legislator, “or say, in the Peace River Region, accords with my views and deserves, I feel, a most serious consideration by the authorities concerned.” Since the Senator’s appointment was from Alberta, there could have been some irony in Makaroff’s suggestion that the Sons of Freedom be settled in the Peace River district.

When Roger Carter was one of the younger partners in Makaroff’s firm he recalls an occasion during which the latter was arguing a difficult case before Mr. Justice C.S. Davis in Prince Albert, and was ordered by the judge to desist
from broaching a certain matter which Makaroff considered to be crucial. When he persisted, nevertheless, he was fined $500 for contempt-of-court by Davis, whereupon he reached for his wallet in his back pocket, asking the judge whether he wanted the amount “in cash or in kind” The incident occurred during Diefenbaker’s term of office as prime minister, and when his fellow law student of thirty-five years ago called at the prime minister’s railway carriage, Diefenbaker noticeably warmed to Peter when he learned of what had happened earlier in the day. Diefenbaker and Davis were old foes, once having had a roundhouse fight in the Prince Albert court house.

In the early 1960s the style of Peter’s firm was Makaroff, Carter, Surtees and Sherstobitoff, but his partners, while maintaining their highest regard for him, gradually left for other pursuits. Carter went on to a professorship at the law school in Saskatoon, taking graduate work at Michigan and serving as Dean of Law from 1968 to 1974. Carter was also a founder of the University’s Native Law Centre in 1973, receiving an honorary doctorate from Queen’s in recognition of this accomplishment. Another colleague, Leslie A. Surtees, left to become a magistrate in Swift Current. Nicholas Sherstobitoff remained with the firm longer, and after an extensive practice in labour and administrative law was appointed to the Saskatchewan Court of Appeal in the early 1980s, becoming the highest ranking Doukhobor on any Canadian court. Like Makaroff, he had also presided earlier over the Saskatchewan Labour Relations Board.

Until his death in 1971, true to his Doukhobor principles, Makaroff sought to promote international peace and goodwill through his membership in organizations like the World Federalists. He strongly supported Bill Sherstobitoff (the father of the above judge) when he sent a telegram on 19 May 1963, on behalf of the Doukhobor Society of Saskatoon, urging the Canadian government and parliamentarians not to acquire nuclear weapons. The Pearson government had changed its position in this issue, and later in the year did accept Bomarc missiles at RCAF bases at North Bay, Ontario, and La Macaza, Quebec. To the end of his life Makaroff continued to be esteemed for his steadfast adherence to principle, sometimes at considerable personal cost, and had the respect of many persons of goodwill who did not share those principles.

Peter Makaroff (far right) attending the International Meeting for Peace at the Manitoba-North Dakota border, 1966. Photo courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.

A person of strong idealism and great intellectual vigour, Peter Makaroff was a natural leader of the Independent Doukhobor movement. He achieved great distinction in his chosen profession. While he was strongly committed to traditional Doukhobor values of non-violence and brotherhood, he was not so much inclined, perhaps, to engage in Doukhobor religious services on a regular basis. For him the Doukhobor tradition was more something to be lived on a day-to-day basis, and its ideals of pacifism and sharing were also to be pursued m the political forum. He was admired by many of his fellow Doukhobors because of his valued professional counsel and activities, with one of his main services to his community being the rescue of Peter P. Verigin from deportation in 1933. He also reached out into the broader community and made friends in diverse sectors. The first Doukhobor graduate of the provincial university, he blazed a trail that many younger members of his religion followed later. It was very fitting that after his death in 1971 his ashes were strewn in the Petrovka area on the North Saskatchewan River where the Makaroffs had made their first Canadian home some seven decades earlier.

This article originally appeared in the pages of Saskatchewan History, an award-winning magazine dedicated to encouraging both readers and writers to explore the province’s history. Published by the Saskatchewan Archives since 1948, it is the pre-eminent source of information and narration about Saskatchewan’s unique heritage.  For more information, visit Saskatchewan History online at: http://www.saskarchives.com/web/history.html.

A History of the Perverseff Family

by Roger Phillips

Roger Phillips (1926-) was born in Tangleflags, Saskatchewan to Francis "Frank" Henry James Phillips, an English "remittance man", and Agatha J. Perverseff, a university-educated Doukhobor schoolteacher. At the age of nine, he moved with his mother to her parents home west of Blaine Lake. There, Roger enjoyed a typical Independent Doukhobor farmboy upbringing for the times, complete with hard work and responsibility. Nearly eighty years later, his Doukhobor heritage and upbringing has given Roger much to treasure and remember. His memoirs, reproduced here by permission from his book, “A History of the Phillips & Perverseff Families” provides an overview of his Perverseff family roots from their earliest origins through to their settlement on the Molochnaya, exile to the Caucasus and emigration to Canada – the ‘Promised Land’, as well as the family’s early pioneer years, and his own boyhood during the Depression.

Having introduced (my mother) Agatha into this narrative, the time is ripe to trace what is known of her early family history—one very different from (my father) Frank’s and sometimes quite turbulent. The Perverseffs (maternal line) belonged to a unique social entity. They were Doukhobors, a strongly pacifist social grouping driven by persecution in Mother Russia to migrate to Canada. I spent some time with my Perverseff grandparents as a little boy and young man and learned just enough Russian to grasp snatches of stories my Grandmother told. I refer to my grandparents now as John and Lucille, but in Russian they were Vanya and Lusha; to me they were Dyeda and Babushka. They and my Mother were my bridges to the past.

Family Origins

Scholarly sources state that the Russian surname Pereverzev (transcribed as Perverseff or Pereverseff in Canada) originates from the Russian verb pereverziti meaning “to muddle” or “to distort”. One may suppose that an early ancestor acquired this term as a nickname, which in turn was passed on to his forebears. The exact reason for such a nickname is unknown. It might be complimentary or insulting, or even ironic depending on circumstance and the individual concerned.

I recall that Russia’s Perm region, some 700 miles east of Moscow, was often alluded to by the family, for there my Pereverzev forebears purportedly dwelled and toiled until the 1700’s. Lusha had heard folk tales but the intercession of tumultuous events had insinuated themselves between her memory and that long-ago time so the connection was at best tenuous. Nevertheless, that is the first historical hint we have.

Were one to fall back on an imagination sprinkled with elusive wisps of hearsay to pierce the mists of centuries, he might conjure up images of his village-dwelling ancestors herding sheep and cattle on the steppes of Perm gubernia (province) or meeting in sobranya (a primarily religious gathering) to foster a burgeoning pacifist faith which by the 1700s was already balking against an increasingly stifling church orthodoxy and corrupt priesthood.

The Molochnaya and Caucasian Exile

If, indeed, Perm was an ancestral home, my antecedents had left it long before the migration made to the Molochnye Vody (Milky Waters) region of Tavria Province on the Crimean frontier just north of the Sea of Azov. Doukhobor researcher Jon Kalmakoff’s accessing of Russian archives reveals that the Pereverzev family in the later 1700s lived in Ekaterinoslav province, migrating about 1801 to land along or near the Molochnaya River in the Melitopol district of Tavria province, Russia (present day Zaporozhye province, Ukraine) where they lived in Rodionovka village, farming adjoining land for some forty years. There were eight other Doukhobor villages scattered along the river and adjoining lake known as Molochnaya.

In 1845, a Pereverzev family and other Doukhobors were exiled to the forbidding Zakavkaz (Transcaucasian) region. Wild Asiatic tribes occupied this mountainous, inhospitable region and Tsar Nikolai I, hitherto unable to rehabilitate what he considered to be an incorrigible sect, opined that these mountain tribes would soon teach the Doukhobors a lesson or, better still, remove altogether this thorn from his side.

Kalmakoff, a Regina-based researcher, accessed long-forgotten Russian archives and found that the family patriarch, Vasily Mikhailovich Pereverzev, together with his wife Maria, was listed among the Doukhobors exiled to the Caucasus. His parents and siblings did not accompany him.

Seduced, one might posit, by a growing prosperity that looked askance at being driven into unpleasant exile, his parents and siblings demurred to Orthodoxy and pronounced allegiance to the Tsar. The parents were Mikhailo (b. 1802), and Maria (b. 1802); his siblings, Ilya Mikhailovich (b.1827), Pelegea Mikhailovna (b. 1828), Semyon Mikhailovich (b. 1830), Fedosia Mikhailovna (b. 1832), Irena Mikhailovna (b. 1834), Evdokia Mikhailovna (b. 1837), Evdokim Mikhailovich (b. 1839), Ivan Mikhailovich (b. 1841) and Anna Mikhailovna (b. 1843).

Ivan Vasilyevich Pereverzev (left) and unidentified Doukhobor relatives in Gorelovka village, Kars province, Russia, c. 1890.

So it was that as the middle of the Nineteenth Century approached, my maternal Great-Great-Great-Grandfather Vasily Mikhailovich Pereverzev had grown up and chosen to go into exile with his wife Maria and their two sons rather than bow to Orthodox Church and Tsarist pressure.

Their sons were Ivan Vasilyevich, to whom our branch of the Perverseffs traces our lineage, and Fyodor Vasilyevich, who founded the Fred, Andrew, and Alexander Perverseff lines. Their father, Vasily, was the only one of his line of Pereverzevs to accompany those Doukhobors who stood firm by their faith and were banished from their Molochnaya settlements between 1841 and 1845.

In the Caucasus, the Pereverzevs settled in Novo-Goreloye village in Elizavetpol province (in present-day Azerbaijan), one of four Doukhobor villages established in that province of Transcaucasian Russia.

Harsh Living Conditions

Ivan Vasilyevich, my Great-Great-Grandfather and son of the patriarch Vasily, married in the mid-1850s and his wife Aksinya bore him a son Vasily in 1859. In 1880 this son Vasily married Elizaveta Lapshinov and they had a son, my Grandfather Ivan Vasilyevich in 1883 and two daughters.

The Pereverzevs along with their fellow Doukhobors in Elizavetpol province found life harsh. Fleeting summers squeezed between frost-bitten springs and falls and deep winter snows contrasted sharply with the pleasing milder climate their elders had known in the Molochnaya region. Subsistence was based mainly on cattle and sheep raising, market gardening, and what little wheat could be grown. There was something else. An undercurrent of fear shadowed the Elizavetpol villages, with good reason.

