The Dukhobors in Russia
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The Dukhobors represent one of the roost interesting examples of religious dissent in Russia during the nineteenth century. Their origins reflect a cross current of western protestant ideas expressed by such diversified groups as the Quakers, the Baptists, the Freemasons, and the Pietists, coupled with a basic Russian peasant protest against the deplorable social and economic conditions in Russia. Their total adherence to the will of their leaders continually influenced the deve1opmentrand history of the sect. These leaders had absolute control over their followers and were able to change the very nature of the sect by exerting their will upon it. It was the Dukhobor leaders who played a crucial role in determining the amount of antagonism between the sect and the Russian authorities. Such men as Pobirokhin, Kolesnikov and Peter Verigin, through their fanaticism and contempt for the established order in Russia, caused a great deal of friction between their sect and the government. Other leaders such as Kapustin and Lukeria were able to maintain cordial if not friendly relations with the Russian authorities during their rules. Thus they were able to insure a period of peace and cooperation between the sect and the Government. The Dukhober leaders also influenced conditions within the sect. By exercising their autocratic wills upon their followers, these various leaders were able to introduce changes within the sect which usually had serious repercussions for the entire Dukhobor community. The climax of the repercussions occurred during the leadership of Peter Verigin. Verigin introduced his followers to Tolstoyan philosophy, and initiated a program of vigorous resistance against the Russian authorities. Though there had been antagonism before between the Dukhobors and the Russian government, it had never reached the intensity that it did during Verigin’s leadership. Neither the government nor the Dukhobors were in any mood to compromise. Finally, the Russian Government sought to end this problem once and for all by consenting to the Dukhobor’s proposal that their sect be allowed to migrate to Canada. In 1899, the first group of Dukhobors left for Canada hoping to find a land which would allow them to practice their beliefs and customs without governmental supervision.