Survey of Published Films and Videos
on the Doukhobors

By Koozma J. Tarasoff, Ottawa, Canada, All rights reserved. March 10, 2007 (Updated May 19, 2009)

Chronological List

  1. Ternistyi put’ / Thorny Road. 1949. Russian. 56 minutes
  2. Ombudsman. 1977.
  3. In Search of Utopia: The Doukhobors. 1978. English. 63 minutes.
  4. Doukhobors: The Living Book and Peaceful Life. 1978. Part One and Part Two. English. Each 28 minutes.
  5. Russkie Dukhobortsy Kanady [Russian Doukhobors in Canada]. 1986. Russian. 8 minutes.
  6. The Doukhobors of Saskatchewan. 1987. English. 22 minutes.
  7. 1987 Dukhobortsy [The Doukhobors 1987]. 1988. Approx. 3 hours.
  8. The Last Hurrah with sub-title ‘The Man and his Music’. 1990. English. 28 minutes.
  9. Vstrecha s Dukhobortsami Kanadu [Meeting with Canadian Doukhobors]. 1991. Russian. 68 minutes.
  10. Borscht. 1993. English. 10 minutes.
  11. Write it on the Heart / Napishite vo Serdstakh. 1995. English. 23 minutes.
  12. Voice Within. 1995. 2 hours & 46 minutes. English.
  13. Centennial Doukhobor Celebrations: Burning of Arms 1995. 1995. English and Russian. 3 hours and 3 minutes.
  14. Pulling Together—Community Doukhobor Elders. 1995. English. 29 minutes.
  15. Soul Communion. 1998. English. 52 minutes.
  16. Centennial Doukhobor Celebrations: Doukhobors – 100 Years in Canada. 1999. English and Russian. 1 hour and 39 minutes.
  17. Wrestling with the Spirit: A Doukhobor Story. 2000. 23 minutes.
  18. Through Her Eyes: Daughters of Freedom. 2001. 53 minutes. English.
  19. My Doukhobor Cousins. 2002. 71 minutes. English.
  20. The Spirit Wrestlers. 2002. 94 minutes.English. Captioned.
  21. Anna Markova: Forgiveness in Exile. 2005. English. 25 minutes
  22. Dukhobory: Poteriannyi Krai. (Doukhobors. The Lost Land/Paradise). 2005. Russian. English subtitles available. Two versions: 35 minutes and 26 minutes. Reissued on DVD as The Lost Land: The Red Book of Humanity.
  23. Tolstoy and the Doukhobors. 2005. Russian and English versions on DVD video. 30 minutes.
  24. Gorelovka. 2006. Russian with English subtitles. Video on YouTube.com. 7 minutes.
  25. Russian Religious Folklore. 2008. 8-segment video on the Internet of a lecture by Dr. S.E. Nikitina, Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Science. Russian. 26:21 minutes total for 8 segments.
  26. A Discovery: The Psalmist Project. A Tribute to BC Doukhobors 1908-2008. 2009. DVD, 119 minutes.
  27. Come Home to History! A Tour of the Doukhobor Dugout House, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. 2009. English. Colour DVD. 40 minutes.

Introduction

This is a survey and collection of short reviews of published films and videos on the Doukhobors which are published and available to the public for purchase, on the Internet, or at libraries. Many more other films and videos exist in private collections or which are not widely available or archived.

Format of survey: Title. Date of origin. Language of narration. Length. Colour format. Format type (VHS, film, DVD). Sub-titles. Producer and narrator. Camera person. Availability. Contents in brief (including reviews).

Acknowledgements: Sincere acknowledgement is hereby given to Richard Sokoloski, ‘Images of the Doukhobors: a record of film sources’ in Canadian Ethnic Studies, vol. XXVII, no. 3, l995, pp. 281-288. Dr. Sokoloski is Professor of Polish and Russian literature, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, University of Ottawa. In 1995 he examined eleven sources: six films in English, four in Russian, and one in both languages. All were documentary in conception, and one consisted of interviews (as yet unedited). He concluded his review with the following paragraph:

‘….All of the films described above are as much a testimony to the endurance of the Doukhobors in Canada as they are a process of renewal with which all movements periodically must contend. To the extent that history seems to have come full circle and has again begun to feed upon itself in the younger generation is likely a good sign for the Doukhobors. Ultimately, the varied images of the Doukhobors that emerge from these films reveal, in some measure, a timeless sense of introspection and an affinity for oral dialogue that implicitly binds the movement to both past and present, word and deed, thought and belief. Anyone interested in this fascinating aspect of Canadian-Russian social and religious history is well-advised to view these films’ (Sokoloski, 1995: 287).

Since that initial scholarly introduction to films on Doukhobor in 1995, many more have been added to English-and Russian-language video and cinematographic sources that may help foster understanding and future research on the Doukhobors. Readers are invited to submit additions and suggestions to this study. This is a work in progress. Contact Koozma.

In this 2007 survey I have used the U.S. Library of Congress system for transliteration of modern Russian with diacritical marks omitted and directed to any audience whose interest is not primarily in Russian studies.

Ordering: Many of these films are available on loan from your local library, from the producers indicated below, or from The Village Art Gallery/Craft Centre, at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre, Castlegar, BC — most for $20. Some are hard to find.

Film Reviews

Ternistyi put’ / Thorny Road. 1949. Russian. 56 minutes. Colour. 16 mm and VHS. The following credits appear on the film: Commentary: Walter Kazakoff; Director: H. Melmed, Sun Photo Co., Winnipeg; Produced by: Angelo Movie Makers, Winnipeg. The film was produced and sponsored by The Doukhobor Society of North Eastern Saskatchewan in 1949 to commemorate fifty years of Doukhobor settlement on Canadian soil. It appears to have been the first Canadian film to deal with the subject. Produced at the somewhat extravagant cost (for a film of this nature) of $10,000, it remains for its age a remarkable work. Available from: Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec.

‘Depicting Doukhobor settlements near Kamsack, Saskatchewan, the film is a simply made effort by non-professional technicians (one would assume) who strove to combine a sense of cultural history with the ethos of the Doukhobor life-style and beliefs. In terms of content, re-enactments with commentary depicting the laying down of arms and relocation in Canada are followed by several vignettes revealing the lot of the early pioneers engaged in practical occupations and various manners and mores (field labour, pulling wagons, gathering “Seneca” grass, craft-making, weaving, shoe construction, meals, washing, religious/social customs, rituals). The final third of the film comprises archival footage drawn from actual jubilee celebrations at Kamsack, including speeches (in English) by a visiting American representative of the Quakers, a Mr.Schaefer; the mayor of Kamsack, Mr. Candle; and a member of the Saskatchewan legislature, Mr. Banks.

‘Formally, Thorny Road is uncomplicated. The superimposed Russian narration is sparse and often superfluous, as much of the film is self-explanatory; in many instances, traditional Doukhobor choir-singing replaces the spoken word. Rarely are individuals filmed; the large communal shots of people at toil in the context of imposing rural landscapes vaguely evoke the canvases of the noted Russian realist, Repin. Editing is largely absent. While the film techniques used by the director would belie any sense of aesthetic sophistication, the resulting effect, whether by accident or design, provides a strong thematic complement to the subject matter. Most scenes are filmed with the single takes from an eye-level camera that either remains stationery or performs slow pans, often from a distance of several metres (close-ups are few), with many of the takes lasting as long as two and three minutes while movement of the figures remains invariably slow and virtually brought to a standstill; the viewer is essentially made privy to another world. Through a curious merging of content and form, the film succeeds almost in spite of itself. As a testimony to a specific worldview, Ternistyi put’ / Thorny road is an absorbing experience’ (Sokoloski, 1995: 282).  See LIST

Ombudsman. 1977. 16 mm. Colour. Produced by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.