Asiatic hill country tribesmen would occasionally swoop down on horseback on the Doukhobor villages, plundering livestock and poultry and, reputedly, even carrying off children. The hillsmen’s depredations were tempered somewhat by the retributive countering of armed Doukhobors riding out to punish the raiders. Circumstances soon offered many Elizavetpol Doukhobor families an opportunity to leave.

Aksinya Pereverzeva in Gorelovka village, Kars province, Russia, c. 1894. Her loyalty to Verigin’s Large Party resulted in a Pereverzev family schism in 1886.

During the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878, Doukhobor men were enlisted as teamsters for the Russian Army – a compromise from being actual combatants and a lucrative arrangement made by the then-Doukhobor leader Lukeria Kalmykova. The Doukhobor teamsters served faithfully and their efforts helped Russia emerge victorious from the conflict. As a reward, the Doukhobors in Elizavetpol and other areas were invited to settle in the more temperate and fertile province of Kars, newly-conquered from the Ottoman Empire. Many Doukhobors accepted, including the Pereverzevs.

The Pereverzevs’ migration to Kars in 1880 took them through Tiflis (later Tbilisi, Georgia), a city Grandmother Lusha sometimes mentioned when talking about life in Kars. Once in Kars, the Pereverzevs settled in the village of Gorelovka, named after their former home in Elizavetpol. It was one of six Doukhobor villages established in the province. There, they would live and prosper for the next nineteen years.

A Pereverzev family schism occurred in 1886 when the Doukhobor leader Lukeria (Lushechka) Vasilyevna Kalmykova died. Many Doukhobors decided to follow Petr Vasilyevich Verigin, who had been a protégé of hers, and formed what became known as the “Large Party”. Other Doukhobors maintained that Lushechka had not anointed Peter and instead sided with her officials who claimed Verigin usurped the leadership. Individuals of this persuasion established themselves as the “Small Party”. My Great-Great-Grandmother, Aksinya, was by all accounts a loyal Large Party adherent while her husband Ivan Vasilyevich sided with the Small Party. Sadly, the ill feelings this rift created forced the elderly couple to vacate the family home.

In his later years, Ivan Vasilyevich Pereverzev was a village starshina – a dignitary we would today call a mayor. His son Vasily Ivanovich became a trader as well as farmer, herdsman, and carpenter and, years later, related that on his trading expeditions he found Christian Armenian shopkeepers the most hospitable of the merchants he encountered in the Caucasus. Only after sharing a meal and an hour or two of pleasant conversation would they get down to mundane business.

Restrictions meant to better reflect their pacifism were imposed on the Large Party Doukhobors in the early 1890s, and the following obeyed Leader-in-Exile Petr Vasilyevich Verigin’s decree to forego smoking, drinking, sex, and eating meat. Late in 1894, Verigin wrote from banishment in Siberia that such denial would purify the body and bring into one fold all the animal kingdom in the Doukhobor pact of non-violence.

The Burning of Arms

A supreme test came in 1895 when Verigin ordered his followers to protest war and killing of any sort by burning their arms. This they did in dramatic fashion on the night of June 28-29. A bonfire near the villages of the Kars Doukhobors punctuated the darkness as guns and other killing instruments were put to the torch. As well, Doukhobors serving in the army laid down their rifles, refusing to kill for the state. Then it was that these folk felt the full fury of an enraged officialdom. The whippings and other means of persecution were brutal. Indeed, the “Burning of Arms”, as Doukhobor history records the event, became buried deep in the psyche of these people, a watershed act pointing them towards Canada and a new destiny.

Vasily Ivanovich (sitting) and his son Vanya (standing) Pereverzev pictured in typical Russian dress – a military style peaked cap, a coat tight at the waist and high boots. Gorelovka village, Kars province, Russia, c. 1894.

The Doukhobors wanted so little and yet so much. Above all they wished to peacefully pursue their faith, to be free to lead simple, non-violent, productive lives in a communal environment with “Toil and Peaceful Life” and “Thou Shalt Not Kill” their watchwords. Noble sentiments, indeed, but the Burning of Arms and Doukhobor soldiers rejecting the army were highly provocative acts inviting harsh reprisals by Tsarist officials. The persecution that followed seemed to leave no choice for many but to get out or perish.

Exodus to Canada

Their plight attracted worldwide attention. Journalists, writers and benefactors in several countries took up their cause. Not the least of these was the already famous Russian novelist and humanitarian Lev Tolstoy who, himself, embraced many Doukhobor ideals, becoming their staunchest ally. His financial contribution and towering talent as a writer did much to facilitate their move to Canada, an exodus that began December 21, 1898, when the first shipload left Russia. Their turn to depart set for some months later, the Pereverzevs and other villagers in Gorelovka, Kars Province, began selling off their possessions and preparing for their own departure. Overseeing preparations for our branch of the Pereverzevs was Vasily Ivanovich, now 40, who had helped shepherd the family through the harrowing times in Transcaucasia and the terrors following the Burning of Arms. He and his wife Elizaveta now had in their care a 16-year-old son, Ivan Vasilyevich, his wife Lusha, and two younger daughters, Dunya and Hanya. Ivan’s birth, on May 1, 1883, followed by two years that of Lusha (nee Negreeva). Under mutual arrangements and approving eyes Ivan and Lusha were married in 1898.

Cousin Mae Postnikoff tells Grandmother’s side of the story. Mae stayed with the Perverseff grandfolks in Blaine Lake while attending high school in the 1950s. Grandmother told her the marriage was arranged by the Pereverzev and Negreev families and confided that back in Russia she loved not Grandfather but another man her family wouldn’t condone her marrying. This “beloved” also migrated to Canada eventually moving on to British Columbia and Grandmother never saw him again. Love takes nurturing and while Lusha may not have loved Ivan at first, she did in time.

Vasily Ivanovich’s immediate and extended family was among that part of the Kars Doukhobor population scheduled to set sail for Canada May 12, 1899. At sea they lived on sukhari (dried bread) and water, reaching Canada June 6. After a lengthy quarantine they proceeded west by rail, reaching the Northwest Territories settlement of Duck Lake in early July. Detraining there, they temporarily occupied immigration sheds, regrouped, acquired settlement supplies, and underwent further documentation.

A cavalcade of Doukhobor immigrants on the move from debarkation at Duck Lake, Northwest Territories, to settle a prairie site in the summer of 1899.

Canadian unfamiliarity with the spelling and pronunciation of Russian family names resulted in their sometimes being anglicized. In our case, Pereverzev became Perverseff although family members eventually adopted Pereverseff. Today, more than a hundred years later, the Russian pronunciation of names has often given way to anglicized versions.

With August approaching and half the summer gone, Vasily and the other new arrivals to Canada were understandably restless. Having heard of the harshness of western prairie winters, they were anxious to reach their new lands, build shelters in time to get through the inevitable snows and cold, and get on with their new life. To this end they formed into groups based mainly on extended family relationships. One group of some 20 families including the Perverseffs set off with wagons and on foot for a site nearly 40 miles west of Duck Lake. With a few horse-and-oxen-drawn wagons heaped with necessities they were part of the procession that marched to Carlton Ferry, crossed the North Saskatchewan River and entered the “Prince Albert Colony”. To the newcomers this was indeed a Promised Land where they and their faith might flourish. Little did they realize then that inevitable acculturation would modify and eventually replace traditional thinking and ways with Canadian thinking and ways. Once across the river, the different groups set off to the designated areas each was to settle.

The Promised Land

Let us retrace this migration and subsequent settlement as seen through the eyes of Grandfather Vanya and his son Jack, with manuscript-typist and cousin Mae Postnikoff joining in. In a memoir, Grandfather related that the Gorelovka villagers began their journey on a fresh April morning. They spent Easter Week in the Russian Black Sea port of Batum awaiting the May 12 departure of the S.S. Lake Huron, the Canadian ship taking them to Canada. Of the 2,300 Kars Doukhobors who made the voyage by sea and ocean, 23 did not survive the rough waters and meager diet. Reaching Quebec City at the beginning of June, the new arrivals were immediately subjected to a thirty-day quarantine on Grosse Isle in the St. Lawrence River to obviate any communicable disease spread. Ten days aboard Canadian Pacific Railway “colonial” rail cars with wooden benches to sit and sleep on brought the migrants by later-July via the still largely tent city of Saskatoon to Duck Lake, the seat of a Metis uprising 14 years earlier. There, immigration sheds housed them before they departed for their settlement sites.

With a few oxen and horses and wagons and a few cows in tow the group that included Grandfather’s family wended its way westward to a point approximately a mile and a half northeast of where the town of Krydor now stands. In a ravine near a small lake they stopped. Squatters now, the migrants dug holes in the ravine walls into which they thrust poles and used sod to complete rude huts. These first “homes”, not unlike the domiciles characteristic of some of their Asiatic neighbors in Russia, provided rough shelter. Grandfather wrote that “we lived about three years” in this “wild and desolate place…isolated in a strange and unfamiliar land”.

Vanya, Lusha and their son Jack photographed in Canada c. 1903. 

A creek ran through the ravine meandering across rolling prairie situated in the SE 26-44-8-W3. Men who could be spared were away railroad building or working on construction or for established farmers earning money for settlement needs. It fell to the womenfolk to break ground for gardens, manage the livestock and keep the village going. Many years later, the late Bill Lapshinoff, a relative whose farm was nearby, showed a friend and me where village women had dug a channel to provide water flow to turn a grist mill wheel. The channel lay in a copse of brush and poplar preserved from the effects of wind and water erosion. There is no one left to tell us now, but the new settlers presumably called this first village Gorelovka after their former home village in Russia.

Grandfather further wrote that things changed when the Doukhobor leader Peter “Lordly” Verigin arrived in Canada from Siberian exile late in 1902. He soon convinced his Doukhobor brethren to start living communally. New villages built would hold and work land in common sharing resources equally. Grandfather noted that “we began communal life which we had not been living before”. Grandfather’s revelation indicates that it was at this time that our forebears abandoned their original dugout settlement in 1902 to build the village of Bolshaya (Large) Gorelovka a mile or so north and a bit west. The word “Large” was needed to distinguish it from the nearby village of Malaya (Small) Gorelovka established at the same time. Both derived from the original dugout settlement. Goreloye, a diminutive form of the village name, was what my grandfolks called Bolshaya Gorelovka. The word Bolshaya was not used unless one needed to distinguish the village from Malaya Gorelovka.

