A Dictionary of All Religions and Religious Denominations/Duhobortsi

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DUHOBORTSI, a sect of Russian dissenters, who sprang up among the common peasants about the middle of the last century. Their name is supposed to have been given them in 1788 by an archbishop, who by this designation intended to point out the errors contained in their doctrines, for Dahoborets literally signifies, a wrestle with the spirit. They call themselves Christians, and all others they denominate men of the world.

The chief and distinguishing dogma of this denomination is, the worshippping God in spirit and in truth; and hence they not only throw aside all the ceremonies of the Greek Church, but also reject baptism in their opinion are the same.

They hold no particular creed, but only say in regard to themselves, that they are of the law of God, and of the faith of Jesus. The symbol of faith of the Greek Church, or the Nicene creed, they not only respect, but confess all that it contains to be truth; they merely, however, assign it a place among their common psalms.

They do not consider it to be essential to salvation, that a man should be a member of their society; they say, that it is necessary only to understand the ways of the Lord, and to walk in them, and to fulfil his will, for this is the way of salvation.

"Excepting their principles of faith," says Mr. Pinkerton, "the Duhobortsi, in their domestic and social life, may serve as an example to all other sects." They lead most exemplary lives; they are sober, industrious, diligent in their occupation, and of good and gentle dispositions. Laziness and drunkenness are vices not suffered among them.

They have no stated place appointed for worship, as they account all places equally holy. Neither do they appoint any particular days for this purpose, as they suppose all days alike. They hold their meetings in private houses. In the course of their meetings, they pray one after another, sing psalms, and explain the word of God. They have no appointed priest, but confess Jesus Christ to be the only just, pure, and undefiled priest, and to be their only teacher. Every one speaks according to the grace given him, for the admonishing and comforting of his brethren. Even women are not excluded; for say they, "have not women enlightened understanding as well as men?

The virtue which shines with the greatest lustre among this denomination, is brotherly love. They have no private property, but all things common. They are hospitable to strangers compassionate to such as are in distress, and merciful to their beasts.

They have no kind of punishments among them, except expulsion from their society; and this only for such transgressions, as prove the person to have lost the spirit of Christianity. Those, who are excluded, may be restored, on giving evidence of their repentance.

They have no magistrates in their society, and no written laws or regulations; but the society at large governs itself, and each individual in it. They are seldom troubled with divisions and animosities although two or three young families live together in one house. Their children are in the strictest subjection to their parents, and in general, young people among them pay the most profound respect to the aged.

The manner, in which this denomination educate their children, is simple and peculiar to themselves. As soon as a child begins to speak, the parents teach him to get by heart short prayers and psalms, and relate to him such passages of the sacred history as are calculated to engage his attention. In this manner, they continue to instruct their children in the doctrines of the gospel, till they are of age. When the children have thus committed to memory several prayers and sing psalms, with the rest. In this way the sentiments of the parents are, by little and little, instilled into their children, and seated in their young minds by the exemplary conduct of their parents. Hence it has often been observed, that the children of the Duhobortsi are distinguished among all other children, like stalks of wheat among oats.

This denomination suffered continued persecution from all quarters, until the reign of Alexander. In 1801 two senators were sent to review the affairs of the government in the Ukraine. They were the first who represented this people to the emperour in true light. They were prior to this, scattered in different provinces. The emperour gave them permission tp settle at a place called Molishnia Vodi. Here they formed two settlements in 1804.[1]

Original footnotes[edit]

  1. For farther particulars respecting the Duhobortsi, see Pinkerton's Present state of the Greek church in Russia, p. 250, 252, 252, &c. See also Christian Disciple for Feb. 1817.