Holidays and Rituals of Doukhobors in the Caucasus
Svetlana A. Inikova
Traditionally, the life events, family and culture of Doukhobors were all
shaped by the holidays contained in the Doukhobor calendar. Many were
borrowed and adapted from the Orthodox Church. Others were deeply rooted in
Russian folk belief. In this Doukhobor Genealogy Website exclusive, Russian
ethnographer and archivist Svetlana
A. Inikova explores the holiday rituals and customs of the Doukhobors in the
Caucasus, based on her ethnographic expeditions and field research among the
Doukhobors of the
Republics of Georgia and Azerbaijan. Translated from the original
Russian by Koozma J. Tarasoff. Edited by
Jonathan J. Kalmakoff. Published by permission.
Holidays had already been celebrated for a long time when Christianity was
introduced to Russia. They provided people with an opportunity for rest,
merrymaking and at least a brief respite from burdensome daily tasks.
Holidays were also very important in that they coincided with the occurrence
of annual changes in nature, such as the succession of seasons or the sun's
changing position in the sky. They served as reference points that clearly
identified the beginning of particularly important events, such as turning
cattle out to pasture, sowing time for specific crops, haymaking and
harvesting. During the winter and early spring holidays, ancient Russians
performed divinations hoping to accelerate the awakening of nature. During
the spring and summer they prayed to their gods to grant them a bountiful
harvest, whereas in the autumn they took stock of the field work that had
been accomplished and thanked the spirits of the fields for their
When Christianity was introduced in 988 AD, the Church strove for the
longest time to have certain folk holidays and rituals, such as Maslenitsa
(“Butter Week”), abolished. Holidays that coincided with Christian
celebrations were accepted by the Church, but vested with a meaning that
served its purpose. Semik (“Festival of the Birch”) for instance, was a
pre-Christian holiday in honour of vegetation which almost coincided with
the Christian festival of Troitsa (“Trinity Sunday”). Rituals associated
with the two holidays intertwined so closely that it has become impossible
to distinguish between them, even though in some areas of Russia the holiday
has retained its ancient name, Semik. Paskha (“Easter”) is another example.
It was instituted by the Christian Church as a holiday in remembrance of the
suffering, death and resurrection of Christ. Yet Easter is also closely
associated with the widespread tradition of dying eggs and, in Russia,
rolling them on the ground, along grooves, and even playing with them. The
egg has been a symbol of rebirth since ancient times and by rolling eggs on
the ground, people hoped to increase the fertility of the soil. Many rituals
and traditions have lost their profound meaning and have become simple games
or pastimes. Hence, for example, most people do not realize that by eating a
pancake during Maslenitsa they are actually consuming the symbol of the sun.
In this article I would like to describe the holidays celebrated by the
Doukhobors and their associated rituals, some of which are still practiced
Doukhobor Holidays in the Early Nineteenth Century
Before settling in Molochnye Vody (“Milky Waters"), the Doukhobors lived
among Orthodox Russians and celebrated the same traditional folk festivals.
Some Doukhobors went to church for appearances only, others avoided going
altogether; nonetheless at home they celebrated Orthodox holidays with
prayer meetings that were usually followed by visits to family and friends,
while young people assembled to play games, sing and enjoy themselves in the
After they had settled in Molochnye Vody, the Doukhobors continued to
celebrate the festivals of the Orthodox Church that were common to all
Christians throughout Russia, i.e. Rozhdestvo Khristovo (“Christmas”),
Khreshchenie (“Epiphany”), Paskha and Troitsa, although each village also
observed a patron holiday of its own which usually lasted for three days
filled with festive merrymaking.
Thus, the villagers of Goreloye in Molochnye Vody chose Frol and Lavr as
their patron saints, celebrating their feast day, Frolov Den’, on August 18.
The Doukhobors of Bogdanovka, on the other hand, preferred Vasily the Great
as their patron saint, celebrating his feast day, Vasil’ev Den’, on January
1. Also, the inhabitants of Efremovka observed November 8, the day of the
Archangel Mikhail, Mikhailov Den’, as their patron holiday. The Doukhobors
continued celebrating these holidays even after they had settled in the
Caucasus, with the sole exception of the village of Rodionovka, which had no
holiday of its own, neither in Molochnye Vody nor in the Caucasus.
