by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff
The Pavlovtsy were a group of peasant sectarians primarily from Pavlovka and surrounding villages in the Sumy district of Kharkov province that arose in 1886. Professing Stundist and Tolstoyan beliefs, they were above all influenced by the teaching of Prince Dmitry Alexandrovich Khilkov (1858-1914). Their religious views brought the Pavlovtsy into frequent conflict with church and state authorities. They maintained close ties with the Doukhobors in the Caucasus with whom they shared much in common. From 1899 to 1912, over 40 Pavlovtsy belonging to the Dudchenko, Ol’khovik, Matveyenko, Surzhik, Tverdokhleb, Turchin, Prokopenko, Koshcheyenko, Eremenko, Sukhochev, Teterenko and Sereda families settled among the Doukhobors in the Kamsack district of Saskatchewan. Those Pavlovtsy remaining in Kharkov suffered persecution and exile. The following timeline by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff outlines the history of the Pavlovtsy and their overlapping connections with the Stundist, Tolstoyan and Doukhobor religious movements.
German Baptist missionaries hold Bible studies and prayer meetings in South Russia, attracting many local Russian peasants to their faith. Since the Bible meetings are often one hour in length, these converts are called “Stundists” after the German word stunde for “hour”. By the 1870s, Stundism, characterized by evangelism, Bible study, good works, egalitarianism, pacifism and a rejection of the Orthodox Church, spreads rapidly across South Russia.
Prince Dmitry A. Khilkov (1858-1914)
Prince Dmitry Alexandrovich Khilkov, Lt. Col. of the Guard leads a Kuban Cossack regiment during the Russo-Turkish War. He undergoes a profound spiritual crisis after killing a Turk in combat. He is quartered in Doukhobor villages on the Caucasian Front. Having come to abhor violence, he is impressed by the Doukhobors’ pacifism and humanity. He concludes that Doukhobor beliefs and practices are closer to the teachings of Christ than the beliefs of the Orthodox Church.
Greatly influenced by Doukhobor teaching, Khilkov relinquishes his military career and returns to the family estate at Pavlovka in Kharkov province to put his new-found ideals into practice. From 1884 to 1886, he distributes his 1160 acre estate among the village peasants, retaining a 19 acre plot for himself. He proceeds to live and work as one of the peasants. At first highly suspicious of his intentions, the peasants are won over by his integrity and genuine desire to do them good. Neighbouring landowners are alarmed by Khilkov’s sympathy for the peasants and interference on their behalf in local disputes. Khilkov gains the reputation of one who “lives fully in accordance with the Gospel and who often quarrels with priests”. Following Khilkov’s example, several peasants cease to attend Orthodox Church and return their icons to the priests, saying that they are no longer needed.
Khilkov makes the acquaintance of Count Leo N. Tolstoy whose writings on spiritual Christianity, pacifism and non-resistance to evil make him a kindred spirit. While Khilkov has come to his views independently of Tolstoy, he is now widely regarded as a Tolstoyan. Impressed by Khilkov’s example, other Tolstoyans arrive at Pavlovka to live and work among the peasants. One of these is Semyon P. Prokopenko, a young barrister’s assistant in Sumy who leaves to work the land as a peasant. Others include brothers Mitrofan and Ivan S. Dudchenko, landowners in Sumy who redistribute their lands and leave to live among the peasants.
Through Khilkov, Tolstoyan literature is widely distributed in the locality. There is already a strong body of Stundists in the area, who readily receive Tolstoy’s works as valuable spiritual reading. Professing an admixture of Stundist and Tolstoyan beliefs, the peasant sectarians of Pavlovka and outlying villages such as Rechki, Yastrebennoye, Postolni and others, become known as the Pavlovtsy.
Civil and ecclesiastical authorities view Khilkov’s influence as a threat to the established order. Khilkov is summoned before the Governor of Kharkov and informed that his presence in the country can no longer be tolerated and that he should move to the city. Refusing to oblige, he is threatened with exile for inciting the peasants and fomenting revolution. An official investigation charges Khilkov and twenty Pavlovtsy peasants with “falling away from Orthodoxy”.
