Doukhobors Featured in 100 Saskatchewan Stories Documentary Series

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor Available Online

For Immediate Release – June 15, 2008

The Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor, a vast compilation of over 785 documents from the early twentieth century relating to the arrival and settlement of the Doukhobors in Canada, has been added online to the Multicultural Canada website.

James Mavor

James Mavor (1854-1925). LAC PA-126982.

James Mavor (1854-1925) was a preeminent Canadian political economist, University of Toronto professor, writer, social activist and art collector. In 1898, at the request of Petr Kropotkin, Mavor was instrumental in facilitating the Doukhobor migration from Russia to Canada. He continued throughout his life to be a staunch supporter of the Doukhobors following their settlement in Canada.

His collected works consist largely of correspondence, from the initial inquiry by Petr Kropotkin to Mavor in July 1898 to the arrival of the Doukhobors in 1899, and the first years of their settlement in Saskatchewan. Important correspondents include government officials such as Clifford Sifton and James A. Smart of the federal Department of the Interior and W.F. McCreary, Commissioner of Immigration in Winnipeg, and Doukhobor spokesmen and leaders such as Leo Tolstoy, Aylmer Maude, Vladimir Chertkov, D. Khilkov, and Petr Verigin. Subsequent correspondence is mainly concerned with the period 1906-1907 and 1919 when Doukhobor communities were under threat of expropriation of their lands. The collection also contains printed material, including pamphlets and other articles gathered by Mavor on the Doukhobors; Mavor’s own notes and reports, including a daybook kept during his trip to Western Canada in 1899; and photographs of Doukhobor settlements in Canada. Some of the material is in Russian.

Telegraph from Peter Verigin to James Mavor, 1912.

Record from the Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor.

Originally housed for decades in the University of Toronto Library, the Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor was digitized and made available online in May of 2008 through the Multicultural Canada website. It is accessible through search and browse pages that link to an online database. Every record in the database contains the title, name of author, date, subject, summary description, and a link to the associated set of document images. The digitized images reflect the original physical condition of the records. Some of the records are aged and discoloured or have extremely faded ink. Others may have tears, folds, or other markings.

The collection host, Multicultural Canada, is a coalition of Canadian libraries, universities, educational and cultural institutions dedicated to collecting and preserving the historic records of Canada’s diverse cultural groups and providing free and greater access to them online.  The Multicultural Canada website includes digitized collections, learning modules and the Encyclopedia of Canada’s Peoples. 

The online digitized Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor is a tremendous new research source for historians, writers, students, genealogists and anyone interested in the early Canadian history of the Doukhobors.

To access and search the Doukhobor Collection of James Mavor, visit the Multicultural Canada website at: http://multiculturalcanada.ca/node/1523.

Doukhobors Featured at Canadian Council of Archives National Conference

For Immediate Release – May 26, 2008

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spring Name Commemorates Doukhobors of Petrofka

For Immediate Release – May 5, 2008

A spring near Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan has been officially named in recognition of the Doukhobor pioneer settlers of Petrofka. The name “Petrofka Spring”, proposed by Doukhobor researcher and writer Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, was recently approved by the Saskatchewan Geographic Names Board.

Petrofka Spring is located on the SW 1/4 of 31-42-6-W3 on the picturesque west bank of the North Saskatchewan River, twelve miles south of Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. It is situated in the Petrofka Recreation Site, a popular riverbank spot for camping, picnicking and hiking. The spring flows east down the riverbank to the river. It flows year-round and provides an excellent source of clean, cool, fresh and abundant water.

View of Petrofka Spring. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

“The naming of Petrofka Spring is of immense cultural and historic value,” said Kalmakoff, a leading authority on Doukhobor geographic names. “It is a lasting legacy for future generations, and one that helps recognize the contribution made by the Doukhobors of Petrofka to the development of the area.”

The village of Petrofka (Petrovka, Петровка) was established near the spring in 1899 by Doukhobors from Kars, Russia who fled to Canada to escape persecution for their pacifist beliefs. Following the motto of ‘Toil and Peaceful Life’, they lived, prayed and worked together, transforming the prairie frontier into productive farmland. By 1911, Petrofka had a mixed population of Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and German settlers. The village existed for a number of years before it was finally dissolved in 1929.

