small flourish

Soviet government

[ A delegation of Independent Doukhobors en route to the USSR, some of a very small number of Canadian Doukhobors who returned to Russia, , Koozma Tarasoff personal collection 813 ]

Both the Doukhobors and the Bolsheviks were persecuted by the Tsarist government the former because of their religion, the latter because of their politics. When the Tsarist government was overthrown in February 1917 and the Bolsheviks, with their own version of communism as a guiding principle, came to power in Russia in October of that year, the situation seemed ripe for the two groups to work together. A number of Doukhobors were either dissatisfied with life in Canada or convinced that their true home still lay in Russia. And for their part, the beleaguered Bolsheviks needed every assistance they could get. Thus it was no surprise that some Doukhobors visited Russia to scout out the prospects of re-establishing life under the new regime. Although it was exclusively Independent Doukhobors who made the return journey, even Doukhobors inside the commune looked with interest to what those emissaries reported about life in Soviet Russia. And the Soviets welcomed the prospect of a mass re-emigration of people of Russian culture who were also adept at modern farming methods. Since the Community Doukhobors were also familiar with operating an agricultural commune, they were especially welcome.

But Verigin stood in the way. Initially enthusiastic about the new system in Russia after the first revolution brought in the Provisional Government, Verigin made an offer to move all the Doukhobors, including the Independents, back to Mother Russia. But the Provisional Government survived mere months, and it was clear that Vladimir Lenin, the new Soviet leader, did not share the same view of communism as Verigin. Verigin argued that the country must abolish military service, destroy all fortifications and become neutral. The Soviets saw nothing but primitive utopianism in these ideas.

So Verigin’s suggestion to lead the Doukhobors home to Russia dissolved, even though the Soviet government remained keen on attracting Doukhobors back. Did this give the Soviet government a motive to want to kill Verigin in order to eliminate the hurdles to a return of the Doukhobors? Or to kill him for daring to speak out against the Soviet system? Or to kill him in order to convince the Doukhobors that they were unwelcome in Canada and thus drive them back into the arms of Mother Russia? More than 60 years later, a Soviet plot still had currency among some Doukhobors.

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