The CBC program includes an interview with Larry A. Ewashen on the death of Peter V. Verigin and the issue of freedom of information.  See LIST


In Search of Utopia: The Doukhobors. 1978. English. 63 minutes. Black-and-white. 16 mm.reel-to-reel and VHS. This historical documentary was directed by Larry A. Ewashen with research by Koozma J. Tarasoff. Cameraman: Ray Gallon. Assistant: Ken Innes. Available from Larry Ewashen.

From brochure release: ‘This film has drawn on the original material – the Doukhobors themselves, and explores the history of the Doukhobors in Canada through their own words, their own experiences, their own photographs and their own settlements. It traces the arrival of the Doukhobors through original documents prior to and including the 1890s, after which it concentrates on the interviews and narrations of the Doukhobors themselves, continuing their history to the present time. The film is an invaluable collection and documentation of their entire history in Canada. It is valuable not only as a documentation of a struggling people whose history parallels the settling of Canada’s West but also as a social movement.’

‘….Ewashen and Tarasoff have produced a work of Canadian historiography that attempts through copious use of documentation (newspaper articles, archival and personal photographs, film footage, personal interviews, and quotations) to present a fair depiction of the Doukhobor presence in this land. In its content, the film not only furnishes a thorough background, but also openly explores a number of controversial aspects of Canadian Doukhobor history, including immigration and settlement policies, the more zealous manifestations of …beliefs, the mysterious death of P. V. Verigin in 1924 (still under investigation after seventy years), the internment camps of the Second World War, and the infamous “New Denver” incident in the fifties. Technically, the film exhibits a high degree of professionalism, employing documentary techniques in an effective manner. Made possible by grants from the offices of the Canadian Multicultural Programs, Secretary of State, and the Ontario Arts Council; In Search of Utopia uses primary and secondary materials from a number of sources; items and institutions consulted include The Public Archives of Canada, The National Film Board of Canada, The Provincial Museum of Alberta, The Thomas Fisher Rare Book Library of the University of Toronto (The James Mavor Papers), The Verigin Museum, and The Glenbow Alberta Institute, as well as various Canadian newspapers and sources of personal correspondence’(Sokoloski, 1995: 282-283).

Here is another review of In Search of Utopia by anthropologist F. Mark Mealing, ‘Film Review’ in Canadian Ethnic Studies, XII, 1, 1980: 113-114:

‘There are now four prime sources of visual material dealing with Doukhobors in Canada: the Tarasoff Photo Collection in the B.C. Provincial Archives; Tarasoff’s Pictorial History of the Doukhobors (Saskatoon, Western Producer Press, 1969); the CBC/NFB two-part 16 mm film The Doukhobors: The Living Book/Toil and Peaceful Life (each 27 min., 1976); and now Larry Ewashen’s In Search of Utopia. The Photo Collection is not portable, and the Pictorial History is out-of-print; but In Search of Utopia draws upon and adds to these sources and renders them both available and portable.

‘The film is in essence an extended historical essay conveyed for the most part by standard still animation, with some historic and recent live film footage. The narrated sound discussion draws upon historical documents, sound-over of Doukhobor traditional song, and interview segments or transcription from individual informants. It is clear that Ewashen and Tarasoff see eye-to-eye on the use and evaluation of a wide range of photographic materials, repeating the excellent breadth of Tarasoff’s Pictorial History by informed and dramatic examination of a set of images that ranges from antique set-pieces of almost ritual formality through media excerpts and dossier materials to informal snapshots of family events. The resulting depth of imagery acquaints the viewer with a diverse and profound presentation of the Doukhobor presence in Canada.

‘Doukhobors in Canada belong to three major sub sects. The viewpoint of the film is largely that of the Independent Doukhobors, the group that has developed the widest interface with the majority culture. Community Doukhobors and the conservative radical Svobodniki (Sons of Freedom) might disagree with some of the points offered by the film, but would, I believe, consider such issues as debatable rather than illegitimate. In the 1976 CBC/NFB film, the narrator George Woodcock took the view that Doukhobor culture was rapidly eroding: In Search of Utopia tends to see most Doukhobors as victims (a view not without strong historical justification), and the Independents as the group presently most adapted for cultural survival. The realities are not quite so cut-and-dried; but it is ample to the credit of the Ewashen film that, though a certain view is presented, the evidence is not edited to fit, and the film stimulates review and questioning of the issues it raises.

‘It is difficult to fault the film. Certainly it elects one interpretive theme; but such treatment animates and propels the film without obscuring the evidence. In a decade accustomed to colour and nourished on live action, the stylistic traps and tombs of old-photo animation are well avoided; instead the viewer is frequently confronted with an elegant and provocative tension between antique images and what can only be called passionate commitment to a unique, lively social and spiritual system of ideals. The film’s content and method expand its value as a teaching tool: it is a first-rate document for Undergraduate classes in the Social Sciences, it offers images detailed and complex enough for Graduate study and critique, and it is informed with a directness and honesty that commend it as a trustworthy resource for use by the general public.’  See LIST

Doukhobors: The Living Book and Peaceful Life. 1978. Part One and Part Two. English. Each 28 minutes. Colour. Brief history written by George Woodcock. The following credits appear on the film: Producer Gordon Babineau; Camera: John Seale, Dick Bellamy; Sound Recording: Norman Rosen; Film Editor: John Fuller; CBC Vancouver. Available from The National Archives of Canada, Audio-visual Collection, Ottawa, Ontario.

‘The two-part CBC effort... another excellent scholarly work which also places its theme in broad historical perspective, is nonetheless primarily a study of Doukhobors as a religious-social phenomenon per se. With narration written and spoken by George Woodcock, who has published prolifically on the subject, part one, The Living Book, provides detailed material on fundamental aspects of Doukhobor existence: the basis of their philosophy and beliefs, the habitual and ritualistic features of their religion, their institutional and administrative structures, and their evolution into various factions. Formally, the film moves repeatedly between Canada and Russia, effectively telescoping large segments of social and political history, in order to highlight a number of key points relating to the philosophy of Doukhoborism. It explores the basis of crucial divergences with traditional aspects of Orthodoxy, including the rejection of sacred icons, Holy Writ, the priesthood, and the liturgy, while also emphasizing such specific Doukhobor manifestations as ritualized bowing and kissing, the molenie or prayer-meeting, the sobranie or secular council, the organization and function of the Doukhobor prayer-house, and social conventions such as funerals.

Toil and Peaceful Life, a phrase that epitomizes the Doukhobor lot, traces the evolution of the ideal against past and present realities of Canadian life. The first half of the film outlines the contrasting aspects of progress and reaction as collective beliefs were confronted with the competitive material world of the Canadian free market, or as Woodcock states, as “economic communism for religious ends was adapted to a complex industrial administration.” Much attention is devoted to the often misunderstood faction of the “Sons of Freedom” …whose provocative and activistic presence has often lent discredit to the movement as a whole. The latter portion of the film deals with contemporaneity and the ever-present issue of remaining true to past ideals. In one of the final segments, a Doukhobor youth choir singing “This land is your land, this land is my land” in both Russian and English symbolizes the tenacity of Canadian Doukhobors to preserve and defend “the living word” of their founding beliefs from the encroaching realities of their future. In many ways, The Living Book and Toil and Peaceful Life are logically built on the historical foundations of In Search of Utopia. Both parts judiciously incorporate archival material gleaned from a variety of sources, including the National Archives of Canada, and the British Columbia and Alberta Provincial Archives’ (Sokoloski, 1995: 283).  See LIST


Russkie Dukhobortsy Kanady [Russian Doukhobors in Canada]. 1986. Russian. 8 minutes. Colour. Produced by Alexei Melnikov (Ocherk Productions) for Soviet television, Channel 1.

