Romasha Kanygin – The Shackled One

by Marion Demosky

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

Author’s Note

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

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

Marion Demosky, Grand Forks, British Columbia, 1985

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kanigan Family Tree

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

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

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.


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.

Tambov Doukhobors on Trial in 1803

by I. Dubasov

At the turn of the 18th century, Doukhobors lived in difficult times and were severely persecuted by Orthodox Church and Tsarist State authorities. On account of their faith, many were harassed, extorted, tortured, imprisoned, exiled and executed in barbarous ways. The following is a compelling and harrowing account of the real-life trials and sufferings of the Doukhobors of Troitskoye Dubrova village, in Tambov province, Russia in 1803. This rare manuscript, never before published in English, constitutes an invaluable historical resource and provides readers with a fascinating and informative look into the actual true-life experiences of our Doukhobor martyr ancestors. Reproduced from I. Dubasov, Istoricheskii Vestnik (Saint Petersburg, 1886) and in P.N. Malov, Dukhobortsi, ikh istoria, zhizn’ i bor’ba. Translated by Vera Kanigan, with additional revision and editing by Jack McIntosh, for the Doukhobor Genealogy Website.

Approximately 46 versts from the town of Tambov, along the long Morshansk Road, stood the village of Troitskoye Dubrova. At the end of the 18th century in this village there lived peasants – Doukhobors. They were disbursed among eight homesteads. All of the Troitskoye Dubrova Doukhobors were sober, gentle and hardworking. The men industriously practiced arable farming while the women were engaged in weaving thin cloth, preparing perfect woolen and silk sashes for sale, those that were well-known in previous years in the Tambov region under the name of Dubrovskiye.

Here in Troitskoye Dubrova there arrived a new priest, Father Ageev, who immediately launched a campaign against the peaceful sectarians. Not willing to influence them through an example of a good life, he threatened to them that he would forcefully enter their homes and rid them of their different prayer practices. Although the sectarians did not like this, they could do nothing about it and submitted to the will of the priest.

Soon afterwards, there was a wake in Troitskoye Dubrova. After mass, the routine visits to the peasant homesteads began. Towards evening, Father Ageev decided to visit the Doukhobors. The first home he visited was that of Zot Antifeev. After a public prayer service, where the Doukhobor family stood sedately, Father Ageev sternly demanded that Zot walk up to the cross. Antifeev refused. Then the prichetniki (psalm readers) took hold of his hands and Ageev forcefully placed the holy cross to his lips. At this point, the upset Doukhobor jerked away and let the cross drop on the floor. What occurred next was a loud quarrel, during which neither side spared any harsh words to each other.

“You are rogues, not priests!” shouted Antifeev.

“And you are a damned heretic!” yelled Father Ageev, trying to make him see reason.

The process commenced. Antifeev and his coreligionists were taken to Tambov, to the lower court and to the Church council. For edification and to put fear into him, the former was beaten with branches tied together, and the rest of the Doukhobors were held for 20 days in the consistory punishment cell, barely fed with only bread and water. Afterwards, they were disbursed amongst the Tambov town clergymen for direction and admonition. They lived with the pastors a whole year and worked for nothing, whilst supporting themselves. After a year, they rejoined the Orthodox Church. They then returned to Troitskoye Dubrova, apparently reconciled; but in reality they were tormented by a fierce anger toward the priest Ageev, the initiator of their prolonged torment and wandering. Perhaps for this reason, the Troitskoye Dubrova Doukhobors decided to move from their own village 1½ versts to a separate settlement. This took place in the year of 1785.

After the resettlement, the Doukhobors lived peacefully for exactly seventeen years, pleasing both the clergy and the police, as well as not forgetting their own benefits. In 1802, in the Troitskoye Dubrova Doukhobor settlement there were twelve homesteads, nicely surrounded by buildings with an abundance of all kinds of livestock. However, it was in that year, once again, that its peaceful life was broken.

At Yuletide in 1802, the priest Ageev, through his own peculiarity, jealousy, or self-interest, decided to extol praises to Jesus Christ in the Doukhobor homes. During the night, while in an intoxicated state, and with young, drunken junior deacons and their families, approximately fourteen participants in all, he entered the home of a Doukhobor, Petr Drobyshev, glorified Christ and then invited the whole family to come to the cross. The Drobyshev family did not go. Then Father Ageev commenced beating all of the Doukhobors with the cross, yelling loudly, and demanding food and refreshments from them as well as money for the work performed. In this manner, the Troitskoye Dubrova clergy proceeded to the rest of the Doukhobor homesteads. In every home, the priest beat the insubordinate sectarians, made signs of fighting and irreligiously demanded money from them.

