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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29660

Title: Spirit Wrestling: Identity Conflict and the Canadian "Doukhobor Problem," 1899-1999
Authors: Androsoff, Ashleigh
Advisor: McGowan, Mark
Department: History
Keywords: Doukhobor
Collective Memory
Issue Date: 29-Aug-2011
Abstract: At the end of the nineteenth century, Canada sought “desirable” immigrants to “settle” the Northwest. At the same time, nearly eight thousand members of the Dukhobori (commonly transliterated as “Doukhobors” and translated as “Spirit Wrestlers”) sought refuge from escalating religious persecution perpetrated by Russian church and state authorities. Initially, the Doukhobors’ immigration to Canada in 1899 seemed to satisfy the needs of host and newcomer alike. Both parties soon realized, however, that the Doukhobors’ transition would prove more difficult than anticipated. The Doukhobors’ collective memory of persecution negatively influenced their perception of state interventions in their private affairs. In addition, their expectation that they would be able to preserve their ethno-religious identity on their own terms clashed with Canadian expectations that they would soon integrate into the Canadian mainstream. This study focuses on the historical evolution of the “Doukhobor problem” in Russia and in Canada. It argues that the “problem,” commonly misunderstood by political and legal authorities as a law-and-order issue, was actually an extended identity struggle, both among Doukhobors of opposed factions, and between Doukhobors and state authorities in Russia and in Canada who insisted on conformity to social, economic, legal, and political “norms.” It uses the Doukhobors’ historical experience in Canada to showcase a wide spectrum of possible “newcomer” responses to the Canadian “host” society, drawing attention to subtleties which may be missed in the study of less extreme cases. Using orally articulated collective memory narratives and print journalism sources to access Doukhobor and Canadian identity perceptions, this study argues that newcomers’ impact on Canadian identity definitions predated the multicultural shift of the late 1960s and early 1970s. By pointing out the way in which immigrants such as the Doukhobors did, or did not, conform to (Anglo-) Canadian “norms” in public discourse, Canadians articulated their national identity perceptions in the early decades of the twentieth century. This study concludes that the “Doukhobor problem” could only be solved when the contested identity narratives and collective memories which were at the root of the Doukhobors’ discontent were publicly addressed in “truth and reconciliation” style symposia called in the 1970s and 1980s.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/1807/29660
Appears in Collections:Doctoral

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