Doukhobors - Sociopolitical Organization

Social Organization and Conflict. Doukhobors began as active sectarians, and persecution inured them to the maintenance of unity though the same forces from time to time cast up dissidents who sought (and seek) the establishment of their own regimes, not always unsuccessfully. Shortly after Doukhobors arrived in Canada, the Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood came into being, the offspring of vision and necessity. Within six months individual families began to drift away, to become the Independents, many of whom now adhere to the Canadian Society of Doukhobors. The Freedomites first appeared in 1902, became the Sons of Freedom about 1928, and evolved into their leading faction, the Christian Community and Brotherhood of Reformed Doukhobors in the 1960s, splitting off the new Freedomites in 1974. Peter Chistiakov's umbrella organization, the Society of Named Doukhobors, survived the collapse of the CCUB and changed its name in the early 1940s to the Union of Spiritual Communities of Christ. The debates and disputes Between these organizations have been many, various, and sometimes bitter. External response has included vigilantism, police action, repressive legislation, royal commissions, and, more recently and less ineffectively, a standing consultative and mediative forum, the Kootenay Committee on Intergroup Relations. This structure, begun in 1979 and meeting irregularly since then, assembles representatives of the Doukhobor groups, provincial and federal agency officials, and local community resource people under the chairmanship of a very senior administrator of the attorney-general's ministry.

Political Organization. Doukhobors held the Russian state to be the Antichrist—that is, both religious and secular arms opposed to the Doukhobor spiritual vision. Toleration under Czar Alexander I only threw the usual practices of the Russian government into darker shadow. When governments in Canada were perceived to have betrayed Doukhobor hopes, the traditional view was reinforced by the British Columbia government's action to deprive Doukhobors (and others) of the voting franchise in the 1930s. At this point, Community Doukhobors formally repudiated involvement in anything above local government (which they perceived as a legitimate community-housekeeping function). Although the restoration of the franchise after World War II helped matters, the policy remains in place. Community Doukhobors do give strong verbal and some material support to the United Nations in its global and local forms, and have Recently strongly reinforced their involvement in various arms of the North American pacifist movement. They also make pacifism a primary theme in their communications with Soviet institutions.

Social Control. During the communal period, contact with outside agencies was avoided as far as possible, and the spiritual leader and his lieutenants arbitrated a wide range of issues, occasionally beating offenders. Today, conflicts are usually handled conventionally, the ancient practices of comment, gossip, public debate, advice of elders, and spirited shouting matches followed by honest tolerance if not reconciliation being preferred to police and the courts.

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