Skip to content
Join our Newsletter
Join our Newsletter

No, the Doukhobors in B.C. aren't nudist arsonists

Setting the record straight on a group of B.C. pacifists
Artist rendition of Sons of Freedom protest. The group was one of many that pitted itself against the B.C. pacifist group the Dukhobors in the early 20th century.

Did you know that a religious leader was once assassinated in B.C. when somebody put a bomb directly under their seat on a train and that the group - who some people believe did it - also lit their own houses and schools on fire, and stood around them naked, as a form of protest?

It’s true.

Peter “Lordly” Verigin was the leader of the Doukhobors and he was killed on a train in the Kootenays in 1924.

The Doukhobors are pacifists who were exiled from Russia for their beliefs and settled in Canada.

Author Leo Tolstoy (yes, the guy who wrote the book War and Peace) was one of the main donors who helped thousands of them settle here in 1899. He gave up the royalties from one of his books to help make it happen.

They have a statue of Tolstoy at the Doukhobor Discovery Centre in Castelgar. They also have the remains of the clothes Verigin was wearing when he was blown up in 1924, which you can see in the video below.

Multiple dissenting groups started to pop up within the Doukhobor community in Canada, because they weren’t happy about how Verigin was building a bit of a commercial empire while restricting their ability to build their own.

The Sons of Freedom were one of these groups, and their acts of protest included burning down houses and their own schools while getting naked. This has led many to misunderstand the entire community, leading some people to believe that Doukhobors are nudists.

The dissenters apparently weren’t the only ones who wanted Verigin dead. There have been theories it may have been the KKK, the Soviet government, and even his own son who succeeded him as leader was investigated.

Nine people died when the bomb exploded under Verigin’s seat, including the MLA for Grand Forks. The murders were never solved.

The great-great-great-great-grandson of Peter Verigin, JJ, currently heads up the Doukhobors. 

A while back he drove me near to the bomb site, and then to Peter's tomb. 

It was there that told me that though there have always been suspicions about who did it, the Sons of Freedom and the main branch of the community set aside their differences long ago, and the Doukhobors have lived in peace for decades.

And now you know.

Follow @bcisawesome on TikTok for more B.C stories

@bcisawesome The Doukhobors. #bchistorywithbobk #kootenays #explorebc #canada ♬ original sound - BC Is Awesome
push icon
Be the first to read breaking stories. Enable push notifications on your device. Disable anytime.
No thanks