The Doukhobor Odyssey, 1600-1898

From 17th century Russia to Canada

by Fred J. Chernoff, Manitoba, Canada — Submitted Dec. 2, 2006

To download the Odyssey map (904K PDF), click here. This PDF digital file can be printed and/or enlarged on a color photocopier at many office supply or photo-copying shops.

This map illustrates an unforgettable journey before stepping on Canadian soil in 1899 by the former members of the Russian Orthodox Church who lived in the Russian Empire. Most of the Canadian Russian Doukhobor immigrants were of Russian ancestry. Today, their descendants in Canada number into the thousands.


Click to ENLARGE
1600 - January 21, 1899
1600 - 1802
1. They were part of the early Christain sects/ Russian Orthodox Church dissidents who predated the Reformation in the West and “The Rascol” in 1650 in Russia. In 1802 Czar Alexander I relocated them to the Sea of Azov area of the Black Sea.

1802 - 1841
2. Their success here attracted many followers. Complaints by the Church Clergy forced Czar Nicholas I to issue an edict, “All those who did not renounce their Doukhobor Faith and return to the fold of the Church shall be exiled to the barren Caucasus Region”. A few returned to the Church but most moved by foot in a 6 month period.

1841 - 1898
3. After suffering extreme persecution by the authorities where 1000 out of 21,000 people were killed for refusing military service, they began to seek immigration. With the help and financial assistance of Lev Tolstoy, Russian intellectuals and the Quakers, in December 1898, the first ship with 2,100 passengers sailed from the Port of Batum on the Black Sea.

1898 - 1899
4. In a six month period in 1898/1899, some 7500 Souls arrived in Canada and settled mainly in Saskatchewan (N.W.T.).

© Fred J. Chernoff and Mervin N. Malish, graphics

Along with others closely connected Canadians, there is much interest in these ancestors. They have often wondered as to their ancestor's origin and the often turbulent history both in Canada as well in the Russian Empire prior to their ancestor's immigration in 1898. Many young are asking their parents, "Where did we come from? What is our origin? " Their parents are searching for more adequate information.

Much is documented about their history in Canada however; the history in the Russian Empire remains in the distant past. Canadian experience and history had taken preference over interest in their old history. As far as personal family histories and details prior to 1898 are concerned, limited verbal information has been preserved or documented for easy access. Few can identify the origin of their family prior to 1800. Knowledge of the early history of their lives in the Russian Empire is of extreme importance, as it encompasses and sets the stage for their origin and the beginnings for their special Spiritual journey along with their unique culture and beliefs. It is much easier to move forward when people understand or have a good idea of their early personal family history.

To assist in having a broad and general view of this journey prior to 1898, The Doukhobor Odyssey, 1600-1898  illustrates the 4 stages of their "bygone" days in the Russian Empire:
  1. The general location in Russia of the origin of the church dissidents who broke with the Russian Orthodox Church and the Czar.
  2. The relocation to the Crimea in 1802-1844 as allowed by Czar Alexander 1.
  3. The exile to the Caucuses in 1844-1898 as ordered by Czar Nicholas 1.
  4. With the assistance of Lev Tolstoy, their immigration to Canada in 1898.
This Odyssey map is a most interesting and certainly illustrates a fascinating journey of these ancestors. It encompasses the bygone family history of all the " Canadian Russian Doukhobor Descendants" and further warrants an in-depth research by those with more interest in this subject.

To download the Odyssey map (904K PDF), click here.
This PDF digital file can be printed and/or enlarged on a color photocopier at many office supply or photo-copying shops.

For more maps and history, also see the Doukhobor Genealogy Website by Jonathan Kalmakoff, and
Koozma’s book Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living (2002), various pages for coloured maps
in North America, Russia and the Caucasus, and a section on "Villages, Provinces, and Place Names" (pages 389-399).

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