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Dukhobors (Doukhobors; Wrestlers with the Spirit), a Russian "Protestant" sect, were probably an outgrowth of a dissident Khlysty group, which derived its peculiar doctrines from several sources, including heterodox Protestantism, Freemasonry, and Khlysty teaching. The sect arose in the village of Okhochee about 1755 and in the Russian province of Kharkov, and shortly thereafter in 1785 received its present name from the archbishop of Ekaterinoslav. In 1802 they were deported to the province of Taurida, where they adopted semi-communism. They were located as next neighbors to the Mennonites in the Molotschna colony in nine villages. In 1841, under pressure, they settled further east in Transcaucasia, when they numbered about 4,000. In 1886 the group split. One part, under Peter Verigin's leadership, was much influenced by Count Leo Tolstoy and adopted complete nonresistance as well as rejection of private property.

In 1898-1899 the Verigin group of 7,400 migrated to western Canada with the strong financial aid of Count Tolstoy. Their anarchistic views and practices resulted in frequent and prolonged conflicts with the Canadian state. Only with great difficulty and gradually did they arrive at a modus vivendi with the state. The total of about 17,000 have broken up into several parties, one of whom, the moderate independent Dukhobors, drew near to the United Church in Canada. Another group continued to follow its anarchistic and communistic practices and has come into frequent conflict with the authorities. Those Dukhobors who remained in Russia survived in a few places and eventually affiliated with the Pentecostal Christians.

The Dukhobors are unitarian and pantheistic in theology, denying a personal transcendental deity. They attach very little importance to the Bible, and claim that their only source of doctrine is the living tradition of the sect, supposedly originally derived from Christ himself.

The superficial similarity in a few points to the Anabaptists, Mennonites, or Quakers, has led some to assert a genetic connection with these groups, though without any proof at all. There is no ground whatsoever for the confusion that has occasionally arisen in the popular mind, both in Europe and America, with the Mennonites. The only contact with Mennonites was the period 1802-1841 when they lived in the Molotschna, where Johann Cornies rendered them considerable assistance


Bolshakoff, Serge. Russian nonconformity; the story of "unofficial" religion in Russia. Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1950.

Epp, David H. Johann Cornies: Züge aus seinem Leben und Wirken. Jekaterinoslaw; Berdjansk: "Der Botschafter", 1909: 171-183, "Die Duchoborzen".

Hege, Christian and Christian Neff. Mennonitisches Lexikon, 4 vols. Frankfurt & Weierhof: Hege; Karlsruhe: Schneider, 1913-1967: v. I, 479-484.

Jansen, Peter. Memoirs of Peter Jansen: the record of a busy life: an autobiography. Beatrice, Neb.: Published by the author, 1921: 85 ff.

Wright, J. F. C. Slava Bohu, The Story of the Dukhobors. New York: Farrar & Rinehart, Inc., 1940.

Author(s) Harold S Bender
Date Published 1956

Cite This Article

MLA style

Bender, Harold S. "Dukhobors." Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. 1956. Web. 18 Apr 2024. https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Dukhobors&oldid=166096.

APA style

Bender, Harold S. (1956). Dukhobors. Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. Retrieved 18 April 2024, from https://gameo.org/index.php?title=Dukhobors&oldid=166096.


Adapted by permission of Herald Press, Harrisonburg, Virginia, from Mennonite Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, pp. 107-108. All rights reserved.

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