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Doukhobor Response

[ Flour mill with workers, Verigin Saskatchewan 1911, Alexandra Korcini, Doukhobor Discovery Centre, Castlegar, BC B-185 ]

After Lordly’s death, a succession struggle raged in the Doukhobor community. For six weeks there was an intense competition as representatives of the two main contenders for leadership made the rounds of the villages, promoting their candidate. Some believed that Anastasia Holobova was Lordly’s proper heir. She had been his companion for more than two decades, virtually since he first reached Canada. And although Doukhobor leaders had usually been men, there was a precedent for female leadership in Lukeria Kalmykova, who had presided over a golden age for 22 years in the 19th century. Indeed, Lukeria had trained Lordly for leadership. Anastasia did what she could to try to cement her connection to Lordly. A photo taken on November 1 by Campbell Studio of Nelson was clearly part of the campaign. It shows Verigin lying in state at his home in Brilliant. Beneath the bed is an immense knotted rug whose creation Anastasia had overseen with loving attention and that she had given to Verigin as a gift in 1923.

But by far the majority of the thousands of Doukhobors who assembled at Lordly’s gravesite at 1:00am on December 10, six weeks to the hour after his death, did not favor Anastasia. Instead they opted for Lordly’s son, Peter Petrovich Verigin, known as Chistiakov. Chistiakov was still in the USSR, yet his name had helped to carry the day. But when the majority knelt in the snow at the call of Chistiakov’s name, history repeated itself. In 1886, when Lordly had become the leader, a minority section of the community objected strongly to him. In 1924, Anastasia repeated the process. She refused to live under Chistiakov. With 26 families, comprising at most 500 people, she set up her own colony near Shouldice, Alberta, 60 kilometres southeast of Calgary. Larion Verigin, Lordly’s nephew and secretary treasurer of the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, also joined this community. A divided people would endure yet another split.

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