Dukh-i-zhizniki in America
An update of Molokans in America (Berokoff, 1969). IN-PROGRESS
Enhanced and edited by Andrei Conovaloff, 2013. Send comments to < Administrator @ Molokane. org >
Original: © 1969 by John K. Berokoff, 3478 East 5th Street, Los Angeles, California 90063, USA
Privately Printed by Stockton-Doty Trade Press, Inc. Whittier, Calif., 208 pages.
ReviewMolokans in America was the first history book in English by a Dukh-i-zhiznik for American Dukh-i-zhizniki. Published in 1969, it was the last of several books by the late author and translator John Kereich Berokoff (1898-1972), and his only book with photos and tables. The book is a fair reference with many errors and omissions which have never been addressed on the scale presented here. It can be found in several libraries. My reasons for revising it are:
This book was never a verified source. Because many descendants of Dukh-i-zhizniki refer to his privately printed books for their history, and scholars often consulted and cited it as fact, this widely distributed book needed to be extensively corrected and updated. This Review is a preface to my update which follows below. This is a work in-progress, and should be checked for updates time stamped below.
- The title and labels are misleading,
- Much more unbiased research is needed with citations, and
- Lack of visual aids.
In Black Font the reader will find the original text, and in bracketed [Red Font] changes and comments, with hyperlinks to more information on the Internet. The current Russian alphabet is used here, updating pre-1918 Russian texts. Brackets are used for corrections to aid those who may print these pages without color (B&W). Simple HTML code is used for quick download and cross-platform readability in desktop and mobile computers.
JOHN K. BEROKOFF (1898-1972) was born 16 February 1898 in the village of Voskresenovka, Erivan Governorate, Russia (now Lermontova, Armenia). He was the last of 12 children born to Kiray Timofeyitch Berokoff. Their village neighbored Nikitino village, Yerevan guberniya, Russia (now Fioletovo, Republic of Armenia), was the hometown of M.G. Rudomyotkin, founder of the Spiritual Christian Maksimist faith, and E.G. Klubnikin (Klubnikinist faith) who had a boyhood vision about a land of refuge which was also a popular theme among starovery.
Though Klubnikin was the founding presbyter and prophet of his congregation and faith in America, Berokoff concludes in this book, with regret and little explanation, that he did not completely fulfill the refuge prophesy of Klubnikin.
In 1907 the Berokoff family arrived in Los Angeles when John was 9 years old. The Los Angeles City Directory, 1909 (page 148) shows his family address as Kire Berokov, 503 Turner street, in the crowded Bethlehem district among thousands of arriving and departing Spiritual Christians, other nationalities of "undesirable immigrants" (not from western or northern Europe), prostitutes, drunks, homeless and destitute.
Family oral history reports 3 immigrant Biryukov (Бирюков) brothers landing at Ellis Island, New York. When they saw long lines (queues) of people waiting, they decided to split into 3 lines, cleverly thinking they will save time and all finish together. After processing they compared immigration documents. Each was given a different name in English Berekoff, Berokoff, Berukoff. There was no standardized transliteration of languages at that time.
Like his peers, he began full-time work at age 16, avoiding junior high school. His first job was in a reed furniture factory, probably downtown with other immigrants, who were taught reed weaving, rattan, furniture building and other sloyd trades in free vocational classes. His next job was collecting rubbish, which was a preferable profession among his peers because they had flexible hours allowing them to attend most all religious meetings (sobranie, holidays, funerals, etc.). ("John K. Berokoff (1971): 'The simpler our faith, the better it tastes,' "a 75 minute 2-part interview on CD with text introduction by James J. Samarin, 2001. Photo on CD courtesy Andrew J. Berokoff.)
His family first attended Romanovskii sobraniya (also called: Klubnikin, Podval, Shubin) in the Flats, and when the congregation divided his family followed the Novie Romanovskoe branch to 3553 Beswick street, nicknamed Freeway sobraniya because it bordered a freeway (in 2010 it moved to the city of Whittier). In his youth he also attended the Young Peoples Meeting (molodoe sobraniya) which embraced the Dukh-i-zhiznik ritual books, charismatic jumping, and opposed both the U.M.C.A. (since 1926) and Y.R.C.A. (since 1941).
Berokoff lived close to the core population of Dukh-i-zhizniki and other Spiritual Christians in Los Angles his entire life where he had good exposure to most events and issues of his generation. He was more self-educated compared to his peers, probably more fluent in Russian and English, and typed.
His exposure to social and historical documentation occurred in the late 1920s when he and others assisted University of Southern California graduate student Pauline Young with her master's and doctoral theses (1928) resulting in her book The Pilgrims of Russian-town (1932). Young wrote in her Acknowledgements (page x): "Mr. John K. Berokoff has read the volume, made many corrections, and offered valued criticism. He has kept in touch with the study for several years." Young's works about Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki in America stood alone for 37 years until Berokoff's history book in 1969. This exposure undoubtedly launched his volunteer position as an amateur historian and an unofficial spokesman.
He began to translate Dukh-i-zhiznik ritual books probably for his own use and to share with youth not Russian-literate and confused about their heritage, which they only learned from limited oral tales. It was said that he was concerned about his younger relatives questioning their faith and history, about which he writes in Chapter 7, page 129: "... they were not sufficiently indoctrinated." In 1941 he published his first legacy book, the previously translated 1915 Arizona Maksimist prayer book (molitvennik), with a preface explaining that since we are not returning to Russia this book is needed in English to educate the youth. Translations were also needed to show the government that they were Spiritual Christians opposed to war.
