The Doukhobors Separating Fact From Fancy

Historical Background

One can hardly attempt to present a realistic understanding and an appreciation for this exciting and colorful group of people in their endless struggle against “man and the land” without first giving at least a brief account of their historical background.

The Doukhobors are a Russian-ethnic derived group of people who have been known by various names such as a “sect”, “an ethnic group”, “a religious group”, “a peculiar people”, but which most accurately can be described as a social movement. With all their imperfections in an imperfect world, their dominant theme has been the search for universal brotherhood. 1

This so-called religious sect originated in Russia during the eighteenth century. The name “Doukhobor” means “spirit-wrestler” and was coined somewhat unintentionally by a Russian Orthodox priest, while in a state of anger or alarm at the sudden unfaithful­ness of a group of formerly Orthodox followers:

The name of’ Doukhobor’ . . . was first used in anger and derision by one of their opponents, Archbishop Amvrosii Serebrennikov of Ekaterinoslov. It means “Spirit Wrestlers” and it was intended by the archbishop, when he invented it in 1785, to suggest that they were fighting against the Holy Spirit; in adopting it, the Doukhobors subtly changed its connotation, claiming that they fought with the spirit of God, which they believed to dwell within them.’

By this new connotation, “they equated Christ alternatively with love, God, truth, equality, and goodness. To them these virtues were to act as guides in their search for universal brotherhood. “3

As a result of the wrath incurred by the Russian Orthodox Church due to the group’s disregard of all church ceremonial and sacrament, of professional clergy, church degrees, worship of icons and prayers to saints, the Doukhobors suddenly became a widely recognized and prominent group. Their prominence was not, however, from a favorable and praise-worthy point of view. The result was long years of persecution during the eighteenth century, even under the more liberal rulers such as Catherine II, who advocated a policy of religious toleration.

At the time the Doukhobors first came into public notice, they were living in the Crimean region of Russia. The turning point in the history of this religious sect came in 1825, at a time when Nicholas II took over as successor to Czar Alexander I. Upon his ascent to his new position, Nicholas II denounced Czar Alexander’s former policy of a limited religious persecution of the Doukhobors. The lenient government policy was now changed, and as a result some 4,000 Doukhobors were exiled to Transcaucasia in 1841, a land considered as a second Siberia.

Life in the Caucasus became increasingly difficult for the exiled Doukhobors. It was here that the Russian officials hoped that this group of non-conformist pacifists would be quickly exterminated. The Doukhobors, however, persisted, survived and even prospered to a small extent. Their prosperity was short-lived, for they were soon confronted with another major crisis, namely an attempt by the Russian authorities to enforce universal military service. As a result of an order directed to them by Peter Verigin, their exiled leader in Siberia, the Doukhobors reacted bitterly to this universal conscription, for it was against their belief to kill or take human life. In a mass demonstration in June, 1895, all government-issued guns, swords and knives were piled teepee style and burned in ceremonial celebrations.

When the Cossacks, warned of trouble by the abnormal quiet of the villages and by the rosy glow in the midnight sun, reached the meadows, only a warped and twisted tangle of molten metal writhing among the embers remained. The guns issued by the Russian government for the purposes of military service were no more.”

The burning of government-issued arms brought sure and hasty retribution by the Russian authorities. Military rule spared no one. Many of the Doukhobors were flogged mercilessly. Ringleaders were thrown into prisons or sentenced to serve in penal bat­talions. The sole alternative to disobedience was mass extermination. Many were scattered throughout the fever infested swamps of Batum. Here many of the Doukhobors died and many more were doomed to extinction. Humanitarian assistance came from Count Leo N. Tolstoy, the Society of Friends (Quakers) in England and the United States, and other sympathizers who were able in time, to make satisfactory arrangements with the Russian authorities for permission allowing the Doukhobors to finally leave Russia in 1898. Arrangements however, were granted only on the conditions that the Doukhobors pay their own expenses, make their own travel arrangements and promise that they would never return.

