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Doukhobour women, 1887

The Doukhobours or Dukhobors (Russian: , Dukhobory, also Dukhobortsy,[1]Russian: ; literally "Spirit-Warriors / Wrestlers") are a Spiritual Christian religious group of Russian origin. They are one of many non-Orthodox ethno-confessional faiths in Russia, often categorized as "folk-Protestants", Spiritual Christians, sectarians, or heretics. They are distinguished as pacifists who lived in their own villages, rejected personal materialism, worked together, and developed a tradition of oral history and memorizing and singing hymns and verses. Before 1886, they had a series of single leaders.

The ancient origin of the Doukhobors is uncertain. The first written records of them are from the 1700s, though some scholars suspect earlier origins.[2][3][4]

They rejected the Russian Orthodox priesthood, the use of icons, and all associated church ritual. They came to believe that the Bible alone, as a supreme source, was not enough to reach divine revelation, and that doctrinal conflicts can interfere with their faith. Their goal was to internalize the living spirit of God so that God's spirit would be revealed within each individual. Bible teachings are evident in some published Doukhobor psalms, hymns, and beliefs. They draw on the characteristics of God, as portrayed by Jesus Christ, to guide their faith as God's peaceful ambassadors.[]


In the 17th- and 18th-century Russian Empire, believing in God's presence in every human being, these people concluded that clergy and formal rituals were unnecessary. They rejected the secular government, the Russian Orthodox priests, icons, and all church ritual, holding that the Bible was the supreme source of divine revelation. They believed in the divinity of Jesus. Their practices and emphasis on individual interpretation as well as opposition to the government and church, provoked antagonism from the government and the established Russian Orthodox church. In 1734 the government issued an edict against ikonobortsy condemning them as iconoclasts.[5][page needed]

Siluan (Silvan) Kolesnikov (Russian: ?) was the first known Doukhobor leader, active from 1755 to 1775. He came from the village of Nikolskoye in Yekaterinoslav Governorate in what is today south-central Ukraine.[5][page needed] He was thought to be a well-read person, familiar with the works of Western mystics such as Karl von Eckartshausen and Louis Claude de Saint-Martin.[6]

The early Doukhobors called themselves "God's People" or simply "Christians." Their modern name, first in the form Doukhobortsy (Russian: , Dukhobortsy, 'Spirit wrestlers') is thought to have been first used in 1785 or 1786 by Ambrosius, the Archbishop of Yekaterinoslav[5][page needed] or his predecessor, Nikifor (Nikephoros Theotokis).[7][a]

The archbishop's intent was to mock them as heretics fighting against the Holy Spirit (Russian: , Svyatoy Dukh); but later on (around the beginning of the 19th century, according to SA Inikova[7]) the dissenters picked the name, usually in a shorter form, Doukhobory (Russian: , Dukhobory), implying that they are fighting not against, but along with the Spirit.[5]

As pacifists, the Doukhobors also ardently rejected the institutions of militarism and wars. For these reasons, the Doukhobors were harshly oppressed in Imperial Russia. Both the tsarist state and church authorities were involved in the persecution of these dissidents, as well as taking away their normal freedoms.

The first known use of the spelling Doukhobor is attested in a government edict of 1799, exiling 90 of them to Finland[5] (presumably, the Vyborg area, which was already part of the Russian Empire at the time) for their anti-war propaganda.

In 1802, the Emperor Alexander I encouraged resettlement of religious minorities to the so-called "Milky Waters" (Molochnye Vody): the region around the Molochnaya River (around Melitopol in today's southern Ukraine). This was motivated by the desire both to quickly populate the rich steppe lands on the north shore of the Black and Azov Seas, and to prevent the "heretics" from contaminating the population of the heartland with their ideas. Many Doukhobors, as well as Mennonites from Prussia, accepted the Emperor's offer, coming to the Molochnaya from various provinces of the Empire over the next 20 years.[9]

Transcaucasian exile

The village of Gorelovka in southern Georgia, the "capital" of the Doukhobors of Transcaucasia (1893)
The Doukhobor worship place in Georgia

As Nicholas I replaced Alexander, he issued a decree (February 6, 1826), intending to force assimilation of the Doukhobors by means of military conscription, prohibiting their meetings, and encouraging conversions to the established church.[5] On October 20, 1830, another decree followed, specifying that all able-bodied members of dissenting religious groups engaged in propaganda against the established church should be conscripted and sent to the Russian army in the Caucasus, while those not capable of military service, as well as their women and children, should be resettled in Russia's recently acquired Transcaucasian provinces. It is reported that, among other dissenters, some 5,000 Doukhobors were resettled to Georgia between 1841 and 1845. The Akhalkalaki uyezd (district) of the Tiflis Governorate was chosen as the main place of their settlement. Doukhobor villages with Russian names appeared there: Gorelovka, Rodionovka, Yefremovka, Orlovka, Spasskoye (Dubovka), Troitskoye, and Bogdanovka.[10][11] Later on, other groups of Doukhobors--resettled by the government, or migrating to Transcaucasia by their own accord--settled in other neighboring areas, including the Borchaly uyezd of Tiflis Governorate and the Kedabek uyezd of Elisabethpol Governorate.

After Russia's conquest of Kars and the Treaty of San Stefano of 1878, some Dukhobors from Tiflis and Elisabethpol Governorates moved to the Zarushat and Shuragel uyezds of the newly created Kars Oblast (north-east of Kars in today's Republic of Turkey).[11]

The leader of the main group of Doukhobors that arrived in Transcaucasia from Ukraine in 1841 was one Illarion Kalmykov (Russian: ). He died in the same year, and was succeeded as the community leader by his son, Peter Kalmykov (?-1864).

