Dukh-i-zhizniki in America

An update of Molokans in America (Berokoff, 1969).   IN-PROGRESS

Enhanced and edited by Andrei Conovaloff, since 2012.  Send comments to Administrator @ Molokane. org


Chapter 9 Conclusion  [<Chapter 8] [Contents] [Addenda>]

[PAGE 148] The sympathetic response of the [American Spiritual Christians] Molokan community to the pleas of the brethren in Iran proved that the natural instinct for works of charity is much alive in the brotherhood; that the community could co-operate freely and willingly if the cause appeals to the basic Christian feelings of the people. Differences would occur only in the interpretation of basic [Spiritual Christian] Molokan doctrine[s] and then only if it is subject to a two-fold interpretation [ "black or white"].

The two issues that once so disturbed the harmony of the [Dukh-i-zhizniki] community the U.M.C.A., and the Komitet [board of directors] have been modified by time and experience to the extent that the entire brotherhood was able to adjust itself to them [mainly by evicting heritage Molokane and Pryguny]

The Komitet that bone of contention that once so disturbed the harmony of the [Dukh-i-zhizniki] brotherhood and which at one time was considered as indispensable to [congregation] church government has been abandoned as needless by all congregations of the entire brotherhood except the "Big Church", who [applied] originated the idea in 1933. The last of the smaller congregations to give it up was the San Marcos congregation which abandoned it in 1960 at the suggestion of all presbyters of Los Angeles who perceived that it was a cause of friction in that congregation.

[Legally all the congregations and organizations have officers and a board of directors if they registered as a non-profit corporation, for tax-exemption. The political-religious compromise was placing the prestol (seated elders, literally: "at the table") automatically on the board of directors, with the presbyter as president, merging church and state. The most zealous congregations avoid the state by appointing a younger person to own or negotiate the business side of the congregation to avoid state and federal registration; and though they pay property tax, they can claim to be "spiritually clean" by not registering. The Americanized organizations appear to believe, though they may not have the vocabulary to express it, that their (komitet) board of directors is a "Christian fellowship," a form of koinonia.]

It could not he denied that there are numerous individuals in the brotherhood who are still opposed in principle to the Komitet and to the U.M.C.A., but these two innovations are no longer the causes of stormy controversy that they once were [because by 1969 Dukh-i-zhizniki occupied the organization]. The U.M.C.A. during its 40 years of existence has proved itself as a valuable and flourishing [Spiritual Christian] Molokan Youth Center where each Sunday morning up to 25 classes of children of [PAGE 149] both sexes and various ages (3 to 16 years) are taught the rudiments of [Spiritual Christian] Molokan religion, Molokan songs and prayers. Wednesday evenings are devoted to the older teenagers where they too, learn to sing and pray in the Russian language, and where those of marriageable age meet, become acquainted and often engaged to be married. 

In addition to the U.M.C.A. other active [Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokans have developed a novel but effective method of indoctrinating its youth. In the last 30-35 years they have been bringing small groups of teenagers of both sexes together of evenings in homes of these youngsters for singing classes [spevki] conducted by middle aged church activists where, in the midst of [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan social environment, they teach [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan singing, its background its traditions and the advantages of marrying within the [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan faith[s]

However, this two-fold activity has only partially solved the problems of [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan American life whether it is in the city or on the farms. (The [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan farmer is now in such close communication with some large city that its temptations are fully as strong for their youth as for the youth of Los Angeles. Woodburn and Gervais, Oregon are only 30 minutes drive from the great city of Portland, so is Fresno to Kerman and Phoenix, Arizona to the farmers of Glendale.)

[Drugs, Intermarriage]

It is true that juvenile delinquency has disappeared as a community concern, but the great problem of dope addiction that has afflicted the nation has not entirely bypassed the [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan community. It is a problem that individual families understandably try to keep to themselves* so that the community as a whole does not know how seriously it has been affected by it. It is known, however, that [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan boys and girls have been victimized by the curse. It is a certainty also that the problem of intermarriage with non-[Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokans is still with us but whether or not in a greater [PAGE 150] or lesser degree than forty years ago, no one knows for sure as no statistics are available [nor did he try to estimate**].

