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Strengthening of zealots

Lordly’s death remained a wound in the hearts of many Doukhobors. It might also have contributed to the founding of a Sons of Freedom faction within Doukhobor society. Svobodniki or zealots had existed virtually from the Doukhobors’ arrival in Canada, but they were a fluid and tiny minority who were relegated to the fringes of the community. The intense struggle over education in B.C. in the early 1920s, and then the extraordinary shock of their beloved leader dying violently with eight others deepened the psychological trauma among Doukhobors.

The fact that police could not ease this pain by finding the cause of it and did not seem to be embarrassed by their failure only compounded the problem. What soul-searching occurred in the community in the years after 1924 can only be imagined. But by the arrival of Peter P. Verigin, Chistiakov, a new spirit inhabited the Spirit Wrestlers. A group that while Lordly lived constituted some 50 to 200 people had, by 1927, become an identifiable Doukhobor splinter group. Indeed, at Chistiakov’s first sobraniye, or mass meeting, at Brilliant, the heart of the community in B.C., there were two remarkable testaments to the Freedomite presence. One was a large banner that proclaimed “Sons of Freedom Cannot Be Slaves of Corruption.” The second was the presence of several nude Doukhobors standing prominently among the throng. And Chistiakov spoke of them as part of the Doukhobor community, declaring them to be none other than “the ringing of a bell awakening us.” The ringing bells of the Sons of Freedom would be heard frequently over the course of the next half century.

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