Onya Perehudoff’s Doukhobor Wedding Dress, c. 1880s
This dress was made for and worn by Onya Kabaroff, a Doukhobor woman, for her wedding in Russia in the 1880s. She and her husband Fedyor brought the dress with them when they came to Canada in 1899.
Doukhobors are Christians who believe in peace and equality, because they believe that the Spirit of God lives in the soul of every person. They believe violence against a person attacks the Spirit of God in that person’s soul. These beliefs led them to challenge the authority of the Russian government and the Orthodox Church in the 18th and 19th centuries. They faced torture, imprisonment, dispossession and exile as a result.
Coming to Canada
In 1899, almost 8,000 Doukhobors were resettled in Canada due to the persecution they faced in Russia. Initially, the Government of Canada permitted them to live and farm communally and granted them exemptions from military service. By 1900, over 55 Doukhobor villages had been built on land in Treaty 4 and Treaty 6 territory.
However, by 1904 the Canadian Government changed course and insisted Doukhobors farm their land as individuals rather than as a community. “Independent” Doukhobors agreed to follow these new rules. “Community” Doukhobors refused due to religious objections to private land ownership. By 1907, most of their land was reclaimed by the government. In response, Community Doukhobors purchased land as a group in British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan.
Life in Canada
As Doukhobor women settled into life in Canada, many adopted the style of clothing other settlers around them wore. Traditional outfits like this would be worn on special occasions and Sundays, and they were passed down as family heirlooms.