Doukhobors - Spirit Wrestlers

Many Hands Make Light Work

"When I first heard the word 'Doukhobor' I remember being filled with a sentiment of mixed terror, curiosity and admiration that I find hard to admit." -Gabrielle Roy

Canada's first Doukhobor settlers were highly self-sufficient and made most of their tools and furnishings by hand. Over time, some of them extended the community's traditional agrarian pursuits to develop commercial enterprises such as factories for making jams and bricks.

Where Do Doukhobors Live Now?

Today most Doukhobors live in Russia and Canada, and a few hundred make their home in the United States. Of the estimated 30,000 Doukhobors in Canada, most are in British Columbia and Saskatchewan. Like other Canadians, most Doukhobors live in towns and cities, and some live on farms.

What Language Do the Doukhobors Speak?

When they left Russia in 1899, Doukhobors spoke Russian. Today, the older generations speak what has evolved into a slightly anglicized Russian dialect.

Doukhobor children now speak English. Many know basic Russian, and can understand their elders. Some are fluently bilingual, and some have gone to Russia for immersion training. And then there are those who speak Russian as youngsters, but lose the language when they leave home.

Why Do They Take Off Their Clothes and Burn Buildings?

Only a handful of Doukhobors known as the zealots "Sons of Freedom" took part in such activities. Unfortunately, media reports attributed these actions to the entire group. The Sons of Freedom broke away from mainstream Doukhobors in the early 1900s. For them, nudity and arson are forms of protest against what they see as government interference or injustice.

The Sons of Freedom have been known to criticize other Doukhobors for diverging from pure Doukhobor philosophy by, for example, following what the minority group perceives as too lavish a lifestyle.