After Peter Kalmykov's death in 1864, his widow Lukerya Vasilyevna Gubanova (? - December 15, 1886; (Russian: ? ? ); also known as Kalmykova, by her husband's surname) took his leadership position.[12]

The Kalmykov dynasty resided in the village of Gorelovka, one of the Doukhobor communities in Georgia (shown on one of Jonathan J. Kalmakoff's maps).[11] Lukerya was respected by the provincial authorities, who had to cooperate with the Doukhobors on various matters. The number of Doukhobors in the Transcaucasia reached 20,000 by the time of her death in 1886. By that time, the Doukhobors of the region had become vegetarian, and were aware of Leo Tolstoy's philosophy, which they found quite similar to their traditional teachings.[12]

Religious revival and crises

The death of "Lukerya", who had no children, was followed by a leadership crisis which divided Dukhobortsy in the Caucasus into two "parties" (major groups) by who would be their next leader. Lukerya planned that leadership should pass to her assistant, Peter Vasilevich Verigin. But only part of the community ("the Large Party"; Russian: ? ?, romanizedBolshaya Storona) accepted him as the leader; others, known as "the Small Party" ( ? Malaya Storona), sided with Lukerya's brother Michael Gubanov and the village elder Aleksei Zubkov.[12][13]

The doukhobor village in Slavyanka Azerbaijan, 2018

While the Large Party was a majority, the Small Party had the support of the older members of the community and the local authorities. On January 26, 1887, at the community service where the new leader was to be acclaimed, the police arrived and arrested Verigin. He was sent into internal exile for the next 16 years in Russia's Far North of Siberia; some of his associates were sent into exile as well. The Large Party Doukhobors continued to consider him their spiritual leader and to communicate with him, by mail and via delegates who traveled to see him in Obdorsk, Siberia.[12][13] An isolated population of exiled Doukhobors, a third "party", was about 5,000 miles east in Amur Oblast.

At the same time, the government applied greater pressure to enforce the Doukhobors' compliance with its laws and regulations. The Doukhobors had resisted registering marriages and births, contributing grain to state emergency funds, and swearing oaths of allegiance. In 1887 Russia enforced the universal military conscription required in the rest of the empire into these Transcaucasian provinces as well. While the Small Party people cooperated with the state, the Large Party, reacting to arrest of their leaders and inspired by their letters from exile,[14] only felt strengthened in their desire to abide in the righteousness of their faith. Under instructions from Verigin, they stopped using tobacco and alcohol, divided their property equally among the members of the community, and resolved to adhere to the practice of pacifism and non-violence. They would refuse to swear the oath of allegiance required in 1894 by the new emperor, Nicholas II in 1894.[5][13]

Under further instructions from Verigin, about 7,000 of the most zealous Doukhobors (about one-third of all Doukhobors) of the three Governorates of Transcaucasia destroyed their weapons and refused to serve in the military. As the Doukhobors gathered to burn their guns on the night of June 28/29 (July 10/11, Gregorian calendar) 1895, while singing of psalms and spiritual songs, government Cossacks arrested and beat them. Soon, the government billeted Cossacks in many of the Large Party's villages; some 4,000 Doukhobors were forced to disperse in villages in other parts of Georgia. Many died of starvation and exposure.[13][15][16]

Migration to Canada

The port of Batumi as it was in 1881. Here the Doukhobors embarked on their transatlantic journey in 1898 and 1899[17]

The resistance of the Doukhobors gained international attention and the Empire was criticized for its treatment of this religious minority. In 1897 the Russian government agreed to let the Doukhobors leave the country, subject to a number of conditions:

  • the emigrants should never return;
  • they had to emigrate at their own expense;
  • community leaders currently in prison or in exile in Siberia would have to serve the balance of their sentences before they could leave.[5]

Some of the emigrants went first to Cyprus, which could not sustain a large migration. Soon Canada offered more land, transportation, and aid to resettle in the Saskatchewan area. Around 6,000 emigrated there in the first half of 1899, settling on land granted to them by the government in what is now Manitoba and Saskatchewan. The Cyprus colony and others joined them, with a total of 7500 emigrants by the end of the year,[15]--about one-third of the total Doukhobor population in Russia. Several smaller groups joined the main body of emigrants in later years, directly from Transcaucasia or other places of exile.[13] Among these late-comers were some 110 leaders of the community who had to complete their sentences before being allowed to emigrate.[15] By 1930 a total of about 8,780 Doukhobors had migrated from Russia to Canada.[18]

The Quakers and Tolstoyan movement covered most of the costs of passage for the emigrants; writer Leo Tolstoy arranged for the royalties from his novel Resurrection, his story Father Sergei, and some others, to go to the emigration fund. He also raised money from wealthy friends. In the end, his efforts provided about 30,000 rubles, half of the emigration fund. The anarchist Peter Kropotkin and James Mavor, a professor of political economy at the University of Toronto, also helped the emigrants.[19][20]

They adapted to life in agricultural communes. The immigrants were overwhelmingly of peasant origin, and had a low regard for advanced education. Many worked as loggers, lumbermen, and carpenters. Eventually, splits happened; many left the communal dormitories and became private farmers homesteading on the Canadian plains. Religious a cappella singing, pacifism, and passive resistance were hallmarks of the sect. One subgroup occasionally demonstrated while naked, typically as a protest against compulsory military service.[21] Their policies made them highly controversial.

The modern descendants of the first Canadian Doukhobors continue to live in southeastern British Columbia (an example being the community in Krestova), southern Alberta and Saskatchewan, where their ancestors settled. Today, the estimated population of Doukhobor descent in North America is 40,000 in Canada and about 5,000 in the United States.[22]

Beginning in 1902, a faction of zealots began using arson and nude marches to protest against a breach of trust by the Canadian government about registration for citizenship. Though the number of zealots soon diminished, they were the main focus of media as "Freedomites". Most journalists mislabel the different branches.

