Peter Maurin In Canada – The Doukhobors (1)

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The Doukhobor village of Vosnisennie, North (Thunderhill) Colony, Saskatchewan c. 1901

It was probably while working on the railroad that Peter Maurin met the Doukabors [sic], described in Arthur Sheehan’s biography.

The Doukabors [sic], or “Spirit Wrestlers,” settled in Saskatchewan in 1899.  By the time of Peter Maurin’s arrival in 1909 Fergus Black, a contemporary observer of the Canadian frontier, wrote, “These peculiar people have been the object of so much public interest, sympathy, distrust and anxiety that the reader will probably welcome a discussion of their characteristics.”  The Doukabors [sic], Black continued, “are a sect who call themselves ‘The Christian Community of the Universal Brotherhood.’  The sect is of obscure origin,” he noted.  “It first attracted widespread attention of the authorities in the 18th century in certain Russian settlements north of the Black Sea.”  For political and religious reasons, the Russian authorities broke up communities in the Crimean peninsula and their members scattered through the Caucasus between 1841 and 1844.  By the end of he nineteenth century this group, under the leadership of Peter Veregin, had created a Christian communitarian group based on internationalism, communism, and vegetarianism.  A literal interpretation of the Gospels provided the basis for their beliefs.  They also adhered to a strict policy of nonviolence.  And because of their refusal to serve in the armed forces, the Russian government began another persecution of them. Their leader Veregin, along with many followers, was banished to Siberia.

In a letter nominating the Doukabors [sic] for the Nobel prize, Tolstoy wrote, “A whole population, more that ten thousand persons, have come to the conviction that a Christian cannot be a murderer.”  And for this, he observed, “they have suffered expulsion from their land, imprisionment and confiscation of their property.”  Tolstoy began to appeal to collect funds to aid in their emigration from Russia.  The Quakers of England made significant donations, as did Tolstoy himself, who denoted the entire proceeds of his novel Resurrection to their fund.  Finally, in 1898, the czar [sic]  gave the Doukabors [sic] permission to leave Russia.  Texas, Hawaii, and Brazil were all considered as possible sites for settlement, but someone had read an article by anarchist Peter Kropotkin that said Russian Mennonites on the Canadian prairies were thriving on good land in blocks that enabled them to live together.  The Canadian government, pleased to welcome such hardworking, experienced farmers, promised asylum, exemption from military service, and set aside large tracts of land around what is now Kamsac [sic] and Yorkton.

On January 24, 1899, the first group of Doukabors [sic] sailed into Halifax harbor, singing a prayer.  They moved onto their land and built 57 villages of about 130 people each.  Without their leader, however, the community soon fragmented.  One division was between those who abandoned their clothes as a symbol of their disinterest in material things and others who felt that such a demonstration in sub-zero temperatures was not a very good idea.

After his Canadian experience, Maurin finally found his way into the United States…

Peter Maurin: Apostle To The World, Francis Sicius

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*This is not wholly accurate and needs to be both corrected and explained.