Bolshaya Gorelovka or Goreloye was well situated. High bordering hills tree-covered in places offered shelter from the prevailing northwest wind. A ravine with a free flowing natural spring intersected the northwest corner of the village which ran in an approximate north-south direction for about three quarters of a mile. A large slough lay near the south end and sod from its environs provided roofing. The Fort Carlton-Fort Pitt trail ran east and west just north of the village.

The spring flowed year round providing water for household and livestock use. It ran northeasterly as a creek forming a muskeg that bordered a row of gardens including the Perverseff’s. An open area, where a Russian ball game called hilki was played by youngsters in summer and on hard-packed snow in winter, divided the village into two parts. Toward the north end on the east side stood a large community barn just to the north of which a shallow well had been dug where the creek flowed. A large wooden watering trough lay beside this depression. Here, old country innovation came into play. A stout pole sunk into the ground had attached to it a smaller pole with an arm that could swivel. A pail filled at the well and hung over the arm by its handle would be swung to the watering trough and there emptied. This beat having to physically carry the pail back and forth.

Vasily, in a traditional Russian coat, with his son Vanya and daughters Dunya and Hanya photographed in Canada c. 1903. 

An indoor, closed-in brick oven was built into the wall of each village house. Oven tops covered with blankets or coats made good resting places and in winter, ideal retreats from invading cold. Soon banyas (bath houses) that had been an Old Country fixture began to appear, one of the first built by William John Perverseff, as Vasily Ivanovich Pereverzev came to be known in Canada.

The land description on which Bolshaya Gorelovka or Goreloye village stood was the SW 35-44-8-W3, North-West Territories (Saskatchewan came into being three years later). While hilly benchland rimmed the west and north, the country east and south was flat or gently rolling prairie carpeted with fescue, spear and wheat grass knee high in places, and pocked with numerous sloughs and potholes. There were poplar groves and to the north, spruce was available. The soil was mainly good black loam. To the Perverseffs and their fellow settlers, this land truly held promise.

Cousin Mae picks up the narrative: "Grandfather Vanya was an admirer of education and he was the prime mover in establishing the first Canadian public school in their midst. He did attend school in Petrofka in winter months… around 1907. The teacher was Herman Fast who was… responsible for the English spelling of our surname… It was in this school that our grandfather… learned the rudiments of the English language… [and] to read the English newspapers and get the gist of the meaning."

Grandpa really did not have a good command of the English language, but he insisted on corresponding with the Department of Education through Uncle Jack after Uncle Jack started attending school in 1911. Before that, all business was transacted through a Ukrainian intellectual immigrant with old country higher education. His name was Joseph Megas…an organizer and field representative of the Department of Education….It was he who misnamed our school to Havrilowka, which later was corrected to "Haralowka"S, but still a far cry from Gorelovka or Goreloye.

By the fall of 1902, Bolshaya Gorelovka or Goreloye had taken shape, with the new pioneers sharing the tasks of village building and taming the wild land. Although many of the men-folk were away earning money, the work of building still got done with women pitching in to fill the manpower shortage. A belief that women were hitched to ploughs to till the fields is not true. Men using oxen ploughed the fields. However women, in pairs twenty strong, did pull a small one-furrow plough to break up garden ground.

Perverseff women and children grouped in front of the Gorelovka village family home in 1904. Vasily’s wife Elizaveta (Lisunya) stands at left, Lusha holds Agatha while Jack stands beside her, with sister-in-law Hanya at right.

Unlike other blocks of Doukhobor land elsewhere, the Prince Albert Colony allotment was in alternate sections. Canadian authorities were aware that the Kars Doukhobors were more individualistic than their brethren from other areas. These so-called “Independents” had been reluctant to go along with Verigin’s 1893 edict asking all Doukhobors not only to live communally but also to share all resource ownership in what amounted to Christian Communism. Alternate sections of land amidst other nationalities imbued with the spirit of individual enterprise fostered independent farmstead development instead of living in a central communal village – a notion the Doukhobors from Kars found attractive. But for the first dozen or so years communal living did prevail.

Village buildings were simple yet sturdy. Logs trimmed to form four-sided timbers made up the main framework. Clay, grass and other ingredients were mixed with water and treaded into a paste that was plastered on both the outside and inside of the timbered walls. Poles laid lengthwise on inverted v-shaped frames supported the roofing sod cut from the marshy margins of nearby sloughs. Grey/white calcimine covered the walls inside and helped waterproof them outside.

William’s home (starting from the street and working back) had a living room that also served as a bedroom, a kitchen, a verandah, a main bedroom, then a storage room, and a brick oven. Sod cut from the environs of a nearby slough covered the roof. Out back was the inevitable outhouse. Before long, William built a bath house patterned after those popular in Russia, and eventually a small blacksmith shop was erected. Since self sufficiency was an ingrained Doukhobor trait, the Perverseffs – like their neighbors – cultivated a large garden.

The Perverseffs and fellow immigrants soon added to their initial inventory of eight horses, five cows, four oxen, four wagons and three ploughs. Horses pulled the wagons; oxen, the ploughs.

Pioneering was at first extremely labour intensive. Grain was sown by hand broadcasting; mature crops were cut with scythes and sickles; grain was threshed by men and women wielding flails. William, good with his hands and mechanically inclined, made shovels and other needed tools and implements in his blacksmith shop. When Elizabeth (as Elizaveta came to be called) wanted a spinning wheel or Lucille (as Lusha was called in Canada) needed a garden hoe, William made them. Because money was needed to buy livestock and farm machinery, William’s son John joined other young men and walked to St. Lazare, Manitoba to work on the Grand Trunk Railway (see How the Doukhobors Build Railways). A picture taken in 1907 shows him with 18 other Doukhobor men in a work party.

When time permitted, Lucille and the other women earned money, too, gathering seneca root, considered to have medicinal benefits, and selling their fine needlework or trading it for things they needed.

John and Lucille began their Canadian family in 1901 when John Ivan “Jack” was born. Agatha (my mother) followed in 1904; Nicholas “Nick” in 1907, Nita in 1911, and Mary “Marion” in 1919. John and Lucille’s first-born daughter was lost in childbirth during the sea voyage to Canada. What became known as Haralowka School opened in 1911 three quarters of a mile southeast of the village and all five children went there, with Marion also attending a new, larger brick school erected a half mile north which opened in 1930.

This image of a Haralowka home was found among the Perverseff collection or pictures and may have been the family home. It is typical of those at the time–squared log construction, a plaster covering painted with calcimine and with a sod roof. A buggy or what was often called a “democrat” is parked beside the home.

Both Bolshaya and Malaya Gorelovka were reminiscent of old country mirs (communal villages in Russia), but they were short-lived, the villagers having abandoned them by 1920 to become individual landowners. However, the name continued in the form of Haralowka school district.

Independence

William and John were among the first villagers to file for their own land, the first in 1909 being 320 acres of scrip land that had been assigned to a Boer War veteran named Thomas J. Stamp. Its legal description was NW & NE 22-45-8-W3. Located some six miles to the northwest of the village, it was used primarily for grazing. In 1912, the SW 25-44-8-W3 was acquired and buildings were erected that served as a temporary base of operations. Other land subsequently added to the family holdings included the NW 25-44-8-W3, SE 31-44-8-W3 and NE 25-44-8-W3. An old land registry map shows the Perverseff home place on the NW 30-44-8-W3. Because Haralowka district Doukhobor settlers became sole land owners, they were referred to in Russian as farmli (individual farmers) and were no favorites of the Doukhobor leader, Peter Verigin. Lucille’s parents, on the other hand, joined more communally-minded Doukhobors migrating to British Columbia.

In 1909 William journeyed to Russia to bring back his newly-widowed mother Aksinya. According to Jon Kalmakoff’s research, they returned to Canada aboard the SS Kaiserin Auguste Victoria, sailing from Hamburg, Germany on November 4, 1909, arriving at New York, USA on November 13, 1909. Aksinya lived in the village for three years before passing away and was laid to rest in the tiny burial ground near the top of a hill just west of the village. “Bill” Lapshinoff, the owner of the village land in the 1990s, regretted that this original cemetery had eventually been ploughed over instead of being retained historically.

The Perverseffs on their homestead. Jack and Agatha at back, Nick beside seated Vanya, Lusha and Nita. Blaine Lake district, SK, c. 1914.

For their home place William and John chose a site at the northeast corner of the quarter with the erecting of farm buildings starting immediately. The main farmyard sloped on all sides near the southeast corner to a low point at which the base of the main garden started and where spring runoff advantageously settled. A fence divided the house, great grandfolk’s cottage, summer kitchen, a small grassed field, orchard and garden from the farm utility buildings. Open to the east, this spacious area of perhaps ten acres was bounded on the south, west, and north by a three row-spruce tree shelterbelt. A caragana-lined sidewalk led from the farmyard gate to the house.

The home Vanya and Lusha moved into in 1914 was modest, probably no more than 30 by 40 feet. The front porch, entered from the south, had two inner doors, one opening into the kitchen beyond which was the one bedroom; the other, into the large living room. A bookcase and writing desk constituted John’s study and there was a large table where meals were served. A couch in one corner doubled as my bed when I stayed as a child with my grandparents. A radio was turned on mainly for the news, although I recall listening Wednesday evenings to Herb Paul, the yodeling cowboy, his program originating from Winnipeg.

The impressive barn on the Perverseff family homestead near Blaine Lake, SK, c. 1921.

A cottage built just a few steps east of the main house was a comfortable haven for William and Elizabeth. They ate their meals with the rest of the family in the main house and during the warmer months of the year, in the summer kitchen.

While the house was modest, the barn started in 1921 was anything but. The largest in the district, it was a red-painted, hip-roof type boasting cement and plank flooring, plank stalls, a harness tack room with harness repair equipment, water cistern, large hayloft area, and an ample chop bin. The north side was extended to include a cow-barn/milking area, a box stall for small calves, and a cream separating room. The barn was completed in 1922 and if ever there was a status symbol in the Haralowka district, this was it.

Down a bit from the west entrance to the barn was a windmill-powered well beside which stood a big corrugated metal watering trough. The garden and orchard extended south and west. Just north of the garden and behind the well was a Russian style bath-house and just north of it was the blacksmith shop, complete with forge and foot-pedal-driven wood lathe, a marvel that William designed and built. A few yards further north was the root cellar, while a granary and chicken coop with fenced-in yard stood south of the barn.