[* Self-isolation in the metropolis appears to be Berokoff's solution for "having the best of both worlds," though it violates Klubnikin's prophesy for an isolated rural refuge. He does not know this fitting Russian idiom: И рыбку съесть, и в воду не лезть (I pybku c"est', i v vodu ne lest') wanting to eat a fish without getting into the waters. He tries to maintain his simple faith and spiritual inbred cleanliness in a big sinful city, where life is much easier than farming. He thinks he won't get wet (contaminated by drugs and inter-marriage) because he will protect his family from the world outside their door. When it occurs, no one talks about their loss.

** In the mid-1970s, several of us made a list of single youth in the 1960s starting with the U.M.C.A. Sunday School roster mailing labels and adding from personal knowledge. We estimated that about 1/3 were married-in, 1/3 married-out, and 1/3 still single hanging around.]

It appears, on the surface at least, that the problem is not a bit lesser but the community is more or less reconciled to it. Forty and fifty years ago when it first became a serious problem, such an event became known and lamented by everybody in the community. Now, however, one hears of it months after it occurs and dismisses it from his mind as of no concern to him. 

Indeed, many second generation [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan American parents whose children intermarry are not too unduly concerned either, because their own attachment to the faith of their fathers is not very strong. Their attitude towards their religion, is one of indifference. [Many did not want their children to marry-in to what they perceive as a repressive, abusive society of uneducated old-world ritualists. Others did not want to be obligated to attend lots of in-law events (doings, dela) where they are expected to to eat long meals, and men kiss men.]

It follows, therefore, that the cause of the above two problems of the community lies basically in this attitude of indifference. But this attitude towards any problem, be it religious or political, is the most difficult to overcome. We could only hope that the recent revival among the teenagers the outpouring of the Holy Spirit might reawaken this lukewarm attitude of the parents and start a revival among them also.

[Here Berokoff recommends a spiritual revival in the city instead of fleeing from the city, or from the United States as about 200 did 5 years earlier to Australia. Note that no Berokoffs (Berekoffs or Berukoffs) were rural colonists anywhere (Mexico, Hawaii, Arizona, Central California, Utah, New Mexico, Oregon, or Washington) before 1950, that I can find (husband or wife), nor did any go to Australia in the 1960s or to Brazil in the 1970s. Some were in Oregon by 1980, which became a default pakhod destination for young Dukh-i-zhiznik couples by the 1990s, mainly for those unwilling to leave the US, yet wanting a less urban environment.]

At the present time (1968) there are no basic issues* in the [Dukh-i-zhiznik] brotherhood that would tend to disturb the harmonious fraternization between the seven congregations of Los Angeles and between the eight congregations of the farming communities. Of these latter there are three in Kerman, California, one each in Shafter, Porterville and San Marcos, California, one in Glendale, Arizona and one in Woodburn (Gervais) Oregon. [He does not count the 2 Molokan congregations (San Francisco, Sheridan CA). By 2012, the number of congregations nearly doubled in the US, due to splits.]

[* There were many major "basic issues": (1) the validity of the Spirit and Life book, (2) are the UMCA and Bolshaya sobraniya ("Big Church") still contaminated with YRCA-ers, and (2) is Australia the prophesied destination in the "South."

An exception could be made of one small congregation in Los Angeles [Staro-Romanovskoe, Old Romanov, Blue Top, Clelia Ave.] which remains [steadfast (constant, postoyannie)] aloof from the other principally over the old question of the Komitet and over the recently accepted custom of the other congregations of placing the bodies of deceased within the walls of houses of worship for funeral services. Up to 35 years ago it was the custom to leave [PAGE 151] the bodies in the homes of the deceased but such premises became too small when more and more friends and relatives felt it a duty to the departed to remain with the body late at night so the custom was instituted to bring it to the houses of worship for the funeral services. [The 1980 Orloff, Dom Malitvee, La Puente congregation, which split from Ahktinskoe sobranie (Samarin's, Percy street) follows the original (constant, postoyannie)* custom by holding funeral services in a garage.]
[* Here the term
postoyannie does not refer to the Molokan faith. I hope readers will learn the Russian meaning of these words.]

But there was some objection to this new custom, based on the Mosaic law that it makes the premises unclean for eight days, therefore the premises are unfit for services for that length of time. In addition the objection was raised that by placing a dead body in such close proximity to the [meeting hall] church kitchen when food is being prepared there, it violates the laws of hygiene as well. These objections are disregarded. however, and it is now an accepted custom in all congregations but the one mentioned here. [Why does Berokoff not mention the congregation? Maybe this is homework for the reader. Maybe because his split from it and he does not want to offend.]