The next day there was a Doukhobor gathering at the home of the Doukhobor Gavriil Shapkin. The offended sectarians resolved to complain to the head of Troitskoye Dubrova and all the village people, and with their knowledge, ask the provincial authorities for protection and safeguarding. And so, on the 3rd of January, 1803, the peasant Shapkin appeared as a foot messenger with a Doukhobor petition to the Tambov Governor, A. B. Palitsin. A customary investigation followed and was commissioned to the solicitor Muratov and the court assessor Von Menik.

Muratov and Von Menik had themselves just been freed from the criminal justice court with strong suspicion still remaining on charges of extortion, as witnessed by the Tambov Marshall of the Nobility, Arapov. And if the court was indulgent towards them, it was only because it could not be established who accepted the bribes – Muratov or Von Menik – or if they had accepted public funds. The Tambov criminal court first made it incumbent upon the accused to sign a statement not to incur suspicion upon themselves and to erase the original suspicion by taking on the new assignment with fervor. And so they set off to ascertain the facts about the priest as well as the Doukhobors of the village of Troitskoye Dubrova.

The investigators reported to the Governor that the priest Ageev, although very intoxicated, as were other priests who lived in the vicinity, nevertheless had 21 years of service and was held in esteem by all of the parishioners. It was only the Doukhobors, according to the words of Muratov and Von Menik, who annoyed Ageev with their coarse and insolent manners, especially Shapkin and Antifeev, who held heretical meetings in their homes that tempted other Orthodox followers. The examining magistrate seized many Troitskoye Dubrova Doukhobors, including the merchant Krylov, and sent them away to Tambov for a locally administered trial. Then the Governor wrote about this situation to the Secretary of State, Count Kochubeev. He, in turn, made a report about the Troitskoye Dubrova Doukhobors to the Tsar, and soon the Tambov Governor, Palitsin was sent an Imperial edict with the following content:

“From the viewpoint of the civil authorities it is necessary to keep an eye on the sectarians so that they are not allowed to scorn or display contempt to the clergy, and also not allowed open disclosure of their heresy nor to tempt the true believers (Orthodox); therefore they are to be brought to trial as violators of the common order, in accordance with the laws.”

The Troitskoye Dubrova Doukhobors went on trial at the Tambov district law court. There, the Doukhobors pleaded that with regard to the accusations of treason against Russian Orthodoxy placed against them by the Tambov Orthodox clergy, that they were forced to outwardly practice the dominant faith with threats of life-long separation from their families. During the ongoing legal procedures, the Doukhobors courageously expressed their beliefs. They proclaimed to the judge that they did not respect the Orthodox Church, nor the cross, nor the Gospels, nor icons which are made by men’s hands. They did not cross themselves on their chest nor carry a replica of the cross, but crossed themselves with the word of God, in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. They did not believe in communion, confession nor baptism. They despised priests and did not allow them into their homes because they had the one and only holy reverend and righteous, the Lord God Himself. They do not keep the established Church fasts, but partook of milk and meat except pork, in order to escape the fate of the Orthodox and not to perish. They did not baptize newborn children for all of their lives. They had no marriage, but lived lovingly with whom they chose.  They buried their dead at home, and served God in spirit. From the spirit they took guidance, courage and strength. From the spirit they received the sword and with this spiritual sword they waged war and overcame all things.

During the Doukhobor testimony, when the point came to attest to the sectarians’ attitude to the governing authorities, their tone changed and they became more subdued. “Sovereigns or Tsars we respect,” they said, “Authorities we obey. We do not hold forbidden meetings, we do not gather in villages with the singing of Doukhobor songs, nor do we try to convert the Orthodox to our beliefs.”

To accuse the Doukhobors, the Bishop Feofil sent the rector of the seminary, Archpriest Shilovski, to the trial. However, the sectarians, in spite of the complex, lengthy and prolonged missionary interpretations, remained steadfast in their beliefs and firmly refused to accept the Orthodox Church.

At that time, the court sentenced the peasants Shapkin and Antifeev to be knouted and sent to the town of Kola in Arkhangel province. The other members of the sect, Petr Drobyshev, Filipp Dubasov the Elder, Filipp Dubasov the Younger, Sergei Mukaseev, Afanasy Antifeev and Pavel Zamyatin were to be severely flogged in the village of Troitskoye Dubrova, left at home, not allowed to be appointed in the village to any kind of position and not allowed to participate in any village gatherings. The court ordered all of the village Doukhobor children to be baptized. This decision was handed down on the 30th of March.

The two Doukhobors were immediately sent to Kola, and on the 13th of April 1803, in the village of Troitskoye Dubrova, in front of a huge gathering of people, the rest of the condemned Doukhobors were mercilessly beaten to near death and then handed over to the village recorder for entering into the records. This was reported to the Tambov rural court on the 16th of April. The same day, the following remarkable occurrence took place in Tambov.

In the morning, at 7:00 a.m., a peasant arrived in the yard of the Governor and stopped at the main entrance. Standing on his hourly watch of the provincial office was the sentry, who asked:

“What person are you?”