Implement and storage sheds were northeast of the summer kitchen. A three-car brick garage built in 1927 housed sleeping quarters for hired men and a McLaughlin-Buick car. A tree-lined lane ran a hundred yards or so north to an east-west road. The natural lawn lying west of the house and extending north and south served as an outdoor recreational area. Slough willow and poplar sheltered the south side of the garden and orchard. John, with an eye for symmetry and order, could be justifiably proud of the impressive yard.

A Good Life

Hard work and good planning combined with good wheat prices during World War I brought prosperity. The meager assets with which the Perverseffs started out had multiplied many-fold. John emerged the master planner; William, the implementer. By 1930, with the Great Depression still around the corner, they presided over a successful farming operation, with a complete line of farm machinery. They had a section of land under cultivation; three hired men during the busiest times and a hired girl when Lucille needed extra help. Cree Indian men from the nearby Muskeg Reserve signed on during fall threshing to haul sheaves and field pitch.

On the farm at any one time would be up to ten milking cows, at least eight draft horses, and a fast team of matched sorrels kept for buggy and cutter use. Selling cream and eggs provided extra income that helped tide the family over during the cash-strapped Depression years of the 1930s.

Grandfather Vanya was inordinately proud of the family’s white stallion, Safron, seen here pulling a buggy, c. 1908.

In the rhythm of farm life, seeding and harvesting took precedence over all else. Social activities followed the then-current rural pattern: visiting with relatives and friends, attending marriages and funerals, and going regularly to sobranya, first in a rural dom, a hall built for gatherings a half mile east of the farmstead; later in the town of Blaine Lake, ten miles east. Cream and eggs were delivered to Tallman, a hamlet three miles southeast, where mail was picked up and cream cans retrieved.

The main event of the year was Peter’s Day, held every June 29. It was essentially a commemoration of the trials and tribulations the Doukhobors had endured in Russia. There were prayers and the air swelled harmoniously with the a cappella singing of psalms and resonated with voices raised in discourse on the Doukhobor faith. A huge tent holding more than a hundred people was set up on grounds just southeast of Blaine Lake and a carnival atmosphere prevailed especially for the younger children who would absent themselves from the tent to play. A noon meal, served picnic style, consisted of such fare as pie-like cheese and fruit peroshki, crepe-like bliny, boiled eggs, fresh bread and fruit, especially arbus (watermelon), a universal Doukhobor favorite, if available. Life was good!

The Perverseffs did not smoke, drink alcohol, or eat meat but a diet rich in garden-grown vegetables and their own dairy products made for healthy eating. Vegetable borsch (a heavy soup), bread and cheese were staples, eaten pretty well daily.

About 1935, William and John acquired land near Blaine Lake for John’s son Nick to farm. I was present when John negotiated with the owner, Senator Byron Horner. A handshake sealed the deal – unlike today no lawyers were needed then to oversee an agreement between men whose word was their bond.

Perverseff family portrait, 1919. At back Agatha and Jack; in front, Vanya, Nita, Lusha (holding Marion) and Nick.

In 1935 William’s wife Elizabeth died. Casting further gloom was the Great Depression, the so-called Dirty Thirties, now firmly entrenched. The bottom had dropped out of wheat prices. Grasshopper and army worm infestations plagued the farmland. Only “empties” going by, a wry allusion to rainless dark clouds, conspired with wicked winds to rearrange quarter sections and penetrate homes, layering windowsills and floors with fine dust. Planted fields baked dry had to be ploughed over. Talk about good times and bad – these were really bad!

Tangleflags

Back in Tangleflags, Saskatchewan – where I lived with my parents in the late 1920’s and early 1930s – folks didn’t find the Depression quite so severe. There was more moisture – less than everyone would have liked – but enough to produce some grain, and livestock pastured better. I didn’t think anything was really out of the ordinary before we left the area in October of 1935. My friend Vernon Dubay would come over to play. I poled my raft on the lake. I walked to school or rode double on horseback with Dad or Mother or sometimes a visiting aunt. Grace Harbin, a spinster, taught at Tangleflags School, and I once penciled a rather good likeness of her attractive niece, Betty, who sat in front of me.

Born on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 1926, I won a prize in the fall as “baby of the year” in a weekly newspaper contest and still wonder how such a chubby, round-faced little cherub could have been selected. Francis “Frank” Henry James Philips, an English immigrant farmer, and Agatha (nee Perverseff) had married in Lashburn at friends Bob and Dorie Sanderson’s place on December 26, 1924 and I was their first child.

I’ve speculated about why Agatha married Frank. Having attended university (Education) she was at that time considered well educated (especially for a Doukhobor). Frank wasn’t. She had mastered two languages. He knew only one. She had a quick mind. His was more plodding and his prospects didn’t really reach beyond farming. So! Was it pity for the underdog? Did she feel sorry for him because of his physical handicap (he was missing one arm)? Did his cheerfully and successfully forging ahead in the face of odds win her heart. Did his fine baritone singing voice move her? Why is something I really cannot answer.

This most glamorous image of Agatha is thought to have been taken just after she graduated from what was then called “Normal School” in April of 1924. She was immediately hired to teach for the remainder of the school year in rural Tangleflags, SK.

As the schoolteacher at Tangleflags, Agatha gained quick entree into the community. Her pupils brought her in touch with their parents and community functions with eligible bachelors usually in attendance. Just shy of eight months from the time she met Frank, they married and his little bungalow was their first home. In January, 1925 she started teaching at North Gully, close to 15 miles southwest from our place shortcutting across country. She rode Satin, a fine saddle pony, to a farmstead near North Gully School where she boarded during the week.

On one occasion, as she would later recall, Satin, likely feeling bored, decided to jump Cook’s gate [a quarter mile from our place and the beginning of the cross country shortcut]. “Bob Oswell was rounding up his horses nearby and saw me fall. He galloped over to render assistance but I was back on Satin before he reached me.” Falling off horses happened frequently in those days and it’s a wonder more people weren’t badly hurt. Satin’s faithful companion and Mother’s was Bob, a dog of mixed heritage but good character. Whenever she tethered Satin, Bob always stayed close by until they were off again.

Frank concentrated on building a proper house, and proper it truly was, the first in Tangleflags to have hardwood floors, occasioning some neighbor women to consider Mother “spoiled”. Agatha quit teaching in December and she and Frank moved into the new home the beginning of January, 1926, with me arriving a month and a half later. Agatha’s sisters Nita and Marion Perverseff came to visit in the ensuing years, and Mother chummed with a Miss Thom and Phoebe Mudge from Paradise Hill. By 1930, we had a piano in the house and a tennis court outside.

One was practically born in the saddle in those days and I was quite at home riding horseback by the time I was six. The only problem was getting on; but a fence or corral pole or anything a couple of feet high answered well enough. By the time I could ride, Frank had sold Satin and acquired Phyllis, a mare in foal who soon gave us Star, a black colt named for the white patch on his forehead. In the warm months I’d ride Phyllis to herd our cattle on Crown grassland a half mile northeast of our place. Influenced no doubt by tales of the Old West, I trained Phyllis to dig in her front feet and “stop on a dime”. If we were moving quickly and I yelled whoa, I’d have to brace myself or go for a tumble. Once, I did. I chased a gopher taking a zigzag course over the prairie. When it disappeared down a hole, I excitedly yelled whoa, and forgetting to brace myself, flew over Phyllis’ head as she stopped abruptly. I was seven at the time; my young bones were pliant, and thankfully the prairie wasn’t too hard; my feelings were the most damaged.

Frank, Agatha and “Old Bob” standing in front of the new farmhouse the couple moved into in January of 1926 at Tangleflags, SK.

Once summoned, other childhood memories flood back, jostling for attention.

Bob Oswell, whose folks farmed up in the hills southwest of us, was my idea of a cowboy. Bob always wore a beat-up old ten-gallon hat and had trained a white pony named Smokey to rear up on its hind legs when he mounted it. Watching Smokey rear up and then gallop away, Bob firmly in the saddle with a rifle in a scabbard strapped to it, convinced me to become a cowboy. But once in a long while an airplane would fly over and I’d change my mind. I figured piloting a plane was even better than being a cowboy. I even went so far as to build what vaguely resembled a plane with boards and logs in back of the old bungalow. Then I’d walk up a nearby hill to watch it get smaller, the way planes did in the sky.

Once, Frank let me plough a furrow right across a field by myself. Actually, the horses were so conditioned to this work that they needed no guidance. Still, I held the reins and kicked the foot rod that raised the ploughshares up and that released them when we’d turned around. I was pretty proud of myself and thought maybe I’d be a farmer.

I changed my mind when I fell off a straw stack. Frank was loading straw onto a hayrack and I, not paying proper attention, missed my footing and tumbled off the stack crashing down on my back. That hurt! Farming was proving to be dangerous.

Another incident altered my thinking about being a cowboy. On one occasion Aunt Marion Perverseff rode Phyllis to fetch me from school and for some reason Phyllis didn’t take kindly to riding double that day. She bucked and I fell off, much, I imagine, to the amusement of the other children.

I was fortunate to have a sister, if only for a short while. Her given names were Lorna Ruth and Agatha always remembered her as “my golden-haired girl”. Though she was more than two years younger than me, we were pretty good companions. She was my chum and we played together, happily most of the time but not without the odd sibling tiff.

Frank, Agatha, Roger and newly-born Lorna pose for a family portrait in 1928 at Tangleflags, SK.

Lorna fell dreadfully ill in the dead of winter. The last day or two before the end of January, 1933, a doctor snow-planed out from Lloydminster and took her back with him. Her death from peritonitis February 2 broke Mother’s heart and fanned the spark of a hitherto embryonic paranoia that gradually grew more troublesome and consumed her last years. I stayed with Cook’s, our closest neighbors, while Frank and Agatha were at Lorna’s hospital bedside and when they got home and told me Lorna was now with God and that I wouldn’t see her again, a terrible weight settled on me. I’ve since experienced many deaths amongst family and friends, but none that hurt more.

I wasn’t crazy about school, but I liked recess. One of our main amusements was a maypole-like swing with several chains having rungs to cling to that dangled from a rotating disk at the top of the steel pole. One person who was “it” would take his or her chain in a circle around all the other chains to which children clung. Then the youngsters would race around the pole with whoever was “it” flying high in the air. It was great fun and my turn could never come soon enough. But one day when it did, disaster struck. I was flung out and around so furiously that my hands slipped off the chain rung and my now uncharted flight path brought me into contact with a nearby woodpile. Somehow a nail gashed my skull which bled so profusely that some of the kids figured I was “sure a goner”. I survived, bloody and somewhat bowed.