It seemed almost impossible that an illiterate peasant sect, on the verge of starvation and dispersed among strangers should be able to migrate to another country. The situation was made worse by the absence of their leader in Siberia, and by the fact that all educated people who had tried to help them were banished from the Caucasus. Assistance eventually came from various sources. Tolstoyans, the English Society of Friends (Quakers) and individual philanthropists supplied both funds and leadership. Co-operation among all these people finally resulted in the transportation of 7,363 Doukhobors to Canada during 1899.’

The Canadian Government was fully aware of the religious scruples and reservations of the Doukhobors when it agreed to admit them to Canada in 1898-1899. The Canadian call had been urgent and worldwide: “Free Land” for new immigrants who can work the land, who can support and extend the newly established railways, and who can thereby unite the country and avert any possible invasion from the south. Canada provided these Russian immigrants with free land (in three separate blocks in what is now Saskatchewan) and exemption from military service. The Doukhobors soon prospered as evidenced by the 61 villages which they built in a short time, together with brick factories, sawmills and flour mills. 6

Migration and Settlement in Manitoba and Saskatchewan

With the completion of the final arrangements between Canada and the Tolstoyan Committee in 1898, the long awaited moment had finally arrived … a cable message from Canada directed to Tchertkoff in England, informing him to allow the Doukhobors to come. Immediately there was a rush to arrange for additional financial funds, supplies and to ready the ships for the trans-atlantic journey from the port of Batum on the Black Sea to Canada.

The first ship, the Lake Huron, loaded with over 2 100 exiles set sail for Canada on December 21, 1898, arriving at Halifax on January 23, 1899. The second ship, Lake Superior, arrived in St. John on January 26, 1899 with 2 300 exiles on board. In a matter of five months, some 7,500 new immigrants had landed on Canadian soil. Their leader, Peter V. Verigin, was still in exile in Siberia during this wave of Doukhobor migration to Canada. It was not until December of 1902 that Peter Verigin landed in Canada.

Transportation west into the interior of Canada was provided by railway from St. John and Halifax. The Canadian Pacific Railway coaches were comfortable in comparison to the crowded trans-atlantic journey by ship. The first stop beyond the great lakes was Win­nipeg, where the Doukhobors were temporarily quartered in the large immigration halls. Shortly after their arrival in Winnipeg, a small group separated and departed for Brandon where they experienced their first taste of free enterprise and labour disputes. 7

Shortly after the arrival of the Doukhobors in Canada in the early months of 1899, an advance party of the immigrants was organized. While the majority stopped over at the immigration halls in Winnipeg, the advance party on the other hand went on ahead to Yorkton, which was at that time in the Northwest Territories. A rough camp was set up some forty-five miles north of Yorkton, and there began the first preparations pending the arrival of the larger groups. As soon as word was received in Winnipeg of the completion and availability of the temporary shelters, and along with the approaching signs of spring, the Doukhobors began to leave the immigration halls in Winnipeg and proceeded north westward via the Canadian Pacific Railway. Some of the group left the main wave and went northward to Dauphin. Here was located another immigration hall which served as a stopping period.

By the end of 1899 – 7,427 sectarians had reached Canada and were settled in three blocks of homesteads with consent and appoval of the Federal Government. Of these immigrants 4,478 lived in the Devil’s Lake or South Colony about 45 miles north of Yorkton. The others were approximately equally divided between the Thunder Hill Colony, thirty miles north of the South Colony, and the Saskatchewan Colony located between Saskatoon and Prince Albert.’

The immigrants that chose to settle in the Swan River Colony Reserve, later known as the North Colony and today referred to as the Thunder Hill Colony, arrived via Dauphin by train to Cowan, the end of the railway at that time. From Cowan they continued their journey westward using the incompleted railway grade as well as the colonization trail, through the Duck Mountains, eventually arriving at Tent Town formerly situated just west of the present day site of Minitonas. Sketchy information from local reminiscences tells of the Doukhobor arrival at the West Favelle River, west of Minitonas, in the spring of 1899 to find it flooded, and how some very willing settlers in the area assisted the immigrants in crossing the river with the aid of a rack used as a raft with ropes tied to both ends so as to pull it back and forth across the river.