Like many of his peers, whose ancestors were wagon drivers (drozhky) in Russia, not farmers, he developed his own urban recycling business later in life, buying and re-selling kegs of nails. He had 5 children: Bill, Paul, Peter, Andy and Manya. His literacy probably motivated 2 of his sons to graduate college and pursue a teaching profession, unlike their most zealous peers whose families feared higher education, because "it robbed the spirit." In the 1950s, he raised his family at 335 South State St, the west edge of Boyle Heights, within walking distance of the Flats, schools, parks, youth programs, and electric streetcars. In the 1960s, he moved to 3478 East 5th St, the east edge of Boyle Heights. He died May 1972 at age 74, 3 years after publishing this book at age 71.
During WWII, he volunteered to mediate with the government and peace churches regarding alternative military service, and was appointed secretary of the Los Angeles Dukh-i-zhiznik conscientious objector Advisory Committee. Though committee members rotated, he steadfastly conducted nearly all its written business. His report is all of Chapter 7 (18 pages). Some of his document collection is shown as Addenda, of which 6 of the 30 numbered items are missing with no explanation for omission or non-sequential numbering. The 51-page Addenda comprise 25% of the pages of his 208-page book, indicating how important he felt they were for the community public record. 20% of his book focused on WWII (18 pages of Chapter 7 + 16 pages in Addenda = 42 / 208 total pages).
Berokoff's 1966 privately printed history book was first web-published in 1998 by me, after correcting the original for spelling and grammar errors, and enhancing with some clarifications, links, definitions and maps. In the past decade, I found fascinating forgotten and censored history by exploring hints provided by Berokoff, like the failures of Cherbak, bride selling, colonizations, and unpaid $17,024 CPS debt. Some of this new material has been added here to substantially clarify and improve the original book producing this new version with an accurate title, which is being updated as time permits. In time, this project should evolve into several print and e-books.
1. The title and labels are misleading
The major error was that the original book was NOT about Molokane, but about Dukhovnie khristiane pryguny (Духовные христиане пригуны : Spiritual Christian Jumpers) and historically related faiths (Maksimisty, Zionisty, Novie Israeli, etc.), whose descendants established the Dukh-i-zhiznik family of faiths in on the American west coast, clustered in eastern Los Angeles County, and are properly collectively called Dukh-i-zhizniki (Дух-и-жизники) after 1928. Beginning in 1902 they called themselves the Brotherhood of Spiritual Christians, which by WWI became the Brotherhood of Spiritual Christian Jumpers, until their Kniga solntse, dukh i zhizn' was published. They are mixed descendants of Russians, Ukrainians, Armenians, Mordovins, Chuvash, and other nationalities and ethinic groups who resided in the Former Soviet Union.
Again, Berokoff wrote a book about Dukh-i-zhizniki not Molokane, which confused all the descendants of these immigrants and continues to confuse nearly everyone, including scholars and journalists, who widely propagated the false label by citing his book and Young (1932).
My main criticism of Berokoff's history is the misnomer title and careless identification of the Spiritual Christian faiths. Though the book appears to be about "Molokans," Berokoff presents almost no information about the Molokan faith until the last Addenda letter (page 207), or about Molokan congregations in San Francisco and north of Sacramento, California. Only upon repeated questioning by professor Piepkorn (a Russian), does Berokoff admit that he does not know Molokan elders or rituals. In the Addenda letters Berokoff documents the change of religious labels from WWI, through WWII and again in the 1960s. Only once in Addenda XXVII #7 does he confess "The title of our church body in Russian is: Dukhovnaye Christiani Pryguny" (page 203). After 1928, his faith became dukhovnye khristiane dukh-i-zhiznik.
In 1971 he incorrectly lectured to youth: "There is no significant difference between Pryguny and Postoyannie except the manifestation of the Holy Spirit;" while focusing on Rudomyotkin and the Dukh i zhizn' to define his faith. (Samarin CD.) He died the following year, in May 1972, buried at the "Old Cemetery."
Throughout his body text (pages 1-156) Berokoff consistently perpetuated the confusing misnomer that members of his faith are "Molokans" 329 times while sparsely and inconsistently contradicting that they are "Spiritual Christian Jumpers" or "Pryguny" 9 times, or a Brotherhood 3 times. He reported the wrong faith 36 times more as propaganda than the correct faith (329/9)!
2. Much more unbiased research is needed with citations
My second criticism is Berokoff did little research, was biased, and what few facts he cites typically lack sources. His comments are too often vague and general with no "hard data." No census counts or estimates are shown. No institutions are discussed in detail or listed except in Chapter 7 where he targets the congregations for failure to pay their bills.
His sources are limited, primarily from Kniga solnste, dukh i zhizn', the Sionskii pesennik (songbook) and his own oral history, particularly his knowledge and records of conscientious objectors during both world wars. He skims through history, briefly mentioning topics to present his story, often with partial or no verifiable facts. Some topics are avoided, or censored. My goal is to fill in these vast voids with relevant facts and citations.
It is puzzling that he did not mention or cite any of 8 periodicals published by his diaspora Dukh-i-zhiznik community before 1969
* By using a simple false label, these publications significantly popularized the misnomer among all diaspora Spiritual Christians of many different faiths (mostly varieties of converted Pryguny) that were all a unified different faith.
- Molokanskoe* Obozrenie (Молоканское Обозрение : The Molokan* Review, 1941-1949), including 2 of his own articles:
- "In Retrospect" (Молоканское* Обозрение : The Molokan* Review, August 1945, pages 8, 35); and
- "The Movies-Good or Evil?" (Молоканское* Обозрение : The Molokan* Review, August 1947, pages 8, 13);
- The Flats Gazette (dates?)
- Духовные христиане : Spiritual Christian (edited by Prokhanov)
- Newsletters and mailings by the UMCA (The Molokan)
- YRCA (The Anchor)
- CO camp newsletters (The Molokan*, 1942+)
- Russian Molokan* Directory (1956, 196_?)