‘The short piece, Russkie Dukhobortsy Kanady…was assembled by a Soviet journalist, Alexei Melnikov, during his six-year assignment in Canada in the heady days of the Gorbachev period, is at a best a cursory survey of the subject. It has historical importance in that it was the first (1986) formal sustained reportage on the subject of Canadian Doukhobors that Russian viewers had seen in recent times. This short film report was replayed several times on national Soviet television during the mid and late 1980s, Melnikov considers this to be one of the best assignments of his stay in Canada.  See LIST


The Doukhobors of Saskatchewan. 1987. English. 22 minutes. Colour. Credits: Director: June Morgan; Writer/Producer: Carol Blenkin; Editor: Terry Stoker; Cameras: Bob Armstrong, Bob Curtis, George Hupka, Brian Langdon, Gary Von Custer; Studio Camera: Ron Hanlin. Aired 30 January 1995 on station BBS (CFQC TV), Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.

This film was structured for a half-hour television program and conceived for a larger, more popular, viewer ship. It provides a balanced account of the subject, free of stereotypical bias, of the origins, history and evolution of the Doukhobor movement.

‘….The Doukhobors …touches peripherally on a crucial consideration in light of the approaching centennial [1995 and 1999], namely a strategy for the future. Despite energetic efforts of the Doukhobors to be model “Canadians, subject to the laws of God and Jesus Christ,” questions relating to adaptation, preservation and assimilation have lately assumed uppermost relevance. The problem also surfaces in many of the interviews conducted by Tarasoff (see below)’ (Sokoloski, 1995: 284).  See LIST

1987 Dukhobortsy [The Doukhobors 1987]. 1988. Approx. 3 hours. Colour. Producer and Cameraman: Ilya Frez. Research by Prof. S.E. Nikitina, folklorist from the Institute of Russian Language, Moscow. Available at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC.

‘A penultimate item, 1987 Dukhobortsy…unfortunately provided inaccessible for viewing by this author, hence can only be described rather sketchily on the basis of second-hand information. Produced independently by Ilya Frez, a young Russian film-maker (son of a slightly better known Soviet film-maker of the same name), the work was assembled after some twelve hours of shooting, much of which was done in 1987 with Russian Doukhobors from the area of Novgorod. Frez was accompanied in his research by Prof. S.E. Nikitina….The work is notable in that it apparently contains rare archival footage of the Doukhobors shot in Russia during the ‘twenties. Shortened eventually to approximately three hours in length and broadcast on Russian television, the film has not been distributed abroad, all attempts by the producer having been unsuccessful’ (Sokoloski, 1995: 286).   See LIST


The Last Hurrah with sub-title ‘The Man and his Music’. 1990. English. 28 minutes. Colour. Produced, directed and filmed by Larry A. Ewashen. Available from Larry E. Ewashen.

The Last Hurrah…is a warm biographical look at a noted figure within the Doukhobor community, Nick Kalmakoff, whose collections of Doukhobor choral adaptations of psalms and hymns, gathered and published over the course of six decades, constitute an invaluable contribution to Canadian musical ethnography. An affable individual with wise scholarly foresight, Kalmakoff and his lengthy responses to Ewashen’s questions constitute the main narrative thread of the film. Kalmakoff reveals the origins of his interest in sacral music; the philosophical, spiritual and ritualistic basis of the Doukhobors’ love of song; the inception of certain individual hymns; their subsequent development and popularity; his own criteria in compiling a collection or sbornik, and the characteristics of performance in general. Also included is a short segment with Jack McIntosh, Slavic bibliographer at the University of British Columbia library…and with Dr. Shirley Perry, who is presently engaged in the large-scale project of establishing a system of musical annotation for the complex modes of Doukhobor choral performance.

The Last Hurrah also uses its main figure to underline another important aspect of the Doukhobor life-style, namely the cultivation of practical skills relating to hand-made crafts and implements – in Kalmakoff’s case, that of book-binding. The film follows Kalmakoff as he describes his involvement with Doukhobor singing, then continues as he demonstrates to the viewer, complete with folksy style narration, the entire process of compiling, typing, printing, collating, cutting, binding, covering, and finally distributing the final version of his most recent compilation of hymns, his so-called “last hurrah.” The simplicity of subject matter and the universality of the theme, along with the endearing charm of Kalmakoff himself, provide uniquely personal insights into essential components of Doukhobor existence’ (Sokoloski, 1995: 284-285).  See LIST

Vstrecha s Dukhobortsami Kanadu [Meeting with Canadian Doukhobors]. 1991. Russian. 68 minutes. Colour. The following credits appear on the film: Director: Vera Novikova; Photography: Victor Epstein; Camera: Yury Saranduk; Composer: Igor Yefremov; Sound: Vladyslav Torohov; Conductor: Sergei Skripka; Producer Ludmila Ivanova. Available from Canadian Museum of Civilization, Gatineau, Quebec.

‘…Meeting with Canadian Doukhobors like In Search of Utopia and The Living Book / Toil and Peaceful Life, is also a scholarly full-length account of the subject, though here an attempt has been made to provide more in-depth background on the native origins, evolution and vicissitudes of the Doukhobors in their original homeland. While intended obviously for the Russian viewer, the film provides an interesting and informative compliment to the two longer English-language works mentioned above. Made in the emerging post-glasnost period (1991), Meeting with Canadian Doukhobors is generally a balanced unbiased account of a subject which many Russians have only recently begun to reclaim and study with great interest.

‘The work touches on the beginnings of the Doukhobor movement in the eighteenth century, focusing on the philosophical sources of the fledging sect, the etymological (and ironical) origins of its name, and the general formulation of its beliefs. Incorporating archival materials and interviews, the camera takes the viewer to a number of important historical sites in Russia: Molochnye Vody [Milky Waters] near the Sea of Azov, an early area of settlement (1801); more recent places of settlement in this century within the Salsk Okrug, south-west of Rostov-on-the-Don; to the Doukhobor Museum, located in Georgia (Javahetia, or Dzhavakhetii); and to the restored home (Gorelovka) of an influential figure of the movement in nineteenth-century Russia, Lukeriia Vasilevna Kalmykova (c. 1886).

‘In its linear exposition, the film is circular: opening with broad shots of the Canadian landscape, introducing the general theme, moving them in time and space to Russia to retrace the historical origins of the movement, and eventually returning to reassume the initial Canadian impetus of the film, where the evolution of the movement on Canadian soil is outlined. In addition to providing an informative overview of the Doukhobor presence in the new world, this latter section of the film also comprises interesting comments, often solicited through interviews, regarding the thoughts and feelings of Doukhobors toward their ancestral homeland. Similarly, interviews with members of the Doukhobor newspaper Iskra [The Spark], as well as with John J. Verigin, honorary chairman of the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ, underscore a somewhat more recent concern of the movement, namely, the desire to promote understanding both within and beyond Doukhobor circles by means of education and implementation of media resources. The camera similarly visits a number of historical sights of interest in Canada, including the Verigin Museum and the Verigin Memorial Cemetery’ (Sokoloski, 1995: 285).   See LIST


Borscht. 1993. English. 10 minutes. Colour. The following credits appear on the film: Director: Anna Kapell; Editing: Cheri Evans; Camera: Joanne Lyons; Music: Saskatoon, Blaine Lake and Langham Choirs; produced at Video Verite. Available from Anna Kapell, Box 866, Kingston, Ontario K7L 4X6.

Anna Kapell, a Kingston, Ontario artist, pays tribute to her Saskatchewan Doukhobor grandmother Ann Hoodekoff who works with her hands and displays her skills through cooking and embroidery. Kapell compresses 27 hours of video tape into 10 minutes and captures the immediacy, intimacy, detail and humanity of her Baba’s home life. The film relies on ‘hands-on’ illustration, as Hoodekoff performs her art while recounting, in quaint broken English, the events of her life as a Doukhobor.