“The Doukhobors of Petrofka had a direct connection with the spring,” said Kalmakoff. “When they settled along the river, the Doukhobors found an abundant source of spring water, fertile land, trees and rolling hills reminiscent of their homeland in the Caucasus region of Russia. Building their settlement near the spring, they used its natural waters for drinking, household, irrigation and agricultural purposes. It was the lifeblood of the settlement.”

View of the pathway leading to Petrofka Spring. A sign reminds visitors that it is untreated water. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

The official name comes after a year of consultations by Kalmakoff to gather input and support for the name from local stakeholders. The collective response was overwhelmingly in favour of the name. The Ministry of Environment, which owns the land on which the spring is located, submitted a letter of support. The Blaine Lake Doukhobor Society also backed the naming project. As well, the Rural Municipality of Blaine Lake No. 434 passed a resolution in favour of the name. Finally, the Riverlands Heritage Region provided an enthusiastic written endorsement.

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

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

“The main objective of this naming project is to ensure that the Doukhobors are recognised by all Canadians as a fundamental part of our country’s heritage and that there is a need for their historical sites to be acknowledged,” said Kalmakoff. “Now that the name Petrofka Spring has been adopted, there is an opportunity to recognize the historic Doukhobor presence in the area and to garner wider community recognition.”

A short distance from the spring, a historic marker on the scenic North Saskatchewan River bank commemorates the historic Petrofka Ferry. Photo by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff.

“An official ceremony to commemorate the naming of the spring is planned for later this spring, and will be hosted by the Riverlands Heritage Region in cooperation with other local stakeholders,” said Maurice Postnikoff, Vice-President of the Riverlands Heritage Region. “It is important that we celebrate our rich and diverse local heritage through endeavours such as this.”

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

Doukhobor Prayer Home at Veregin, Saskatchewan Featured in Edifice & Us Documentary Series

p>For Immediate Release – March 29, 2008

The Prayer Home at the National Doukhobor Heritage Village in Veregin, Saskatchewan will be featured in an upcoming episode of Edifice & Us, a television documentary that explores Saskatchewan through the architectural heritage of the province. The half-hour episode, entitled “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers”, premiers on the Saskatchewan Communication Network (SCN) on Tuesday, April 1, 2008 at 8:30 p.m. and again Thursday, April 3, 2008 at midnight.

Located in the small farming community of Veregin in eastern Saskatchewan, the spectacular Prayer Home reflects the community’s importance to the Doukhobors as a religious and cultural centre, as well as the authority and the vision of the leader of the Doukhobors, Peter V. Verigin. Constructed in 1917 as the spiritual meeting place of the community and Verigin’s personal residence, this finely-crafted wooden building with its two-storey wrap-around veranda and elaborate metal work was inspired by 19th-century Doukhobor architectural traditions in Russia. The vast open site surrounding the house accommodated large gatherings drawn from Doukhobor colonies throughout Saskatchewan, who assembled to hear the words of their leader as he addressed them from the second floor balcony. It was the administrative headquarters of the Doukhobor communal organization, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) until 1931. Following the demise of the CCUB in 1937-1939, the building sat empty for decades until 1980, when it was restored as the National Doukhobor Heritage Village.  It was declared a Provincial Heritage Site in 1982.  In 2006, it was designated a National Historic Site. Serving for many years as the social, cultural and spiritual centre of Doukhobor life in Saskatchewan, the Prayer Home remains highly significant as a major architectural landmark and for its ongoing role as a prayer home and museum of Doukhobor history.

The Edifice & Us episode “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers” tells the unique story of the Doukhobor Prayer Home. The building acts as a lens to view the poignant human stories that are its life and times. The documentary uses this lens to bring the past alive and view the present life of the building in an entertaining and educational way. It gives viewers access to its unique construction and style, one of the few surviving examples of its builders’ art. It also offers viewers insight into the special role the building has played in the Doukhobor community.