Canadian prairies

Vosnesenia ('Ascension') village, NE of Arran, Saskatchewan (North Colony). A typical one-street village, modeled on those back in the Old World.

In accordance with the Dominion Lands Act of 1872, the Canadian government would grant 160 acres (0.65 km2) of land, for a nominal fee of $10, to any male homesteader able to establish a working farm on that land within three years. Living on single-family homesteads would not fit Doukhobors' communitarian tradition. Fortunately, the Act contained the "Hamlet Clause", adopted some 15 years earlier to accommodate other communitarian groups such as Mennonites, which would allow the beneficiaries of the Act to live not on the actual land grant, but in a village ("hamlet") within 3 miles (4.8 km) from their land.[23] This would allow the Doukhobors to establish a communal lifestyle, similar to the Hutterites.

Even more importantly, by passing in late 1898 Section 21 of the Dominion Military Act, the Canadian Government exempted the Doukhobors from military service.[23]

The land for the Doukhobor immigrants, in the total amount of 773,400 acres (3,130 km2), came in three "block settlement" areas ("reserves"), plus an "annex", within what was to soon become the Province of Saskatchewan:[24]

  • The North Colony, also known as the "Thunder Hill Colony" or "Swan River Colony", in the Pelly and Arran districts of Saskatchewan. It became home to 2,400 Doukhobors from Tiflis Governorate, who established 20 villages on 69,000 acres (280 km2) of the land grant.
  • The South Colony, also known as the "Whitesand Colony" or "Yorkton Colony", in the Canora, Veregin and Kamsack districts of Saskatchewan. Some 3,500 Doukhobors from Tiflis Governorate, Elisabethpol Governorate, and Kars Oblast settled there in 30 villages on 215,010 acres (870.1 km2) of land grant.
  • The Good Spirit Lake Annex, in the Buchanan district of Saskatchewan, received 1,000 Doukhobors from Elisabethpol Governorate and Kars Oblast. Russia settled there in eight villages on 168,930 acres (683.6 km2) of land grant. The annex was along the Good Spirit River, flowing into Good Spirit Lake (previously known as Devil's Lake).
  • The Saskatchewan Colony, also known as the "Rosthern Colony",[23] "Prince Albert Colony" or "Duck Lake Colony", was located along the North Saskatchewan River in the Langham and Blaine Lake districts of Saskatchewan, north-west of Saskatoon. 1,500 Doukhobors from Kars Oblast settled there in 13 villages on 324,800 acres (1,314 km2) of land grant.

Geographically, North and South Colonies, as well as Good Spirit Lake Annex (Devil's Lake Annex, to non-believers) were around Yorkton, not far from the border with today's Manitoba; the Saskatchewan (Rosthern) Colony was located north-west of Saskatoon, quite a distance from the other three "reserves."

At the time of settlement (1899), all four "reserves" formed part of the Northwest Territories: Saskatchewan (Rosthern) Colony in the territories' provisional District of Saskatchewan, North Reserve, straddling the border of Saskatchewan and Assiniboia districts, and the other two entirely in Assiniboia. After the establishing of the Province of Saskatchewan in 1905, all reserves found themselves within that province.

Doukhobor women pulling a plow, Thunder Hill Colony, Manitoba

Verigin convinced his followers to free their "brethren" (animals) and pull their wagons and plows themselves. On the lands granted to them in the prairies, the settlers established villages along the same lines as back in the old country. Some of the new villages received the same Russian names as the settlers' home villages in Transcaucasia (e.g., Spasovka, Large and Small Gorelovka, Slavianka); others gained more abstract, "spiritual" names, not common in Russia: "Uspeniye" ('Dormition'), "Terpeniye" ('Patience'), "Bogomdannoye" ('Given by God'), "Osvobozhdeniye" ('Liberation').[24]

The settlers found Saskatchewan winters much harsher than those in Transcaucasia, and expressed particular disappointment that the climate was not as suitable for growing fruits and vegetables. Women greatly outnumbered the men. Many women worked on the farms tilling the land, while many men took non-farm jobs, especially in railway construction.[23]

The earliest arrivals came from three different backgrounds and had varying commitments to communal life. They lacked leadership. Verigin arrived in December 1902, was recognized as the leader, and reimposed communalism and self-sufficiency. The railway arrived in 1904 and hopes of isolation from Canadian society ended.[25][26]

Popular distrust

Canadians, politicians, and the media were deeply suspicious of the Doukhobors. Their communal life style seemed suspicious. Their refusal to send children to any school was deeply troubling. Their pacifism caused anger during the World War. Their use of nude marches and midnight arson was beyond the pale.[27] Canadian magazines showed strong curiosity, giving special attention to women's bodies and clothing. Magazines and newspapers carried stories and photographs of Doukhobor women engaged in hard farm labour, doing "women's work", wearing traditional ethnic dress, and in partial or total states of undress.[28]

Financially they received help from Quakers. Clifford Sifton, the Minister of the Interior, eagerly wanted them and he arranged the financial subsidies to bring them over.[29]

Loss of land rights

Due to the community's aversion towards private ownership of land, Verigin had the land registered in the name of the community. But by 1906, the Dominion Government, in the person of Frank Oliver, the new Minister of Interior, started requiring the registration of the land in the name of individual owners. Many Doukhobors' refusal to do so resulted in 1907 in the reverting of more than a third (258,880 acres (1,047.7 km2)) of Doukhobor lands back to the Crown. The loss of legal title to their land became a major grievance.

Swearing allegiance?

A serious political issue required that the Doukhobors would now have to become naturalized citizens (i.e., British subjects) and to swear an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown--something that had always been against their principles.[30] A new crisis would develop just a decade after the conscription crisis in Russia.