While living in Molochnye Vody, the villagers of Troitskoye celebrated
Troitsa in a particularly big way, whereas after establishing themselves in
the Caucasus, they chose Nikolai the Wonderworker as their patron saint,
honouring him on December 6. After relocating to the Caucasus, the villagers
of Tambovka revered the Kazanskaya (“Our Lady of Kazan”), commemorating her
feast day, Den’ Kazanskoi Bogomateri (“Day of our Lady of Kazan”) on October
22, instead of that of Nikolai the Wonderworker, who had been their patron
saint in Molochnye Vody.
Kirilovka was a village in Molochnye Vody that celebrated its holiday,
Pokrov (“Intercession and Protection of the Holy Virgin”) on October 1. In
settling in the Caucasus, the villagers of Kirilovka merged with the
villagers of Spasskoye from Molochnye Vody to form a single village which
chose Pokrov as its joint holiday. In this case, the villagers of Spasskoye
forsook their own holiday, which was Rozhdestvo Khristovo, for Pokrov.
The village of Terpeniye, the Doukhobor capital in Molochnye Vody, was
renamed Orlovka when its inhabitants moved to the Caucasus, although they
continued to observe Den’ Kazanskoi Bogomateri until the 1920's, at which
time they chose to observe Zheny Mironositsy (“Sunday of the Myrrhbearers”)
or Zheny for short, as their patron holiday.
As they settled in the Caucasus, the Doukhobors founded new villages.
Doukhobor elders recall that Lukeria Kalmykova, their beloved leader,
"bestowed" certain holidays upon them.
Doukhobor Holidays in the Caucasus
We shall now give a systematic description of the holidays celebrated by the
Doukhobors of the Caucasus throughout the calendar year.
The cycle of winter holidays or Sviatki (“Holy Days") as it was called by
Orthodox Russians, began with Rozhdestvo Khristovo, which used to be
celebrated on December 25 according to the old-style calendar, and has been
celebrated on January 7 after the new-style calendar was introduced
following the Russian Revolution. The new-style calendar differs from the
old one by 13 days.
On Christmas Eve, Doukhobors ate the traditional kut'ya (a dish prepared
with boiled wheat kernels sweetened with honey); then around midnight they
would assemble for worship. On Christmas Day adults would not eat breakfast
and would perform their daily chores so that the entire family could sit
down to enjoy Christmas dinner. It was a holiday when adults would visit
family and friends while young people would enjoy themselves at vecharushki
(parties of Doukhobor youth). In Rodionovka, young people would dress up and
masquerade about the village. In fact, masquerading during the winter
holidays was an ancient custom practiced in old Russia. The Christmas
festivities lasted only one day. Christmas is still celebrated by Doukhobors
in the Caucasus, although at the present time only elders attend worship on
Christmas Eve, whereas for the young people it has become an occasion to get
together and enjoy themselves.
All Doukhobor villages celebrate Novyi God (“New Year's Day”). The village
of Bogdanovka originally worshipped its patron saint day, Vasil’ev Den, on
January 1. Eventually, however, this holiday merged with Novyi God and,
unlike other villages, New Year's festivities in Bogdanovka lasted not one
but three days, during which friends and family from surrounding villages
would come to visit.
In most villages on New Year's Eve, children would go from house to house
"sowing” seeds around the rooms, trying hard to throw some onto the bed as
this was thought to bring prosperity to the household. The house was not to
be swept until the next morning, so as not to sweep out the prosperity.
Villagers welcomed the "sowers" warmly, offering them kalachi (a type of
sweet bun) and pirogi (a type of pie). The children, in turn, would chant as
We wish you a Happy New Year,
As we sow, sow. sow.
Loosen up your purse strings,
Spare us a few coins.
Sometimes they would add:
Lord, do produce for the Traveller,
For the Passer-by
and for the Greedy Soul.