He also omitted relevant earlier mis-labeled publications about Dukh-i-zhizniki not written by diaspora Dukh-i-zhizniki:
Though public libraries had 100s of relevant newspaper articles and books, and other oral history was abundant, he only referred to one 1969 Los Angeles Times article (Chapter 1, page 17) about a meteor shower, which appeared just before publication of his book; and he never named an elder he quoted besides Klubnikin. It may be due to his limited elementary education that he did not know how to mine the library, cite references, how to conduct interviews, or the facts were so embarrassing that he chose to censor his own book as he did with The Pilgrims in Russian-town. He apparently did not ask anyone with good literary skills to help him. He missed so much relevant history and could have correlated events.
- Russian Sectarian Peasants in the West, A Stake in the Land, by P.A. Speek, 1921. Pages 24-33.
- Young, Pauline V.
- Social Heritages of Molokane in Los Angeles. (1926) Unpublished Master's thesis, University of Southern California.;
- Molokan Family Organization," (1927) Sociology and Social Research 12: 54-60;
- The Russian Molokan Community in Los Angeles, American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Nov., 1929), pp. 393-402;
- Assimilation Problems of Russian Molokans in Los Angeles. (1930) Unpublished Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California.
- Вестник духовных христиан Молокан : The Herald of Spiritual Christian Molokans (San Francisco, Sheridan CA, 1925+). This official Molokan publication was also not mentioned in Young's The Pilgrims of Russian-town (1932, 1967, 1998).
- Roher, Norman. "Molokans from the Flats: Young Russians American style," King's Business, October 1956, pages 40-41.
For examples, though Berokoff said the Doukhobor historian Peter N. Maloff was a friend (page 202), he omits or did not know about the 3 Doukhobor arms burning protests in 1895, or their incarcerations and exiles witnessed by their neighbor E.G. Klubnikin who came to Los Angeles as presviter of his congregation; that Lev N. Tolstoy petitioned for emigration of Spiritual Christians from Russia; that Community Doukhobors and Sons of Freedom tried to move to the U.S. from Canada several times to join with Spiritual Christians in the U.S. while the zealot proto-Svobodniki tried to join with Pryguny-etc; he unequally mentioned most colonization efforts while missing plans for major colonies in Hawaii (1905), and with all Spiritual Christians near Santa Barbara (1902, 1910), Oregon (1923), Paraguay (1952); he omits the impacts of the closing of the Bethlehem Institutes (1913) and opening of the International Institute (1914); women's vote, 19th Amendment (1920); omits the impact of youth who excelled in sports and crime; omits the impacts of the 1930s labor strikes, dust bowl, earthquake and depression; no mention of the Japanese Internment (1942), Zoot Suit Riots (1943) or the Watts Riot (1965); and he omits many people who impacted and/or reported about his Spiritual Christian Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki (Bixby, Bodyanskii, Clark, Cushing, de Blumenthals, Demens, Dunn, Huntington, Gould, Green, Leshing, Lev, Lochvitzky, Oxnam, Pilnyak, Sokoloff, Sorokin, Spaulding, Stimson, Teichrieb, Tolstoy, Tolstaya, Ukhtomsky, Wilbur), while briefly mentioning a few (Bartlett, Cherbak, Cudney, Maloff, Young).
He could have correlated the social conditions and many "Russian bride" court hearings in Los Angeles (1911-1914) with groups fleeing to form rural colonies; the Long Beach earthquake (1933) with protests about komitet; and urban assimilation with success in sports and education, and failed petitions to move back to Turkey (1939, 1945).
Instead, his analysis initially focuses on failed religious prophesy, then details the shameful CPS debt, and concludes that urban diaspora Dukh-i-zhizniki should seek refuge elsewhere, "away from the world's turmoil and its temptations." Though he testified to be a follower of Klubnikin (Klubnikinist), he remained in Los Angeles in a house, attended meetings (sobranie), and was buried in a cemetery all adjacent to freeways.
3. Lack of visual aids
My third wish is for more and accurate reader aids maps, charts, lists, section labels and an index. A comprehensive list of why only 1% migrated greatly expands the Introduction below. The original inside-cover map by Shubin is very crude and some villages have 2 names, not shown. Simple maps showing the migration paths, neighborhoods, assemblies and colonies would have greatly orientated the reader; and are being inserted as time permits. When I posted this book in 1997, I added rough maps scanned from my mislabeled 1980 Молокан Directory and photos taken in 1939. I posted them on my mislable website (molokane.org). Since then, from my travels in Russia and collaboration with Jonathan Kalmakoff (Doukhobor Genealogy Website), Bill Aldacusion (Subbotniki.net) and others, many of the emigrant Spiritual Christian villages are now mapped in digital color. A major study aide is the 1995 map insert: "Dukh-i-zhiznik Molokan Colonization, Russian Town, The Flats and East Los Angeles" by Kornoff and Mohoff (1995), in A Stroll Through Russiantown (Mohoff and Valoff, 1996); but this map, produced 26 years after Shubin's map, erroneously places 2 of 3 items shown in the Bethlehem district (6, 86) and omits others forgotten in their oral history.
History book for 60 years
Despite the misleading title and weak biased content, Berokoff's mislabeled Molokans in America, which appeared 37 years after Young, stands alone as the only diaspora-produced history of Dukh-i-zhizniki in the Americas since Young's work in the late 1920s and 1930s (thesis, dissertation, books, articles) up to 1991, spanning almost 60 years. His book served as a prejudiced rough draft of the actual history. There is no public archive of his papers in his community. ( A single 1971 recording by James Samarin will be posted here with transcript.)