In the 1930s for a few years a troop of Boy Scouts summer camped across the lake in front of Cook’s. The boys were from Lloydminster and possibly Lashburn and Marshall. Island Lake was likely chosen for this outing because it was so buoyant that drowning was practically impossible. In the evenings, if the wind was right, we could hear the boys singing around a campfire and see flames leaping into the air. I thought being a Boy Scout was alright and maybe I’d try it when I got old enough.

On the farm we grew or raised part of what we ate. We had a large garden which mostly gave us potatoes. Occasionally we’d slaughter a pig or a beef. I usually wasn’t around when that happened but the year before we left the farm, I was. I knew we were going to kill a pig and wanted no part of it. When a man Dad hired to help arrived, I headed down to the lake. Suddenly there was an awful squeal and I knew the pig was dying.

Agatha with Lorna and Roger in front of the Tangleflags house in 1932.

Grassland was needed for grazing when I was little, and there was more of it then than now. More grass meant more prairie fires and there was a bad one when I was about five. It burned to within a couple hundred yards of our place and I remember men with faces and hands smeared black from fighting it dropping in for coffee and sandwiches or heading for the dipper in the water pail. The lake probably saved us, both in cutting off the direct line of the blaze and being so handy a source for water to wet gunny sacking used to beat the flames. I was too young to comprehend what a close call we had. Instead, I childishly found the rush of activity exciting.

One tends to remember certain people. As a councilman for Britania Rural Municipality No. 502 our neighbor Joe Cook was out and about a lot in the district. He’d come riding by in his buggy, whip in one hand, reins in the other. His big walrus moustache made him quite imposing, even a bit fearsome. I rather fancied his good-looking daughter Joan, maybe because she always beat me when we raced on horseback. But she was older and paid me no mind.

British accents attested to the strong English influence in the community where the men smoked pipes and played cricket. There were garden parties, and you watched how you held your little finger when you sipped your tea. Since the sins of the fathers shall be visited upon the sons, I, like Dad, smoked a pipe when I grew up. Eventually, though, I gave up pipe smoking as a bad habit.

I always paid heed when Bob Oswell’s dad passed in his wagon going to Bob’s place. He was built stocky, “strong as a bull”, my father said, and it seemed to me that he always scowled. And his Tyne-sider’s accent was so strong and his voice so raspy that I never understood a word he said. He was a good enough neighbor but his gruff manner told me to steer clear of him.

Nip and Tuck were a pair of greys that Dad treasured. They were big horses, Clydesdales probably, and powerful. I would watch them strain and see their muscles ripple as they pulled a wagonload of wheat up the steep hill a half mile south of our place. It was a treat to accompany Frank to Hillmond for these trips usually promised hard candy in Arthur Rutherford’s general store. I remember coyote skins hanging on a store wall – each had brought someone a $25.00 bounty. Coyotes chased bad little boys, I’d been told, but they didn’t seem so scary now.

On one Hillmond trip Bob spooked a deer with a good rack of antlers. He chased it across the road right in front of us and got a futile but good workout. This was near the Allen’s and I’d always watch hard when we passed their place. They were reputedly a “rough bunch” but I never saw anything untoward. One of the Allen girls later became a policewoman in Edmonton so I guess they weren’t so bad.

Frank, Agatha, Roger and cousin Joan Perverseff photographed in Saskatoon in 1935.

We used to have dances in Tangleflags School. I don’t recall that much about them. I’d sit on Mother’s knee. I remember once that she wore a black dress. There was other entertainment -singing, mostly. Frank was a regular in this department and always got a lot of applause when he sang old favorites like Climb Upon My Knee Sonny Boy and My Wild Irish Rose. Mother didn’t like it when some woman would go up and congratulate him.

That was one thing about Agatha. She was possessive. If Frank even looked at another woman, it upset her and she’d let him know about it. When I look back now, it seems she carried her distrust of other women to extremes. I’m convinced she’d only have been happy if Frank were actually rude to them. She was strong willed to the point of being dictatorial sometimes no doubt thinking her education (allowedly good for a woman of her time) had prepared – nay entitled – her to tell others what to do. In our realm she decided the course of events, exerting her will in everything except farm finance. Frank made it clear when they married that he would “wear the pants in the family” when it came to money matters, and he did.

Living on a farm we may have lacked some city life niceties but there were still refinements. Agatha had a piano to play and was middling good on our tennis court even sometimes beating Jack Hickman who was no slouch. The one thing Mother seemed to enjoy most in life was talking philosophy. Having Alfred Abraham, a student minister stay with us one summer, gave her unlimited opportunities. The poor young cleric must have grown weary of fending off her intellectual parries.

That was something else about Agatha – her intelligence. She had a fine memory and a mind able to manipulate and exploit what she had learned. She may not have been a genius, but I think she came closer to that than most of us. One has to wonder if there isn’t a grain of truth in the old straw that genius stands next to madness; if not Mother’s quick mind had become a nursery where paranoia took root and grew.

Lorna’s death broke Mother, who became convinced that the Tangleflags farm was cursed. There was nothing for it but to move to Haralowka where her folks would help us make a new start. This running away from a situation of growing torment became a pattern as Agatha’s paranoia worsened. A new setting initially worked wonders but in time her nerves would start bothering her and the cycle would repeat itself. Frank resisted the idea of selling out and moving but Agatha’s will prevailed. The farm auction went well enough but we had to rent our land which didn’t sell. It was now the beginning of October, 1935, and with our house empty, we slept the night at Dubay’s. The next day our Model T Ford car carried us into a new life chapter.

A young Roger launches a flying model airplane he built.

Leaving the West Saskatchewan farm he had built up out of the wilderness and the people he had come to know so well was a wrenching experience for Father. Even though the Perverseffs welcomed us with open arms and open hearts and even though they would have helped us make a fresh start with land and equipment, Frank was sorely troubled. Nurturing a growing independence and self-reliance, he’d become a successful pioneer farmer in Tangleflags—made it on his own; was what the English so prided, a self-made man. And now the thought of accepting charity (for that’s how he saw it) was too much.

Then there was Mother’s affliction. Temporarily at bay in the first weeks in Haralowka, the paranoia that tormented her would return. Frank may not have known then the precise medical term for what she had but he knew the toll it took—how miserable it made life for Agatha and those around her.

There was more. Word came from England that his Mother was dying and his Father was seriously ill. Everything, it seemed, was conspiring against him. Separation resulted with Frank going to England and Mother’s restless spirit soon taking her to California.

Haralowka

Now nine years old, I entered what I call my Russian phase, experiencing Doukhobor/Russian culture in Haralowka as an unuk (grandson in Russian). Meanwhile, Mother sampled work life in California, first as a day nurse to a Mrs. Strictland, next as governess to a Hollywood movie director’s daughter, then as personal assistant to Madam Boday, a Los Angeles dowager. In turn she became a confidant to Julia Edmunds, a leader in the Oxford Group movement, then a teacher at Harding Military Academy where a fellow teacher was nominally a prince of the long since deposed Bourbon family. Prince Bruce de Bourbon de Conde was then simply a commissioned U.S. Army officer. Like Agatha, Captain Conde had an adventurous spirit and after World War II service in Europe, ended up as an administrator in the Arab Emirates where intrigue brought him to an untimely end.

A nine-year-old learns quickly and I was soon able to speak Russian with Grandmother at an elementary level – things like, “I’m hungry”, “I wish to have water”, “shall I fetch the eggs”, “where are we going?”, “When do you want me to get the cows”, “give me”, “here”, “I want to sleep”, and (I remember ruefully now) “please give me money”. I later became friends with a second cousin named Sam “Sammy” Perverseff. His family lived a quarter mile east of us and in the winter time I would ride to school with him on his horse-drawn stone-boat. Sammy introduced me to a lot more Russian, mostly words and phrases embracing life’s seamier side. A few years older than me, taller, and good-looking, Sammy was something of a Don Juan.

My Aunt Marion was still at home when we arrived in Haralowka, but her days there were numbered, for an Edward Postnikoff was courting her and they soon married. Edward was a likely young man but poor as a church mouse. Courting wasn’t all that easy then. He had to peddle the twenty-some miles from Petrofka on a bicycle to see Marion. But he had the right stuff and with a little help from Grandfather, became a successful farmer in the district.

Roger playing baseball at Jarvis Collegiate in Toronto in 1941.

Great Grandfather William and Great Grandmother Elizabeth had lived contentedly together in their little cottage. Since Elizabeth passed away soon after we arrived, I barely got to know her. Agatha, who looked after her the last while, said she was a very wise and practical woman. To the extent that the goodness of parents can have a bearing on the way their children turn out, William and Elizabeth were truly good people and John, their son and my Grandfather, bore excellent witness to that.

William suffered through his loss and carried on. Friends came initially to commiserate and later to visit. Grandfather Samirodin with his bristling, Russian Cossack-like moustache was one who came regularly. Well into his eighties, he would walk the three miles across snow-laden fields to our place and he and William would greet each another with kisses on each cheek and traditional words praising God. His advanced age walking prowess bore testimony to the health benefits of a lifetime diet of borshch and other Doukhobor staples and the rigors of good, hard work in the outdoors.

In 1937 I stayed a short while with my Uncle Jack (Dr. J.I. Perverseff), Aunt Anne, and their daughters Joan and Dorothy at their Avenue V South home. For the brief time I was in Saskatoon I attended Pleasant Hill School. It was a short walk from Uncle Jack’s and one day as I passed the Hamms (Uncle Jack’s neighbors) their German Shepherd grabbed my lunch and trotted off with it. Mrs. Hamm saw this and brought me a couple of sandwiches in a big basin. The Hamms may have been poor folk with rough edges, but I’ll always remember Mrs. Hamm as a good-hearted woman.

The Principal at Pleasant Hill School was Sam Trerice. It happened that the Trerices were friends of Mother’s and had spent a summer holiday with us in Tangleflags. Fortunate that was for me, because I soon got into a school fight that Sam, himself, broke up. The other poor fellow was grabbed by the ear and hauled off for rough justice while I went scot free. The lesson I learned from this experience was that in life it wasn’t so much what you knew (or did) but who you knew that counted.