Adults would get together and make cheese vareniki (dumplings), which was
the traditional dish for Novyi God festivities. At nightfall, the villages
would glitter with a thousand sparkles: it was children walking down the
village streets carrying homemade torches they called "candles" or
"lanterns", which in fact were long sticks with rags tied to one end that
had been dipped into paraffin oil and lit up.
The following day, on January 1, the young people would masquerade as
gypsies and, while going from house to house, repeat quite a different
refrain that was both humorous and foreboding:
Lady Bounty - spare a dumpling.
If you can't spare a dumpling,
give me some pie.
Won't give me pie,
I'll grab your bull by the horns,
Your mare by the forelock,
take them to the fair,
And sell them for a few kopecks.
They were also treated to cakes and vodka. The festivities would then brim
over into the street: people in holiday dress would stroll about the
village, and children and young people would go sleigh-riding in horse-drawn
sledges which the Doukhobors were reputed for. The sledges were brightly
painted and each sledge owner would display his most colorful harness.
Like thousands of young girls throughout Russia, Doukhobor maidens performed
divination rituals on New Year's Eve and on all the following evenings until
Khreshcheniye. They sought to divine their fate and, more specifically, get a
glimpse of their future husbands. There was an array of divination rites
they could chose from. For instance, a young girl might take a pail of
water, hang a lock on the handle and put the key under her pillow so as to
conjure up in her dreams a vision of her future husband who would come for a
drink of water; or else she might bake an overly salty bun and eat it at
bedtime so that her fiancé might bring her some water to quench her thirst.
Young Doukhobor girls would also get together in a barn and chase sheep.
Should a girl catch a ewe, it was thought that she would marry a young man;
should she catch a ram, it was thought that she would marry a widower. One
of the most popular divination rites was throwing a shoe over the yard gate:
the direction the shoe toe pointed in as it fell was the direction the
maiden would take to find her husband.
No one “sows seeds” anymore, nor do the young people dress up as gypsies.
However, on New Year's Eve in the streets of Gorelovka, children still light
"candles" and adults still gather to enjoy the traditional vareniki prepared
by the women.
When the new-style calendar was introduced in Russia in 1918, Doukhobors
started celebrating the New Year twice: on January 1, according to the new
style, as well as on January 14, according to the old style.
The Doukhobors have always celebrated Khreshcheniye and still do at the
present time, commemorating the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Son of
man, the day divine grace was bestowed onto Jesus Christ in his human
incarnation. On the eve of January 6, the Doukhobors would assemble for
prayer, then on the way home, each person would try to draw some water from
a well, river or spring; as this water was considered blessed, therefore
endowed with purifying powers, it was sprinkled around the house, the barn
and the stable; it was used in washing up and was also given to drink to the
The next holiday was Maslenitsa, or Maslena, as the Doukhobors called it. It
was preceded by Nedelya Sviatykh Praotsev (“Forefathers' Week”), a time to
commemorate ancestors and make traditional blini (pancakes). According to
Doukhobor custom, the first pancake went to the household dog because it was
believed that "man was eating the dog’s share", a saying that stems from an
old Russian legend. According to the legend, long ago, wheat plants had
grain filled spires descending all the way to the ground. However, people
did not treat bread with the respect it deserved. When God saw how people
squandered bread, he decided to punish them by taking it away. Having
grasped an ear of wheat with his hands, he began shelling it. Suddenly, when
there were just a few grains left on the very top of the ear, a dog howled
plaintively. God took pity on him and left him a few kernels. The Doukhobors
have always had a very respectful attitude towards bread. It was considered
a sin to throw out a piece of bread or to brush off bread crumbs onto the
For the Doukhobors, Maslena began on Saturday and lasted for three days.
Neighbors would go visiting, wishing each other a "Happy Maslena". In
certain villages it was customary to masquerade during this holiday. Mothers
would sew special pockets onto their children's belts so they could fill
them with tasty kalachi given to them by housewives as they went from door
to door, offering greetings.
On Sunday, young people would organize horse-drawn sleigh ride parties.
