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Peter Vasilevich Verigin (Russian: Пётр Васильевич Веригин) often known as Peter "the Lordly" Verigin (July 12 [O.S. June 29] 1859 - October 29, 1924) was a Russian philosopher, activist and leader of the Community Doukhobors in Canada.

Peter Verigin
Peter Vasilevich Verigin

(1859-07-12)July 12, 1859
DiedOctober 29, 1924(1924-10-29) (aged 65)
Cause of deathKilled by a bomb explosion while traveling on Canadian Pacific Railway
Resting placeBrilliant, British Columbia (near Castlegar)
OccupationSpiritual leader of the Community Doukhobors
PredecessorLukerya Vasilyevna Kalmykova (née Gubanova)
SuccessorPeter Petrovich Verigin
Spouse(s)(1) Evdokia Georgievna Verigina (née Kotelnikova); (2) Anastasia F. Golubova (also spelt Holuboff) (1885-1965)
ChildrenPeter Petrovich Verigin
Parent(s)Vasily Verigin and Anastasia V. Verigina (1817-1905)[1]



In TranscaucasiaEdit

Peter Vasilevich Verigin was born on July 11 [O.S. June 29] 1859, in the village of Slavyanka in Elisabethpol Governorate[2] of Russian Empire. The village, located in the north-west of what is today the Republic of Azerbaijan, was one of the settlements founded by the Doukhobors, a large sect of communally living peasants, exiled to the Transcaucasia from Ukraine and southern Russia in the 1840s.[3] His father, Vasily Verigin, was an illiterate, but reportedly rich peasant, who, once elected a village headman, "showed himself a real despot".[4]

June 29 happens to be the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul. Although the Doukhobors don't venerate saints per se, this day - often known as St. Peter's Day (Russian: Петров день) is still a traditional day of celebration, and thus it may have been the case that young Verigin was named after St. Peter.[5]

Peter was one of seven brothers. His four older brothers did not study anything at all, but Peter and two other brothers, Vasily and Grigory, were home-schooled, at least to the extent of learning to read and write. There were no formal schools in Doukhobor villages at the time.[4]

"The Orphanage"

At quite a young age, Peter Verigin married Evdokia Georgievna Kotelnikova. In 1882, soon after his marriage, while his wife was expecting their first child (Peter P. Verigin), he started working as a secretary and administrative assistant for the leader of the Transcaucasian Doukhobors, Lukerya Vasilyevna Gubanova (born 18??—died December 15, 1886; Russian: Лукерья Васильевна Губанова). Lukerya Gubanova was the widow of the community's previous leader, Peter Kalmykov and was also known as Kalmykova, by her late husband's surname.[6]

The Kalmykov dynasty resided in the village of Gorelovka, one of Doukhobor communities in Georgia (shown on one of J.J. Kalmakoff's maps.[3]), in the Sirotsky Dom (Russian: Сиротский дом), or "The Orphanage" - the facility serving as the Doukhobor headquarter, as well as, indeed, home for orphans and the aged.[7] Lukerya was respected by the provincial authorities, who had to cooperate with the Doukhobors on various matters. While working for her and living at her residence,[8] Verigin received an extensive religious education, and was prepared by childless Lukerya to become her successor as the leader of the Doukhobors. He became acquainted with the Doukhobor ideas of administration - rejecting secular government. The Doukhobors rejected the holiness of Jesus Christ and the Bible, and were naturally pacifists and conscientious objectors who refused to participate in wars and battles.

The death of "Queen Lukerya" in 1886 was followed by a leadership crisis. However, only part of the community ("the Large Party"; Russian: Большая сторона) accepted her designated successor, Peter Verigin, as the leader; others, known as "the Small Party" (Малая сторона), sided with Lukerya's brother, Michael Gubanov, and the village elder Aleksei Zubkov.[6][7]

While the Large Party was a majority, the Small Party had the support of the older members of the community and the local authorities. So, on January 26, 1887, at the community service where the new leader was to be acclaimed, the police walked in and took Verigin away. He was to spend the next 16 years in government custody. Still, the Large Party Doukhobors maintained contact with him and continued to consider him their spiritual leader.[6][9]

Northern exileEdit

While in exile, Verigin got quite a tour of Russian North. He was first sent to Shenkursk, in Arkhangelsk Governorate (now Arkhangelsk Oblast), in the Russia's north, arriving there in October 1887. In the summer 1890, he was transferred to Kola, on the Barents Sea. It was then Russia's northernmost town, as Murmansk and Polyarny were to be built yet. In November 1894, he left Kola for Obdorsk (now Salekhard) in the north-western Siberia.[6]

In Shenkursk, Verigin, along with several exiled Doukhobor elders, shared two houses between them. When this small band of Doukhobor exiles was visited by Peter Verigin's brother, Grigory in September 1888, he was somewhat surprised and impressed by their complete vegetarianism, as Grigory's family back in South Caucasus was still eating meat.[10]