The Pavlovtsy are placed under strict police surveillance. Ivan S. Dudchenko living in Pavlovka and Ivan V. Ol’khovik of Rechki are identified as peasant leaders. Anti-Pavlovtsy placards and pamphlets are widely distributed in the locality. Orthodox missionary work among the Pavlovtsy intensifies.
Pavlovtsy leaders Nikolai I. Dudchenko (standing) and his father Ivan S. Dudchenko (sitting), Kharkov, c.1893
Khilkov is exiled to the Caucasus for five years for spreading “anti-religious propaganda”. He settles in Bashkichet in Tiflis province where he again encounters Doukhobors. Several Tolstoyans including Semyon P. Prokopenko and Nikolai I. Dudchenko follow Khilkov into voluntary exile in 1893. Prokopenko, Dudchenko and those who are not exiles travel widely, circulating forbidden Tolstoyan literature among the Doukhobors. Local authorities are gravely concerned about the effect of Tolstoy’s “anarchical and seditious doctrines” on the Doukhobors, who are already in a state of religious and social unrest.
A State decree outlaws Stundism as a “particularly dangerous sect” and bans all Stundist meetings. From this time onwards, the Pavlovtsy in Kharkov are subject to every kind of harassment: meetings are broken up and participants physically abused and fined, they are not permitted to visit one another or work together nor are they permitted to be employed. In September, four leading Pavlovtsy are exiled to Vologda. In November, sixty Pavlovtsy families refuse to swear the oath of allegiance to the new Tsar, Nicholas II.
Sixty Doukhobor military conscripts are imprisoned, tortured and exiled for refusing to bear arms. In June, Doukhobor settlements in the Caucasus demonstrate pacifism by burning firearms. Local authorities respond with beatings and exile of 4,600 Doukhobor civilians. Moreover, three hundred Doukhobor military reservists are exiled for turning in their service papers. Khilkov writes to Tolstoy about the Doukhobor “Burning of Arms” and the brutal repression by local authorities. Shocked by the atrocities, Tolstoy initiates an international campaign to aid the persecuted Doukhobors.
Count Leo N. Tolstoy (1828-1910)
Pavlovtsy military recruit Petr V. Ol’khovik of Rechki refuses to bear arms, following the Doukhobor example. On route to exile in Siberia, he converts Kiril A. Sereda, a soldier from a neighbouring village in his escort. They settle in Yakutsk among Doukhobors exiled from the Caucasus for refusing military service. Several more Pavlovtsy refuse military service the following year in 1896.
Authorities in the Caucasus blame Tolstoyan “agitators” for the growing militancy of the Doukhobors. For his involvement, Khilkov is transferred to a new place of exile in Estonia under much stricter conditions.
Pavlovtsy peasants Ignaty V. Ol’khovik, Anton Tverdokhleb, Yakov Surzhik, Mitrofan M. Matveyenko and Osip Turchin of Rechki are exiled to Warsaw province for three years. This follows an unsuccessful attempt to banish them in 1894 which failed because the village assembly was not empowered to pass a sentence of banishment on religious grounds.
The Letters from the Peasant Petr Vasilyevich Olkhovik are published in London by Tolstoyan Vladimir Chertkov. The “Letters” outline Ol’khovik’s and Sereda’s refusal of military service “to fulfill Christ’s teaching” and are widely circulated among Russian pacifists and religious dissenters.
Rechki peasant Mefody K. Matveyenko
A State decree outlaws Tolstoyism as a “particularly dangerous sect”. As both Stundists and Tolstoyans, the Pavlovtsy find themselves in an impossible situation, outlawed on two counts.
Khilkov is permitted to settle abroad in England and thereafter acts as one of the chief agents in the resettlement of the Doukhobors in Canada. He leaves for Canada in August and travels extensively, seeking out the best sites for settlement, liaising with government officials and accompanying the immigrants to their new homes, a task which occupies a whole year.
Ethnographer V.D. Bonch-Bruevich writes under pseudonym Ol’khovsky, probably coined from the name of Pavlovtsy exile Petr V. Ol’khovik. He assists the Tolstoyans in coordinating the mass resettlement of Doukhobors from Russia. He sails to Canada with the Doukhobors in 1899 and spends a year among them recording their oral tradition, psalms and folklore. Following his return to Russia, he maintains ongoing ties with Stundists, Tolstoyans and Doukhobors.