Sunday evening was Proshchenoe Voskresen'e (“Sunday of Forgiveness”) when
Doukhobors in groups of five to ten people would go to the homes of elders
and bowing low three times beg for the forgiveness of their sins. Or they
could say: "Forgive us our sins on this Sunday of Forgiveness". And the
elders would answer: "The Good Lord will forgive your sins", then all would
embrace as evidence of forgiveness. The hosts would either set the table or
give the visitors some treats to take along and the group would then go to
the next home.
Chistyi Ponedel'nik (“Pure Monday”) marked the beginning of Lent for
Orthodox Russians. Although the Doukhobors did not observe Lent in the
religious sense, they retained the name of this holiday for the last day of
Maslena. In Rodionovka, Chistyi Ponedel’nik was a time to “grieve": the
villagers were sorry to see Maslena come to an end; they would eat and drink
the leftovers from the holiday festivities. In the village of Spasovka, it
was customary "to rinse one's mouth" on Chistyi Ponedel’nik, whereas in
Troitskoye, the first guest to enter a home was made to sit on a coat turned
fur-side-out and forced to eat, as it was believed that if the guest ate
well, it would be a good year for the hosts with respect to their cattle. In
Novo-Gorelovka in the province of Elizavetpol, the villagers would pitch in
and fry eggs together.
Nowadays, people still get together for Maslena to enjoy themselves and eat
the traditional blini, although the festivities are much more modest than in
There existed in Russia the age-old tradition of "ushering in the spring" on
March 9. In order to hasten the arrival of warm weather, children would
fling up into the air soroki (sweet buns baked in the shape of magpies).
According to the Orthodox calendar, March 9 was the Day of the Forty Martyrs
or Soroki as it was popularly called (soroki means both “magpies” and
“forty”). In all the villages, Doukhobor women made soroki buns. They placed
buttons, kopecks and other small objects into the dough, each time making a
wish related to the well-being of their cattle. Later, as they ate the
"little magpies", the villagers had fun guessing what the future held for
their cattle and poultry. For instance, it was believed that if a kopeck
stood for a cow, the cow of the person eating the bun with the kopeck would
give him plenty of milk; someone else might be lucky with his chickens,
sheep or other animals. Soroki was not considered an important holiday and
therefore it was a workday as usual. Today the younger generation of
Doukhobors have no idea what the "little magpies" were.
March 25 was Blagoveshcheniye (“Annunciation”), a very important holiday when
no one worked in all of Russia. It commemorates the announcement made to the
Virgin Mary by the archangel Gabriel that she would give birth to the Son of
God. It was considered a sin for anyone to work on Blagoveshcheniye, even
though many people, including the Doukhobors, made a point of not
celebrating the holiday in the religious sense. There was a saying that on
that day "birds do not nest, maidens do not braid their hair". On that day,
Doukhobors usually assembled for worship. Women and young girls would dress
up in new clothes that they would have made especially for the occasion.
Verbnoye Voskresen’e (“Palm Sunday”), the Sunday preceding Easter, was not
celebrated in the religious sense, although it was a tradition for young
people to call on their neighbors very early in the morning; if they found
anyone of their peers still in bed, they would “whip” him or her with a
pussy willow rod while reciting the whole time:
Pussy willow rod,
Whip him till he weeps.
The pussy willow's whipping,
Mothers would pretend to whip their young children with pussy willow rods
while reciting this verse. The very same rods were later used for turning
cattle out to pasture for the first time after the winter.
Doukhobors usually tried to send their cattle to pasture for the first time
in the spring on the feast day of St. Egorii on April 23, Egorov Den’.
However, because of the rigorous climatic conditions that prevailed where
they lived in Georgia, that event was generally postponed until May. In
Russia, St. Egorii was the patron saint of horses. Therefore, on Egorov Den’,
all Russian peasants, including the Doukhobors, would let their horses rest,
brush them down, pamper them and feed them well. This tradition has long
since been consigned to oblivion.