The film is a personal and emotional venture for the artist because most of her contact with Doukhobor culture has been in her very early years when more Russian was spoken at her grandparents than and group singing. Apparently Kapell’s mother had a lot of negative feelings attached to life on the Saskatchewan farm that when she packed up at the early age of 14 to move into the city, she put everything to do with that life behind her. When she married Kapell’s father, she had to become a Catholic and the family was consequently raised in that faith.

When Kapell was researching Doukhobor materials, she was simultaneously reading Elaine Pagel’s writings on the Gnostic Gospels. She got excited when she discovered their basic philosophy seemed similar. Both groups were persecuted and the written word was dangerously incriminating to them. Men and women celebrated equally in speaking of the divine which resides within all people. The early Christians, Kapell noticed, revered Christ as a teacher who helped them recognize divinity within themselves. And the hierarchical structure of the church was rejected with disdain. Alana Kapell writes:

‘In my Doukhobor readings, references are frequently made to the early Christians and I feel that the Doukhobors really attempted to keep the early teachings clear and true…’ (Correspondence, April 26, 1993).  See LIST

Write it on the Heart / Napishite vo Serdstakh. 1995. English. 23 minutes. Colour. The following credits appear on the film: Director: June Morgan; Writer/Producer: Catherine Perehudoff, June Morgan; Photography: Dan Semenoff; Narrator: Eva Petryshen. Produced in association with the Saskatchewan Communication Network. Available from: Catherine Perehudoff, Saskatoon, Sask.

‘….Write it on the Heart is an informative film whose title is inspired by a proverb from Hebrews (“I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts”; 8:10). Like the inspiration of its title, the work in many ways focuses on the oral, non-written tradition as an inherent defining factor in the Doukhobor philosophy. Striving to capture the essence of the movement, Write it on the Heart also incorporates abundant excerpts of choral singing, a time-honoured custom and art form of the Doukhobors. Drawing from a number of resources including the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic (Halifax) and The Archives of British Columbia, the film also devotes considerable time to depicting the actual resettlement procedure of the original Doukhobors to Canada, en emigration which constituted the largest number of settlers to arrive on North-American soil at one time. Conceived in a spirit of understanding and acceptance, both films [including The Doukhobors of Saskatchewan] deserve wider distribution (Sokoloski, 1995: 284).  See LIST


Voice Within. 1995. 2 hours & 46 minutes. English. Colour. VHS. Project Coordinators: Ernie Verigin and Leana Zwick. Co-Directors: Marjorie Malloff, Ernie Verigin and Leana Zwick. Choir Directors: Leana Zwick and Ernie Verigin. Kootenay Mens Choir and Spirit of Youth Choir. Cameras: Wallace Dergousoff, Andy Ozeroff, Steve Malloff, Bill Chiveldave, Walter Hoodikoff and Ed Chernoff. Video Production by the USCC Video Club. Produced by the USCC Youth Centennial Drama Committee. Videotaped live on stage at the Brilliant Cultural Centre, Castlegar, BC. Available from the USCC Video Club.

This production was the highlight of the 49th Annual Youth Festival held at the Brilliant Cultural Centre, Castlegar, BC May 20, 1995. The Doukhobor youth produced this drama on stage in honour of their ancestors who burnt their guns on midnight June 28, 1895 and as part of the 100th year celebration of this noble act.

This stage production was divided into ten scenes with one intermission: I.Ekaterinoslav. II. & III.Milky Waters Region. IV.Doukhobors Move to Transcaucasian Region. V, VI, VII & VIII. Transcaucasus Region. IX. Transcaucasus; Military Perspective. X. The Burning of Guns. More than 40 local youth were cast in their roles and exhibited a tremendous dedication in the production of this play which had been in the making for over a year. The youth also provided singing, set design and stage construction as well as lighting, sound, costumes and make-up. A Program pamphlet was available.

Voice Within was a moving dramatization of Doukhobor history from 1790 to 1899. The play included the period when the ancestors rejected the Orthodox Church, staged the huge manifestation for peace during the rejection of military service in 1895, right up to the time of their exile to Canada in 1899.

Acappella singing in Russian was an integral part of the play, often serving along side of lighting effects as the stage changes. No curtain was used. Colourful costumes and props aided the authenticity of the play.

The audience of over 1000 people was asked a couple of times to stand up and give greetings to a married couple on stage. They were moved to tears on many occasions as they witnessed the separation of families and loved ones during a very painful period in their history. In spite of the beatings of the Russian dissidents – first by the Russian Orthodox Church and then by the Tsarist officials – the Doukhobors were not swayed from their beliefs, morals and ideals.

Love of God and their fellow men and women along with a dedication to portray their beliefs in a peaceful manner led these people to follow a nomadic lifestyle as they were exiled from one area to another. The highlight of their nonkilling philosophy took place on midnight of June 28-29, 1895 when they secretly burned all of their guns, for which they were punished brutally by the military.  See LIST

Centennial Doukhobor Celebrations: Burning of Arms 1995. 1995. English and Russian. 3 hours and 3 minutes. Colour. Produced by the National Doukhobor Heritage Village Inc. Videotaped by LRK Video Productions Ltd., Saskatoon, Sask. Because of rainy weather, the celebration was held on an open stage in the Kamsack Arena, Kamsack, Saskatchewan June 29, 1995.

The video opens with a close shot of Matvey Lebedev’s grave stone in the Nadezhda Cemetary north of Verigin, Sask. Lebedev was the hero who with 10 other Doukhobors on Easter Sunday April 1895 threw down their guns while training in the Elizavetpol reserve battalion, stating that war and Christianity are incompatible. The result was that the dissidents were sent to disciplinary battalion and exiled along with 60 other Doukhobor young men in active service who followed their example.

Then the camera focuses on Lebedev’s portrait on stage in Kamsack. In front, on the main floor, a traditional Doukhobor sobranie begins with men on one side and women on the other. Prayers are recited followed by congregational singing in Russian in acappella style. Co-chairman Alex Sherstobitoff speaks in English about the consequences of rejecting military service, including torture with 80 strikes on the backs of the dissidents. An elder descendant of Lebedev read a statement in English confirming the severity of the decision to fulfill the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’. Several descendants were presented to the sobranie, saying that three children are still alive, 9 of 11 grand children are alive as well as 17 great grandchildren.

Eli A. Popoff, writer from Grand Forks, BC, recited a psalm in Russian which paid a tribute to those Doukhobor pioneers who gave spirit to their movement by rejecting the church, icons, and wars. He ends by saying that today we realize that if we do not get rid of wars, wars will destroy us.

The sobranie ends with the singing of Spite Orli Boevye (Sleep on Ye Brave Eagles).

In the afternoon, guests were presented including the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan J.E.N. Wiebe, Peter W. Kabatoff as Mayor of Verigin, Saskatchewan, and Bernie Collins and Ken Kravetz as Members of the Legislative Assembly of the Province. Ed Tchorzewsky as Deputy Premier of Saskatchewan said that Doukhobors are respected for their unwavering commitment to peace. He declared the week as ‘Peace Week’ in Saskatchewan.

Andy Ozeroff brought greetings from the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ (USCC), while Michael Verigin spoke on behalf of the United Doukhobors of Alberta. George Stushnoff spoke in English on behalf of the Doukhobor Cultural Society of Saskatchewan. Laura Savinkoff spoke in Russian and English as a member of the Doukhobor Centennial Committee. Personal greetings also came from the Baha'i faith, Project Ploughshares, Quakers and Mennonites, and the Regina Peace Council. Alex Wishlow brought greetings from the Canadian Doukhobor Society. Alexei M. Kinakin, head of the Council of Doukhobors in Russia spoke in Russia, as John J. Verigin, Jr. interpreted in English. Finally, Russian Doukhobor artist Volodia Gubanov spoke of his assignment in Canada during this Centennial year.