Shot on location during the Heritage Day celebrations at the National Doukhobor Heritage Village in July 2007, “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers” explores the architecture, art and structure that define the Prayer Home’s physical space and its interaction with and impact on the natural environment. The episode tells the human stories of the building’s creators, those who use it and the people who experienced its past, are living its present and are influencing its future. In doing so, it features interview footage with a number of prominent local Doukhobors, including Laura Veregin of Benito, Alex and Mary Sherstabitoff of Veregin, Fred Strukoff of Kamsack, Keith and Sonia Tarasoff of Canora and Philip Perepelkin of Veregin, along with many others.

“By telling the compelling story of the Prayer Home and creating captivating portraits of the Doukhobor settlers who built it and the people who preserve it, “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers” will be of interest to a wide-ranging audience,” said Keith Tarasoff, chairman of the National Heritage Doukhobor Village. “The episode is an entertaining way to help viewers better understand our culture and preserve its history.”

“Home of the Spirit Wrestlers” also features extensive interview footage with Doukhobor writer and historian Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, who discusses the historic, spiritual and cultural significance of the ninety-one year old Doukhobor building. “The Prayer Home in many ways is a monument to the values of the Doukhobor people that built it,” said Kalmakoff. “It provides an enduring image that we use to visualize and remember the past. It shelters the stories of the builders and users of this heritage building.”

Edifice & Us is produced by Wolf Sun Productions and directed by Regina-based filmmaker, Steve Wolfson in partnership with Penny Ward and Richard Diener. The series explores Saskatchewan’s cultural heritage through its architecture, going beyond the bricks and mortar of the buildings to delve into the human stories too.

“Our buildings are shaped by who we are, how we live and creative vision,” said episode director Richard Diener.  “In turn, the structures we create contribute to enhancing our lives and evolving our communities. Our buildings are part art, part science and part the product of necessity. They express our lives and culture.”

For information or inquiries about the Edifice & Us television series or to obtain a DVD copy of the Doukhobor episode “Home of the Spirit Wrestlers”, visit the Edifice & Us website at: http://www.wolfsun.ca/index.html.

New (and past) episodes of Edifice & Us air regularly on the Saskatchewan Communication Network (SCN). For program schedule and information, visit the SCN website at: http://www.scn.ca/.

New Book Traces History of Langham, Saskatchewan and District

For Immediate Release – August 1, 2007

A new local history book has been published for the Langham, Saskatchewan area. The book, entitled “Langham & District History, 1907-2007” traces the history of the community from its origins as a small prairie railway siding, through its incorporation as a town, to its development into a modern centre.

The book, published by the Langham & District History Book Committee, outlines the early tide of immigration, land surveying, and settler groups that arrived in the area at the turn of the last century. It then follows the footsteps of the dreamers, visionaries and entrepreneurs who established Langham and district. An extensive section details the biographies of local families. Memories of the rural and town schools are vividly recalled in the book. The many places of worship and prayer are also well described. The story traces the social and political evolution of the town, the development of local services and institutions, along with details of memorable local events. The book closes with an album of memories containing beautiful historic photographs of Langham and district.

Main Street, Langham, Saskatchewan, circa 1907.

The Doukhobors, one of the original settler groups in the Langham area, are well represented in the book. Writer and historian Jonathan J. Kalmakoff contributed an article outlining the history of the Doukhobors, from their origins and beliefs in Tsarist Russia, through to their arrival and settlement in the Langham district. Copies of early Doukhobor immigration documents are included, along with surveyors’ maps of Doukhobor villages, village histories and lists of the original Doukhobor pioneer settlers.

Kalmakoff became involved with the local history book when he was contacted by the organizing committee to provide an overview of the Doukhobors. “I am excited and honoured to have contributed towards this book”, said Kalmakoff. “It is important that the Doukhobor contribution to the history and development of Langham is documented. This book tells their story for present and future generations.”

The book contains a number of detailed biographies submitted by local Doukhobor families, including the Antifaev, Bludoff, Bondaroff, Boulanoff, Chudyk, Demoskoff, Fedosoff, Givotkoff, Harelkin, Holoboff, Kasahoff, Nemanishen, Osatchoff, Ozeroff, Perehudoff, Popoff, Rebalkin, Sherstobitoff, Shukin, Stushnoff, Tarasoff and Woykin families. Many other Doukhobor families are referenced throughout the book.