Restrictions placed on the Pavlovtsy have become so severe that their condition is likened to solitary confinement. In these circumstances, the only hope seems to be to follow the Doukhobors’ example and emigrate. Thirty-eight Pavlovtsy families petition the Governor of Kharkov for permission to emigrate. Writing from Switzerland, Khilkov advises them to put off their departure until the following spring, but concedes they may be immediately better off in Canada, free from police harassment. Khilkov writes to Tolstoy, outlining cost of trip to Canada and recommending a route through Libau – Hull – Liverpool – Canada. Tolstoy is opposed to the emigration, believing that it is better for them as Christians to endure hardship than to flee from it. Undeterred, the Pavlovtsy begin their preparations, selling their land and possessions.
Pavlovtsy Semyon P. Prokopenko and family sail to Canada with the Doukhobors aboard the SS Lake Huron. They settle in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka in the Kamsack district of Saskatchewan.
A State decree allows Pavlovtsy to emigrate to Canada. Permission is granted under the same conditions as the Doukhobors: no conscription-age men can go; emigrants must pay their own way; and they are not allowed to return – under penalty of exile to remote areas. By March 1900, the State reverses its position: only those not eligible at all for military service – old men, women and children – are allowed to leave. Tolstoyans attempting to assist the Pavlovtsy emigrate are threatened with imprisonment. The mass emigration of Pavlovtsy does not materialize, however, there are still some individual emigrations.
S.S. Palatia passengers at Ellis Island, New York in 1899. Anton Tverdokhleb is lying in the extreme right of the first row. Ignaty Ol’khovik is sitting directly behind in the second row. Yakov Surzhik is standing second from the right in the fourth row.
Pavlovtsy exiles Ignaty I. Ol’khovik, Anton Tverdokhleb and Yakov Surzhik emigrate to Canada directly from exile in Warsaw province. They sail aboard the SS Palatia via Hamburg and New York. They settle in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka, Saskatchewan.
1899 July – September
Pavlovtsy Evgeny Sukhochev of Pavlovka emigrates to Canada and settles in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka, Saskatchewan. There he establishes a school in his house for the Doukhobor children of the village.
Pavlovtsy exiles Mefody K. Matveyenko and Osip Turchin along with Tolstoyan Alexander Bodyansky emigrate to Canada. They sail aboard the SS Vancouver via Liverpool and Quebec. They settle in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka, Saskatchewan. Bodyansky assists in the settlement of the Doukhobors on the Canadian prairies.
The Pavlovtsy settlers in Kamenka keep a large library of religious and philosophical books. It is a rarity among the Doukhobors and becomes a highly prized source of information, knowledge and inspiration. One such book, “The Golden Grains”,is given to Ivan F. Sysoev, a child from the neighbouring village of Nikolayevka. This gift of literacy enables Sysoev to learn to read and inspires him to later become one of the greatest Doukhobor poets in Canada. As well, the Sysoev family, being excellent singers, compose melodies to the poems contained in the book which become popular throughout the Doukhobor villages.
Ignaty Ol’khovik, Anton Tverdokhleb, Yakov Surzhik, Osip Turchin, Evgeny Sukhochev and thirteen Doukhobors appear in the US Federal Census at Squaw Valley, Siskiyou County, California. They obtain work there as woodcutters for extra income, returning to Saskatchewan later that year.
Pavlovtsy Semyon P. Prokopenko, Ignaty I. Ol’khovik and five unnamed “brethren” (probably Tverdokhleb, Surzhik, Turchin, Matveyenko and Sukhochev) appear in the Canada census residing in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka, Saskatchewan.
A party of 13 Pavlovtsy immigrants – the wives and children of Matveyenko, Turchin, Ol’khovik and Tverdokhleb emigrate to Canada. They sail aboard the SS Lake Megantic via Liverpool and Quebec. Reunited with their husbands and fathers, they settle in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka, Saskatchewan.
Pavlovtsy Nikolai I. Dudchenko emigrates to Canada. He sails aboard the SS Parisian via Liverpool and Quebec. He settles in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka, Saskatchewan.