Among the many significant historical facts and tales Berokoff displays, perhaps the most revealing is his 5-page summary financial report showing that their 76 conscientious objectors during WWII failed to pay half of their CPS camp bill (~$17,000), then refused to resolve the matter with a visiting representative of the National Service Board of Conscientious Objectors. The extent and detail which Berokoff reports this breach of contract suggests that exposing the scandalous CPS debt was a major purpose for publishing his book, comprising 20% of the pages, though not mentioned in his Forward. He blew the whistle on his deadbeat faith. A characteristic of Dukh-i-zhiznik oration is to lead with one topic, delaying one's major point until the very end, and changing topics, as Berokoff did by burying his CPS debt report in Chapter 7 a form of bait and switch. I enhanced his CPS report to show the huge extent which Dukh-i-zhizniki financially abused the 3 major American peace churches while remaining steadfast (postoyannie) in refusing to pay their CO debt today while hiding behind a false label, and I located thousands of their archived documents to complete this story when time permits.
Unfortunately the misleading "Molokan" label and erroneous "facts" have been widely propagated by scholars citing Young and Berokoff. Though both books identified their subjects as Pryguny, and specifically as Spiritual Christians who use the book Dukh i zhizn', they obscured those two religions with over a 1000 repetitions of the word "Molokan" in print. This label dis-information was so extensive that it appears intentional, perhaps to diffuse attempts by zealots in government from further investigating and/or deporting them. Young and others testified in government hearings and during investigations to defend the most zealous Spiritual Christians (to be added). This caused Spiritual Christian history and faiths to be scrambled for generations.
After Berokoff, the next Dukh-i-zhiznik-produced history appeared 32 years later in 1991 (A.F. Wren, True Believers ) using the same misleading faith labels, and no citations. For more than 70 years after Young, only these 2 member-produced books (Berokoff and Wren) existed in public libraries along with a few scholarly papers, theses and dissertations by "outsiders" (ni nashi). Then several works by diaspora Dukh-i-zhizniki soon followed (Babashoff, Mohoff, Shubin, Slivkoff, Valov, etc.), as their fear of self-publishing somewhat attenuated. All these documents further abused the Molokan label, have many errors and omissions, lacked citations and should be similarly edited as time permits.
The UMCA newsletter (1950s-2000s) was entirely mis-labled and controlled over time by different factions of Dukh-i-zhizniki with opposing agendas. The final 3 decades were entirely controlled by one family of editors who falsely believed: "What ever Molokan is, I am at the center of it." The private newsletter published sparse information about diaspora Molokane, censored openness, and silently expired in 200_ after authentic Molokane organized in Russia. Now the diaspora Dukh-i-zhiznik communicaton is limited to member-only e-mail lists and discussion boards, all mis-labled "Molokan."
In the 1940's, Dr. Pauline Young was working on a sequel to her Pilgrims in Russian-town to report that these Spiritual Christians, whom she earlier assumed would assimilate in Los Angeles, were being revitalized by their own American-educated youth. Unfortunately her working papers were destroyed in a fire at the International Institute in Los Angeles, and the book was never completed. She did not realize that the Pryguny and other Spiritual Christians she met were converted to the Dukh-i-zhiznik faith before her eyes. She wanted to document how youth trained at the Young Russian Christian Association (YRCA) and the Bible Institute of Los Angeles (BIOLA) enhanced the United Dukh-i-zhiznik Molokan Christian Association (UMCA) with improved management, programs and publications, causing attendance to grow for 20 years. In the mid-1960s, UMCA Sunday School book purchases, an indicator of attendance, peaked at rank 10 in the country, 3rd in California!
In contrast to Young's appraisal, Berokoff (page 97) presents the UMCA teachers (not identified as YRCA-ers) as heretics of his Dukh-i-zhiznik faith. Not mentioned is that Berokoff's zealous peers, indoctrinated at the Young Peoples' Meeting (Molodoi sobranie), hated the YRCA-ers who bought a nearby building in the Flats to hold their meetings, had about 25 members educated at BIOLA, and were invited to administer the UMCA, which rapidly grew for 20 years. Partially due to Berokoff's history book and his son Peter, who became a teen boy's Sunday School teacher, the most zealous Dukh-i-zhizniki joined the UMCA to push out those whom they perceived to be Americanized heretics of their various Dukh-i-zhiznik faiths.
After Berokoff was published
Ironically, Berokoff himself was bullied and ostracized by a few of the most zealous Dukh-i-zhizniki, including several of his relatives, for publishing his translations: Selections from the Book of Spirit and Life (1966) and history (1969), among other reasons which they cannot articulate, like whistle-blowing about deadbeats. Though most readers greatly appreciated his books, several descendants of J.K. Berokoff still hate him for exposing "their religion" to the world, which they believe to be a sin (apostasy). They did not know that soon after publication in 1928, their "secret" Kniga solnste, dukh i zhizn' and other ritual books were placed in several libraries, including the National Library of Congress. Their faiths and books were never a secret, though their behaviors were.
The 20-year (1962-1982) takeover of the UMCA by zealous Dukh-i-zhizniki followed by their 1985 Satanic ritual abuse media frenzy caused the Sunday School attendance to plummet more than 95%, greatly reduced regular attendance in all diaspora Dukh-i-zhiznik congregations, and closed their doors to outsiders, including Molokane, for most events. 100 years after immigration from Russia (2004), most of the descendants of these Spiritual Christians, subjects of this book, assimilated, fled or were expelled from the Dukh-i-zhiznik faith by zealots, leaving a total faith-practicing diaspora smaller than the number who emigrated from Russia.
In the 1970s, historian Ethel Dunn asked Berokoff: "... what a Dukh-i-zhiznik
Molokanis, to which he answered: 'A Dukh-i-zhiznik Molokanis a person who sings the psalms.' When asked to elaborate, he added that when Dukh-i-zhizniki Molokansno longer sang the psalms in their services, they would cease to be Dukh-i-zhizniki Molokans." (O'brien-Rothe, Linda, Ph.D. The Molokan Heritage Collection Vol, IV: The Origin of Molokan Singing, HRSSRS, 1989, page 1.) This book should be titled: The Spiritual Christian Collection Vol IV: The Origin of Dukh-i-zhiznik Singing...