Veregin in 1903 with two of the Doukhobors

In November 1894, as he was being transferred from Kola to Obdorsk, Verigin wrote a message to the Doukhobors, asking them to obey God's commandment, "Thou shalt not kill", destroy their weapons, and refuse military service. His message was taken to the Caucasus by his brothers Grigory and Vasily, who spread it throughout the Doukhobor communities. Soon, the confrontation between pro-Verigin Pacifist Doukhobors ("the Large Party") and the government keen on drafting their youth came to head. On Easter Sunday 1895, eleven Doukhobor conscripts refused to do military training. As days went on, more conscripts laid down their arms and refused further service. Reservists were returning their registration papers to the draft boards. Finally, in the night of June 28–29 (July 10–11 New Style), 1895, - the night before St. Peter's Day, and, incidentally, Verigin's birthday - the Large-Party Doukhobors of Transcaucasia assembled in three villages to burn the weapons they owned, in the event remembered ever since as "the Burning of the Arms".[5]

Arrests and beatings by government's Cossacks followed. Soon, Cossacks were billeted in many of the Doukhobors' houses, and their original inhabitants were dispersed through remote villages in the region.[6][11]

The exodusEdit

Horrified at the plight of his followers, in August 1896 Verigin wrote to Empress Alexandra Fyodorovna, the wife of Nicholas, making a number of proposals to resolve the conflict, such as the resettlement of the Large-Party Doukhobors to some remote province of Russia (assuming that an exemption from military service could still be granted), or emigration to Britain or Canada.[6] Leo Tolstoy and his associates addressed Russian and international public with letters and articles about the persecution of the Doukhobors.

In 1898, an agreement was reached with the Czar's Minister of the Interior, Ivan Nikolayevich Durnovo, to allow the Doukhobors leave for Canada. Between 1898 and 1899 around 7,500 Doukhobors from Transcaucasia did so. Of them, some 3,300 were the members of the Large Party; the rest belonged to the Small and the Middle Parties. Among them was Verigin's mother, Anastasia Verigina, around 80 years of age at the time.[12] Smaller numbers of Doukhobors, directly from Transcaucasia or from various places of exile, continued moving to Canada in the years to follow.

In the fall of 1902, after 16 years in exile, Verigin was released from Obdorsk. He visited Leo Tolstoy in October, [13] and joined his people in Yorkton (present-day Saskatchewan) in December 1902.[6]

Verigin was to visit Russia again, only once. He came in 1906, leading a delegation of 6 Doukhobors, to investigate a possibility of the return of the Doukhobors to Russia, now that, as a result of Russian Revolution (1905), religious tolerance has been legislated. Verigin's delegation met with Stolypin and other ministers, who made an offer of land in the Altai (south-western Siberia) and an exemption from the conscription. Although the offer was personally confirmed by Nicholas II, Verigin felt that, no matter what, the Doukhobors' situation in Russia would not be as secure as in Canada. In March 1907 his delegation went back to Canada.

In CanadaEdit

Verigin preaching amongst his followers in 1923 in British Columbia

Verigin established his first Canadian residence at the Doukhobor village of Poterpevshie (Russian: Потерпевшие, 'The Victims', or perhaps 'The Survivors'), some 15 km northwest of Kamsack, Saskatchewan. On the joyful occasion of reuniting with their leader, the villagers renamed the place Otradnoye (Russian: Отрадное, 'the place of rejoicing'). Otradnoye continued to be Verigin's headquarters until 1904 or 1905 [14] The nearby village of Nadezhda was the site of annual general meetings of the Doukhobor community chaired by him.

When the new Canadian Northern Railway line crossed the Doukhobor reserve in 1904 some 10 km south of Otradnoye, a small station named after the Doukhobor leader (misspelled, initially, "Veregin Siding", and after 1908, Veregin Station) was built there around 1904 to serve the needs of the Doukhobor community of the area. A village, also named Veregin (sometimes spelled Verigin, at least on Verigin's own CCUB letterhead) was built next to the station, and Veregin's headquarters was shifted there.[15]

In 1905, the exiled Doukhobors rejected the newly enforced requirements of Dominion Lands Act which attempted to register their communal lands under individual ownership and rebelled against the request. Following this in 1907 the communal land system was abolished and in 1908 Verigin led around 6,000 of his group (Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, CCUB) to British Columbia. CCUB still continued to own some properties and industrial facilities in Saskatchewan, and its headquarters remained in Veregin for some years to come. Verigin had another residence built for himself near Grand Forks, British Columbia, spending the rest of his life sharing his time between the two provinces.

Verigin's deathEdit

Verigin was assassinated in a still-unsolved Canadian Pacific Railway train explosion on October 29, 1924 on the Kettle Valley Railway (now known locally as the Columbia and Western Railway) line near Farron, between Castlegar and Grand Forks, which also killed his 17-year-old secretary Marie Strelaeff, member of the provincial legislature John McKie, P.J Campbell, Hakim Singh, Harry J. Bishop, W. J. Armstrong, and Neil E. Armstrong. The government initially (during investigation) had stated the crime was perpetrated by people within the Doukhobor community, while the Doukhobors suspected Canadian government involvement. To date, it is still unknown who was responsible for the bombing.[16]

Verigin's grave is located near Brilliant, a historically Doukhobor village outside Castlegar, British Columbia.[17]


After Verigin's murder in 1924, the majority of the community Doukhobors proclaimed his son Peter P. Verigin, who was still in the USSR, as his successor. However, several hundred Doukhobors recognized P. V. Verigin's widow, Anastasia F. Golubova (1885–1965; also spelt Holuboff), who had been Verigin's wife for some 20 years, as their leader.