The Pavlovtsy remaining in Kharkov fall under the influence of radical Stundist preacher Moisei Todosienko who proclaims the imminence of the Last Day when all authority will be overthrown and the Kingdom of God established. Three hundred Pavlovtsy in a state of religious excitement destroy an Orthodox school and church in Pavlovka. Confronted by police and Orthodox villagers, one is killed and many are severely beaten. The Pavlovka district is sealed off and placed under a strict police regime. In January 1902, sixty-eight Pavlovtsy are put on trial. Severe sentences are handed down: four are given prison terms while forty-five are exiled to hard labour in Vladivostok, Siberia for periods of up to fifteen years.
Pavlovtsy exile Mitrofan M. Matveyenko emigrates to Canada. He sails aboard the SS Parisian via Liverpool and Quebec. He reunites with his family and settles in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka, Saskatchewan.
Pavlovtsy peasant Ivan N. Sereda of Rechki emigrates to Canada. He sails aboard the SS Tunisian via Liverpool and Quebec. He first settles in the Doukhobor village of Kamenka, Saskatchewan where he changes his name to Sardoff. He later travels to North Dakota and California as a labourer, eventually homesteading in Wainright, Alberta in 1907.
Nikolai I. Dudchenko and Semyon P. Prokopenko write to Khilkov and Bonch-Breuvich from Saskatchewan. The Pavlovtsy immigrants provide rare, detailed, critical descriptions of Doukhobor village settlement, interrelations, economic organization, etc.
Leo Tolstoy writes to Doukhobor leader Peter V. Verigin in Saskatchewan about the plight of the Pavlovtsy remaining in Kharkov, a “deeply religious people suffering on account of a momentary distraction”. In February, Verigin sends Tolstoy five hundred roubles on behalf of the Doukhobors to assist the Pavlovtsy “who have been condemned to penal servitude for refusal of military service”.
The Pavlovtsy settlers in Saskatchewan – the Dudchenko, Matveyenko, Ol’khovik, Surzhik, Tverdokhleb, Turchin and Prokopenko families – take up individual homesteads in the district south of Kamsack. They obtain loans from the Doukhobor community to purchase supplies, equipment, etc.
Ignaty V. Ol’khovik family, Kamsack district, Saskatchewan c. 1914
Pavlovtsy exile Petr V. Ol’khovik, Kiril A. Sereda and 182 Doukhobors arrive in Canada from Siberia aboard the SS Southwark. Sereda settles among the Independent Doukhobors of the Pelly district of Saskatchewan. Ol’khovik settles with a group of “Yakutian” Doukhobors in Brandon, Manitoba.
Pavlovtsy settler Anna I. Ol’khovik marries Doukhobor Nikolai M. Antifaeff in Swan River, Manitoba. The wedding is performed by Methodist clergyman Rev. John E. Lane and is the first Doukhobor marriage consecrated in accordance with Canadian law.
The Pavlovtsy settlers establish the Charkoff School District No. 1738 south of Kamsack, named after their home province. The Pavlovtsy settlers also establish a cemetery for their “Russian settlement”.
The Petr V. Ol’khovik family, along with forty “Yakutian” Doukhobors resettle to Los Angeles, California. One year later, the Ol’khovik family permanently resettles in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Pavlovtsy peasant Osip A. Teterenko of Rechki sails to Canada aboard the SS Laura via Hamburg and New York. He settles in the Kamsack district of Saskatchewan. Upon his arrival he changes his name to Tetoff.
Pavlovtsy Spiridon E. Koshcheyenko and family of Pavlovka sails to Canada aboard the SS Ausonia via Southampton. They had been exiled for ten years in Vladivostok, Siberia for their part in the Pavlovtsy uprisings of 1901. They settle in the Kamsack district of Saskatchewan.
Pavlovtsy settler Kiril M. Matveyenko marries Doukhobor Tanya L. Lebedoff in the Kamsack district in a traditional Doukhobor wedding ceremony.
Pavlovtsy Ivan S. Dudchenko and family of Pavlovka sails to Canada aboard the SS Teutonic via Liverpool. They had been exiled for ten years in Vladivostok, Siberia for their part in the Pavlovtsy uprisings of 1901. They settle in the Kamsack district of Saskatchewan.
Pavlovtsy peasant Anton I. Eremenko of Postolni sails to Canada aboard the SS Teutonic via Liverpool. He settles in the Kamsack district of Saskatchewan. Upon his arrival he changes his name to Eremenkoff.