The USCC Heritage Choir, the Saskatchewan Doukhobor Choir (introduced by Mae Popoff) and the United Doukhobor Centennial Choir performed. With the latter choir, for the first time 71 Doukhobors from across Canada formed a choir and drama group which performed across North America and Russia, spreading the message of peace.  See LIST

Pulling Together—Community Doukhobor Elders. Harvest of Age series. 1995. English. 29 minutes. Colour. Produced by Spindlekin Productions Inc. of North Vancouver, BC and Pastiche Production of Victoria, as a TV series. Broadcast on Knowledge Network and Vision TV. A co-venture of the producers and Health Canada’s Ventures in Independence program along with support from Canada Multiculturalism, Telefilm Canada, VanCity Community Foundation, Kootenay Savings Credit Union, Vision TV, Knowledge Network, and Saskatchewan Communications Network. Pulling Together – Community Doukhobor Elders launched the series on November 15, 1995.

Harvest of Age was billed as a TV first: a series about the universal experience of growing old through the eyes of elders in three Canadian cultures. This series of three half-hour shows depicts old age like it really is – with both rewards and its problems – as told by seniors themselves. Each episode offers intimate portraits of elders from the Italian, Native Indian and Doukhobor cultures.

The personal and emotional journeys of several Doukhobor elders from BC's Kootenay Valley was featured as one part of a series of films televised on TV. Florence Podovinikoff, 84, reflects on the loss of her husband and the joys of having her grandchildren nearby. Nick Denisoff, 65, shows how he carves traditional Doukhobor wooden ladles and passes the skill on to his grandson, Mischa. He points out that carving is therapeutic. Maria ‘Grannie’ Soukhorukov, 72, cites several humorous sketches. Peter Voykin, singer, shares his views about traditional a cappella singing and its importance to the preservation of culture. Elder Julia Ozeroff visits a senior citizens home in Castlegar, BC and talks to the Doukhobor elders there.

Harvest of Age was produced by Spindlekin Productions of North Vancouver, BC – which specializes in films for and about the elderly – and Pastiche Production of Victoria, BC. The team of award winning filmmakers assembled for the project was assisted by leading gerontologists with the result of sensitive portraits of our oldest citizens. Pulling Together won a Certificate of Creative Excellence at the US International Film and Video Festival in Chicago.  See LIST

Soul Communion. 1998. English. 52 minutes. Colour. VHS. Produced by Sharon McGowan of Blue Media Limited in association with Vision TV. Available from Blue Heron Media Ltd., 2979 East 3rd Avenue, Vancouver, BC V5M 1H7.

A one-hour documentary, Soul Communion tells the powerful story of Doukhobors as seen through the eyes of contemporary Doukhobor artists and writers, whose personal histories and creative work are both dramatic and poignant. The artists and their work featured in the film are Polly Faminow and Jan Kabatoff. The writers are Eli A. Popoff, Kathryn Soleveoff Robbie and Vi Plotnikoff.

Koozma’s letter to Sharon McGowan, October 15, 1998:

‘….Your one-hour documentary was professionally done, excellently executed, and in good taste….Thank you for adding another important page to the Doukhobor story on the eve of their 100 years in Canada.

‘The interviews were well integrated with the many historic photos, good film footage of the past and current shots. You kept the viewer’s interest by editing out excess and unnecessary items and going on to the next item. Besides good images, the sound portion of your film was effectively done – as a cappella singing came in and out, often in the background, with periodic sounds of ships’ horn, train whistles, children playing, and birds singing. Your transitions were smooth and fitted well. Your years of work with the National Film Board and elsewhere showed….

‘Especially, I enjoyed your live historic footage of women plowing, of Cossacks charging, of the two-tiered singing in a sobranie, and the New Denver footage….

‘Your execution of the phenomena of zealotry / Sons of Freedom was the most problematic. In fact, much attention was focused on this theme, and there were generalizations that often were overdone (e.g. all Doukhobors were staunch vegetarians; all Doukhobors opposed registering their births, marriages, and deaths, etc.). Many newspaper headlines underlined the sensational actions of zealots (e.g. “Doukhobor fanatics”). However, you did make a good point that the zealots were the forefront of the effort to stave off assimilation. Also you avoided the pitfalls of many other productions which focused on the sensational actions of nudity and burnings. Also you stayed away from the sensitive issues of splits and leadership. However, when the smoke clears, what will the public remember? Do your generalizations reinforce the very things that Doukhobors have sought to distance themselves from over the years or do they actually provide understanding of what the real situation was? This is a question that I cannot answer at this time, but will await the reaction of the wider audience.

‘There was a kind of somber feeling about the film – which it is dealing with the past. This is reinforced by old photos, old buildings, and old ways. It seems that Polly Faminow was one of the few who did raise the question of the future….’  See LIST

Centennial Doukhobor Celebrations: Doukhobors – 100 Years in Canada. 1999. English and Russian. 1 hour and 39 minutes. Colour. Produced by the National Doukhobor Heritage Village Inc. Videotaped by John Kalesnikoff and Shirley Swanton. Edited by Shirley Swanton. Sound by John Kalesnikoff. Titles by Shirley Swanton. Filmed in the curling rink at the Doukhobor Heritage Day Celebrations in Verigin, Saskatchewan, July 17, 1999. Available from John Kalesnikoff, Box 256, Meota, Saskatchewan SOM 1XO.

Hosted by Harry Shukin, speeches and choirs highlighted the afternoon. Doukhobor food was available for sale. Several local and area choirs sang Russian hymns and folk songs, all from Saskatchewan. A woman and her daughter sang several popular English peace songs. A Doukhobor comedian from Melfort by the name of Gloria performed as ‘Tanya from Motherland’. She was dressed in a peasant dress, an apron, platok, and rubber boots.  See LIST
Wrestling with the Spirit: A Doukhobor Story. 2000. 23 minutes. Colour. VHS. Location: Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan. Director: Dorothy Dickie. Producers: Peter Raymont and Lindalee Tracey. Episode Nine of A Scattering of Seeds – The Creation of Canada series presented by White Pine Pictures. Distributed by McNabb & Connolly, 60 Briarwood Avenue, Port Credit, Ontario L5G 3N6.

See this video now at SCN (Saskatchewan Community Network) – Season: 4, Episode 9 - Wrestling with the Spirit: A Doukhobor Story. This film aired Feb. 13-14, 2008.

From the VHS cover:

‘Dorothy Dickie’s A Doukhobor Story is a personal journey into the fascinating life experiences of her Russian great-grandfather. In April of 1899, Vanya and Loosha Perverseff came to Canada with 2,300 other Doukhobors, the third and final wave of Doukhobor immigrants to Canada. Simple, devout, mostly illiterate peasants, the Doukhobors were pacifists, persecuted by the Russian government for refusing to bear arms for Czar Nicholas II. The Perverseffs settled in Saskatchewan and started a new life as farmers with the assurance of freedom. The Doukhobors eventually experienced radical differences of opinion and fragmented into three groups. The Perverseffs chose progress and Vanya raised his children as literate, educated citizens, making a new life and certain future for generations.

‘Filmmaker Dorothy Dickie leads us through the mystery of early Canadian Doukhobor life with an evocative mix of first person reminiscences, archival footage and lovely scenic landscapes.

A Scattering of Seeds celebrates the grit and character of unsung immigrants – regular people – who staked their families and futures on a second chance in Canada. These are films that make the stranger immediately familiar and the beginnings of this country a shared experience.

‘At the root of each story is the instinct to contribute something, to mark the efforts of a life. Each episode draws on a rich archive of home movies, photographs, letters home, diaries and oral history.

‘These are personal portraits celebrating the diversity of the first families who arrived in Canada to build a nation. From the early Russian, Japanese and German settlers, to the more recent Chinese, Lithuanian and Chilean immigrants, this kaleidoscope of images and experiences is unparalleled in Canadian film-making.’  See LIST

Through Her Eyes: Daughters of Freedom. 2001. 53 minutes. English. Directed and written by: Christian Bruyere. Based on an original script by Beverley Straight. Produced by Daughters of Freedom Inc. A Women's Television Network Signature Original (renamed W Network). Editor: Stuart Dejong. Narrator: Nicole Oliver. Camera: Rudi Kovanic. Sound: Eric Harwood Davis. Archival Film Research: Beverley Straight. Original music composed by Graemie Coleman.

