small flourish

Doukhobor factionalism intensifies in early 1920s, pp. 35-72

MR. McINTOSH: Now, I would like to read from Peter Malloff's book, "Dukhobortsy, Ikh Istoriia, Zhizn' I Bor'ba." ... I will refer to the original pages in Malloff ... basically 130 to 171 [...][end of p. 35]

It would be wrong to conclude from what has been said that the Christian Community had completely disintegrated. In 1920 and 1921, the community still represented a powerful and firmly united spiritual kingdom. The rumors about the dishonest actions of certain men in responsible positions were mostly rumors, although they grew steadily. They proved instances of theft were rare and, in general, things were not yet out of Peter Vasilevich's hands. There were still many serious and idealistic men in the community. Their faith was strong, unshaken by transgressions of the few. [end of p. 36] ...

Peter Vasilievich, however, could not deceive himself. He realized clearly, that things remained well only on the surface, that moral disintegration was undermining his good intentions. He tried to awaken the consciousness of his people. He called them to moral perfection, to the realization of their spiritual duties. In the past he had sometimes used strict measures: denying the guilty ones their allotment of flour, expelling them from the community. Several times he even slapped their faces. But that apparently had hurt his feelings and made him suffer intensely, more indeed than the punished ones. Gradually he abandoned this kind of correction towards those who were doing evil and tried to use persuasion. [end of p. 37] [...]

[p. 43] [In 1921] Peter Vasilievich received a very unpleasant and even an alarming message. It happened this way: One or two weeks after the abovementioned meeting Peter Vasilievich had to go from Verigin [Saskatchewan] to Calmoor, about a hundred miles away. He invited a young Doukhobor, whom he knew very well, to accompany him. They boarded the train and rode to Canora. There the train stopped for ten or fifteen minutes according to the schedule. As soon as the train had stopped a man, apparently in a great hurry, jumped onto it and ran up and down the coaches. It was apparent that he was looking for somebody on this train. This man was Nick Hoodicoff. As soon as he realized Peter, he came and sat beside him. Hoodicoff, being very excited, leaned to Peter and half whispered: "Peter Vasilievich, I beg you to be on your guard. There is a great danger threatening you. I heard that you were [end of p. 43] due to pass here today and I hurried here to warn you." "Indeed?" asked Peter Vasilievich, very much surprised. "Yes, it is true. They want to murder you." "But it cannot be true," replied Peter Vasilievich. "Why, I can't believe it. Who did I harm or to whom have I been an obstacle?" Nick Hoodicoff said that he had been present at a conversation of two [in original Russian, “some”] conspirators who considered him to be on their side. He did not show that in reality he was against them. So they spoke frankly in his presence without suspecting him. Hoodicoff leaned close to Peter Vasilievich and whispered into his ear, but Peter's companion was able to hear what was said. Hoodicoff named the conspirators, three independent Doukhobors and one foreigner.


[p. 45] After his return to British Columbia, Peter Vasilievic told the members of the community at an open meeting about everything that had happened on the train. His story made different impressions on different people. The majority were simply thunderstruck, but at the same time they could not believe that such a prediction could be true. Their simple hearts [end of p. 45] could not accept the sad fact that anyone could be so wicked as to dare commit such an evil and terrible deed. They suspected that "Petushka" invented the story in order to stir them up. Others listened coolly deciding that Peter had noticed the indifference of the people towards him and wanted to awaken more sympathy. At any rate the people remained silent virtually.