The crisis resulted in a three-way split of the Doukhobor community in Canada:[5]

  • The edinolichniki ('Independents'), who constituted by 1907 some 10% of the Canadian Doukhobors. They maintained their religion, but abandoned communal ownership of land, rejecting hereditary leadership and communal living as non-essential to it.
  • The largest group--the Community Doukhobors--continued to be loyal to their spiritual leader Peter V. Verigin. They formed an organization known as Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood (CCUB) reformed in 1939 as the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (USCC).[31]
  • The more radical Sons of Freedom group (originally called the "Svobodniki" or "Freedomites", which emerged in 1903), embraced Verigin's writings in such a zealous manner that he banned them from his community. Unfortunately, reporters too often focused on their sensational behaviours while neglecting to specify that they were no longer Doukhobors.

Of these groupings, the Independents integrated the most readily into Canadian capitalist society. They had no problem with registering their land groups, and largely remained in Saskatchewan. Much later on (in 1939) they definitively rejected the authority of Petr Verigin's great-grandson, John J. Verigin.

British Columbia

To take his followers away from the corrupting influence of non-Doukhobors and Edinolichniki ('individual owners') Doukhobors, and to find better conditions for agriculture, Verigin, starting in 1908, bought large tracts of land in south-eastern British Columbia. His first purchase was near the US border around Grand Forks. Later, he acquired large tracts of land further east, in the Slocan Valley around Castlegar. Between 1908 and 1912, some 8,000 people moved to these British Columbia lands from Saskatchewan, to continue their communal way of living.[24] In the milder climate of British Columbia, the settlers were able to plant fruit trees, and within a few years became renowned orchardists and producers of fruit preserves.

As the Community Doukhobors left Saskatchewan, the "reserves" there were closed by 1918.

Verigin Memorial

Peter V. Verigin was killed in a bomb explosion on October 29, 1924 on a scheduled passenger train en route to British Columbia. The government had initially stated that the crime was perpetrated by people within the Doukhobor community, although the Doukhobors' customary refusal to cooperate with Canadian authorities due to fear of intersect violence culminated in no arrests being made. It is still unknown who was responsible for the bombing. Thus, while the Doukhobors were initially welcomed by the Canadian government, this assassination, as well as Doukhobors' beliefs regarding communal living and no tolerance for schooling, and other beliefs considered offensive or unacceptable, created an air of mistrust between government authorities and Doukhobors which would last for decades.[32]

Peter V. Verigin's son, Peter P. Verigin, who arrived from the Soviet Union in 1928, succeeded his father as leader of the Community Doukhobors. He became known as Peter the Purger, and worked to smooth the relations between the Community Doukhobors and the larger Canadian society. The governments in Ottawa and the western provinces decided he was the closet leader of the Sons of Freedom and was perhaps a dangerous Bolshevik. The decision was to try to deport him, a strategy to use the justice system to impose conformity to Canadian values among the Doukhobors and force them to abide by Canadian law and repudiate the un-Canadian practices. The deportation effort failed in 1933.[33] However Verigin's policies were repudiated by the Sons of Freedom as ungodly and assimilationist. They escalated their protests. The Sons of Freedom would burn the Community Doukhobors' property, and organize more nude parades. The Parliament of Canada responded in 1932 by criminalizing public nudity. Over the years, over 300 radical Doukhobor men and women were arrested for this offense, which typically carried a three-year prison sentence.[23]

Nudism and arson

Nudism and arson were the highly visible methods of protest used by the Sons of Freedom.[34] They protested against materialism, the land seizure by the government, compulsory education in government schools and Verigin's assassination. This led to many confrontations with the Canadian government and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (continuing into the 1970s). Nudism was a new technique first used after their arrival in Canada.[35] They used violence to fight modernity. They destroyed threshing machines and other signs of modernity. With night-time arson they burned schools built by the Doukhobor commune and even Verigin's house.[36]

In 1947-48, Sullivan's Royal Commission investigated acts of arson and bombing attacks in British Columbia and recommended a number of measures intended to integrate the Doukhobors into Canadian society, notably through the education of their children in public schools. Around that time, the provincial government entered into direct negotiations with the Freedomite leadership.

W. A. C. Bennett's Social Credit government, which came to power in 1952, took a harder stance against the "Doukhobor problem." In 1953, 174 children of the Sons of Freedom were forcibly interned by the government agents in a residential school in New Denver, British Columbia. Abuse of the interned children was later alleged.

In less than a half a century, acts of violence and arson by the Sons of Freedom rose to 1,112 separate events costing over $20 million in damages that included public school bombings and burnings, bombings of Canadian railroad bridges and tracks,[37] the bombing of the Nelson courthouse,[38] and a huge power transmission tower servicing the East Kootenay district resulting in the loss of 1200 jobs.

Many of the independent and community Doukhobors believed that the Freedomites violated the central Doukhobor principle of nonviolence (with arson and bombing) and therefore did not deserve to be called Doukhobors.[39] However, rifts generated during the 20th century between the Sons of Freedom and Community and Independent Doukhobors have largely been laid to rest.