This is a sympathetic story about Kathleen Shlakoff Makortoff and Helen Chernoff Freeman of the interior of British Columbia. Both were raised as Sons of Freedom children. Both were seized in 1956 by the RCMP because their parents refused to send them to school. Kathleen and Helen tell their story in New Denver Dormitory and how they were scarred for life.

The film effectively used much old film footage with contemporary interviews. Its backdrop for the title was flames burning homes. There was practically no attempt to distinguish regular Doukhobors from zealots. The effect is a stereotype of Doukhobors as fanatic cult – a false and unfair notion of a peaceful people.

The film ends with Kathleen and Helen meeting in Agassiz, BC with a psychologist Dr. Andrew Feldmar who devises a plan on how the 71 grads from New Denver can deal with their trauma. The plan is fourfold: 1. Construct a permanent marker at New Denver to show Canadians that this forceful education experiment took place in Canada. 2. Set up a research fund for youth. 3. Have the government set up a counseling rehabilitation program for the children. 4. Videotape their stories and place them in a Museum for access to the public.   See LIST


My Doukhobor Cousins. 2002. 71 minutes. English. Closed captioned. Colour VHS. Directed by Ole Gjerstad. Written by Janice Benthin, descendant of Sons of Freedom. Producer: Mark Zannis. Editor: Hannele Halm. Cinematographers: Andrei Khabad and Peter Krieger. Executive Producer: Sally Bochner. Available from National Film Board of Canada 1-800-267-7710 (Canada). 1-800-542-2164 (USA). Free online to view and download. http://www.gjerstad.info/ole/portfolio/my-doukhobor-cousins-2002 

See review in CM Magazine, University of Manitoba.

From the NFB brochure:

‘Growing up in the 1950s and ‘60s, Janice Benthin always felt her family was hiding something. When she vacationed with [Sons of Freedom] Doukhobor relatives in the BC Kootenays, the adults spoke Russian in hushed tones, people disappeared, and RCMP officers kept constant watch over the community to the disturbing media images of distraught Doukhobor men and women stripping bare and setting buildings ablaze. But as a child she was forbidden to ask questions.

My Doukhobor Cousins is Benthin’s quest for answers [about her Sons of Freedom heritage].

‘The film provides a rare, personal look inside this mysterious spiritual community of dedicated pacifists who came to Canada from Russia in 1899 to build a Christian Utopia. As Leo Tolstoy, a leader to the Doukhobor community saw it, this group which shunned material possessions and started the largest experiment in communal living – was composed of enlightened people centuries ahead of their time.

‘But soon after their arrival in Canada, the Doukhobor community fractured. The Sons of Freedom sect was the smallest, yеt the most visible to other Canadians as they used arson and nudity to demonstrate their devotion. All Doukhobors got swept up in the repressions that followed.

‘The film follows Benthin and her cousins Lance and Marilyn as they attempt to understand the troubled history of these uncompromising people. They visit the remnants of a federal prison built in the 1930s specifically to confine hundreds of Doukhobors arrested for protesting without clothing.

‘The cousins hear heart-rendering accounts of how families were torn apart when the BC government cracked down on the Sons of Freedom and removed hundreds of children from their families. In one of the most moving scenes in the film, Benthin finds Vera, a long-lost cousin who was one of the last children taken away from a Doukhobor community in the Kootenays; and the story unfolds further as Vera recounts the challenges and hardship of her experiences.

‘In this moving portrait of a family in search of its past, we watch as Benthin and her cousins try to reconcile the turbulent history of the Doukhobors with the gentle, troubled people they encounter.’  See LIST

The Spirit Wrestlers. 2002. 94 minutes. English. Captioned. Colour. VHS. Produced and directed by Jim Hamm Productions Ltd. Available from Jim Hamm Productions Ltd., 2555 Trinity Street, Vancouver, BC V5K 1E3 Canada.

Review by Koozma J. Tarasoff July 2002, entitled ‘The Spirit Wrestlers Film by Jim Hamm is not about the Wider Doukhobor Society.’

‘A new documentary is about to be shown on Television on History Channel on July 31st. The 94-minute documentary The Spirit Wrestlers by Jim Hamm, described by him as “a century of Doukhobor Life in Canada”, unfortunately does not reach the goal of the Vancouver filmmaker. It is not about the wider Doukhobor society. This is a film about the Sons of Freedom group and has value for it.

‘For the first time in film history, Hamm has attempted to show in depth the causes of burnings, bombings, and nudity done by an extremist group within the Sons of Freedom. Using rare archival footage (including police records) of select historic events and building the story by way of very interesting interviews with professors, retired RCMP officers, Sons of Freedom, and Doukhobors, Hamm’s film skillfully evokes emotions. Very powerful is the story of the “genocidal” act of Bennett’s BC Government in forcefully taking away the children in an attempt to assimilate them through public school education.

‘Camerawork and sound were professional done, also. Except for a few minor errors (wrong photo of Peter P. Verigin; date of the new nudity law was 1931, not 1930; 733,400 acres were granted to the Doukhobors in 1899, not 350,000; and several others), the filmmaker and his team have generally done their homework on their main focus of the zealots.

‘The film opens with a full blast of arson and nudity and it’s shocking to see the title The Spirit Wrestlers superimposed on those images. There is no connection between the wider Doukhobor society and that of arson and nudity. The peaceful Doukhobors have for years lobbied against the acts of terrorism. This mistake is discriminatory and not fair!

‘In the content of the 94-minute film, 72 minutes were devoted to the Sons of Freedom and only 19 minutes to the Doukhobors. There were 28 clips on burnings and bombings, 31 on nudity, and 39 showed the power of the police. It is incorrect to use the sub-titled captions “former Sons of Freedom Doukhobor” for the speakers (15 cases were used). Instead, ‘brought up in a Sons of Freedom family” (which was also used) would be more accurate.

‘The real title of Jim Hamm’s film ought to be Sons of Freedom because it would cover the intended content. This is not a film about our Doukhobor ancestors and the contemporary Doukhobors who have preserved and cultivated for generations the profound rich Doukhobor spirit with its culture, traditions, and Russian language. Definitely this is not a film about us! It is sad because once again a great idea was exploited by sensationalism.

‘Without the change of the title, Jim Hamm will ultimately fall into the same trap that Simma Holt fell in her book Terror in the Name of God – The Story of the Sons of Freedom Doukhobors. Holt’s book was about the zealots or Sons of Freedom, but not about the Doukhobors. She described the terrorist acts of the extremists as if they were part of the philosophy and behaviour of the wider Doukhobor society. This is inaccurate and unjust!

‘In comparison, a rough similarity of error would be if someone today is making a film about the Moslem people and the content of this film would be 80% on terrorism. Moslems would be outraged.

‘In my forthcoming book Spirit Wrestlers: Doukhobor Pioneers’ Strategies for Living, to be released in the Fall, one of the 100 biographies is on the celebrated Doukhobor lawyer Peter G. Makaroff who rightly stated many years back that “the moment a person participates in an act of violence, he or she automatically removes him-or-herself from the Doukhobor movement”….

‘Jim Hamm needs urgently to correct the title of the film before its television premiere on the History Channel at 9 p.m. on July 31st.

‘Perhaps, too, Jim could contemplate doing a sequel: The Real Story of the Spirit Wrestlers.’  See LIST


Anna Markova: Forgiveness in Exile. 2005. English. 25 minutes (???). Colour.VHS and DVD. Written, Directed and Produced by Susan Poizner. Cinematographer: Stefan Randstrom, Kevin Dimitroff. Editor: Calvin B. Grant. Website: www.mothertongue.ca Teacher’s notes included for post-viewing questions.