Berokoff's reply was far too simple. He should have added: ".. only in our Los Angeles style and dress, only sung in our Russian dialect by men in long beards who perform our rituals, with jumping, exactly as we do and who are accepted by us." Evidence of his social introversion and exclusion is revealed on page 97 were he says at the end of item 1: ".. such conduct .. should be stopped." The rest of the story is added to reveal what Berokoff omitted when he wrote the warning.
Though Psalm-singing in Russian is characteristic of all Spiritual Christians and in most languages by Christian faiths around the world, of which Berokoff had practically no knowledge, his very simple mis-labeled definition motivated Dunn to get a NEH grant to hire a Russian musicologist to research Dukh-i-zhiznik psalm singing, and to produce a new history book. Except for a chapter about singing by Dr. O'brien-Rothe, the ambitious book was never drafted (a long story to be told later).
Dr. Obrien-Rothe's pioneering work was produced in two versions, one for scholars distributed to libraries, and a second distributed to diaspora Dukh-i-zhizniki, subjects of her study. The second version had three additional parts: (1) a summary text with (2) a taped narration by the author, and (3) the results of a simple (non-scientific) anonymous survey of Dukh-i-zhiznik proofreaders. It happened that the survey was primarily administered to members of the late Berokoff's congregation (Noviye Romanovskii sobraniya, Freeway). The results showed a broad spectrum of attitudes about outsiders doing research on their sacred songs, from full agreement to absolute disgust, with some initially hostile who changed their minds after reading and discussing with other proofreaders.
In many ways, the Dunn's body of work stimulated Russian-born social scientists (Inikova, Mazo, Nikitina, Samarin, Petrov, Zhuk, ...) and journalists (Grigorian, Mangasaryan, ...) to further examine the under-reported Spiritual Christians in the FSU after perestroika. By the end of the 1990s, American-born social scientists began to contribute much more to the literature in English (Breyfogle, Clay, Werth, ...). I have met most, and have been in contact with all. This update can serve as a short sample of the book Dunn wanted to produce, a project I assisted with in the 1980s and hope to finish.
This improved book, a draft version in-progress, should re-orientate those interested in Spiritual Christian history in North America with new information. When the 3 labels for these 3 Spiritual Christians faiths in Southern California (Molokane, Pryguny, Dukh-i-zhizniki) are untangled and properly used, as shown in this updated text with more facts, their individual histories and identities become much clearer.
Andrei Conovaloff, Arizona USA, 2013.
Contents Updated 7 May 2013
Page Page count by chapter
Introduction: The Flight to the Refuge
Why Did They Wait So Long in Russia?
Why Did Most Stay Home?
The Migration 11
|||||||||| |||||||||| | 21
The First Years 32
|||||||||| ||||||||| 19
Attempts at Farming 51
|||||||||| || 12
The First World War 63
|||||||||| |||| 14
Post War Problems 77
|||||||||| |||||||||| ||||| 25
Appearance of New Leaders 103
|||||| 5 7
The Second World War 109
|||||||||| |||||||| 18 8
Aid to Brethren in Iran 138
|||||||||| 10 9
Addenda Petitions and Letters 157
|||||||||| |||||||||| |||||||||| |||||||||| |||||||||| | 51
[PAGE 7] There are numerous reasons why the life of the [Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokan people in America deserves to be recorded in a book but the most important, perhaps, is the probability that the third and fourth generation [Dukh-i-zhizniki] American[s] Molokans are unacquainted with the real reason for their forefathers' emigration from Russia or how they managed to survive as a community for over sixty years in a large city abundantly supplied with various worldly temptations.
It is also possible that they do not know why the United States of America was chosen as a place of settlement in preference, say, to Canada or to South America and how it came about that they chose [urban life in] Southern California instead of remaining on the Eastern seaboard as millions of other immigrants did.
[They do not know why their grandparents failed to obey prophesy to return to Russia, or failed to form large isolated farming communes.]
What was their life in Los Angeles like as [a zealous minority]
theyclung together in one close knit neighborhood while [most Spiritual Christians along with] other nationalities scattered to become assimilated in the local population? Insisting, for religious reasons, on wearing full beards and their peasant clothes in the face of ridicule while [most along with] other nationalities conformed to local customs; periodically dropping everything to attend the funeral of a relative, a friend or a [respected elder] church dignitary, quitting their jobs twice a year to observe their week long holidays plus three other one day religious observances, they yet managed to support their very large families without [admitting to taking] public charity or assistance from [outside, ninash] non-Molokan sources.
To [assimilated descendants of Spiritual Christians] Molokans born and raised since the end of the second World War, this accomplishment may not seem very impressive because the continuous prosperity and full employment of the last 25 years would lead them to believe that it was always thus, but in fact, during the first ten years of their [PAGE 8] life in America [(1904-1914)] the [Spiritual Christians] Molokans were subjected to periods of unemployment when the bread winner of the family considered himself very fortunate if he worked an average of four days a week at $2.00 per day as casual laborer in a lumber yard. How did they do it?
This book attempts to answer some of these questions. It is a narrative based on personal observations, on notes, letters and documents in the writer's possession as well as on information gathered from many [anonymous] persons who are old enough to have personally experienced the history of the [Dukh-i-zhizniki] Molokans in America. It is a story of a people who were and are [somewhat] unique among all the ethnic groups in the Los Angeles area.
Introduction The Flight to the Refuge [Contents]
[PAGE 9] Prophecies of [Prygun] Efeem Gerasovich Klubnikin* (1842-1915) concerning the coming of World Wars and their after effects, written in his youthful years in the village of [Nikitino]
Nikitina, Russia** in 1855 or thereabouts. [He was buried in East Los Angeles, Califronia.]
[* For Spiritual Christians who retained their ancestral Southern Russian dialect, Gerasovich must be pronounced Herasimovich.
