Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Selling Freedomites as Doukhobors
     is False Advertising

Two events promoted in Nelson, British Columbia, have been fraudulently selling Freedomites (Svobodninki, Sons of Freedom) as Doukhobors — a movie and museum exhibit. Both events were promoted in the Nelson Star newspaper.

Canada has laws against consumer fraud, false advertising, counterfeit goods, bait-and-switch, identity theft, mislabeling, adulterated food, etc. Consumers want to be protected against deception, counterfeit products to be confiscated, defective products repaired or exchanged, businesses licensed and inspected, and perpetrators arrested.

If 'Doukhobor' was a trademarked commercial product, it would be a crime to promote the 'Doukhobor' label to the public, collect money but deliver something else. After more than half a century of public awareness education, this fraud is still happening in Canada because the word falsely lingers as a profitable commodity of sensationalized abuse, arson, bombings, nudity and terrorism.

Movie: The Change Agents (2012)

In mid-April 2014, Alex Atamanenko (Member of Parliament) gave Tarasoff a DVD copy of a movie to review which was produced by staff and students of L.V. Rogers Secondary School in Nelson, BC. Atamanenko saw it and wanted Tarasoff to comment. The movie shocked us. It’s been in the Kootenay news since October 2010. Why did no one tell us about it? Why was it not mentioned in the USCC Doukhobor monthly magazine Iskra? *

The opening minutes show 6 photos of Freedomites taken in the 1950s, 2 with nudity and fire, while the narration falsely states they are Doukhobors, pacifist spirit-wrestlers. Next, student actors joke about nude protests, arson and bombing; while their teacher discusses the Son of Freedom nude protests as examples of social activism.

While the movie promotes cleaning the environment, it pollutes the public perception of Doukhobors. The words ‘Doukhobor’ and ‘spirit-wrestler’ must be deleted from the movie and never be used to describe extremist actions of Freedomites (Russian: Svobodniki: also: Sons of Freedom).

Tarasoff complained to the movie owner/producers and writer about correcting this fraud. So far some have acknowledged the errors, but the current movie owner has not made the corrections. (See: Ottawa Screening of 'The Change Agents')

Photo Exhibit: Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History (2014)

On June 10, 2014, the Nelson Star website posted ‘Examining the Sons of Freedom’ about an exhibit of photos from the 1950s and 1960s at the Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History, promoted with a photo of the current Doukhobor choir “Friends.” Tarasoff responded with an open letter to the paper and museum to correct two errors.

Your story implies that “Sons of Freedom” are “Doukhobors”. They are not the same! The story stated that ‘the photographs in this exhibit document a compelling chapter in the history of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, as well as our community.’ To avoid stereotyping and discrimination, the word “Doukhobor” should not appear in this story, nor should it be used as a synonym.’ The exhibit title should be: ‘Sons of Freedom: Photographs from the Stevens Studio,

The original Russian term used by these separatists was Svobodniki (English: Freedomites). Later journalists called them "Sons of Freedom" (Russian: Syny svobody).

Photos of Freedomites in the movie were obtained from the museum collection, online at Touchstones Nelson, flickr. Neither the newspaper nor the museum have responded.

Go to Court

Though the movie and photos don't directly refer to the USCC Doukhobors, the Council of Doukhobors in Canada (CDC), the Canadian Doukhobors Society (CDS), or the Doukhobor Society of Saskatoon (DSS); the intention to deceive the public about Doukhobors for profit and gain is obvious.

With no remorse, the paper promotes organizations which stigmatize Doukhobors with a powerfully negative label that changes their self-concept and social identity.

The only possible legal defense for such fraud is claiming that no entity owns the generic 'Doukhobor' label, therefore anyone is free to use it, abuse it, and misuse it as they wish, to fool the public for profit and personal gain. Though this is unethical, wrong, and dishonest; it's probably not illegal until someone takes the issue to court, or public protests bring shame to the perpetrators.

"[U.S.A.] trademark law does not permit registration of trademarks that 'may disparage' individuals or groups or 'bring them into contempt or disrepute.'..." (Washington Redskins' Federal Trademarks Cancelled, the two-way, National Public Radio, June 18, 2014.)

For now, buyer and reader beware — caveat emptor.

Short link to this page: goo.gl/7xdrmi
* A search of the USCC Doukhobor web site found the movie was mentioned in USCC News twice with no comments or further information. A query to the Iskra editor revealed that the USCC board voted to be mute, a vow of silence, regarding Freedomites, a topic too sensitive for public discussion.
— By Koozma J. Tarasoff and Andrei Conovaloff.


  1. Kalmykov Valeriy17 June 2014 at 10:13

    From your blog I haven't managed to extract your own point of view on Freedomites. If you refuse to consider Sons of Freedom as Doukhobours, then - who are all these people? May they be the indians of North America or may they be slaves brought from Africa? Or are they the communists, agents of Kremlin? Who are they? I don't think it is right to turn Doukhobors into a brand or label and apply any stereotypes of features to it. The Doukhobors have been and will always be Russian ethnoconfessional group of people possessing their exclusive Christian faith. As soon as the Doukhobors lose their faith in God and the ability to communicate in Russian language, they turn into fake Doukhobors who have only the folklore and authentic Doukhobor cooking skills and traditional singing (for those with an ear). My best wishes, my friends.

