small flourish


[ Peter Verigin's tomb near Brilliant, B.C. before 1931, Unknown, Doukhobor Discovery Centre, Castlegar, BC B-205 ]

After Peter Lordly Verigin’s death, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood faced a challenging future. Just one challenge was financial pressures from the company that had loaned the commune money and from the B.C. government. The province also continued to prosecute Doukhobor parents for failing to send their children to school, and that escalated, in 1925, into public confrontation and aggressive police action that you will read about in the documents. Then there was the disagreement over choosing a new leader for the commune. The contenders were Lordly’s long-time companion, Anastasia Holobova, and his son, Peter P. Verigin, known as Chistiakov. Anastasia lost the competition, but she was not content with the decision. Before Chistiakov made his way from Russia to Canada in 1927 she broke from the community, taking 500 souls with her to establish her own minor empire.

Chistiakov proved to be inferior to his father. Although he made improvements in the commune’s efficiency and paid off debts, the loss of membership that had already begun under Lordly continued and even accelerated. In 1938 the CCUB, still led by Chistiakov, was driven into bankruptcy. Just months later, in February 1939, Chistiakov died.

Lordly would be remembered fondly by many Doukhobors and is still revered today. But the community’s efforts to memorialize him in concrete form would be violently rejected by some. One year after his death a marble tomb was erected on a majestic site overlooking the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia Rivers, surveying the productive orchards and fruit packing plants of the Doukhobor commune. But at least some Doukhobors must have agreed with the assessment of Peter F. Faminow, who wrote in 1996: “If the [Doukhobor] forefathers got rid of all icons, should there be a tomb?” To some, the answer was no. In 1931 and again in 1961 the tomb was bombed and partly destroyed. Freedomites were convicted of the second bombing. Today on the site rests a very different marker, a low, flat expanse of concrete that resembles a bunker. Its military air is reinforced by a chain-link fence enclosing it, necessary for security. But in 1963 one of the sheaves of wheat carved from stone that graced the original tomb was moved to the rocky bench below the Kettle Valley Line where Peter Verigin’s life drained from him on October 29, 1924. And that marker, at least, remains in place today.