Easter has always been one of the most important Christian holidays in
Russia. During Strastnaya Nedelya (“Holy Week”), or Strashnaya as it was
called, which precedes Paskha (“Easter Sunday”), Orthodox Russians were
particularly devout in their observance of Lent which commenced on Chistyi
Ponedel’nik and lasted for seven weeks. The Doukhobors did not fast as such
during Lent; however, they were very scrupulous in their attempts to refrain
from sinning both verbally and in deed during Strashnaya.
On Velikaya Pyatnitsa (“Good Friday”), women dyed eggs with onion peels and
baked Easter cakes. During the night that preceded Paskha, Doukhobors would
assemble for prayer, then wish each other a Happy Easter by kissing three
times and exchanging eggs. In the village of Gorelovka, women would take
Easter cakes to the Sirotsky Dom ("Orphan’s Home") and hand them out to the
old people after prayer. On Paskha, everyone went to the cemetery to put
eggs on the graves of relatives and visit the graves of deceased Doukhobor
leaders, to pray for them and to revive their memory. These rituals are
still very much alive today and Easter prayer meetings are the most attended
Another Doukhobor tradition was to put a few dyed eggs into the barn for the
khozya ("master") as some of them called the fairytale household spirit;
others referred to it as domovoi. Children would play with the eggs, rolling
them along grooves during the three days of Easter festivities.
A week after Easter Caucasian Doukhobors celebrated Krasnaya Gorka
(“Glorious Hill”), a very old Russian folk festivity that originated in
pre-Christian times. Villagers treated each other to eggs left over from
Easter or else they dyed the eggs. At the beginning of the 20th century,
this festival lost its original meaning and became a holiday for Doukhobor
children and young people. Parties were thrown for children where they
played with eggs and ate fried eggs. Young people would get together; girls
would pitch in and make fried eggs, while the young men took care of
beverages. It has been several decades now that the holiday has not been
The second Sunday after Easter was Zheny Mironositsy, or Zheny, and was
considered a holiday for women. People of all ages would get together and
make the traditional fried eggs. In the 1920's, Zheny became the holiday of
the village of Orlovka instead of the festival of Den’ Kazanskoi Bogomateri.
This occurred after the departure of some Doukhobors from Orlovka to Canada
and later, Rostov, after which many Doukhobors from Gorelovka settled in
Orlovka but refused to commemorate the Kazanskaya. The village then opted
for Zheny as its holiday, even though some people continued to worship the
Kazanskaya. In the past, Zheny celebrations lasted three days, whereas now
the holiday is observed very modestly, if at all.
Seven weeks after Easter, all Doukhobor villages celebrated Troitsa, a
festival that lasted for three days in honour of the Holy Trinity: God the
Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Doukhobors used to say. "Trinity is
when God descends onto the ranks of the righteous who are his Apostles. The
first day, Jesus Christ appeared to the Apostles; he spent the second day
consolidating his Throne, bestowing wisdom onto his Apostles and the power
to resurrect the dead and give sight to the blind; the third day, they
prayed and then went to preach in the name of the Holy Trinity: the Father,
the Son and the Holy Spirit."
After worship, on Troitsa, Doukhobors usually went to the cemetery to pray
on the graves of their deceased leaders. During the first two days of the
Troitsa holiday, they greeted each other with the words "Happy Trinity",
whereas on the third day, which was the last, they would say "Farewell”,
bidding farewell to the holiday. Doukhobors still celebrate Troitsa, the
elders assemble for prayer, while the young assemble to enjoy themselves. To
mark spring and summer festivals, and particularly the Troitsa holiday,
young people usually got together somewhere on a hillock, in a clearing or a
hollow to sing and dance, keeping out of sight of the stern elders. There
were also places where young people from several villages would meet so that
young men could court the girls.
The next major holiday observed by Doukhobors was Petrov Den' celebrated on
June 29 in commemoration of the saints Peter and Paul. It was celebrated
throughout Russia and held particular significance for Doukhobors, as it was
the name day of two outstanding Doukhobor leaders: Petr Ilarionovich
Kalmykov who died in 1864 and Petr Vasilyevich Verigin who became leader of
the “Large Party” of Doukhobors after the 1887 schism. It was for this
reason that in 1895 the followers of Petr Verigin chose to burn their arms
on Petrov Den’ to protest against war and violence. Thus this day soon
became a holiday in memory of those who had been persecuted, having endured
extreme trials and tribulations on account of their faith.
