Life in Canada

Settled on the Canadian prairies with assurances that they would be allowed to live according to their beliefs, the Doukhobors felt betrayed when Canadian authorities later demanded they swear the Oath of Allegiance and take out individual land titles. When most refused to comply, the government seized, without compensation, some 260,000 acres of land developed through communal effort.

As a result, between 1908 and 1911, almost 6000 Doukhobors followed Peter V. Verigin to British Columbia, where they established the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood, the largest experiment in communal living ever attempted in North America.

Guided by the slogan, "Toil and Peaceful Life", they built villages, sawmills, brick and jam factories, irrigation systems, roads and bridges, and cultivated crops, gardens and orchards. During its peak, the CCUB fulfilled the spiritual, social, cultural and material needs of its membership and had assets totaling several million dollars. However, the tragic death of Peter V. Verigin in a mysterious train explosion in 1924, efforts by the government to assimilate the Doukhobors, the Great Depression, and depredations by others undermined the CCUB. Not even the dedicated efforts of P.V. Verigin's son, Peter P. Verigin, chosen to succeed his father, were able to prevent foreclosure.

So, in 1938, this inspirational leader organized the USCC (Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ), with a program of action focusing on the youth, and left his followers guidance in letters, speeches, and the slogans: "Sons of Freedom Cannot Be Slaves of Corruption", and "The Welfare of the World is Not Worth the Life of One Child". After the death of P.P. Verigin in 1939, the Doukhobors chose his son, Peter P. Verigin II as their spiritual leader.

The younger Verigin, however, had died while in unjust detainment in Russia. The task of leading the USCC membership fell to P.P. Verigin's grandson, John J. Verigin (current Honourary Chairman of the USCC). From the age of 18, he skillfully safeguarded the pacifist status of the membership during WW II, repatriated former community lands, and dealt with stigma caused by fanatics. Upon confirmation in 1960 of the death of P.P. Verigin II, USCC members proclaimed John J. Verigin as their Honourary Chairman.

 

Overlooking the confluence of the Kootenay and Columbia rivers, Verigin Memorial Park (formerly Verigin's Tomb), at Brilliant near Castlegar, BC is the resting place of Peter V Verigin (Lordly), Peter P Verigin (Chistyakov), and each of their wives. Also, the remains of Anna P Markova (daughter of Peter P Verigin) and now her son, former USCC Honourary Chairman, John J Verigin are buried on the grounds. The beautifully maintained park is open to tourists from May to September, or by special request. Visit the Castlegar Chamber of Commerce for more information. (The recently restored Brilliant Suspension Bridge can be seen in the background near the centre of the photo.)

~ISKRA photo

 

Toil and Peaceful Life