Fifty-seven Doukhobors have recently resettled from
the Bogdanovka region of the Republic of Georgia to the province of Tambov in
central Russia. Their families, numbering up to seven hundred and sixty
Doukhobors, are expected to join them from Georgia in September. This was
reported by the Russian news agency Regnum today.
The Doukhobors have settled in the village of Malyi Snezhetok in the Pervomaysky
district, ninety kilometres north-west of Tambov city, the administrative
capital of the province. There, they are temporarily housed in a school
dormitory, with a small local staff providing the migrants administrative
support, including food, lodging and basic necessities, while a new suburb is being built with permanent accommodations for
The suburb will be named Novoe (“new”), marking the beginning of the Doukhobors’
new life in Russia. It will consist of two hundred panelboard houses on forty
square meter lots for the Doukhobor families. A shop, medical clinic and a
retirement home for the Doukhobor elderly will also be built. Construction of
the buildings, roads, waterworks and electrical works is scheduled to be
completed by the end of this year.
The Doukhobors resettling to Tambov will be offered
employment in the local market garden and nursery, “Snezhetok Ltd.” They will
also have the opportunity to establish peasant collective farms and individual
farmsteads, the Russian news agency noted.
General map of Doukhobor resettlement from the Caucasus to Tambov, Russia
The relocation of the Georgian Doukhobors is part of the Russian Federation’s
ambitious six-year program to facilitate the voluntary repatriation of millions
of Russians residing in former Soviet republics. The resettlement program,
decreed by Russian President Vladimir Putin on June 22, 2006, is intended to
help revive the Russian economy and compensate for the country’s staggering
demographic crisis – high mortality rates and low birth rates are believed to be
draining the Russian population of some 700,000 people a year.
The Doukhobors, who are among the first to participate in the resettlement
program, have received strong support from Russia’s top political leaders,
including President Vladimir Putin, Premier Mikhail Fradkov, Minister of Foreign
Affairs Sergey Lavrov, Director of the Federal Migration Service Konstantin
Romadanovsky and Tambov Governor Oleg Betin. They were deliberately chosen to
resettle to Tambov on account of their expertise in agricultural production.
For the village of Malyi Snezhetok, the arrival of the Doukhobors is warmly
welcomed. In addition to doubling the population, the Doukhobors will provide a
tremendous boost to the local economy, offset an acute labour shortage in the
agricultural industry, and help facilitate the improvement and expansion of
local infrastructure. The village school, previously slated for closure, will
now remain open with the impending arrival of over sixty Doukhobor children.
Having considered several different options for relocation, the Doukhobors chose
Tambov on account of its large agricultural sector, temperate climate, steppe
geography, and its favourable linguistic, cultural and religious environment. In
this regard, the interests of the Doukhobors, the Russian Federation, and Tambov
local and provincial administrations coincided.
Under the resettlement program, the Doukhobors are assisted with their travel
arrangements and primary accommodation, including the registration of their
legal and social status, as well as with jobs, municipal and pension services,
preschool, school and professional education, Regnum said. In addition, local
and provincial authorities provide administrative support for the Doukhobors,
including food, temporary lodging and basic necessities.
An important factor is the cost of housing. While the Russian Joint Stock
Company “Tamak” has contracted to construct the Doukhobors’ homes in Malyi
Snezhetok, it is not for free. The cost to complete each panelboard house is
estimated at a minimum of six thousand roubles per square meter of living space.
The Doukhobor migrants do not currently possess the required funds; therefore
Russian authorities are developing various repayment schemes for them, including
financial grants and compensation and credit facilities.
Notwithstanding this assistance, the resettlement is not without problems. The
Doukhobors have encountered numerous legal obstacles in connection with the
receipt of visas, the certification of participants in the resettlement program,
and with citizenship. In response to this, the representative of the Doukhobor
community Ivan Astafurov has voiced his concern over the slow pace at which the
Doukhobors are being allowed to relocate with their families to Tambov.
Tambov Governor Oleg Betin recently visited Malyi Snezhetok and toured the
suburb construction site. He met with local officials responsible for
coordinating the resettlement as well as with the Doukhobors. He assured them
that “their resettlement will be aided and supported at the
highest levels in the Russian Federation” and pledged to work with local,
provincial and federal officials to expedite their relocation.
Tambov is the ancestral home of many of the Doukhobors, whose forebears
resettled from there to Tavria in the early 1800’s, and later to the Caucasus in
the 1840’s. The province is located in central Russia, along the confluence of
the Tsna and Studenets rivers, and borders on Penza, Saratov, Ryazan, Lipetsk
and Voronezh provinces. Tambov's economy is primarily industrial, with major
sectors including mechanical engineering, metalworking and the chemical
industry. Agriculture is a smaller but still important economic sector; its
production focuses on grains, potatoes and sugar beets.
Since 1989, more than 3,000 Doukhobors have relocated from the Caucasus to the
provinces of Krasnodar, Stavropol, Tula, Orel, Bryansk and elsewhere in Russia,
driven by regional instability, ethnic tensions, land reform, economic hardship, as well as a
longing to return to the Motherland. Once the latest resettlement to Tambov is
completed, it is estimated that less than one hundred Doukhobors will remain in
the Bogdanovka region of Georgia.
For updated information on the Doukhobor
resettlement, see the articles
More Georgian Doukhobors Move to Tambov
by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff,
The Doukhobors in Malyi Snezhetok
by Evgeny Pisarev (translated by Jonathan J. Kalmakoff) and also
Tambov Doukhobors on Russian News
by Drugie Novosti (translated by Koozma J.