*      *      *       *      *

The question of return to the country of its origin that once so agitated the community is now a dead issue, perhaps because the original proponents of the scheme have mostly passed on and the rank and file of the brotherhood is now composed of second and third generation [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan Americans who, being born in America, have no blood [or spiritual] attachments to Russia. A second and important reason lies in the fact that during the last ten years [a few] many of those who were born there and who are now responsible elders of the brotherhood, have visited their birthplace, saw with their own eyes and heard with their own ears of the conditions of religious life of their brethren in faith, did not like what they saw and lost any desire they might have had of returning to their fatherland. [My grandfather Jake D. Conovaloff, the only one in his family to emigrate, visited his siblings in Pyatigorsk in the 1960s and returned hating the Soviets and ordered my parents to never teach us grand-kids the Russian language or anything about Russia.]

The question of seeking eventual haven in the Near East has also been practically abandoned for the same reasons. The principal proponents of that belief have likewise passed on. If any of the younger generation still adhere to that belief they are not actively propagating it. That question may not he dead but it is certainly lying dormant.

[Australia Refuge]

[PAGE 152] But a prophecy did occur in the Arizona congregation in 1963 that had a remote connection with the question of a haven in the Near East. That prophecy created a tremendous stir in the entire [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan community. According to that prophecy the [Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokans must immigrate to Australia and settle near the city of Ararat, Victoria, [115 miles WNW of] near the great city of Melbourne [Google map]

According to this prophesy this Ararat and not the Biblical Mt. Ararat as prophesied by [Maksim] Maxim G. [Rudomyotkin] Rudametkin, was to be the actual refuge of the [Maksimisty] Molokans from the coming holocaust. Furthermore, the [Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokans had but four years from the date of the prophecy to comply with the prophecy.

Inspired by that prophesy, the [zealous] younger members of the brotherhood stirred up a strong and active agitation for a move to that country, so strong in fact, that a delegation of three was sent to Australia by a part of the community to explore the conditions there. 

The delegation returned with a favorable report but recommended that any future settlement should be made not near the city of Ararat but in Western Australia, near the city of Perth, suggesting, further that the migration, to be successful, should begin with a sufficiently large group to form a self-sustaining colony and should also include recognized church elders to guide the young settlers.

[In the early 1980s, William Wm. Prohoroff ("Billy Pro") told me that he expected his relative John Terenty Prohoroff to sell his multimillion dollar egg ranch in San Marcos, California, to buy a huge block of land near Ararat, Victoria, Australia, for their refuge colony. But, these farmer Dukh-i-zhizniki and others from California did their own land and market analysis and chose to buy farms at the other end of the continent in West Australia (WA). Those who arrived in Victoria could not find employment and moved to the Adelaide area in South Australia (SA). Soon SA had 3-4 congregations and a larger population of Dukh-i-zhizniki than WA.]

Following the return of the delegation, two well attended mass meetings were held which resulted in a decision to hold a three day fast and a prayer for divine guidance in which every congregation of the [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan brotherhood in America participated. 

These meetings and the prayer that followed showed clearly that the sentiment of the [most zealous American Dukh-i-zhizniki] community was sharply divided in a ratio of approximately 3 to 1 against the migration, those favoring it being exclusively of the [most zealous] young category. Practically all elders strongly opposed the idea on various grounds but [PAGE 153] principally on the grounds that a prophecy involving such a vast migration should be confirmed by other prophets and should have scriptural basis as well. As no such scriptural basis could be found and no confirming prophecy occurred, the elders were unanimous in oppo sition. (See Addenda P. XXI.)

[In Chapter 5, page 82, Berokoff stated : "Afosay T. Bezayeff uttered a prophesy at this time, in effect forbidding aid to any part of Soviet Russia, not even your own flesh and blood saying that, by helping the Soviets we would be nourishing a black horse that will trample us under its hooves in the end." This could be the Holy Spirit warning about a nuclear holocaust.]