** Nikitino village, Yerevan guberniya, is now named Fioletovo, Armenia.]
Pages 636 and 651, Book of Spirit and Life.
[Story, Tale 2] ПОВЕСТЬ 2. О взятiи съ земли мира
"Kings will go to war with China. From the time of the war in China, peace will be taken from the earth.  There will be powerful wars in the East. From the time of the war in the East the wrath of God will spread throughout the whole earth.
Пойдут цари воевать на Китай, с Китайской войны миръ будет взять с земли. 2. На востоке будет сильная война; смешается кровь с водою, и с восточной войны разольется гнев по всей земле,
 There will be great groaning and crying of peoples, blood will flow everywhere. Great misfortunes and agitation among the peoples; tortures, torment and persecutions.  People will fly in all directions; to mountains, caves, forests and to different countries.  Separations of father and son, mother and daughter, husband and wife 3. Будеть великий плачь и стон народов, кровь нещадно прольется повсеместно, настанеть великое бедствие и волнениe в народах: мучения, скорб, казнь и претмснения. 4. Великое бегство по всем местам: в горы, ущелья, лмса и въ иныя земли. 5. Разлука отца с сыном, матери съ дочерью, мужа съ женою.
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[Story, Tale 22. Song about the journey] ПОВЕСТЬ 22. Песнь о noxoде. "Let us sing loudly a song about the flight to a place of refuge.  The Lord has sent His angels with trumpets to all the people; to go, to go on a journey, to remove themselves from worldly worry.
Воспоемъ громкую песнь, о походе въ место убежища !
2. Господь послалъ Ангеловъ съ трубою, возвеститъ всему народу; итить, итить в поход,-удалиться от миpcкихъ забот!
 We shall stand firmly on our feet, the Lord will give us His help. He is our joy and our strength.
3. Станем твердо на ноги, Господь дасть нам помоги. Онъ-радость и крепость наша.  A herald is flying from heaven, his command is to prepare us for a journey (pokhod). [5.] Angels are released to torment and to punish harshly everyone throughout the universe". 4. Вестник с неба летитъ, собираться в поход велитъ. 5. Решаются Ангелы, на жестокую казнь и мучение, повсеместно, по всей вселенной.
Why did they wait so long in Russia?
Why did 99% stay in Russia?
Why did the non-Doukhobor Spiritual Christians in the Caucasus (Pryguny, Maksimisty, Molokane, Subbotniki, Zionisty, Novyi izrail', ) wait 50 years after Klubnikin's prophesy to migrate, until after 1900? And, why did less than 1% of them move to the Americas?
- 50 years before migration About 1852, Klubnikin prophesies began at age 10 (?).
- 45 years before migration 1861 Emancipation of Russians Serfs.
- 40 years before migration About 1865, a mystery woman in the U.S. had a vision that particular Spiritual Christians will come to North America and she would give them land in Southern California.
- 30 years before migration In the 1870s, about 1/3 of the most dissident of all Protestant Germans in Russia begin to migrate when their exemptions from military and independent schooling stopped. Many who moved to the U.S. got free transport, free land for churches and schools, some got wheat seed, and the state of Kansas and country of Canada gave military exception.
- 25 years before immigration In 1877 the Russo-Turkish War in the Caucasus lasted less than a year.
- 20 years before immigration During 1881-1914 over 2 million Jews left Russia, 1.7 million (85%) to the United States.
- 10 years before immigration In 1894, the Ottoman Empire began mass killings of Armenians. An estimated 80 to 300 thousand were killed in 2 years, many within 100 miles of Kars city, where 1000s of Spiritual Christians lived.
- 9 years before migration In 1895 in the Caucasus, about 7000 Doukhobors burned guns in protest against the military in 1895. 1/3 of the most dissident participated. About 4000 were evicted from villages resulting in about 2000 deaths.
- 9 to 5 years before migration From 1895 to 1899 in the Caucasus, 240 Doukhobors were arrested and marched by E.G. Klubnikin's house to jail in Kars city, then to jail in Tiflis city. His village of Romanovka was the only village on this main road. Spiritual Christians in other villages did not have a front row seat to all these events.
- 5 years before migration In 1899, Lev Tolstoy wrote letters, published internationally, begging the Tsar to stop punishing all sectarians, and let them leave Russia. With help coordinated by Quakers, the most zealous 1/3 of Doukhobors left the Caucasus beginning in 1898 about 7,500 relocated to central Canada. Molokane refused Tolstoy's help to move to Canada.
- 4 years before migration In 1900, P.A. Demens (Demenstov) offered to help any Spiritual Christians come to Los Angeles to colonize land or work in his factories. City life for them was opposed by Tolstoy.
- 2 years before migration In 1903, after 7,400 Doukhobors left, Russian news reported that their government did not want to lose any more peasants farmers who were not fanatics like those who protested nude in Canada and were refused to return to the homes they left.
- During migration (1904-1912) No "milk and honey" paradise was found in North America, while those in Russia are given freedoms and economic relief.
- In Russia Religious freedom granted. War ended and war taxes were reduced. Authoritarian, abusive Pobedonostsev is retired as Procurator of the Holy Synod and Committee of Ministers, then dies. Bloody race/religious riots escalate in the Caucasus. Peasants can get mortgages (loans) on their land. Prophesy that M.G. Rudomyotkin will soon arrive.
- In USA No large land grants for communal colonies, but more than 1000 flee from cities as "bride-selling" is stopped, to isolated rural colonies scattered in western North America, guided mostly by agents of railroads and sugar companies. Many leaders believed they were in exile, soon to return home. Emigration restricted. Some English knowledge required for US citizenship. Immigration Service tries to halt widespread immigration fraud while officers investigate illegal smuggling of diseased Russians into country from Mexico.
- In Canada One-fourth of Doukhobors protest reversal of large land granted and required government taught education in English. The few most zealous proto-Freedomites are arrested, jailed, begin nude protests (photos in news), petition for migration to U.S. to join with Pryguny.
