Sunday, 18 May 2014

1832, 1882 books about Doukhobors online

The first comprehensive studies about Doukhobors by Orest Markovich Novitsky (1806-1884) are online.


A Composition by
a Student of the Kiev Spiritual Academy

Orest Novitsky



By the Academic Printer at the

Kiev Monastery of the Caves.
History and Beliefs

A Composition by
Orest Novitsky

Second Edition
Changed and Edited

At the University Printers

(I.I. Zavadskiy)


The first book is Novitsky's doctoral thesis in theology when he was a student at the Kiev Spiritual Academy. He later became a professor. 50 years later his updated work was published in 1882 nearly doubling the content.

According to Novitsky, Doukhobors first publicly emerged as peasants in southern Russia, gathered around a literate nameless teacher who appeared outside the village and settled among them. He taught that the church had perverted the real teachings of Christ, that all men and women are equal brothers and sisters, and that the laws of God forbade the killing of other human beings.

In 1891 a Russian folklore writer said this about the 1832 book:
'In the literature about the Dukhobors I have read many articles, all of which suffer from a casual approach and incomplete observations, or from a narrow and unseemly one-sidedness. Novitsky’s work on the Dukhobors, published back in 1832, deserves to be considered the most substantial contribution to the history of the Dukhobors. It is based on the author’s personal observations and investigations.' — N.M. Astyrev (1857-1894).

Find Novitsky cited in many books online about Doukhobors, and in articles on the Doukhobor Genealogy Website. Surname spelling variations: Novitsky, Novitskiy, Novitski, Novitskii.

Valeriy Kalmykov of Russia submitted the 1832 book file.



  1. Thanks Koozma and Andrei for bringing attention to this seminal work on our early historical origins - a "must read" for all serious students of Doukhobor history.

    Indeed, as you've noted, I've relied on Novitsky's work quite extensively in my research, in particular, the online version of The Doukhobor Gazetteer and even more so in my unpublished manuscript version with extensive bibliographic references, which I am preparing for publication in book form.

    I would note yet important source of information on early Doukhobor history; namely, Fyodor Vasil'evich Livanov, "Raskol'niki i ostrozhniki: ocherki i rasskazy", 4 vols. (St. Petersburg, 1872-1873). Livanov had access to archives no longer available today and provides much detailed information. Indeed, Novitsky in his 1882 republication, cites Livanov extensively.

    Jon Kalmakoff

  2. Gunter Schaarschmidt20 May 2014 at 08:11

    Thanks, Koozma, for this informative, if somewhat controversial addition to literature on the Doukhobor culture and belief system written from the perspective of an orthodox theologian. In the end, of course, a leopard cannot change his spots and Novitsky’s conclusion: «но храм этот пуст; в нем не обитает Божество» (Novitsky 1882, 282) is tantamount to a recommendation that the Doukhobors return to the bosom of the Church.

  3. That's a very good point, Gunter! While Novitsky provided one of the most detailed and exhaustive 19th century treatments of the Doukhobors, he was no 'friend of the Doukhobors'! The implicit, underlying reason for his extensive study was to arm Orthodox clerics with the necessary tools and information to undermine the Doukhobor philosophy and re-convert them to Orthodoxy.

  4. Gunter Schaarschmidt22 May 2014 at 05:17

    Yes, Jon, Novitsky used some heavy ammunition in what he was trying to accomplish. In any case, I am looking forward to your book!

  5. Koozma - I've tried to access the English version of the Novitsky pdf, but it fails to load. Is it available somewhere else?
    Lawrence Kootnikoff

    1. Hello Lawrence.
      My webmaster Andrei Conovaloff has replaced file
      1832_Novitsky.pdf. The link should work now. Continue reading.