The Doukhobors are a religious people that arose in Russia in the 17th century. The religious philosophy of the Doukhobors is based on the two commandments cited by Jesus in Matthew 12:28-31: “Love God with all thy heart, mind and soul” and “Love thy neighbour as thyself.”
The term Doukhobor means “spirit wrestler.” A main spiritual tenet is the belief that the Holy Spirit in-dwells every person. They are strongly pacifist and generally vegetarian.
Repressed in Russia and exiled for their beliefs, a segment of the Doukhobors sought to leave Russia en masse. Canada was chosen as their home as it was accepting settlers under the homestead system, with railways developed to carry settlers to the far west.
Leo Tolstoy, the famous Russian writer, came to the aid of the Doukhobors and donated the royalties from his book, Resurrection, to their emigration. Together with Quaker and Canadian settler aid, 8,000 persons — babas, dedushki, and children — were brought to Canada in 1899.
Their communal life style was not without controversy within Canadian society, nor their refusal to swear oaths, resulting in the loss of their homestead lands and movement to British Columbia under the direction of their leader, Peter P. Verigin. A core of settlers remained in Saskatchewan (and some returned) becoming the nucleus of viable communities such as Blaine Lake, Veregin and Kamsack.
They are known for, among other things, their a cappella songs born of their faith and suffering, skilled bread-baking, and their textiles. Their love of simplicity is best summarized in their slogan, Toil and Peaceful Life. It is estimated there are 30,000 Doukhobors in Canada today, and through intermarriage, many persons who can claim Doukhobor descent.
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