- In Mexico Illegal border crossings into US stopped. Civil war revolution (1910-1920). War taxes levied, halting farm trade.
- In Los Angeles 400 Prygun immigrants for 6 weeks witness 2000 American Christians marching to purify the streets of their neighborhood from sin. Pryguny quarrel over failed colonies in Hawaii and Mexico, and report being scammed by their own leaders (Samarin and Pivovaroff) and by humanitarian Russians (de Blumenthals and Cherbak). Bizieff prophesies the Apocalypse, tells followers to flee to mountains while city officials intervene. San Pedro union thugs invade Prygun sobraniya, threaten Russian strike-breakers. 2 Russians arrested for fighting. 1 Russian murder investigated. Slums extensively cleared of illegal shacks. Most zealous Spiritual Christians plan to return to Russia soon, so do not buy houses or apply for citizenship. Spiritual Christian immigrants "baptized with the Holy Ghost" at the Apostolic Faith Mission, leave heritage faiths. Gang war between Russians and Armenians ignites in the crowded Flats. A young couple attempts suicide when not allowed to marry. 100s attend a series of "bride selling" court cases lasting 3 years, causing a thousand to flee to rural colonies for religious freedom, which fail, and most return to city.
Though many factors prompted non-Doukhobor Spiritual Christians to migrate from the Caucasus among the wave of Eastern Europeans to North America around 1900, the oral history of each Spiritual Christian family that immigrated to California reports different reasons for their ancestors' journey. Berokoff began his book (above) with parts of the Klubnikin prophesies beginning in 1852, then discusses many, but not all, of the possible reasons for migration. Following is a somewhat chronological list of clustered likely factors which could affect their migration from Russia to California, contrasted with plausible reasons why the vast majority (99+%) stayed home.
Reasons TO Leave Why 1% went to the Americas.
- Expiration of exemptions for taxes to new settlers in Caucasus territories. They became tax-paying citizens for the first time in the history of their clan. The nobility, clergy and army do not pay any taxes at all. The peasants support the economy by paying about 60 rubles per year per family (in 1897).
- Loss of wagon making and driving jobs due to opening of new railways between Tiflis, Yerevan and Baku.
- Need for workers and homesteaders in the Americas by railroads and businesses. Governments and agents were competing around the world to recruit millions of "desirable" immigrant workers and settlers to the Americas.
- Rate war among steamers for immigrants which dropped the trans-Atlantic fare from $15 to $9 in June 1904.
- Many Spiritual Christians planned to earn money abroad and return home, as done by many neighboring Armenians and Southern Europeans.
- Labor strikes and protests in Baku and many major South Russia cities.
- Flee to a safe haven, refuge from Apocalypse. Obey prophesies to go South to place of refuge.
- To be part of Zion, not Jerusalem. See: Cionskii Kniga : Book of Zion, by
- Obey family elders and prophets who chose to leave.
- Expiration of exemptions of military service to new settlers in the Caucasus territories.
- Adventure. See the world.
- Russo-Turkish War (18771878). War among indigenous peoples in former Ottoman empire, mainly Armenians and Azeris, neighboring the Spiritual Christians.
- Massive killings of Armenians beginning in 1894.
- Russian settlers in war zones along the borders suffered thefts and kidnappings. Several Spiritual Christian villages closest to the Turkish boarder had migration rates higher than 1%, but probably not more than 10%.
- Russian peasants were required to house and feed any Russian soldier who came to them.
- Russo-Japanese War starts On January 17, 1904, Japan invades Port Arthur without warning. Japan military funded by loans from American Jewish bankers in New York, and aided by Russian Jewish spies.
- Bloody Sunday On January 22, 1905, 100s of demonstrating workers were killed by tsarist troops in St. Petersburg. The Tsar was away.
- Religious Sectarians were not allowed to build meeting halls, hire or convert Orthodox,
- Travel Sectarians were not allowed to travel for work, or visit relatives in other districts.
- Speech No one was allowed to speak in public or hold meetings without a permit.
- 60 Doukhobor soldiers, led by Matvey Lebedev, refused to carry guns in April 1895. Some were jailed, and all whipped, some to near death.
- 7,500 Doukhobors supported their soldiers with 3 gun-burning protests in June 1895. More than 1000 were beaten, and 4000 evicted from their villages, hundreds died.
- 240+ Doukhobor soldiers and elders were arrested. Those in Kars oblast, about half, were marched through Romanovka village, past the home of E.G. Klubnikin, to be imprisoned first in the Kars Citadel; and later marched from Kars, again through Romanovka, to prison in Tiflis city. Several died from torture and the cruel, inhumane jail conditions. In 1896-97, they were exiled, scattered among Tatar and Armenian villages far from home. Many died of exhaustion, disease and malnutrition. (Doukhobor Military Exiles in the Caucasus, 1985-1899, map by Jonathan Kalmakoff, 2012.)
- Only 1650 (22%) Doukhobors had funds to migrate, of the 7400 who wanted to leave per instruction of Verigin, in exile.
- The Society of Friends (Quakers) in London organized an international donation for a massive migration of Doukhobors, and paid about 2% of their total travel cost.
- Lev N. Tolstoy donated about 23%, and his "Tolstoyan" followers donated about 7% of the total travel funds. Doukhobors paid 23%.
- Canada paid about 47% of their travel cost, gave large blocks of land for communal villages and schools, and guaranteed military exemption.
- Beginning in 1898, one-third of all Doukhobors (7,400+) left Russia, mostly together in 4 ships, mostly the "Big Party," followers of Verigin, mostly those committed to his leadership.
- In 1900 and 1901, Lev N. Tolstoy issued public petitions to Tsar Nikolas II to stop abuse of Doukhobors, Molokane and others, or let them emigrate. The letters were translated and published internationally.
