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Peter Petrovich Verigin

[ Doukhobors meet their new leader, Peter P. Verigin, Chistiakov, on the third anniversary of Peter V. Verigin's death, Unknown, Doukhobor Discovery Centre, Castlegar, BC Pan 12 ]

In a 1964 bestselling exposé, Terror in the Name of God: The Story of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors, journalist Simma Holt pointed to another possible culprit in Verigin’s death – Verigin’s own son. Holt’s new theory about Verigin’s death was greeted contemptuously by most Doukhobors, who rejected the thought of a son killing a father. But what do we know about the relationship between the two?

Six weeks after Lordly’s death, by Doukhobor custom, the communal Doukhobors held a mass meeting to select their new leader. The six weeks witnessed an intense round of intrigue and maneuvering between representatives of the two main contenders for power. They were Verigin’s son, known as “Chistiakov” (variously translated as “the cleanser” or “the purger”) and Anastasia Holubova, Lordly’s female partner. Chistiakov, though still in Russia, would emerge triumphant. Representatives of the Doukhobor commune set out to visit him and inform him of his new role. But before he could leave the USSR, he was arrested for drunkenness and assault. Only in 1927 would he be released and make his way to Canada.

His reign as head of the Doukhobor commune, from 1927 to 1939, would be marked by much trauma and ultimate catastrophe. He was a violent drunkard who gambled compulsively with commune funds. If this were not enough, his rule corresponded to the Great Depression in Canada. Those pressures, plus the destruction of communal property by the svobodniki, or Sons of Freedom, helped to break the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood. In 1938 the single largest communal experiment in Canadian history was dismantled. Chistiakov would die the next year. Had Chistiakov “purged” more than just the commune built by his father? Did he go to the extreme of killing, or organizing the death of, his father?

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