After 1895, Petrov Den’ was celebrated only by Doukhobors belonging to the
“Large Party”, comprised of Doukhobors from all villages except for
Gorelovka. They would assemble under the cliff where the arms burning had
taken place, pray by the piously revered peshcherochki ("little cave"), a
place that was particularly cherished by Lukeria Kalmykova, their beloved
leader who passed away in 1886. Then they would spread about blankets and
have a picnic. At present, Petrov Den’ is celebrated on July 12 according to
the new-style calendar. Very few people, for the most part elderly women
from the neighboring villages of Orlovka and Spasovka, still gather around
Frolov Den’, the feast day of St. Frol and Lavr, or simply Khrol as the
Doukhobors call it, was the patron holiday of the village of Gorelovka,
which used to be celebrated for three days. An important prayer meeting took
place at the Sirotsky Dom on August 18, which marked the first day of the
holiday. Later that day, Doukhobors would go visiting or welcome visitors
from neighboring villages. Khrol was considered to be the holiday of
matchmaking and launched the season when young men could send in
matchmakers. In other villages, however, matchmaking began on the holiday of
Pokrov, celebrated on October 1, was the holiday adopted by the Doukhobors
of Spasovka and those of Novo-Pokrovka in Kars, province. Doukhobor elders
explain that this holiday was instituted in honour of the Holy Virgin who
bestowed her protection upon people by covering them with her Holy Mantle.
As matchmaking rituals traditionally took place during the holiday of Pokrov,
marriages began to be celebrated on Den’ Kazanskoi Bogomateri on October 22,
after all field work had been completed. This was a holiday instituted by
the Orthodox Church in honour of the Kazanskaya, the icon of Our Lady of
Kazan. For Doukhobors, however, it acquired a different meaning: it was a
day of remembrance for the warriors who had fallen during the siege of Kazan.
Den’ Kazanskoi Bogomateri was the patron holiday of Tambovka as well as the
villages of Orlovka, Novo-Spasovka, in Elizavetpol province, and in Novo-Troitskoye,
in Kars province until the 1920's.
The villagers of Rodionovka, which is located in the vicinity of Tambovka on
Lake Paravani, did not have a holiday of their own. They too adopted Den’
Kazanskoi Bogomateri as their patron holiday.
For three days, beginning on November 8, Mikhailov Den’, the village of
Efremovka honoured its patron saint, the archangel Mikhail. A month later,
on December 6, the village of Troitskoye celebrated Nikolin Den (“St.
Nikolai’s Day”) in honour of its patron saint, Nikolai the Wonderworker, or
Mikola as he was called. According to the ethnographer V.D. Bonch-Bruevich,
the Doukhobors of Troitskoye stopped commemorating Nikolin Den’ after the
Burning of Arms and in protest of the subsequent persecutions of Doukhobors,
because Nikolai or Mikola also happened to be the first name of the tsar,
Nicolas I. Troitskoye, however, reinstated its holiday when the Doukhobors
belonging to the Large Party left for Canada.
It was predominantly during the autumn and winter, when field work was
completed, that Doukhobor holidays were celebrated with festivities as
social gatherings, parties, merrymaking in the streets and sleigh rides. It
was then that people had time to enjoy themselves. Moreover, the new harvest
and freshly prepared food supplies enabled Doukhobors to set a lavish table
for their guests. People unfamiliar with the customs and rituals of
Doukhobors of the Caucasus often had the erroneous impression that they were
generally austere villagers, opposed to all forms of merriment. In
actuality, the Doukhobors did enjoy festivities, although elders say that
when they were young, the old people would chide them and forbid them to
play musical instruments and dance; then in the same breath and with the
greatest pleasure they reminisce of times they would get together and, in
spite of everything, humming a dance tune, they would dance in a hollow or
in someone's house. It can be said that the Doukhobors always worked hard
and enjoyed themselves just as intensely.