    1. Svobodniki (free men, Freedomites) named themselves in the 1920s and much has been documented. It is clear that Doukhobors did not participate in protests with nudity, burnings, bombings and terrorism. Confusion exists because for more than a century most newspaper articles mixed the groups, disinformation was reported, and news was sensationalized for profit.

      The Doukhobor movement and people have change over time. I support former Freedomites who join the Doukhobor movement.

      See: ‘The “Sons of Freedom” — a Flashback to 1956’ < http://goo.gl/OkXDKV >. I welcome any comments about this article.

      There is similar identity confusion today with ‘Indian savages’, ‘Islamic terrorists’, ‘Molokan Jumpers’, ‘Mormon polygamists’, etc.; who are also erroneously reported and changed over time.

  2. Jessica Demers, Curator, Touchstones Nelson Museum of Art and History22 June 2014 at 17:09

    I appreciate you sharing your thoughts with us about the exhibition Sons of Freedom Doukhobors: Photographs from the Stevens Studio. We welcome diverse perspectives, and aim to create an environment for respectful dialogue.

    I understand your concern that the public may become confused about the difference between the Orthodox Doukhobors and the Reformed Sons of Freedom group. I shared this concern, which is why I forged relationships early on in the exhibit development process with both the Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Castlegar and a woman of Sons of Freedom origin who is writing her PhD thesis on the topic of Sons of Freedom history. I feel the text in the exhibition makes this difference clear, and presents a balanced, objective and authentic perspective that respects both groups.

    To date, the exhibition has been received very positively by the Orthodox Doukhobor community, those of Sons of Freedom origin and the general public. Far from wishing to “sensationalize” this or any other exhibit, Touchstones Nelson is committed to presenting all histories from our area – including those of a more challenging nature.

    If you would like to pursue further dialogue, you may contact Touchstones Nelson’s Executive Director Leah Best.

  3. Virginia Svetlikov, Kelowna, BC27 June 2014 at 19:20

    Ms. Demers;
    I have no knowledge of your age or your schooling, but it appears to me that not unlike Robyn Sheppard and her movie "Change of Agents" or whatever she called it, you are totally out of touch with the truth and reality of the history of the Orthodox Doukhobors versus the Sons of Freedom in Canada. Shame on you! You have taken the photos of people that have never been Sons of Freedom and have posted them as such and therefore have written your biased version of a history you obviously know nothing about.

    I, among many others of the Orthodox Doukhobors, suffered mercilessly at the hands of the Sons of Freedom, who in no way represent Doukhobors in this country or any other country. We lived through those times when we feared the Sons of Freedom and their actions, we feared the government and its enforcers in their ignorance and their lack of empathy, we feared the repercussions of the unknown entities that fuelled the actions of the terrorists and many of us died because of the actions of these people. Yet you choose to portray us all as one. How dare you?

    I despise what the Sons of Freedom did in this country, I despise those in the media, the government and others who sensationalized that time in Canada's history for their own benefit and believe me, they all benefited. And now, so many years later when our scars have not yet healed, you choose to misinterpret the history again, truly for your own benefit. Shame on you.

    I sat in the Nelson Court House many years ago trying to help put Sons of Freedom men and women into prison for life, men and women that had nearly killed me, that had come to my home to burn it, to bomb it, while I slept downstairs in an area that if they had succeeded I would not be here to write this. Shame on you!

    If you're going to be a historian of any description, go back to school and learn how to be a true one. Or better yet pick up a book and read the real history of what transpired for those many, many years of black horror in this part of Canada. You live in a world of social media and false information, we lived in a world of fear, hiding, guarding our children at night and remember, the night they came to kill me was not that long ago, it was in the 1970s.

    So Ms. Demers, this email does not require a response, because I don't think you have any right or knowledge or even an inkling of our history to make any comment to me.

  4. Hi Koozma, I was just talking to a friend who saw your blog on the Change Agents and your explanation of Freedomites vs Doukhobors. As someone who grew up in the Krestova area he was offended by your statement. I was just wondering what your answer to him would be and also how you would classify those descendents of the Freedomites who have integrated into the Doukhobor community as a result of the reconciliation that has taken place. Thanks.

    1. Identity is directly related to behaviour. You are what you do. However, if you change your behaviour, you than change your identity.

      Doukhobor core belief is based on nonviolence and nonkilling. It stems from the notion of love, god, respect in the Inner Spirit of each person.

      If you disregard the core values by burning and bombing (or threatening to burn or bomb) your neighbour's home or property, as well as go naked as a protest action, you in effect kick yourself out of the Doukhobor Movement. You are no longer a Doukhobor. But you are something else -- Sons of Freedom, zealot, or Freedomite.

      The process can be reversed over time through a process of reconciliation. By acknowledging your wrong doing and ceasing your wayward actions contrary to Doukhobor beliefs and practices, you can return to the Doukhobor movement and join a Doukhobor organization or community.