Doukhobor Russian
Диалект духоборов Канады
Dialekt Duchoborov Kanady
Native toBritish Columbia, Saskatchewan and Alberta, Canada.
Native speakers
Up to 30,000 in its heyday; hardly any by the year 2000[citation needed]
Language codes
ISO 639-3

Doukhobor Russian, also called Doukhobor dialect[1] and Doukhoborese ("D'ese" in short),[2] is a dialect of the Russian language spoken by Doukhobors, spiritual Christians (folk Protestants) from Russia who in 1899 established a number of commune-style settlements in Western Canada. They have brought with them a Southern Russian dialect of their communities of origin, which over the following decades underwent some changes under the influence of the Canadian English environment and the speech of the Ukrainian settlers in Saskatchewan.

Over several generations, this dialect has been mostly lost, as the modern descendants of the original Doukhobor migrants to Canada are typically native English speakers, and when they do speak Russian, it is typically a fairly standard variety of it.

Linguistic history of the Doukhobors

It is reasonable to assume that the formative period for the speech of the Doukhobors was the first four decades of the 19th century. It was in 1802 that many heterodox groups, self-labeled as spiritual Christians including Doukhobors, were encouraged to migrate to the Molochna River region, around Melitopol near Ukraine's Sea of Azov coast, where they could be controlled, isolated from contaminating Orthodox Russians with their heresies, and converted to Orthodoxy. Over the next 10–20 years, thousands arrived, most speaking a Southern Russian dialect.[3][4] Now concentrated, they were exposed to a variety of somewhat similar people who could learn the other's dialect koiné, based on Southern Russian and Eastern Ukrainian dialects.

Starting in 1839, Spiritual Christians tribes were enticed to resettle to Transcaucasia to further isolate them from Orthodox, and to establish a Russian presence in the conquered non-Russian-speaking territory. The invading villages from Russia were surrounded by mostly indigenous non-Russian-speaking peoples. Here, in relative isolation from the rest of the Empire, their dialects and singing distinctly evolved.

With the migration of some 7,500 Doukhbors from Transcaucasia to Saskatchewan in 1899, and some smaller latecomer groups (both from Transcaucasia and from places of exile in Siberia and elsewhere), the dialect spoken in the Doukhobor villages of Transcaucasia was brought to the plains of Canada. From that point on it experienced influence from the English language of Canada and, during the years of Doukhobor stay in Saskatchewan, the speech of Doukhobor's Ukrainian neighbors.

A split in the Doukhobor community resulted in a large number of Doukhobors moving from Saskatchewan to south-eastern British Columbia around 1910. Those who moved (the so-called "Community Doukhobors" – followers of Peter Verigin's Christian Community of Universal Brotherhood – continued living a communal lifestyle for several more decades, and preserved their Russian language more the "Independent Doukhobors", who assimilated by staying in Saskatchewan, most as individual farmers.

By the 1970s, most Russia-born died along with their language [5] Their English speech is not noticeably different from that of other English-speaking Canadians of their provinces. Russian is used primarily during religious meetings and psalm singing. Practising Doukhobors are declining, about 3,800 counted in the Canada 2001 Census.

It was reported that only a few hundred elderly speakers of Doukhobor Russian remained by 2019.[6]

Features of the Doukhobor Russian dialect in Canada

According to Gunter Schaarschmidt's survey article ("Four norms ..."), research into the Russian spoken by Canada's Doukhobors has not been extensive. However, a number of articles, mostly published in the 1960s and 1970s, noted a variety of features in Doukhobors' Russian speech that were indeed characteristic of Southern, and in some cases Central Russian dialects, e.g. use of the Southern, [h] where Standard Russian has [g].

Features characteristic of a number of locales in the East Slavic language space were noted as well, reflecting perhaps the heterogeneous origin of the Doukhobors' settlements in Molochna River after 1800, e.g., similarly to Belarusians, Doukhobor speakers don't palatalize [r] in "редко" (redko, 'seldom'). Remarkable was the dropping of the final -t in the 3rd person singular form of verbs. This can be considered a Ukrainian feature, and it is also attested in some Russian dialects spoken in Southern Ukraine (e.g., Nikolaev, not too far from the Doukhobors' old homeland on the Molochna).

As with other immigrant groups, the Russian speech of the Doukhobors uses English loanwords for some concepts that they had not encountered until moving to Canada.[7]

Spelling of Doukhobor names in English

Main source


  1. ^ Schaarschmidt, Gunter (2013). "The Maintenance and Revitalization of Doukhobor Russian in British Columbia, Canada: Prospects and Problems". Doukhobor Heritage. Moscow-Pyatigorsk: Topical Problems of Communication and Culture, Collection of Research Articles of International Scholars. Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  2. ^ Popoff, Dmitri (Jim) E. (October 2019). "Adventures in Russian with Jimitri's "Dictionalry of Doukhoborese" (#37)" (PDF). Iskra — Voice of the Doukhobors (2119): 20–21. Retrieved 25 August 2023.
  3. ^ Kalmakoff, Jonathan J. "Doukhobor Resettlement to Tavria". Doukhobor Genealogy Website. ((cite web)): Missing or empty |url= (help)
  4. ^ Pashchenko, V.O.; Nagorna, T.V. "Tolstoy and the Dukhobors: Main Stages of Relations in the Late 19th & Early 20th Century". Retrieved 16 May 2022.
  5. ^ Postnikoff, John I. (May 1978). "Doukhobors: An Endangered Species". MIR magazine. No. 16. Grand Forks, BC: MIR Publication Society. Archived from the original on 16 April 2008 – via Doukhobor Genealogy Website.
  6. ^ Makarova, Veronika (30 March 2022). "When your language is disappearing: Canadian Doukhobor Russian". Russian Language Studies. 20 (1): 7–21. doi:10.22363/2618-8163-2022-20-1-7-21. Retrieved 7 October 2022.
  7. ^ Schaarschmidt, Gunter (2012). "10". Russian Language History in Canada. Doukhobor Internal and External Migrations: Effect on language development and structure (in ed. Makarova, Veronika. Russian Language Studies in North America: New Perspectives from Theoretical and Applied Linguistics ed.). London: Anthem Press. pp. 235–260. ISBN 9780857287847. Retrieved 20 June 2020.

Additional references