Staying behind

After the departure of the more zealous and non-compromising Doukhobors and many community leaders to Canada at the close of Elisabethpol Governorate in the Caucasus Viceroyalty (now Azerbaijan); the former Doukhobor villages were now mostly populated by Baptists. Elsewhere, some Doukhobors joined nearby Spiritual Christian groups.[12]

Those who remained Doukhobors were required to submit to the state. Few protested against military service: for example, out of 837 Russian court-martial cases against conscientious objectors recorded between the beginning of World War I and April 1, 1917, merely 16 had Doukhobor defendants--and none of those hailed from the Transcaucasian provinces.[12]

In 1921-23, Verigin's son, Peter P. Verigin, arranged the resettlement of 4000 Doukhobors from the Ninotsminda (Bogdanovka) district in south Georgia into Rostov Oblast in southern Russia and another 500 into Zaporizhia Oblast in Ukraine.[13][40]

The Soviet reforms greatly affected the life of the Doukhobors both in their old villages in Georgia and in the new settlement areas in the Russian South and Ukraine. The state anti-religious campaigns resulted in the suppression of Doukhobor religious tradition, and the loss of books and archival records. A number of religious leaders were arrested or exiled; for example, 18 people were exiled from Gorelovka alone in 1930.[13] On the other hand, Communists' imposition of collective farming did not go against the grain of the Doukhobor way of life. The industrious Doukhobors made their collective farms prosperous, often specializing in cheesemaking.[13]

Of the Doukhobor communities in the USSR, those in South Georgia were the most sheltered from the outside influence because of the sheer geographic isolation in the mountainous terrain, their location near the international border, and concomitant travel restrictions for outsiders.[13]


Current population

In 2001 an estimated 20,000-40,000 people of Doukhobor heritage lived in Canada, some 3,800 of them claiming "Doukhobor" as their religious affiliation. Perhaps another 30,000 of Doukhobor heritage live in Russia and neighboring countries. About 5,000 of Doukhobor heritage live in the northernmost continental U.S. along the Canada-US border.[]

In 2011 there were 2,290 persons in Canada who identified their religious affiliation as "Doukhobor". In Russia there were some only 50 persons by the mid-2000s.


CCUB, the Orthodox Doukhobors organization or Community Doukhobors, was succeeded by the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ, formed by Peter P. Verigin (Peter V. Verigin's son) in 1938. The largest and most active formal Doukhobor organization, it is headquartered in Grand Forks, British Columbia.[41]

During the Canada 2011 Census,[42] 2,290 persons in Canada (of which, 1,860 in British Columbia, 200 in Alberta, 185 in Saskatchewan, and 25 in Ontario) identified their religious affiliation as "Doukhobor." As the age distribution shows, the proportion of older people among these self-identified Doukhobors is higher than among the general population:

Age groups Total 0-14 years 15-24 years 25-44 years 45-64 years 65-84 years 85 years and over
All Canadians, 2001 29,639,035 5,737,670 3,988,200 9,047,175 7,241,135 3,337,435 287,415
Self-identified Doukhobors, 2001 3,800 415 345 845 1,135 950 110
Self-identified Doukhobors, 1991 4,820 510 510 1,125 1,400 1,175 100

E.g., 28% of the self-identified Doukhobors in 2001 were over 65 (i.e., born before 1936), as compared to 12% of the entire population of Canadian respondents. The aging of the denomination is accompanied by the shrinking of its size, starting in the 1960s:[42][43]

Census year Self-identified Doukhobor population
1921 12,674
1931 14,978
1941 16,898
1951 13,175
1961 13,234
1971 9,170
1981 ?
1991 4,820
2001 3,800
2011 2,290

The number of Canadians sharing Doukhobor heritage is much higher than the number of those who actually consider themselves members of this religion. Doukhobor researchers made estimates from "over 20,000" people "from [Doukhobor] stock" in Canada[43]) to over 40,000 Doukhobors by "a wider definition of religion, ethnicity, way of life, and social movement."[44][page needed]

Canadian Doukhobors no longer live communally. Their prayer meetings and gatherings are dominated by the singing of a cappella psalms, hymns and spiritual songs in Russian. Doukhobors do not practice baptism. They reject several items considered orthodox among Christian churches, including church organization and liturgy, the inspiration of the scriptures, the literal interpretation of resurrection, the literal interpretation of the Trinity, and the literal interpretation of heaven and hell. Some avoid the use of alcohol, tobacco, and animal products for food, and eschew involvement in partisan politics. Doukhobors believe in the goodness of man and reject the idea of original sin.

The religious philosophy of the Doukhobors is based on the ten commandments including "Love God with all thy heart, mind and soul" and "Love thy neighbor as thyself." The Doukhobors have several important slogans. One of the most popular, "Toil and Peaceful Life", was coined by Peter V. Verigin.

Georgia and Russia

Peter Kalmykov's house in Gorelovka, Georgia

Since the late 1980s, many of the Doukhobors of Georgia started emigrating to Russia. Various groups moved to Tula Oblast, Rostov Oblast, Stavropol Krai, and elsewhere. After the independence of Georgia, many villages with Russian names received Georgian names--for example, Bogdanovka became Ninotsminda, Troitskoe became Sameba, etc. According to various estimates, in Ninotsminda District, the Doukhobor population fell from around 4000 in 1979 to 3,000-3,500 in 1989 and not much more than 700 in 2006. In the Dmanisi district, from around 700 Doukhobors living there in 1979, no more than 50 seem to remain by the mid-2000s. Those who do remain are mostly older people, since it is the younger generation who found it easier to move to Russia. The Doukhobor community of Gorelovka (in Ninotsminda District), the former "capital" of the Kalmykov family, is thought to be the best preserved in all post-Soviet countries.[13]

Ecumenical relations

The Doukhobor have maintained close association with Mennonites and Quakers due to similar religious practices; all of these groups are furthermore collectively considered to be peace churches due to their belief in pacifism.[45][46][47]

Historical sites and museums

Leo Tolstoy Statue at Doukhobor Discovery Centre

In 1995, the Doukhobor Suspension Bridge spanning the Kootenay River was designated a National Historic Site of Canada.[48] The sites of Community Doukhobors' headquarters in Veregin, Saskatchewan, was designated a National Historic Site in 2006, under the name "Doukhobors at Veregin".