We didn’t have television back in the “Thirties”. About the only time one listened to the radio was to hear the news. I was too young to be interested. We did have fun, though. In winter kids would get together to play street hockey or “shinnie”; in summer, cowboys and Indians. This latter activity was eminently fair and politically correct. Some days more Indians got killed; other days, more cowboys.

Roger and his Haralowka buddy Sammy Perverseff, a second cousin.

I was soon back with my Grandparents and attending Haralowka School. Muriel Borisinkoff, Sammy’s cousin, taught there and it wasn’t long before I discovered how good she was with the strap. Big Paul Greva and I were having a dustup about midway between the school and the barn when Bill Samirodin, a school trustee, drove up to fetch his daughter. Paul and I ceased hostilities and stood like innocents watching as Bill drove by. But it was too late. He had seen us fighting and amusingly commented to Muriel about her unruly pupils. That really stung a hard taskmaster who prided herself on her discipline. Summoned to the school, Paul was strategically in tears and I tried to feign innocence as we entered the side door. The situation was bleak. With tears streaming down Paul’s cheeks, Muriel took out the wrath she would have devoted to him on me – along with my share. In time the strap was outlawed in Saskatchewan schools, but I can attest to having intimately known its application before that happened.

If kindness was a Perverseff trait, then I was blessed. William and Lucille treated me like a favorite son. They fed me well and clothed me warmly. On Saturdays I would get the huge sum of 25 cents to spend in Blaine Lake where folks from the country gathered to buy groceries, attend to other matters, or just visit. I would go to town with John and Lucille or with Sammy and his folks. Later, a Tallman elevator man put a bare bicycle together for me – bare because it lacked handlebar grips, fenders and a chain guard, but it was transportation. Grandfather paid seven dollars for it and I surely got his money’s worth.

Life wasn’t all fun. I had to fetch the cows, help milk, turn the cream separator, and churn the butter. I’d also gather the eggs, carry wood to the house, help clean the barn and do other sundry chores. Sometimes when I was out in the yard around sundown, I would hear Grandmother whistle in an odd way. It was to keep the vadema (bad spirits) away, she said. I don’t know if it worked but I never saw the need for it myself.

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.

The Dukhobortsy, 1865

by Vasily Vasil’evich Vereshchagin

Vasily Vasil’evich Vereshchagin was one of the most famous 19th Century Russian Realist painters and one of the first Russian artists to be widely recognized abroad. In 1864-1865 he went to the Caucasus in search of subjects for his canvas, where he encountered a variety of local peoples, including the Doukhobors of the Kedabek district of Elizavetpol province.  He kept a journal and wrote down his observations, which were published in “Vassili Verestchagin: Painter-Soldier-Traveller, Autobiographical Sketches” (F. H. Peters, trans., London: R. Bentley & Son, 1887).  The following excerpt provides a detailed and unique first-hand account of the Doukhobors during their early settlement in the Caucasus, and highlights their social customs, spiritual beliefs, religious services and general prosperity.  It also includes a number of rare and historically important drawings by Vereshchagin of various Doukhobor subjects and scenes from the aforesaid publication and from “Voyage dans les provinces du Caucase” par Basile Vereschaguine, traduit du russe par Mme et M. Ernest le Barbier. 1864-1865. Texte et dessins inédits. Seconde Partie. – “La Transcaucasie” Le Tour du Monde (Paris), t. 19, premier semestre 1869: 315-21; 322-36. Foreword and Afterword by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

Foreword

Vasily Vasil’evich Vereshchagin (1842-1904)

Vasily Vasil’evich Vereshchagin (1842-1904) was born in the town of Cherepovets in Novgorod province, Russia into a relatively prosperous family of landowners. As the son of a nobleman, he was expected to follow a military or diplomatic career. At the age of eight, he entered the Alexander Cadet Corps, an educational institution in St. Petersburg that prepared future military officers from a very early age. Three years later, he entered the Sea Cadet Corps at St. Petersburg, making his first voyage in 1858. Vereshchagin was one of the ablest students in his class and looked to be at the outset of a promising naval career.

However, during the years of his military education, the young man developed a passion for art – viewed as a ‘lowly’ calling by his peers. Immediately upon graduating from the naval school in 1860, Vereshchagin left the service and enrolled full-time at the St. Petersburg Academy of Arts to begin the study of drawing in earnest. He left the Academy four years later, dissatisfied with its classical standards and approach. The same year, in 1864, he entered the Academie des Beaux-Arts in Paris where he studied under the famous Jean Leon Gerome. But in the Paris Academy, too, classical standards were prevalent, and thus Vereshchagin soon departed, frustrated.

In search of new subjects, Vereshchagin travelled to the Caucasus in 1864-1865, where he created a series of sketches and studies devoted to the life and customs of the local people. It was his second trip, having briefly visited the Caucasus in 1863.  It was at this time that he visited the Doukhobors living in the Kedabek district of Elizavetpol province, whom he sketched and wrote about in his journal.

Not far from the town of Shusha… live the Russian sectarians who were banished from Russia proper on account of their indefatigable zeal in propagating their doctrines. They live as settlers among the Armenians and Tatars; and as their villages lay but a short distance off my route, I went so far out of my way in order to visit them, to question them, and to observe them with my own eyes.

From a lofty mountain ridge we looked down into a valley in which lies the village of Slavyanka, inhabited by the Dukhobortsy (“Doukhobors”). A little further behind the mountains lie some more villages [Novo-Goreloye, Novo-Spasskoye and Novo-Troitskoye], inhabited by the same sect, but these I did not see. Presently we met some of the inhabitants returning home in large parties from their hay making, and carrying their scythes and rakes. They wear white shirts, stuck soldier-wise into their white breeches, and caps with broad peaks. Most of them had a merry air, and were talking and laughing together. When they saw me they politely raised their caps.

Water wheel in Slavyanka, Vereshchagin, Le Tour du Monde.

The village lies in a hollow, by a rushing torrent that falls into the Kura [River]. The distance from Elizavetpol may be sixty versts [an Imperial Russian measure equal to 1.0668 km] or a little more. All round rise mountains, almost bare of vegetation; though in the place itself, which numbers 205 houses, and some 600 male inhabitants, there are trees and more vegetation in abundance. The Dukhobortsy came, or rather were transplanted, to this place from the Tauride [Tavria] district, whither they had been forced to migrate from the interior of Russia between 18[02] and 1830.

Many of their old men still remember quite well their homes in old Russia, in the districts of Tambov, Saratov and elsewhere. The first batch of these were sent here in 1840, others later. They had a hard time of it at first, as they had to take up their abode among the neighboring Armenians and Tatars, who treated them with great cruelty, constantly robbing them and sometimes going to the length of murder. 

Doukhobor woman, left, Vereshchagin, Le Tour du Monde.

Doukhobor woman, right, Vereshchagin, Le Tour du Monde.

There are no forests in the neighbourhood, and the carriage of timber by the mountain paths is exceedingly laborious, so that they could not think at first of making a permanent settlement. Many returned to the bosom of the Orthodox Church and went back to Russia. Those who remained gradually improved their condition, and today, after five-and-twenty years, the settlements of the Dukhobortsy (four villages, if I mistake not) are so well built and well arranged as to be an object of envy to the natives of the district.

In earlier times severe measures were taken against their doctrines, and great efforts were made to prevent them from spreading; and it was with this object that the Dukhobortsy were transplanted to the mountains of Transcaucasia. The Tsar Alexander I visited them while they were still in the Tauride district, was present at their worship, and by his gracious behaviour not only left behind him a good name among the sectarians, but also improved their position in the community, which at that time was far from enviable. “It is only since his visit,” say the Dukhobortsy, “that we are looked upon as human beings and suffered to drive our cattle into the town and to buy and sell in peace. Before that, when we went among our neighbours on business, we heard nothing but insulting remarks, such as ‘You are no Christians: you are people who are not fit to show your faces among men.'” It is easy to see that the Dukhobortsy retain a vivid recollection of the persecution and insult which they formerly suffered, and that though better times came afterwards few of them would care to return to the interior of Russia. 

Sketch of a Doukhobor man, Autobiographical Sketches.

The main thought of their religion may be expressed in a very few words – one God in three persons, vix. God the Father – the memory; God the Son – the understanding; God the Holy Ghost – the will: the Trinity in unity. They have no sacred books, and do not recognize the Old or the New Testament, or the writings of the Fathers of the Orthodox Church. “These books,” say they, “are written by human hands, and the work of human hands is imperfect.” Their conception of Christ is very obscure: beyond a confused notion that He is at once man and God, they have not the least idea how He lived or for what He suffered.

The sources of their knowledge of Christ are their so-called ‘Psalms of David’. These ‘Psalms’ are the only prayers in use among the Dukhobortsy; some specimens which I have collected show how absurd it is to ascribe them to David, whom they hold in high honour.

It may be that these prayers had more meaning at the time when the sect was founded; but in being handed down from father to son (for to this day they are preserved by oral tradition only) it is not to be wondered at that many words and phrases have been so corrupted as to make the most ridiculous nonsense, especially as these people can neither read nor write.

But the Dukhobortsy are convinced that these psalms have been handed down to them word for word as they came from the mouth of the Psalmist.

Their mistrust of, or rather aversion to, everything that is written sometimes leads them into strange absurdities. Besides the prophet David, for instance, there are three persons of the Old Testament whom they hold in special honour; these are Ananias, Asarias and Misael; and the reason is that these three stood still till the last moment by the cross of Christ. “The apostle Peter,” say the Dukhobortsy, “was very near to Christ, and yet denied Him: these three stood by Him.” When I remarked that these three men lived long before Christ, and therefor could not be present at his crucifixion, they answered that it was not their business to criticize, it was enough to believe what had been handed down by their fathers.

Не убоюся на Бога сположуся.”

“Fear nothing and trust in God.”

                19th century Doukhobor slogan

“Is it not known to you,” said I to some old men with whom I was talking, “that besides David there are other prophets of the Old Testament who prophesized a great deal of Christ, for instance Isaiah?” “What Isaiah do you mean, little father?” was the answer. “Do you mean Abraham, or Isaac or Jacob? Who can know them all? They are many, and it is a long time since they lived.” As for the saints of the Orthodox Church, they allow that they may have been very good men, but no more.

