From Rus­sia with bread, salt and wa­ter

Lethbridge Herald - - HOMETOWN NEWS - Ryan Dutchak

From Bud­dhism to Pres­by­te­ri­an­ism, Leth­bridge and south­ern Al­berta have a di­verse re­li­gious his­tory. One of the many groups that moved to this area were the Doukhobors, a Chris­tian sec­tar­ian group who em­i­grated from Rus­sia to Canada at the end of the 19th cen­tury.

Also known as the “Spirit Wrestlers,” the Doukhobors held strong paci­fistic be­liefs due to their per­cep­tion that God dwells within ev­ery be­ing. Their re­fusal to serve in the mil­i­tary re­sulted in a growth of pub­lic hos­til­ity di­rected at the group.

In the early 1900s, the Doukhobors es­tab­lished com­mu­ni­ties through­out the prov­ince of Saskatchewan. How­ever, they were forced to move fol­low­ing dis­putes with the Saskatchewan gov­ern­ment over homestead laws and the ed­u­ca­tion of chil­dren. They trav­elled west, from Saskatchewan to Bri­tish Columbia. In­ter­nal frac­tures re­sulted in the for­ma­tion of a zeal­ous group, later called the “Sons of Free­dom.” Un­for­tu­nately, the ar­son at­tacks and nude protests car­ried out by the Sons of Free­dom have over­shad­owed the more peace­ful and in­dus­tri­ous his­tory of the Doukhobors in Canada.

In 1915, the Doukhobors pur­chased their first Al­berta set­tle­ment in the Cow­ley Lund­breck area. Thir­teen small vil­lages soon fol­lowed, with roughly 300 peo­ple oc­cu­py­ing 13,500 acres of land. The Cow­ley-Lund­breck set­tle­ments were de­vel­oped to sup­port the com­mu­nal vil­lages es­tab­lished in Bri­tish Columbia. To this end, they built two grain el­e­va­tors and a flour mill to sup­ply the Bril­liant, B.C. com­mu­nity with flour and grain prod­ucts. The Doukhobors also played a cen­tral role in the south­ern Al­berta live­stock in­dus­try. The pub­lic hos­til­ity the Doukhobors faced in other ar­eas of Canada never man­i­fested it­self in Al­berta.

Fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties forced many to leave the prov­ince. Those who stayed in the Cow­ley-Lund­breck area formed the “United Doukhobors of Al­berta.” In 1954, the Doukhobors built a prayer home in Lund­breck, which gained his­toric recog­ni­tion from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment in 2010.

Your old photos, doc­u­ments, and ar­ti­facts might have his­tor­i­cal value. Please con­tact Galt Mu­seum & Archives for ad­vice be­fore de­stroy­ing them.

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