The peasant, without answering the question, asked his own, “Is the Governor home?”

“He is not,” answered the sentinel. “He has gone to Kirsanov.”

Then the newcomer requested that it be announced to the Governor’s wife that he had brought His Excellency a present. After these words, he drove his cart into the middle of the courtyard and unhitched his horse. At this time, the Governor’s butler, Kuzmin, along with the house serfs lifted the tarpaulin that covered the load and with amazement saw that in the wagon there lay a decomposed corpse. Of course, the corpse and the peasant who brought it were both taken to the authorities.

During interrogation at police headquarters, the peasant identified himself. “My name is Zot Mukaseev, son of Anan. I have never been to confession nor communion and I cannot read nor write.” Further he announced the following.

On the 13th of April, the police deputy told him that the court assessor Von Menik had arrived in Troitskoye Dubrova along with the village assessor, staff medic and two soldiers. They had been ordered to flog the Doukhobors. Upon arriving, the authorities drove the people to a public pasture where evidence of an execution already existed. However, Zot Mukaseev did not listen to the police deputy’s assistant and walked away to the field on his own business. Soon, upon returning home, he saw the peasant Ermakov leading his brother Sergei by the hand, with many peasants, both men and women, following. Sergei barely stood on his legs from the harsh beating and moaned and sighed the whole night, barely closing his eyes. His brother stayed beside him until morning and then went to call on the other punished Doukhobors.

Zot Mukaseev first called upon the Doukhobor Petr Drobyshev and found him already dead. Beside the dead man sat his young son, shedding bitter tears. The Troitskoye Dubrova Doukhobors then gathered and deliberated what to do with the corpse. At length, they decided to transport it to Tambov and present it to the Governor and at the same time again beseech him to protect them from police oppression. Zot Mukaseev was chosen to carry out this decision.

The town solicitors together with the medical authorities witnessed the condition of the corpse that Mukaseev had brought to the police authorities. The back and buttocks were swollen and dark blue in colour. The lungs and heart were filled with blood and blackened. The examining magistrate concluded that Drobyshev died from an apoplectic seizure. His body was buried.

During the day of Drobyshev’s burial, the police once again questioned Zot Mukaseev, and just as he had proclaimed, the Troitskoye Dubrova Doukhobors that had been punished had very little hope of recovery. By the Governor’s orders, the principal provincial town solicitor Muratov, chief of police Shatalov and head physician Drugov were sent to Troitskoye Dubrova for observation and assistance. While the commission prepared to journey to Troitskoye Dubrova, another beaten Doukhobor, Filipp Dubasov, perished.

Upon arriving in Troitskoye Dubrova, the officials proceeded to question the residents.

“Where is the deceased, Filipp Dubasov?” asked the officials.

“Locked in the barn,” he was told, “and the peasants Efim, Fedot and Daniil Antifeev are sitting beside the cell. The son of the deceased, Login, has the key to the cage and he went away to Tambov to complain to the Governor about the assessor, Von Menik, who whipped his father to death.”

The investigators walked into the cottage of Filipp Dubasov and in it found two ill women, the widow of the deceased and her daughter-in-law. The women were apparently in shock by the tragedy that had befallen them and when questioned by the officials, were unable to respond. The women were taken and placed under guard.

Then they entered the yard of Drobyshev and found his son Yakov whom they also took and placed under guard.

In the morning, they proceeded to deal with the body of Filipp Dubasov. However, as a result of advanced decomposition, they did not examine it, instead deposing that his death was caused by the taking of poison, either internally or externally. With regard to the other punished Doukhobors, the officials conveyed the following, “These Doukhobors were by no means sincere and harmless, and their punishment was fitting.”

After the investigation and all the judicial formalities were completed, Zot Mukaseev was sentenced to be flogged and exiled to Kola. The sectarians Efim, Fedot and Daniil Antifeev, Login and Filipp the Younger Dubasov were sentenced to be beaten with rods and left at their homes. Of the other defendants, the only ones who escaped punishment were those who were underage or who renounced their heresy.

With regard to the fatally beaten Doukhobors, Drobyshev and Dubasov, the criminal court expressed the following: “The case of their death will be handed over to the higher court and the Will of God until such a time in the future when something more will be revealed or some other side will be proven.”

In the meantime, there followed an Imperial Decree addressed to the Tambov Governor:

1) To assign the Doukhobors small plots of land far removed from their settlements for cemetery plots, since interment of dead bodies in homes can under no condition be tolerated. The burial of Doukhobors who are not members of the Orthodox Church in common church cemeteries is not allowed according to its resolutions.

2) The designation of such plots of land to the Doukhobors, and that they bury their dead in those areas of land, must definitely be adhered to. In the event a Doukhobor violates these rules, they are to be judged, not for heresy, but for violating the common safety and after their trial, they should be sent to Kola.

