The Doukhobor Monuments of Efremovka and Rodionovka

by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff

In 1845, the Doukhobors of Efremovka and Rodionovka villages in Tavria province, Russia were exiled for their faith to the Caucasus mountain region. Upon their departure, they erected stone monuments in their villages to commemorate this momentous event. Although the existence of the monuments is documented in two 19th century Russian texts, no trace of them remains today. The following article examines what is known about the Efremovka and Rodionovka monuments, and their significance to the archaeology of the Molochnaya Doukhobors. Translations by Jack McIntosh.

In 2006, a local historian in Zaporiz’ka oblast, Ukraine discovered an ancient stone monument erected by the Doukhobors of Bogdanovka upon their exile from the village in 1844. The find was historically and culturally significant, as it was the only Doukhobor relic of its kind known to have been found anywhere in the Molochnaya region.

Now, a recent study of Russian historical records by the writer reveals not one but two other monuments raised by Doukhobors during the same era. Memorial stones similar to the one at Bogdanovka were left by the Doukhobors of Efremovka and Rodionovka upon their departure from these villages in 1845. This latest discovery sheds new light on the archeology of the Molochnaya Doukhobors.

The existence of the Efremovka and Rodionovka monuments is attested to in two 19th century Russian texts: Mikhail Rodionov’s 1872 work, Statistiko-khronologiko-istoricheskoe opisanie Tavricheskoi eparkhii: obshchii i chastnyi obzor” (Simferopol’: v tipografii S. Spiro, 1872), and Bishop Germogen’s 1887 work, Tavricheskaya Eparkhiya (Pskov: Tipografiya Gubernskago Pravleniya, 1887). Both authors were Orthodox clerics who conducted detailed statistical analyses of the villages, towns and parishes of the Orthodox diocese of Tavria province. In doing so, they compiled a rich collection of invaluable local historical information not recorded anywhere else.

The inscription of the Efremovka monument is preserved in its entirety in both Rodionov’s and Germogen’s texts. The original Russian inscription reads:

“Вечное память родителей праведныхь именованныхь духоборцевь погребенныхь спасали и спасались души своихь кротостью и смиренностью и благоуродно Богу и Государю собрать нась на обетованную землю вь Таврическую губернию вь 1805 году. Вь 1845 году переселены на Кавказь 15 мая изь села Ефремовки Духоборець Б-ий.”

The English translation of the Efremovka memorial inscription may be read as follows:

“Eternal memory of buried upright forebears named Dukhobortsy; they were saving their souls and were saved through meekness and humility, and it pleased God and the Sovereign to gather us to the promised land in Tavria Province in 1805. On May 15, 1845 we were resettled in the Caucasus from the village of Efremovka.

B-iy – a Dukhoborets.”

The Rodionovka memorial inscription is not reproduced in either text; however, Rodionov states that it had the same kind of inscription as the Efremovka monument. The Bogdanovka memorial inscription, reproduced in Germogen, is virtually identical to that of the Efremovka monument, save for references to villages and dates.

As noted by Jack McIntosh, former UBC Slavic languages bibliographer, these inscriptions are shorter versions of the Doukhobor psalm, “Vechnaya pamyat’…” as published in Sbornik dukhoborcheskikh psalmov, stikhov i pesen (Grand Forks: U.S.C.C., 1978) and as engraved on a stone monument that stands at the site of the former Sirotsky Dom in the village of Gorelovka, Georgia. The psalm, orally transmitted over the generations, references significant events in the history of the Doukhobor people.

Interestingly, the name of the Doukhobor who inscribed the Efremovka monument is partially preserved in the 19th century Russian texts. The partial name “B-iy” may refer to any of several Russian men’s names (i.e. Barfoniy, Bonifatiy, etc.) or it may reference the surname of the inscriber (i.e. Barovskiy, Bazilevskiy, Bykovskiy, etc.). It is therefore impossible to ascertain the name of the Doukhobor inscriber.

The sites where the Efremovka and Rodionovka monuments once stood are also identified in the historic texts. Both Rodionov and Germogen note that the monuments were left in the Doukhobor cemeteries in each village. Unfortunately, however, neither cemetery exists today, nor is its location known.

While it is apparent that the Efremovka and Rodionovka monuments still existed at the time Rodionov and Germogen wrote their texts in 1872 and 1887, their subsequent fate is unknown. According to Alexander A. Chukhraenko, discoverer of the Bogdanovka memorial, they are no longer found in these villages, and the present inhabitants have no knowledge or memory of their existence.

It is possible that the Doukhobor memorials have not survived the past century and a half. Perhaps they were destroyed during the wars and revolution that ravaged the region in the twentieth century. Or perhaps the monuments were removed by local inhabitants and reused as building materials. This is certainly known to have occurred with some Tsarist-era monuments. It is also possible that the stone memorials still survive, but have been looted and plundered and now lay in private hands. Or perhaps they fell over and now lay buried under several inches of soil. If this were the case, then they might still await discovery, somewhere below the surface of the villages.

Whatever their fate, the discovery of the existence of the Efremovka and Rodionovka monuments highlights that the archeology of the Molochnaya Doukhobors remains an area ripe for further attention.

For More Information

For more information on Doukhobor archaeological sites on the Molochnaya, see the articles Doukhobor Memorial Stone from the Village of BogdanovkaThe Doukhobor Monument to Alexander I in Terpeniye and The Mystery of Terpeniye’s Buried Treasure by Alexander A. Chukhraenko and The Cossack Cross of Spasskoye by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff with Alexander A. Chukhraenko.  

This article was reproduced by permission in ISKRA No.2026 (Grand Forks: Union of Spiritual Communities in Christ, January 1, 2010).