A Doukhobor museum, currently known as "Doukhobor Discovery Centre" (formerly, "Doukhobor Village Museum") operates in Castlegar, British Columbia. It contains over a thousand artifacts representing the arts, crafts, and daily life of the Doukhobors of the Kootenays in 1908-38.[49][50]

Although most of the early Doukhobor village structures in British Columbia have vanished or been significantly remodeled by later users, a part of Makortoff Village outside of Grand Forks, British Columbia has been preserved as a museum by Peter Gritchen, who purchased the property in 1971 and opened it as the Mountain View Doukhobor Museum on June 16, 1972. The future of the site became uncertain after his death in 2000, but, in cooperation with a coalition of the local organizations and concerned citizens, the historical site, known as Hardy Mountain Doukhobor Village, was purchased by The Land Conservancy of British Columbia in March 2004, while the museum collection was acquired by the Boundary Museum Society and loaned to TLC for display.[51]

The Canadian Museum of Civilization in Ottawa has a collection of Doukhobor-related items as well. A special exhibition there was run in 1998-99 to mark the centennial anniversary of the Doukhobor arrival to Canada.[52]

Popular culture

  • Roy, Gabrielle (1975), "Hoodoo Valley", Garden in the wind (novel), McClelland & Stewart.
  • A Robert A. Heinlein short story, The Year of the Jackpot, briefly mentions the Doukhobors as a group in Canada that practiced nudity.
  • O'Neail, Hazel (1962), Doukhobor Daze, Gray's, Evergreen.
  • Parry, Nerys (2011), Man and Other Natural Disasters, Great Plains.[53]
  • Plotnikoff, Vi (2001), Head Cook at Weddings and Funerals, And Other Stories of Doukhobor Life (novel), Raincoast Books.
  • Stenson, Bill (2007), Svoboda (novel), Thistledown Press, ISBN 978-1-897235-30-0.[54]


  • Doukhobors (1970). Collective creation at Theatre Passe Muraille.


  • Holt, Simma (1964), Terror in the Name of God: The story of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors.
  • Marsden, Philip (1998), The Spirit Wrestlers: A Russian Odyssey, HarperCollins.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J (2002), Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living, Legas.[44]
  • Woodcock, George; Avakumovic, Ivan (1977), The Doukhobors, Carleton University Institute of Canadian Studies, McClelland & Stewart.


  • Reynolds, Malvina (1962), "Do As the Doukhobors Do", The Best of Broadside 1962-88, US (originally The Doukhobor Do) is about the Doukhobor nude protests. The song was recorded by Pete Seeger.
  • In the bonus track "Ferdinand the Imposter" on the 2000 re-issue of Music from Big Pink by the Canadian roots-rock group The Band, the title character "claimed he was a Doukhobor" after being arrested.[55] The implication in the lyrics is that Ferdinand may have been apprehended for some public display of nudity in Baltimore, Maryland. He attempted to escape punishment by stating he came from the Doukhobors of Canada. Unfortunately for Ferdinand, the American officers were unfamiliar with the group and were unmoved by Ferdinand's plea.[56]


  • Woodcock, George (1976), The Doukhobors (film), CBC/NFB. Two parts: The Living Book and Toil and Peaceful Life.[57]

See also


  1. ^ Nikifor was styled "Archbishop of Slavyansk and Kherson" (? ? ?), while his successor, Ambrosius, was "Archbishop of Yekaterinoslav and Kherson", because the diocese was renamed in 1786.[8] The seat of the archbishops was actually in Poltava.


