Nudity and Arson

This post begins with an apology to my father and you, dear reader, for leading you astray in this post last year. Dad has just started reading the blog (hi, dad!) and insisted that I amend some information I wrote about the Doukhobors. For a quick recap - whenever the subject of a surplus of material possessions comes up in my family, my dad never fails to mention the Doukhobors - what I thought was some mythical African tribe, who supposedly burn all of their dwellings and belongings every seven years and start all over again. Well as it turns out (and this is where the apology comes in), the Doukhobors are not mythical. And they are not African, or, for that matter, a tribe. The idea of them burning down their houses every seven years is also a distortion of the truth. So I would like to offer my humble apologies for my complete lack of ignorance - I suppose those who live in Canada or British Columbia would be well aware of the Doukhobors, and the things in this post would be nothing new to them. But for me, this small piece of history has been a surprising and fascinating, gripping tale, which has answered a few questions, and raised many more in their place.
The Doukhobors are a Christian sect that originated in Russia in the 18th century. They were real indpendent thinkers: they believed that God was in every person, and rejected secular government, Russian Orthodox priests, icons, all church ritual, the Bible and the divinity of Jesus. What a list! As you can imagine, the church and the authorities in Russia at this time didn't quite know what to do with them. So when in doubt, just banish people to exile, right? Doukhobors took up the offer to resettle in what is today known as southern Ukraine, and were also exiled to regions of today's Georgia and Azerbaijan. By the 19th century, the pacifist Doukhobors had sworn off the use of tobacco and alcohol, strongly resisted conscription, and staged a public burning of their rifles, to avoid the temptation of using them even if in defence or emergency.
As repressions such as conscription, exile, arrests and public beatings didn't dissuade the Doukhobors from their beliefs, the Russian government agreed that members of the sect could leave the country, which many did in the late 19th century, most of them settling in Saskatchewan, Canada.
Unfortunately, this move didn't bring all the peace the Doukhobors had hoped for - some of the more radical groups , and one in particular called "The Sons of Freedom", were dissatisfied by the requests of Canadian authorities to swear an Oath of Allegiance to the Crown - which had always been against Doukhobor principles - compulsory education in government schools, and issues of private land ownership, and reacted through mass nude protests and arson. Gotta love those nude arsonists. What amazed me in reading this, is that we're talking the early 1900s here... what a form of dissent! Particularly interesting is that this was not just practised by men - women would also disrobe in public, for example, at public speeches by politicians, if they disagreed with the speaker.
To cut a long story short, Doukhobor protests and communities continued right through the 20th century. As far as my scant reading shows, the protests and arson got particularly serious in the 1950s and 60s, with arson attacks on school and other government buildings, as well as Doukhobors burning down their own houses and belongings to protest perceived injustices. So Dad, you got a bit of the story right, I guess. Incredible stuff. Of course there seems to be a massive contradiction for a supposedly pacifist sect committing arson to get their way - and you can't condone these activities, particularly if they lead to a loss of life - but for me there is also something quite admirable about people who have the conviction to take such radical action to stand up for their beliefs. Materialist or not, standing naked watching your house and possessions burn to the ground, even if you deliberately lit the fire yourself, would be a tragic and monumental experience.
Today an estimated 20,000-40,000 people of Doukhobor heritage live in Canada, with around 4,000 claiming "Doukhobor" as their religious affiliation. There are also communities in the USA, Russia and neighbouring countries.

3 Responses so far.

  1. Anonymous says:

    Aha! A scholarly approach - B+. Dad got a "bit" of it right is a mitr mingy. Anyway daughter fair -a good start.

    What now? Campbell's balanced personality has cogntive, affective and effective in equal proportions. A big CONFLAGRATION NW - hmm..?


  2. Mook says:

    Are you suggesting I set something alight?!

  3. Anita says:

    Doukhobors - love them and their name! Lucky for those nudies that the fire was warm.

Leave a Reply


  • (20)
  • (67)
  • (9)
  • (1)
  • (13)
  • (11)
  • (45)
  • (19)


Follow by Email