Saturday, 13 October 2012

Q49: Am I a Doukhobor?

From: Annie Barnes of Sundre, Alberta

I do need your help to answer the question — Am I a Doukhobor? Often faced with defending our culture, I have become quite adept at doing that. However, today, I encountered a woman, born and brought up in Kamsack of descendants that came in 1899, who vehemently told me she was NOT Doukhobor, but of Canadian born Russian parentage.

So, comparing my history with hers, growing up in the same area, and not belonging to any Doukhobor group or society, in a home where my mother remarried a man of Ukrainian descent, am I a real Doukhobor?

This question bears some honest clarification. I've always believed that if my grandparents came from Tsarist Russia on one of the four ships in 1899, then I was of Doukhobor lineage. Is that correct? Is there criteria for being Doukhobor?

I'm really interested in your thoughts.


Identity is complex because it involves history, belief and behaviour. Criteria and definitions have varied among Doukhobors for centuries resulting in many divisions. There is cultural identity and collective identity compounded with a person's self-affiliation, and categorization by others.

Many like you have asked similar questions, which I answered at Questions+Answers, Comments
Iskra posts a definition: "... a Doukhobor basically renounces physical strength as a means of combating evil ... in general all forms of violence ..." I agree with most of this definition.

My definition is broader. It is not who your ancestors were, or what others may think about you, but who you are. If you have a nonkilling world view, you are a Doukhobor. However, if you transgress it with killings, bombings or burnings, you automatically exclude yourself from what I call the "Doukhobor Movement."

By heritage you are a descendant of Doukhobors, but what do you believe and how do you express those beliefs? Annie, only you can answer the question 'Am I a Doukhobor?'

More: Questions and Answers, Comments


  1. Wether they are proud of their heritage or not, everyone who is a descendent of the 1899 migration to Canada, is a descendent of Doukhobors, very unique culturally, ethnically, religiously, and even linguistically different from that of standard Russian culture and norm

  2. Hello,

    I think the Questioner was asking what it really means to be a Doukhobor in practice — not just as a label. Historically, the Doukhobors stripped religiosity to the bare bones. Their belief in the Spirit Within (nonkilling, love, beauty and friendship) could really have been adopted as the central part of Reformation in the world, as Lev N. Tolstoy had intended in his day and as the Quakers with their Light Within had perceived as their essence. But this did not come to be — although its direction remains transparent and at times is bravely suggested by religious reformers in the 21st century.

  3. As usual, such definitions are in the eye of the subjective beholder. Those outside the beholder offer definitions depending on their own viewpoints. Such conjecture has no definitive reply, and only provides an opportunity for discussion.

  4. You are a "moderate" Doukhobor if you believe:
    - That Christ is reincarnated in every living person
    - Therefore, killing a person is a murder of Christ and cannot be justified by ANYTHING

    Furthermore, you are a true Doukhobor, (Son of Freedom Doukhobor) if you believe in all tenets of this philosophy:
    - That wars are institutionalized murders conducted by governments, therefore you should not recognize or support any government maintaining any military organization. In particular, you should not pay taxes to such government.
    - That individual murders most often result from greed and fights over property and therefore a person should not accumulate material wealth; ideally all property must be owned communally.
    - Furthermore, and logically enough, since the next reason for violence and murders is personal conflicts over relations between sexes, an institute of marriage as a mutual "ownership" of a wife by a husband and vice versa is fundamentally wrong and all women should be shared by all men and all men - by all women.

    It only remains to say that there are almost no Sons of Freedom left anymore.