The Thunder Hill Colony was situated west southwest of the present-day site of Swan River, just inside the Saskatchewan boundary. Thunderhill stretched to the north, west and south of an elevated moraine deposit some 1,900 feet at its highest point. It consisted of thirteen main villages which were fairly evenly distributed over an area of six townships of land set aside originally as a Doukhobor reserve in 1898 by the Dominion Government.

Allocation of Land – Tenure and Technology

Specifically speaking, the Thunder Hill Colony consisted of approximately 18,000 acres of land granted to the various villages by the Dominon Government within the Reserve which was set aside for this reason as per the immigration settlement. This particular reserve was located on the eastern side of Saskatchewan, and included all the land in a rectangular fashion within Townships 34.30, 35.30, 36.30, 34.31, 35.31, and 36.31.

Despite the fact that the Doukhobors were the largest party of immigrants to arrive in Canada at one time, their large numbers did not seem to present any extraordinary problems for government immigration organization. Upon landing in Canada they were inclined to follow their traditional habits and sought to settle in one or more homogeneous groups so they could practice some form of communism. The government was fully aware of their intention and wishes and thus granted them their desire, possibly partly due to a precedent established in 1873 when large blocks of land were granted to the Mennonite immigrants settling in Manitoba. This was done in spite of the fact that the basis for the Canadian Land Settlement Policy was the conditional grant of free land to bona fide single male agriculturists and heads of families.

From the point of view of transportation and distance from existing settlement, it seemed more feasible to reserve several districts for the 7,400 Doukhobors than to place them in a single large block containing approximately 500,000 acres. As the Doukhobors had lived in three provinces in Russia, the proposal to place them in a similar number of colonies in the Northwest met with their approval. 9

In addition to the reserve set aside in the Thunder Hill region of Saskatchewan, the area that at that time was known as the Assiniboia Territory, there was another reserve set aside in the same area some seventy miles south of Thunder Hill near Yorkton. This reserve consisted of the South Colony with an annex to the Devil’s Lake Colony some thirty miles north-west of Yorkton, which was at the end of the steel, on the north line of the C.P.R., and which served as a shipping and trade center for the colonists of these two north-eastern reserves. An arrangement between the government and the C.P.R., whereby the C.P.R. exchanged its granted land in this particular area for an equal number of sections elsewhere in the fertile belt, enabled the Doukhobors to settle in compact communities rather than on alternate homestead sections. 10

The third Doukhobor reserve to be set aside by the government was northwest of Saskatoon, an area which was then a Saskatchewan Territory. This area consisted of some twenty townships, with only the even-numbered sections being reserved for the Dou­khobors. In spite of the fact that the most southerly boundary of this reserve was only some twenty miles from Saskatoon, the actual railway center was Rosthern on the Prince Albert C.P.R. line. The reason for this was that it was possibly more central to the region as a whole.11

It is interesting to note that the land allocated or set aside as Doukhobor reserves was some of the best land in Saskatchewan, especially the land in the Assiniboia region which was situated midway between the prairie plains and the parkland belt. As a result, one can hardly accuse the government of the time that they were not sincere in their initial efforts of colonization.

The first two years of life in Canada were difficult. Money was badly needed for the purchase of farm necessities and supplies. The men therefore went out to work on the railway gangs or for the other earlier settlers. The women were left behind to do tasks of building, plowing, seeding and harvesting. As a result very little land was cleared during the initial years. In many cases domestic animals were unavailable to assist with the task of clearing and cultivating the land. Various writings and pictures indicate how the women would willingly hitch themselves to the plow and thus do the plowing. This was probably really not too difficult in the relatively light, sandy soils found in some parts of the Thunder Hill Colony. Greater difficulty was undoubtedly encountered in the heavier soils of the wooded areas.