- Tolstoy finished his third and last novel Voskresenie (Resurrection) and sold it as a magazine serial to donate the royalties to the international Doukhobor fund, contributing about 23% of their travel costs.
- He corresponded with many people about destination options for Doukhobors, then for other Spiritual Christians.
- During the Doukhobor emigration, he sent trusted friends, colleagues, reporters and his son to help and record every detail of the Doukhobor move.
- News and books about the Doukhobors and the largest ever communal migration to North America.
- 2 official Prygun scouts, M.P. Shubin and I.G. Samarin, returned from the North America with a highly favorable report.
- 4 of 5 unofficial scouts A.I. Agaltsoff with 2 nephews (M.N. and A.N.) and A.I. Silvkoff returned with positive reports. The 5th, V.I. Holopoff, a Molokan, stayed in Washington then joined the Canadian military.
- Repeated news that 200,000 Spiritual Christians "Molokany" were leaving for North America.
- Everyone was going!
Reasons NOT TO Leave Why 99% stayed home.
- In September 1905, the Tsar ordered reduction of war taxes to be paid by peasants.
- Most Spiritual Christians in the Caucasus were more prosperous than indigenous peoples.
- They would have to sacrifice everything to start over in a new land and language.
- They had no passports. Some had forged identification papers.
- Traveling was very difficult, expensive and unhealthy; especially with young kids. Most could not go without financial aid.
- People who lost war related and travel businesses, quickly adapted to changes caused by the new railroad.
- The U.S. government was exposing and stopping illegal immigration and fraud. Immigration rules prohibited migration of sick, weak, mentally ill. Russians were "undesirable immigrants" in America.
- The first to arrive did not get rich quick and sponsor thousands of relatives to follow. Many felt ashamed to be so poor in Los Angeles that in 1910 Prygun men on the street refused to be photographed in case they would be recognized in Russia.
- Many wrote letters and/or returned with stories of poverty, colony failures, and less religious freedom in North America mandatory education, registration of births and marriages, Americanization melting pot (loss of customs, language). The high cost of good farm land prevented any huge communal colony for everyone.
- Workers in the United States began mass protests, similar to earlier labor protests in Russia which were appeased.
- No apparent immediate danger.
- Ignored or did not know about Jerusalem vs. Zion.
- Obey elders and prophets who chose to stay.
- Obey Rudomyotkin prophesy to go "East" to "Tika."
- Don't want to leave most family and friends.
- Life is good enough, don't mess it up.
- News from U.S. reports no "milk and honey" paradise.
- Russo-Turkish War (18771878) provided jobs for Spiritual Christians who also got many new villages in Kars and Batum governates.
- Russo-Japanese War ends September 1905 peace is negotiated.
- Ethnic wars in Caucasus declined.
- Russian military activity declined for a while. Soldiers were not asking for room and board from villagers.
- Mexican Revolution (1910-1920) impoverished and isolated the Russian colonists in Baja California.
- 1903 June Russian government would not permit Molokane to leave because they were "... splendid agriculturalists ... without fanaticism ..." and are "... more contented with their conditions."
- 1904 December Russian government ".. agreed to eliminate 'all constraints on religious life not established by law' " which led to:
- 1905 April 17 On Paskha Sunday, Tsar Nicholas II issued his Imperial edict (ukaz): On the Strengthening of the Principles of Religious Toleration («Об укреплении начал веротерпимости») which gave all religious minorities the right to hold services openly, provide education, and build churches and meeting halls.
- 1905 October 17 Manifesto Title: On the Improvement of Order in the State («Манифест об усовершенствовании государственного порядка») 1. Fundamental civil freedoms will be granted to the population, including real personal inviolability, freedom of conscience, speech, assembly and association. (Reproduction with bloody hand print by artist Nikolai Shebuev, in Pulemet, no.1, November 13, 1905.)
- Religious Sectarians can build meeting halls, prayer houses.
- Travel Sectarians can travel for work and pleasure.
- Speech Anyone can speak in public and hold meetings.
- 2/3 stayed home in the Caucasus.
- Spiritual Christians planning to migrate to Canada were advised by Tolstoy and others to not follow the Doukhobors to Canada.
- In 1902 the Canadian's protested against the Doukhobor consolidation as a unit and large villages. 1907 the new administration denounced group villages and Russian schools, though earlier immigrant Germans from Russia (Mennonites, etc) got such concessions.
- In 1902 a protest of 1700 Doukhobors marched in protest about freedom for land and for the Russian government to release their leader P.V. Verigin from Siberian exile so he can come to Canada. The protests were well publicized especially in 1903 when some split to form their own zealot sect, took off their clothes, which became more common when they set fires to get more media attention.
- The "seekers of freedom" zealots in Canada wanted to join with Pryguny in Southern California. Decades latter in the 1940s, they called themselves "Sons of Freedom."
- In 1907 the next Canada administration threatened to cancel land and school promises, but not military exemption, which caused about 75% to follow Verigin by abandoning their land, mills and factories (~$11,400,000), and move to British Columbia where their commune board purchased land on credit. Spiritual Christians arriving in Los Angeles refused to join Verigin's communes, except a few in the 1910s who went to one in Oregon.
- Molokane (and perhaps Pryguny) wrote to Tolstoy for aid for transportation years after 1/3 of the Doukhobors migrated, but were denied. These letters to Tolstoy (noted in his diary) were most likely composed by I.G. Samarin, but they have not yet been found.
- Rumors of 300,000 and 200,000 migrating quickly reduced to 60,000 and down to 5,000 within months. The actual number was less than any estimate published and is being estimated from immigration documents.
- Prygun scout F.T. Butchneff returned from North America with a negative report.
[Contents] [Chapter 1>]
Molokan, Prygun and Dukh-i-zhiznik History
Molokane, Pryguny and Dukh-i-zhizniki Around the World