Kirilovka Doukhobor village near Langham, Saskatchewan, circa 1907.

A history of the Langham Doukhobor Prayer Home, along with detailed transcriptions of the Bogdanovka (Ceepee), Kirilowka (Epp), Pakrowka (Henrietta) and Tambovka cemeteries by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff also commemorate the Doukhobor settlers of the Langham area.

Readers with a general interest in the area will find this well-illustrated book a welcome addition to their coffee table or reference library. Genealogists and family historians will find it useful for its biographical information, summaries of the area’s settlement, details of where people came from and how they arrived, and information about community institutions.

Town of Langham Website“Langham & District History, 1907-2007” is a 703-page hardcover book available for $50.00, tax included.  A limited edition of 500 books have been published and 450 have already been sold.  For further information about the book, or to order copies, visit the Town of Langham web site at: http:/www.langham.ca/html/centennial.html.

Oospenia Spring Commemorates Doukhobor Pioneers

For Immediate Release – August 23, 2006

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

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

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

View of Oospenia Spring. Photo courtesy Donna Choppe.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Good Spirit Lake Annex – Historical Tour

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

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

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

Tour participants exploring the Krukoff Homestead near Good Spirit Lake.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Highway map of Buchanan and Good Spirit Lake, Saskatchewan.

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

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

Doukhobors Featured at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences

For Immediate Release – June 3, 2007

The Doukhobors were among the topics featured at the 76th annual Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences held in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan from May 26 to June 2, 2007. Speakers included Jonathan J. Kalmakoff, writer, historian and webmaster; and University of Toronto graduate student, Ashleigh Androsoff.

Organized by the Canadian Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences, the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences – formerly known as the “Learned Societies” – is the largest annual multidisciplinary academic gathering in Canada; its multidisciplinary character marks it as unique in the world.

Now in its 76th year, the Congress is an important meeting place for new and established academics and researchers working in such richly diverse areas as anthropology, bibliotherapy, communication and disability studies, language, literature, geography, the history and philosophy of science, international development, political science, social work, theatre research, ethnic and minority studies, women studies and many more.

This year, approximately 5,600 Congress delegates representing over 68 learned societies came to the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon from all over North America, Europe, Africa and Asia to present their research at lectures, panels and workshops, and to debate some of the most important social and cultural questions of the day.

The theme of this year’s Congress was “Bridging Communities: Making public knowledge – Making knowledge public.” With its emphasis on equity issues, minority groups and bridge-building, it provided a rich backdrop for several interesting sessions on the Doukhobors in Canada.

Jonathan J. Kalmakoff presenting at the Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, 2007.

At the session, “Toponymy” hosted by the Canadian Society for the Study of Names on May 26th, Jonathan J. Kalmakoff presented a paper on “Place Names of Early Doukhobor Settlements in Saskatchewan, 1899-1907”. His paper explored the influence of history, belief, language, orthography and geography on the early place names of the Doukhobors, and examined the mechanisms through which these influences were formulated and manifested.  Click here to view an abstract of his paper.

At another session, “The Immigrant Experience in Canada” hosted by the Canadian Historical Association on May 29th, Ashleigh Androsoff presented a paper entitled “From the Private Sphere to the Public Eye: ‘Redressing’ the Image of Doukhobor-Canadian Women in the Twentieth Century”. Her paper addressed the disparate amount of press attention received by Doukhobor women over the course of the twentieth century in Canada.

Through participation in this exceptional world-level event, we enjoyed the opportunity to share the Doukhobor experience with members of the broader Canadian and international academic community.” said Kalmakoff. “In doing so, we were able to promote a broader dialogue and understanding”.

For additional information or inquiries about the 2007 Congress of Humanities and Social Sciences, past and future Congresses, visit the Canadian Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences web site at: http:/www.fedcan.ca/english/congress/about/.

Blahoslovenie Creek Commemorates Kylemore Doukhobors

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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