The Douchobortzi

The religious ferment of South Russia was due to some special causes,

its provinces having served since the seventeenth century as lands of

exile for revolutionaries of all kinds, religious, political and

social. Dangerous criminals were also sent there, and a population of

this nature naturally received with open arms all who preached

rebellion against established principles and doctrines.

About the yea
1750, a Prussian non-commissioned officer, expatriated

on account of his revolutionary ideas, appeared in the neighbourhood of

Kharkov. He taught the equality of man and the uselessness of public

authority, and was the real founder of the _douchobortzi_, who believed

in direct communion with the divinity by aid of the spirit which dwells

in all men. The sparks scattered by this unknown vagabond flared up

some time later into a conflagration which swept away artisans,

peasants and priests, and embraced whole towns and villages.

The beliefs of the sect were that the material world is merely a prison

for our souls, and that our passions carry in themselves the germs of

our punishments. Nothing is more to be decried than the desire for

worldly honour and glory. Did not Our Lord Himself say that He was not

of this world? Emperors and kings reign only over the wicked and

sinful, for honest men, like the _douchobortzi_, have nothing to do

with their laws or their authority. War is contrary to the will of

God. Christ having declared that we are all brothers and sisters, the

words "father" and "mother" are illogical, and opposed to His

teachings. There is only one Father, the Father in Heaven, and

children should call their parents by their Christian names.

Except for these leading tenets, their doctrine was variable, and they

not only gave rise to about a hundred other sects, but were themselves

in a continual state of evolution and change. At one time it was their

custom to put to death all children who were diseased in mind or body.

As God dwells in us, they said, we cannot condemn Him to inhabit a body

that is diseased. One leader of the sect believed himself to be the

judge of the universe, and terrorised his co-religionists. Another

ordered all who betrayed the doctrines of the sect to be buried alive,

and legal proceedings which were taken against him and lasted several

years showed him to be responsible for twenty-one "religious murders."