Population Structure of a Doukhobor Village

The population of the various Doukhobor villages varied in size from colony to colony, as well as from village to village within the colonies. Several factors were responsible for determining the size of the villages from a population point of view. Some of these were such things as the overall size of the colony itself – how many acres of land did the colony consist of, the number of villages on each particular colony, the distance between the villages in miles, the availability of land for each village as well as type or kind of soil available within each colony.

It is interesting to note that the Saskatchewan Colony which was the largest in size, consisting of twenty townships, had the least number of villages, namely 10 villages with an overall population of 1,472. In comparison, the Thunder Hill Colony, which was the smallest of the three – only six townships in size, consisted of thirteen villages with an overall population of 1,404. ” – the Thunder Hill Colony with its thirteen villages had 1,400 people on 80,000 acres of land – 500 quarter sections. “12

An outstanding feature of the Doukhobor population in general that was most predominant, was the smaller male ratio in comparison to females. The explanation for the small female surplus was the fact that a number of younger male Doukhobors were detained in Russian prisons, in exile or were serving in the Russian army. Some of these would come over to Canada at a later date only after gaining their freedom. Despite the fact that migration took place on a family unit basis, there was a relatively small proportion of children under five years of age. This can probably be explained by several reasons. Firstly, it was as a result of their leaders’ instructions to cease all sexual pleasures during the time of their trials and tribulations. Secondly, the harsh persecutions, the exile to the fever infested swamps of Batum in the Georgian State of the Caucasians, undoubtedly resulted in the death of many small children and the survival of only the fittest.

The first of the four Doukhobor ship loads which arrived in 1899, comprised of 2,082 immigrants. This total included 629 men, 673 women and 780 children. Most of the adults were under forty years of age and most of the children were over five years. The fourth ship load of 2,278 Doukhobors included 1,540 adults and 738 children. The children in these two ship loads comprised of 1,518 persons, or 34.9% of the total. The migration of a few hundred men, released from Russian prisons, tended to balance the sex ratio in the Doukhobor settlements.”

Doukhobor Village Structure – Communistic Organization

The physical organization of the new communities followed the former Russian plan.

Their villages were comprised of anywhere from twelve to twenty one-story dwellings arranged in regular lines either side of a broad central street, the entire pattern closely resembling the villages occupied by them in Russia. Each house had its own spacious lot with trees and garden. With the North and South colonists, each village had one or more barns built back of the row of houses near a creek or other source of water supply. 14

Observations and conclusions made from the several visits made to the remains of a number of villages in the Thunder Hill area seem to confirm the above description of the physical arrangement of the various buildings. A most rewarding visit was made to the village of Oospennie located on the S ½ of 3. 36. 30. Here still stand the remains of the village’s Prayer Home and a large house which appears to have been used by at least two families. This village was located on a somewhat sandy ridge approximately 500 yards south of a creek which still has a plentiful supply of water including a spring. Evidence of depressions in the ground which presumably were at one time the cellars under the dwellings, seem to indicate that the village stretched for well over a quarter of a mile in a north-westerly south-easterly direction. By roughly plotting the position of the many cellars, I found approximately thirty-five of them located fairly evenly on both sides of what appeared to be a central street. Reports from elders who lived in this particular village seem to confirm the fact that there were approximately twenty-five to thirty-five buildings.

Each village within a colony appears to have been centrally located in respect to the surrounding farming area, good soil, plenty of water as well as the availability of natural building materials. The building materials were adapted to the natural resources of each community. These varied from locality to locality. For example the buildings in the Thunder Hill Colony were mainly of logs which were plentiful in this area, where as the buildings in the South Colony and the Saskatchewan Colony was mainly of sod and clay due to the lack of heavily wooded areas. As the resources of the communities developed, many of the buildings were replaced with brick and lumber ones. Some villages boasted a large community hall known as a prayer home. Others used any available shelter for their frequent meetings. Each village had its warehouse, from which the staple supplies were dispersed by the elders. As time went on, the colonies progressed and became more self­sustaining as a result of their own brick factories, sawmills and flour mills.