[p. 64] In the summer of 1924 ... the rumor spread that Peter Vasilievich had been murdered in Thrums. This rumor reached even the newspapers. But on July the 23rd Peter returned safely from Grand Forks to Brilliant. They told him about the rumors but he paid no attention to them. [end of p. 64] At this time the animosity of a certain materialistic group towards Peter reached its limit. It was persistently reported to the Government that he was causing unrest among the Doukhobors. Peter Vasilievich now understood that a hostile ring had surrounded him and was tightening its grip. His only hope of safety would be to leave the Doukhobor community and retire to a distance. But he refused even to think of that for it would mean betrayal of his ideals. [...] He knew that since some really religious people remain true to him, for their sake, he would not consent to quit his post and leave them to their fate. Danger or no danger, he would not run away, as a mother would not leave her children in a burning house and escape alone. But what happened to the members of the community? How did they react to these circumstances. In all probability they suspected nothing and did not notice what was going on. Like the Apostles in the garden of Gethsomane they were sound asleep, when their Master was praying in mortal agony with foreknowledge of his coming end. This was not because they had lost their love and respect toward their leader. The majority of them were still devoted to him. But spiritual sleep overpowered them. In their naivety they could not believe that Peter Vasilievich was really in danger. Deeply absorbed in the cares of everyday life they could not perceive and were unable to interpret the signs and omens of the evil times. Besides, they had already lost their unity. They'd split into different groups. Opposite currents had formed and gradually in the depths of the community the undercurrent of discontent began slowly but steadily to destroy the spiritual work of many years. On the surface everything still remained calm and quiet, but the inner discord was leading to its -- to the community's disintegration.


[p. 67] [Maloff describes]four main groups. The first one was composed of unbelievers, the second pseudo-believers, the third, superficial or external believers and the fourth group consisted of the true believers who still preserved their faith. But then he talks about the young workers, and then the so called aristocracy, the privileged members of the community, the clerks and managers, the members of the Verigin family. The most numerous was the women whose faith he regards as real but superficial in some respects. The fourth, those who preserved the real faith. And this he regards as a minority. Of course, Peter Vasilievich himself, could not miss these signs of disintegration. [end of p. 68]

[p. 69] On October the 15th [1924] Peter Vasilievich was in Nelson where he spent the night in his apartment. Anton Streliaev, the head of the household of this [end of p. 69] apartment remained with him all the time. In the evening a local dentist, well known to Peter Vasilievich, dropped in to see him. This dentist was the representative from the district in parliament, so his visit was semi-official in nature. Peter entered into a heated discussion with him which lasted several hours. The guest tried to entreat him to accept Government schools but Peter Vasilievich remained unyielding.


On October the 28th Peter Vasilievich sent word to Maria Streliaev, Anton's sister, who often accompanied him on his trips, to come immediately to Brilliant. When she arrived Peter Vasilievich told her to prepare to go with him to Grand Forks. There were rumors that there was some misunderstanding between Mary Streliaev and Anastasia Golubeva, but the details are not known to the author of this book. The same evening a few persons gathered in Peter Vasilievich's house. Sam Postnikov, nicknamed, (Russian) little grain, is it? Timothy Streliaev, Larry V. Verigin and Ivan Maslov, both clerks; Feka L. Verigina, the maid servant, and Mary Streliaev. Anastasia was not present. Peter remained silent for [end of p. 70] a long time. Then he gave an order to bring some fruit juice from the cellar. When this juice was brought Peter Vasilievich looked at those present and said: "We are having a last supper tonight, the way Jesus Christ had it with his disciples. This is not wine simply fruit juice but it resembles wine. ... We shall follow Jesus Christ's example." Then he poured the juice into a glass and gave one half to Sam Postnikov and the other half to Timothy Streliaev. He addressed Larion saying, "I left you $20,000.00 in cash in the office. Please, order several carloads of flour immediately so the people may have some bread. I may go on a long journey and I would not like to leave the people hungry." It was ten o'clock in the evening. Those present went to the station to see Peter Vasilievich and Maria Streliaev depart. The settlers in Grand Forks were informed by telephone to meet Peter at the station. At the sound of the train's whistle Peter Vasilievich addressed those whom came to see him off. "Well, brothers, goodbye and forgive me for everything. We are starting on a long journey." When the train approached, Maria Streliaev, as if she had some premonition said to Peter Vasilievich, "Petushka, I am afraid." "Nonsense," answered Peter Vailievich and he almost carried her into the train. When they had occupied [end of p. 71] their seats Peter lifted the window up, leaned out and repeated once more, "Goodbye and forgive me, brothers. We are going on a long journey."

Source: , , , Kootenay Committee on Intergroup Relations, Volume LXX, "Kootenay Committee on Intergroup Relations, Volume LXX," April 15, 1986, 35-72.

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