In 1926 Anastasia's followers split from CCUB, forming a breakaway organization called "The Lordly Christian Community of Christian Brotherhood". They left British Columbia for Alberta, where they set up their own village at Shouldice, near Arrowwood, Alberta, which existed until 1943.[18]

In the meantime, Verigin's son, Peter Petrovich Verigin, arrived from the USSR and assumed the leadership of CCUB in 1928. After the bankruptcy of CCUB, he organized USCC (Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ) in 1938.

When Peter Petrovich Verigin died in 1939, the Community Doukhobors proclaimed his son, Peter Petrovich Verigin II as their new spiritual leader. But as he was in Soviet prisons at the time, his son (and Peter Vasilevich Verigin's great-grandson), John J. Verigin, who was 17 at the time, who became the de facto leader of USCC.[19]

Published works by VeriginEdit

  • "Pisʹma dukhoborcheskago rukovoditeli︠a︡ Petra Vasilʹevicha Verigina" (Letters of the Doukhobor Leader Peter Vasilievich Verigin), published by Anna Chertkov, 1901. No ISBN. Book info on Google Books

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Otradnoye Cemetery Archived 2008-01-11 at the Wayback Machine (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  2. ^ Brève histoire des Doukhobors au Canada (in French)
  3. ^ a b J. Kalmakoff, Doukhobor Historical Maps Archived 2012-02-04 at the Wayback Machine, with maps of settlements in Azerbaijan and Georgia
  4. ^ a b Vasily Nikolaevich Pozdnyakov, "Story of a Spiritual Upheaval" Archived 2008-04-16 at the Wayback Machine Swarthmore, Pennsylvania, 1908. (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  5. ^ a b Koozma J. Tarasoff, The Doukhobor Peace Day Archived 2004-05-16 at the Wayback Machine (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  6. ^ a b c d e f g Daniel H. Shubin, "A History of Russian Christianity". Volume III, pgs. 141-8. Algora Publishing, 2006; ISBN 0-87586-425-2 On Google Books
  7. ^ a b Hedwig Lohm, "Dukhobors in Georgia: A Study of the Issue of Land Ownership and Inter-Ethnic Relations in Ninotsminda rayon (Samtskhe-Javakheti)". November 2006. Available in English Archived 2010-06-02 at the Wayback Machine and Russian Archived 2010-09-02 at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-08-09. Retrieved 2007-11-15. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  9. ^ Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan
  10. ^ Grigory Verigin: My Trip to Shenkursk and My Communal Life There Archived 2008-04-16 at the Wayback Machine. A chapter from Grigory Vasilyevich Verigin, Ne v Sile Bog, a v Pravde ("The God is not in the Force, but in Truth"). Paris, Dreyfus & Charpentier, 1935. (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  11. ^ John Ashworth, Doukhobortsy and Religious Persecution in Russia Archived 2010-11-13 at the Wayback Machine, 1900 (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  12. ^ Report of Royal Commission on matters relating to the sect of Doukhobors in the province of British Columbia, 1912[permanent dead link], pg. 16
  13. ^ Х. Н. АБРИКОСОВ. ДВЕНАДЦАТЬ ЛЕТ ОКОЛО ТОЛСТОГО. (Kh. N. Abrikosov, "Twelve Years near Tolstoy") (in Russian). Abrikosov mentions Verigin visiting Tolstoy on the way from Obdorsk to Canada in October 1902
  14. ^ Otradnoye Archived 2005-09-15 at the Wayback Machine(Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  15. ^ Village of Veregin Archived 2005-09-10 at the Wayback Machine (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  16. ^ "Explosion on the Kettle Valley Line: The Death of Peter Verigin", Great Unsolved Mysteries in Canadian History website
  17. ^ Larry Hannant, ["Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-04-12. Retrieved 2008-01-22. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link) "The Mysterious Death of Peter Verigin". The Beaver, November 2004, Vol. 84: 5 (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  18. ^ "Pacifism and Anastasia's Doukhobor Village" Archived 2009-12-14 at the Wayback Machine (Doukhobor Genealogy Website)
  19. ^ Iskra: Life in Canada

Check Verigin references on:

Further readingEdit

  • Morrell, Kathy. "The Life of Peter P. Verigin". Saskatchewan History (2009) 61#1 pp 26-32. covers 1928 to 1939. about his son
  • Thorsteinson, Elina. "The Doukhobors in Canada", Mississippi Valley Historical Review (1917) 4#1 pp. 3-48 free in JSTOR
  • Woodcock, George; Avakumovic, Ivan, The Doukhobors.

Primary sourcesEdit

  • Donskov, Andrew, and Peter Verigin. Leo Tolstoy-Peter Verigin Correspondence (New York; Ottawa: Legas, 1995)

External linksEdit