Anna Markova: Forgiveness in Exile is item 3 in a 13-part ‘Mother Tongue TV’ documentary series that explores women’s history in ethnic Canada. Each episode tells the story of a notable woman in one of Canada’s communities.

Most of her family had already escaped persecution in Russia for a life of freedom in Canada when Anna Markova, the granddaughter, daughter and mother of three generations of Russian Doukhobor leaders, disappeared into Siberian exile in the 1940s.

Innocent of any crime, Anna spent 15 years in the gulag where millions of political prisoners were detained or died. When Anna was finally released in 1960, she joined her family in Canada. Here she became active organizing women in the community and she became a role model for generations to come. Anna died in 1978.  See LIST
Dukhobory: Poteriannyi Krai [Духоборы: Потеронной Край] (Doukhobors. The Lost Land / The Lost Paradise). 2005. Russian. English subtitles available. Two versions: 35 minutes and 26 minutes. Colour. VHS and DVD. Shot on location in the Caucasus and Chern area of Russia. Credits: Producer: Andrei Slastukhin. Director: Svetlana Kochergina. Scenario: Svetlana Kochergina and Andrei Slastukhin. Camera: Alexei Krasnov and Pavel Vorob'ev. Assistants: Roman Kochergin and Vadim Karabanov. Film editors: Svetlana Kochergina and Alexei Krasnov. Editor: Larisa Saysina. Composer: Edward Litkin. Sound editors: Alexei Krasnov and Maxim Burko. Text for off Screen: Sergei Gurevich and Svetlana Kochergina. Produced by Samara Information Agency ALNI – TV.Shown at the 9th "Vertical" film festival in 2006, in the "Mountain and wild nature" category. See listing in Russian and English [Name spelling in the English version differs from what is shown on this page due to transliteration.]

In the Caucasus on the Dzhavahetskoe* plateau (2000 m, ) in the rainy Wet Mountains, Doukhobors from Russia settled in 7 villages begining in 1841. In 1900 about 10,000 Doukhobors lived in Ninotsminda rayon – 4500 in 1980, 3000 in 1990, and 1000 in 2004, now most are in Gorelovka. Today, the region is 95% Armenian and Doukhobors are threatened with extinction in independent Georgia. The filmmaker focuses on the Bogdanovka [Ninotsminda] settlement to reveal how the forces of change have seen the rapid out migration of its inhabitants to places such as Cherns Raion south of Lev N. Tolstoy’s Yasnaya Polyana south of Moscow, Briansk and Tambov.
[* also spelled: Dzhavakhetii, Javahetia, Javakhetia, Cevaheti (Turkish)] 
[More about Doukhboors in Georgia.]

Professional cinematography takes us on a cultural tour of early Doukhobor history, preparing pirozhki (vegetable tarts), sobranie gatherings, historic sites of peshchery (caves), Sirotskii Dom (Orphan’s Home), Georgian landscape, the reading of psalms, a cappella singing, sheep herding, milking cows, the floundering cheese factory, heavenly storks, weddings and funerals, burial grounds of the leaders, drying kiziak (manure bricks for fuel), and women in costume. The stories of collectivization during the 1930s were remembered and retold. Harmony and love are the two traditions that characterize the Doukhobors over the ages, observes the filmmaker.

Re-issued in 2009 with English-languae titles, cover and subtitles (label right) for $20 on DVD as The Lost Land: The Red Book of Humanity  Download the promotional flyer (PDF).   See LIST

Tolstoy and the Doukhobors. 2005. Russian and English versions on DVD video. 30 minutes. Colour. A multimedia project using historic photos. Narrated by Peter P. Rezansoff. Produced by Pall Musaev. Script and storyboard by Myler Wilkinson. Creative team: Seann Einerson, David Tosoff, Bernie K and Fred W. Makortoff. Multimedia Committee: Peter P. Rezansoff, Paul Musaev, John J. Verigin Jr., Alex Jmaeff, Koozma J. Tarasoff, Myler Wilkinson, Fred W. Makortoff, Jim E. Popoff and Teresa & Ernie Verigin. Choir contributions: Expo Choir, United Doukhobor Centennial Choir, Tri Choir, Kootenay Men’s Choir, Repins Family Album, Krestova Men’s Choir, Krestova Youth Choir, USCC Dedication Choir, Blaine Lake Doukhobor Choir and the Georgian Doukhobor Choir. Principal sponsor: Intertech Construction Group. Russian translation by Vladimir Tolstoy, Yasnaya Polyana, Tula, Russia. Available from Peter P. Rezansoff of Intertech Group, 150 Howe Street, Vancouver, BC V6Z 1N1. Website: http://www.tolstoy.ca

This film is a culmination of a Bakery Café and Communications project which was officially opened in Yasnaya Polyana, Tula, and Russia on 21st September 2005. From the DVD jacket: ‘This Bakery Café was developed in partnership by the Yasnaya Polyana Administration and the Friends of Tolstoy to commemorate the centenary of the migration of the Doukhobors from Russia to Canada in 1899. It stands as testimony to the enduring gratitude of these Christian pacifists to Lev Nikolaevitch Tolstoy for his moral and material support in their time of need, and to the continuing friendship between the Tolstoy family and the Doukhobor community.’

Historic black and white photos of Doukhobors are coloured and animated with Photo Shop while a cappella singing from Doukhobor choirs in Canada and Russia bring traditional sounds to the viewer. Each of the 10 chapters begins with a reading from old Doukhobor hymns, Lev N. Tolstoy correspondence, Peter V. Verigin and others. The 10 chapters form the theme of the film: 1. Doukhobortsi. 2. We are People of a Wandering Nature. 3. What Manner of Person Art Thou? 4. The Welfare of the World is Not Worth the Life of One Child. 5. Lev N. Tolstoy and Peter V. Verigin. Prophets and Teachers. 6. The Burning of Arms. 7. Transcendental Homelessness. 8. Foreign Shores. 9. Be Devout. 10: Bread, Salt and Water.  See LIST
Click to ENLARGEGorelovka  — 2006. Russian, English sub-titles. 7 minute documentary. 'Gorelovka' is  by Alexander Kviria, a native Georgian who was first a journalist, a lawyer, then studied film making in Moscow. This video short titled 'Gorelovka (trailer): documentary project, initial footage Georgia 2006' appears to be a proposal for a longer film, if financed. Kviria worked on about 25 films in the past 10 years.

The introduction says:
The village of Gorelovka is located in Southern Georgia. It was founded in mid 19th century by Dukhobors, a group of Russian religious dissidents banished by Nicholas I. They managed to keep their identity and traditions throughout the Soviet period. However, under political and economical pressure, many Dukhobors have now left Georgia and the heritage will disappear with the last inhabitants.

The documentary is a quick tour of the rapidly dwindling Doukhobor population in the Republic of Georgia. Economic conditions and political forces have forced the outmigration of some 6,000 Doukhobors to scattered areas of Russia, leaving only several hundred of their kin behind. After over 150 years of exile from the Milky Waters region of the Crimean region and elsewhere, these Doukhobors have returned to their ancestral Russian homeland.

Click to ENLARGETraditional Doukhobor psalm singing by several elders in old colourful costumes frame the documentary as they gather in a sobranie manner and later walk away from the Doukhobor meeting home. In one scene, a group of five younger folk are able to prostrate themselves to the ground in an old outdated ritual that is no longer vital amongst most Doukhobors worldwide. Another outdated view is that of two groups: men drinking together and laughing in contrast to women singing at the dinner table, a segregated view that is not typical of most Doukhobors today. In between the viewer sees a wide expanse of a village, men driving a wagon on horses through harvest fields of gathered grain, a nice sheep herding scene with a mountain in the background, the magical stork on top of a post, and several views of exterior and interior architecture and handiwork. The film ends with a focus on the burial site of the ancestral leaders near Orlovka, a close-up of seven old photos as found in historic pictorials such as mine, and a focus on an elder couple in traditional dress sitting inside a Doukhobor home with an old Persian type rug adorning the wall.