Many of the farms and villages were organized and operated on a commune type basis. This co-operative effort was most essential in the early years of settlement in their new home. For example, the women could not have handled the initial plowing that first spring, had they not cooperated and worked together in large groups. All implements, livestock, tools and even rough home furnishings were owned by the community. The earnings made by the men on the railway, as well as that made from the sales of farm products went into a joint pool, for the common purchase of more horses, cattle, equipment, food and clothing. An attempt was made to purchase major commonly used commodities in large quantities so as to take advantage of the savings. Later, they set-up, owned and operated their own co-operative stores in centrally located areas of the colonies. Supplies were now purchased directly from the wholesalers and resold to their own people at cost with no realization of profit. This was not a very popular move with the retail merchants in the central trading towns.

Their whole communistic system implied a division of labour. Men who were particularly adept at a certain task worked at it exclusively. For example, one might have been handy with carpentry tools, and as a result would be responsible for the construction of the various buildings as well as the repair of the existing ones. Another might have the task of manufacturing the harness sets, another would tend to all metal work and still others would be responsible for the tending of the grazing animals.

In most communistic villages the fields were worked in common and farming was done on a cooperative basis even where communism was not the ruling principle. Members of both sexes and all but the youngest children helped with the farm work. Adults worked in the fields with such animals and implements as they could obtain, while the children herded the cattle on the unfenced prairie.”

Economic Self-Sufficiency

It would be misleading to state that the Doukhobors were entire! y independent of the world about them for their subsistence. This is especially true of the initial years of settlement. It was only through the assistance of many interested humanitarians that the Doukhobors were eventually able to become economically self-sufficient in later years. With a gloomy prospect for the first year of settlement (early frosts, scarce food, etc.), the Society of Friends (Quakers) of Philadelphia took up the case before Meeting of Sufferings. Thirty thousand dollars was raised in a few weeks, and three carloads of food and clothing collected. Government officials dispensed the supplies as received. A carload of sugar, four cars of corn meal and one of rolled oats, with some carloads of potatoes, and one more of onions were also distributed throughout the 57 villages of the several colonies. Wool, yarn, leather and lamps were forwarded from Philadelphia along with tea and linseed oil. Three hundred spinning wheels were also purchased as well as 49 cows and ten yoke of oxen. 16

As a result of the various assistance received from the Society of Friends in Phila­delphia, the Canadian Council of Women, and the Canadian Government, it was not long before the Doukhobors were well on the way to greater independence. There were many factors which made the Doukhobor Communities become relatively independent as time progressed. The prevalence of handicrafts among the people helped increase their self­sufficiency. The women made garments, rugs, hangings, etc., from homespun fabrics, while the men made furniture, boots and shoes, harness, horseshoes, and tools of various kinds.

The rapid prosperity of the Doukhobor Communes was partly due to the able leadership and guidance of their leader Peter Verigin. He gave their business affairs a legal status by forming a Doukhobor Trading Company, arranging credits, making large purchases of cattle, horses and agricultural machinery, even introducing steam engines into the whole enterprise. Perhaps a clearer picture of the extent of the Doukhobor achievements in a few short years can best be depicted by giving the impressions of a student writer from an eastern Canadian university upon his visit to the Doukhobors in 1904.

It is not yet two years since Mr. Verigin came to Canada from the prisons of Siberia; but in that time he has wrought wonders among the Doukhobors. Two years ago (women hitched themselves) … to plows; now they are using 25 horse-power, double cylinder Reeves engines that plow 25 acres a day. Two years ago they ground their flour by windmill; now they are running four grist-mills and four saw mills. Three years ago they did not have one threshing machine outfit to bless themselves with; today they have four portable engines and three traction engines, all run by Doukhobor engineers. Two years ago they were … disorganized … restless and malcontent; now they are perhaps the most hopeful and ambitious people in America.”