To Ms. Inikova’s detailed and scholarly work must be added several holidays, celebrated by Doukhobors in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Caucasus,
but evidently no longer observed or remembered at the time that she
conducted her field research. These have been documented by the editor
Jonathan J. Kalmakoff from Doukhobor oral tradition, toponymy and from
ethnographer V.D. Bonch-Bruevich's collection of Doukhobor psalms, songs,
hymns and prayers.
Vosneseniye (the “Ascension”) was an important Christian holiday in Russia.
Observed on the Thursday after the fifth Sunday after Easter, it commemorates
Christ’s bodily ascent to Heaven in the presence of his disciples, following
his resurrection. It was a holiday celebrated by the village of Efremovka. When Doukhobors from this village
left for Canada, they named one of their new villages Vosneseniye in
remembrance of this holiday.
In July, during haying time, the Doukhobors of Rodionovka village celebrated
Lushechkin Pokos (“Lushechka’s Mowing”) or Kalmykov Pokos (“Kalmykov’s
Mowing”) as it was also called. It was a thanksgiving festival associated
with Doukhobor leader Lukeria Kalmykova, who visited the village annually at
this time. People came from near and far to join the festivities. Everyone
pitched in to help prepare the feast, which consisted of shishliki (a
Caucasian dish prepared with marinated lamb), vareniki and slivnyi halushki
(dumplings made with prunes, eaten with melted butter). Large cast iron pots
and kettles were assembled to cook the food. Also, as the village was
located on Lake Paravani, large quantities of fish were caught using barkasi
(large fishing barges), then prepared by boiling them, allowing them to cool
and then gel in large wooden tubs. After much eating, singing and
thanksgiving, it was the custom for the men of the village to take their wives
or girlfriends and dunk them in the lake.
On July 20 according to the old style, the
Doukhobors of Slavyanka village in Elizavetpol province celebrated Ilyin
Den' in memory of St. Ilya (Elijah), the 9th century BC Hebrew
prophet who proclaimed God's judgment and retribution. In Russian folk
belief, thunder, fire and lightening were believed to be the special
provenance of Elijah, and people expected thunderstorms and rain each year
on his feast day.
Uspenie (the "Assumption”) was a holiday celebrated by Christians throughout
Russia on August 15 according to the old style. It commemorates the Virgin
Mary’s passage into Heaven following her death. It was a holiday celebrated
by the village of Troitskoye as well as the village of Terpeniye in Kars
province. When Doukhobors from these villages left for Canada, and later
named several of their new villages after this holiday.
Finally, it should be noted that in Canada in the early 1900’s, the
celebration of traditional holidays was abolished by Doukhobor leader Petr
Vasilyevich Verigin, who considered them to be unnecessary and superfluous
to the spiritual development of his followers. The exception was Petrov Den’,
continued to be celebrated by Doukhobors who left Verigin’s communal
organization in Canada to become independent farmers.
For a comprehensive calendar of the Doukhobor holidays
and festivals discussed in this work,
About the Author
Svetlana A. Inikova is a senior researcher at the Institute of Ethnography
and Anthropology of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow. Considered
one of the world's foremost authorities on the Doukhobors, Svetlana has
conducted extensive archival research and has participated in several major
ethnographic expeditions, including field research among the Doukhobors of
Georgia and Azerbaijan in the late 1980's and 1990's and a North American
ethnographic expedition on the Doukhobors in 1990. She has published
numerous articles on the Doukhobors in Russian and English and is the author of
History of the Doukhobors in V.D. Bonch-Bruevich's Archives (1886-1950s): An
Annotated Bibliography (Ottawa: Legas and Spirit Wrestlers, 1999) and
Doukhobor Incantations Through the Centuries (Ottawa: Legas and Spirit
For more online articles about the Doukhobors by
Svetlana A. Inikova, see
and the Beginnings of Doukhobor History as well as
Leo Tolstoy's Teachings and the Sons of Freedom in Canada.