Monday, 7 November 2016

Q74: About Globalization, Assimilation and Symbols

From: Shayla Hua, grade 10, Lester B. Pearson High School, Calgary AB. November 6, 2016.

My friends and I are doing a project in Social Studies on cultural groups and we chose to research 'The Doukhobors of Western Canada'.

We have a few questions to ask you guys if you don't mind:
  1. How are the Doukhobors affected by globalization? ...
  2. ... the challenges of assimilation, ... conserved the culture ...?
  3. ... symbols ... meaning of the symbols?
You can answer any way you’d like personally, as a group or just your opinion. If you could get back to me as soon as possible that would be great.

Thank you for your time.


Please do not confuse Doukhobors with Sons of Freedom, or Freedomites, which naively done by too many students, professors, journalists, and readers.

1. How are the Doukhobors affected by globalization? And if so, what are some positive and negative impacts on globalization? And has there been any attempt at countering the forces of globalization? How successful has your group been at maintaining your identity while encountering the forces of globalization?

The term 'globalization' is a recent concept involving the process of international integration arising from the interchange of world views, products, ideas, and other aspects of culture. As such most Doukhobors know practically nothing about it. However, if you extend the term to mean becoming part of one world community, Doukhobors have long had a view on this.

After their 1895 arms burning in Russia, Spirit Wrestlers / Doukhobors officially transformed themselves from a sect to a social movement. They consider themselves to be part of one human race and see no need to kill another human being, but need to cooperate together to deal with local issues nonviolently. For them, globalization involves treating people as equals and working to create a nonkilling peaceful world.

To maintain identity under the forces of globalization, extremist forces of assimilation need to be countered. This means respecting local languages, cultures and ways of doing things with simple respect, nonviolence, compassion, and trust in the genius of locality.

Vika, a young Catholic girl, and her mother Kiki became friends with Doukhobors in BC, and met John J. (JJ) Verigin Jr., Executive Director of the USCC. '...Vika asked JJ: "How can I become a Doukhobor? Can I be baptized or do I have to be born as a Doukhobor?" And JJ answered: "If you are loving and peaceful person in your heart, then you are already a Doukhobor!" Wow that sounded easy! But of course, we learned that it's every day work....' (Vodopoff, Kiki. "Why Are We Here?", Iskra, issue 2107, October 2016, page 18.)

2. Has there been a point where you’ve encountered the challenges of assimilation, and how have you conserved the culture these past years?

Most all descendants of Doukhobors in North America have adapted to Canadian life and integrated. To me the term 'assimilate' connotes a 'hate process of change'. I prefer the more friendly process of 'integration' which is more human. Integration affects every group as a process of fitting in as legitimate citizens of a territory or nation. Doukhobors have used many of the same tools as other groups in adjusting to the normal stresses of society affecting language and culture. See:

3. What are some important symbols to the Doukhobors of Western Canada? And if so, what are the meaning of the symbols?

Most important, in my opinion, is that most self-identifying Doukhobors around the world recall in annual celebration the three 1895 arms burning events in Tsarist Russia for getting rid of the institution of militarism and wars. This stems from their 'Spirit Within' which is the spirit of love, beauty, and God within each person; therefore we state it is wrong to kill another human being.

The most common cultural symbols enjoyed by all Doukhobors and shared with the public are traditional Eastern European foods (wood oven baked bread, borshch, pirogi, lapsha, vareniki, etc.), singing hymns and songs, meetings open to the public, and historic buildings and sites. Community Doukhobors in British Columbia, often display cultural symbols abandoned by Independent Doukhobors, like head scarfs on women; many homes display a small spinning wheel, hand carved large wooden spoons, weavings and/or other home-crafted essentials to their ancestors. Our museums, books and many commuity homes displays these items.

Historically Doukhobors have rejected icon worship and generally do not believe in sacred symbols (crosses, icons). However, as a heritage tradition, they have adopted the ancient Slavic practice of bread, salt and water serving as symbols of hospitality, equality, and peace. These items are placed in front of meetings as the basic staff of life. See:

  1. Tarasoff, Koozma J. Evolution of the Doukhobor Movement. Spirit Wrestlers website, November 13, 2013.
  2. Tarasoff, Koozma J. Wisdom of the Ages: Unified Doukhobor Beliefs. Spirit Wrestlers website, March 2015.


  1. Koozma, you should be aware that globalization has a much darker meaning in many people's minds. As practiced by rich nations, it often is simply a looting of the natural resources and labour of poorer nations.

    1. Indeed, the 'darker' side of globalization, esp. as often found in corporate capitalism, needs to be strongly countered to ensure a level of economic and social equality for the benefit of the general population.

  2. Many points well covered except for 'prayer halls'? Community centres?
    One important point glossed over: The Doukhobors were forced to assimilate [integrate] through the loss of their property which allowed them to live communally. With the communal structure [life style] gone, mostly due to government and societal pressure, integration was inevitable.

    1. Good reminder, Larry. Readers should see response to Q71: Lost Doukhobor Land? April 24m 2016. Link:

  3. Fred Samorodin, Vancouver, BC
    Globalization: while implied in Koozma’s answer, many modern Canadian Doukhobors tend to react to globalization from a left-leaning perspective.
    Assilimilation: with the fading of Russian language fluency among Canadian Doukhobors, a central ethnic marker associated with passing on spiritual and cultural traditions have strongly contributed towards assimilation into the Canadian cultural milieu. Intermarriage has also contributed to this flow.