The wants of the Doukhobors were relatively few in regard to specialized services of the outside world. They had their own midwives, bone-setters, and so-called dentists who attended to the needs of the people. Religious services and all recreation were provided by members of their own sect, as professional clergy and outside entertainers found little, if any, welcome in their communities.

In spite of the ever increasing pressures on the Doukhobors to make more and more contacts with the outside world, they managed to maintain a fair degree of isolationism. It is stated that this was a result of the women who did not have the urge to go outside their communities and thus had no occasion to learn the English language or the Canadian customs. In addition to this they had an unbounded faith in, and reverence for their leader. Loyalty to him, together with fear of the chaos outside Doukhoborism were strong factors in the preservation of the sect. It was due to the influence of the women that the men remained within the communistic system when their own judgement would have led them to farm for themselves, even at the risk of excommunication from their sect.

Land Crisis of 1907

The 1907 Land Crisis between the Doukhobors and the Canadian Government brought a virtual end to the communitarian experiment on the Canadian prairies. This confrontation however, with all its implications and hardships, was not something that evolved suddenly overnight. One can possibly view it as an apex situation that resulted from a culmination of factors. Throughout the years prior to the final blow in 1907 the Doukhobors had encountered several clashes with the Canadian authorities, clashes which did little to enhance Doukhobor popularity.

The year 1902 stands out as an important year – possibly the turning point in the history of the Doukhobors on Canadian soil. This year saw the rise of ‘zealotry’ among a small fraction of the sect’s population. There suddenly appeared a fever pitched state of passion or great zeal; an impatient enthusiasm displayed by a handful of individuals, as a result of various physical, economic and psychological conditions. Some have gone as far as to suggest that a social stress situation resulted due to a cultural clash between the Doukhobors and the Canadian peoples. Some of the so-called ‘zealots’ protested their own communities’ prosperity – a result of machines. Others suddenly acquired the urge to ‘go back to nature,’ a philosophy idolized by some from undigested Tolstoyan sources via the writings of their leader Peter Verigin. Still others visualized a demonstrated cross-country march as a method of hastening the release of their leader from Siberia.

In 1902 a prairie trek of 1,700 people began rather spontaneously. People left their homes, released their cattle (which they called “our brothers”), and trekked by foot to the Canadian prairie town of Yorkton, where the women and children were held; the men, however, continued for another eleven days along the railway tracks toward Winnipeg, Manitoba, where they were stopped and herded like cattle into train coaches, then shipped back.”

Perhaps the main reason for this cross-country trek was the fact that the immigrants were finding it very frustrating by this time, to be told by the many government officials and political leaders that they must take up land in individual holdings, which included the oath of allegiance (a legal requirement of the Homestead Act) or else lose the land that they were given freely at the time of migration.

The year 1903 saw another major encounter which again did very little for the cause of the Doukhobors. This year saw the first ‘Sons of Freedom’ march nude through the prairies, in protest against what they believed to be a growth of materialism in their brethren. Acts of arson- the burning of several binder canvases along with a Doukhobor community home just added fuel to the already rapidly burning fires within the Canadian authorities. These two techniques- nudity and arson had by now turned both government and the Canadian community against them.

A continuing sequence of events and circumstances in the succeeding years only brought the Doukhobors and the Canadian authorities ever closer to a head-on confrontation. By 1905 the whole immigration picture had changed on the Canadian prairies. While in 1899 there were approximately 31,900 newcomers (including Doukhobors); in 1906 the Saskatchewan population had reached 189,604. At the same time, Clifford Sifton, who was originally responsible for the initial immigration policy, and who was thus sympathet­ic to the Doukhobors, was replaced as Minister of the Interior by Frank Oliver, a man who had very little love for them.