Sketch of Doukhobor women chanting their psalms, Vereshchagin, Le Tour du Monde.

The dogma of obedience to the authorities is beginning, under the stress of practical necessity, to come into force with them, and, on the other hand, the favourite dogma of the Dukhobortsy, “Fear nothing and trust in God,” is beginning to lose its significance. This reminds me of an amusing incident. One Sunday (which day the Dukhobortsy spend in idling and drinking brandy) a discharged soldier (for many men of this class are found in the sect) was cursing and swearing under my windows. I sent down my guide, a Cossack, to tell him to take his curses elsewhere. I watched from the window how my Cossack accosted him: “What do you mean by cursing and swearing here? Don’t you see that a stranger, an official, is lodging here? It is most unseemly.” The drunkard looked contemptuously at my envoy, rested his hands on his sides, and replied in a sing-song voice, “I fear thee not, but trust in God.” The Cossack made an angry gesture, and returned to me in great vexation. “It is no good speaking to him, sir; a rude fellow, as drunkards are wont to be.”

The Dukhobortsy protest that they honour the Tsar, and that it is a slander to say they do not. “It is impossible not to honour the Tsar: only, we do not call him our father as the Orthodox do.”

Their worship is extremely simple. One Sunday I was taken into a peasant’s house where the service (moleniye) was to be held. The room was such as you may see in an ordinary peasant’s house, very clean, spacious but low, with a great Russian stove, and decorated with fine towels (rushniki). It was crowded with people – the men on one side, the women on the other – the elders seated on benches, the rest standing.

They repeat the prayers in turn. When one makes a mistake the others correct him: “That is not right.” “How should it be then?” “Thus,” and then the prompter himself makes a slip, and is corrected on all hands. I observed that the mistakes are mostly made by the men: the women know the prayers better, and the corrections come chiefly from their side. The saying of the prayers lasts a considerable time, till the whole stock is exhausted, or (as more frequently happens in seasons of hard work) till the congregation shows signs of exhaustion and snoring is heard from the corners and comfortable places. Then some one suggests to the meeting that it is time to pass from praying to singing.

Doukhobors chanting their psalms at a moleniye (prayer meeting), Vereshchagin, Le  Tour du Monde.

“What think you? It is close here: shall we not go into the courtyard and sing?” All turn out into the court, and the men again take their places on one side, the women on the other. This custom is strictly observed, for it is counted as obedience to the precept “During prayer have God’s image before thee.” The singing also lasts a long time, and is always in such a sad and pensive strain as to make one quite melancholy; one’s thoughts turn to the distant home – to the Volga and the Burlaks with their songs. At the head of the men stands a precentor who begins each psalm. In the village of Slavyanka this post of honour was held by an old man, who often came to chat with me, and never came empty handed: one day he would bring a piece of honeycomb, another day some fresh cucumbers; and I, on my side, never failed to slip into his pocket a handful of cigarettes, which which, as I heard, he made a great display before the neighbours. “All these the Government official gave me, to show his respect for me.” Often he alluded complacently to the importance of his office – “It is not everyone that is equal to it: one must have a calling to it.” Only the precentor and perhaps a few others keep to the words in singing; the rest merely make meaningless sounds.

Sketch of Doukhobor men chanting their psalms,  Vereshchagin, Le Tour du Monde.

Before the end of the service the congregation form a semicircle, bow, and kiss each other, the men passing in turn along the men’s ranks, and the women doing the same on their side. They grasp each other by the right hand, bow twice, kiss, and again bow twice. A final and more profound bow is made by the men in the direction of the women, and by the women in the direction of the men. The bows look very awkward, and are made rather to one side. Each member of the congregation goes through this ceremony with every other member, without any distinction of age. But I did not see any very small children at these services. The singing goes on during the salutation; as soon as it is finished, they put on their caps and all go to their houses.

I wrote down their psalms as dictated to me by members of the sect – some old, some young. Both the old and the young, but especially the old, have a very imperfect understanding of what they say, and gabble the words off by rote without any regard to the sense. If I asked them to explain a passage the old men would answer, “Who can understand it? The wisdom of God is hard to grasp” or “God knows, I know not. So prayed our fathers before us, so pray we and teach our children to pray. As for what it means, we leave that to God.”

I did also get some explanations, but they were mostly very obscure, and it was impossible not to remark that likeness in the sound of words and phrases was taken for identity of meaning. When they are repeating their psalms, if they forget a word they at once get confused and have to go back to the beginning.

It also sometimes happens that a good Dukhobortsy leaves out a long piece in the middle of a prayer and is not conscious of the omission till he comes to the end. After a little reflection he will say, “I seem to have left out something, for I have come to the end too soon.” Sometimes he will notice the omission at once. “No, that is not it. Read, please, what you have written down there.” I read “and we become partakers of the holy communion of the divine, the life-giving…” “Yes, yes. Now write ‘Saviour’, ” and he begins to gabble through the words by rote, “the divine, the life-giving Saviour – the divine, the life-giving” – add “the immortal”. How does it go on? To make sure I am forgetting nothing, read it right through again from the beginning.”

When they are saying their prayers together of course this does not happen, because each mistake is at once corrected by those present. They have prayers not only on Sunday but also on week-days, late in the evening when their work is done, especially on Saturday.

It is strange that the Dukhobortsy, with their sound common sense, should ascribe their psalms to the prophet David, seeing that the greater part of them contain the plainest allusions to the time and the circumstances of the foundation and development of their sect. As an instance of this I here give a prayer or psalm which serves as a sort of catechism of the doctrine of the Dukhobortsy. I repeat that I wrote it down word for word as it was dictated to me:

“The God whom we serve in the spirit we glorify in Jesus Christ. The spirit was given to us; of the spirit we partake, and are of good cheer. We believe in the universal almighty God, Creator of the heavens, and the earth, and the bright light. In Him we believe. We are baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. We pray to God in the spirit: in the true spirit we pray, and to the true God. With my voice I call upon God, and with my voice I pray to God. we make confession to our heavenly Father, for He is gracious, His goodness is everlasting; and as our sins are remitted we receive the holy, divine agonizing, life-giving communion of the immortal Jesus to the forgiveness of sins. We go into the church of God, into the only holy apostolic cathedral, where the true Christians are gathered together. We have an upright and honourable priest, not a false and wicked one, who is set apart from sinners. The mother of God we name and venerate, for she bore Jesus Christ to the forgiveness of the sins of Adam. We honour and emulate the saints. We adore the holy picture of God, the priceless picture of God, the holy picture, which sings and speaks: true pictures of saints, unlike written parchments, made by the Son of the Father and of the Holy Ghost. 

The Tsar we hold in honour: God save the Tsar! Hear us, O God! We observe the fasts – continence in thought. Keep me away from all evil, from murmuring with my lips, from sudden death, from incontinence. Take away from me all untruth. We have marriage, an institution of eternal welfare, wherein we make ourselves sure. Into a church built with hands we will not go. The painted images of saints we do not adore, for in them we see no holiness and no saving virtue. Therefore we practice not the laying on of hands, but turn to the word of God, the life-giving cross. To our God is all honour due!”

After I had written down the psalms, of which the above is a specimen, I read them to various members of the sect in order to make quite sure that they had been given to me correctly. All assured me that, with some unimportant exceptions, what I had taken down agreed with the tradition as known to them.

These same Dukhobortsy, who glorify God and their faith in this wise, live an honest, reasonable, and prosperous life. These qualities, indeed, they share with other religious communities that have been banished and forgotten, such as the Molokans, the Subbotniks, and the Skoptsi in Transcaucasia. But, being acquainted with the Molokans as well as the Dukhobortsy, I place the latter far higher than the former in respect of morality. For instance, among the Molokans the use of wine and tobacco is forbidden, and they do not take either in public; but in private they indulge in these forbidden pleasures. The Dukhobortsy, on the other hand, openly drink and smoke and grow tobacco. The Molokans are not averse to cheating, or even to stealing when the opportunity occurs; with the Dukhobortsy, on the contrary, acts of this kind are so rare that you might count them upon your fingers. It is remarkable that the Dukhobortsy regard the Molokans as apostates from Dukhoborism, while the Molokans declare that the Dukhobortsy are apostates from Molokanism. Probably the Molokans are right. The two sects hate each other. “Godless creatures, worse than dogs,” say the Molokans of the Dukhobortsy, who in their turn, say of the Molokans, “Are they human beings?”

 

With regard to myself and my occupations the Dukhobortsy showed much less distrust than the Molokans, who apparently persisted in believing that my visit had secret inquiries for its purpose, and their transference to Siberia for its probable result. The Dukhobortsy, indeed, were not at once ready to talk. “You question us about this and that,” said an old Dukhobortsy to me, “but you have not yet told us who you are.” “Why do you want to know that?” “So that we may know what we may say to you and what me may not. We want to know whether you are an official or not, whether you are a noble or a simple gentleman, and by what name we are to call you.” I explained as simply and clearly as I could that I was nothing but a traveller who wanted to see what sort of life is led by Russians, Tatars and Armenians.

Sketch of a Doukhobor woman, Autobiographical Sketches.

“You live in the mountains,” I said, “and it is seldom that anyone comes to you, or that you leave your villages. Hence various rumours about you are spread abroad, and I wanted to ascertain what was true in these rumours and what was false.” Some seemed to understand my motive, and nodded their heads in assent: “So it is, indeed; much nonsense is talked about us.” There were even some “politicians” among them who thanked me for the honour I did them by my questions.

As I have already mentioned, the Dukhobortsy have no books and keep no kind of records. The old men cannot read, and do not get their children taught, for they consider such knowledge superfluous for peasants. The only exceptions are the clerks to the village governments, who are generally discharged soldiers that know how to read.

When I learned about this systematic ignorance (for so it may be called), I saw that an old man had not been joking when he asked me to reckon how old he was now, having been a boy of fourteen when he moved with his father from the Government of Tambov into the Taurus district in the year 1822. “I have long been trying,” he said, “to find this out; but there is no one here whom one could ask.” When my old friend learned that I had travelled a great deal he would have me tell him where the sun goes to rest. “Is there, he asked me several times, “Is there, then, no place at all where the sun rests?”

I wanted to know where the men’s dress came from. In answer to my questions the Dukhobortsy said theirs was a genuine Russian costume; but it is not found anywhere in Russia. As to their long and broad trousers, there may be truth in what they say; but what is the origin of the short archaluk (“jacket”), embroidered in soldier fashion, with a stand-up collar, which is always fastened with hooks, as among the Cossacks? This archaluk is worn by all without exception.