  1. ^ Conovaloff, Andrei. "Q78: How Many Spellings of 'Doukhobors'?". Spirit Wrestlers Publishing. Retrieved 2018.
  2. ^ Sussex, R (1993), "Slavonic Languages in Emigration", in Comrie, B; Corbett, GG (eds.), The Slavonic Languages, Routledge.
  3. ^ Rak, J (2007), The Doukhobor Problem: Media Representations of Sons of Freedom Women, 1952-1960, Equinox.
  4. ^ Conovaloff, Andrei. "1832, 1882 books about Doukhobors online". Spirit-Wrestlers Blog. Spirit Wrestlers Publishing. Retrieved 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i Campos, Élisabeth (2005), Les Doukhobors, "Lutteurs de l'esprit" (in French), ERTA TCRG. Includes extensive bibliography of mostly English-language sources.
  6. ^ "", Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary [Doukhobortsy] (in Russian)
  7. ^ a b Inikova, Svetlana A (October 22-24, 1999), Spiritual Origins and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History, Doukhobor Centenary Conference, University of Ottawa; Doukhobor Genealogy Website (
  8. ^ "H Orthodox Russian Ekater", Hierarchy (in Russian), RU: Religare.
  9. ^ Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., "Doukhobor Resettlement to Tavria, 1802-1822", Doukhobor Genealogy Website ( (map).
  10. ^ "Russians in Georgia", Geogen (in Russian), GE.
  11. ^ a b c Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., "Doukhobors Settlements in the Georgian Republic", Doukhobor Historical Maps, Doukhobor Genealogy Website.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Shubin, Daniel H (2006), A History of Russian Christianity, III, Algora, pp. 141-48, ISBN 978-0-87586-427-3.
  13. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Lohm, Hedwig (November 2006), Dukhobors in Georgia: A Study of the Issue of Land Ownership and Inter-Ethnic Relations in Ninotsminda rayon (Samtskhe-Javakheti) (PDF), archived from the original (PDF) on 2010-06-02.
  14. ^ Pozdnyakov, Vasily Nikolaevich (?. ) (1900s), ? ? ? ? ? [The Truth about the Doukhobors in Transcaucasia and Siberia] (in Russian), VG and AK Chertkov (published 1914), quoted in Golinenko, OA ( ), ? ?.?. [Leo Tolstoy's questions to a Doukhobor] (in Russian)
  15. ^ a b c Ashworth, John (1900), Doukhobortsy and Religious Persecution in Russia, Doukhobor Genealogy Website (
  16. ^ Tarasoff, Koozma J., with Andrei Conovaloff (2009). "Historic 1895 Burning of Guns descriptions, selections and translations". Spirit-Wrestlers. Retrieved 2019.
  17. ^ "Doukhobor Immigrant Shiplists", Doukhobor Genealogy Website (
  18. ^ Kalmakoff, Jonathan. "Researching Your Russian Doukhobor Roots" (PDF). Doukhobor Genealogy Website. p. 30. Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ Adelman, Jeremy (1990-91), "Early Doukhobor Experience on the Canadian Prairies", Canadian Ethnic Studies, Doukhobor Genealogy Website (, 25 (4).
  20. ^ Elina Thorsteinson, "The Doukhobors in Canada", Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1917) 4#1 pp. 3-48. JSTOR 1886809.
  21. ^ Veronika Makarova, "Doukhobor 'freedom seeker' nudism: Exploring the sociocultural roots." Culture and Religion 14#2 (2013): 131-145. shows that they did not engaged in nude protests in Russia.
  22. ^ Paul Robert Magocsi, ed., Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples (1999) pp. 422-34
  23. ^ a b c d e Hardwick, Susan Wiley (1993), "The Doukhobors", Russian Refuge: Religion, Migration, and Settlement on the North American Pacific Rim, University of Chicago Press, pp. 80-, ISBN 0-226-31610-6.
  24. ^ a b c Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., "Saskatchewan", Maps, Doukhobor Genealogy Website (
  25. ^ P. L. McCormick, "The Doukhobors in 1904", Saskatchewan History (1978) 31#1 pp. 12-19.
  26. ^ Thorsteinson (1917) pp. 24-30
  27. ^ John E. Lyons, "Toil and a Peaceful Life: Peter V. Verigen and Doukhobor Education", Communal Societies (1991), Vol. 11, pp. 78-92.
  28. ^ Ashleigh Androsoff, "A Larger Frame: 'Redressing' The Image Of Doukhobor-Canadian Women in the Twentieth Century", Journal of the Canadian Historical Association (2007) 18#1 pp. 81-105.
  29. ^ Thorsteinson (1917) pp. 19-23
  30. ^ Report of Royal Commission on matters relating to the sect of Doukhobors in the province of British Columbia, CA: SFU, 1912[permanent dead link].
  31. ^ "USCC Doukhobors: Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ".
  32. ^ Larry Hannant, "The Mysterious Death of Peter Verigin", Beaver (Oct/Nov 2004), 84#5 pp. 26-28
  33. ^ John McLaren, "Wrestling spirits: The strange case of Peter Verigin II", Canadian Ethnic Studies (1995) 27#3 pp. 95-130
  34. ^ Simma Holt, Terror in the Name of God (McClelland and Stewart, 1964) is a study of the Sons of Freedom
  35. ^ Makarova, "Doukhobor 'freedom seeker' nudism: Exploring the sociocultural roots." Culture and Religion 14#2 (2013): 131-145.
  36. ^ Larry Hannant, "The Mysterious Death of Peter Verigin" Beaver (2004) 84#5
  37. ^ "Bomb Blasts Rail Bridge in Kootenay". The Spokesman-Review. 11 December 1961. Retrieved 2010.
  38. ^ Torrance, Judy (1988). Public Violence in Canada, 1867-1982. p. 34. ISBN 0-7735-0666-7.
  39. ^ Tarasoff, Koozma (1982). Plakun Trava, The Doukhobors. Mir Publication Society. p. 133. ISBN 0-920046-05-3.
  40. ^ Kalmakoff, Jonathan J., "Doukhobor Historical Maps", Doukhobor Genealogy Website (
  41. ^ USCC Doukhobors.
  42. ^ a b "Religion", Census Data 2011, Canada. The census numbers are actually based on extrapolating a 20% sample.
  43. ^ a b Postnikoff, Dr John I (May 1978) [1977], Doukhobors: An Endangered Species, Grand Forks, BC: MIR magazine; Doukhobor Genealogy Website (
  44. ^ a b Tarasoff 2002.
  45. ^ Fleming, John A.; Rowan, Michael J.; Chambers, James Albert (2004). Folk Furniture of Canada's Doukhobors, Hutterites, Mennonites and Ukrainians. University of Alberta. p. 4. ISBN 9780888644183. The English Quakers, who had made contact with the Doukhobors earlier, as well as the Philadelphia Society of Friends, also determined to help with their emigration from Russia to some other country--the only action which seemed possible.
  46. ^ Dyck, Cornelius J.; Martin, Dennis D. The Mennonite Encyclopedia. Mennonite Brethren Publishing House. p. 107.
  47. ^ Fahlbusch, Erwin (14 February 2008). The Encyclodedia of Christianity. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. p. 208. ISBN 9780802824172. The only contact with Mennonites was the period 1802-41 when they lived in the Molotschna, where Johann Cornies (q.v.) rendered them considerable assistance.
  48. ^ Doukhobor Suspension Bridgey. Canadian Register of Historic Places. Retrieved 13 November 2011.
  49. ^ Doukhobor Discovery Center.
  50. ^ Jackson, Kristin (10 July 2010). "Doukhobor heritage lives on in southeast BC". The Seattle Times. Retrieved 2010.
  51. ^ "Hardy Mountain Doukhobor Village Historic Site", Conservancy, BC, CA, archived from the original on 2007-10-18.
  52. ^ The Doukhobors: "Spirit Wrestlers", Canada: Museum of Civilization, January 18, 1996 - September 7, 1998.
  53. ^ Parry, Nerys (2011-12-18), Straddling the divides: fact, fiction and Freedomites, archived from the original on 2013-03-13, retrieved .
  54. ^ Wiersema, Robert J (January 5, 2008), "Doukhobor novel does more than tell a good story", Vancouver Sun, archived from the original on January 8, 2008.
  55. ^ "Ferdinand the Imposter lyrics". Retrieved 2014.
  56. ^ "Sadavid: Ferdinand the Imposter". Retrieved .
  57. ^ "Lost Childhood: Doukhobors". 16:9. Global Television. Retrieved 2013.


