A Scattering of Seeds: The Creation of Canada
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General History


Doukhobors, members of a Russian Christian sect like the Perverseffs, first came to Canada in the late nineteenth century, fleeing persecution for refusing military service in the Russian army. The Doukhobor stand against killing met with harsh oppression on the part of Czarist State and Church authorities, and the Doukhobors were tortured and exiled under extremely arduous conditions, with the total loss of all normal freedom and privileges. Many people died. Suffering of such proportions attracted world?wide attention, and with the help of humanitarians such as Leo Tolstoy and the Society of Friends (Quakers), the Doukhobors were able to emigrate to Canada.

The term Doukhobor was first used in 1875 by a Russian Orthodox archbishop who used the term in a derogatory manner to those who "wrestled against the spirit of Church and God." The Doukhobors on the other hand, see themselves as part of a Christian religious and social movement characterized by love, human goodness and justice.

The first group of Doukhobos settled in the Prince Albert and Yorkton areas of Saskatchewan, followed by two more waves. By 1908, a group of Doukhobors had moved west to British Columbia and established residence there in the Kootenay and Grand Forks areas. An agreement was struck between the Doukhobors and the Canadian government, which was looking for people to settle and farm its western lands. In this agreement, the Doukhobors would come if the government agreed to three demands: l) they would be exempt from military service, 2) they would have complete independence in the organization of their communities, and 3) they would receive large blocks of land.

The Doukhobor groups came between 1905 and 1911, to a part of Canada that was still a frontier society; an un-surveyed chunk of land without roads or bridges. They initially formed three colonies of 50 families per settlement, to enable their limited resources and money to reach the people. Log dwellings luted with clay were common to the North Colony settlement, while sod and clay houses were built in the South and Prince Albert colonies of Saskatchewan.

The political, social, and economic hardships of Russia during the time the Doukhobors were landing in Canada encouraged the interest of later Russian immigrants; mostly peasants, as well as Russian Jews and other subjects from the western territories of the Empire including Belarus, Lithuania, Ukraine, and Moldova. The majority of these early immigrants were attracted to such Canadian cities as Montreal, Toronto, Windsor, Timmins, Winnipeg, Vancouver,

Russian Emigration to Canada was halted by the fact of the Russian Revolution of 1917 in which the Czarist regime was overthrown by Bolsheviks and the country disintegrated with the outbreak of the Russian Civil War of 1918-21. This conflict, which led to the defeat of the counter-revolutionary White Russians by members of the Bolshevik Red Army, created thousands of refugees. Desperate for new lives, they headed for France, Britain, Switzerland, China, and other countries before eventually coming to Canada.

Russians also came to Canada after the Second World War as part of the great mass migration of people which followed the Allied victory. According to the 1996 Canadian Census, a total of 272,325 persons said they were wholly (46,885) or partially (225,450) of Russian background. The larger urban centres of Canada such as Montreal, Toronto, and Vancouver continue to be the most popular areas for settlement. In addition, Russians have settled in Calgary, Edmonton , Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Regina, and Hamilton.

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