The women wear the ordinary Russian dress, but their head-dress is shaped like a sugar loaf, and has a kerchief or piece of stuff tied round it with the ends hanging down. The houses of the Dukhobortsy are like the peasant’s houses of Southern Russia. On the outside they are decorated with wood carvings representing a little horse, a man on horseback, a cock, etc; the interior is always extraordinarily clean; the walls neatly adorned with embroidered towels, samplers, popular pictures and other knick-knacks.

Their carts are very like those I was in East Prussia – great ladder wagons, ie. with the sides not made of solid boards, but of rails sloping outwards. A telega (“wagon”) of this kind will hold twenty persons, and even a twenty-first can find a corner.

Doukhobor wagon, Vereshchagin, Le Tour du Monde.

The village abounds in beehives, and a good bee master will make as much as a hundred rubles a year out of his honey. Besides honey they sell yarn and linen cloth, and in good years other products, especially potatoes and corn.

The soil is somewhat stony, but nevertheless bears good crops. They sow oats which yield ten-fold, or even fifteen fold; wheat and barley do not succeed so well as oats; buckwheat does well; millet, again, not so well. They also grow good crops of spelt. From hemp seed they extract an oil which they use for food, and also bring to market. Their potatoes and linseed are nothing to boast of.

Sketch of Doukhobor merino sheep, Vereshchagin, Autobiographical Sketches.

The Dukhobortsy in the village of Slavyanka, with 205 houses, have about 7,000 head of cattle. Their horned cattle, a cross between the native and the Black Sea breeds, have a splendid appearance. Their sheep, too, which they call shpanki, and which probably come from Spain or the south of France, deserve notice: their wool fetches from eight to nine rubles the pud, while the natives in the neighbourhood only get three, four or five rubles for theirs.

It is evident that the Dukhobortsy are thriving; it is only of their neighbours that they complain. About these neighbours – ie. the Tatars and the Armenians – they express themselves in very severe terms.

The only difference between them is that the Tatars have recourse to robbery and murder, while the Armenians deceive you and cheat you on every opportunity. There is no end to their tales of robbery and murder.

“It is only since the arrival of the new governor of the district,” say the Dukhobortsy, “that we have begun to live in any tolerable manner; before that we had no chance against the Tatars. They robbed us in open day; they would seize you, bind your hands behind your back, and hold a dagger to your throat while others drove off the cattle. It is useless to think of getting satisfaction or appealing to the law; if you do, you are summoned before the court from your work just when the day is worth a ruble, and have to go into the town merely to learn that the thieves have not been discovered. “So sign this paper, little brother, so that we may have no more charges brought on this score.” And there the matter ends. When you undertake a journey, your friends do not know whether they will ever see you again; and if you come back safe from even the shortest excursion you say, “The Lord be praised!” If a night passes quietly, without a single theft being committed, we all thank God and think, “Perhaps we shall get through the day too without any misadventure.”

Afterword

On August 10, 1865, while en route from the town of Shusha to the town of Kazakh in Elizavetpol province, Vereshchagin passed through the Doukhobor village of Slavyanka. He stopped there for several days, during which time he conversed with his Doukhobor hosts, visited their homes, sketched a number of subjects and scenes, and observed their state of affairs and way of life.

The Russian painter found a population of 600 male Doukhobors living in 205 households in Slavyanka in 1865. Presumably, there was comparable number of female Doukhobors living there at the time.

Vereshchagin noted that the mountain lowlands of Slavyanka had a temperate climate and fertile soil with trees and vegetation in abundance. Having arrived there from Tavria twenty years earlier, the Doukhobors, through hard work and diligence, had adapted to their surroundings and become “thriving” and “prosperous”. Their homes were finely decorated and extraordinarily clean. They built flour mills (sketched by Vereshchagin), kept an abundance of beehives, maintained a herd of 7,000 cattle as well as extensive herds of sheep (sketched by Vereshchagin), planted sizeable grain fields, pasturage and market gardens, and operated oil presses. They also engaged in the cartage trade (their wagons were sketched by Vereshchagin) and marketed their surplus grain (oats, wheat, barley, buckwheat, linseed, hemp, millet and spelt), vegetables (potatoes and corn) and honey as well as yarn and linen cloth. Indeed, the Doukhobor settlement of Slavyanka was “so well built and arranged as to be an object of envy” of all their neighbours.  Few, if any, would have cared to return to Central Russia from whence they came.

The Doukhobors complained only of their neighbours – the native Tatars and Armenians – who treated them with great cruelty, constantly robbing them and sometimes going to the length of murder. Until recently, the local Tsarist administration had proven ineffective in protecting the Doukhobors; however, under the new district governor, peace and order had begun to prevail.

Vereshchagin made note of the distinctive form of Doukhobor dress, which he was told was a “genuine Russian costume” yet was not found anywhere else in Russia. The men (sketched by Vereschagin) wore white shirts, stuck soldier-wise into their long and broad trousers, with a short, embroidered jacket with a stand-up collar, and caps with broad peaks. The women (sketched by Vereshchagin) wore ordinary Russian dress, but had a unique head-dress shaped like a sugar loaf, with a kerchief tied round it with the ends hanging down.

The Russian painter wrote approvingly of the Doukhobors’ simple, honest way of life as well as their general morality, noting that acts of theft and cheating were virtually unheard of. He noted, however, that the Doukhobors’ growing material prosperity had resulted in a softening of their religious principles. For instance, they were more obedient to Tsarist authorities than they had been in past generations. They had also abandoned their strict prohibitions against drinking, smoking and swearing. They recited their prayers by rote, with little understanding of their spiritual meaning, and when asked to explain them, gave only obscure answers. Moreover, some of the prayers, handed down orally over the generations, had been so corrupted “as to make the most ridiculous nonsense”; this was no doubt exacerbated by the systemic illiteracy among the Doukhobors, who kept no books or records.

Vereshchagin gave a concise summary of Doukhobor religious philosophy, which rejected church institutions, sacraments, sacred books, icons, saints and clergy in favour of a simple, individual-based religion founded on egalitarianism, love and compassion. He noted the Doukhobor belief in the indwelling of God in every person, as well as their figurative, rather than literal, interpretation of the Trinity – God the Father – memory; God the Son – understanding; God the Holy Ghost – will.

Vereshchagin described the Doukhobor form of worship in extensive detail. On Sundays, the service was held in a peasant’s house. The men stood on one side of the room and the women on the other. They repeated their prayers in turn, correcting each other when one made a mistake. After a considerable time, the congregation went outside into the courtyard, where the men again took their places on one side, and the women on the other. An elder stood at the head of the men, who then led the congregation in singing. The sad, melancholy strains of the Doukhobor psalms made a profound impression. After some time, the congregation then formed a semicircle, bowing and kissing each other, the men passing along the men’s ranks, and the women doing the same on their side, all the while continuing their singing. Once this was finished, the service is over and the congregation returned to their homes.

Vereshchagin’s impressions of the Doukhobors, through his writings and sketches, are among the few rare sources of detailed published information about them in the two decades following their settlement in the Caucasus. As such, his work is a valuable contribution to our understanding of this little-known, little-document period of their history.

As for Vereshchagin himself, he returned to the Paris Salon in 1866 to exhibit his very first drawing, which, quite fittingly, was “Doukhobors Chanting their Psalms”. The next year, he accompanied the Russian military expedition to Turkestan, where he was granted the rank of ensign and was awarded the Cross of St. George for his heroism at the siege of Samarkand. He was an indefatigable traveler, returning to St. Petersburg in late 1868, to Paris in 1869, back to St. Petersburg later in the year, and then back to Turkestan at the end 1869 via Siberia. In 1871, he established an atelier in Munich, and made a sole exhibition of his works at the Crystal Palace in London in 1873. He made another exhibition of his works in St. Petersburg in 1874. Later that year, he departed for an extensive tour of the Himalayas, India and Tibet, returning to Paris in 1876. With the start of the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), Vereshchagin left Paris and returned to active service with the Imperial Russian Army. Thereafter, he settled at Munich, where he produced a series of sensational works aimed at promoting peace through representing the horrors of war. In 1882-1883, he again traveled to India, followed by Syria and Palestine in 1884. Vereshchagin was in the Far East during the First Sino-Japanese War, with the American troops in the Philippines, and with the Russian troops in Manchuria. During the Russo-Japanese War, he he sailed aboard the Russian flagship, Petropavlovsk, which on April 13, 1904, struck two mines and sank, taking down with it most of the crew including Vereshchagin.

Remarkably, almost eighty years later, there were still Doukhobors alive who were able to recall Vereschagin’s visit to Slavyanka. In his book, Dukhobortsi: Ikh Istoria, Zhizn I Borba (Regehr, North Kildonan, 1948), Doukhobor historian and philosopher Peter N. Maloff (1900-1970) retells his grandmother Malasha I. Maloff’s (1856-1943) recollections about the Russian artist’s visit to her village:

Many years later, a little before her death, I was reading her a booklet by a well-known writer, V.V. Vereshchagin, under the title of “Doukhobors and Molokans’.  As she listened, she suddenly became transported with delight, as though she recalled something from the distant past.  “My god!” she exclaimed, “this happened at our home, in Slavyanka.  Right after [actually, before] the Turkish war, my father-in-law brought him from Ganzha, a clean, attractive gentleman he was.  He stayed with us for several days.  He heard some Doukhobors singing at our neighbours’ at a funeral and said: “I would like to hear some more of your singing.”  Then the melodious Agafonovs took him to their home and, gathering the Slavyanka choir together, sang for him for several days.  We had real singers there: Mavrunya and Masha Strelyaev, the Nichvolodovs, the Konkins and many others. Heavens!  Who ever thought that he was going to write a book about us.

Today, over twelve sketches of the Doukhobors, drawn by Vasily Vasil’evich Vereshchagin in 1865, are kept at the Tretyakov State Gallery in Moscow, Russia.

To read more, search, download, save and print a full PDF copy of “Vassili Verestchagin: Painter-Soldier-Traveller, Autobiographical Sketches”  by Vasily Vasilyevich Vereshchagin (F.H. Peters, trans., London: Bentley, 1887), visit the Google Book Search digital database.

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

by Svetlana A. Inikova

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.