  • Elkinton, Joseph, The Doukhobors: their history in Russia; their migration to Canada.
  • Freisen, John W; Verigin, Michael M, The Community Doukhobors: A People in Transition.
  • Hamm, James 'Jim' (2002), Spirit Wrestlers (documentary video) about the Freedomite Doukhobors.
  • Hawthorn, Harry B, The Doukhobors of British Columbia.
  • Holt, Simma. Terror in the Name of God The Story of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors (McClelland and Stewart, 1964)
  • Peacock, Kenneth (ed.), Songs of the Doukhobors: an introductory outline.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J, Plakun Trava: The Doukhobors.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J. "Doukbhobors" in Paul Robert Magocsi, ed., Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples (1999) pp 422-34
  • ——— (2002), "Overview", Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers' Strategies for Living, Ottawa: Legas (published 2006), ISBN 1-896031-12-9.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J; Klymasz, Robert B, Spirit Wrestlers: centennial papers in honour of Canada's Doukhobor Heritage, ISBN 0-660-14034-9.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J., with Andrei Conovaloff. "Historic 1895 Burning of Guns descriptions, selections and translations", June 24, 2009.
  • Thorsteinson, Elina. "The Doukhobors in Canada", Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1917) 4#1 pp. 3-48. JSTOR 1886809.
  • Woodcock, George; Avakumovic, Ivan, The Doukhobors.

Further reading

  • Burnham, Dorothy K (1986), Unlike the Lilies: Doukhobor Textile Traditions in Canada, Toronto, Ontario, Canada: Royal Ontario Museum, ISBN 0-88854-322-0.
  • Cran, Gregory J. Negotiating Buck Naked: Doukhobors, Public Policy, and Conflict Resolution (UBC Press, 2006) 180 pp. deals only with the Sons of Freedom.
  • Donskov, Andrew; Woodsworth, John; Gaffield, Chad (2000), The Doukhobor Centenary in Canada: A Multi-Disciplinary Perspective on Their Unity and Diversity, Slavic Research Group at the University of Ottawa, ISBN 0-88927-276-X.
  • Holt, Simma (1964), Terror in the Name of God: The story of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, Toronto/Montreal: McClelland & Stewart.
  • Janzen, William (1990), Limits on Liberty: The Experience of Mennonite, Hutterite, and Doukhobor Communities in Canada, Toronto: U of Toronto Press, ISBN 0-8020-2731-8.
  • Kalmakoff, Jonathan. "The Hyas Doukhobour Settlement", Saskatchewan History (2007) 59#2 pp 27-34. covers 1902 to 1907.
  • Makarova, V (2013), Doukhobor nudism: exploring the socio-cultural roots. Culture and Religion.
  • ——— (1-29 February 2012), "The use of Russian in contemporary Doukhobor prayer service", a? - - "? ? ", 1 ? - 29 ? 2012 ? [Current issues in philology and methods of teaching foreign languages] (International scientific research Internet conference), Novosibirsk, Russia
  • Makarova, VA; Usenkova, EV; Evdokimova, VV; Evgrafova, KV (2011), "The Language of Saskatchewan Doukhobors: Introduction to analysis. Izvestija Vysshix uchebnyx zavedenij [The News of Higher Schools]. Serija Gumanitarnyje nauki [Humanities]. Razdel Lingvistika [Linguistics section]", Philology & linguistics, RU: ISUCT, 2 (2): 146-51.
  • Mealing, Francis Mark (1975), Doukhobor Life: A Survey of Doukhobor Religion, History, & Folklife, Kootenay Doukhobor Historical Society.
  • Morrell, Kathy. "The Life of Peter P. Verigin." Saskatchewan History (2009) 61#1 pp 26-32. covers 1928 to 1939.
  • O'Neail, Hazel (1994), Doukhobor Daze, Surrey, BC: Heritage House, ISBN 1-895811-22-8.
  • Rak, Julie (2004), Negotiated Memory: Doukhobor Autobiographical Discourse, Vancouver: UBC Press, ISBN 0-7748-1030-0.
  • Rozinkin, W. M. The Doukhobor Saga. [Nelson, B.C.: News Publishing Co.], 1974.
  • Schaarschmidt, G. 2012. Russian language history in Canada. Doukhobor internal and external migrations: effects on language development and structure. In: V. Makarova (Ed), Russian Language Studies in North America: the New Perspectives from Theoretical and Applied Linguistics. London/New York: Anthem Press.pp 235-260.
  • Sorokin, Stephan Sebastian, and Steve Lapshinoff. Doukhobor Problem. Crescent Valley, B.C.: Steve Lapshinoff, 1990.
  • Tarasoff, Koozma J (1977), Traditional Doukhobor Folkways: An Ethnographic and Biographic Record of Prescribed Behaviour, Mercury, Ottawa: National Museums of Canada.
  • Tracie, Carl. Toil and Peaceful Life: Doukhobor Village Settlement in Saskatchewan, 1899-1918. Regina: Canadian Plains Research Center, University of Regina, 1996. ISBN 0-88977-100-6
  • Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ. Hospitality: Vegetarian Cooking the Doukhobor Way. Grand Forks, B.C.: USCC Centennial Cookbook Committee, 2003. ISBN 0-9732514-0-9
  • Woodsworth, John. Russian Roots and Canadian Wings: Russian Archival Documents on the Doukhobor Emigration to Canada. Canada/Russia series, v. 1. [Manotick, Ont.]: Penumbra Press, 1999. ISBN 0-921254-89-X

External links

This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainWood, James, ed. (1907). "article name needed". The Nuttall Encyclopædia. London and New York: Frederick Warne.

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