Anton Tverdokhleb resettles in Musselshell County, Montana, USA. Soon after he changes his name to Hardbread.
Gravesite of Nikolai I. Dudchenko (1868-1916). Inscription reads: “His Religion – Tolstoy”. Courtesy Koozma J. Tarasoff.
Nikolai I. Dudchenko dies in a train accident. Nicholas Street in the Town of Kamsack is named in his honour. Articulate, literate and fluent in English, Dudchenko acted as spokesman and representative of the tiny Pavlovtsy settlement in Saskatchewan.
Disillusioned with life in Canada, the families of Ivan S. Dudchenko, Semyon P. Prokopenko and Spiridon E. Koshcheyenko return to Russia. They initially settle in Ussurisk in the Russian Far East.
The Kiril A. Sereda family appears in the Independent Doukhobor census residing in Kamsack, Saskatchewan.
The family of Osip Turchin resettles to Detroit, Michigan, USA.
The Petr V. Ol’khovik family along with forty Independent Doukhobor families resettle on a collective farm near Melitopol, Ukraine. Their aim is to help their Motherland establish the new life following the Revolution. In 1928, the young men receive calls to serve in the army following the institution of universal military service in the Soviet Union. Being pacifists, the families refuse military service and return to Canada in 1928.
Petr V. Ol’khovik family, Melitopol, Ukraine c. 1926
The families of Kiril A. Sereda and Kiril M. Matveyenko appear in the Named Doukhobors of Canada membership list residing in Kamsack, Saskatchewan.
The family of Kiril M. Matveyenko appears in the Named Doukhobors of Canada membership list residing in Kamsack, Saskatchewan.
The family of Mitrofan M. Matveyenko appears in the Kamsack Doukhobor Society membership list.
- Camfield, Graham P. “Aleksandr Khilkov: the Bolshevik Prince”. Unpublished article manuscript.
- Camfield, Graham P. “From Tolstoyan to Terrorist: The Revolutionary Career of Prince D.A. Khilkov, 1900-1905” in Revolutionary Russia (London: Frank Cass, Vol. 12, No. 1, June 1999, pp. 1-43).
- Camfield, Graham P. Prince D. A. Khilkov: a Biography. Unpublished manuscript, British Library of Political and Economic Science.
- Camfield, Graham P. “The Pavlovtsy of Khar’kov Province, 1886-1905: Harmless Sectarians or Dangerous Rebels?” in The Slavonic and East European Review (London: The Modern Humanities Research Association for the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, Vol. 68, No. 4, October 1990, pp. 692-717).
- Chertkov, Vladimir, Pis’ma Petra Vasilevicha Ol’khovika, Krestianina Kharkovskoi Gubernii, Otkhazavshagosa ot Voinskoi Povinnosti v 1895 godu (London, 1897).
- Donskov, Andrew (ed), Leo Tolstoy – Peter Verigin Correspondence (Ottawa: Legas 1995).
- Gusev, N. N. “Pavlovtsy”, Ch.1, Russkaia Mysl’, No.7, 1907, pp.40-71.
- Inikova, Svetlana A., History of the Doukhobors in V.D. Bonch-Breuvich’s Archives (1886-1950’s) (Ottawa: Legas Publishing, 1999).
- Klibanov, A.I. History of Religious Sectarianism in Russia (1860s-1917) (Toronto: Pergamon Press, 1982).
- Manitoba Free Press, “Swan River Wedding” (April 6, 1906).
- Spinning Stories: A Woven History, Kamsack, Togo, Veregin, Runnymede, Cote. (Kamsack: Kamsack History Book Committee, 1988).
- Woodcock, George and Ivan Avakumovic, The Doukhobors (Ottawa: Carleton Library, 1977).
- Woodsworth, John, Russian Archival Documents on Canada: The Doukhobors: 1895-1943, Annotated, Cross-referenced and Summarized. Catalogue No. 2 (Ottawa: Carleton University, 1996).
Special thanks to Graham P. Camfield, Assistant Librarian of the British Library of Political and Economic Science in London England for his invaluable help and for generously sharing his unpublished manuscript material on the Pavlovtsy. This is a work in progress. If readers have any additional information with respect to the Pavlovtsy settlers in Saskatchewan and their descendants, please email the authorJonathan Kalmakoff.