Gorelovka and the Doukhobors

Ninotsminda was founded by Russian Doukhobor dissidents.  The Doukhobors (Spirit Warriors of Christ) were exiled to this region in the early 1800s by Tsar Nicholas at his ascension because they refused to recognize the divine authority of the Tsar.  They also refused military service.  With the financial help of Leo Tolstoy and North American Quakers most of them immigrated to Saskatchewan, Canada, in 1900, later spreading to Alberta, BC and Washington.  Those who remained in Georgia concentrated in the nearby town Gorelovka.

Gorelovka has stone barns with sod roofs.  Some of the blue houses with carpenter gingerbread still have sod roofs, some have newer corrugated metal roofs.  According to Nikolai, an elder in the community, there are about 100 Doukhobor families left.  Younger people are leaving the sect and the village for Russia.  I asked if he listened to Radio Nor.  He said his sect is not at all interested in things fr0m the outside world so do not listen to radio, watch TV or read newspapers.

Doukhobors are pacifist and do not recognize priests.  When different governments tried to conscript Doukhobors they paraded naked through the streets.  (This happened in Russia, but also in Canada and the Pacific Northwest during World War I).   Nikolai tells me the Doukhobors believe that the spirit of God lives in everyone.  He showed me the meeting hall in Gorelovka.  Men and woman use separate entrances and sit across from each other.  Men greet other with a hug and cheek kisses (as Nikolai demonstrated with me).  Then they bow to the woman.  The congregation discusses whatever spiritual matters come to mind.  Nikolai showed the scarves that each woman makes that, according to him, displays her soul.  Many scarves have swastika designs.  He says that the swastika going in one direction is male and the other female, so the scarves display both genders just by turning them over.  Nikolai explained that Doukhobors believe 13 to be God’s lucky number because there were 12 apostles and Mary.

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