Strikingly absent was the presence of youth. In fact, the whole impact on the reviewer is one of gloom and doom. There is no future! This indeed could have been labeled as The Disappearance of a Tradition. A missed opportunity was the filming of the arms burning site of 1895, which is located just barely a kilometer or two from the village. Perhaps that decision says something about the filmmaker's perspective of what constitutes a Doukhobor. — Reviewed May 19, 2009      See LIST

Russian Religious Folklore. 2008. Russian. 8-segment Interrnet video of a lecture by Dr. S.E. Nikitina, Institute of Linguistics, Russian Academy of Science 26:21 minutes. Presented April 9, 2008, 7:30 p.m., “Russian Religious Folklore”, a lecture in the series: "Following the Expeditions" at Kaminnom Hall, Club “Art'eria”, Central Moscow. Art'eria is an old ancient brick hall with excellent acoustics converted in 2004 into a musical theatre and exhibition center.

Artiom Kirakosov posted this lecture in his video album on the Russian website video.mail.ru in 8-parts totaling almost half an hour. The 8 segments range in time from 1:05 minutes to 5:58 minutes. The first 3 segments show Dr. Nikitina singing dukhovnoye stikhi (spiritual verses) examples from Old Believers, Molokans and Doukhobors. The last 5 segments show a Doukhobor prayer meeting in what looks like the Sirotsky Dom (sobranie) in Gorelovka, Republic of Georgia (See map of Doukhobor Settlements in the Georgian Republic by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff). The last 5 segments are not sharp and colors dull because Kirakosov recorded video images projected on a screen.

She begins by reciting psalms herself in a controlled setting (black background, spot light and microphones, with an audience) followed by videos of actual traditional Doukhobor singing. Nikitina's attempt to replicate genuine Doukhobor singing is mixed. While her voice is clear and the diction precise, the results show that this is not a genuine Doukhobor production. However, it is good folklore and ethnography, and a record of some of the rare psalm-singing that goes back even further to early Christian groups which are said to have roamed through southern Russia at an early period.

In contrast to her lecture, the video clips of the Doukhobor men and women in costume (with platoks — head scarves — and inner caps for women) take place in the traditional setting of a sobranie (meeting) room with table, wall hangings and pictures. Without obvious electrical lighting, the images appear dark as if reinforcing a solemn event. The camera is hand-held. The men tend to appear in profile while the close-ups of women reveals them as serious participants in an age-old a cappella singing style without hymn books or musical scores that goes back as early as the fifteenth century. They are the real thing! Periodically the folklorist does voice over to assist the observer in the process underway and some scenes have captions.  See LIST

See much more about Dr. Nikitina and Doukhobor singing on the Internet.


A Discovery: The Psalmist Project.
2009. English. NTSC DVD running time: 119 minutes. Format 4 x 3. By the Doukhobor Discovery Centre (previously: Doukhobor Village Museum), Castlegar, British Columbia, $30 plus $7 shipping and handling. In English, with a background of Russian psalm-singing. This Project is supplemented with an earlier double-CD set of psalm singing along with an extensive website in-progress — The Psalmist Project Video Directory.

The project was conceived in 2006 as a "modern-day, high quality digital compendium of 'Psalm-Singing'". Many Doukhobor volunteers wrote, produced, narated, and sang. Funding is shared by The Leon & Thea Koerner Foundation, the Columbia Basin Trust (via Kootenay Columbia Cultural Alliance) and the BC Arts Council. The DVD cover states that there were '25 interviews with over 360 rare images, maps, original sketches, 17 psalms and narration, all compiled into an educational, informative, and entertaining story in video format'.

Although this Project is a wonderful contribution to the understanding of the nature and role of Doukhobor psalm singing, or 'Soul Communion', as some practitioners have described it, there are a number of questions that are unanswered or missing (spirituality, Russian connection, Ivan F. Sysoev, Nick N. Kalmakoff, forecast) in this Project which I address in my review article: 'Doukhobor Psalm-Singing Rediscovered,' July 14, 2009. 

See LIST
Come Home to History! A Tour of the Doukhobor Dugout House, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan.
2009. English. 40 minute colour DVD. No Sub-titles. Writer, producer and narrator is museum consultant Katya Szalasznyj. $20 from the Doukhobor Dugout House, Box 433, Blaine Lake, Saskatchewan SOJ OJO, Canada.

Katya did her 1977 MA thesis on the Doukhobor Homestead Crisis 1899-1907, and speaks Russian. Her video includes interviews, archeology, history, photos, audio singing and reciting, the grand opening, other events, and an inside tour.

This is a story about survival of Russian Doukhobor migrants during their first years of settlement on the Canadian prairies. The northern Prince Albert / Blaine Lake area of Saskatchewan (some 70 miles from Saskatoon) was one of the new areas that the migrants were given. Lacking buildings materials, the immigrants quickly dug houses and work areas into the high river bank reinforced with lumber inside and out which provided protection from the winter snow. In Russian, an earthen cave dwelling are called zemlianka, from zemlia, meaning earth, or dirt. In this village, 48 families lived on both sides of the ravine for 5 years, using logs hauled up from the river below. On this site, 5 families of 40 people lived and worked. It is the only Doukhobor zemlianka preserved and restored.

Several stills of historical photos were used in the video, many of which I have in my own collection. The view of an 'aul' [mountain-side houses] in Kars was supposed to show that this was the example which taught Doukhobors to dig into the earth and create a zemlanka. The image is nice, but it is not quite a match to the discussion at hand. 'Aul's are villages, not zemlankas. Russian Doukhobor migrants were creative and innovative. They looked at their situation and built their shelters accordingly. Where wood was available, they built wooden houses. With stones they built stone houses in the Caucasus. In other places they used clay as the basic building materials for constructing clay buildings with wooden supports. Their experience in Kars was only one of many that influenced them.

Doukhobor singing from audio cassettes was interwoven periodically to provide tone. In one case Sam Popoff, the amateur historian, recited a Doukhobor psalm — and this was most appropriate because Sam encouraged his daughter Brenda Cheveldayoff to create the Dugout projct on his farm.

The video shows a brief clip on volunteers working in the archaeological dig. Professional archaeologist from the University of Saskatchewan Margaret Kennedy says that the locals were an important part of the work. Jon Kalmakoff speaks at the unveiling of a stone monument commemorating the Oospenia Spring. At the same event, keynotes speaker Norm Rebin talked about the value of collective memory and how proud he was to see the spirit of goodwill and brotherhood present here. A walkabout tour of the site with costumed guides followed, then a plough pulling re-enactment by Doukhobor women, all members of the Saskatoon Doukhobor Society. During the grand opening ceremonies, the Lieutenant Governor of Saskatchewan, Ms. Haverstock, stressed the important contributions that the Doukhobor pioneers made to the Province. The video of Haverstock was detracted by a strong winds.

Correction: The first contingent of 2,100 Doukhobors reached Halifax Harbour, Canada on January 20 (not 24 as stated in the DVD), 1899, before proceeding to St. John, New Brunswick on January 23 where they took trains to Western Canada. There are three glitches in the copy I reviewed in which the image paused for a few seconds.

This is a good vitual tour if you cannot do it in person. The Doukhobor Dugout House site is located 10 km off Highway 12 south of Blaine Lake. They are only open in the summer on Saturdays (10 am-5 pm), phone 306-497-3140. — This review is summarized from Virtual Tour of the Doukhobor Dugout House on DVD: A review by Koozma J. Tarasoff  (January 25, 2010).

See LIST

Back to Spirit-Wrestlers.com