The rapidly expanding population and the additional political pressure provided the necessary ammunition for the new Minister of the Interior. He immediately proceeded to take action and as a result gave the Doukhobors a two-month ultimatum to take the final oath of allegiance or, failing this, to be deprived of their land. Refusing to yield to the pleas of the Doukhobors as well as others who were sympathetic with the Doukhobor cause, eviction notices were issued in June 1907. Over 250,000 acres of choice farm land, cleared, worked and improved by these Russian pioneers were reverted to the Govern­ment.

Oliver wasted no time. This “Doukhobor problem” had hung fire quite long enough. A commission was appointed to tour the colonies to ascertain which of the sectarians had compiled with the Homestead Act, to give them a final word of caution, and to report all who failed to comply immediately. By the following June, 1907, eviction notices had been given and over 100,000 acres of choice farm lands had reverted to the government. Each family was permitted to retain only fifteen acres of their former property. ‘9

Doukhobor Split and Westward Movement

The seeds that eventually culminated in the Doukhobor split into two factions were implanted long before Frank Oliver saw fit to bring the burning Doukhobor problem to a head – and thus the eviction notices of June 1907. The unseen forces of ‘secularization’ were at work almost from the first days of settlement on the Canadian soil.

The Doukhobors, like the majority of the other immigrants, were forced to seek outside labour markets very soon after their arrival in the new land. At the same time the men were away from the villages working for indispensible sums of cash, they were becoming cognizant of Canadian mannerisms, and were continually interpreting them to the Doukhobor community. The final result of this intermingling with the Canadian society, was that many of the men failed to return to the Doukhobor reserves on a permanent basis. Some of those that did return, turned in only part of their earnings to the ‘common pot’ .

The many experiences encountered in their contacts with foremen, superintendents, general money transactions, and journeys to ‘town’, left an ever-lasting impression on their minds. These favorable impressions showed how much more beneficial it would be to save money for one’s own private enterprise, rather than turn it over continuously to the commune and thus benefit very little.

Peter Verigin along with his more faithful followers, who were genuinely interested in the perpetuation of the Doukhobor community, soon realized the disintegrating effects of the contacts with the outsiders. His was a most difficult task to keep his flock in line. He strove very hard to keep the Doukhobors self-supporting communistic farmers, but it was a losing battle with the advent of the approaching railway and the upsurge of the commercial Canadian towns and villages. There ensued a rearrangement of population and services involving a complete change in the established Doukhobor system. The pull of economic forces against customary sectarian considerations was becoming too great. The new Canadian towns along the railway were fast becoming centers ofDoukhobortrade, despite the strong initial community ties.

A rift within the Doukhobor community was inevitable. Their leader, to the extent that he was able to stave off secession, was continuing group operation of all the land in accordance with his communistic principles – principles which were rapidly losing their appeal to a good number of the sect. The potential sectarian zeal of the people was aroused by the government’s final decision to dispose of the Doukhobor reserves by reverting the land back to the government. Peter Verigin ‘s attention as leader was now directed to the salvation of the ever diminishing nucleus of his Community. The trend amongst many of the Doukhobors was toward independence. This very suddenly led to the crumbling of the communistic community. The final result was a split of the Doukhobors in Canada into two major factions: the “Community Doukhobors” and the “Independent Doukhobors”.

As a result of the split and the problems encountered with the Canadian government, Peter V. Verigin as leader of the Community Doukhobors suddenly seized upon a new strategy. Land in British Columbia could be acquired without the offensive requirement of the Oath of Allegiance. Hence, for the next five years from 1908 to 1913, he led two-thirds of his group to the Kootenay and the Boundary regions of that province. Here they settled, cultivated the land, planted tens of thousands of fruit trees, built a large jam factory, operated several brick factories and soon began to prosper once again.

The Independent Doukhobors on the other hand who saw fit to seceed from the original communistic community, because of their opposition to Verigin ‘s grandiose leadership and power structure, remained behind, took out homesteads, settled on them and they too, in time, began to prosper. It was not long before they became assimilated into the Canadian society. Today, the Independent Doukhobors are considered an integral part of our prairie community. Their various contributions from a cultural point of view have done much to enhance our Canadian Mosaic.