Notwithstanding this opposition, a group of eight families with their infants and small children comprising 32, persons in all, sailed for Australia on September 9, 1964, receiving a real heart warming send off at the dock where nearly 1000 well-wishers, friends and relatives assembled to sing encouraging spiritual songs of farewell as the steamship Oriana pulled away from the dock. 

Later, other young families from Arizona, Los Angeles, Fresno and Oregon sailed to join them but, unfortunately, not in sufficient numbers to form a nucleus for a successful [Dukh-i-zhiznik] Molokan community, and, although the small group of settlers were hopefully anticipating the arrival of many others and optimistically set about establishing themselves in their new environment, not many came and events proved that their hopes were based on wishful thinking. After three years and a half ten families returned to America and by their return, caused others to doubt the future success of the whole venture. 

The Australian venture brings our story of the [Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokan community in America to its seventh decade. The [last few] late years, and particularly the last decade, has witnessed the most radical change in the nation's history, a complete metamorphosis, in fact.

Upon their arrival here in 1904, the [Spiritual Christians] Molokans were met by two prime examples of American religious environment and background Dana W. Bartlett who befriended them in the name of Christian ethics and the mysterious woman who saw [PAGE 154] them in a vision forty years prior to their appearance in Los Angeles. 

The State of California at that time was a sparsely settled agricultural area with only one large city, San Francisco, which alone of all the cities of the West Coast, had a reputation for wickedness. Indeed, the economy of the whole nation was based on agriculture where the large majority of the population derived its livelihood from the soil, forming a class of people noted all over the world for its industry, sobriety, honesty and sound Christian morals. 

Riots or disturbances of any kind were unheard of. Crime, although not unknown, was not rampant. Use of habit-forming drugs was known only to readers of lurid fiction. Smoking and drinking by the female sex was rare and never in public. The atmosphere was not polluted by industrial fumes nor by fumes from the internal (infernal?) combustion engine. Permanent compulsory military service existed only in the minds of some planners of future wars, if at all. In fact, it was an ideal refuge for pious and industrious peasants that our fathers and grandfathers were. It is indeed regrettable that God in His wisdom did not lead our forefathers to California when the woman of mystery first saw her vision sometime in the 1860's for then they surely would have settled in some available agricultural area which was at that time so easy to find and, perhaps, would not have later succumbed to the lure of city life. 

But now, in the midst of a turbulent and over populated city which is morally corrupted by its wealth and physically by its smog, its youth surrounded and assailed on all sides by innumerable temptations, by alcoholism and viscous drugs, by smutty literature and entertainment, by crime and immorality comparable to Sodom and Gomorrah, beset by periodic wars, blissfully ignoring the possibility of a nuclear war, its leaders lulled by comforts of affluence, the [Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokan brotherhood [PAGE 155] continue their complacent lives. It is indeed very likely that they were unaware that, together with millions of others, they were on the brink of complete extinction in 1963 by nuclear missiles during the confrontation of the U.S. with the USSR over the latter's installation of long range ballistic missiles in Cuba

Whether they were or not remains a moot question but one thing is certain; the great majority of [Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokans, elders and the rank and file, are indifferent to the same probability of a future confrontation notwithstanding the fact that the Los Angeles area, due to the concentration of aircraft and other military industries within its confines, plus the vast naval installations in the harbors of San Pedro and Long Beach, is bound to become a prime target for inter-continental ballistic missiles against which, all authorities agree, there is no defense. 

But in the nature of things it is very difficult for the contemporary leadership to take the initiative in the direction of a movement to leave the United States. The leadership is now composed of the remnants of those who were born in Russia, who were brought to, this country by their parents as young children, who actively participated with them in the hardships of the first difficult years in America and who have now reached a period of life where they would like to enjoy their declining years in tranquility, rightfully praising God for delivering them and their parents from calamities of the past half century. 

It would he unjust to expect them to do otherwise but it would not he unjust to expect them to encourage the emerging younger leadership to take up the reins in the search for a second refuge* in some remote corner of the world, away from the world's turmoil and its temptations, to the end that the brotherhood would not disintegrate in the great megalopolis that is Southern California and that the labors of their fathers and forefathers would not have been in vain.

* Berokoff implies that Southern California is the "first refuge." I hope they pay their bills like honest Christians should, before skipping the country.


[<Chapter 8] [Contents] [Addenda>]


Spiritual Christian History
Spiritual Christians Around the World