3) Tolerance for the Doukhobor sect, such as the non-baptizing of infants, is to be accepted. The local authorities are only to watch that the Doukhobors not make known to others, except those from their own sect and families of their heresy and not to openly or publicly show others for fear of going to trial and being punished.

With regard to the delivery of the corpse to the home of the Governor, it was ruled that the Doukhobor’s cause of death was to be thoroughly investigated and the police chief Shatalov and city administrator Kern put on trial for neglecting their official duties.

The result of this Imperial Decree was that the Doukhobor situation was once again examined, and the scandalous details came to light with regard to Von Menik. Upon arriving in Troitskoye Dubrova in an intoxicated state, he had noisily entered a Doukhobor meeting and started to rudely and indecently pester two Doukhobor girls. This was in January. In spite of the frost, Von Menik opened the door at the meeting and in a loud voice proclaimed: “May all the Doukhobors die from the cold!” The next day Von Menik demanded one hundred rubles from the Doukhobors, and when he did not receive them, he became irate, yelled at them and gave them three horse whippings. And as if that were not enough, he tied the Doukhobors to wagons and carts, pulled on their whiskers and beards, spread tar and mud on them and indecently jeered and taunted them.

During this threatening time for our sectarians, the Tambov Doukhobors, there was only one humane person who took pity on them, a Tambov official, the district solicitor Pavlovsky. At his own risk, he freed them at the time of the prolonged investigation, some from prison, others from wooden hand and foot shackles, depending on the circumstances.

The Tambov criminal investigative board once again resumed its investigation of the matter of the Doukhobors with renewed energy. It bypassed the Governor, on the grounds that he could not be a true judge of the task at hand because it required special, more detailed and thorough attention, to the Senate, which ruled to reduce the punishment of the Tambov Doukhobors. Thus, their punishment was reduced to a beating with a rod, from 10 to 20 blows. The provincial head of police and the chief of the town police were completely exonerated. However, at the same time, the governing Senate, under the protection of the Governor’s authority, imposed a penalty on the members of the Tambov criminal chamber of 100 rubles because they had not dispatched their decision for the Governor’s approval.

Subsequent to these proceedings, all of the details were reported by the Minister of Justice P. V. Lopukhin, a Tsarist official sympathetic to the Doukhobors’ plight, to the Governor himself. In the meantime, another new sacrifice appeared with regard to this matter; Zot Antifeev died in the Tambov Prison.

On the 16th of December, 1804, there followed permission from the highest authority to resettle the Doukhobors from Tambov Province to Tavria Province, in the Milky Waters area. This included the Doukhobors from the village of Troitskoye Dubrova, thereby saving them from untimely and unjust claims with respect to their religious beliefs. News of this authorization was received with absolute enthusiasm by the Doukhobors. All of them, calling themselves brothers, formed one family and in 1805 established in the Melitopol district, a village on the outskirts of the town, and with great significance, named it Terpeniye (endurance). In 1813, the resettlement of the Tambov Doukhobors was completed.

The criminal chamber eventually passed judgment on the criminal offences of the officials. At the same time it exposed uncommon condescension. Regarding the chief of police Shatalov, who taunted the Doukhobors, the chamber responded: “This conduct of the chief of police Shatalov, in essence is unbelievable!” With regard to the physician Drugov, who also was an active participant in the Troitskoye Dubrova torturing, the criminal chamber officials conveyed the following: “It is also incredible that such acts were committed by the staff physician Drugov.” Some of the chamber heads contemplated exonerating the officials Muratov and Von Menik on the basis that their scandalous abuse of authority, although it crossed a fine line in the manner that it was applied, should be kept hidden. Be that as it may, the whole Tambov Doukhobor affair received extensive publicity and both Muratov and Von Menik did end up being punished for their actions.

Muratov was dismissed from his position and Von Menik, as the main offender, was stripped of his rank and sentenced to two years of Church penance. The Church penance, as assigned by the Tambov Consistory, was performed by him in the Troitskoye Lebedyanskie Monastery. In part, the physician Drugov was also rendered answerable for his act, as he was removed as the district doctor.

The long sojourn of Von Menik at the monastery, in the charge of the church and amidst such recollections as should have, even against his will, drawn his heart toward compassion and remorse, did not reform him. He returned to his estate in the village of Dukhovka, embittered, and lived out his life of leisure, treating his peasant farmers inhumanely. His own life ended in tragedy. On the 12th of August, 1820, he was murdered in his own orchard during his afternoon rest time by his own cook, who had been threatened with grim and harsh punishment in the stable. The murder was committed in an extremely brutal manner, with an axe, his whole brain spilled out of his skull.

This article was reproduced by permission in ISKRA Nos.1987-1988 (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities in Christ, 2006).

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:

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.